June 4, 2007
The Soap Diet
I made that nice new banner up there to avoid writing this column.
In fact, I've done a lot of things to avoid writing this column, none of them particularly productive like cleaning my house or looking at my kids or anything.
I was telling a friend earlier that I can't write because the soaps aren't really bad enough to bitch about, but not good enough to rave about either. They just are.
I'm drawing some parallels, even as I write that stuff.
All of my anesthesia is being denied to me. It must be some kind of personal hell I've earned for crimes real or imagined committed in my life. I started a real, bonafide, true to life (Why the complete hell is a perfectly good word like "bonafide" not in my spell check? What kind of world is THAT, I ask you? Oh, two words, bona fide, who knew?) diet. Yes, yes, I know that we aren't supposed to think in terms of "dieting," that it's a "life style change" because "dieting" implies a temporary situation. For me, if I'm not eating the crap I want to eat as often as I want to eat it, that's a diet. So here I am logging in every stray crumb that finds its way to my greedy pie hole and mourning the fact that I can no longer use food for that itty, bitty, happy rush of instant gratification that gets me through my typical day of ups and downs.
Should my glass be half full instead of half empty? (Or half full of something that isn't low calorie?) Maybe. For now, I am feeling the loss of one of the few little pleasures I afforded myself in my day. Poor me. Everyone together now: "Poooor Katrinaaa...*sniff*"
Thank you, now moving on...
In thinking about the lack of food anesthesia in my life, I realize that I feel the same way about the soaps. They were a happy little oasis of entertainment in my day; the operative word here being "were." For a year or so at least, I have mostly been watching the soaps out of habit and loyalty and not because they provide any significant joy or entertainment to my life. Those of you (about 6, I'm thinking) who follow my column have likely noticed that my writing has dwindled down to about a column a month if I'm feeling particularly verbose. I've been writing soap commentary professionally for 9 years, so it seems logical that the time would come that you've said all you can say. That's also about how long it takes the soaps to cycle through the 14 stories or so that can be told on a soap and return to the beginning to start again. Of course, some of these hamsters have been running on the wheel at an incredible pace, so we've recycled stories sooner than expected on the usual soap timeline.
Watching the soaps also makes running this website infinitely easier. I realistically could just post the staff's columns as they come in without having a clue what they were actually about, but that seems lame, so I am still watching and hoping.
As I said before, it's not that they are awful any more than eating these carrots and baked chicken is really terrible. It just isn't biscuits, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and chocolate chip cookies. It leave me wanting more and feeling wholly pathetic and picked on for not having it. Similarly to my new and smarter way of eating, the things I routinely enjoyed in my soaps has been eliminated and I'm looking at a whole cast full of carrot sticks.
(Look at that, would you? I've filled up a good half of a page and not said a god-blessed thing. This could be "The Seinfeld Column: The Column About Nothing.")
I ask you, how much is one person realistically supposed to sacrifice here? Admittedly a latecomer to the show, I didn't start watching until around 2000. Even with that limited history, there is a huge list of things I miss about how AMC used to be. Sad, isn't it? It's like when I see kids who are in their early 20's waxing all nostalgic over high school and the music from ten years ago. Come back when you've logged in enough time to have EARNED your nostalgia!!
But no, I do miss some of the wonderful parts of AMC:
That guy Tom Wopat played who courted Opal
Adam (instead of Pod Adam)
The SOS (Although there is plenty of The Same Ol' Shit available if that was the acronym to which I was referring)
Anna & Alex
Leora (could have been a much better story if she'd lived)
Mona (who I never got to "meet")
I would have liked to have seen Adrian Sword
Joni Stafford (extra points if you remember this very bright and shining flash that was there, then gone)
The Crystal Ball
The now missing friendship between Opal and Erica
Mostly, I miss what Agnes Nixon meant for AMC to be when she created it: A show about friendship and families that fearlessly takes on the tough issues of our culture.
In the interest of showing that I'm trying, one good thing:
Zach Slater and his romance with Myrtle Fargate.
