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Sunday, November 11, 2012

The return of AJ Quartermaine

The story of Michael’s parentage is very unique.  It is sort of an anti-baby-switch or anti-who’s-the-daddy or combination of the two.  Everyone is fully aware of who his real father yet instead of being given back to his father he was given to someone else.  Something tells me though that we are about to see that switch take place.

AJ has done some really horrible things and he is not what I would call a good guy.  Carly and Sonny can be pretty nasty themselves.  Pointing fingers and yelling “he started it first” may seem a little childish but in this situation I think it definitely holds some weight.  Because the beginning of this story line started in the ‘90s, there are many layers to why everyone did what they did.

I like Carly’s explanation to Michael this past week that she was young and stupid.  She certainly was.  She started the chain of lies because she wanted to keep her lover Tony whom she had stolen away from her mother.  It was selfishness on her part that she decided to make AJ think he had fallen off the wagon so he would be shipped to rehab out of state.  Other issues did come into play such as her conflicts with the Quartermaines whom she saw as controlling.  AJ being an alcoholic probably didn’t help either.  In my opinion, Carly never really cared about AJ although he at one time had feelings for her.  She didn’t want to be tied to him.

Sonny’s part in all of this was pure mobster.  He felt AJ took his child away from him when Carly lost Sonny’s child after a spill down the stairs during an argument.  At this time in GH history, Sonny wanted nothing more than to be a father.  This was something that never seemed to work out for him (he didn’t have his super sperm or kids popping out of the woodwork at this point).  Sonny decided to take what he wanted from AJ so he hung AJ from a meat hook and got him to sign away his rights to Michael.  This has aways been my perception of things.  I’m not saying Sonny doesn't love Michael but he didn’t become his father honestly.

As for AJ, I feel that Guza went in a really odd direction with the character and he wasn’t suppose to be as bad.  AJ was the black sheep of the Quatermaines.  He was very flawed and a bit of a bad boy.  Things such as shooting Alan in the back though was not something I think AJ would ever do.  I also felt Billy Warlock’s portrayal of AJ changed the character.  When Sean Kanan plays AJ, he’s the black sheep of the family because he is a screw up and does reckless things.  With Billy Warlock, AJ seemed like the black sheep of the family because he wasn’t as tall, blond, and golden as Jason.  Sean Kanan’s AJ is what will be making this current story work.

Although AJ, Sonny, and Carly are the stars of this tale, Michael has always been at the center of it.  He is the prize that everyone has been fighting over all these years.  Michael has had a rough history in Port Charles.  His character profile is a bit of a mess.  It’s filled with things such buying a gun as a teenager, shooting someone, being shot in the head, ax-murdering, bar fights, prison time (which lead to him being sexually assaulted), and dating a striper (which helped him get over his assault naturally).  I have seen fans posing the question of whether the character of Michael could be redeemed as a result of all this.  Being Sonny’s son was not easy on this character.  Would Michael has been better off had he been raised with AJ as a Quartermaine?  I feel that the story that is being unfolded is an attempt to answer this.

It feels as though the current creative team is taking some of the poor choices from the past regime and working them to their advantage.  Guza’s placement of the mobsters as good guys is being held up to a mirror.  Sonny, Jason, and Carly’s lifestyles are being questioned and we are having a look at their flaws.  This is what I want for these characters.  They were once very interesting characters to watch and dissect.  It was sad that Guza had reduced them to what some fans refer to as “The Mob Three” or “Unholy Trinity.”  GH should have never become a lite version of The Sopranos.  This story line is going to change things for the characters that are involved for the better.

Michael has finally learned that Carly and Sonny did some very bad things that set in motion AJ’s actions and some pretty traumatizing experiences for Michael himself.  The rose colored glasses have been yank off his face, thrown on the floor, and stepped on.  Chad Duell and Laura Wright did an outstanding job in the scenes where Michael asks Carly for the truth.  The expressions on their faces said it all.  A little bit of both their worlds had shattered.

I’m glad that Carly admitted to Michael what happened when he asked her.  Let’s face it this all happen 15 years ago (realtime not soaptime) - why drag out the lie even longer.  Also if Carly would have lied to Michael, she would have only dug herself in deeper.  I also feel that in telling the truth to Michael, there has been given room for him to forgive her.  I don’t want him to hate her but I want him to have an honest view of her.

Carly has never been very good at admitting when she is wrong.  While I love when characters have flaws, this is an annoying one to have.  Her admitting what she did to AJ is good first step in her overcoming this.  I still want Carly to be a bad girl but I want her to be more self aware.  I want her to realize that her actions can be selfish and cruel.

Sonny doesn’t know AJ is alive yet and Michael hasn’t spoken to him about what he now knows.  I’m really looking forward to these scenes especially after their recent scenes together at the boxing gym.  Sonny, still numb from the news of Jason’s death, told Michael he wanted better for him than the mobster lifestyle.  He told Michael that he would never be his right hand man and that he wanted him to live a safe and happy life.  I suspect Sonny may be put in the position to let go of Michael or lose him forever.  If you love someone, set them free.

As for AJ, I’m looking forward to him gaining some power and developing a relationship with Michael.  This has been a long time coming and really seems to be more on path with how I imagine the story would go when I first started watching years ago.  I don’t see AJ as a hero but I see him as someone who is very flawed.  I love that AJ is now aware and sorry for his past misdeeds.

I also love that this story isn’t stand alone.  It is connected to a lot of the other story lines we currently have on campus.  I can see it creating movement in the budding romances between Starr/Michael and Carly/Todd.  It’s nice to see the contrast in the parent/child relationships here too.  I have always been a fan of Starr and Todd’s relationship.  He’s very protective of her and doesn’t want her to be like him while she understands he does bad things but loves him anyways.  I can imagine Carly and Michael eventually getting to this point.

