Leave the Light On!

Love. Drama. Trauma. Marriage. Domestic Violence. Divorce. Death. Birth. Coming of age. Coming Out. Adultery. Commitment. Deception. Lies. Truth. Alcoholism. Drug Use. Mental Illness. Recovery. Religion. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Compassion. Passion.

From the safety and comfort of our homes, Daytime Television has been as instrumental in allowing viewers to explore the above topics, and many more, as any other genre. Sometimes with keen accuracy, other times with an eye on entertainment more than education. We’ve learned from, laughed at, and sometimes recoiled in horror because of, the actions of our favorite daytime characters. We’ve done so for 72 years with The Guiding Light, first on radio, and then for more than fifty years on television. Despite whatever it is CBS’ top brass thinks GL’s current ratings tell them about the show, I think they’re wrong. This is a show that’s finally hit its stride. It’s learned to connect with the audience in a way it hasn’t years. Now is not the time to walk away from this great and historic show.

This obviously isn’t another blog about HOW GL should end. This is a blog about WHY GL should be allowed to continue on and why CBS Daytime Execs should be fighting for this show. The writers have finally reached a winning formula:

1 – Reconnecting with romance. Sadly, daytime television worked a bit too hard at turning itself into a caricature; giving its critics too much of what they thought the genre was about in the first place- indiscriminate sex and hyped melodrama, and too little of what daytime really is (Click here to read more from Patrick Erwin’s blog for surprising reactions to GL’s cancellation). Just as long term fans are reconnecting with GL, the writers have had long term characters reconnect with one another. Longtime sweethearts, lovers, and friends, Phillip and Beth Spaulding are rebuilding their lives and their love one moment at a time. I loved Phillip asking Beth if she was always as funny as she is now. I loved Beth telling Phillip that Lillian (her mother) wasn’t the only one who still loved him, she did too. I love that they are as shy and cautious now as they were when they were teens falling in love for the first time.

The writers also gave us Reva in quite an unexpected predicament, protecting her newborn child from Edmund Winslow. She did exactly what long term fans would expect her to do, she turned to Josh for help. He has always been someone she could rely on — if you allow yourself to forget and forgive the dreaded Cassie years. Why is it all scenes between Reva and Josh creates warm fuzzies for me? Between Reva and Josh’s and Beth and Phillip’s reconnection, adding Remy and Christina, Olivia and Natalia, and Bill and Lizzie, what’s not to love about GL? Now all the writers need to do is need to do is rebuild the Bauer and Lewis clans as they’re begun doing with the Spaulding clan.

2 – The ultimate good guy returns. Otalia turned out to be an unexpectedly great storyline for Frank Dicopoulos! From the moment “Frank Cooper” gave his big speech to Buzz about how everyone gets to find happiness but him, to the moment he consoled Nat for leaving him at the altar, this guy has been on a ROLL and THE ROLE (the role of a lifetime). I think, and I’m not sure I’m ready to admit to this, that I teared up a bit as Frank gave his big speech:

Frank: What’s, what’s going on with you? You seem a little tense. Oh, my God! You lost the rings, didn’t you?

Buzz: No, Frank. It’s Natalia.

Frank: What about her?

Buzz: A tux? She’s a simple person. Simple tastes. A tux. She’d want a tux. You should know better.

Frank: Excuse me. If you have something to say, say it.

Buzz: Frank, how much do you love this woman?

Frank: What kind of question is that? I love her with all of my heart.

Buzz: Do you love her enough to let her go?

Frank: Are you serious? Why would I ever give up on Natalia?

Buzz: Frank, I think Natalia is fantastic. I think you’re a fantastic, believe me, a fantastic couple, but she is a woman that likes to please other people, do things for them. And I think maybe she wants to be the perfect woman for you, to be… have the perfect family that Rafe needs, you as a father…

Frank: Okay, okay, hold on one second. I want those things, too.

Buzz: I just… I think you’re rushing into this.

Frank: Why are you doing this? Don’t you think that this family is entitled to have something good happen to it for a change?

Buzz: Are you sure you’re marrying her… she’s marrying you for the right reasons, you know?

Frank: She loves me.

Buzz: Well, maybe she thinks it’s because she owes you, Frank.

Frank: What are you saying? That no woman could love me for me just being me? Is that what you’re saying?

Buzz: Oh, Frank, I never said that.

Frank: No, no. You don’t have to. You believed Coop could find love, didn’t you?

Buzz: That’s different.

Frank: And what about Harley? Harley, meeting a guy every few years, whatever, you danced at all of her weddings.

