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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gluttons for Punishment, Springing Eternal

Occasionally, somebody will liken soap fans to abused spouses (with apologies and great sympathies to anyone who's ever been abused by their spouse). We may be beaten down, talked down to, and ignored - but many of us keep going back for more. It's a morbid comparison, but one that's not entirely untrue.

After the last couple of days, I'm pretty sure that analogy could apply to soap writers as well. I already wrote about the WGA holiday party the other night, and catching up with everyone who is also out of work in daytime. And last night, I got to spend the evening with another fellow former soap writer - one I've worked with and talked to many times, but never face-to-face.

We spent a lot of time talking about what's right in the industry, what's wrong, the behind-the-scenes stories that aren't really appropriate for repeating, and of course, my favorite topic between former soap writers - the most preposterous stories the fans never saw on daytime. (One day, when all of the people involved are long gone, I'm going to post a list of the WORST ideas that NEVER made it to air, thankfully were killed before they could make it in breakdown - it's a list that I think soap fans would go ga-ga for, and would inspire both laughter and horror. It can always be worse, soap fans. ALWAYS.)

So after all of this fun and gossip over drinks, the inevitable question came up "Would you go back?" And the answer for both of us was pretty much "Yes".

Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of out-of-work soap writers out there right now, ranging from the lazy to the brilliant (most of us are definitely somewhere in the middle), and we're all working on our own projects - some of those projects are satisfying us financially, and some of them are satisfying us emotionally. But free of the early morning network meetings, where phrases are micro-managed and spirits are broken, we love being able to explore ideas and themes and worlds with utter freedom.

We cringe at the deadlines, we cower at the notes, we roll our eyes at some of the decisions. And yet, most of us would go back if given a shot.

Not just because of the paycheck. But because somewhere under all of this vitriol, hope lives on. We remember that moment sitting at our computers, completely lost in the middle of a scene, pounding out the thoughts and desires as if we ourselves are these people, and we love that rush. We love stepping into these fictional characters' shoes, and allowing them to help us discover something about ourselves in the process.

Michael Logan recently talked about hope in the latest issue of TV Guide, and in spite of the low ratings, budgets being slashed, vets being fired - the execs in charge remain positive. Naivete? Maybe a little (okay, a lot.) Denial? (Okay, possibly.) But many soap writers share that hope that there's still a way to turn this around, so I don't doubt that everyone's intentions aren't pure, even if their actions show otherwise.

Because at the end of the day... even if you have two actors in front of a piece of cardboard with a home video camera, if the words are there, if the feelings are evoked, if the writing is solid, people will watch. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - it's all about that kiss. If it's done right, that's all you need.


Anonymous said...

"And last night, I got to spend the evening with another fellow former soap writer - one I've worked with and talked to many times, but never face-to-face."

Ahhh, let us assemble the evidence:

- in an earlier blog, Tom Casiello thanks Sara Bibel for her assistance during his adjustment to Y&R.
- this was apparently not face to face, as Ms. Bibel lived in LA while Tom lived in NY
- Ms. Bibel was in New York for the blogger-palooza in Peapack

Ergo, from these premises, I conclude that Tom finally met with Sara. What fun! Two really cool people who enrich many of our lives.

P Kellach said...

You know As much as I see the horrors as much as the next alleged soap pundit -- I really will have to say .. three " arenas" ( shows) that have been so on my list of inciting hair-pulling ( my own.. and it's OK I have plenty to spare as we see from my facebook visage. HA) -- are really UPPING my own cautious optimism - - and then one usually solid show that went so off the rails is just .. like almost in an " OLD TIME" soap way just amazing these days--

To wit..

AMC--- did I EVER think I'd ever CARE again about this show like I did when I was a little boy swept away by Phil and Tara-- then all of the other glory.. then all the destructive Megahnisms and J and B mess--- but dagnabit.. I think Charles Pratt has something going on -- AMC is a new priority again.. and no.. it's FAR from perfect.. ( Ahem.. harley the soldier and Gus the jake .. ahem. ) but crazy Annie-- the Bianca Reese stuff ( AND OMG STEVE ANDROPOLOUS in Pine Valley !!! HOORAY !!!!!!!!) -- the Natalia/Angie Jessie stuff.. there is FINALLy something with weight in pretty much every episode.

ATWT-- still so wackjob at times.. but that Carjack stuff this week was wonderful ( even if those parties leading up to it were close to making me vomit ) -- Kevin from PC is really an AWESOME Craig.. they way they GOT Craig not going to jail was not as horribly strained As I THOUGHT it would be.. the Paul Meg Dusty-- Josie looks like Jen stuff.. this stuff is ACTUALLY making me pay attention.. A TON of work to do there.. but I see so much potential

GL-- I was one of the last holdouts before virtually giving up.. but I am un-giving up to see what leads to Phillip
s return.. and whodda thunk Johnathan wacko from Pine Valley would make such a dandy SHayne??

and finally Y AND R..

you see Virginia.. there IS a Santa AND he proved.. YES.. even in this day and age of focus group BS and micromanagement from idiotic suits.. folks.. you CAN construct amazing soap in this day and age from the ground up.. every friggin' beat is out of the park.. Katherine Marge is like an old time soap story in a grand way ( reminds me of when Mickey first was with Maggie ) -- Ashley kicking Jack to the curb.. Lowell is creepy, no he is good, yes he is creepy.. what twists !!-- this show is just jaw dropping these days in context of daytime's miasma.

so there's my long two cents.. and if i can't remember my password and crap.. this is your Austin pal P. Kel.. and apologies for the egg-nog-induced appalling typing and stream of consciousness lack of thought out construction Tom :) hehe

Regis said...

That was beautiful!

Scott N said...

I think I'd take it even one step deeper than you went, Tom. You said:

"Because at the end of the day... even if you have two actors in front of a piece of cardboard with a home video camera, if the words are there, if the feelings are evoked, if the writing is solid, people will watch."

The key there is having someone who is willing to get all those pieces - the acting, the storyline and the dialog - in front of that camera. If the person or people who can do that care, then they'll assemble all those pieces and people will watch.

And in spite of all the gloom and doom, those people are there. The producers struggling, sometimes out of desperation, to stretch every dollar they have to put the best material they're capable of on screen. The writers who keep plugging away with story, no matter how bad it might turn out. And the actors, many of whom are taking pay cuts to keep this genre alive. So everything is on the board, and I guess the key is trying to get the pieces into the right place.