Nuke countdown… 5 4 3 2….

Comparing individuals who are part of minority groups is usually a bit paternalistic and as a person of color I try to avoid it whenever possible.  There are times, however, when  comparisons are useful to illustrate a point.  I remember watching Day of Our Lives, not long after learning about the cancellation of As The World Turns and watching Crystal Chappell at work in the reprised role of  ‘Carly Manning Alamain’.  I immediately started thinking about the reported deleted scene from the last episode of  The Guiding Light, one in which Olivia gave Natalia a kiss on the cheek as Rafe boarded the bus on his way to basic training, and to begin his new life.  It was  cut – for some unknown reason… uh huh…  As I thought about that deleted scene, I wondered if As The World Turns writers would follow The Guiding Light’s lead; specifically, are  As The World Turns writers running out the clock on Nuke?  Despite the numerous opportunities to make Otalia a full-fledged couple, like any other, Guiding Light writers waited until the last episodes to let fans know that the couple  would, off screen, make it while building their new family.  I suspect that Nuke is headed for the same fate.

Luke and Noah’s relationship started as a  groundbreaking event in daytime – U.S. soaps first openly gay male couple.  Unfortunately, there seems to have been more smoke for the couple on paper than anything that approximated fire onscreen.  Onscreen, short of an occasional kiss and the implication that  sex had occurred, it would have be pretty difficult for those who are sporadic viewers, or viewers flipping through channels,  to not mistake Luke and Noah for siblings (right down to the scary proposition that Lily and Damian ‘adopt’ Noah, making Luke his lover’s legal brother).  To think that Jerry Springer doesn’t even write for As the World Turns– at least not in his own name.

When I think about the difference between the way the One Life to Live writers approach the Kish (Kyle and Oliver Fish) relationship, I’m both in awe, and feel a bit of bitter disappointment about Nuke.  The problems with the Kish storyline have  nothing to do with character  sexuality.  The writers have potentially weakened the Kish dynamic by glossing over Kyle’s earlier blackmail of Natalie Buchanan and Jared Banks, and his willingness to torment a fragile Jessica Buchanan with the loss of yet another child.  They’ve glossed over his involvement with Stacy in deceiving Rex and Gigi regarding Shane’s treatment and recovery.  Of course, Stacy is still an evil bitch, and  Kyle has been redeemed as a misguided and desperate pawn.  The writers have glossed over the batshit crazy  Kyle’s sister brought to screen and dropped any possible exploration of whether or not he’d been covering his involvement with her all this time.  Right now it seems to be the case that he genuinely had nothing to do with her – but shouldn’t there be some lingering doubt?

It would have been quite an interesting dynamic to watch the above board, letter-of-the-law Oliver Fish reconcile his regard for law and his deep love for Kyle.  (Yet another common thread with As The World Turns.  I immediately began thinking of Carly Tenney and her “G Man” Jack Snyder.)   I’d love to see a more nuanced relationship in which we’re rooting for Oliver’s happiness and wanting Kyle to be the right man for him, but never knowing if he should or  would ever, be able to trust Kyle.  Is Kyle with Oliver because he loves him, or is he with Oliver to fool everyone into thinking that he’s turned over a new leaf?

The role that should have gone to Kyle is now being played out by seemingly devious Nick – who listens at doorways and seems to always be involved in some underhanded plot.  Oliver is still the good guy – trusting, hopeful, willing to believe in his love with Kyle and the bond he’s sure they share.  I’ve been ambivalent about the rush job on Kish, for the reasons mentioned above, and yet still find myself rooting for them and wanting to kick Nick’s backside right out the door.   If only there was some audience participation software that would have allowed me to give Roxy (and by extension One Life to Live writers) a high five when she observantly figured out that there’s something not quite right about Nick and that he could spell big trouble for Kish.  The writers rarely allow our girl to be that observant!

What I appreciate most about the Kish/Nick storyline is that it’s a formula  linked to a tried and true daytime staple.  We’ve seen it a million times before, the lover on the outside wants in.  An illness/injury/spat of amnesia leads the lover on the outside (Nick in this case)  to use the condition to keep the unsuspecting target  (Kyle) close. Only the target’s partner (Oliver) realizes what’s going on while the target repeatedly sides with the lover on the outside.  Sooner or later Kyle and Oliver will end up fighting over Oliver’s not-so-insane jealously over Nick and mistrust of Nick and Kyle together.  The distance between the young lovers will grow while Nick stands in the background smirking and plotting even further.  Just when it seems that our young lovers will work their way back to one another, Nick will probably figure out that Stacy is pregnant with Oliver’s child and break the couple up ‘for good’, picking up the pieces and moving on with Kyle for as long as they last.

