One Life to Live: Still Surprising After All These Years

By Ed Martin

One Life to Live showed me something last week that I haven’t seen in 30 years of soap viewing: A mass wedding of two dozen gay couples. This show has pushed the envelope in a number of crazy ways since the ‘70s, sending its characters to heaven, to an underground city and careening through time. What a pleasure it was 

OLTL‘s comedic elements are greatly appreciated and should not be taken for granted. Daytime executives and show-runners seem to have forgotten that funny characters and comic set pieces were de rigueur during the glory years of General Hospital and Days of Our Lives, the two soaps that commanded the largest young audiences (while keeping veteran viewers engaged, as well) during the genre’s heyday.

to see the show execute a storyline that was out of the ordinary without being out of this world. It was a stunt, to be sure, but despite [Read more...]

General Hospital: Making Michael a Monster

By Ed Martin

Everything about General Hospital that I have come to loathe during the last ten years was on proud, pungent display last week, to such a degree of extreme outrageousness I could not look away.

I must admit that there was an infectious lunatic energy to it all, which could account for my deep fascination with what I was watching. Wasn’t the tumultuous birth of baby Jocelyn a kick, with poor kidnapped Carly helpless on that cabin couch

How grand would it be if Michael’s real father, A.J. Quartermaine, returned from the dead and found a way to destroy Sonny, now that he has turned Michael into an axe murderer?

and crazy Claudia helping her with her difficult delivery? How about the part when Michael stormed the cabin, saw Claudia holding the baby and killed her with one mighty swing of his axe? Good times — though not as satisfyingly violent as the time Sonny accidentally shot Carly in the head just as she [Read more...]

A Letter to Marlena De Lacroix (a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman)

Dear Ms. Passalacqua Hayman: 

I wanted to write to tell you how much I enjoy reading your columns and your insights into the soaps.  You are the reason I started buying Soap Opera Weekly so many years ago and I was sad when you left.  I bought that magazine every week, at first for your columns, but then cause I just loved it.  I would not get a subscription

I hope something comes along and saves our shows from themselves, but that alarm has been ringing for a long time.  Why can’t those in charge hear it?

because I wanted to buy it every week so the cover would not be damaged with those damn postal stickers.  Their covers used to be so good — those were the days!  I was pleasantly surprised to find your web site recently and am excited to read what you have to say about the state of soaps today. 

I, too, am just saddened by the state of the soap business these days.  I, of course, do not pretend to know all it takes to make soaps or [Read more...]

JJ and the Rehabilitation of General Hospital

By Marilyn Henry

There already have been big discussions on the internet about Jonathan Jackson returning to his role as Lucky on General Hospital. Newer viewers who don’t know his work are jolted; other long-time viewers are thrilled. I don’t know whose bad   

In the last few weeks, the show seems to have turned a corner. Good grief, did they lock mob-obsessed Guza in a closet and allow someone else to spin actual soap tales for awhile? Who knew it could happen?

taste decides the direction of the insulting promotional ads, in the vein of “The REAL” Lucky is back, or whatever. They got so much flack over Greenlee ads you’d think they would learn, but obviously TPTB are basically without taste.Jonathan Jackson

That aside, I am loving having Jonathan back on the show. The character of Lucky has been stunted for so long. Suddenly what I’m seeing now is an excellent actor giving the part of Lucky some intensity, depth, naturalness and truth. Amazing. JJ makes the role rich, worth watching – with face, voice, body language.

Greg Vaughn was indeed handsome, but there was never a moment I believed he was Lucky Spencer. He was too old for the part, too unexpressive, and they wrote him as a stiff-necked, up-tight type, and not [Read more...]

Daytime Emmys 2009: The Beginning of the End?

By Ed Martin 

Watching the 36th annual Daytime Emmy Awards on The CW during the dog days of August confirmed what I already knew: These are dark days indeed for the daypart overall and for soap operas in particular.

It’s not that the telecast was all bad: I actually prefer smaller venues for the Daytime Emmy celebration (the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles for last night’s show, ballrooms at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan during the ceremony’s glory years) and I always enjoy an entertaining opening number at any awards event. (Vanessa Williams‘ reworked-for-daytime rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You was almost as much fun as Neil Patrick Harris‘ surprise closing song at this year’s Tony Awards.) Best of all, in the soap categories the awards were spread over a number of different shows. Only As the World Turns went totally unrewarded during the telecast. (On Saturday it picked up a couple of Creative Arts Emmys, so no soap went home empty handed.)

In fact, I was pleased with most of the winners in the daytime drama categories, from the tie for Outstanding Supporting Actor between the long overdue Vincent Irizarry of All My Children and the very deserving Jeff Branson of Guiding Light to

The biggest disgrace was the rushed tribute to the soon-to-be-terminated Guiding Light, which has already completed production and will have its last telecast in two weeks … The other big bad of the night was the brush-off to The Bold and the Beautiful at night’s end.

the surprise Outstanding Lead Actress win for Susan Haskell of One Life to Live. (Her portrayal of repeat rape victim Marty Saybrooke in the year’s most controversial soap story was consistently riveting.) Even though it would have been [Read more...]

Satire: Ex-Soap Stars, This Is For You … And the Fans Who Miss You

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 receiverfootball guy 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 [Read more...]

