By the Eye on Soaps Staff

Good food, good drink, good company, good atmosphere and good conversation... what else could a bunch of soapcentric girls want?  Well, honestly, we want those things and wish we all lived close enough for that to happen (more than once a year, anyway).  In lieu of that, we settle for emails flying all across the country and ultimately landing here at the monthly EOS Round Table conference where we will slice, dice and pick apart specific subjects pertaining to ABC soaps or soaps in general.  We welcome you to get a drink, place a food order, put up your fuzzy bunny slippers and join us. 

We will take each question individually with responses from our participating  staff members posted afterward.

1)   What was the first ABC soap story that really, really got you hooked?

DIANNA:  I am not sure I can even remember that far back.  It would seem my long term memory is shot.  I have flashes of watching AMC with Angie and Jessie, and a car hit Jessie.  Although my memories are hazy I really think I first got really, really sucked into the whole Nico/Cecily/Julie triangle on AMC.  I can’t recall details…I can just remember being completely enthralled.  It’s ironic that AMC was my very first soap and is now the one that I don’t watch at all.

THE MEDIA HO:  When I was a sophomore in college, I lived off-campus, renting a room from a music professor who had joint custody of his pre-teen kids. The 12 year old daughter was a total GH freak, and I sort of got roped into it. (The poor kid had detention the day of L&L's wedding!) The storylines at the time included Celia and Grant Putnam, right after his brainwashing was discovered and evil Natalie was dispatched. Robert and Holly had entered into a marriage of convenience, as she was carrying Luke's child and he was presumed dead. Robert and Holly started to fall in love with each other, and then (as I recall) she fell down some stairs and miscarried the baby. (Note to all women in the Chuckles: If you are pregnant, AVOID STAIRS AT ALL COST! Learn from Holly, Carly, and lord knows how many other women who were victims of evil staircases!)

However, the storyline that began as I started watching was Blackie putting a band together, the Riff Raff, which originally had Amy Vining as vocalist (ICK!). Manager Steffi Brand (who had plenty of agendas of her own) introduced Blackie to a hot young singer named...Frisco. Oh, yeah. I was hooked!

JENJEN: Wow.  It’s difficult to remember which ABC soap was the first one I started with.  I think it was “General Hospital.”  The Ice Princess story is the one that hooked my mother as a viewer and then she got me to watch, too.  Before GH, she had been a regular viewer of two CBS soaps, “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light.”  She got tired of those after watching them for over 20 years.  She said they’d changed too much, had too many new people and didn’t make any sense anymore, so she was more than willing to tune in to watch “General Hospital” and, eventually, “One Life To Live.”  Of course, we couldn’t sit and watch GH and OLTL without watching “All My Children,” too, so it wasn’t long before we were watching all three.  It was nice.  During the summer and holiday breaks, we’d watch together.  When I was in school, she’d fill me in on everything that’d happened and we bought several soap magazines, too.  Watching soaps was great fun back then.

SHERRY MERCURIO: Ask me what I had for breakfast.  I can answer that!  I honestly cannot remember anymore which story hooked me.  My mom watched ABC soaps, so I remember a lot of things before I would say I was actually “watching”.  At some point I veered from ABC for awhile, probably during the teenage years when there was really no reason I wanted to watch my “mother’s soap”, if you catch my drift.  I didn’t really come back full-time until I became pregnant for the first time and quit my job, which was somewhere around early 1996.  I do recall that at that time, Sonny/Jason/Carly were pretty much the focus.  Go figure. 

KATHY HARDEMAN:  My mother in law was sick and I sat with her during the afternoons.  She maintained a strict viewing schedule and the television had to be changed at certain times.  Not a big TV fan and never a soap watcher, I was indifferent to her choices.  It was a scene that caught my attention - dark background, sad music and a tormented face.  How many times on TV do we see simply a face?  It caught my attention and pretty soon whenever that face came on screen I’d check out what it was saying.  After a short while, I began to recognize other faces as they interacted with the guy I thought was so good looking and who occasionally stood on a bridge in the dark with mournful music playing.  Jason and Robin hooked me on General Hospital.

