Guiding Light: Keep It Burning!

Thinking Fans cherish Guiding Light memories: Levi recalls, “(GL) was a show my grandmother and I talked about on the phone and watched together. Even on her deathbed, we still talked about our favorite soap” … while Jonathan Reiner declares, “Losing GL is not just a blow for the genre, it’s a major loss for 20th Century Americana” … and David C. worries, “Now, the show has been allowed to die a good death. But is that death the beginning of the end of the U.S. daytime soap genre as we know it?” … and more. See Comments below.  

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Many years ago, I called the late Jim Reilly to see what his reaction was to an ABC soap being cancelled. His Days of Our Lives  (on NBC) was riding high and I expected him to be festive. “Oh no, Marlena,” he said. “When one soap gets cancelled, it hurts all of us.  It’s a tragedy for all soaps.”GL classic logo

And that’s how it feels now for Guiding Light (incidentally, a show Reilly was a co-headwriter for in the early 90s.)  As of this writing, GL‘s fate is officially undetermined, but last night trade stories (like this one) appeared that say official word of cancellation may be near.

That cancellation would affect everyone in the soap community.  Chances are, if you are a longtime soap watcher, you watched and loved Guiding Light at some point, or you watch and love it now.  So many generations of fantastic soap actors have passed through the show.  Over six decades of its remarkable life on TV and radio,  the town of Springfield has been a very real place.   Losing GL would not only be the loss of a media institution, it would be the loss of a piece of America that belongs to all of us.  The way its very human drama has reflected life in America all these decades, it is us.

So if you’d like to show your support for the show at this crucial time, I urge you to call, email or write.  My colleague Patrick Erwin has the contact numbers, urls and addresses you need to use to help save this show.  It’s here on his blog A Thousand Other Worlds under “Fighting Back.”

Soaps March: When a House Is Not a Home

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Ann demands to know, “Why is Guza doing this to Robin? It kills me to see people on the GH boards calling wonderful brave Robin a slut and a cheat because this PPD is being used to destroy her character” … while Elvira rejoices, “Guiding Light’s creative resurgence (headed by the old-school Otalia story, which is every bit as good as the stories that riveted me during the golden age of soaps) is still going strong” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix 

I had a really hard time watching soaps during March.  My old favorite,  All My Children, was a dead bore. My other old favorite, The Bold and Beautiful, went from the ridiculous to out of control, as warring, one-upping “brothers” Rick and Ridge seemed more like those old rival cartoon characters spy vs. spySpy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine than living, breathing human beings. On As the World Turns, 17-year-old Liberty married Parker, who is barely 16.   How desperate for story can a soap get?

Marlena is a hardcore soap watcher of countless decades, so my feelings of overall alienation from soaps this month may be part of a much larger  trend. Are you a loyalist who didn’t feel so loyal to soaps in March?  And how does that make you feel?  I feel … homeless.

But here are a few brief comments on soaps I could watch:     

One Life to Live: At least there were some wonderful, powerful  performances by almost  everyone in the Matthew is paralyzed/Shane has leukemia story.  But this new Stacy … yikes!  She is clearly intended to be [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with The Young and the Restless’ Greg Rikaart

By Damon L. Jacobs

The Young and the Restless‘ Greg Rikaart took the time on the SoapNet “Rock the Soap Cruise” to speak to The Soap Shrink not just once, but twice!  I found him gracious, intelligent, and very polite in correcting my mispronunciation of his last name (FYI, it’s RICK-art!).  We talked about his Y&R character Kevin Fisher, compassion, and how his understanding of psychology made a two-week character evolve into an Emmy-winning role.

D:  A lot has changed since the Soap Shrink analyzed Kevin last summer . Can you tell us what’s going on? 
G:  He put himself in a situation.  Kevin felt guilty about choices he had made in regard to Katherine Chancellor. He was trying to make amends, trying to be the knight in shining armor.  He goes to the hotel, sees this guy Clint, and confronts him.  So he goes into the hotel, he gets drugged and thrown into the trunk.  But he made the decision to put himself in a precarious situation.  It wasn’t safe. I’m sure his instincts were going against the decision.  But we don’t always follow our instincts. 