There is also the impact to the Quartermaines.  This is a huge step in rebuilding the mass destruction that was done under Guza and JFP to this beloved core family.  With AJ back and Michael hopefully turning Q, this means a lot of interaction with Monica and Tracy as well as ghost Alan pop ups. It would be great if they could return a few still living cousins also.

By bringing back AJ, Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini have captured soapy goodness.  This has created a hug character driven umbrella story.  It’s really giving this fan what she wants.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

General Hospital - My Likes and Dislikes Part Deux

A few months ago, I blogged some of my likes and dislikes of General Hospital’s current state of affairs.  In my blog I had made reference to the following quote from Tristan Rogers:  “The underlying philosophy of GH had always been one of ‘hope.’ In this General Hospital there was none.”  The quote was taken from an article entitled The Going of Guza.  I had referenced this quote not only because it came from the very insightful Rogers but because I think it did a great job a summarizing what General Hospital had lost and needed to get back.  I am quoting it again now because I feel General Hospital has gotten its glimmer of hope back.

In looking back at my previous list, I was pleasantly surprised to see there has been a lot of movement in the story lines.  Over all I feel like the show now has good balance and tone.  Below is what I am liking, disliking and on the fence with:


The Return of AJ Quartermaine - So happy to see someone tell Michael the truth about his mother and “father” finally.  This is HUGE and is going to have a lot of impact on a lot of characters.  AJ is not squeaky clean by any means but Sonny & Carly really did him and Michael wrong.  Love that time wasn't wasted having AJ tell Michael about the meat hook incident.  Michael didn’t want to believe him of course but I hope he starts asking some questions of his parents now.  Michael insistence to place Sonny, Carly, and Jason on pedestals has always seem unbalanced to me.  The kid needs lots of therapy and needs to have his eyes opened a bit.  I actually think that deep down Michael knows Sonny and Carly aren’t saints but just doesn’t want to admit it.  And let’s face it, his past experience with AJ was a bit traumatic.

I think this return will force Sonny and Carly to reflect on some of their past deeds.  They both need a good look in the mirror.  What they did to AJ and, as a result Michael, was really horrible.  Nobody knows what Michael’s life would have been like with AJ as a father but with Sonny as a father it was pretty rough.  I suspect things such as being shot in the head and raped in prison probably wouldn’t have happen had he grown up in the Quatermaine mansion.  The most that probably would have happened to Michael is that he would have grown up a bit of a spoiled jerk.

It is really nice to see Sean Kanan in the role again as well.  He looks like he could be Michael’s father and Jason’s brother.  I have loved Billy Warlock in other roles but he never felt right to me as AJ.  Warlock just has too much of a nice guy vibe for me.  He seems more like a guy who will help with the dishes and drive your kids to soccer practice than a hot, regretful one night stand.  Kanan just makes a better sexy bad boy type in my opinion.

The Luke/Tracy Friendship - I love the banter between these two.  I also enjoy seeing them scheme together and poke fun of each other’s relationships or lack there of.  They have great chemistry and great dialog together.  I’m happy that instead of focusing on dark and serious story lines for them, there is focus on the mischievous aspects of these characters.

In fact I could really extend this to all the friendships that are popping up in Port Charles right now.  Sure some of them are more like frienemies, such as Carly/Sam and Monica/Tracy, but I am loving not see so much back-stabbing and hating.  It’s fun to watch some of these characters just hang out and talk.

Todd and Carly - Both Blair/Todd and Carly/Jax where great couples that I loved.  That being said, I am really enjoying Todd and Carly together right now.  I think the actors have great chemistry with each other and the characters fit together well.  In the past these two characters have been rather dark so it is nice to see the light and fun moments between them.  They are both on the not-so-nice side and I can see them as a possible villainous pairing or as scheming partners.

Blair is on her way to Port Charles which could lead to an interesting triangle of sorts.  I like the idea of Carly and Blair as friends too so I’m curious to see how it all plays out.  Maybe the gals can gang up on Skye together.

SpinEllie - I know Spinelli hangs out with and works for the mob but he has a gentleness about him that I think makes it possible to label him as one of the good guys.  I like to see a nice guy not finish last for once.  It is great that the current girl-boy-girl triangles on General Hospital feature guys who aren’t hitmen or godfather types.  Also Ellie is adorable and likable.  It is so much fun watching Ellie and Spinelli geek out on one of their dates.  I was hoping that a character like Ellie would be brought on the show and am not disappointed.  I am getting a kick out of Maxie’s reaction to this new situation.  I like to think it is a dose of her own medicine.

More Hospital - As a whole now we have the follow characters that work at the hospital: Epiphany, Patrick, Steve, Liz, Sabrina, Monica, Britt, and Ellie.  What’s better yet is that we actually get to see them at the hospital.  This is great!  It’s just weird not having that much hospital in a show called General Hospital.

Liz and Sam and Jason’s exit - All three actors did a great job with their scenes when the baby switch was revealed.  I particularly loved Liz’s confession to Jason and the layers that were given to why she did what she did.  I know that some fans are not happy that she didn’t end up with Jason and that she switched the tests but I think that this was Liz’s rock bottom and now we’ll get to see her built back up again.

I was happy to see Sam and Jason get their baby back.  Babyswitches are common in the soap genre and not particularly my favorite story lines but this one played out well.  I liked that Liz and Sam didn’t attack each other in the end.

As luck would have it Steve Burton’s exit happened right as Jason’s story line was getting really interesting for me.  I’m glad that he was shot and kicked into the water.  It seemed fitting for the character and better than having some awkward scene of him leaving town when it didn’t make sense.  No body was found so he can return later.

Jasam and Liason have never been my favorite couples but in the end I found my self rooting for both.  I think this is largely in part because there was a shift from Jason being the focal point of both relationships.  The stories became more about these two women and their flaws.  It became more relatable for me.