EMERALDAX:  Back in 1988, when I was 15, I was a big fan of the Monkees.  Nick at Nite showed reruns of the show and I bought all their tapes and subscribed to their fanzine.  The fanzine shared a tidbit that Mickey Dolenz’s daughter was an actress on General Hospital.  No picture of what she looked like or description of her character.  This was back before the internet, so getting any more information than that was not gonna happen.  These days I could find out in a five minute search.  Anyway, I started watching the show to try and figure out which one was Ami.  My mom had watched GH for a couple of years when I was little, and she pointed out some of the familiar characters to me.  She hated Monica with a passion for what she had done to Rick and Leslie.  It was amusing to hear her rant.  I recognized Scotty and was disappointed that his character had become pretty mean.  I watched day after day trying to find Ami, and eventually got hooked on the various storylines.  I eventually saw her – she was a candy striper.  Anyway, what “really, really” got me hooked was the day Katherine Delafield walked into a remote cabin and began to play the piano.  She screamed when confronted by a very scruffy and very annoyed Robert Scorpio.  From then on I was in LOVE.

 2)  How are the individual ABC soaps different now from how they were when you first started watching and over the years in between?

DIANNA:  This is such and easy question for me, and one I can pretty much answer in one word.  Sex!  There’s no more sex, no more passion, no more romance.  It’s pretty much all heart wrenching drama all the time.

THE MEDIA HO:  Hmmm. Well, lots of cheesy background music has been eliminated and the show openings are much improved. Remember that dirge that AMC played over that red scrapbook for all those years? I don't miss that at all! The production values are definitely higher than they were, giving the shows a more polished look. I do miss the location shoots, especially on GH, but they do what they can with the budgets they have. Sometimes they're laughable (the fake location shoots), sometimes they're fine.

Overall, the acting has improved in the 23 years I've been watching GH, the past 18 of those including AMC. The stories are hit-and-miss. You can get a great one, quickly followed by something lousy. It's really a crapshoot. Of the two shows I watch, GH has been the most consistent in terms of story, actors and production, with some memorable glitches (aliens, Rick Webber/Laura, poor use of a beloved character -- Brenda -- and so on).

JENJEN:  Of the three ABC soaps I’ve watched for years, “General Hospital,” “One Life to Live” and “All My Children,” AMC is the one I quit first.  After about 20 years, I stopped watching about the time Haley got her poisoned tattoo.  That was just it.  The show had become too vapid and stupid and too many new people were flooding onto the show.  I had been taping the three ABC soaps and I would watch them each evening with my husband after work.  We started putting off AMC more and more, planning to catch up on the weekends.  The AMC episodes kept piling up until we had well over two months worth.  It was then we realized we’d never watch those shows because we no longer cared about what happened on that show anymore, so we stopped taping. 

I’ve tried to go back to AMC a few times.  One time, I decided to tune in for old time’s sake when I was at my mother’s house.  She had stopped watching for even longer than I had when she had gone back to work over a decade earlier, then she just never went back to watching soaps when she retired.  I told her how Liza was back and Tad was on the show again, so hey, let’s tune in!  It was when the whole “Sex in the City” rip-off stuff was starting, when most of the young women on the show all got together to plan some new company.  I can’t remember if was perfume, a magazine, clothing or what, but Liza and others were all bouncing ideas off of each other while eating pizza.  I remember the show started with some silly music video or something.  It was those women (Liza, Greenlee, etc.) all strutting around wearing white, with wind machines whipping through their hair and it went on and on and on.  I started wondering if there was going to be a show at all.  I was relieved when actual dialogue finally started, but it didn’t help.  What should have been a fun, brainstorming session only came across as a bunch of stupid, cackling hens to me.  I was embarrassed to be a female watching that.  My mother finally said, “What the hell is supposed to be wrong with them?  Are they supposed to seem dumb?  What are they talking about?  Are they prostitutes?” 