Buzz: Oh, come on, please.

Frank: And Marina, Marina, my God, my own daughter, she dated her way right through the most-wanted list until she met Mallet. And you. You found Lillian, and then you screwed that up. But I guess– no, no, no I guess you guys can have all of that, right?

Buzz: Frank, you’re twisting my words now.

Frank: No, I’m not twisting your words. Frank Cooper, I guess Frank Cooper is just going to be a cop who is never going to have a partner for the rest of his life, is he? He’s the guy who is a third wheel at a couples’ table. Right? A guy who’s never busy on Valentine’s Day.

Buzz: Frank.

Frank: He’s that guy, isn’t he, Pop?

Buzz: Frank, Frank, I want you to have the love you deserve.

Frank: Well, I found it, Pop! And I love her. And guess what I’m going to do? I’m going to go to the church, and I’m going to put on this tuxedo right here, and I’m going to get my shot, my shot at true love.

Buzz: Frank, wait.

Frank: That’s what I’m going to do.

Buzz: Frank, wait. Wait. Frank, wait. Look! All right? What kind of woman doesn’t want to see her wedding rings? She didn’t want to see the wedding rings.

Frank: You just couldn’t be happy for me?

I wish the writers hadn’t let it go as far as they did, but reflecting on Frank’s scenes from this past week it may be the case that the storyline had to play out the way it has. Frank stood clueless before Natalia and Olivia and my heart broke for him! He wanted nothing more than to reassure Natalia that he was there for her, to help her get through whatever help she needed. Clearly he had no idea that he didn’t really stand a chance in working things out with her.

The best triangles are those where there are NO bad guys – and this one is it! Buzz warned Frankie that Natalia was a woman with a huge heart who spent her time trying to please other people. That’s what we’ve seen from her since she arrived in Springfield – that though it hurt her to be with Gus, especially since he was married and continued walking away from her after their trysts, she gave herself to him any way. She did it because it made HIM happy, but it left her feeling ashamed and alone after. Rather than defining herself based on the men in her life, Natalia is learning who SHE is, what SHE wants. Though I believe she loves Frank, in a strictly platonic way, and that she wants to see him happy – Natalia can’t marry Frank. She loves someone else. She can’t help that.

Triangles in the past have been obvious and predictable. Not so with the Frank/Otalia storyline. Job well done, writers!

3. A greater appreciation for the importance of good casting! This is no small task folks. The casting director who landed Zack Conroy for the role of James Spaulding deserves an extra paycheck! He’s so perfect for this role that I’d forgotten that he was cast as the drug-dropping Leo on As The World Turns. For such a young actor, Conroy does a great job of doing what it takes to fill the screen and make his character an already larger-than-life soul. Conroy gives James a gritty realness. I easily buy him as the pampered scion of a billionaire family.

His morals are as free and easy as that of ‘granddad’ Alan, but he has Phillip’s wit and Beth’s compassion. Brilliant, just brilliant. The writers have struck the perfect tone with the character, and Conroy has done a surprisingly masterful job with the rest of it.

A return to romance, a new focus on long loved core families, great casting, and wonderfully consistent storylines. It just doesn’t feel possible, to me, that this show is over. I was reading comments posted at the NYTimes Arts blog regarding GL’s ‘demise’ when this letter caught and held my attention:

I have the wooden-case radio that sat atop the refrigerator in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I listened with her to “The Guiding Light,” “Stella Dallas,” and many more. When I was older I’d watch with my mom in the summer, when school was out. Another generational link is going.

It may sound silly that anyone cares about a daytime show going off the air, but it’s more than the show. It’s the show, our memories, another lost (generational link) and cultural tie, It’s yet another piece of original American history that’s been commodified, sold off, and left to become part of our ‘past’. Well, not if this soap fan can help it! I’d like to see the Guiding Light continue on. If reports of GL potentially finding a home with the Lifetime Network are true, YES! I’m thrilled beyond measure. If not, please help use the links below and join GL fans in working to get CBS Network Execs to ‘Leave the Light On’: Save the Guiding Light

Keep our Light On

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Five reasons to watch GL again

You’ll feel as if you’ve died and gone to ‘old-GL’ heaven if you watched!  Ignore the sets (for now), they’re still a downer, but everything else is kicking into high gear.  What a difference a few weeks makes.  Several weeks ago, I’d written about what’s wrong with GL.  Little could viewers have known that GL would launch the most aggressive plan to revive a soap than we’ve seen from any daytime drama!  While TPTB behind the scenes at Days Of Our Lives are dismantling one of daytime’s longest running serials, the geniuses at Guiding Light are rebuilding (and oh yes, Icalled them genuises – without snarking). 

