Dark Shadows/Dark Shadows Revival

For anyone interested, Netflix is streaming ‘Dark Shadows Revival’ (the complete failed series, of course). It’s worth the watch to see some old soap stars who were major fan faves, and actors who were linked to daytime soaps – even if their roles were limited:

Julianna McCarthy (ex- Liz Foster, Young and the Restless) as Mrs. Johnson, the Collins family maid; Joanna Going (ex-Lisa Grady, Another World) as Victoria Winters; Roy Thinnes (ex- Sloan Carpenter, OLTL) as Roger Collins; Barbara Blackburn (Ex-Siobhan Ryan, Ryan’s Hope) as Carolyn Stoddard / Millicent Collins; Michael T. Weiss (ex Mike Horton, Days of Our Lives) as Joe Haskell; Ellen Wheeler (GL killer… I KID, I KID (sorta). She was ex- Marly/Vicky Hudson, Another World) as Phyllis Wicke… and there are others.

There are some changes in DS: Revival. It’s Vicki Winters who is the reincarnation of “Josette DuPres’ instead of Maggie. Jeremiah is Joshua Collins’ younger brother, not Barnabas’ younger brother. Barnabas and Angelique were never married. Willie Loomis is Mrs. Johnson’s nephew. With his release, Barnabas begins by terrorizing the women of Collinsport – which is not what we saw in the original DS. Some of the revival (12 eps in all) is quite hammy, and other parts of it is truly engaging and now makes me wish the show had lasted longer.

Netflix also streams the original Dark Shadows – picking up with Willie Loomis finding Barnabas’ tomb and releasing him. The time before that has to be ordered on DVD.  Does anyone even  remember a time before Barnabas?  In case you’ve been wondering?  Jonathan Frid is alive and well and still very active helping to maintain the DS legacy!  Jonathan Frid (Barnabas),  Barbara Steele (Celeste) and John Karlen (Willie Loomis) have been working on the new DS project:  Dark Shadows: The Night Whispers.

Updated to add: You  can watch the full Revival of DS for FREE on HULU: http://www.hulu.com/dark-shadows

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Create Your Own Soap

A lovely poster on the SoapOperaNetwork’s message boards posted a ‘create your own soap’ thread. The only instruction? You’re not limited by the format/structure daytime uses now. WOWZA! Great idea. So many of us are unhappy with the current storylines offered in daytime (and repeatedly offered) that we want something different. Daytime is clinging to a dead model, in my opinion and has focused on all the wrong changes to bring fans back/or keep them around (GL’s disastrous Peapack shoot, for example).
Below is my attempt at setting up a new soap, storylines we don’t (or won’t get) in daytime:
Setting: Colorado! Why? Big cities that feel like small towns, 4 seasons (and I think there’s something romantic about the rockies as a backdrop). The mountains work as an additional character the same way NYC became a fifth character in Sex and the City. States like Colorado allow you any sort of lifestyle you’d want: urban and chic, rural and hearty, ranch/farm style living.

Multicultural/multi-ethnic cast. One Life to Live comes closest to a truly multicultural cast and achieving the ‘feel’ I’d like in a soap.

There should be varying levels of income (I think what sucks about daytime is that everyone has to be ‘rich’ and that those how aren’t eventually become rich or scheme to become rich, or spend a LOT of time hanging out with the fabulously wealthy as if that could happen – because there’s nothing rich folk like more than hanging out with people who don’t have money. Don’t you read ‘People’?).

No more treating race, orientation, religion, etc like ‘novelty’ storylines. The cast would be fully integrated in that sense. I think the ‘old’ model of ‘easing in’ populations is killing daytime and fails to appeal to larger audiences who are far more sophisticated than daytime EPs/execs believe.

Cast/plots would include:

The darker characters/storylines

— an educated self-made CEO who is a ‘pariah’ in her family (an outsider to her family not because she’s educated but because she’s ashamed of her working class roots and unable to admit it to herself). The storyline is centered around a 21st century ‘passing’ when she reinvents herself and brings with her into her new life the one person who could/would blow her new life out of the water – someone she brings with her not by her own choice. Hey, I didn’t say NO rich characters, just that they can’t all be rich.

