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?