My history with OLTL is as old as OLTL itself. I remember when it was a show that was dedicated to accurate portrayal of different cultures and ethnicities. I find it extremely apt that the OPP group is targeting nonwhites because that seems to be the microcosm of the entire ABC soap field. I wonder how hard they had to think before they came up with enough nonwhites for the story to even have an impact. I'll bet there was a huge sigh of relief when they remembered from a long, long time ago that Nora is Jewish. They even had to haul Vincent onto the canvas because they didn't have enough black folk to get some warehouses burned down (having forgotten that RJ is still in town). As an aside, a friend of mine suggested the clever idea that perhaps The Tate is Mr OPP. The only thing that dissuades me from that idea is his seeming obsession with Adriana, which by OPP standards is not exactly a PP. Perhaps he's setting her up and she is his... how best to articulate this accurately? The ethnic equivalent of a "beard."
The incredible Shari Lewis, she of the Lambchop hand, used to sing a song on her show called "The Song That Doesn't End..." and it didn't. When they hear it, I'll bet Todd and Blair catch one another's eye and mouth, "It's our song."
Yes it goes on and on, my friend.
Some people started writing it not knowing what it was and they'll continue writing it forever just because it is the couple that never ends....yes it goes on and on my friend..."
The only texture or change that ever presents is when Todd makes Blair sad, forcing her to sleep with some stuntTodd until they can get back together again.
Now I hear they are set to bury Asa, which makes perfect sense because Phil Carey blew out a long while back and isn't likely to darken any OLTL doors any time soon. There have been so many funerals for Asa over the years that I have lost count. My favorite was the one where all of his living ex-wives showed up, vying for position and remembering flashbacks from their weddings to him. Doing what it does best, OLTL laughed at itself by Blair flashing back to the actual footage of her wedding to Asa...when Blair was played by another actress...who was Asian...and in "real time," Blair got the most perfectly startled look on her face at the memory. It was one of those moments, like the skeleton in the attic with the "Bobby" hat on AMC, when a sweet little tidbit is thrown to the long-time viewers.
In fact, now that I think of it, weddings are something OLTL has a real knack for using to the fullest advantage. I'm thinking of Max marrying Roxy, Asa marrying Gabrielle, Asa marrying Rae Cummings, the golden balloons falling around Blair and Todd, Dorian marrying Mel at The Banner, Jake marrying Megan, the exploding wedding cake... such great stuff.
I keep wondering why, when the Nash and Jessica thing is playing out with so much pain for everyone, Viki does not talk to either of them about her affair with Sloane Carpenter and how it destroyed her marriage to Clint. The circumstances are very similar and it would make for some very interesting and heart-felt scenes.
There isn't a single story going on with OLTL that, in my opinion, has legs. The teen stories are carried only because of the casting involved, not because the writing is of any merit. The manipulations of Miles Laurence are about as entertaining as watching a mean kid tease a fly from whom he just removed the wings. Round 4,934,034 of Blair and Todd holds no interest for me. OLTL ruined a potentially interesting romance between Nash and Jessica by purposely writing it to be so destructive and tawdry. ARE there any other stories?
Carrots and diet soda, I'm telling you.
In the interest of showing that I'm trying, one good thing:
Roxy and any scene she's in.
Of the three shows, GH is the one that is trying hard to sneak into my good graces, largely because of the continued excellence shown by casting director, Mark Teschner. With the home runs he's hit in casting Laura Wright as the uncastable Carly, Jason Gerhardt as Coop, Josh Duhon as Logan, Bradford Anderson as Spinelli, Sonya Eddy as Epiphany, Julie Marie Berman as LuLu, Robert LaSardo as the Ruiz brothers, Sebastian Roche as Mr Craig/Jerry Jacks and Richard Gant as the never seen Dr Ford, we can forgive him the abominations of whatever possessed him in the casting of Amelia and Kate. They are more the exception that proves the rule. (Was that whole GH Chief of Staff thing ever resolved?)
GH is far, far from anything perfect and I have to tell you, the Jerry Jacks is truly testing my very last nerve, but overall, for me it's the best of the three. The acting carries me and the cast we have at the moment holds enough talent to make the most unpalatable writing make perfect sense. The (I believe) accidental pairing of Luke and Tracy was a goldmine of opportunity and I wish to grovel in gratitude at the feet of the powers that be for each time that the couple could have dissolved and instead, emerged stronger.
