Deep Soap: Daytime Alums Phelps, Griffith Create Prime Time Telenovela

"Reach For A Star." (Nickelodeon)

“General Hospital” and “Young & The Restless” Alums Creating Primetime Telenovela

Can a daily English language telenovela work on primetime cable? Nick at Nite thinks so. The channel  has ordered 80 episodes of the telenovela, based on a Mexican series.  Production will begin this March. The series will air later this year. “Reach For A Star” will be produced by Sony, the studio behind “The Young & the Restless” and “Days of Our Lives” in conjunction with Mexican broadcaster Televisa. Steve Kent, the Sony executive in charge of the daytime soaps, will also oversee this show.  The headwriter will be Josh Griffith, who has written for Y&R, “General Hospital,” “As The World Turns,” “Santa Barbara,” and, most notably, was the co-headwriter for “One Life To Live” during the 1990s, where he was responsible for such memorable stories as Marty’s gang rape. Jill Farren Phelps, who was GH’s executive producer until the end of 2011, will executive produce.

The telenovela is about a teenage girl who wins a songwriting contest and becomes a close friend of the male pop star she idolizes. It sounds interchangable with every other tween pop star series on television, but there is no reason that a formula that works for comedy would not also work for drama. If “Reach For A Star” succeeds, it could be a gamechanger. As Nickelodeon’s press release points out, “Degrassi” successfully transitioned from a weekly show to a telenovela on Teen Nick. Now it remains to be seen if it will appeal to the older skewing audience of Nick at Nite, which has until now focused on both reruns of sit-coms and original comedies targeted to Baby Boomers, like “Hot in Cleveland.”

Telenovelas are red hot right now. Univision’s Spanish language telenovelas regularly beats the English language broadcast networks among young viewers. ABC is reportedly considering turning GH into a telenovela. the entertainment industry will surely play close attention to “Reach For A Star.” If it’s a hit, many more foreign telenovelas could be adapted. Not only will they provide new entertainment options for soap fans, but they can also provide jobs for unemployed daytime writers, directors, producers and actors. Few others in the entertainment industry know how to create quality entertainment on an ultralow budget at a breakneck pace.

Bye Bye Lady In White… Hello Everybody Else

The mass exodus of “General Hospital” actors has began.  Let’s all pour out a forty for the Woman in White, Alyshia Ochse, quite possibly the most ill conceived soap character since GH’s last woman in white, the thankfully forgotten Angel.  It’s not Ochse’s fault. Even Meryl Streep could not have made an amnesiac who wanders around the Cassadine mansion work. According to Soaps In Depth, several other newbies are slated to leave. In other words, the characters nobody wants to watch. I have my fingers crossed that means we’ll also be bidding farewell to Delores the robotic cop (Rebeka Montoya)  and Ewan the shirtless psychiatrist (Nathin Butler) and Maggie the perky pediatrician (Kodi Kitchen). Wilson the Dog can stick around.

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The departure of the poorly written characters makes room for all of the returning favorites. Soaps In Depth compiled a helpful chart to let viewers know when everyone will return. First up is Finola Hughes (Anna) the week of February 13th. Next week, the first OLTL alum, Kristen Alderson (Starr), arrives. Reportedly Van Hughes, (Cole) will join her for a few episodes to wrap up their storyline. The week of February 27th will bring Starr’s parents, Roger Howarth (Todd) and Kassie DePaiva (Blair) as well as Tristan Rogers (Robert). Michael Easton (John) will finally show up to stop the Port Charles crime wave in March. Let’s hope that this Valentine’s Day, the GH that we know and love will return.

The Strangest Soap Related Coincidence Ever

One of “One Life To Live’s” unfinished storylines was the saga of Brody (Mark Lawson) and Jessica Buchanan (Bree Williamson). In the finale, he was released from the mental hospital where he had been undergoing treatment for his advanced case of baby rabies. He visited Jessica, who was still grieving the loss of Ford (David Gregory), and told her he planned to rejoin the Navy Seals. Tuesday night, our heroic real life Navy Seals rescued a woman named Jessica Buchanan, who had been kidnapped in Somalia. At the risk of trivializing a serious international incident that was incredibly traumatic for everyone involved, my first thought was, “Brody rescued Jessica! Now they have to get back together.”  I mean, what are the odds that something that seems like a particularly twisted fan fiction would happen two weeks after the OLTL finale? The Fictional Jessica Buchanan was kidnapped at least a half dozen times. She was always in need of rescuing. The Real Jessica Buchanan’s kidnappers were described as, “heavily armed common criminals with no known ties to any organized militant group,” who were holding her for ransom. That sounds like exactly the sort of group that would target the Buchanan heiress. Real Jessica Buchanan is also about the same age as Fictional Jessica Buchanan, 32. She is far braver and nobler than her fictional counterpart; she works for a relief organization in Somalia.  She endured nearly four months in captivity with another relief worker. I hope that, if she is single, she finds love with a hot Navy Seal of her own.

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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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