Deep Soap: Why I Am Optimistic About the Surviving Soaps

Maurice Benard of 'General Hospital' (Photo: ABC)

Maurice Benard of 'General Hospital' (Photo: ABC)

Glass Half Full

Maybe it’s just Daytime Emmy fever, but I am optimistic about the future, creatively speaking, of the four surviving daytime soaps. Hearing how excited the casts of “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital” are about the stories their new headwriters are penning has gotten me excited too.  When straightshooters like Nancy Lee Grahn and Lauren Koslow gush about how much they love the way their characters are being written, I believe them.

Here’s what Koslow told me on the Emmy red carpet: “I think the change is fantastic. We’re resetting the show. We’re getting back to what the core of ‘Days of Our Lives’ is, making it a more contemporary show, lean and mean, to really set the model for daytime drama. As for her character, Kate, “Kate is going to be a strong woman again and empowered again. It reminds me very much of the character I played when I first came on the show. It’s joyful to get those scripts again.” She even gave a spontaneous, unprompted sales pitch to lapsed viewers. “Everyone who loved the show should give it another chance, definitely tune in, because it will be very rewarding.” I can’t wait to see what’s making her so happy.

It seems like the cancellation of “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” shook the remaining soaps out of their complacency. In retrospect, when “Guiding Light” went off the air, it was in such bad shape that the other soaps could convince themselves that they were safe. When “As the World Turns” was canceled, the other soaps could look at the ratings and determine that they were doing significantly better. Statistically, in key demos “AMC” and “OLTL” are in a dead heat with every soap other than “The Young & the Restless.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “DOOL” and “GH” have new headwriters now. Nobody believes that the networks have any interest in keeping the soaps on the air out of tradition or fear of a fan backlash anymore. Soap producers have realized that if they still want to have a job two years from now, they need to fight. “Y&R” is launching an ambitious consumer products spin-off and is attempting to appeal to ABC viewers by casting.  “B&B” has undoubtedly noticed that, despite its Emmy three-peat, it’s in a ratings slump and will presumably attempt to do something about it. Finally, the surviving soaps seem to be listening to their fans and focusing on character-driven storytelling. It shouldn’t have taken the untimely cancellation of two soaps to get everyone’s heads out of the sand, but better late than never.

Amanda Setton Returns to “One Life to Live”

Clint’s (Jerry Ver Dorn) child-bride Kim is returning to Llanview this summer. Amanda Setton, who made a huge impact before abruptly leaving the show just as her storyline was heating up, has decided to come back for the show’s final months. I am thrilled not only because I got a kick out of Kim, but because there is so much unfinished business between Kim and Clint. I don’t think the show should end with the two of them living happily ever after. Clint and Viki (Erika Slezak) need to find their way back to each other. But having Kim as an obstacle will be a lot more fun than watching Clint and Viki bond over both having heart transplants. I wonder if Kim will ultimately set her sights on grieving Rex (John Paul Laviosier), convincing him to go after his share of the Buchanan fortune before making a play for him.

The Most Entertaining Episode of “General Hospital” in Months

I am so happy to be writing these words: I genuinely enjoyed Thursday’s episode of “General Hospital.” First of all, any episode where Alexis(Nancy Lee Grahn) points out to Sonny (Maurice Benard) that he is both a hypocrite and a bad parent is going to score a lot of points with me, particularly when Alexis is allowed to win the argument. There were so many golden lines:

Sonny: But you’re too soft. You let her run circles around you. You’re the mother, you know. I’m the dad. I tell her what to do, she’s going to do it.

Alexis: Oh, my God. I just don’t know what to say, that’s just so wrong. You’re such a Neanderthal. You really are.

Sonny: Oh, really.

Alexis: You know, join us, please. Join us in the 21st century.

Then, later, there was…

Alexis: I love when you get all superior about how people earn a living. I mean, it just never fails to amuse me.

Alexis: You are such a hypocrite.

Sonny: Why?

Alexis: Because Michael is living with an ex-stripper, and that gets your seal of approval?

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Thank you, Alexis. Michael’s relationship with Abby is treated as the appropriate way to recover from the trauma of being sexually assaulted, while Kristina, who is, as she incessantly points out, a legal adult, and who already has sexual experience, is considered too young to date a guy in his early twenties.

The Sonny smackdown was just an appetizer for the episode’s best, most pleasantly surprising plot twist. Edward (John Ingle) wants Michael (Chad Duell) to come work for him at ELQ! He wants to reclaim his great-grandson as a Quartermaine! I may have actually screamed, “Hell yeah!” at the television. It’s the storyline that is so obvious, so potentially interesting from a character standpoint given all the parallels between Michael and Jason (Steve Burton), so satisfying to longtime viewers, that of course the show has been ignoring it for years. It may be just a mislead. Michael may be determined to mob it up. But at least the Quartermaine point-of-view was addressed. If this was our first taste of the new “GH,” I am even hungrier for a full meal.

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

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