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Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Momentary Reprieve

What a strange, strange week it's been.

I've been a bit out of touch, as I've been doing some odd jobs just to pay the bills - some involving creativity, and some not involving creativity. But it's getting me back out in the world, and introducing me to all sorts of people - which as a writer, I always appreciate. And I'm biting my nails down to the cuticle over this MIT conference next week. In the meantime, I'm catching up on very few soaps, sadly. (Although my obsession with Young and the Restless is growing, story-wise)

But keeping up with the events behind the scenes this week, I'm stunned at the sudden positive vibe spreading over soaps. First up? Grant Aleksander is coming back to Guiding Light. Then we find out that Days got picked up until September, 2010. And finally, we've got gay men AND gay women kissing all over As the World Turns and All My Children. So what exactly is going on here?

Cynics all over the Internet will tell you exactly what's going on - it's the end of an era. Phillip Spaulding is only returning to Guiding Light in an act of desperation to save the show from cancellation. Days was only renewed until the next fall season because NBC has nothing to replace it, but come Fall of 2010, it's as good as gone. And as for the same-sex kisses? Both are haunted by the looming spectres of bisexuality (a writer's backpedaling dream come true when you have controversial subject matter) and whether or not said new love interests have screws loose. (Seriously, what's the dependancy on psychotics throughout daytime? Can we get a moratorium please?!).

But I don't know if I necessarily agree with the doom and glooom. Not entirely, at least..

Sure, there's a big ol' pessimist in me (and the farther he gets away from the soap opera industry, the more he sees the forest through the trees). And I can see why all of these jaded fans are saying these things.

But then I try to look at the other side of the coin - and I think "Hey - at least somebody is giving it a shot" For most of the summer, I felt like there wasn't one soap on the air that wasn't TRYING to get canceled. Seriously. One Life to Live was playing Back to the Future, Young and the Restless was in French most of the time, Days centered on a new young girl and a cliched two-month viallain nobody cared about, General Hospital turned their most promising heroine into a snot-flinging, murdering lunatic, As the World Turns was introducing day player villain after day player villain, All My Children became the Rylee show (and completely insufferable in the process). Overall, it was tough for me to get through any hour of a soap opera this summer.

And that's BIZARRE. Truth be told, soaps are cyclical. I was talking to a friend of mine in the industry the other day, and even he said it was strange right now - at any given time, you can always look at one soap and see it's in a "low cycle" while another one is firing on all cylinders. But for a long time there, it felt like EVERYBODY was making the SAME mistakes. No original stories. Backstage egos dictating characters. Day players becoming the focus on the show. Vets relegated to glorified-extra status. Every show was a mess.

I'm still a little jaded - don't get me wrong. But for a second, whatever the reasons, I feel like these shows are starting to give a damn again. They're not relying on the same old, same old (well... some of them aren't at least. Others are still a little lost...) Could it all backfire? Sure. Phillip's Return on GL may be too little, too late. Reese might end up being no more important to the Pine Valley canvas than Ava was on the DOOL canvas. Brian may end up going psycho like every other recurring character on ATWT does (paging Adam Hughes, Eve Coleman, Colonel Mayer, Rick Decker...) And once again, we'll all be left sitting here, shaking our heads in disappointment.

But at least we're seeing a little inspiration. Something's being jump-started. Will it work? Nobody knows, and only time will tell. But for a few days, I didn't cringe when I went through my daily soap-news.

In this climate, I'll take what I can get.

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