Deep Soap: What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

By Sara A. Bibel

The Rashomon Effect
Was The Young & The Restless’s Executive Producer Josh Griffith fired? Did he quit? Is he still there? All of the above, according to my sources. I may end up with egg on my face like all the others who have ventured into this morass, but I’m going to take the plunge. Apparently, Griffith voiced his displeasure with head writer Maria Bell’s stories to TPTB including the man who cuts his paycheck, Bill Bell Jr. At one point he wanted to quit, but then he reconsidered. It didn’t make for a harmonious workplace. Finally, Bell Jr. decided to put everyone out of their misery by letting Griffith go. He has been informed and is still on the job until his contract expires in early September. The WGA did phone the show about the allegations that he was rewriting scripts, but that was not a major factor in his dismissal. Tomorrow everyone could kiss and make-up, and I’ll look like an idiot. Each person, myself included, who has reported on this has relied on sources who only knew part of the story. Every version has some elements of the truth but isn’t a complete picture, like the movie Rashomon.

I have a feeling a something similar happened at Days of Our Lives. I read Ed Scott’s interview with Michael Logan. He denies the allegations that he was rewriting the show. As someone who worked with him for years, I believe him. But someone else who I trust swears that the allegations were accurate. This is where the Rashomon effect comes into play. What seemed like the dialogue tweaks that occasionally happen over the course of rehearsing and shooting a scene to one person were major rewrites to another. This is why it’s so important for writers and producers to have a close relationship. When everyone is communicating properly, the producer phones the writer to make sure it’s okay to change some lines – and then learns that the lines in question are actually important to future story. When the producer and writer aren’t getting along, they don’t have those conversations. Mistakes are made and you end up where we are now – with people fired and rumors flying.

Where Have All The Laura Spencers Gone?

Today, I’ll be tuning in to General Hospital to watch Genie Francis return to her iconic role as Laura Spencer. I’m hoping this time she’ll be back for good – and finally cured of her mysterious catatonia. Francis’s return has generated both mainstream media attention and fan buzz. But GH shouldn’t have to reach into its past to generate excitement. It should be making the characters on its canvas as compelling as Luke and Laura. ABC soaps managed to do it throughout the 90s. GH’s Brenda Barrett (Vanessa Marcil) and All My Children’s Leo DuPres (Josh Duhamel) are two examples of characters that viewers tuned in to see even if they weren’t doing anything but eating breakfast.

As much as fans complain about newer characters displacing veterans, the shows need both to thrive. Every character was once a newbie. When utilized properly, new characters generate new story for longtime favorites. To cite a recent example, think of the shot in the arm the arrival of Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey) gave to Guiding Light’s Reva (Kim Zimmer). My few I-will-watch-the-show-just-to-see-this-character newcomers of the past five years include As The World Turn’s Luke (Van Hansis) and the early days of Gwen (Jennifer Landon, ATWT) and Days of Our Lives’ EJ (James Scott). Unfortunately, these characters aren’t being cultivated the way they would have been in the golden days of soaps. Gwen’s sweet slow-burn love story with Will was sped up and became less appealing. College-aged Gwen developed baby rabies and dealt with a clichéd crazy lookalike. Despite tremendous popularity, Luke is often relegated to the backburner due to what I can only conclude is a misguided belief that much of the daytime audience is homophobic. Instead of creating an EJ/Sami/Lucas love triangle that could have echoed GH’s classic Luke/Laura/Scott triangle, the show squandered EJ’s potential by turning him from morally ambiguous to a violent villain and rapist. (Luke raped Laura, but that was before America understood that rape was a violent act of degradation, not a crime of passion.) EJ then became a good guy without undergoing any on-screen redemption. EJ’s personality has changed so many times that his only character consistency comes from the strength of Scott’s performance.

Landon and Pelphrey have already left daytime. It’s probable Hansis and Scott will when their contracts expire. They’re young, talented and gorgeous. They’d be crazy not to attempt primetime or movie careers. It’s wonderful that it is no longer difficult for actors to transition from daytime to other mediums, but the genre is the poorer for it. Talented newcomers often choose to leave at the end of their first contract making it difficult for shows to tell the multi-year stories that used to be the hallmark of the genre. America got to watch Luke & Laura’s love story unfold slowly. If Luke and Laura’s original story had happened today, Francis and Geary might have left the show before their characters had a chance to get married. In my opinion, this actor flight is part of the reason why soaps have become so fast-paced and plot driven. I hope that GH’s Powers-That-Be will be inspired by the positive response to Francis’s return. Maxie (Kristen Storms) has what it takes to become a must-see character. She’s spunky, self-aware and not afraid to fight dirty. As an added bonus, Storms has already starred in a short-lived primetime series and may be willing to commit for the long haul. The show should write a serious, frontburner love story for Maxie and Spinelli (Bradford Anderson). If it is well-crafted, viewers would have a reason to tune in to GH besides nostalgia for its glory days.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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