Soapnet/The Holidays/The Death of Daytime

You’ve read a million death of daytime articles already, I’m sure.  They’re painful both because of the sheer number of them and the truth they’ve imparted about why daytime has continued to fall apart.  Most of them weren’t written by the venerable soap press.  The soap press continued to cheer on the inane and asinine storyline telling as ‘innovative’ and ‘original’.   No holding a mirror to the naked emperor for the soap press, no sirree.  Now that it’s been revealed that Soapnet goes off the air in 2012, fans, it seems, have given up hope that the rest of daytime  can be saved, and with good reason, but more on that later.

The one network that was supposed to be fully dedicated to soaps gave up on the genre long ago as it cut back the daytime schedule and boasted about its acquisition of primetime shows.  Now?  Soaps will be replaced with more preschool friendly  programming.   Symbolic, don’t you think?  The juvenile writing plaguing daytime over the last several years has worked wonders in driving away much of the adult audience but did little to attract the ever elusive 12 to 17 year olds TIIC of daytime couldn’t wait to bring on board – the same 12 to 17 year olds who didn’t give a damn about daytime.  Now Disney can give the kids what they really want.

Unfortunately for daytime viewers, the network’s effort to stem to tide of revenue loss may have actually contributed to hastening the death of daytime.   When the writing was bad on your favorite soap, you still had other choices.  You could move on to something else – but that was before the network hacks decided that it was easier to systematically kill off daytime serials than support them and take them back to basics.   When my once favorite  Bold and Beautiful drove me absolutely nuts (as it does now with the whining non-“Forrester” women CONSTANTLY attacking the Logan women), I could always find another soap to watch that didn’t drive me batty.  Now? The writing is so horrendous across the board and there are so few soaps, there is no where to go but cable and watching ‘primetime in the daytime’.  (Which is oddly enough what Soapnet was trying to do, unsuccessfully).  By killing off  ‘lineups’, TPTB of daytime gave fans fewer and fewer reasons to tune in.   Ah, but there were/are other problems:

1 – The soaperatti (on and off screen) is incestuous and keeps claiming that it’s such a ‘specialty’ field that no one outside of daytime can understand it — that’s because they’re so “speshul”, doncha know?  And have I mentioned t they’re special?  Somehow primetime and cable are surviving with infusing new blood and new ideas.  Daytime only, it seems, needs specialists  (because they’re special) and yet those specialists  (who are special) still can’t figure out how to hang on to an audience.   As a result, the same few burned out writers and executive producers are shifted from show to show. You can’t get away from them, as they keep trying to shove the same tired ideas at what they think is a ‘new’ audience every time they ‘quantum leap’ from show to show.

Daytimers typically watch multiple shows, so if you didn’t like a mother and daughter sleeping with the same man and beating each other up on one show, you sure as hell weren’t  going to root for the hack writer and producers to bring that storyline to another show you’re watching. When there were more soaps (and more writers) there were also more ideas. and more places to escape to within the genre.  That’s gone and the soaperatti have nothing left but false self-praise and  careers on a downward slide. Does anyone know if any of the currently unemployed daytime writers have found work on any successful projects?  I’d love to know, dear readers.  I can’t think of any, and  I can’t imagine there are producers out there lining up to grab any of the ‘elite’ in daytime.  That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I just don’t know where they are.  Who’d want to submit an e-portfolio of the worst of daytime as evidence of what you’re capable of offering?

2 – While probably not a popular opinion, I also think a huge problem in daytime is that TIIC are have extended the ideology of the “super special” to hiring actors. The ‘newer’  daytime actors have been  treated as ‘speshul’ too. Instead of relying on tried and true and highly skilled vets, daytime PTB decided that a small group of select newbies were the future of genre. I won’t name names, but I think we can all list at least a half dozen actors who are shifted from show to show along with tired/burned out writers and executive producers.