Sonny the Family Man - Sonny trying to get through to his angry daughter and telling his son that he wants better for him than the mob, is the Sonny I want to see.  I would much rather see Sonny challenge his daughter’s shady suitor to a boxing match than challenge his rivals to a shoot out.  I still want Sonny to be tough but I want to see his softer side more.

I remember in the ‘90s that Sonny really wanted to have a family.  It was something he seemed to want more than anything.  This was before Guza decided to give Sonny so many lovers and messed up little children.  I’m not sure how accurate my memory is on all of this but I imagined Sonny being a lot different than what he ended up.  I had imagine a father who was still a mobster but was protective of his children and didn’t let them come anywhere near the business.  I wanted him to have more of a nurturing soul when it came to his family yet still be brutal when it came to the business.  I’m starting to see glimpses of this Sonny now.

I like seeing his interaction with his baby mama Alexis.  Maurice Benard and Nancy Lee Grahn have great ease and comfortableness with each other that really shows through in their scenes.  They seem like a divorce couple who have managed to become friends.  It makes me want to see them play house a little.

I also think that with recently losing Jason (and Kate for that matter) and the return of AJ, we are going to see Sonny do some reflecting on his life.  Would Jason and Michael have been better off without him?  Should he hang up his mobster hat?  Is he such a nice guy after all?  Should he let Michael go be a Quartermaine? I can see some really interesting stuff coming out of all this.

Lulu and Dante baby story - This story had me happy, excited, and then crying when it was revealed that Lulu would not be able to carry a baby to term.  I like that we get to see this couple go through this together.  It is being played as Lulu and Dante not being able to have kids instead of as just Lulu not being able to have kids.  This is a couple that is going to weather this storm together.  The story seems very real and I wont to see how they get over all the bumps in the road ahead.

On the Fence:

Trey/Kristina/Michael/Starr - I actually like Trey now.  It was nice seeing his vulnerable side come out in his interactions with his father and when his mother cruelly told him that she wished he was dead.  

The Trey/Kristina relationship still has potential but I’m not quite feeling them yet.  Michael and Starr are cute together but they haven’t been given much in terms of story line to move their relationship along.  It would have been interesting to see a Johnny/Starr/Michael triangle but I’m not sure how that could ever happen now.  I do want Starr to be less vanilla.

As far as this young adult cast goes, I like all the characters individually well enough but haven’t been wowed by any of the couples yet.  I get the feeling that there is a love triangle in the future but I not sure that would make much impact with things currently the way that they are.  It does seem there may be some other excitement thrown their way though which should hopefully help.

The DID Story - I’m really enjoying Connie and Kelly Sullivan is a riot.  However while I feel like we are being given a lot of fun and interesting scenes with this story, I’m not sure where the heck it is going.  The reveal that Johnny and Connie were married at the Kate and Sonny non-wedding was great soapy stuff but not all the pieces are fitting together for me quite yet.  Is there suppose to be romance developing between Connie and Johnny?  Are we ever going to find out exactly why Connie can’t stand Sonny?  Wouldn’t Johnny be better off if he just confessed?

Duke Lavery - Duke’s got me a little confused right now.  It’s really too early for me to have a really opinion on this story line but I’m scratching my head at a lot of things.  I’m not really sure if I should be convinced that this is the real Duke.  It is great to have Ian Buchanan on the canvas again though.


Dr. Keenan’s exit - I really like Nathin Butler and would have rather he were revealed to be a Jacks brother.  He is attractive and talented and I think they should have found a way to keep him on the show.  Plus I really liked the Liz and Ewen pairing.  His exit also seemed a little clunky to me.  It would have had more impact if Liz and Ewen were further along in their relationship.

The Exposition - General Hospital has been doing a lot of explaining lately.  While I understand some exposition makes sense and is necessary, such as in situations when veteran characters are brought back, there seems to be too much of it.  There has been exposition at times when a characters action would have easily told the story instead.  A good example of this was when Jason told Sam that their baby wasn’t dead.  There was a hold episode of Jason relaying the past events to to Sam.  I would have prefer a few quick sentences, some hugs and kisses, and then a quick rush out the door to find the baby.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Cult of Soap Opera

I remember being fresh from college and living in a tiny apartment that I shared with two roommates.  Everyday I would rush home from my entry level job to watch my favorite show.  It was my way of escaping and relaxing after a hard day’s work.  That show was the cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer - the reruns which aired on FX to be exact.  Yes, I was rushing home to watch a rerun.  This is the way fans of cult television behave and this is what I think makes cult television marketable.  Shows such as Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Two and a Half Men were ratings darlings but nobody runs home to watch their reruns on a daily basis.

Cult shows are typically serials that not only draw their viewers in but give viewers the need to continue to watch to see what happens next.  Fans care what happens to the characters on these shows.  While they can focus on fantasy and science fiction elements, they will usually have a hint of relateblity to them that makes their audiences connect.  Soap operas are a form of this type of television.

Anyone who is a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will tell you that it wasn’t just about staking vampires.  It was really about how high school is hell.  Many of the monsters and “big bads” that Buffy battle each week were merely metaphors for the teenage experience.  Of course those who didn’t watch, think it is just about a vampire slaying cheerleader.

Something simular can be said of soaps.  While on the surfaces they may seem to be nothing more than sex and scandal, they really are about our relationships and desires.  Instead of high school as hell, soaps are about how love can be hell and, of course, occasionally heaven.

Like their science fiction and fantasy counter parts, soaps are also appointment television.  Fans of the shows will make a point to have time to view these programs. Plus when fans turn the channel to these shows, they are actually watching them!  Nobody turns to a soap for the background noise.

This should appeal to advertisers and, according to a recent comment from ABC President of Entertainment Paul Lee, it does:

Lee says that soaps tend to rake in more money from advertisers. "We tend to be able to sell it more aggressively around the world because it's appointment television," he explains, noting that he began his career producing Brazilian and British soap operas. 