The writers have very quietly and cleverly done in months what years of pseudo-activism on As The World Turns has failed to do with Nuke.  Carlivarti and crew have made it clear that Kish is just like everyone else, in all the ways that matter.   When it was evident that As The World Turns writers would create a teen pregnancy storyline with Liberty, I’d hoped that Luke and Noah, with a little magical same-character-SORASing, would step in as the child’s adoptive parents.  I wanted them to be a family, together, and to learn that it wasn’t as easy being in love as they’d thought, but fighting to remain committed to one another and growing stronger together.

Instead, it was one series of missteps after another for the couple.  Nuke has yet to be integrated into the cast in a way that makes us identify with them as people. The writers have only allowed us to identify with them based on their sexuality.  They are that – and so much more and it would be nice, before the show ends, for the writers to tell us who they are.  Pessimistically, I hear the ticking of the clock, and suspect that the writers are more interested in running the clock down as we approach 2010.  No family for Nuke, no lives related to their work  or other accomplishments, not even a  kiss on the cheek at the end, justa  good bye, and what a pity that would be.

Out on a limb with Otalia and The Guiding Light

As much as it pains me to say it, I may be done with Otalia.  I don’t know if that’s what the writers want and I’m just being a great big sucker for giving it to them.  Maybe I’m just tired of most of daytime and this current Otalia storyline is hitting my hot buttons.  Once Jessica Leccia returns from maternity leave and I see Otalia back onscreen together, it’s possible that all will be forgiven, and that I will be back to rooting for them.  For now?  Not so much.

GL writers seem to be completely unable to tell a compelling storyline.  Is  it the writers?  The executive producer blocking the way to good storyline telling?  The CBS Execs?  The way JessicaL’s Natalia was temporarily written out for maternity leave sucks – deeply sucks – sucks so bad that it makes ATWT’s writing out Carly Tenney to cover Maura West’s maternity leave look brilliant.  What does THAT tell you? Clearly, the problems with Natalia’s decision to abandon Olivia once she realizes she’s pregnant with Frank’s baby is indicative of the problems GL has been experiencing under Wheeler’s guidance.   First, who DIDN’T know that this would turn into another Susan/Ross/Carol (Friends) storyline?  Who DIDN’T know the writers would force an ‘eternal’ triangle and ‘forced family’ with Frank/Natalia/Olivia, rather than let Otalia just be happy together?  Second, this storyline takes me back to what I didn’t like about Natalia when she was first introduced.  She was introduced as a weak, whiny, mealy-mouthed character, desperate for love.  She stood in the shadows, afraid, insecure, making one bad decision after another that everyone around her had to pay for as she whined ‘poor me’.  Our Lady of Perpetual Pain.  Sheeeeee’s back!

I enjoyed the strength Natalia developed over time.  I loved that she’d started growing up and making decisions that improved her life and brought her happiness.   While I think all individuals should become the people they need to be BEFORE entering relationships, sometimes relationships can help change you for the better and that was the gift that Otalia gave one another.

Now?  Watching Olivia hit the road to track down the woman who dashed her hope for happiness and abandoned her just as Liv gained the strength to face the world made me despise Natalia, and the crap offered as entertainment to GL fans.   Listening to Liv cry, watching her scream out in vain for Natalia to come back made me realize that the writers used the Otalia relationship to weaken both characters.   Not only did the old Natalia return, she dragged Liv down to her level.

How lovely would it have been for Liv and Natalia to have been filmed BEFORE JL’s pregnancy to air while she was away?  How lovely it would have been for Liv and Nat to decide to leave town together, for a while.  Frank could be conflicted on what it means to now be a part of this family and want Natalia to take all the time she needed to clear her head.  He, Rafe,  and Liv could have occasionally made the trip to visit Natalia  – maybe with Rafe staying with Natalia to get use to the idea of his mother having another child and to help her and become reacquainted with her again.  Slowly, they would have accepted their lives as they are and become a modern American family.  Taping the scenes ahead of time would have meant no lost scenes for Otalia, or ending this madness with Frank on the outside/no on the inside/no on the outside/whatever. We could have finally had an end to the angry Rafe-monster… but the concept of lost time is one the GL writers and EP are all too familiar with.

More is the pity because now I say… BRING ON DORIS AND OLIVIA!  Who’s afraid of the big bad Wolfe?  Natalia should be!

Ratings and why CBS should reconsider

Despite the suckage that is GL these days, I STILL think the wrong thing to do is cancel this  show!

