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SWI: A Year or So in Review

Well, it's been just over a year since I started writing this column.  Today, I thought we'd look back at some of my past columns, and see how things have (or haven't) evolved, in our favorite genre.

In my May 13'th, 2000 column, I discussed the ludicrous state of the Daytime Emmy Awards.  There, I said:

"…I'm sickened that we have a fatally flawed system that bestows the most prestigious award for daytime programming.  I'm sickened that…other soaps have figured out how to work the system and aim straight for the heart of Academy voters.  And I'm sickened that this system allows clearly inferior soaps to be called or even considered best of anything when they clearly are not.  There need to be changes.  Some of them are easy, like creating two separate categories for younger actors/actresses. (And once you hit 21, you're in the adult categories. Period.)  There needs to be someone who says, "Sorry, Ms. Brown, but your character was clearly a lead player last year.  You can't nominate yourself in Supporting."  And there definitely needs to be a better way to judge than by two performances.  But, with the academy made up of peers, who are too busy to watch their own work, let alone other soaps on a regular basis, what can we do?
"Hmmm....Now who do I know that watches soaps on a regular, day-to-day basis?  Dare we turn the Emmys over to the viewers themselves?"

Well, since this year's Emmys were basically more of the same, I stand by my comments.  I would add that the industry is embarrassing itself by continuing to work with a production company who only cares about getting off the air on time, at the expense of what's important and what's not about the Daytime Emmys.  (Best Actress clips?  No!  Food montage?  Yes!)  Worse, an industry that says to the uninitiated that you can't judge soaps by one episode, or even an episode here or there, but then allows its' members to hand out awards on the basis of two episodes a year, is a hollow industry indeed.  No wonder soapdom's resident experts had such a terrible year predicting the results-they actually watch soaps on a regular basis! (For the record, my stats were 5-4).

In a two-part column culminating on June 5, 2000, I lambasted The Bold and the Beautiful, essentially saying that two-thirds of the show sucked.  My basic points were that we were getting too much Amber and the pairing of Brooke and Thorne was hurlworthy.  Well, a year later, and I still stand by those comments.  And yet, I can't get enough of the show these days!  What happened?  Well, for one thing, Brooke and Thorne are married, but they're also hardly on anymore.  (Lack of airtime for married couples is a whole other subject.)  As for Amber, well, it was her storyline that brought us soap's best new villain, Deacon Sharpe!  Mix in the truly unpredictable antics of Morgan, and the slowly returning Spectra/Forrester feud, keep it down to thirty minutes a day, and you've got me hooked!

Meanwhile, B&B's Chief Caretaker, Bradley Bell, said in a recent interview that the Kristen/Antonio storyline is something he's wanted to do for a while, and is sure to shock.  Well, all I see is an entertaining but obvious riff on Romeo and Juliet.  Oh, when will I learn not to second-guess the Bradster?

One story that we've been following in earnest since June 12, 2000, is the hiring of Hogan Sheffer to write ATWT, while Claire Labine was tapped to take on Guiding Light.  In that column, I said of Sheffer:
"I have to ask, does this guy even exist? Or, is he a clever invention of the execs, who want to write the show their own way, without having to worry about fan outcry? I mean, just look at his name. Hogan Sheffer. Does that sound like a made-up soap character name or what?"

Alas, alack, I was forced to eat my own words, (no problem since they're usually quite tasty), in the Jan 7, 2001 column:
"Within a few weeks of each other, ATWT and GL get new head writers.  GL receives much-respected and multi-Emmy winning writer Claire Labine; ATWT receives unknown script doctor Hogan Sheffer.  Who knew ATWT got the better deal?"

Indeed, ATWT has won no end of good will, press accolades, and awards since Sheffer took over.  He's even getting a fair amount of praise on message boards, which is no small feat!  But, Sheffer is no small man.  He's revived a long-comatose World.