Lee’s comment was a surprise to many fans such as myself not because we disagreed but because this was certainly the opposite of what we have been told in the past.  It was very pleasant for a television executive to state what I have always thought was the obvious.

So why have fans of the ailing soap genre been told for so long that soaps don’t make money?  I wish I knew the answer that question.  All I can say is that some television executives just don’t appear to get it.  They don’t always seem to understand that when it comes to viewership, loyalty can be more important than quantity.  I hope that we can see this negative attitude towards soaps continue to change because with everything that is going on in the world today, we all need the escape.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

General Hospital - My Likes and Dislikes

The last 15 years or so have not been kind to the once beloved General Hospital (GH). At one point GH was at the top of it’s genre but now sadly it is struggling to stay on the air.  I blame this on a total lack of understanding of the audience by the formal creative team.  Now there is definitely plenty of blame to go around but I feel the the greatest weight of this rest on the shoulders of former head writer Bob Guza and former executive producer Jill Farren Phelps.  It was under their rein that GH starting being refereed to as General Mobster after all.  Too much focus was placed on the mobsters with nothing to balance it out.  In additional to this GH became hostile towards it’s female characters deeming it by many the most misogynistic soap on television. As Tristan Rogers posted on his website in an article entitled The Going of Guza“The underlying philosophy of GH had always been one of ‘hope.’ In this General Hospital there was none.”

Now I could go on about the damage that was done to GH and list off the many poor decision that were made but I won’t.  The point is that when Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati took over as GH's executive producer and head writer, they had a huge mess to clean up.  I don’t like everything that they have done but I am a lot happier with the direction of the show right now. When One Life To Live (OLTL) ended it had a balanced canvas with focus on family, friends, lovers, and how they all relate to each other.  I don’t want GH to become OLTL 2.0 but I do want it to be more like OLTL in this respect.  So, roughly six months later, how do I think they are doing?  Here are some of my likes, dislikes, and everything in between:


Anna Devane - Bringing back this character is probably the best decision that has been made so far.  She brings two much needed elements to GH - a good justice seeker to balance out the mobsters and a strong female lead.  Finola Hughes is also a wonderful soap actress and tons of fun to watch.  Anna is exactly what GH needed.

Anna-Luke-Tracy triangle - Luke is nothing for these gals to be fighting over and I think that is the point.  I don’t expect a great romance to come out of this.  That’s not what I like about this storyline.  I like the relatable elements that the story has for me as a viewer.  I think most women can relate to what is feels like when you fall for the wrong guy.  No matter how smart, attractive, and wonderful you are, you end up feeling stupid.  This is what happened to Tracy.  Jane Elliot turned in a great performance when Tracy’s love-goggles came off.  She made a fool out of herself for a guy who didn’t love her back and it hurt.  Meanwhile, Anna had jumped into Luke’s arms after having gone through a big loss.  Luke had been supportive and their are some feelings there but unfortunately not a lot of thought.  After hearing Tracy’s side of things she is definitely questioning if she wants to be involved with Luke.  Another thing I am enjoying about this storyline is that the over 50 cast members were allowed to be fun and sexy in it.  Anna's bedroom romp and Tracy's tongue slip were refreshing.

Heather Webber - Robin Mattson definitely knows how to play a villain not to mention a complete cuckoo.  She’s Annie Wilkes from Misery with a dash of Norman Bates’s mother.  Not only is she a riot to watch but she has a dangerous unpredictability to her that can make her seem pretty darn scary at times.  Mr. James Franco, this is how it’s done.

The addition of some good guys - When you have mobster verses mobster, the “good guys” are really just the whoever is the lesser of two evils.  Sonny and his coffee importing crew really needed some genuine good guys to butt heads with and the women of GH needed some non-mobsters to pair up with.  John McBain is a good addition to Port Charles because of this and I am actually enjoying him more on GH more than I did on OLTL.  I also like that we have characters such as Ewen, Patrick, and Steve who are getting some good airtime now.

Jackal & McCall - Watching Spinelli and Sam putting the pieces of the Heather Webber puzzle together over Chinese take-out is fun.  I’ve always enjoyed these type of adventures on soaps and I’m happy to see that Sam w/the help of Spinelli is getting close to figuring this out on her own.  It’s also particularly enjoyable because before beginning their new case, both Sam and Spinelli were given backbones.

Spinelli decided he had enough of Maxie’s mistreatment and told her he was done being her whipping boy.  The last creative team seemed to think good guy meant “whimp” in Spinelli’s case so I’m glad that is over.  It was a nice touch also when Spinelli risked getting a smack down from Todd in order for Sam to get safely out of Todd room.  See, guys can be gentlemen without having to pull out a gun!

Sam’s slowly being moved into the heroine archetype.  The transition was pretty rocky and the scenes between Jason and her were really hard to watch.  I did not enjoy watching a mob hit-man yell at his pregnant raped wife at all.  Her turning point came when she finally told Jason off and said all the things that fans were saying.  Kelly Monaco did a great job in that scene and I’m starting to really like Sam.  She still has a long way to go but I am enjoying the spunky PI a lot more than the mob wife.

Todd Manning -  I admit the main reason for my liking Todd is that I like the actor.  The character is also very complex and layer which makes him interesting to watch.  Todd’s not a good guy by any means but the difference is he knows he’s not the good guy.  The problem with GH’s anit-heros and mobsters is that they don’t seem to always realize they are bad guys.  Plus he adds a smarter foe for Sonny, some dark humor, and has great chemistry with the cast.

On the Fence:

The Baby Switch - I was not looking forward to this story line.  It is a dark and upsetting at times.  I can’t say that I completely hate it though for many reasons.  One is the acting.  The actors brought their A game to this story line and made me really feel for the characters.  Another thing I liked is that it is an umbrella story line that touches multiple characters in very different ways.  It isn’t center on one character.  I also like the writing.  Baby switches have been done before but this is smarter version.  Stuff such as the mother’s medical histories and the appearances of the babies were touched on.

