Deep Soap: Are Soaps In The Summer Doldrums?

James Franco (ABC)

James Franco (ABC)

I just spent four and one half days in the crush of humanity that was San Diego Comic-Con.  That means I need to get caught up on three days worth of soaps.  I have a terrible confession to make:  I barely missed them.  It’s not that I am ready to quit daytime. I was happy that my soaps would be waiting for me when I got home.  But there was no storyline that had me on the edge of my seat, no romance that has me dying to see the characters’ first kiss.

I started watching last week’s shows marathon-style.  First up was ‘General Hospital.’  I had forgotten that Friday was what was billed as the special MOCA location shoot episode that was the culmination of the Franco (James Franco) storyline.  It was a great episode, despite the location shoot, not because of it.

All of the scenes that happened back in Port Charles, in the locked down hospital, were compelling. This was classic soap.  Lucky (Jonathan Jackson) was searching for Elizabeth’s kidnapped baby, unaware that it was his own son that is missing.  Warren Bauer (Bradley Cole) going on a shooting spree came out of nowhere and was a cheap way to end the poorly plotted Keifer storyline.  But the fall out was great.  Robin and Maxie realized how much their uncle Mac means to them as  their love interests Matt (Jason Cook) and Patrick (Jason Thompson) raced to save him. Maya (Annie Ilonzeh) froze when Ethan (Nathan Parsons) got shot, and the intern was unable to do her job.  Olivia (Lisa LoCicero) rose to the occasion of helping Ethan drawing her closer to Steven (Scott Reeves).   Even Shirley’s (Michael Learned) heavily foreshadowed death was moving. Characters the audience cares about interacting in a high stakes situation at the hospital? It’s like this is a show called ‘General Hospital’ or something.

Then there was the much hyped location shoot.  The impressive set design was poorly showcased. The recreated Port Charles sets  that served as the art exhibition were barely visible on camera.  All of the effort that went into production was in service of a story that had zero emotional impact.  Jason already knew Franco hired Carter to go after Michael (Chad Duell), so there was no reason for Jason (Steve Burton) to freak out when Franco taunted him about it.  The dialogue about art was pretentious and dull.  The art world cameos have no impact. Then Franco fell off a balcony as his friend, in drag, recited the lyrics to “Mad World.”  I am not sure who the biggest victim was in this storyline:  the viewers, the GH staff who put so much effort into a gimmick that meant nothing to the audience, or the band Tears For Fears, whose great song survived both ‘Donnie Darko‘ and ‘American Idol‘ not only unscathed but enhanced, only to be taken down by a performance artist in a cheap wig.

Next up, ‘Days of Our Lives‘ which is perfectly fine right now.  I am invested in the Sami (Allison Sweeney) and  E.J.’s (James Scott) relationship.  But the rest of the show is just sort of plodding along,  Watching multiple episodes at once, I realize how little the show is moving forward.  Sami and Rafe (Galen Gering) are having the same conversation over and over again where she justifies pursuing a relationship with E.J.  Hope (Kristian Alfonso) has been plotting to kill Bo (Peter Reckell) seemingly forever, but I doubt a single viewer thinks she will go through with it.  The fall out could be the most interesting part of the story, if Hope is allowed to suffer the consequences of her actions instead of just being let off the hook because of her emotional problems.  Chloe (Nadia Bjorlin) has been agonizing over the paternity of her baby forever, but absolutely nothing has happened in this story, which, again, will get interesting when the truth about Chloe and Phillip’s (Jay Kenneth Johnson)  one night stand comes out. When something actually happens on DOOL, it’s great.  But the 80% of the show that is treading water, is not that compelling. Watching three episodes in a sitting makes me realize how much the show still overuses flashbacks.  Although it allows for plenty of fast forwarding.

I still have the rest of my DVR to go through.  I know from the promos that Abby is going to get arrested on ‘The Young and the Restless‘ and that ‘One Life To Live’s‘ Natalie is pregnant.  I wish I were more excited to watch.  I remember when I was a teenager and I’d get behind on soaps, nothing thrilled me more than spending a Saturday firing up the VCR and going through a huge stack of tapes.  I know that the shows were better then, and I was not watching in a state of panic because being out of town threw off my writing schedule.  But I suspect this is how a lot of people end up giving up the soap habit: a lack of withdrawal symptoms, a few busy days, and soon it does not seem worth the trouble of getting caught up.  So come on soaps, make me miss you.

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

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