On that note, I find it irritating that as soon as a story starts to hit its stride, in this case, the custody of Laura and the Jerry Jacks debacle, we have to go on hold while the actors have their months and months and months long break. I have the utmost respect for Tony Geary, who started this theme, and I can fully understand ABC denying him nothing to keep him in the fold. Now, we have Ingo also contracted in for extended vacations twice a year and although it might be what they need to live in their own skin and do what they do, there is no denying that the story is hugely compromised by having to work around the giant, gaping holes in the cast left by the departure of people integral to the progression. I realize that this subject is taboo, a sort of sacred cow that no one really speaks much about because we want the best for the actors we admire and enjoy so completely, but when it comes to soaps, I am extremely pragmatic. I may have referred to the character of Carly as "uncastable" in the first paragraph of the GH section of this column, but honestly, I don't consider any character to fall into that category. If a character needs to be on screen for the development of a story to make sense, I'm all for a recast. Anyone can deny that it's just damned dumb that Felicia has been tending to her grandmother in Texas for what, about six or seven years now? Her daughters have been to hell and back and she's nowhere to be found. The ludicrousness has reached a "recast her or kill her" point. Do Liz's parents not care at all what goes on in her life? How stupid was it that when Lesley came back from the dead, she never once considered contacting her husband to let him know she was actually alive? Since they were, if I remember correctly, still married when she died in that critically placed car crash, would he might not want to know that any marriage he's had since then is invalid? This was even before he was a serial cheater and back when he was actually a dutiful husband in love with his wife. Could Frisco not even make it back when his beloved brother died? Send a card? Something? I say if the original actor is unavailable or too expensive to hire, haul out a recast, call them by their character's name several times in every scene for a few weeks until I get used to it and let it fly! If it's good (Stavros Cassadine), I'll sing praises and if it sucks (Maxine Jones #2, the porn star version), I'll complain, but hey, I'll give it a chance!
I'm not saying that the characters of Jax and Luke should be permanently recast when the actors are right there, ready, willing and able to play the part as long as their demands for extended vacations are met, but hey, I'll take a stunt double for a few weeks just to fill in the gaps! Don't let my story lag! Remember how good it felt when Robyn Richards came back after that awful Maxie recasting? When John Ingle came back as Edward Quartermaine? Hell, even a bad recast will make me appreciate Tony Geary a LOT more when he comes back from Amsterdam! Give me a cardboard cut out of Luke with a minimum wage earning stage hand to walk him around the scenes and I'm happy. Just don't leave these holes in the story big enough to drive a pink caddy through!
Can Jason possibly have anything more on his plate these days? Let's see what he's got going on and stands to have going on:
1) He's a new daddy sitting on an explosive secret that is about to break loose at any minute
2) Murder charges against him and guess what? He actually did it and there's evidence against him.
3) Girlfriend who is suddenly demanding a child from him to the point of practically wrenching the sperm right out of him.
4) Protecting Carly from her brother-in-law who has already held hostage and terrorized a number of people, plus killed a few along the way.
5) He caught the garter at Carly's wedding.
6) Baby-demanding girlfriend acted as though she understood the discretion required to be a mob moll, but then took a job that thrusts her and him and the Godfather into the spotlight.
7) Baby's mama insists that staying with her husband, the notfather, is best, but teases and tantalizes Jason with little pieces of fatherhood along the way (the sonogram photo, the baby's name, etc), just making it all the harder to stay away.
8) His father died, begging to see him and he didn't make it there because he had to go try and kill a guy.
9) Little wannabe mobsters are swarming around, trying to take his job.
10) A revenge queen is poised to reveal the baby-demanding girlfriend as a money-snatching, gold-digging, murdering tramp.
It's tough to be The Jason.
Not as tough as it is to be Alcazar, I guess, but tough enough. (Any other old people have the Fabulous Thunderbirds going through their head right now)
You know, it's almost a meal. Not a banquet by any means. More like a sensible meal that leaves you comfortably satisfied, but wishing the dessert cart would roll around.
If only my diet was serving up as well as GH and still getting results...