My mother no longer had any interest in that show and I found I didn’t, either. 

I stopped watching “One Life To Live,” but for the life of me, I can’t put my finger on exactly when.  At this time, I haven’t watched an episode in about 8 or 9 months, but before that, I’d watch maybe an episode every 2 weeks on average, so I always kind of knew what was going on.  Right now, I don’t have a clue what’s happening and I find I don’t really miss it.  Unlike AMC though, I don’t feel done with OLTL.  I know I’ll watch it again. 

I’m definitely not done with “General Hospital,” though I am on a hiatus from it.  I can’t take anymore Sonny, Jason, Emily and Carly crap.  It’s too much boredom.  It’s too much silliness.  It’s too much of knowing what’s going to happen, always, because nothing ever changes on this show.  Worst of all, the show is a whole lot of historical destruction.  There’s no sense of history or respect of history and there’s no vibe that the show really cares about what viewers want.  I don’t feel sought after or respected as viewer.  I’ll watch Genie Francis when she returns as “Laura” this fall, but if she stays too long I probably can’t watch the whole time.  I can only take so much. 

The main things that have changed about all these shows is that they are being written to try to imitate prime time shows and daytime soap operas are not supposed to be that way.  The pacing is different, the nuances are more subtle, history is important, stories are driven by characters more than plot (way more) and all of ABC’s soaps have lost sight of what their product is.

SHERRY MERCURIO: This is an interesting question because sometimes I wonder if most of our soap opinions are clouded by when we started watching and what was going on in our lives at the time.  Watching soaps as a kid, I remember thinking these people were so glamorous, witty and smart.  They were all doing things that were completely out of my realm, and I guess like most kids I fantasized that life really would be like that.  So at that time, soaps were basically like a fairy tale with more depth.  When characters made bad decisions I bought into their reasons.  They were tortured souls!  The heartache, loss and deviousness were just as beautiful as the “good” stuff, in some ways.  If you can do the pretty cry, you’ll need a reason to do so, right?  Then I grew up and actually started living real life and that certainly changed my perspective.  Nowadays characters pull the “tortured soul” thing and I roll my eyes and laugh that anyone could be that stupid.  What is going on in the viewer’s real life also very much affects viewing habits.  Sometimes it’s an escape, sometimes it’s SUCH a waste of time when there are bigger things to deal with.  So anyway, are soaps different now?  The larger focus is on creating individuals that need to be integrated *in*, rather than keeping the focus on what’s already established.  There is less family and more couples.  Those couples are in fewer triangles – or rather less viable triangles as it’s always clear where the character at the center is going to end up.  There are less grand gatherings of all characters, and weddings are no longer a big event, because no one believes for a second that it will last, or even that it will be the only chance to see those two characters wed each other, for goodness sakes!  Is it progress, keeping up with the times, a realistic change due to the difference in how things were then and how things are now?  Is it a result of powers that be who do not realize what a soap should be, and are now creating their own version?  Do I just see it all differently now that I’m old and cynical – the balls are less grand, the villains less frightening (yet exciting!), and the damsel in distress more apt to make me puke?  (Don’t you hate it when people answer a question with a question?) 

KATHY HARDEMAN: Issues have changed to encompass what is relevant today and the technology of special effects has changed the quality of what we see.  When I first began watching, Sonny’s car exploding topped the list of action scenes.  A hotel fire or a train wreck weren’t dramatic events that I expected to see.  I enjoy the big drama and action as long as they facilitate what soaps are about – people reacting to circumstances and interacting with each other.