Five reasons to watch, and in no particular order:

1.  Phillip Spaulding and Melinda Sue Lewis  return.  I listed them together because I can’t help but believe that the two of them will have signifcant screen time together. Returning at the same time couldn’t be a coincidence!

 Phillip, the Spaulding family scion, flexible good guy/bad guy character, all around hot-as-hades heartthrob, what’s not to love?  It’s hard to believe that the writers let him go in the first place, and that he’s been away five years now.  The only two people who’ve ever been able to stop Alan are Phillip and Alex and the writers sadly did away with both.  Bringing Phillip back opens a world of possiblity for GL, but also puts an end to Alan’s reign of terror.

Just in time!  The writers were beginning to create a savage Alan Spaulding, one hardly worth watching as he became a caricature of his former self.  While I’ve had zero sympathy for Beth and Coop’s indulgence in adolescent fantasies about love and life, there’s nothing fun about watching Alan force Beth to give up her burgeoning law career to stay home and mother him AND their daughter.  Soapgod knows it’s time for Beth to do something with her life other than flit from affair to affair.  It was even less enjoyable to watch him comment on the ‘marriage’ they would have, leaving fans to wonder if he was implying that they would have an intimate relationship whether she wanted one or not.  He was a little too excited to describe their ‘honeymoon’, while she stood there in her bridal gown, crying and begging to be set free.

Could Alan even dream of competing with Phillip for Beth’s heart?  Would he want to given how happy he’ll be, at first, to have Phillip return?   Will he even have to compete for Beth with Mindy’s return?  It’s just possible that Phillip will be as disappointed in Beth as he is in Alan?  Mindy’s return may be the beginning of the rekindling of the Beth/Phillip/Mindy triangle, with Beth on the outside, looking in. After all this time, Mindy finally gets the upper hand and no dirty tricks involved?  I’d love it!  Now that Beth is the bitch goddess Mindy had always suspected she was, let the fireworks begin!

(Oh, and by the way, watching Beth reject the use of the name Spaulding was a shocker in light of Phillip’s return – not that she knows that onscreen, but the writers know it so I have to wonder why they’ve decided to have her do it.  She screamed that her name was ‘Raines’, not ‘Spaulding’.  Veteran viewers may remember that Bradley Raines was Beth’s stepfather.  The man raped Beth, and beat her and her mother.  That she would reject the Spaulding name for that of Bradley’s left me stunned.  Hopefully that’s the beginning of a new storyline – one in which a troubled Beth tries to figure out why she’s such a trainwreck. 

2.  Edmund’s Return.  As stated earlier, Edmund has been humanized, and every day he’s on air, the character’s presence tells a new story.  Edmund’s behaviors and connections to others  are even more nuanced this time around. Is he just conning everyone?  Are his emotions genuine?  It’s hard to say.  I’m not especially fond of Dinah and Shayne as a couple even if they’re growing on me, so having Edmund’s daughter, Lara, return wouldn’t be a tragedy.  Lara’s return would do more than break up Shayne and Dinah.  It would give us a chance to see more of Edmund’s growth.  She  seems to be the first person in his life that he would/could love unconditionally and I’m curious about what effect her presence would have on Edmund.  Would he become a good guy?  NOT HARDLY!  My guess is that most of  his new dastardly deeds would be related to protecting his daughter – and possibly spark a Winslow-Lewis war.

3.  The Lewis Clan is BACK!  They’re back in a big way.  I think most fans want the obvious, Josh and Reva – GL’s epic soul mates back together again.  What fans are also getting is the slow rebuilding of the Lewis family all the way around.  Billy and Vanessa are lurking in the shadows, occasionally stepping to the forefront.   Between Reva, Josh, Billy, Vaness, Bill, Shayne, and Dinah (as Bill’s sister), we could end up with a healthy revival of the Lewis-Spaulding wars – adding Edmund to the Spaulding clan for good measure.  It gives us a tortured Bill and Lizzie surviving a pretty tough year only to have to figure out how to continue loving one another while not getting too caught up in their respective family’s war.

