Thinking Fans Comment Update July 31: How to repeat soap histories? Melanie counts the ways … James cheers the Reva/Josh movie wedding … while esther is generally unimpressed by retreads … and more. See Comments below.
By Patrick Erwin
Each of the eight daytime soaps on American network TV these days has a substantial history. The Bold and the Beautiful is the youngest at 21, Guiding Light the eldest at 71. Collectively, this is a rich history. And I’m all for calling on the past to inform current storylines.
But there’s a curious trend emerging this summer, and I’m not sure what to make of it. A few shows have gone beyond revisiting history — they actually seem to be reliving the stories in a way we haven’t really seen before. The stories we’re seeing are often note-for-note reproductions of earlier storylines:
• One Life To Live is closely revisiting two plot twists — Tina going over the falls and Viki “dying” and going to heaven. This revisiting of past plot is directly connected to OLTL‘s 40th anniversary.
• Guiding Light offers a similar “deja vu” story. A few months ago, Reva’s father Hawk announced he had sold the story of Reva’s life to a film producer. In the process of watching the movie as it’s being made, we’ve been seeing Josh and Reva’s “story” unfold again in front of our eyes.
• The Young and the Restless has revisited its history on several occasions. They mined Katherine and Jill’s past, first to reveal Jill is Katherine’s daughter, and then to spin the Phillip/Cane story. More recently, Y&R revisited Katherine’s life through flashbacks to set up a teaser for the possibility of Kay writing a book about her life. (Note to Y&R: We’re waiting!)
• General Hospital has also delved into its history in several instances as well, usually in reference to the iconic supercoupling of Luke and Laura. In the late 1990s, the show revisited Luke’s rape of Laura. In 2006, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original wedding for L&L, the show remarried the couple and had them recall several of their romantic moments.
The unusual thing about the current OLTL and GL stories is just how closely the shows are repeating their past triumphs. These shows aren’t merely using their past as a touchstone; they’re repeating those twists and turns almost word for word!
It strikes me as very, very odd. It also doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why they’re doing it: they hope to evoke our fond, nostalgic memories of those days. (Not to mention goose the ratings closer to their 1980s levels!) With OLTL, the show at least has some clear motivation for doing it — the 40th anniversary of OLTL.
It all sounded like a mess on paper. But … guess what? Most of this worked wonderfully on the screen.
On GL, the Josh/Reva scenes were incredibly moving. It was odd in the extreme to watch actors play out scenes I’d watched the first time around, but as our own Marlena said, “It was ridiculous but sweet at the same time!” To me, watching Reva and Josh’s reactions to the movie and to their past was very touching.
As for OLTL, the jury is still out on the Bo/Rex story (still playing out as we speak), and I wasn’t a big fan of the Mendorra story. Most of that story has played away from Llanview; I suspect the payoff will come when those involved return home. But Viki’s second visit to Heaven struck all of the right notes. Viki seeing Ben and Asa, as well as Jessica — I mean, Megan Victoria — was perfect. And the best part was seeing Agnes Nixon as “the creator.” (The shout-out to the fans at the end was really cute, too.) Aside from familiarity and nostalgia, there is one other VERY important reason why these scenes worked. The shows honored their history instead of doing what they usually do these days — changing it.
For an example, you need only look at Agnes Nixon’s other creation, All My Children. AMC revisited its history several years ago only to undo Erica’s history-making abortion. And it wasn’t even the first time AMC had muddied the waters (hello, Kendall!) with Erica, a character fans have seen on the show since Day One.
We fans (especially Thinking Fans!) remember the rich history and tapestry of the shows we watch. We’re protective of it, and we HATE when people change it. It’s a lesson that all of the shows would be wise to learn.
Which stories have you seen on soaps that you would like repeated? Which soaps that have revised changed their histories have you hated the most?
Patrick Erwin has launched his own blog, A Thousand Other Worlds …