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Monday, October 6, 2008

What I Did on my Summer-Slash-Fall Vacation Across the USA (CHARACTERS WANTED!)

Just when you thought it was safe to venture into the blog-o-sphere...

Guess who's back?!

What a crazy few weeks. First up, there was Austin, Texas - where I participated in an annual music festival that is easily one of my all-time favorites - the Austin City Limits Music Festival. One hundred and thirty different bands from Gospel, Folk, R&B, Pop, Rock, the Jamband world... pretty much every genre over eight stages and three days. All the money goes back to the city of Austin, the food court there contains booths from all the local restaurants (no cheap flimsy burgers here), it's about the most well-organized and cleanest music festival I've ever been to, and the average age of the concertgoer is someone in their thirties, so you avoid all of those "kids-who-just-want-to-run-around-all-weekend-messed-up" crowd. This year, the head-liners were Beck, Robert Plant, David Byrne, Alison Krauss, Erykah Badu, Gnarls Barclay and the Foo Fighters. A great time was had by all!!

And in the middle of this, at 4:04 on Saturday (right around the time Erykah Badu began the second half of her set), I turned thirty-three. A *huge* thank you to everyone who wrote me on my birthday. You guys are just amazing - it was a fantastic birthday. Low-key, with the Beau and our good friends, good food, good music - just a great vibe, and early to bed for the final day of the festival. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Then it was off to Orlando - to check out Halloween at Universal Studios. My best friend knows somebody who does a lot of the art department work for these stunning haunted houses, so we got an "in" with the park, and I got to experience all the fun this million-dollar park alteration has in October (and believe me, what they do to this park is really spectacular -- I highly recommend it). And for those of you who are "Buffy" fans out there, there's a great haunted house devoted to the "Gentlemen" from "Hush" (the only Buffy episode, I believe, that ever got Joss Whedon a Writing Emmy nom, and deservedly so... ironic since there's almost no dialogue in the episode).

Then it was off to see my parents' new house... except maybe not. Turns out their car wasn't picked up from Connecticut in time to arrive in Florida to get me back to the airport. And a one-hour cab ride would really hurt everyone's wallets. But they were cool with it (since most of the house wasn't even set up yet), and to be honest, it was such a crazy couple of weeks, I was glad to have the last two days to lounge around in Brooklyn and recover from all the traveling and running around.

In the midst of all of this, the job hunt continued - from script rewrites to wrestling (!!!) but nothing with my name on it. Which is either God's way of saying She's not done with me in daytime yet, or the perfect job outside of daytime is just around the corner, and She is saving me for that one. (Although a sign would be helpful, Lovely Lady Upstairs!) And I've been away from soaps for two weeks, so I came home to a full Tivo, and three issues of SOD and SOW each that I need to catch up on. So I'm a little rusty with my Soap-Talk these days.

But that doesn't mean I don't have something to say, dear friends...

In my travels, I was exposed to all sorts of people I don't have access to in New York City. And it got me thinking - what has happened to the soap archetypes? It seems these days, if you're a guy on a soap? You're either an A) doctor, lawyer, cop or businessman, who is either B) the strong, brooding, sullen type, or the wise-cracking, sarcastic, omniscient type. And if you're a soap teen? Forget about it. You're either A) angry and tortured with a great chest, or B) rich and angry and tortured with a great chest. And the girls don't fare too well either. Unless you're a comedic character, you're pretty much either the soap heroine, or you're the bitchy vixen (who will inevitably be sanitized and turned into Choice A)

Where are all the characters? And I'm not talking about comedic characters relegated to the sidelines. I'm talking about all the different kinds of people who exist out there in the world, and why they aren't represented in leading man/leading lady status? Where's the rugged outdoorsman, rough around the edges, who is more comfortable in the wild, camping and fishing and listening to country music, while not villified as a "country hick"? (And why isn't he the one romancing the spoiled-brat rich heroine?) Where's the prankster... the man who covers up the pain in the his past with jokes and flippant remarks (Calling all Jack Devereaux's!)? Where's the lovable geek, with a passion for all things comic booky, but still has that Seth Cohen-lovabillity that women find adorable? (Too bad Adam Munson/Hughes turned into a date-rapist, huh?) Where are the small-business owners, struggling to save their Mom-and-Pop shop? (And no, I'm not talking about characters rotating who owns the local nightclub/coffeeshop, depending on which characters need a change of scenery, like Crimson Lights on Y&R or Metro on ATWT).

Why is the "popular" guy in high school always the one who ends up being a rapist? Where is the girl who rebels against her conservative parents by going a little punk, or a little Goth? Heck, where are the Alex P. Keatons - the kids who rebel against their liberal parents by being ultra-conservative?! (Thank God for Langston on OLTL, and River on Y&R - two characters who break the soap opera mold)

There are so many different kinds of characters out there in the universe - so many worlds not represented on soaps. Maybe part of the reason teens never really take off with older viewers is because they're so one-note. Besides Langston on OLTL (who started off as just a talk-to with very little future on the show, and only got more interesting once they cast a good actress), teens are either male or female... and that's about it. One of the most interesting and life-changing phases we go through, adolescence is relegated only to various Romeo and Juliet scenarios on soaps. And that's so old and tiresome, the soap audience immediately lashes out at these teen newbies. Why? Not because they're taking over the show... but because they're taking over the show with stories they've seen done a hundred times! You can't tell me star-crossed lovers is the only interesting story to tell with two sixteen year olds. I can think of ten more off the top of my head.

There's a reason why characters like Langston and Henry Coleman are so popular with fans. Because they're a breath of fresh air. If only the lifeforce writers latch on to so easily in these characters could be transferred to our vets, the shows would be in much better shape. Imagine if Bo and Hope on Days, or Zach and Kendall on AMC or Holden and Lily on ATWT or Jason and whomever his soulmate is this week, were built up with such gusto, and given that same spark of life? Imagine how attracted we'd be to them as heroes and heroines if their personalities were delved into in the same way. If they were seen just as unique and individual as their C-story counterparts?

There are so many different kinds of people out there in America - so many more archetypes still unexplored in the daytime canvas. It's time to explore those possibilities. Because police officers are more than just brooders or perfect heroes. And doctors are more than just brooders or perfect heroes. And businessmen are more than just brooders or villains... or perfect heroes. Family drama in primetime stopped relying on these stereotypes a long time ago. When will daytime do the same?

I wonder if maybe the majority of us who aren't writing from our homes in other parts of the country are so surrounded by the urban hyper-reality of New York City and Los Angeles, that we've lost touch with what's going on in the rest of the world? It's no secret that many NYC'ers and LA'ers have a different view of life than someone in, say, Ohio or Tennessee or Texas or Florida. And I'm not talking about the whole blue state/red state thing. This isn't a measure of politics, just a measure of being in touch with who your audience is... or who the audience is that you don't have yet. I sometimes wonder if we don't rely on the same-old-same-old because we're so entrenched in our city lives, in the lifestyle of the big coastal cities, we've lost touch with the kinds of people that are out there. The kinds of people we want to enthrall in the ongoing dramas surrounding the human condition.

There are so many wonderful, vibrant, exciting characters out there. Why aren't they represented in here?

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