EMERALDAX:  I watched GH from 1988-90 and OLTL from 89-90, and didn’t start back again till 2001.  What springs immediately to mind is that back in the late 80s, there seemed to be a lot of action and location shoots, especially on GH.  Not so much now.  GH is still somewhat action-oriented, but the good and bad guys are not as clear-cut, which makes the action less desirable to watch.  The show centers around Sonny for the most part.  Back in the late 80s, the cops were the good guys.  Robert, Anna, Frisco, Sean all worked in or with law enforcement.  Now, the cops are seen as corrupt or stupid.  I don’t see any obvious differences between OLTL then and now.

3)  What characters do you FF (or wish you could) and what characters do you really enjoy watching in almost any circumstance?

DIANNA:  Sam.  I can’t watch Sam anymore on GH.  She says the same lines over and over and just keeps whining; it makes me crazy.  Claudia on OLTL has the most annoying voice and I FF right on through which is sad because it cuts into my Nash time.  Kevin on OLTL, he is another character I have no use for, I just lean on that TiVo remote (I actually already need a new one.)  I do a lot of fast forwarding some days.  

I can always watch David Vickers on OLTL.  No matter whom he is acting against I know he will steal the scene.  He is always fresh, funny and perfect in every scene.  Over on GH, these days I can’t stand to miss a second of Lesley Lu.  This young actress has really gotten me hooked.  There are more but I don’t want to bore anyone.

THE MEDIA HO:  AMC: I'd FF Babe, JR, Krystle, Hoolia, Ryan, Erin, Jonathan and DixieBirdBrain in a New York minute. Those I'd watch? Dr. Delicious David Hayward, Erica, Zach, Brooke, Opal, Palmer, Reggie, Livia.

GH: FF full speed ahead for Sonny, Lucky, Liz, Maxie. Freeze-frame for Luke, Robert, Tracy, Lulu, Sam, Alexis, Dillon, Anna, Brenda (if you'd believe all the magazines' hype), and...Carly. Yes, believe it or not, Laura Wright's take on the character has made me a convert.

JENJEN: I can really only answer for GH.  It would be faster to tell who I do NOT fast forward when I watch, so here they are, in no particular order: 

Lucky, Alexis, Robert, Bobbie, Skye, Alcazar, Diego, Lulu, Liz, Big Alice, Coleman and…that’s it, I think.  I might have forgotten a few, but basically those are the characters that I do not fast forward through.  There is one big exception though.  I will fast forward them if they are speaking to any of the following characters: 

Sonny, Jason, Emily, Carly, Patrick 

And there is an exception to the exception: 

Coleman does NOT GET FAST FORWARDED EVER, not even if he’s speaking to Sonny, Jason, Emily, Carly AND Patrick all at the same time. 

Coleman is Da Bomb, y’all!

SHERRY MERCURIO:  FF:  Emily, sometimes the re-treaded teen stories, sometimes Sam. 

Watch in any circumstance:  Alexis, Edward, Skye, Helena, Luke, Coleman, Robert, Mac, Ric

All the rest, I would enjoy watching in a good story, involving more than just a close circle, on less than every day.

KATHY HARDEMAN: This is so hokey.  I rarely fast forward, even though there are some characters I don’t care for, out of respect for the work the actors are doing.  Like a character or not, they are part of a storyline, with actors infusing their character to the best of their acting ability.  Hopefully.  If they phone in their scenes, it is easily spotted and those actors tend to leave the canvas quickly.  There is a reason that some soaps tend to hover higher in the ratings.   Characters loved by viewers have to be a big factor in which soaps are watched more than others.   Excuse me while I bow to Mark Teschner, casting director for General Hospital.