D:  Now he’s having a flashbacks …
G:  Well, yeah. I have to wonder how much of this would be happening if Kevin had really conquered [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with One Life to Live’s Susan Haskell

Thinking Marty/Susan Fans Comment Update: John enthuses, “As for Susan Haskell, she is incredible. It’s too bad it took such an ill-conceived story like the one Marty has had this year for me to realize what she can really do with powerful material” … while MissD concurs, “(Marty/Susan) has been a fave of mine and is the reason I recently came back to the show. I’m glad to hear that she understands why people are so unhappy with the recent Todd/Marty storyline and that she is not so happy about it herself”  … and more. See Comments below. 

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Dear Thinking Fans, 

Despite the recession, I took the plunge and booked passage on SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise” March 20 - 23. And am I glad I did!  It was a never-before-seen opportunity for fans to mix with more than a dozen stars in a relaxed, casual environment during the three-day sail from Long Beach, Calif. to Ensenada, Mexico and back.  Viewers and journalists alike had many opportunities to have thoughtful dialogues with the actors without the constraints of time pressure and huge crowds.

I was able to get eight amazing interviews with top actors on today’s shows.  I’ll post these interviews over the next few weeks. In them, you’ll read scoops, insights, and uncensored quips directly from the performers themselves.  I learned so much about the craft and talent that goes into our dramas every single day, and felt the sincere love and devotion the actors have for their respective shows.  I can’t wait to share all these interviews with all of you Thinking Fans, so please keep checking back to Marlena’s site for the answers and responses you won’t read anywhere else.
                                                                Damon
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By Damon L. Jacobs

During the “Rock the Soap Cruise,” I sat down for a long chat with the Emmy-winning Susan Haskell of One Life to Live.  I found her gracious, humble, and willing to speak to me even after signing autographs for three hours!   With a cloudless blue sky above and the  Pacific Ocean sliding by around us, we spoke of many things, including the phenomenal reaction to her first stint as Marty Saybrooke (1992-1997, with [Read more...]

Depressions and Soaps Don’t Mix

Thinking Fans Comment Update: renee argues, “Soaps have tackled so many great social issues and done them well, but those in charge of soaps today are suspect and will not handle the topic (of  joblessness) with respect” … DSO816 hopefully suggests, “I believe the dramas currently on air can craft timely stories of some characters’ layoffs, but it would have to be balanced, and believable” … while Steve charges, “If they really cared about focusing on the economy, they would try to go back to the escapism that viewers really want to see” … and more. See Comments below.

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monopolyBy Marlena De Lacroix

After I got out of grad school three years ago, I spent the most miserable year of my life looking for a job. Through fifteen interviews (the teaching job I was looking for was very specific), endlessly rewritten resumes and countless rejections, there was only one thing that kept me sane: soap operas.

When I was aching and depressed about my job search, at least I knew I could sit down every day and escape into my favorite shows.  Even though at the time they were not so great (Higley was writing One Life To Live, B&E All My Children and LML The Young and the Restless), the soaps were gthere every day to make me feel safe, to give me something concrete to look forward to.

The last thing I want to see on a soap is moi!   And certainly not me looking for a job or me even knowing there’s a cold cruel depression outside of my warm, warm afternoon TV set.

The far away antics of my fave characters — Dorian, Viki, Big Steph, Ric Lansing, snappy Jack and crazy Gloria — kept me occupied, and, for a while, kept my mind off my troubles. The LAST thing I wanted to see on these shows was anyone who was emulating my life looking for a job.

Now a website called Media Channel quotes Craig Tomashoff, TV Guide’s executive editor, reporting that soaps will be the first [Read more...]

On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: Newly Bereaved Father Buzz Cooper on Guiding Light

By Damon L. Jacobs

Losing someone you love is one of the hardest experiences you will ever have to go through.  If you have ever cared about someone who has died, then you know the palpable heartache that brings pain throughout your entire body.  But if you have ever lost a child, then you will understand the overwhelming anguish and paralyzing rage that has overtaken Buzz Cooper these days on Guiding Light.  

Sadly enough, Buzz (played by Justin Deas) is no stranger to death’s cruel grip.  As a Vietnam Veteran he survived countless acts of gore and violence.  Upon returning home, he married his high school sweetheart Nadine who was brutally murdered by Brent Lawrence.  Only three years later, his second wife Jenna died [Read more...]

