For Valentine’s Day, 5 Soap Couples Who Were Really Super

By Patrick Erwin

I  want to observe Valentine’s Day by discussing some of my favorite soap couples. I know soaps are famous for their “supercouples,” those pairs that keep coming back to each other through sleet, snow, and psychotic ex-spouses. Most shows have had these grand couples:  Luke and Laura,  Bo and Hope, Josh and Reva, and so on. But I’d like to honor Another Worldfive couples that had the most impact on me — the ones that moved me, made me laugh, made me sigh and made me believe in love — or as Marlena would say, l’amour!

Rachel and Mac, Another World:  Mac and Rachel were one of the most believable stories ever to play out on our screens. A theater director I worked with once said the magic of any performance was when you really believed, and I really believed that Mac [Read more…]

Guiding Light Today: A Few Flickers of Light?

By Patrick ErwinDaniel Cosgrove

You may remember the last time I wrote about Guiding Light, I shared my opinion that the show was “operating at diminished capacity.”  Those were harsh words for a show that used to be must-see-TV for me.  Now, I don’t know that GL is out of intensive care just yet, but there’re a few additions to the show that I think are promising — and worth talking about.

The biggest addition to the plus column has to be the return of Daniel Cosgrove in the role of Bill Lewis. I always liked Cosgrove, [Read more…]

Rape Stories: Days of Our Lives Shows That “No” Really Means “No” This Time

By Patrick ErwinDays of Our Lives

For all its onscreen and offscreen turmoil, Days of Our Lives seems to have a few stories working for it right now. One of them is Chelsea and Stephanie and the sorority girls dealing with the aftermath of the campus rapist, Ford, who raped Stephanie and Cordy and threatened Chelsea. Initially, the story didn’t seem too promising. The setup of the story was rushed (what story isn’t, nowadays?) and the rapist, Ford, came off as a one-dimensional buffoon.

[Read more…]

Back to the Future: Soaps Try to Revive 80s Glory

By Patrick Erwin

The death of the soap opera may have been widely exaggerated — they’re still alive and kicking.  But it’s no secret that the patient is ailing.  Ratings for many of the shows are anemic, and they’ve continued to shrink.

[Read more…]

Marlena’s “Only the Bests” List 2007

By Marlena De Lacroix

I no longer do “Best” and “Worst” lists for soaps.  After all, there have been so many “worsts” this year, why would I want to re-inflict the pain on you again?  Moi loves mon readers.  So, only the “bests” for you, darlings.

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Sadly, Guiding Light is Operating at Diminished Capacity

Mes chers, today Marlena would like you to meet Patrick Erwin, a newspaper reporter and thinking soap fan who will be posting his reviews here once a week.  Patrick is particularly interested in the Procter and Gamble shows.  First up, his look at Guiding Light, a show we have all loved at one time or another.  How and why has the oldest show in daytime become a shadow of itself? [Read more…]

Can Guiding Light and As The World Turns Survive The Big Change?

By Marlena De Lacroix 

There’s nothing soap fans hate more than change. Whether a show’s longtime leading teen is recast with a skinnier actress or the show suddenly changes dramatic style with the entrance of a new headwriter, viewers freak out because what they have always prized about daytime drama is its continuity and constancy. Now, in 2007, soaps have shrinking budgets to correspond with miniscule ratings. So some soaps have to make big, big changes – or they will face cancellation. 

This week Procter and Gamble announced its two classic soaps, 55-year-old Guiding Light (70 including radio) and 51-year-old As the World Turns, both on the “bubble” of cancellation (that’s programming talk for “maybe , may not”) will institute new, cheaper production techniques. New, smaller (and less expensive) digital cameras and other technology will be used to shoot the new soaps partially outdoors on location in real towns around the New York City area and on sets with four walls instead of three.

 Will this kind of radical production change save GL and ATWT? Artfully executed, opening up stuffy old studio-bound soaps like ATWT and GL could have its benefits. American fans of the cult British soap Hollyoaks rave about the realism of the show, which is regularly produced on outdoor locations. Plus, GL executive producer Ellen Wheeler and ATWT executive producer Christopher Goutman (who started their soap careers as actors twenty five years ago on P&G) have always been careful, intelligent producers whose shows are produced meticulously. In contrast, Soapnet/ABC’s latest soap General Hospital: Night Shift, put together cheaply, was a sloppy production nightmare. ATWT‘s Goutman has done a superb job with recent location work shot with digital cameras (such as Luke’s accident and three other storyline events, all shot on Staten Island over a three-day period). The casts of both ATWT and GL are both solid, trained acting veterans who could perform anywhere under any circumstances.

Can’t you just see GL‘s Kim Zimmer (Reva, in fur, of course) mushing a dog sled through the frozen New Jersey tundra in the middle of a February blizzard? “Buck, Buck…!”

On the other hand, one of the major mistakes that can be traced down through soap opera history is penchant survival-threatened producers and networks have for changing the surface values of a show rather than review and change key elements of its core drama such as writing quality and style. When ABC reworked its failing soap Loving into The City in 1995, network executives crowed about the hip, modernizing benefits of moving the cast of a Midwestern-based soap into a hip Soho, New York City, loft. The show was canceled in 1997. When ABC’sPort Charles (originally a General Hospital spin-off) faltered, in 2001 several of the key characters were turned into vampires and the show became quasi fantasy/sci-fi. It was canceled in 2003.

 These two late soaps are extreme examples of soaps that made stylistic changes and failed anyway. By the time both original shows were reworked, neither soap was older than twelve years. GL and ATWT are iconic American classics that have been around for decades.  Can the radical production changes planned by Procter and Gamble save these shows? Or will soap fans, who historically hate change, just tune out?

Crème De Lacroix: Bruce Weitz, Anthony Zacchara, General Hospital

Can I be the first? Although we’ve only heard super Mafioso villain Anthony Zacchara’s voice from behind the closed double doors of his mansion on GeneralHospital, actor Bruce Weitz already seems sublime to me. Just the high-pitched tone of his crazily agitated voice suggests many entertaining scenes to come. His skill as an Emmy-winning character actor (he played barking detective Becker on Hill St. Blues) portends all kind of hilarity and solid drama as he faces down mob rival Sonny and everyone else in Port Charles. (Zacchara comes face to face with Sonny on October 19). Marlena sincerely hopes that Zacchara’s madness is of the comic kind, and not an excuse for one of those preachy mental health stories.

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