One day last summer yours truely (Soapdom's very own Linda Marshall-Smith) got a call from Broadway Video out of New York City. They shared that they just negotiated a distribution deal with Procter & Gamble’s Telenext Productions, the producers of soap operas As the World Turns, Guiding Light, Another World, etc.
How exciting! I knew fans would be more than ecstatic to learn that they would soon be able to get their favorite soaps on DVD, but even as I became privy to what was to happen and was chomping at the bit to share the news with all Soapdom, I was sworn to secrecy. I can now reveal all!
First on Broadway Video’s new division SoapClassics’ agenda was to release a set of DVDs on As the World Turns for Christmas 2011. But laden with over 8000 hours of As the World Turns content – shows from 1979 though the final episode in 2010 -- they were looking for someone to help weed through the material and develop a compelling DVD collection.
I had the perfect person -- Roger Newcomb -- a gentleman that I’ve known and worked with for many years. Newcomb’s first website was solely dedicated to As the World Turns. If anyone knew his way around Oakdale it was Newcomb. Before even asking Newcomb if it was okay, I gave Broadway Video his name and number, then immediately contacted him to alert him to their call.
Fast forward to today. Roger Newcomb (along with men like Mark Yates, president of SoapClassics and Richard Keatinge it’s Director of Development) is the guy behind the As the World Turns DVD set available now on soapclassics.com.
So just who is Roger Newcomb? For those of you who may not know, he is the Founder of We Love Soaps, producer of the internet soap opera, Scripts and Scruples, and its spin-off, Rockland County (in which I had a guest starring role in one episode). Newcomb also co-wrote the indie feature, Manhattanites, with Producer, Gregori Martin who directed. He is one of the executive producers of a short film called May Mercy Lie, which is now doing the festival circuit. If all this weren’t enough, Newcomb has worked as a project manager in the health and wellness field as well as for a major computer company. Now he is the Editorial Director for SoapClassics, As the World Turns DVD packaged set.
How did you become involved with Soap Classics?
“This wonderful person gave them my information,” he said. I thanked him for the compliment.
“We get a lot of calls – I get like three calls a day from people thinking I am Prospect Park (the production company that recently purchased the rights to All My Children and One Life to Live from ABC). “So when I first got a call, I thought well what is this? I didn’t know what it was about. I thought it was another person calling me about something, but it turned out to be this really amazing project. It was just luck that you mentioned me to them. I am a total P&G guy.”
Not only that, the company happens to be on Newcomb’s street, just a block a way. Talk about a convenient commute. And as I suspected, it was a really good fit.
“I was definitely interested. When they talked to me and they realized I had this knowledge (it all jelled). They are really good people. They are a really good company to be doing this project. But they didn’t have anyone with any subject matter on these shows and they were missing that piece.”
“I am lucky they talked to you,” Roger confided. “As a soap fan, this is the best job for me. They were trying to pick 20 episodes from 1979 to 2010, so I think my project management background -- outside of soaps – helped me weigh what made something valuable to the project beyond just being a soap fan and something I personally enjoyed.”
One of the parameters that Newcomb considered was the popularity of particular episodes. Like the “Hello Barbara” episode.
“(In this episode) James Stenbeck (the late, great Anthony Herrera) came back from the dead the first time. He was wearing a monk’s habit and he said ‘Hello Barbara,’ and Barbara (Colleen Zenk) kind of freaked out. It became so famous because back then we didn’t know everything in advance,” said Newcomb. “It was so shocking to have this villain come back from the dead and it went down in history as this psychotic moment.” That episode is in the Soap Classics DVD collection.
Newcomb went on to reveal that Soap Classics wanted to do categories and it took some weeks of discussion as to what the categories would be. “We finally settled on The Great Weddings, Secrets and Scandals, Through the Years, and Villains and Vixens,” he shared.
“It was a matter of a classic sampling of all these years,” Newcomb continued. “We wanted it to be representative of that. In ways it is random. In other ways it is not.
The bottom line was Newcomb wanted to show as many different characters as possible. Including episodes that contained weddings and anniversaries was a great way to accomplish that. Many characters are involved in wedding and anniversary scenes and even if a particular fan’s favorite episode is not included in this first batch of DVDs, odds are their favorite characters and couples will be featured in one or two of the episodes included, going back as far as 1979.
“We have an episode from late 1979 and the 2010 episode where Julianne Moore came back,” shared Newcomb. “Because they are weddings and anniversary episodes, you get to see all the cast in these different time periods. It’s one episode but you get to see everyone who was on the show at that time so it’s really cool.”
Soapdom wanted to know what Newcomb projects for Soap Classics going forward.
“I think a lot of things are riding on how this (first installment) does,” Newcomb shared. “They have talked to me about helping out with some publicity. The last day I saw Mark (Yates) in person, he said I’ll see you for volume two. I don’t have a timetable. They want to do a Guiding Light DVD set, and online streaming. When I first walked into their offices, the hallways were stacked and stacked with these giant tapes. Some of the newer episodes were on VHS-like tapes, but most of them are on these round, reel-to reel tapes in a square box container. Imagine 8000 of those for ATWT alone just lining the hallways.”
Bottom line, Soap Classics is not at a loss for content to digitize and repurpose either as a DVD or to stream on the internet.
“When I first talked to Mark (Yates), he said if it did well, we are going to totally -- over the course of time -- no matter how long it takes, we are going to digitize it all,” he said. “It will all be available online.”
According to Newcomb the “dream” is that at some point we may be able to say oh I want to watch the July 1, 1989 episode of As the World Turns and you will be able to do just that with the convenience of point and click.
“The response to this has been 99% positive from the soap fans,” Newcomb stated. “I think that’s a rare thing because people tend to gravitate towards saying what’s wrong other than what’s right, so this is all good. I think soap fans see the potential of this.”
Newcomb and I went on to discuss phenomenon like Family Guy, which was cancelled but DVD sales of old episodes continued to increase to the point that Fox finally re-instated the show.
“The sky’s the limit,” Newcomb said. “We’ve also seen it with Arrested Development. That show never got good ratings but now they are bringing it back in episodes and they are doing a movie. Except for Dark Shadows, they’ve never done a soap in another format.”
Newcomb is a producer himself. If the DVDs do well, would he consider producing new episodes of the P&G soaps?
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