How Helena Cassadine Can Save General Hospital

Thinking Fans Comment Update: James speculates, “My own preference for bringing back the vets would be a storyline where it is revealed that they all joined a witness protection program and are brought back to testify against Sonny” … while Melanie declares, “The good think about the outrageousness of soaps (and characters like Helena) is that anything is possible” … and more. See Comments below.  

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Constance TowersBy Ed Martin  

Constance Towers this week will reprise her recurring role as the murderous madwoman Helena Cassadine on General Hospital In happier times I would consider this to be unfortunate news, because I have never been a fan of this wildly inconsistent character, an all-powerful, unstoppable, bloodthirsty ghoul that would seem more at home in a comic book than a daytime drama (even though Constance Towers is sublime in the role, but more on her later).   

But this time I think I will welcome Helena back with open arms, because these are increasingly desperate days on mob-centric, violence-filled GH.  Helena’s return will be brief, and I suspect it won’t amount to very much. But allow me to suggest a scenario I’ve fantasized that might salvage this show, one that

I can’t wholly condemn Helena because, even though the show’s writers and producers don’t know what to do with her and haven’t a clue how to showcase her to maximum effect, her return appearances bring Ms. Towers back to daytime, and that is always a reason to celebrate.

would place Helena at the center of all the franchise-restoring action. I now believe she could be utilized in a story that would undo much of the seemingly irreversible damage that has been done to GH during [Read more...]

Guiding Light Cancelled! After 72 Years Does It Have to Stay Dead?

Thinking Fans share their grief: Skylar laments, ”I want to call my great grandmother and tell her the news, as I’m sure she doesn’t know. But I really don’t want to be the one to deliver the news: a friend of 72 years is set to disappear forever”  … while BL says, “I’m glad for all the people I’ve met and become pals with over the years due to our shared interest in Guiding Light. The show coming to a close won’t change that or erase all the memories” … and more. See Comments below.

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It’s official: CBS has cancelled Guiding Light, the New York Post reports, though TV Week says Procter & Gamble will seek a new home for the show. How profound is the loss of Guiding Light to American television? Here’s a powerful guest column by our friend, longtime TV trade reporter Ed Martin of JackMyers.com, aimed at top network television programmers, who might not have a full knowledge of what Guiding Light really means to the American audience. Look for Marlena’s commentary here soon. 

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Guiding Light logoBy Ed Martin

CBS made history today in a bad way. It cancelled Procter & Gamble Productions’ classic soap opera Guiding Light, the longest running scripted franchise in the history of modern media!

I have during the last ten years written many times about Guiding Light for Myers Reports and other publications, and whenever possible I have used those platforms to remind executives at CBS and P&G that GL isn’t simply another soap opera — it’s an American institution and a national treasure at that. Everyone reading this column has a relative, living or deceased, who either listened to GL during its run on radio (beginning in 1937) or watched it since it transitioned to television in 1952. Some of our parents can actually say that they first enjoyed this show on radio with their parents and still follow it on TV.

It isn’t sufficient to refer to this achievement as rare. This is a success story unparalleled in the history of modern media. Think about this: With few exceptions (most notoriously  the marathon daily news coverage of the O.J. Simpson

With all due respect to the fine folks at Nielsen, daytime audience measurement is, at its very best, irrefutably flawed.  The very idea that viewership for soap operas would decline in direct proportion to the ever-expanding increase in viewing options is utter bullshit.

double-murder trial), Guiding Light has been in continuous daily production through eight decades! The durability of this franchise makes it way too significant to fall victim to the current recession, when desperate [Read more...]

Norn on One Life to Live’s Starr and Blair: Victims of Todd’s World of Hurt

Blair and Starr 

Illustrator/Thinking Fan Norn Cutson wrote me that he was so sad for One Life to Live‘s Starr and Blair after they found out Todd had planned to kidnap Starr’s baby and had gotten involved with Marty, he had to “do something.” So he drew this illustration. Here’s Norn’s  heart-wringing interpretation of the sad  mother and daughter. I think it’s magnificent.

                                                                                         Marlena

                                                                                         XXXOOO

One Life To Live’s “Tarty” Controversy: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Thinking Fans Comment Update:  Melanie isn’t buying the “poor Todd” routine … Jenn misses the days when “soaps relied on love and chemistry” … and more. See Comments below.

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My friend, television journalist Ed Martin called me last week to congratulate me on my Todd and Marty: Way Beyond Merely Disgusting column, noting the amazing number of responses (53 and counting). It inspired Ed to write his own response in his own column on JackMyers.com. I’m encouraging all TFs to read it because, for his television business site, Ed brilliantly and with great clarity analyzes the choice to air the controversial Todd and Marty story as a deliberate network programming move.Todd Marty

Ed recognizes that the story offends women viewers and emphasizes the folly of the network in airing it, considering that the majority of One Life to Live‘s audience is women. That’s an awful lot of viewers to risk losing!  He also scoops Marlena on another piece of OLTL misogny: the frequent close-ups of Jessica’s dead baby in another story aired at the same time. Ed writes:  ”I don’t believe women want to see dead babies in their entertainment. Not ever.”

Ed has his opinions as a longtime viewer of OLTL, and this is where we differ.   Despite the offenses he clearly sees, he still likes — no — loves the melodrama of the story and calls it great soap opera  But Ed insists [Read more...]