The problem is that the pretty but pointless actors aren’t skilled enough to add new dimensions to their characters from show to show.  The actors’  mannerisms and inflections are the same.  On top of the same tired storylines, fans were cursed with the same actors, sporting new character names, but providing nothing that differentiated them.  The ‘look’ of each show may differ, but the ‘content’ and ‘feel’ of all soaps is similar. thanks to the small cohort of shifting writers, producers, and actors.  ABC and CBS could blend what’s left of their lineups and I don’t know that fans would notice the difference.  ABC could offer “All My Children born at General Hospital embracing our One Life To Live” and CBS could offer the “Bold and Beautifully Young and Restless”.  NBC, would of course, give us the “Days of Our Lives”.  It’s all they have left to give having killed off so many daytime shows, already.

The warning signs of impending doom have been sounded for years by fans who’ve wanted nothing more than to save the genre.  Unfortunately, it fell on hubristic and intentionally tone deaf ears.  How tone deaf have TIIC been?   Memorial Day would have been a keen opportunity for TIIC to remind soap fans that daytime is still around and  that there’s potential to return to the formula that made the genre work.  What did TPTB of GH offer?

Link that with THIS gem that oringally aired a week after the above clip:

On a day when we honor our war dead, and others who have valiantly served and protected this country, we were ‘treated’ to a repeat of an episode in which the soap world is proven to be turned upside down.  Jason and Spinelli bleat on and on about how heartless cold and unfeeling OFFICER Dante  Falconeri is to turn in his brother for killing a woman.  Dante, of course, has no honor.  Dante is an evil person.  He’s too dense to understand why the mob covered up a woman’s death.  It’s Dante’s fault for not understanding why what would have been a simple self-defense charge, which would have been cleared had  Michael first told the truth, ended up with Michael looking guilty of murder, a cover up, and obstruction.

WHAT?  You would be suspicious of a claim of self-defense if the people involved ‘disposed of’ the body, burned down the cabin where it happened – on a rainy night, no less – to get rid of evidence, and then lied on the stand and to the police for months at a time?  I hear ya’!  It’s just that TIIC don’t hear you.  On a day when many of us are remembering our loved one who gave their lives – GH’s braintrust wants you to watch the mob squad talk about murdering police officers and activating the crooked cops on their payroll to protect the mob heir apparent.  Spinelli has to tell Jason that Dante’s death, officer or not, would have grave impact (no pun intended) on those who love him, and those who serve with him.  Color me stunned, and sickened, and tired, just tired of this dreck.

What could TIIC aired instead, to woo fans back?

Or even this:

But no… black is white, up is down…and we’re tuning out.  Anyone know what’s planned for Disney Junior? My nieces and nephews visit me in the summer. I guess we’ll have something to watch together in 2012.

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ABC – A Tale of Two Soaps

ABC presents the epic “mother of all daytime soap battles”.  It’s General Hospital vs. General Hospital!  I regret to inform you that at this moment,  General Hospital  is losing!  As with Dickens’  A Tale of Two Cities, when it comes to GH:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Melodramatic much? On occasion, yes. Yes I am.  Best of times?  When?  Where?

I get where you’re coming from, but bear with me, please.

The best of times, unfortunately, comes in infinitesimally smaller doses than do the worst of times.  The dark mostly swallows the light, and despair too often triumphs over hope… but still, there are moments like these that remind me of the best of GH as it is now, without having to dig into the archives of the GH of the 80s and 90s:

Robin and Patrick’s participation in Karaoke Night was especially poignant for me  because 1 – Even if only for a short time, our SCRUBS get to be the example of a couple that is as close to perfect as any (non mob-related) GH couple can be. I’m sure they’ll have stiff competition when Mac and Alexis finally make it off the ground and when Maxie and Spinelli finally get it right, but right now they add a pretty  glorious shine to this show ; 2 – I miss the Nurses’ Ball and I think this is a small scale way of giving us what the Nurses’ Ball did.  It lets the audience get closer to the show’s  characters.  The karaoke scenes humanize the characters and reminds us that they do more than sneak around with one another’s husbands and wives.  It’s a great compromise almost making up for the absence of the Nurses Ball -very clever; 3 – These sort of scenes give fans the opportunity to appreciate the additional  talents of the show’s actors.  I also appreciate the courage it takes for each of them to step out of their traditional roles.  No criticisms from me!  I thought they were all magnificent.; 4 –  They’re just FUN!  There are so few GH scenes that are FUN.  Most of them are about death, betrayal, hatred, jealousy, adultery, and many other vices.   It’s nice to watch GH and just smile on occasion.

