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« The Day's Dumbest Dialogue: Ironically, It Hurts My Heart | Main | I Think This Google Search Says It All... »

February 20, 2009

Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column

Sorry to have delayed a couple of weeks in posting this column.  We were just so swept up in the amazing sweeps storylines on our soaps that we lost track of time and . . . Okay, no.  We were just kind of twirly and totally spaced. 

In this latest column, Mallory wonders how in the name of Agnes Nixon All My Children has screwed up a lesbian romance and pregnancy, and why the GH writers seem determined to drive a stake through the heart of every memory of old school General Hospital with Nadine and Nikolas's story about effing plow patents along with the yawn-worthy on-again-please-be-off-again-soon Jax and Carly "romance."  Meanwhile Becca, who was apparently still drunk from New Year's when we wrote these columns in early January, got all weirdly positive about a couple of characters on Days of Our Lives and General Hospital.


My Take
By Mallory Harlen

I would love to be a fly on the wall in the writers' rooms at ALL MY CHILDREN and GENERAL HOSPITAL to see how they come up with certain stories.  Games of Mad-Libs gone awry?  Very high stakes sessions of Truth or Dare? Perhaps a running competition to write the worst daytime story?

GH WRITER: My show has storylines about patents for farm equipment and threatening DVDs!
AMC WRITER: Well, my show has a story about a lesbian who asked her sister's husband to father her child. Top that!

That seems outlandish, sure, but no more so than the idea that professional writers dream up these stories for legitimate entertainment purposes!

AMC is firing on all cylinders these days. Unfortunately, the cylinders are firing in the wrong directions.  Bianca and Reese's story is a mess, and it has no right to be! AMC was handed a dream setup: Eden Riegel and Tamara Braun, playing a same-sex couple starting a family together. It could have been a compelling and ground-breaking story in its own right, featuring two exceptional actresses, but the writers couldn't let that story be told.  Was it not tawdry enough?  A commitment to salaciousness is the only explanation I have for Zach being thrown into the mix, sharing tender, flirtatious moments with Reese and, in last year's most puzzling and offensive story, fathering Bianca's child.  There are so many questions I have about that story, and all of them start with an anguished "Whyyyy?"  David's return to Pine Valley has been similarly botched.  Call me crazy, but watching him drug Krystal, manipulate Amanda and obsess over J.R.'s downfall all in the name of Babe, the daughter he had no relationship with, isn't the most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.  It's doing a great disservice to all of the characters involved and, even worse, it's horribly depressing.  I thought soaps were supposed to be a great form of escapism, but I end every episode of AMC overcome with ennui.

GH is no less frustrating. For a show that abandons plots constantly (will we ever find out who Sam's father is?!), they seem oddly committed to stories that just don't work.  The continuing adventures of Nikolas and Nadine are a scary combination of boring and absurd.  A ditzy nurse, a prince and a plow patent sounds like the start of a joke, not a soap opera storyline.  The Sonny and Claudia marriage of convenience is confusing (mainly because I don't understand the mafia setup in Port Charles; I thought I had a grasp on it, but then Sonny went ahead and legally transferred his illegal business to Jason, and I got lost all over), and the inclusion of Jerry's latest evil scheme makes it even more so.  Carly and Jax's endless cycle of breaking up and reconciling should have ended months ago; they were an ill-advised couple from the start -- we're supposed to believe that handsome billionaire Jax can't get a date that Sonny hasn't had first?  Please -- and the bickering has gotten so tiresome that not even great performances by Laura Wright and Ingo Rademacher can save it.

My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas

In the days before our blog and this column, I would be at the point with DAYS OF OUR LIVES and GENERAL HOSPITAL that I would have deleted them both off my DVR list in a huff.  (I am very, very good at huffs.)  But now, I have to stick with them, and that is no small feat.  They are both in their different ways boring and almost wholly lacking in decent writing or characters to root for.  But I have faith because occasionally, my perseverance has paid off.

GH’s Maxie Jones is a great example of a character I hated for a long time (Remember the affair and drug-pushing with Lucky?  I wish I didn’t.), but now adore.  First of all, Kirsten Storms is awesome.  I was a spotty DAYS viewer during her years there and found Belle’s over-the-top prissiness extremely annoying, but Storms has been a revelation as Maxie.  She plays a sassy, witty, bad girl like nobody’s business.  And she can do intense drama as well – her scenes a year ago after Georgie’s death were amazing.  I am horrified that the writers keep involving Maxie more with the mob, but I’m hopeful that unlike virtually every other good female character on GH in recent years, Maxie will be spared the fate of being a mob guy’s castoff.  Maxie with Spinelli doesn’t set my world on fire, but maybe given a few more months, Spinelli will finally be written like an actual person and not a caricature, and I could get behind that couple.  I can only sit through so many “Maximista”s, though, so I don’t know how long I can hold out.

On DAYS, I did not like Nicole during her first tour through Salem.  I found the character vapid and shrill.  It says something about either me or DAYS that this time around, Nicole is among the Salemites with the most potential to make me want to tune in.  (Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement; Nicole is one of the things I don’t dread.)  Much like with Storms’ Maxie, Ariane Zucker is most of the reason I like Nicole now.  The horrible fake-pregnancy storyline she’s currently saddled with doesn’t showcase it, but Zucker has a great ability to play catty and manipulative while staying likeable.  And her portrayal of Nicole’s miscarriage gave viewers some of the best scenes on DAYS in months.  Sure, the competition is slim, but I have to give credit where it’s due!

So, I suppose this is one of my new year’s resolutions.  I will stick with my shows through their terrible, repetitive storylines, because maybe, if I’m lucky, a good character will emerge for me to root for.  A better new year’s resolution would be to improve the writing across the board so that I don’t have to strain to find just one or two storylines to like, but that is someone else’s resolution to make.  And if I’m ordering others to make specific soap-based resolutions, my first one is going to involve something truly important, like everyone having hair as gorgeous as Megan Ward’s.  Priorities, people.


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