By Matthew Weaver
It’s so hard to be a cheerleader for a team that doesn’t even want to win any more.
In the football team that has become daytime television, the quarterback is spitting on the legacy of the greatest love stories ever told, the wide receiver has been recast with a Melrose Place actress and suddenly turned into a lawyer out of nowhere and the offensive guard and offensive tackle have quietly been written into the background.
And yet the owners and managers of these teams still expect fans to show up and sit on the cold bleachers. Heck, they don’t even care if they’re grumbling anymore, so long as rumps are in the seats.
I say, no more. I say, we’ve settled long enough. I say, it doesn’t take that much effort to come up with a soap opera concept fresh and inviting — a fact I shall now demonstrate by presenting to you, the disgruntled viewer, five wholly original concepts I think, given enough time to nurture and grow, could wind up representing the future of the daytime industry … and take this team all the way to the Super Bowl!
SILVER EAGLES: No one in soaps is hiring anyone over 50 anymore … except me. In fact, I refuse to hire anyone under the age of 60 for my concept that I guarantee would turn into the Golden Girls of daytime. The show would feature Larry Hagman (ex-JR, Dallas), Larry Bryggman (ex-John Dixon, As the World Turns) and Peter Simon (Ed, Guiding Light) as three lifetime friends — a former doctor, lawyer and cop — who are checking into the same retirement community with their wives, including Linda Dano (ex-Rae, One Life to Live), Jane Elliot (Tracy, General Hospital) and Alexa Havins (Babe, All My Children; yes, she’s significantly younger, but you need an aspiring golddigger). Julia Barr (ex-Brooke, AMC) would be the true love of one of the remarried guys, and Constance Towers (Helena, GH) would give Erica Kane a run for her money as a much widowed divorcee on the lookout for her next truelove …
CASTLE DRACULA: Once upon a time, a vampire saved the soap opera Dark Shadows from certain cancellation. (Too bad it didn’t work for Port Charles). But Castle Dracula would embrace the vampire concept from day one, and also spin it on its ear. Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda, GH) would turn up as Dracula’s never-before-seen daughter Azaelea, forced to take over the family business when her father mysteriously disappears. Marcil’s former GH costar Ted King (ex-Alcazar) would stalk the night as a fellow vamp who is really Azaelea’s true love … think of it as an undead Philadelphia Story, with Marcil and King in the Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant roles. Jimmy Stewart would turn up in the form of the very much living Lee Xerxes, played by Grayson McCouch (Dusty, ATWT), a former convict who just can’t resist Azaelea (and vice versa). Charles Keating (ex-Carl, Another World) would lend some class as a creepy manservant, while Kent Masters King (ex-Lainey, GH) would add some heat as a tough cop who can’t quite understand why all these bodies are turning up in her town.
QUIVER & QUAKE: Today’s soap opera embraces amorality, but Q&Q would take the next step and revolve around hitmen and bounty hunters. (Naturally, Quentin Tarantino would be invited to executive produce.) Cynthia Preston (ex-Faith, GH) stars as retired gun Bonnie Ramirez, who returns to the job and life on the run when her beloved husband (Danny Trejo in a cameo) is killed in a bomb blast in their Mexican love nest. Turns out Bonnie’s first husband, Armando (A Martinez doing his best Kill Bill … RIP David Carradine) is out for blood … or does he really just want her back? Rebecca Budig (ex-Greenlee, AMC) is a socialite-turned-bounty hunter named Twinkie (hot!) who befriends Bonnie, while Robert LaSardo (ex-Manny, GH) and Doug Hutchison (ex-Sebastian, GL) are a gay couple of hitmen hot on her heels. And because Armando is really just misunderstood, we’re going to bring in a QT fave, Lost‘s Jeff Fahey (ex-Mario, OLTL) to be the Anton Chigurh of the show, a real psychopath named … wait for it … Ashley Wilkes Booth.
PARK PLACE: Soaps aren’t about family anymore, and there isn’t one of those big Dynasty-type shows, either, revolving around a clan too rich for words and too scandalous for the gossip rags. (Dirty Sexy Money, we hardly knew ye.) PP would revolve around a family of tycoons who made their fortune in the board game business. Father Arthur Park (Tristan Rogers, ex-Scorpio, GH) is an alcoholic womanizer, mother Gretchen (Nina Arvesen, ex-Cassandra, The Young and the Restless) still harbors feelings for her ex-lover, jazz musician Jack Slaughter (Ving Rhames, doing the soap world a favor a la Billy Dee Williams). Arthur and Gretchen have six kids, including princely Landon (Matt Cedeno, ex-Brandon, Days of Our Lives), spoiled Sierra (Liza Huber, ex-Gwen, Passions), saintly Emma (Tamara Braun; ex-Reese, AMC), scheming Lionel (Wes Ramsey, ex-Owen, DAYS) and bubbly Petunia (Adrienne Frantz, Amber, Y&R). The House of Park would fall when Sierra and Lionel find out Jack is really Landon’s dad, and the Parks would have to contend with a rival family of board game designers, headed up by Thom Christopher (ex-Carlo, OLTL). It’s Monopoly meets Melrose Place, with a little bit of Gossip Girl thrown in to keep an audience that wants to be shocked coming back.
BARISTAS: Everyone has had a crush on the guy/gal who provides you caffeine at some point,. Who hasn’t wondered what their lives are really like under the apron, when the java isn’t flowing. Baristas would show us the drama behind one hotspot, with a revolving cast of young employees headed up by the likes of owner Andrea Evans (ex-Tina, OLTL) and the older employee with a mysterious past (Maxwell Caulfield, ex-Pierce, AMC). Baristas could serve as a second chance for wasted stars like Lindze Letherman (ex-Georgie, GH), Adrianne Leon (ex-Colleen, Y&R), Chad Brannon (ex-Zander, GH) and a showcase for fresh new talent. And customers could be played by a few fan favorites, like Stuart Damon (ex-Alan, GH) or Kathleen Noone (ex-Edna, Passions). Without the vets, this could veer off into 90210 land, so the show would need a steady head writer to guide it. Paging Claire Labine …
If you find anything on the real soap operas that are half as interesting as these potent possibles, you let me know. I’ll be sitting by my phone waiting for the networks to call. Actually, I won’t hold my breath, but you never know when some bored HBO executive is surfing the Net …
Cartoon illustration by Webweaver’s.