And Labine?  Well, as I predicted, the backstage politics were more entertaining than the on-screen product.  After a few weeks of slight improvements and overall good will, GL quickly launched into the Fall from Hell.  First, a triple play of nasty comments from exiting thespians Patti D'Arbanville, Anthony Addabo, and the chick that played Carmen Santos.  (I can't be bothered to look up her name right now.)  Finally, we were treated to GL's wacky spoof of the 2000 election, with the firing and re-hiring of Claire Labine.  More recently, Labine was fired again, only this time it's apparently stuck.  In their own attempt at smoke screening, GL released the news that Lucky Gold, a Hollywood scriptwriter, was replacing Labine.  This was supposed to evoke memories of Sheffer.  What they initially failed to mention, was that Gold had previously worked lengthy stints as a writer for Another World, and One Life to Live, as Lloyd Gold.  During both stints, he worked with GL's current Executive Producer, Paul Rauch.  Pardon me if I'm not too excited.

It is worth noting that while ATWT and GL could not be more different, on-screen and off, there is one surprising similarity:  Both are still low in the ratings.  In fact, ATWT and GL are rarely more than two-tenths of a point apart.  While ATWT has knocked itself out to show signs of life, GL seems to have been buried alive.  (As the song goes, "She knows she's still breathing/But she doesn't know why.")  yet, it hasn't meant a bit of difference in the numbers.

In my July 3'rd column, I talked about the genre and teens, largely raving about the Billy/Mac story on Y&R.  Well, Billy and Mac took a detour into dummyland, when it became too focused on the Brittany angle.  (In a nutshell, Brittany drugged Billy, and set it up to make Mac think they were having sex in the pool house.  However, videotape from a camera in the pool house eventually revealed that they weren't.  In between, hijinks ensued.)  This story was so generic and predictable, it could've been written for anyone.  However, with Brittany exposed, (and in a very clever way, at that), Billy and Mac may get back on track.  And maybe Y&R will get around to casting the long-missing piece of the puzzle, the crucial part of Amanda Browning.

In the same column, I discussed ABC's shameless and hopelessly ineffective teen demo grab.  Since then, ABC has ditched its ludicrous teen ad campaign, and doesn't appear to be prostituting itself quite as much as it used to.  Instead, ABC seems more concerned with casting singers on its' soaps, as a way of promoting Disney's music business.  You go, ABC!

In my hard-hitting September 5 column called "The Dim Bulbs of Guiding Light", I took on the wacky hacks Barbara Esensten and James Harmon Brown, who, at the time, had just been canned from Guiding Light.  I summed up my case thusly:
"This interview was titled State of the Art, but it would be better titled Portrait of Two Hacks. Here we have two (and I use the term loosely) writers who will pass the buck to anyone and everyone. They will say whatever is necessary to suit their goals, chief of which is staying employed. They are among a growing number of hacks who are willing to do whatever their bosses tell them to do, and smile while doing it. Do I think everything that's gone wrong with GL over the past 3 and a half years is their fault? No. Do I have any sympathy for them? No. They've been around long enough to know the game. And given a chance, they'll play it again.  Don't give them that chance."

Well, I should have known better than to expect our genre to learn from its' mistakes.  Within two weeks, ABC's Port Charles snapped up E&B.  Despite E&B having been hired by ABC to save Loving, and their involvement in the disaster that was ABC's The City, ABC hired them again.  As E&B have made record time in steering the good ship Port Charles to its' inevitable iceberg, there is already talk of what E&B will do next.  The big rumor?  They'll take over All My Children.  God help us.  Frankly, I already smell their influence in AMC's Next Big Story.

In my November 27 column, I cheered at the news of JFP's exit from OLTL.  (And cringed that she was going to GH.)  I also implored people to give incoming EP Gary Tomlin a chance, saying:
"If you're nervous, I understand. I am too. Not about losing JFP, but about whether Tomlin can get the job done. I don't know. But I know JFP can't. And I know as long as she's at OLTL, no one will have the chance. So she must go. She absolutely must."
Well, frankly, the jury is still out.  Whether Tomlin, and his newly hired head writers will be the kick in the teeth OLTL needs has yet to be seen.  In some areas, they're moving with lightning speed.  In other (important) areas, they're not doing much of anything.  But, has Tomlin's run been an improvement over JFP so far?  Absolutely.  I shudder to think of where OLTL might be now, if JFP had been for another year.