The DID Story - I love Kelly Sullivan’s acting in this story line and Connie can be a riot.  However sometimes things can get a little campy and I don’t really like the idea of Connie having a long lost son.  I also don’t want Sonny to use violence as a way to deal with this but I have a feeling he is going to do just that.

The Mob Three - I like Maurice Benard, Steve Burton, and Laura Wright but I don’t always like the characters they play.  This is really the result of years of the show focusing too much on the mob and trying to play them as the romantic heroes instead of complex anti-heroes.  A lot of viewers wanted the mob to go away all together.  Instead the goal seems to be to try to make these characters likable again.  Carly has actually grown on me a lot.  I like her budding friendships with both Todd and Sam.  Laura Wright also has good chemistry with both Roger Howarth and Brandon Barash.  Sonny is being given a less mob focused story line w/Kate’s DID but he still needs a lot of growth.  I would have like to see him do a little jail time or something.  Jason has had the least about of moment and I would have really liked him to have woken up as Jason Q after his last operation.  I’m having trouble seeing why either Liz or Sam would love him.


Mob Princess - This may be one of those stories which I end up liking once I see where it is going but so far it’s just annoying.  NuKristina comes off as a brat.  Having your father go all mobster to get you into Yale is not really that great of a thing.  I could understand Kristina not wanting to be controlled and feeling embarrassed.  This is what the focus should be.  I can’t understand why she would want to drag her siblings and others into this though.  I don’t care how good Trey looks in a towel.

The Young Adult Scene - This has a lot of potential that isn’t being used.  Starr as a Disney pop princess isn’t interesting for me.  I like the badass that tells people not to call her girlie.   There was a missed opportunity to give Starr’s character some much needed movement when she was brought onto GH.  I would have liked for her go to medical school, get a pet snake, and tap into her inner trickster that she inherited from her parents.

Michael needs to actually get mad at his parents sometimes instead of having this unconditional loyalty.  He needs more depth.  Have him question whether Sonny and the mob are actually good guys.  Maybe have him spend some time with the Quartermaines.

Trey and Kristina are in that annoying stage where I can’t really relate to them or like them.  I would like it if Kristina’s crush turn out to be gay.  It would be an interesting story for GH to have and I would love to see Kristina’s reaction when she finds out she has been doing a horrible reality show to impress a guy who will never like her back.  This will also give Trey a story line other than being just a jerk.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Daytime Emmy Roller Coaster: A Fan’s View

This year’s Daytime Emmys have been an emotional up and down for this soap fan to say the least.  Before the pre-pre-nominations, pre-nominations, and nominations were announced, I was actually pretty excited about the Emmys.  The final year of One Life to Live (OLTL) was the basis for this premature bliss.  OLTL was amazingly great in 2011.  Critics and fans alike were madly in love with this now departed soap.  I mean a soap opera was actually a critical darling?!  When is the last time that happen?  Of course my other much less friendly reason for wanting OLTL to rake in the Emmys was because I really wanted them to stick it to ABC.  Let’s face it sometimes the best revenge is success.

I already had my favorite picks for each category picked out before I even knew who submitted and what they submitted for consideration (Go, Andrea Evans!).  Unfortunately for my fan girl heart, not all my favorites submitted for the Emmys but I still had my favorites from those that did submit.  By the final nomination announcement though most were out of the running completely.  My excitement all but died.

The biggest disappoint and surprise was that OLTL isn’t up for best show.  OLTL really deserved to win and at the very least should have been nominated.  To make things even weirder, General Hospital (GH) got a nomination - a show that was on such a downward spiral that it’s head writer and producer were actually replaced by the former head writer and producer of OLTL.

GH does have probably the best acting cast in daytime so it isn’t a surprise that the actors from GH got nominated at all.  I’ve watch their Emmy reals and they are really good.  I’m sure they will dominate the acting categories tonight.  I did notice though that the majority of what was submitted by GH belongs to the same story line.  I guess this just goes to show that you only need a few good episodes to get a nomination and perhaps a win.  It really would make more since if there was a way to look at the shows as a whole when making Emmy selections.

Another Emmy low point happened when it appeared that the Daytime Emmys wouldn’t even be televised.  Talk about kicking a genre when it’s down!  Despite the upset with the nominations, I still wanted to see who won, hear their acceptance speeches, and see what they wore (I’m such a girl!).  I hoped that at the very least, there would be a way for me to see it online or that a soap reporter would graciously post a lot of pictures online and live tweet.

When is was announce at almost the last minute that HLN would pick up the Daytime Emmys, my feelings were mixed.  HLN and Daytime Emmys seemed like a strange combination.  They are a 24 hour news network after all.  I think that the fact that they are a 24 hour news network actually ended up being a good thing though.  They were able to turn the Daytime Emmys into news by promoting it through interviews, news stories, and their awesome website.  HLN is showing the soap genre and daytime television much more love than any of the major networks would have.  I’m also excited that they will be doing tributes to the recently cancelled OLTL and All My Children.

My anticipation for the Daytime Emmys is now in a much more positive place than it was a couple of months ago.  I’m more excited than anxious as I wait for them to air tonight.  Who knew the Daytime Emmys would be as dramatic as their shows.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Soap Fans Online: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The other day at work, I had sent one of my colleagues an email asking her a simple question regarding a project we were both working on.  I consider this colleague to also be a friend so you can imagine my surprise when the email response I received from her was rather blunt and stern.  This annoyed me greatly as I saw no reason for this kind of reaction to a simple question.  I was definitely not in the mood for this behavior after what had already seemed like a long day at the office. I typed up my response advising her that I didn’t know what I had done to offend her and didn’t appreciate her email.  Before sending it, I re-read the email she had sent me...and I’m glad I did.  She wasn't being cranky with me as I originally thought.  She just used bad grammar which caused what would have been a perfectly pleasant email to sound harsh.

