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Posted: Jan 10 2008, 02:09 AM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 8-January 08
2008 New Year's Resolutions
By Nelson Branco
Think you had a lot on your to-do list? Check out the Top 10 issues that need fixin’ on soaps!
With the death knell of daytime soap opera quietly ringing, TVGuide.ca is unveiling New Year's resolutions that every producer and writer should make part of their 2008 resolve.
10. Don't rewrite history — unless you're a pro
Repeat after me: “We, the soap opera community, promise never to re-write soap history, unless, of course, it makes complete storyline sense and/or fills in plot holes left by previous regimes.” Also, reminding viewers of your soap characters rich past is easy — tune into One Life to Live to see how it’s done properly. I never tire of hearing of the Iguazu Falls because it means Tina Lord is on the minds of the writers which ignites my curiosity and interest more than any mob shooting ever could.
9. Moratorium on rape storylines/redeeming rapists
Rape is not a plot twist. It’s a serious crime that should only be addressed in a storyline completely and organically devoted to the aftermath of this deplorable act of violence. Yes, Days of Our Lives we mean you! And stop redeeming rapists while you’re at it, too. Newsflash: soaps are a woman’s medium and not a misogynistic, masturbatory medium for perverts. Yes, we mean you too, Passions!
8. More extras
One of the reasons I can’t take Guiding Light seriously is the fact that in every public setting, there is no one in the background. Springfield is deader than my sex life — if that’s at all possible! Seriously, having no extras in the background pulls me out of the narrative and foreground. Let’s hope soaps’ new production mantra — to shoot on location more often to save on crew and in-studio costs — fixes this. At the very least, set your stories in a character’s home and not in a ghost town. In a word, it’s depressing to visually be reminded that budgets rule the reel world when all I want to do is escape from the real one.
7. Don’t fool your audience — especially when they are smarter than you
Days may be on the upswing creatively, but I will never trust this show again. Two words: Drake Hogestyn (John). It’s lost its credibility and integrity by lying to their audience that John was dead-dead, only to bring him back in a publicity ruse grown terribly awry. Too bad, because a soap death can be the most powerful way to draw an audience in. Moreover, it’s sad because it’s hard to invest in characters who are dumb enough to believe that anyone in Salem actually dies. And that’s the real tragedy here.
6. Stop firing veterans and/or turning them into ghostly/ghastly reincarnations
Stuart Damon (Alan, GH), Jerry Douglas (John, Y&R), and “forced-into-retirement” Phil Carey (ex-Asa, OLTL) were all victims of this cost-saving atrocity that is increasingly becoming more popular with networks. Who’s next — Leslie Charleson (Monica, GH), Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda, ATWT), and Justin Deas (Buzz, GL)? As for Douglas, what was the point in letting the actor go when his character is on-screen more than he ever was when he was actually alive? I. Don’t. Get. It. Would the film world write off Jack Nicholson or Meryl Streep?
5. Eliminate jerky hand-held camera work
One only had to watch All My Children’s nauseating, alcohol-induced camera work to know that daytime should never experiment with this production maelstrom — ever again.
4. Fight for Emmy reform/submit actors in proper categories
The daytime community really needs to officially define who a supporting actor and lead actor is so that the Emmy race can properly recognize the best in acting. I realize soaps are a different beast, but in my mind I always refer to Gone With the Wind as the definer: Vivien Leigh is a lead actress, and Hattie McDaniel is a supporting actress. Using that, I would define Erika Slezak (Viki, OLTL) as a lead, and Patricia Elliott (Renee, OLTL) as a supporting. Perhaps when an actor is both lead and supporting, as can often happen on soaps, the performer can decide which storyline he/she wants to be considered for and submit accordingly. Categories mean something, damn it! Also, a new daytime committee comprised of soap’s elite needs to be reinstituted so proper Emmy reform can happen instead of applying a bunch of Band-aids to key problems the Academy seems destined to make. If we can’t fix the Emmy Awards, world peace never stands a chance!
3. Character-driven storylines, puh-lease
Nothing is worse on soaps than watching a storyline that isn’t mined from character. Plot-driven stories do not work — why is it taking decades for soap writers to realize this? Living soap legend Agnes Nixon brilliantly noted that an audience will believe anything you write, as long as they understand why. Also, Nixon’s writing mantra should be followed at all times: Make them laugh, make them cry, and most importantly, make them wait. And to be clear — by waiting, the soap icon doesn’t mean threatening a character’s life in a Friday cliffhanger (especially when fans know a star’s contract isn’t up for renewal), but whether or not the character will learn and grow — and find happiness. Introducing psychology is a great place to start — The Bold and the Beautiful’s head writer-producer Bradley Bell is a master at this.
2. Stop rehashing plot information in every scene
When I tune into a new show midway through the plot, I don't turn the channel. In fact, I become more intrigued and obsessed with putting the pieces of the puzzle together that I keep watching until I figure out all the story threads by paying attention to the nuances in dialogue and acting. It's actually fun when you aren't force-fed information like a baby. Regardless, figuring out the elements at play in a storyline isn't rocket science; viewers are experts at soap storytelling and boast great instincts. It usually takes a few episodes to figure it all out — and isn't that what you want: a viewer to keep tuning in? When I watch a soap that explains everything that has transpired in the past two decades without moving the plot forward, I change the channel. Get it? There are more creative ways to educate viewers on the recent history of its characters without boring us to death. Again, tune into OLTL to see how it¹s done.
1. Fill out a minority report
Blame HBO. As former Brothers & Sisters producer Greg Berlanti, the creator of Dirty Sexy Money, told The Advocate recently, “when you live in a post-Six Feet Under world," he reasons, "it's kind of hard to go back to drawing gay characters like they're stereotypes again." Viewers expect realistic canvases and storylines — and anything else isn’t worth our time. It explains why fans are ditching soaps in droves and flocking to cable and prime-time TV for entertainment. Yes, prime time still has a long way to go regarding representing minorities in its stories, but it’s light years ahead of daytime (ironically, it used to be the other way around). Tell real stories about real people —and the audience will come. It’s sad that there were more minorities on soaps in the 1980s and 1990s — heck, there was even an all-black soap called Generations on NBC in 1989 — than there is now. And it’s what, 2008? For shame. It’s not that hard, people. Echoing Victoria Rowell’s (ex-Drucilla, Y&R) rant: “daytime is racist…” and I’ll add homophobic, and sexist to the list, too!