— a young man (late 20s/early 30s) on the edge who has been hidng a secret that’s been tearing him apart. He not only witnessed his father’s death, he knows who did it and helped cover up the accidental death – obviously for someone he loves. The details of his father’s unsolved murder make it unlikely that anyone would believe it was an accident. He’s in his first potentially serious relationship and his deal with the devil comes back to haunt him.

— an unconventional HIV storyline. An older woman whose unfaithful husband contracts the disease. What would happen if this woman unknowingly ended up in a support group for women with AIDS/HIV with her husband’s mistress and neither knew who the other was, at first?

Daytime treats sex as romance, and often without consequence. The only consequence characters have faced is to either end up pregnant and not know which man fathered the child, or from the male perspective, to be named one of a couple/several possible fathers; or to end up pregnant.

It’s hard to imagine that in more than 20 years of public focus on AIDS/HIV that only two shows have dealt with issues of AIDS/HIV for longer than several weeks (General Hospital, which offered the Nurses Ball as an annual AIDS/HIV fundraiser, and All My Children) . ATWT’s Margo was sexually assaulted by a perp she as trying to arrest during a robbery and spent several weeks/months worrying that she’d contracted HIV from the assailant when he tested positive. She didn’t, of course.

I imagine the character in my soap battling with forgiving her husband; befriending, hating, and then working on forgiving the mistress who knew about her life with her family and slept with her husband anyway; dealing with HIV, and becoming an advocate for other women living with the condition. My soap would treat her condition as chronic, as General Hospital has done with Robin Scorpio, or with AMC’s Cindy Parker, wife of Stuart Chandler, before she died. (Trivia buffs, it might interest you to know that Cindy Parker was played by GL’s current EP, Ellen Wheeler!)

— a former (ad exec? autoworker? high school teacher?) who lost everything because of a drug addiction, lived on the streets for a while – gets clean – ends up working as live in help for a wealthy family. He’s dazzled by the big life and the big secrets of the glitterati, never becoming one of them. He knows more than he should because he sits in the shadows listening. He’s not ‘one of them’ so they’re not especially careful about what they say in his presence. He serves as a surrogate father to the family’s young heir when he realizes the kid is being physically abused by the father. No one believes either of them about the abuse. He can’t prove the abuse, but he can prove the father has engaged in other illegal activities. He blackmails him to get him to leave the child alone, keeping his job to stay close and keep an eye on the father. He keeps up his battle to keep the child safe, but the fear and anxiety cause him to battle relapsing in the process.

The lighter storylines:

— one ‘coming of age storyline’

— A little comedy (would love a David Vickers-esque character)

— A least one pair of star-crossed lovers

What I wouldn’t add:

— weak needy whining women. They need not apply. Men who cheat don’t get to be called ‘great husbands’ or ‘loving and caring’ later (see: BnB’s Nick Marone how bailed on his grieving wife for her mother a day after his child was buried… they both see what a ‘good man’ he is… bull)

— love triangles – done to death. When couples break up, let it be for real problems, not because of a third partner.

— Who’s the daddy? storylines, as pregnant women are fighting to keep others from learning the truth.

— Misattributed paternities (geez, how many times can soap characters raise children and later find out the children aren’t theirs?

— No pseudo-incest stuff – you don’t get to date your niece just because you find out there’s no bio link later in life.

Rules

— more drama, less camp. Daytime has become a bad parody of itself.

— more romance, less “hello, let’s have sex”. The Bold and the Beautiful is a classic example of wham-bam relationships! Rick fell for his niece, Steffy, days after her sister’s death – an accident he was involved in.

— I’d want more mystery and intrigue, less psychoses passing as real life.
When you think about it, what would would you change it? How would you write daytime differently?

Guiding Light leading daytime’s echo chamber

Ellen Wheeler wants to Save Daytime (Thanks LizDC at the Official GL board for posting the link.  There are so many issues with this article, but this line in particular caught my eye:

The stereotypical soap viewer is the older housewife, but the shows have historically picked up a lot of fans on college campuses. With its face-lift, Guiding Light is banking on pulling in a whole new generation of viewers. “I do think if you were flipping through the channels you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, this is a soap opera, I’m not going to stop,’ ” says Wheeler. “You wouldn’t know what it was.”