The point of my story is that what we email, tweet, and post online can easily be misread and misinterpreted.  While social media has opened the possibility to greater communication opportunities, it doesn’t have the benefit of being able to observe the tone and expressions of those who use it.  Had I been having a face to face conversation with my colleague, it is very unlikely any misunderstanding would have occurred.

It is my opinion that these type of situations can happened quite a bit online.  I have posted what I thought were seeming innocent comments on soap message boards only to have upset my fellow fans.  I have also been that upset fan who has responded to another fans comments with great irritation only to end up feeling kind of silly about my actions later.  Who hasn’t had these experiences before?  Yet these kind of misunderstandings and bad reactions can make soap fans look quite honestly a little nuts.

While there are some trolls out there who’s intentions are clearly to provoke online disagreements, I believe that this is not the intent of a majority of soap fans.  It can be easy sometimes for a difference of opinion to feel like an attack especially if there aren’t always enough characters to fully express one’s thoughts.  So how does one avoid an unnecessary online grapple?  That’s a tough question to answer but here are my thoughts:

  • Leave the drama for the soaps.  If someone posts something that you strongly disagree with sometimes its just best to ignore it and move on.  You’re not going to change that person’s mind so it isn’t worth the time or hurt feelings.
  • Remember everyone is entitled to their opinion regardless if their opinion makes sense to you or not.  Be respectful when disagreeing with someone and don’t push them if they seem like they don’t want to debate with you.
  • Think before you react to something.  Is it possible that something may not have come across the way that it was intended?  Is it possible someone is just trying to provoke a reaction?  Is it really that important?
  • Don’t let others get to you.  Ignore someone if you don’t like were the conversation is heading and if someone continually agitates you there is always the block button.
  • Find like minded people to have conversations with.  If you want to talk about your favorite actor or super couple, find someone else who enjoys them as much as you do and have a fun discussion.  It will be a lot more worth while that any argument or fan war.
  • If someone says something you don’t like or disagree with, don’t take it personally.  They are just sharing an opinion and, unless they specifically directed something towards you, it is safe to assume it wasn’t directed at you.
  • Be aware of what you post online and how it may seem to others.  They can't hear your sarcastic tone and giggles and they can't see your winks and smiles.  Is your post really reflecting what you want it to say?
  • If you unintentionally upset someone, say you’re sorry.  You don’t need to dwell on it but sometimes a simple apology is necessary in order to move on to a better discussion.
  • Add a little positive with the negative.  If you don’t like something and want to express your thoughts, by all means do so but also feel free to discuss what you like as well.  If all your tweets are negative, you can end up appearing as someone who is just unhappy and never will be no matter what.  Your criticisms regardless of how constructive they may be most likely will not be taken seriously.
  • Watch the language.  Constant curse words and crude language can obviously be offensive.  Plus it can make you seem unintelligent and like you don’t know what you are talking about.
  • Don’t lash out at others who don’t share the same likes and dislikes that you do.  Especially don’t attack the soap actors or writers.  The impression this leaves is that you are mean.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Changing Times and the Viewing Habits of Soap Fans

There used to be a time when I didn’t worry so much about how I watch a television show or how ratings were counted.  That was the job of television executives and the Nielsen ratings system.  Lately though I have been watching the ratings race for daytime television like a crazed Nascar fan hoping my car will pull into the lead.  It’s a bumpy race.

Daytime TV just isn’t watched the same way that it used to be.  Actually TV in general isn’t watched the same way that it used to be.  For starters, we have a lot more control over when and how we watch programs.  If I miss a live episode I have plenty of options to still view the episode such as via online, DVR, or in some cases OnDemand.  While these options have been embraced by viewers, Nielsen appears to have no clue what to do in response.

Nielen continues to report that the majority of television is viewed live.  Meaning that the number of viewers watching online for example don’t really need to be counted because the numbers are allegedly so small.  I feel this is utter nonsense and especially in terms of daytime television in specific soap operas.

Now while I can’t really picture too many viewers finding alternative ways to view episodes of programs such as The Talk or The Chew, I feel that these new viewing options are very important to soaps.  The majority of women working has increased hugely since soaps first became televised.  This doesn’t make these programs irrelevant.  It just means that fans have had to find other ways to watch their shows.

Let’s take a look at my viewing habits.  I work from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday typically.  This of course means that I can not watch General Hospital when it originally airs.  Since I am lucky enough to still have SoapNet, I will watch my soap at 8:00 p.m. after work.  I will also watch episodes online at once they become available.  These options work great for me and I think it is safe to assume that these options are pretty typical for other viewers as well.

So what does this mean as far as Nielsen ratings are concerned and how does one make sure that his/her viewing habits are counted?  That is a good question for which many fans would love to know the answer.  It seems that the responsibility of monitoring ratings has fallen in the hands of the viewers.  Nielsen should be adapting to the new ways in which programming is viewed but it is not.  While I am not an expert, as a viewer I will attempt to answer that question.

If you can’t watch your show live, DVR it and watch it the same day that it was broadcasted.  These numbers are now counted in the ratings.  If you don’t have a DVR, watch online at the network’s website so that the network can see your viewings.  Do this instead of YouTube.

Perhaps the trickiest solution is to get more viewers to watch live.  It seems simple but it isn’t of course for reason already discussed.  For starters your live view won’t even count unless you have a Nielsen box or book.  I think the trick to overcoming this obstacle is to encourage others to become soap fans and start watching.  Their live viewings may be counted.  Talk to others about your show and let them know what you like about it.  Tell them to watch because it is a great program and they will be entertained.  Create positive buzz online via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Message Boards, etc.

It seems backwards that viewers have to be so careful of how they watch soaps.  Tracking viewership is really Nielsen’s job after all.  However until Nielsen adapts to new viewing habits though I believe it is worth the effort to make sure they are counting us.

