By Marlena De Lacroix
I have grown so tired of the soap opera convention known as the multiple-suspect murder mystery storyline. Of late, they’ve become meaningless, predictable or, even worse, totally incomprehensible.
The multiple-suspect murder plot was only done to perfection on the old full-time soap mystery show Edge of Night. But the plot only became really popular on other soaps around the time they expanded from a half to a full hour and their casts burgeoned with many characters of whom to make suspects. The “Who Shot J.R?” phenomenon on Dallas made the multiple-suspect murder plot more popular on daytime soaps. But as storytelling on soaps has vastly changed in the last decade due to faster pacing and excessive emphasis on sweeps month mega-events, the traditional multi-suspect murder story has become a much harder one to tell effectively.
Take the recent The Bold and the Beautiful “Who shot Stephanie?” storyline. In soaps a decade ago, this story would have lasted a good part of a year. But B&B told it accelerated style in three months! Members of the old Logan family (Katie, Donna, Storm, Stephen) family were specially brought back for this story, and mostly swept out like old dust the moment it was over. At first the wrong person went to jail (Stephen); then it was revealed Storm was the shooter. Who cares about him? He’s far from a regular character on the show! (Anyone who remembers William de Vry as rapist Michael Cambias on All My Children knows he has the word “weasel” carved into his forehead.) Those who love Steph know she could never die, due to the sheer weight of her Stalin-esque personality. “Dead” Steph will always regenerate a la Arnold Schwarznegger’s The Terminator! The whole “Who shot Stephanie?” storyline, I theorize, was a big excuse for the show to avoid an exploration of the extra-perverse mother-in-law-Steph-sponsored rape of Brooke!
And take the rather discombobulated “serial” murder story on General Hospital happening over the last six months with victims like Leticia, Emily, Georgie and now, (maybe) Coop. Overall this is supposed to be called the TMK murder. Whenever I see those intials I think of a cough medicine. It’s actually named the Text Messenger Killer. Huh? The scattered way the murders have been committed doesn’t register in my brain that these horrific killings are related. Most of the murders were sweeps month headlines. The entire “story” has no urgency at all and no narrative drive. And lots of red herrings. Who is theTMK? I’m personally convinced the real killer is Bob Guza. What other soap head writer is misogynistic enough to kill off lovely young women like Georgie and Emily, who had their whole lives in front of them?
Every multiple suspect murder mystery done in the last few years has had serious problems. The Spencer Truman murder on One Life To Live stretched out over a year and a half until no one cared who did it anymore. Convincted “murderess” Lindsey did a little time in St. Ann’s Asylum and has now been ordered by the court to live with her legal guardian and former lover Bo. That’s punishment? On The Young and the Restless, Jana killed Carmen but got out of jail in record time when it was discovered she has a brain tumor. Why should viewers hang in there during long murder stories when the criminal is caught but never punished? Does committing anti-social acts on soaps have any consequences anymore? You Thinking Fans know the answer to that: No!
Right now, As the World Turns is launching yet another multiple-suspect murder story: who killed Dusty Donovan? It should be interesting because we’ve all known Dusty since he was a baby-faced teenager. But last night, a friend phoned and told me that an actor who played the minor role of Evan Walsh on the show, Ryan Serhant had posted on his own personal website several weeks before the crime was solved on screen that his character is the killer. And that there are advance photos of the murderer with the victim on the Internet to prove it!
A murderer’s identity disclosed on the Internet, way before it is disclosed on a soap! Why should a viewer even bother to continue to watch the show? Multiple-suspect soap murders are a sham when, at the very least, the key element of suspense is completely eliminated.
ATWT’s Ryan Serhant: Internet blabbermouth?