Courtesy of Soap Opera Network:

Ratings for the week June 22-26, 2009

HH
1. Y&R 3.5/11 (+.1/-.1)
2. B&B 2.3/7 (same/-.2)
3. DAYS 2.1/6 (+.1/+.2)
4. OLTL 1.8/6 (same/-.2) <—— ties low (Last time: 1.8/6 for June 15-19, 2009)
5. AMC 1.7/5 (-.1/-.2) <——– new low (Previous low: 1.8/6 for June 15-19, 2009)
5. GH 1.7/5 (-.1/-.4) <——— new low (Previous low: 1.8/5 for June 15-19, 2009)
7. ATWT 1.6/5 (same/-.3) <—— ties low (Last time: 1.6/5 for June 15-19, 2009)
8. GL 1.4/4 (+.1/-.1)

ABC soaps are falling like a ROCK! It’s not as if GL is doing so poorly in the ratings, in comparison.

FIRE WHEELER.

HIRE better writers. Several of the current writers would do just fine but new leadership is definitely needed and Ms. Wheeler just doesn’t do it for me.

Maybe there’s a way to get ATWT and GL on soapnet (long shot I know). Lifetime might not be interested in producing GL, but would the network be open to airing syndicated eps if CBS continued to produce and air the show?  Could there be a partnership that eased the financial burden for CBS?

Ride this thing out and let GL stick around with the rest of daytime.  I only say that because I’m still sure that ATWT and GL still have room for improvement, in the right hands.

The BnB’s Celluloid Closet…

ROUND THREE, people, ROUND THREE! This will probably be my last blog on this topic for a while, since I’ve neglected my GH, DAYS, and OLTL duties and have yet to reflect on my new love-hate relationship with all three shows.

One of the benefits of posting on soap message boards and blogging is that posting gives you the opportunity to think fully about fans’ reactions to storylines you may think of as basic storylines. Apparently not! In the last BnB blog I posted, I wrote that I’ve been surprised by two concepts 1 – that Stephanie Forrester and Taylor Hamilton Hayes are ‘too moral’ to become involved in a lesbian storyline. 2 – That Taylor and Stephanie are highly moral, at all. The comments below work if you believe that it’s objectively true that Stephanie and Taylor are ‘moral’.

As the debate continues on the official Bold and Beautiful board regarding the speculated possibility of a ‘Staylor’ storyline, I realize just how brilliant the writing for ATWT and GL has been! Before you burn me in effigy, let me qualify that statement – because it clearly requires qualification. The writers of both shows have done something that would not dared have been dreamed of just a couple of decades ago. They’ve established their respective couples (Nuke and Otalia) with at least one partner in the couple serving as their respective shows’ moral centers.

Luke and Noah resisted the temptation to bed-hop as so many others around them had. Noah’s father was a horror of a freak show and Luke’s parents have likely spent as much time sleeping with other people as they have sleeping with one another. Nuke came together not because they were running from anything else, but because they were running TO each other. They took their time getting there (too much time for some fans’ tastes, but they were worth the wait). Nuke brought a patience, kindness, and caring back to the show that had been missing for some time. They also brought back a sense of old-fashioned romance.

The same could be said of Otalia.WOWZA! Their long-awaited admissions of love for one another was nothing short of ‘supernova’ brilliant! The tone was right, the location was right -oddly enough at Gus’ graveside, Liv’s inability to stop herself from saying the words she’s worked so hard to avoid was gut-wrenching… if I wasn’t already sold on them as a couple, I would have been sold at that moment. I haven’t been as pleased with what followed, but more on that at another time. What immediately struck me was Liv’s comment to Nat that she knew that the fact that she loved her was a ‘sin’ in Nat’s religion, but that she couldn’t stop from loving her. Nat treated Liv’s concern about her religious ideas for what it was, no obstacle. (Not everyone interprets religious scriptures the same way; and not everyone believes that love is a sin). Ok, so you’ve seen the follow up eps by now and know that religion will be an issue for the couple in the future. ARGH! I told you that would happen so I’m not surprised, but ARGH is still the best reaction I’m capable of giving at this time.

As for the original point, I think it’s fascinating that Natalia has become the ‘new Maureen Bauer’. She’s the show’s mother hen who makes easy work of finding the good in everyone, who keeps an open door and open heart to everyone around her, and is a friend to anyone in need. I can’t help but believe that the writers will address the ‘religiosity’ aspect of the Otalia storyline, soon, removing the notion of Natalia as a ‘damned soul’ because of her feelings for Olivia.