One Life To Live Ups the Stakes, But Does It Dare Fire Superstar Slezak?

Erika Slezak

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Cherry Ames declares, “OLTL is so good in some ways, but in other ways it’s just sick and sordid and as bad as reality (global recession, wars, mass killings in Darfur and Sudan, Octo-mom).  I want something more uplifting and positive” … while Beth predicts, “Forcing Erika Slezak from OLTL, in my view, is something that the show would never be able to recover from. There is no heart in this show any more, and I do see the reason is becaue Viki Lord is missing in action” … and more. See Comments below.  

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Double jeopardy!  This week One Life to Live makes history by doubling the plot stakes as the lives of two children are seriously imperiled.  After a car crash, young Matthew Buchanan, the son of Bo and Nora,  will be paralyzed from the waist down.  And young Shane, the son of Rex and Gigi,  will be diagnosed with cancer!

The message boards will undoubtedly be full of hosannas from viewers who love the intensity of the drama.  There will be  calls for Emmy nominations all around to honor powerful performances. Dipsy Farah Fath (who plays Shane’s devoted mom) will be declared the new Jodie Foster.

Historical note: In the old days of traditional soap operas, writers like Irna and Agnes and Bill in the 50s and 60s would never do one story like this involving tragedy to a

These days, the only thing that can balance out the strippers, and the blow jobs, and the show’s general lack of class, is the one character who epitomizes class — namely Viki, as played by  Ms. Erika Slezak. 

young child, let alone two at the same time.  Why?  In those days, it was understood that the majority of the audience was young mothers, and one story like this would so upset and [Read more...]

Our Soap Shrink Wonders: Why So Many Bloody Brides?

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Jason laments, “I think the problem with soaps these days is they try to distance themselves from what they should be centered upon, which is love and romance, and turn to violence” … while Deep Dish,  favoring balance, suggests, “I think there’s room enough on soaps for both the traditional romantic weddings as well as the bloody bride interruptus ones” … and more.  See Comments below. 

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BrideBy Damon L. Jacobs

Savvy daytime fans know the value and vindication of the classic soap wedding.  But more and more this great tradition is being replaced with a trend that promotes gore and carnage:  The iconic bloody white wedding dress.

I, for one, fail to see the benefit or payoff for covering our heroines in blood.  It certainly can’t.t be for shock value, since anyone old enough to remember Sissy Spacek in Carrie is no longer surprised by the contrast of innocence and red liquids.  In my opinion, this trend is one of many ways the current shows are sending a message of defiance into the faces of long-term viewers, as this once sacred and uplifting wedding episode is now frequently mired in violence and bloodshed.

And yet I can’t help but wonder how others perceive it.  It used to be that viewers would get to witness a couple spending several years coming together, making up, breaking up, then [Read more...]

Soap February: Blame Executive Malfeasance!

Thinking Fans Comment Update: BL avers, “I have to say the line (on AMC) about how lesbians don’t kiss men was perfect, because why would they?” … Carl posits, “GL has been so much about nasty thugs over the past few years, Phillip’s return is a way to bring a more heroic character back into the spotlight” … while Melanie warns that GH “is on Maxie Overload and needs to quit before there’s a serious Maxie backlash (hello Sonny!)”  … and more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Fans usually blame headwriters when soaps are bad.  But ultimately, the real blame lies with daytime network executives who have the final power of approval over what we see on our screens.  Last month, judging by the very questionable, sometimes downright All My Childrenillogical and nonprofessional quality of the drama I saw on screen, I’d venture to say that these daytime execs (and their publicity and marketing minions) are very sloppy, asleep at the wheel, or just don’t care at all what they put on screen everyday.

She who gets smooched on All My Children

Why present a heavily publicized lesbian wedding if the whole plot leading up to it is going to greatly anger lesbian viewers?  In an earlier column on All My Children‘s headwriter Charles Pratt, I naively got excited over the acting possibilities of a Bianca-Reese-Zack love triangle. I received dozens of letters from female fans who said they didn’t want either gay character to get involved with a man.  D’Oh!  Of course they don’t!

So why did AMC, which knew this already (as proven by having Bianca angrily tell Reese when Bianca broke up the one day marriage that [Read more...]