How adorable were Morgan and Molly?  How funny is it  that in that room full of women,  of those who weren’t his children – at least half of them has been in bed with and/or impregnated by Sonny Corinthos?… and by funny I mean ‘pathetic’… That brings us to:

The Worst of Times

Forgive my  opining (nay whining) over the current state of General Hospital, but  I’ve experienced my first true soap heartbreak – one that had nothing to do with the cancellation of a beloved show, that is.   I’ve said, previously, that I’m done with GH, DONE!  KAPUT!  FINISHED!  FINITO!  For the most part that’s been true.  I did watch Liz run to Luke’s to beg Lucky to return to her.  I watched Ethan and Lucky chatting about Liz and enjoyed the flashbacks of a young LL2, even if I did feel as if I’d been kicked in the soft tissue watching the clips of a very young Liz and Lucky declaring their love.   I miss who they were to each other.  I got the writers message to the fans, via Lucky’s dialogue, about seeing people as they are now and not how you use to know them.  Bite me.  I’ll never see LL2 as having ‘moved on’.  They’ll forever be viewed by me as having been destroyed by the writers’ reckless impulses and self-indulgent excesses.

I was annoyed by  the writers use of  Liz’s rape as part of the casual conversation between Lucky and Ethan – the brother Lucky barely knows.  It was both a sacred moment  (to LL2) and profane  moment (on the part of Liz’s attacker) that began their relationship.  It was all reduced to drunken banter and  gossip by two people who could have just as easily been strangers.

Outside of those scenes, I know that I’m not missing much.  Basic daytime storylines in daytime haven’t changed – just the players and the severity of characters’ reactions to events in their lives.  There’s clearly no possibility of missing anything ‘big’ by largely tuning out this show or any other daytime program.  It’s not like there will be major revolutions in daytime storytelling any time soon!  (Get it?  Dickens?  Tale of Two Cities? Revolutions?)

Finally: Belief vs. Incredulity

I thought back to the situation that caused me to want to fully walk away from both General Hospital and the entire genre of daytime.  When Dante refused to tell the police that Sonny shot him, I was stunned.  In that one moment, the writers’ deconstructed a potentially marvelous character and destroyed the beautiful and inspiring backstory they’d created for him. This past year we had a reason to believe that it just might be possible that the writers would bring a true hero back to GH, one in the same vein of Mac Scorpio, Anna Devane, Robert Scorpio, Sean Donnelly, Frisco and Felicia Jones, the entirety of the WSB).  That’s now gone.   I never expected Dante to send Sonny to prison – no one ever has no matter how guilty he was.  I just never expected him to cave to the magic of Sonny’s mojo so quickly.  With a different set of paternal DNA and a uterus, Dante would  have borne Sonny another child by now.

As if ignoring the ‘attempted cop killer’ charge wasn’t enough, Dante commented that he thought Olivia, who’d become pregnant at 15 (rewrite?), slept around so much that she didn’t know WHO his father was. <gasp>  That line left me feeling utter revulsion for the character.  Whatever the case, he was angry at her for not telling him sooner that Sonny was his father.  Sonny “attempted cop killer” Corinthos was also angry at her and blamed Dante’s near death on her decades long lie.

“W-T-F”, I thought.  I’m sure the writers, who must be bored writing the bi-annual “Who’s the Daddy?”) storyline for Sonny and his small village filled with offspring, must have thought they were writing a unique twist on yet another telling of that storyline.  That ‘twist’ reads more like ‘twisted’ and this storyline deserves comparison to other Who’s the Daddy? storylines, when the good guys really were good.