Sources and further reading:

Why Nielsen RAtings Are Inaccurate, and Why They’ll Stay That Way

Ratings - Frequently Asked Questions About Nielsen Ratings

Dispatches From the Couch: The Big Lie

Saturday, March 24, 2012

ABC: The New Coke of Daytime Television or Dissecting a Bad Decision

There are those who are trendsetters and then there are those who hopelessly try to follow.  Currently ABC Daytime is the later.  It has decided to jump on the education reality show bandwagon...about five years give or take a little after this became the trend of course.  Instead of looking to it’s audience to see what they wanted, it apparently decided to channel surf and see what other channel’s audiences were watching.  What was the result of this hack form of research?  The cancellation of soap operas for The Chew and The Revolution.

The most common reasons that viewers have been given for the replacement of soaps with these programs has been the idea that viewers want educational programs instead of entertainment programs and money.  I’ll argue that both of these statements are the results of bad marketing research on the part of ABC Daytime.

First let’s start with the idea that ABC Daytime viewers want educational programing instead of soap operas.  ABC Daytime viewers do not want this type of programming.  Viewers that want to watch cooking shows watch the Food Network and Cooking Channel.  Viewers who want to watch programs about make-overs watch What Not to Wear on TLC.  Viewers who want to watch programs about home design watch HGTV.  I could go on but I won’t.  My point is that ABC Daytime wasn’t looking at what THEIR viewers wanted.  Their viewers wanted soap operas which is something they can’t find on these other networks.

That ABC would think it was smart to mimic these channels in the first place is mind boggling.  Not because these channels don’t provide good programming but because the programming they provide is lower rated than the programming that ABC daytime was providing.  Cable networks don’t have to have as high of ratings because their audiences are already paying for their station.  They don’t have to rely only on advertising dollars.  Let’s compare the numbers.  In 2011, season 8 of What Not to Wear average 1.2 million viewers.  For the week of March 12, 2012, The Revolution averaged 1.33 million viewers.  In 2011, One Life to Live averaged about 2.4 million viewers.  Did ABC not only want to mimic TLC’s programming but its ratings as well?

To add insult to injury, not only is ABC Daytime trying to copy lower rated cable networks but it is providing a bad imitation of these programs.  The programs appear to have been designed with the goal of cheap production over quality.  They relied on the brand recognition of other channels by hiring hosts such as Tim Gunn from Lifetime’s Project Runway and Mario Batali from Food Network’s Iron Chief to bring in viewers instead of the actual content of the show.  They’re not even good knock offs.  It’s like a department store trying to sell a handbag with a “LX” design on it and telling customers it’s Louie Vuitton.   The customers are buying it.

So what about the cost of soap operas compared to reality shows?  It’s true soap operas are not cheap and because of this they need to bring in the viewers in order to drive up advertising prices.  I can see where the cost of producing a soap opera could make a network question keeping that program.  However, these shows were bringing in viewers even without any promotion from the network.  Why didn’t ABC just try to promote it’s own programming to gain viewership?  Why didn’t ABC do research on how to improve their soaps and hire good creative teams to boost their appeal?  It never did that.  I take care for the things I spend money on.

The end result of ABC’s carelessness has angered viewers and cost them ratings and reputation.  The Chew and The Revolution have been ridiculed by the press.  In a recent article on, columnists Roger Friedman even compared the new ABC Daytime line up to the New Coke and Tropicana container disasters.  This is a very good comparison.  These are both classic examples of companies Spending time in design houses instead of spending time with your customers."

In the cases of the New Coke and Tropicana disasters, both companies went back to their original products.  Hopefully, ABC can learn a thing or two from their own debacle and not cancel another soap opera.  I really hated New Coke.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why we should watch General Hospital

When a ship is sinking you should jump, right?  Not if you can save the ship and its passengers.  The sinking ship I am referencing of course is General Hospital and the viewers are its captain.  I think fans can make a difference before this soap becomes dead in the water.

So why do I think that it is so important to for General Hospital to stay on the air?  To be honest General Hospital hasn’t been that great lately - even downright dreadful at some points.  If a show isn’t entertaining me, I usually don’t care if it lives or dies.  But this is different.  General Hospital is part of a genre that I love.

General Hospital hasn’t always been this lifeless.  For a long time it was very entertaining and popular.  It had the most famous super couple of probably all time and adventurous storylines with spies, gangsters, and evil rich widows played by Elizabeth Taylor.  Unfortunately the adventure has been replaced by long depressed conversations about being depressed, the gangsters have overtaken the show, and James Franco is no Liz Taylor.  These things need to change.

General Hospital’s biggest problem right now is the writing and sad story lines.  This is on it’s way to being fixed via new executive producer and head writer.  The old creative team was killing the show.  I’m not saying that Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati are going to save the show but it’s a step in the right direction.  What they did with One Life To Live this last year was amazing and fun to watch.  Added bonus - Carlivati is a long time fan of General Hospital so he cares about the show.

Another reason to start watching General Hospital again is the addition and return of some fan favorite characters and soap actors.  No offense to Mr. Franco but this is what TPTB should have been doing to try to boost ratings in the first place.  Franco’s character was just a little too out there and did nothing to boost ratings.  It just ended up being something for Joel McHale to make fun of on The Soup.  On the other hand, bringing back popular characters who have family connections to the show and can be easily worked into current character story lines in a positive way makes more sense.  And, although a little controversial, bring in popular One Live to Life characters to fill in some missing character gaps (Starr as the smart young leading lady and John as the hero type) is in my opinion a smart move.

So with some of the creative changes on the way for General Hospital, I am remaining optimistic that the show can once again become must see TV.  I think that fans of the soap genre should give the show a try if they aren’t watching.  If after a few weeks you just don’t like it you can always stop watching but I have a feeling that some good things are about to happen.

