Former soap writer, Kay Alden recently participated in a colloquium at MIT. Brilliant analysis of what is wrong with soaps, how they’re written, how to fix them, the people who watch them. Long, but so so worth the listen.
She’s currently consulting on All My Children. One can only hope they listen to this woman.
Warning, some language in the linked post may NSFW. Brilliant open letter to one of the toadying soap opera journalists out there about the state of affairs on soaps. He rips apart the arguments we hear network executives and soap opera press keep spinning–chiefly the crap about the youth demographic and how they need young characters to keep that demographic happy.
Which has never made sense to me. Even when I was a young adult, I never liked the youth-focuses plots on soaps. Of all the entertainment genres out there, daytime soap operas probably do the worst possible job at portraying teenagers. As a teen you’re immersed in the culture anyhow. What the heck is the point? I tuned in for the melodrama with the older characters. I still tune in for that.
The networks, particularly ABC, need to wake up and fix the damage before they kill off the genre entirely.
I watched Lost last night and didn’t hate Kate. And I have hated Kate for three years now. For once she was resourceful and intelligent and not immersed in the adolescent triangle of choosing between Jack and Sawyer. The fans on the various forums seem to be really disappointed with this season; I’m not. Okay, last week’s episode with the stupid tatoos was mediocre, but on the whole the third season has been high in quality. Last night’s episode was Hurley-centric and although nothing radically new was revealed, it was fun! Sometimes fun is a good thing. Too much angst and I get bored.
And in other news, Megan McTavish, who is the headwriter for my soap, All My Children is out. Praise be. Now I can start watching it again. She’s been writing the show into the ground ever since they rehired her.
I’ve heard a lot lately about how the soap opera genre is dying. I don’t know that this is true.
It’s like there’s a huge divide between what the viewers want and what TPTB think the viewers want. It would also be nice if they started writing for this century–from the diverse makeup of our cities and towns to the more enlightened attitudes that most Americans possess. There’s a dearth of intelligence and continuity in the writing and that’s what’s killing soaps. It’s not the medium that’s obsolete. It’s the current crew that writes and produces that medium.
I’ve rediscovered Columbo. Yeah, it’s formulaic to a fault, but I find it oddly engrossing. Also, in general, I’ve found that watching these things as an adult and knowing who all the guest stars are adds something to the equation.
HBO had on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night. I’m sorry to say I turned it off about a half hour in. Part of the problem is the three leads. They were barely passable as child actors in the first couple of films. Now that they’re in their late adolescent years, well, their performances haven’t matured as well as their bodies. It’s too bad really. I liked the third film a lot and thought that the director had gotten some good things out of them.
Haven’t been watching all that much else except Lost. Since there’s this hiatus until February, I took out my DVDs and have been doing a little marathon of my own. The series really holds up to this kind of viewing. If anything it becomes more enjoyable. I can’t say I’ve come to any earth-shattering conclusions. Although I wonder if the glass eye they found at the Arrow station possibly belongs to this guy.
All My Children continues its inexorable downward slide. Every time I think the writing can’t get any worse, it does. They’ve lost Julia Barr, Vincent Irizarry, and if the rumors are true, Walt Willey. I keep taking longer and longer breaks away from the show. It’s painful, because I’ve been watching the darn thing for 20 years now. Scary, no?
Not too long ago, I was watching an episode of The Guiding Light and out of nowhere a character offers another character Pringles (holding the can so that the logo clearly visible and naming the product). The recipient likes the potato chips and comments that he can’t seem to stop eating them. Whereupon, yet another character laughs and remarks, “once you pop, you can’t stop.”
It used to be that shows went out of their way not to mention any brand names. Now it seems every time I turn on the TV there’s Tony Soprano talking about the safety of SUVs or some starving reality show contestant enthusing about Mountain Dew. I didn’t mind so much when it was just visuals, but I hate how product placement is now entering into the plots of my shows.
I think we have the VCR and services like TiVo and Replay TV to blame. Since people either fastforward thru or skip over commercials entirely, advertisers have had to get sneakier. Personally, I’d rather watch the commercial, knowing that it was a commercial, then to put up with this garbage.
After a fairly busy Friday and Saturday, I took the time to veg out a little bit with the Season One DVD of Soap. As with a lot of things that I haven’t seen in a good long while, I was afraid it would be dated or disappointing or simply not as good as I remembered it.
Truth be told, it was a little dated. The references to homosexuality and sex change operations a little facile. It’s pre-AIDS really so there’s a ton of fooling around. The clothes and such are of course a little scary. The cast was amazingly talented. A lot of the material is both brilliant and yet has, an unexpected poignancy. Not sure they could make something like this today.
After about four years absence, I have started watching The Guiding Light. I left because of the stupidity of the various storylines and the unbelievably awful writing. Now that All My Children’s nose dive into mediocrity continues to plummet, I need something else. I think I’ve found it.
The weird thing is that when I stopped watching in 2000 or 2001 the core characters had the requisite number of small children. Coming back four or five years later, these tykes have all been SORASed into ingenues and young male leads. It’s not really weird because this is a common enough soap opera device, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for it.
It scares me to realize how long I’ve been watching All My Children. I started watching in the late eighties and with a few exceptions have been watching ever since. Over the years, I’ve jettisoned other soaps because they were too extreme , the writing started going to hell, or they just went off the air, but throughout it all, there was always AMC.
The headwriter on AMC is one Megan McTavish. I didn’t care for her work too much the last go around, and I positively abhor it now. It’s not uncommon for soap characters to be subjected to a whole array of sturm and drang, but with Megan McTrash (as the message boards term her) there’s usually at least one woman who gets singled out for rape, vigilantism, and in general a lot of abuse. Not too fun to watch.
She’s created a couple of skanky characters, trashy women with supposed hearts of gold. Despite having them engage in such audience-endearing actions like baby stealing, kidnapping, etc., we’re apparently supposed to identify with and like them. I don’t have anything against the actresses.
They seem competent enough. It’s the fact that my soap, my favorite soap, is fluffing these characters to death. They don’t write them in a way that makes them likeable figures. They keep having other characters remark on how wonderful these two women are. It’s very Orwellian. Other long time strong characters have turned into travesties of themselves. There’s little continuity. There’s not much keeping me interested or tuned in.
So for the first time in sixteen years, I’m considering giving up All My Children. This would have been unthinkable for me once, but now . . . it’s not a difficult decision, it’s just a sad one.
So now I have umpteen million channels and yet still very little I actually want to see. What I want, what I’ve wanted for years is what the FCC and John McCain are now investigating: a la carte cable TV. The idea makes a lot of sense to me. I pick what channels I want to pay for and that’s what I get.
On another note, I have to say that I am enjoying the reruns of Another World on SOAPnet. It is kind of freaky to be watching these episodes again. Last time I saw them was when I was a freshman in college. That hair! Those clothes! Anne Heche!