Here’s the problem… most of us STILL don’t seem to know what GL is.  The show bears little to no resemblance to the GL of even a decade ago.  It has little resemblance to a reality show. It feels more as if the show is a documentary about insane people blowing around some small town pretending they’re soap characters.  I miss daytime.  The REAL daytime.  I began watching daytime with my grandmother – anyone I’ve every spoken to about watching soaps began watching with one of those ‘stereotypically older viewers’ that daytime now laments and discounts.

Those S.O.V’s were daytime’s best kept secret – their most reliable recruiting tool.  I loved almost all daytime storylines, and didn’t care if there were hormonal teens or hot young adults on air.  I loved the family interactions interspersed with outrageous behavior (which did not include: demonic possession, time travel, cloned dead wives, space travel, alien life forms, witches, living dolls, or much of any of the other much which has creeped into daytime storytelling.  If daytime fans wanted that, Dark Shadows would still be on air.)

Outrageous behavior,  in the early days, was ‘stealing’ a husband or wife, or DAYS’ Julie stealing from department stores.  It’s hard to believe how the definition of outrageous has changed.

The interviewer goes on to add:

The actors generally approve of the reality-style shooting, which leads to a fresher kind of acting. “It’s less like shooting a play,” says Murray Bartlett, who plays Cyrus the Australian jewel thief. “Now you can lose yourself in the environment. It feels more intimate, and you can hopefully be more subtle.”

Could someone reconcile the writer’s (not the actor’s) comment with this:

Carolyn: Can you give me an example of what you’re talking about?

Actor: Getting changed in the backseat of a car without the windows tinted on a busy street while trying to run lines with the actor in the car with you, because you don’t have any other time to rehearse. Holding your own lights. Stuff that’s just laughable. And they want a good product from this? The system is there for a reason, so people are taken advantage of and exploited. We all need to have our jobs respected…  Read the full transcript HERE

How is it that the soap press can tell what a complete disaster filming in Peapack is but the author of this article sells the ‘new’ GL as inventive?  The author can’t be a fan of daytime.  I know daytime is considered fluff but I wish those outside the genre would ask some seriously tough quesions of soaps Executive Producers and Writers.  Doing a puff piece on it is a waste of time and leaves fans feeling even MORE frustrated.

Where is the discussion about RPG (Gus) and BE (Harley) and the others (like Laura Wright, ex-Cassie) who have jumped ship because of low morale after the Wheeler team took over?  Where are the comments about the actors who are afraid of speaking up out of fear or retaliation? Why haven’t there been any comments that the ratings keep sinking, and fast, even for the new format? 

Everything about daytime is superficial now.  That includes the articles written about daytime.  GL’s Bartlett may indeed enjoy the new filming setting, at least until the fall chill and winter months set in.  I’m waiting to see what the show does then.  If the soap press, who is presumably closer to the actors and actually talks to more of them, is to be believed, all is not well in the city and state of Peapack, New Jersey. 

The interviewer talked with Wheeler about the storylines she didn’t like and got rid of but you didn’t ask her about the GL history she knows, loves, and what has she done to try to build on what once worked, what she’d like to do to return to the style and level of writing that kept fans tuned in.  If Wheeler’s done so and I’ve missed it, someone let me know!  What I also find interesting is that daytime execs use to ‘blame OJ’ (or the OJ trial) for the decline of soap ratings.  Mechling’s article goes all the way back to the 1992 introduction of MTV’s ‘Real World’. 

Well hells bells, COPS was introduced in 1989, Springer took the air in 1991, what other ‘reality’ show dealing with human relationships can we blame?  Enough with the excuses.  The problem for daytime, in my opinion, is that writers and producers have spent more time focusing on gimmicks.  They’ve decided that the familial relationships developed with longtime favorite characters were ‘too old-fashioned’.  They’ve killed off both. 

Daytime is notorious for following bad leads (both inside and outside of the genre) – Marlena’s possession on DOOL and then the introduction of ‘Passions’ has turned into a host of ‘supernatural’ storylines across daytime for some time and has only recently seemingly ended.  Siblings and parents share lovers more intimately and often than ever before.  Misattributed paternities are the norm, not the exception, and with such, there’s no longer a stigma on dating someone who was once your father or brother (Ridge and Bridget, BnB). 

Oh.Snap!  Great!  Now I’m wondering why I’m still watching daytime.  I have to go and consider the point… I’ll see you next blog… maybe…