4. The writing is just BETTER!  Two words that will make you cringe:  Kidnapping plot.  How ridiculously senseless was it that Bill lost his memory, but it was Lizzie who seemed to forget every detail of the kidnapping and didn’t know if Bill was guilty or not? She spoke with her kidnapper, touched him, saw his dark hair, felt his tears (which should have left DNA of some sort in her clothing),  noticed the difference in the builds between the kidnapper and Bill…but she just wasn’t sure if he was guilty… <sigh>

The writers could have redeemed her by having HER notice Cyrus’ dog tags clanking and realize that the kidnapper made a similar clanking sound.  But hey, that Bill remembered?  I’m good!  I can roll with that.  It’s time SOMEONE remembered something that would end this torture of Bill being falsely accused.  That Bill plans to take Cryus down not realizing that Grady (who is taller than both men) was responsible? I’m good with that too!  That Billy is involved and the father and son are working together? I’ve freakin’ died and gone to old-GL heaven!  I can’t wait! 

5. Romance is BACK on GL!  Reva and Josh’s unintentional romantic glances, Olivia and Natalia’s road to romance, Remy and Christina’s too-cute-for-words marriage of convenience, Rick/Beth/Philip/Mindy potentially heating up, Dinah and Shayne’s oddball relationship, and even Buzz’s dreams of dead wife Jenna was more romantic than much of what’s happened on GL in a long time!

Any of the above points would have made me happy to be a GL viewer, to have them all at once?  What an embarrassment of riches!

The future of daytime…

According to ATWT Executive Producer, Chris Goutman, daytime fans have lost their appetite for daily serials and may prefer, instead, serials airing 3 days a week.  I don’t know about you, soap fans, but every time I hear a writer, executive producer, or some drone from the top floor of the executive offices speak, their solutions sound more like ‘bottomline’ solutions (what can THEY do to save money).  Rarely do I hear them talk about what fans want.  Even rarer is it that anyone talks about what difference is between daytime even a decade ago and daytime now.  Sure, the storylines are the same, but it’s in the execution of those storylines that daytime writers and producers let us down.

Daytime is no longer written as a long running drama with a rich history writers could continue to mine in order to create coherent cohesive future storylines.  Daytime serials are treated as variety shows.  Each storyline seems to be self contained and unrelated to the past, present, or future.  YnR’s Victor’s vasectomy and GL’s Reva going into early menopause years ago are prime examples!  The writers/EPs have hit ‘reset’ and offered storylines with both characters becoming parents again – leaving the writers to scramble find ways of explaining the huge gaffes in history once fans complained.

Clearly, strong storytelling, impeachable dialogue, well crafted sets, impeccable costuming, and skilled actors are all off the table.  What are we offered instead?  Three days a week of weak storytelling, incoherent dialogue, poorly designed sets, sorrowful costuming, and unskilled actors in the role of long loved favorites.  Sure, I’ll take three days a week of that, instead of five… but then, I’d take ZERO days, instead of five, as well.

Shortcuts are shorter, not better.  Exhibit A… (Thanks, Noel, from the GuidingLightTV board for the link)…

THIS (a clash of titans, powerful women who aren’t afraid of going toe-to-toe – fierce enough competitiors to make you fear them with a single look): 

Has become THIS (capable actresses reduced to scream queens fighting over petty jealousies – using sex rather than their minds and other considerable resources to compete for a man who was using them both): 

THIS (a vengeful, petulant child – who seduces her mother’s fiance in order to ‘make her pay’ and winds up sorry for her betraying her mother even if it’s with a man she loves)

becomes THIS: A mother who falls in-lust-calling-it-love with her daughter’s husbands.  Mom slept with both husbands and had a child with each… you read that right, it didn’t happen ONCE… it happened TWICE:

THIS (a dialogue between a man and the woman he raped, his wife when he raped her – ex wife after the rape) shows that he lives daily with regret for the pain he caused her. It’s a complex story with Roger and Holly remembering the great love they once had a great love that at times draws them together, physically, leaving Holly revulsed after the act.  At other times, the rape and post-rape keeps them apart all together:

Ultimately, Roger and Holly realized that they could never get past the rape.  In the end they separated, permanently.  All of which has been replaced by THIS:

Todd Manning, a man who is taking advantage of his rape victim’s memory loss to get her on his side regarding his daughter’s teen pregnancy (refusing to tell her that her son is the child’s father).  His assault of her was brutal and part of a gang rape HE initiated. Theirs was a VERY brief sexual relationship before she dumped him.  They barely knew one another.  Now he wants his chance to force her to forgive him and see what kind of man he is now… sweet irony:

Sure, chief… taking soaps down to three days a week will make all of the pain go away… that’s right… and I’ve got a bridge to nowhere to sell you, only, it ain’t gonna be cheap!