Finally, fast-fowarding to March 26'th of this year, who could forget?:
"Quite a few developments have kept me away from you and yours these past several weeks. To name a few:
--Had emergency surgery and almost died.
--Earned my A.A. degree in English.
--Have been applying to Graduate Schools.
--Went-yeah, you want to go back to the surgery thing, right?"
As I told you later, I was infected by a rare-very rare, as I later learned-polyp, which obstructed my digestive system.  Well, I visited the doctor on Friday, and have been officially released.  My troubles are more than likely over.

So ends the overview of the issues which have affected this column the most in its' first year.  Before we wrap up this portion of the program, some people I want to thank:

Mama Snark, for having me, and home schooling me.  You didn't think this brilliant writing was from a public school education, did you?

All my letter writers, who give me (often instant) feedback, and valuable information.  You don't know how many columns are born out of something you wrote me.  This especially goes to SEW.

Llanview Online's Greg, Fairytaleland's Dim, and SEW (there's that name again) for filling in when I was sick.

Spicy George, for letting me take shots at him every chance I get, and only asking that he take shots back at me in return.

Jilly, for creating the website, which you see before you, and asking me to be a part of the site, even though I rarely mention the site's basic theme.

Lastly, Michael Malone, for being an inspiration, not only to Jilly, but to myself as well.  You are among a few writers whom I have personally had the pleasure of watching utilize the genre to its' fullest potential.  Because of writers of your caliber, I have a passion for the genre.  (On the flip side, it's writers like you who have wrecked the curve for everyone, and make me so critical!)

Speaking of Malone, Soapnet is airing some of OLTL's most unforgettable weddings this week.  Not surprisingly, three of them are from the Malonian era!  Check out Jake and Megan, Bo and Nora, and Todd and Blair, Tuesday-Thursday of this week, starting at 6 pm Eastern.

…didn't you promise a review of Spyder Games, MTV's hip, happening new soap?  I did.  What I didn't know, was that, MTV had decided to delay the premiere of the show until June 18'th.  Mea culpa.

Carmen Santos was played by Saundra Santiago.  You know, most writers are so obsessed with being perfect, they'd have edited this thing out all together.  Aren't you glad to have a columnist who shows you all his blemishes?

Concerning last week's comments on ATWT's Hunt Block,  Mary 5252 writes:
"I (heart) Hunt.  I'm not good with emoticons.

Clearly you're a guy.  I have been a fan of HB since Dynasty.  Clearly,
he ain't Justin Deas, the Jully Yard trained, shakespeare quoting, Shall We Dance? Dancing King. But I digress.

He is pure fluff, and darned good at it. Fluff for fluffs own sake.  
Could Buzz Cooper be as smarmy?  Hell, no, Buzz is a likable teddy bear of a guy.  Remember when he was just bad, but became good.  Sort of like King Eddy.  You got to admit, he's great with the kids.

But Huntie is awful and irredeamable.  We haven't had such a good
villian since Michael Sazlow.   Todd is nuts, but Hunt and Roger were just BAAADD. And a show is only as good as its villian.  And he looks so fine in his Armani.  The story lines don't matter.

I have seen HB killed off on AMC and GL.  Admittedly, he's playing the
same character.  Okay, I confess, he's the only reliable guy in my life.  You can count on him. I gotta get out more.

Prime time - didn't Martin Sheen get outed about the MS in the final
episode? This is without doubt the most highly over rated show on the networks.  The dialogue is so predictable.  Will he run for re-election?  Depends on his demographics.  Do I care? No.

I have given up on OLTL.  I'm just glad that Colin is dead.  Fry the
whole town.  And I'm glad ASA is back in fighting form, but I'm sticking with ATWT.

Love your column, see you soon.  Mary"

So ends this week's column.  If you want to confess your darkest secrets, or just talk soaps in general, the e-mail is:

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