Another major reason to watch General Hospital is that there are only four daytime soaps left now and it would be a tragedy for that number to drop even more.  Soap fans need to send executives the message that we would rather watch soaps than cheaply put together “educational” reality programing.  TV executives don’t care about our feelings or the soap genre at all really but they love money and ratings.  It’s not enough to just not watch The Chew and The Revolution.  If those shows have low ratings they will just be placed with other shows like them.  However if ratings for soap operas increase and fans show a demand for them, we may not only be able to keep the soaps that we have but maybe the number of daytime dramas can increase again in the future.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bad Romance - The Dissolving of Daytime Soaps

It seems lately that the once beloved soap genre can’t get any respect.  Once the darlings of daytime, they are now near extinction and being replaced by reality and educational programing.  This bad break-up between the soap genre and daytime television has been heartbreaking for many soap fans.  So what happened to make what seemed like a happy marriage end in divorce?

While I am only a humble fan, I would like to share some of my thoughts on what I feel lead to the downfall of soap operas.

Soaps didn't get a chance to flaunt their assets

Soap operas have a lot of talent yet most soap stars are not household names like many primetime actors.  While most tv shows want viewers to become familiar with their casts and work to promote the actors as a way of promoting the program, soaps have not done a very good job of this at all.  While non soap fans probably know Susan Lucci, next to none of them could tell you who six time Emmy winner Erika Slezak is.  She doesn’t exist outside the genre.  Why wasn’t she promoted more?  While Susan Lucci deserves the attention she gets, why did daytime not want to showcase all its actors?

Take a look at some of the now household names that did start on soaps.  I’ll use Sarah Michelle Gellar and Kelly Rippa as examples.  Everyone knows Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Regis’s co-host.  These talented ladies didn’t become famous until after they left the soap genre.  The message that gives is that soaps are merely starting spots for actors and that they can only be stars after they leave.

Daytime television should have been making stars.  There are lot of people who will tune into a show simply because they like one of the actors on it.

Pass the trash

If someone didn’t do well in his previous job, why would you hire that same person to do the exact same job again?  Yet this has been happening for years in regards to soaps.  Head writers and executive producers who make major mistakes on one series could always count on being hired onto another series.  Now I won’t name any names - as tempting as it may be - but we soap fans know who they are.

To put it simply, soaps need people who love and understand the genre and it’s fans doing the creative work behind the scenes.  If a head writer or executive producer is killing off the show’s heroines, breaking up it’s super couples, and unnecessarily recasting characters with their friends, they need to find another line of work and shouldn’t be rehired.  Stuff like this can upset viewers and cause lasting damage to the show.

Not enough love in the afternoon

The soap genre is about romance, family, and all the crazy stuff in between.  It’s escapism but also relatable.  The story line should be keep character driven.  Fans should see the good and bad decisions the characters take and those decision should be what moves the story forward.  When a female lead falls hard, the viewers need to fall with her.  Characters need to be fleshed out and couples need to have chemistry.  You need the right actors to do this.  It can’t just look good on paper or in theory.  It needs to sizzle on the screen.  Viewers will forgive the occasional crazy plot line if they care about the characters.

Soaps need to change with the times

While primetime tv has evolve in production values, not much has changed with soaps.  Soaps need to look modern for modern times.  Now this doesn’t mean going all experimental and filming everything with handheld cameras and renting houses in New Jersey is the way to go at all.  I talking more about little changes such as more realistic settings and housekeepers who don’t wear french maid outfits.

Soaps have a bad reputation

I feel as though soaps have kind of gotten a bad reputation mostly in part to some of things I mentioned above.  Things such as bad acting, crazy plots, and gratuitous sex are thought by many to be the characteristics of a soap opera.  While to a certain degree this reputation has been earned,  there is and can be so much more to a soap than that.  Soaps can also have powerful acting, realistically explore important social issues, and showcase relatable relationships.  Soaps need to work on building their reputation with the public and shaking that old bad one.

Soaps are not profitable

The universal excuse for the cancellation of soaps seems to be money.  I blame this on the same networks who are saying this.  How can primetime shows with less viewers be considered “hit shows” but soap operas not be?  I think it’s because the daytime executives didn’t adapt with the changing times of television and didn’t actively look for creative ways to make the shows profitable.

Primetime shows have less episodes to produce which means less cost.  Soap opera programming could have tried to achieve something more like this by having seasons instead of year round episodes or by simply cutting their time in half and moving back to half hour formats.  An airline was able to save millions of dollars simply by removing one olive from each salad it served.  This would have had the same effect.

Another option would be to add some product placement to the shows.  Not only would this generate some income for the show but I think it would actually improve the shows.  Name brand products exist in real life.  It would be more realistic in my opinion to see a character eat a bowel of Cheerios rather than something from a cereal box with no name on it.

And why not sell DVD sets for soaps centered around favorite story lines?  DVD box sets are a given for all primetime shows anymore and they create revenue for those shows.  With the exception of a few DVDS of already cancelled soaps, these are not available for soap fans.  If I want to watch a classic episode of my favorite soap, I have to watch it on YouTube.  The quality isn’t always the best and the show doesn’t get a dime when I do this.

Is there still hope?

While daytime television may not love our soaps anymore, primetime has become the genre’s Prince Charming.  Show like Once Upon a Time and Revenge are thriving.  Dallas is returning on cable.  Sudsy shows such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men are critically acclaimed.  It should be a good time to be a soap opera, right?

Unfortunately some network executives don’t see it that way.  I think that in order for soaps to survive, they may need to find a new home either via cable or online.  If your boyfriend doesn’t love you anymore, dump him and find someone who does.

As for the four remaining daytime soaps,  I think fans need to show our support by tuning in.  When I thought that the soaps would last forever it was easy to watch them sporadically.  Now I know to watch regularly.  Soaps still matter and they need our help.