I think that the way the writing team from each soap handled the matter of establishing their respective couple as part of the show’s moral core (if such a thing exists on a daytime show) was so subtle that I hadn’t thought of it as an overarching theme for the introduction of gay/lesbian couples in the contemporary daytime setting. It could certainly be considered an extension of the introduction of AMC’s Bianca Montgomery who, at almost every age, has served as the keeper of Pine Valley’s collective moral conscience. She became ‘Grandma Mona’s’ spiritual heir.

The Bold and The Beautiful’s Celluloid Closet

If you’ve never seen the documentary ‘The Celluloid Closet’, it’s a MUST VIEW. The documentary is based on Vito Russo’s book of the same name. Clearly Hollywood did a poor job of supporting diversity of any kind in its early history, but like many others, my self-invested interests kept me focused on the nonexistent racial diversity and problematic portrayals of women. This documentary opened my eyes to discrimination across the board, and how easily societal attitudes about sexual minorities have been both shaped and reinforced by the superficial images presented on screen. When I see resistance to the notion of a ‘Staylor’ pairing, there’s a part of me that wonders if the implicit and explicit messages about the ‘morality’ and ‘sexuality’ as polar opposites taps some unexpectedly uncomfortable space when it comes to two characters who’ve presented themselves as the show’s moral standard bearers.

The questions for me is, given how well the formula has worked on other shows, why WOULDN”T Stephanie and Taylor serve as the most likely couple – should the writers decide to introduce sexual diversity to the BnB audience? Wouldn’t this be yet another variation on the theme?

Opening Segment of ‘The Celluloid Closet:

If the ever noble Luke and Noah, spiritual Bianca, and religious Natalia have led the way in asking fans to reconsider their ideas of sexual minorities as ‘immoral’ wherever those feelings exist, wouldn’t it make perfect sense for Stephanie and Taylor to provide the avenue to opening the discussion for viewers on The Bold and the Beautiful? I don’t know how anyone BUT the incredibly skilled Susan Flannery and John McCook could lead this storyline forward (yes, John McCook, not Hunter Tylo). I can see JM’s Eric reacting to his wife, in her ‘golden years’ – as Steph gingerly calls them, deciding not to spend her remaining time supporting him but deciding to live her life with dignity and integrity and being the person she was meant to be.

A tearful and genuine final goodbye to the drama and turmoil she’s lived with Eric? They part as friends, parents, and long ago partners in success before she moves on with her life? And then in walks Taylor. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. As they stand now, their friendship doesn’t make sense in light of the Stephanie’s extreme attitudes and behaviors regarding Taylor. In the same documentary, author Susie Bright discusses clues that suggest the possible same sex attraction of Mrs Danvers to the character ‘Rebecca’, in the film of the same name. Her comments are in relationship to the clip from the film, featured below (beginning 5:30 in):

“Rebecca” and Mrs. Danvers:

I’ve been asked why I haven’t thought of Stephanie and Brooke as potential partners or supported that notion.  Easy.  It doesn’t make sense!  If we follow the analogy all the way through, then clearly Stephanie is operating in the role of ‘Mrs. Danvers’ to Taylor’s “Rebecca’, with Brooke serving as “the second Mrs. De Winters”. No no, Brooke is no innocent, as is Joan Fontaine’s “the second Mrs. De Winters”, but Brooke truly loves Ridge (who serves as ‘Maxim’ in this analogy). She continues loving him despite never being able to win over the support of the controlling and overly protective Stephanie/Mrs. Danvers. Because of the unspoken love, and unbroken bond, Stephanie’s Danvers shares with Taylor’s ‘Rebecca” – one that not even death breaks, Brooke will always be on the outside. She will never overcome Steph’s/Danvers’ desire to maintain the MYTH of Taylor’s (Rebecca’s) perfection. Brooke will continue to be psychologically tortured by a false image of the perfect woman that Stephanie/Danvers created out of her own unexpressed desires, an image Stephanie/Danvers uses as a weapon against Brooke/2ndDW, though she knows the truth.

Brooke’s 2ndDW will never benefit from having Steph’s Mrs. Danvers spin her misdeeds into something magical and perfectly acceptable in order to hide those sins from those around her as Stephanie/Danvers has done for Taylor/Rebecca. Note how, in both the film and on the BnB, it was most important to maintain the notion of purity for those who were in the dark about Taylor/Rebecca’s true nature, most especially Ridge/Maxim. Steph’s only loyalty is to Taylor. Her passion and compassion are saved for Taylor. Her forgiveness is saved for Taylor. Why is it so unlikely that her truest love is reserved for Taylor? For those who think of Steph and Taylor as mere friends, I just don’t see it. I think the BnB has been writing from it’s own celluloid closet for these two characters for some time, unintentionally or not.