I thought about the clip I’d posted of Robert, Robin, and Anna, in a prior blog:

I know that there are significant differences:

1.  Robin was an adorable child.  Dante is an “angry” adult male (even if his anger truly is righteous).

2. Robert knew early on that Robin was his child.  Sonny didn’t find out until it was ‘too late’.

3.  Robin wasn’t sent to try to destroy Robert.  Dante was.  For whatever reason, some see justifiable anger in Sonny’s attempt to kill Dante, the cop, for doing his job.  It seems plausible to accept the argument that Sonny would never have tried to kill Dante if he’d known that Dante was his son.

If the writers are consistent, I can’t say that I believe that the above assertion is true.  Sonny was more than willing to hurt his own brother when he thought he could justify it, or if he felt the need to save himself over Ric.   Sonny never gave a damn for Ric, the person who shared his DNA.  I can only believe that the writers would have been consistent and gone the ‘Lansing Route’ had they decided to have Dante found out without having Sonny shoot him.  We would have then been treated to ‘dead to me’ scenes between the father and son, with  Dante working like a mad dog to make amends for having the audacity to hate crime and criminals now that he knows he’s genetically linked to a mob boss.

In the end, the issue isn’t really about the difference between Robin and Dante as the long lost children of high profile Port Chuckles citizens.  It’s about the differences between writing teams, and the radically different approaches they’ve taken to trying to get the audience to buy into newly developed families. The GH writing team of the 80s wrote for a real hero and wrote for real emotions.  I can’t tell you what the current writing team writes for.  For it it feels as if they’re writing for a hopelessly lost villain that they continue to want to sell as a hero and writing cheap ploys masquerading as real emotions.  The legacy of the introduction of characters like Anna, Robert, and Robin is that fans still want MORE of their story.  There’s are still stories to be told that have the ability to help fans recall the old GH – when light pushed back the darkness, hope triumphed over despair, and we had everything before us.  I don’t think we can say the same for current storylines.

GH: What Mac Scorpio Should Do Now…

I could tell you how much I hate the mob storylines – again… but you know that if you’ve read this blog even once… OR, I could tell you about a storyline I’d  love to see happen for our dear Mac Scorpio – who has to face yet another daughter marrying into/getting involved with the mob circle.

My dream storyline would have to be, of course, something that takes us far outside of the mob boy’s storyline, while still feeding TPTB’s apparent need for vice.  Any viewer watching for longer than a decade remembers that the great Mac Scorpio was once a mercenary.  His past actions in the political world were as shady and low as his actions with other men’s wives (by his account and that of his brother, Robert).   He’s done a lot of bad things, we were just never told what those bad things were.  Mac is now a decorated hero, pillar of his community, loving father/father-uncle, and the chief peace officer in Port Chuckles.  Surely that’s not sitting well with someone, somewhere.  Surely he’s responsible for someone’s untimely death, or for having callously turned over an innocent man (maybe a celebrated freedom fighter)  he tracked down on behalf of some vicious despot.  Surely this man has a son or daughter, seeking revenge, angry that Mac’s life has gone on brilliantly and that he lives among ‘decent people’ while he/she still suffers from loss of a parent.

Let’s make the vengeance-seeker a woman – ah…so you know where this is going!  What if she slowly wormed her way into Mac’s life?  She could share her sob story with him: orphaned as a young adult, left alone to fend for herself in the world… surviving but desperate, doing some unsavory things to survive and often finding herself in unhelpful situations.  The only thing she won’t share with him is his role in her misery.  Outside of her unbridled rage, something  neither Mac nor the audience would know about her as we first meet her, she would be the very definition of goodness and light.  She would seem to have only Mac’s best interest at heart at all times.  We wouldn’t realize, initially, that she was  alienating him from the people he loved most.   She’d start with Maxie.  Why?  Because Maxie is hooked up with the mob boys through her love for Spinelli, which makes her an easy target – low hanging fruit, if you will.

