By Marlena De Lacroix
We’ve just passed New Year’s, and a certain ennui has set in this week on soaps. This winter of Marlena’s discontent is made worse by the arrival of scab-written scripts. Are they here so soon? On General Hospital and The Young and the Restless, this would seem to be the case. Are there more? Perhaps. I’m listening closely, trying to take some small amusement in detecting that moment when the generally bad writing we’ve all gotten used to turns a corner and actually gets worse.
One sure sign of wanna-be “professional” writing is the unchecked tendency toward self-indulgence, the show-offy use of existing characters as mouthpieces for what the author imagines to be his/her wit or erudition, or both.
On General Hospital, Luke’s heart attack, subsequent surgeries and recuperation has provided a playground for someone wanting to display clever wordsmith-ery. How else to explain Luke’s monologue about living and dying the day he almost died on the operating table and went to “Heaven”? It meandered on for a full six minutes and never made word of sense. Then Luke grabbed a microphone and belted out “My Way,” as if this were GH: The Musical, and maybe some writer’s Broadway fantasy. While songwriter Paul Anka checked his royalty statements, I ran for the Pepto. I love Tony Geary as much as anyone, but a singer he’s not! The episode qualified as one of the worst GH‘s — ever!
Worse are the dream sequences in which the ever-professional Geary, who can act the stuffing out of any script he’s given, was sent to Heaven, Hell (where two weeks ago, the world’s self-styled Grooviest Guy spies himself as grumpy grandpa to Lulu and Logan’s vast brood of kids) and, covering all bases, finally yesterday to Purgatory.
A whiff of a cigar rendered Luke comatose and when he was fully out, he dreamed of himself on trial in Purgatory to determine his fate in eternity. Geary played four parts — himself, his inattentive defense attorney, the priggish prosecutor and the stern judge. The whole dreary exercise was built around just one joke: Luke thinks he’s going to be vindicated, but one after another, characters from his life (cameos by some figures out of his life story like Scotty, one-time mother-in-law Lesley, daughter Lulu and son Lucky, adored galpal Skye and of course, current Wife Tracy) sit on the witness stand and recount his endless misdeeds, to which Luke responds with comic incredulity. Ha, ha. And his attorney, rather than defending him, agrees with them each time. Ha ha again.
This was a really funny idea when veteran headwriter Larry David used it in the final episode of Seinfeld, which suspiciously sounds like the inspiration for this episode. To this writer Marlena says, paraphrasing the late Sen. Lloyd Bensten in his famous 1988 debate with vice presidential hopeful Dan Quayle: “You, sir, are no Larry David.”
And how about a little originality, you new scabs who want so badly to get hired to full-time jobs? I watched a Y&R episode this week which featured a Genoa City blackout, necessitating all the stranded citizens to hang out and talk to each other, on and on. Nearly every soap has done the old blackout story since it was invented in 1993 by the then writers of Guiding Light. What cracked me up was all those cozy in-the-dark scenes (Jack/Ashley, Victor/Nikki) that looked like the stagehands had hauled out the ornate candelabras left over from Y&R‘s glam days in the late 70’s in which a tuxedo-ed Lance and evening-gowned Laurie used to sing with a grand piano.
Gosh, and how amateur scab dialogue sounds. Good writers follow the most important rule of writing: show don’t tell. On the same Y&R episode a jealous Victor yelled at his estranged wife Nikki, who is now involved with David: “I am a very possessive individual, you know. What’s mine is mine! I fight for it it! That’s you Nikki” Duh! This kind of line comes from someone who has been watching Victor as a fan on the screen, not writing lines for Victor to say from his heart and his brain. Here is how the real Victor would have expressed his jealousy and typically macho feelings: “David Chow! Who is this little man? Now you, my wife, love him and he thinks he should marry her! He deserves I should tear his eyeballs out!”
Professional writers keep it simple. And if they attempt to make a special sequence, they use the special writing skills they’ve developed and honed over their years as professional writers. Wait a minute … wasn’t the atrocious Black and White ball, which aired on GH just a month ago, written by a bunch of … professional writers?