EMERALDAX:  I don’t FF through anything on AMC when I am doing my column.  During the 2 months I was on hiatus, whenever I could watch the show on downloaded clips, I generally skipped through the Babe/JR stuff because I was furious at their storyline.  Everything else I watched or not, depending on if I had time.  On GH, I automatically FF through Sonny.  I started watching GH after 10 yrs because he intrigued me.  Now I can’t stand him.  I am also extremely disgusted with Lucky as a junkie getting young Maxie to score his drugs for him in exchange for the occasional tongue down her throat from a married man.   Vile stuff.  On OLTL, if it is Blair and Spencer, I can’t hit the button fast enough.  Characters I enjoy, no matter what:  On AMC that priviledge goes to Zach Slater.  On OLTL  right now I am intrigued by Todd and Evangeline together.  If he is with Blair or she with Christian, FF!  On GH, pretty much the only thing that makes me tune in is to see Robert, Anna or Skye on the screen.  I used to be able to say that about Alexis, but I can’t say that any more and it makes me CRY.  For all three shows, if I have time and there is a scene that looks like it will be entertaining then I will watch it.  For example: Myrtle, Opal, Roxy, those snarky friends of Robin, or any snark opportunity for that matter with Great Snarkers such David Hayward, David Vickers, Dorian, Tracy Q, you get the picture.

4 Caption any of these photos that inspire you. 

DIANNA:  "Snakes on a Plane."  (I just like saying it and didn't have a caption for this picture)

THE MEDIA HO:  "You got a problem with 'Sam Loves Manny,' sweetness?"

SHERRY MERCURIO:  “So you want another chance to answer the ‘Who’s hotter, me or that Miami Ink guy’ question?  By the way, that shirt is a great color.” 

KATHY HARDEMAN: "How do you spell 'Sam' again?"

KATRINA:  "MANNY!  Get in here!!"

"Yes, Miss McCall?"

"Take a letter."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Dear Jason..."


" could you do this to us?"


"You selfish bastard."


"I'm not in danger any more!"


"Don't give me permission to hate you!"


DIANNA:  “If Sonny really gets out of hand, hit him with this.  Really.  Take it!”

THE MEDIA HO:  "It's PVU. They want to know why you haven't been in class all semester."

JENJEN: "It’s for you.  It’s Sonny.  He wants to play “Can You Hear Me Now” again."

SHERRY MERCURIO:  “Here, it’s Sonny.  He says tan is NOT the new black!  Look what you’ve done to us now.  I *told* you this was a really bad idea!”

KATHY HARDEMAN: "It’s the pizza place.  They want to know if you want mushrooms on that pizza and they say they won’t deliver unless you take away Sonny’s axe." 

KATRINA: "It's the VD clinic.  They say you need to come in immediately."

"But I'm not scheduled to work the VD clinic."

"As a patient, not as staff.  Your test results are back."

DIANNA:  “please, please just go away”

THE MEDIA HO:  "Really, Sonny, 'Saint Emily' is a nickname. If you want help, you must go to therapy."

JENJEN:  "Sonny, I know that’s my bra you’re wearing.  I can feel the little rose petal in the middle."

SHERRY MERCURIO:   “I warned you …I told you what would happen if you …betrayed me.  Here you are …wearing the color of my enemies …dragging Max into it …this is FINISHED!”

KATHY HARDEMAN: "Sonny, I promise the mushrooms are fresh on the pizza, never mind about sauce from a bucket."

KATRINA:  "Very good, Sonny, now repeat after me.  'Hail to thee, St Emily... thy blessings be upon me.'"

"Hail to thee, St Lily..."

"EMILY!!!  ST EMILY!  How many times do we have to go through this?"

DIANNA:  “I just really want some cookies”

THE MEDIA HO:  "Damn glass is all broke up, that bastard Max got rid of all the hooch, and all I got now is this dinky little flask.. My life sucks."

SHERRY MERCURIO: “He’s working from within, turning them all against me.  He thinks I’m afraid of his little tan army.  I’ve got him right where I want him, I’ll wait for him to make the next move.”

KATHY HARDEMAN: "I just don’t think I can handle sauce from a bucket."

KATRINA:  "I don't think Tinky Winky is gay.  A man can carry a purse and not be gay."


We hope you have enjoyed sitting around the table with us and sharing thoughts.  Check back next month when we will be hammering out other topics and ideas.

Round Table - June 2006

Round Table - May 2006

Round Table - April 2006