Copyright ABC Daytime

We wouldn’t know she was out to hurt Mac so we, the audience, would applaud her.    Someone other than Mac  is finally telling Maxie and Spinelli there’s a choice to be made and that the options  aren’t even close to being ‘similar’.  They’re very different choices (Mac or the Mob) and that either could alter the course of the young couple’s future.   Ellenna, we’ll call her, would remind Maxie of how important her career at Crimson is to her, of how hard she’s worked to be taken seriously. She would remind Maxie that her father is the same way.  He cares deeply about his work, he cares that he does well, but he also cares to be taken seriously and can’t be, as long as she and Spinelli have chosen Jason and Sonny.  What message does that send to the people of Port Charles?  How much longer is Mac supposed to defend is personal integrity because of their actions and their associations with Sonny and Jason?

Maxie, in her typically obstinate manner, would chose the mob boys (she always does).  They ‘accept’ her as she is. They don’t make demands on her.  They aren’ t out to change her. We’ve heard it all before (and we’ll hear it, or some variation of it, again this week)  Maxie will argue that Mac claims to love her, but only loves her as long as she is the person he wants her to be.   She’ll deliver the ultimate low blow as she tell him that his demands for perfection even drove her mother away and left Georgie vulnerable.  Having ‘been there-done that’ too many times before with Maxie, Mac does cut her out of his life this time.  Maxie is devastated.  Mac is devastated.  Ellenna (‘Elle’)  is secretly elated.

Robin is next.  How does Elle alienate Robin?  This one is more difficult because Robin has been the model daughter-niece.  She has to be more clever with Robin:  ‘unintentionally’ picking fights with her, setting Robin up so that Mac catches her unloading on a seemingly innocent Elle, making Robin uncomfortable with the way she holds Emma – think ‘Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ crazy.  Robin’s inability to accept Elle after everything Mac has done for her and the fact that he’s loved her unconditionally is the final straw.  Mac has  supported Robin in her happiness no matter where she found it and he wants nothing to do with her if she can’t do the same for him.

He’s been on his own for so long that it feels good to finally have someone who is willing and able to put him first.  He confides in Elle that he wasn’t always a good man who cared whether he was loved and needed.  He confides that he’s haunted by the man he use to be, and that it’s why it’s so important for him to be a better man.  He confides that he’s always felt that he was unworthy of happiness, but that he’s been grateful for every moment of it he’s ever had.  He prays that he can have happiness one last time  before he dies, and then has to face whatever ‘punishment’ there is for his past life.  He asks Elle to marry him and they begin  planning their family and their future together… but not so fast!  After comparing notes, Robin and Maxie realize three things:

1- Mac has been strong for everyone else.  He’s been so strong that no one put the pieces together – he’s been slowly falling apart.  Mac has been  suffering from depression since the day he lost Georgie – another reason is was so important to him to help Robin w ith Emma during her PPD.  It gave him meaning and he could connect with Robin without having to share his ‘secret’ his ‘shame’.  He’s been alone in the same house Georgie lived until she died.  He’s alone with the memories of a wife who deserted their family, and a dead daughter.  They start to learn things they didn’t know about Mac – that he secretly drinks at night, for example.  Coleman has seen him there several nights a week passing by a neighboring bar.  It’s where Mac met Elle.

2 – that they’ve both been set up… they realize that Elle wanted them both out of Mac’s life.  They’re not sure why, but they know it’s not for love.

3 – Mac’s depression and that they’ve ignored him other than to lean on him when they needed him made it easy for Elle to set them up and isolate Mac.

They know that talking with Mac is useless because he doesn’t want to go back to his old life of picking up the pieces for everyone else.  He’s happy again and his happiness is like a drug that leaves him wanting more.  What Mac doesn’t realize is that his drug state is both literal and figurative.  Elle’s original plan was to slowly drug Mac, eventually killing him – until she learned about Robin and Patrick and knew they would investigate his death.  She then begins working on ‘plan b’… setting Mac up for murder.  If he can’t be made to pay for her father’s murder, he should be made to pay for someone else’s.  She realizes the irony of taking a life to make Mac pay for the life he took, but she rationalizes her actions by planning to take the life of someone who ‘deserves’ it -unlike her heroic father.

Unaware of Elle’s actions or plans, Robin, Patrick, and Maxie begin investigating her (better than getting them involved in every half-wit unrelated plot on this show).  They  rely on the help of Alexis Davis when they run across red tape in the European nation Elle claims she’s from. Alexis has a history with the European courts, both personally and professionally. Alexis helps them find out that the woman whose name is being used died over two decades before Elle began using it.  They decide that it’s of little use to share this information with Mac.  He would only rationalize their findings as ‘mixed up paper work’, or that she used the name to escape an oppressive life.  They need more proof in finding out who this woman is.  After weeks of searching, the trail grows cold.   They need more help.  While Robin calls her father to ask for help in picking up a warm lead,  Alexis decides to get close to Mac in order to get closer to Elle.  Now that she’s in private practice and he’s on leave from the PCPD for health reasons, she begins showing up at Mac’s to talk to him about several cases she’s working on, seeking input from him.  Watching the dynamic between the couple, discomforted by Elle’s evasive manner whenever she’s asked about ‘home’ or her family leads Alexis to believe that Elle is a bigger threat to Mac than anyone believed.

After the full group gets together, they begin to wonder why they hadn’t thought to investigate the real ‘Elle’.  Why did this woman taking control of Mac’s life, whoever she is, choose that name?   They find out that the woman whose name she uses was her mother’s, which uncovers the sordid history of her father’s death and Mac’s role in it.  By the time they realize what’s going on, it’s too late.  Elle has chosen her victim and set her plan in motion.

In the best possible soap world outcomes, Remily (Rebecca Shaw to most fans!) would be the intended victim.  Catching Ethan and Rebecca on the docks, she realizes what a horrible person Rebecca is to take advantage of Nik’s grief.  Identifying with Nik, who has also lost as love one, she decides to ‘protects’ Nik by getting rid of Rebecca.   She realizes that setting Mac up for murder would be difficult – he has no reason to hate Rebecca (hard to imagine, I know!  Do you need a real reason to hate this character? The fact that she exists makes her cringe-worthy in my book).  She decides to ‘break up’ with Mac, citing his family and their constant attacks against her as the reason.

The break up triggers Mac’s drinking, the drinking leads to a fatal accident, the accident leads to Mac being arrested, tried, and convicted of manslaughter.   Wracked with guilt, he accepts his fate.  It’s only after the fog clears, as he relives the episode, that he begins remembering small details, one of which is the key to unraveling what happened.  He remembers Rebecca being pushed and the car not being able to stop in time.  He starts to remember viewing the accident from the passenger side, it occured just as he was waking up.  His memory triggers a further investigation:  Robert, Anna (who returns when Robert puts out the call about a woman named ‘Ellenna’ – there’s more to her back history than even Elle knows), Robin, Patrick, Alexis, Maxie and Spinelli (who’ve given up the mob boys and are married and in the Scorpio-Drake-Spinelli clan), band together to prove Mac’s innocence.

The prove that Rebecca was pushed in front of Mac’s care… but if Elle was driving the car, who pushed Rebecca… or who drove the car as Elle pushed Rebecca… There’s more…

This storyline pulls several past storylines together:  Georgie’s death, Mac and Felicia’s unresolved failed marriage, Mac’s history as a smiling, but dangerous, playboy, and the Robert-Mac history.  Anna and Robert are back at the WSB – there can still be vice on the show without the lollipop mob.  The difference?  The bad guys aren’t the ‘heroes’.  Spinelli and Maxie follow the family tradition and actually put bad guys AWAY, not save them.

Future directions:  Obviously romance between Mac and Alexis once he’s cleared, conflict between Alexis and Nik – who refuses to listen to Alexis’ pleas to trust in Mac’s innocence – until later, the person who helps Elle could be Ethan – if you’d like and we could get rid of him,  Robin begins to have a relationship with her parents and they begin to clear the air on past events that even the audience isn’t aware of – yet, An unknown connection between Ellenna’s family and members of Port Charles…. so many future directions.

In the end… I know I won’t get any of it… but a girl can dream!

 

* Copyright to all images retained by ABC Daytime.