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Home Features Top of the Week Soaps Confession and the Passing of Johnny Carson

Soaps Confession and the Passing of Johnny Carson

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Keeping you hooked, Writer complications & The end of an era

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Dear Suds Buds,

I love all soaps.  Each show has its particular charm and personality and I can usually find something that talks directly to me from each and every program.  But I have a confession to make.  My favorite soap opera is All My Children. 

You’ll often hear me comment how I want to live in Pine Valley. Where else will a millionaire like Palmer Cortlandt or Adam Chandler foot the bill for a brand new cosmetics line, giving an inexperienced entrepreneur a building and a bankroll to start a business? Where else will one woman be wooed by half a dozen of the most drop dead gorgeous men in the world at the same time?  Where else can someone stab a suitor, switch a baby, alter a DNA test and still be a popular well-respected member of the community?  Yup, get me a mansion in Pine Valley!

Being weaned on ABC Daytime, during my high school years I aspired to write for soaps. You can bring characters back from the dead (my favorite instance was Mike Roy on AMC, who returned after being cremated), get a law degree in three weeks, get charged with murder and be acquitted overnight – after having a full investigation and trial! Scribing soaps is a writers’ dream.  But graduating from college just before the VCR was rampant; I went to business and left the soaps behind. 

Until I encountered a top soap celeb. He was up for a part in an independent film I wrote.  Although that project never got produced – at least not yet -- he and I became friends and that affiliation re-introduced me to the world of soaps and specifically AMC. I began to tune in again to watch the actor’s work.  I remember a storyline where a young black child was in a custody battle between his African America mom and his Caucasian dad.   The actor I tuned in to see wasn’t even on the show for the first two weeks, but I was hooked. I just had to keep tuning in to find out who won custody!  In a subsequent phone conversation with my actor friend, I told him about being hooked again. “Yeah, they know how to reel ya back in,” he said with a smile.

He couldn’t be more correct. Soaps, whether on ABC daytime or any network, are written to engage not only the daily viewers, but anyone who tunes in after years of being away. One or two episodes and the errant viewer is caught up to speed, and hooked on the current storylines. 

Which brings me back to my high school ambitions – writing for soaps.  It’s no easy task.  Some shows have as many as 35 or 40 characters.  The scripts can be in excess of 300 pages a week. That’s an awful lot of writing.  It’s not Shakespeare every day, but it does engage us, infuriate us, bring us back for more, and hook us again even after a long absence.  My soap confession is not so much that AMC is my favorite soap, but that I have a great respect for the writing of it and every soap that’s on the air. So many variables come into play. An actor’s outs (the number of days they can do other projects), vacations, network and sometimes sponsor approvals of storyline. Actors who complain they work too much. Others who complain they don’t work enough.  Imagine pleasing everyone and still be charged with creating a fun, coherent, entertaining storyline each week.  It’s a daunting task.

This week Guiding Light celebrates 68 years in production (first on radio and then TV), and Days of our Lives takes the top prize for having the most Most Memorable moments of all time for Soapdom’s contributors.  For me, it all comes down to the writing.  Although I no longer aspire to write soaps, I have developed the utmost respect for those who do. 

If you had the opportunity to give “notes” to the writers of your favorite soaps, what would you suggest? How would you like to see your favorite show play out?  Tell me on the Criticize the Critic Message Board.

I’d like to close the column this time by remembering one of entertainment’s all time greats, Johnny Carson.  I had no idea he was ill. Since his retirement, he kept such a low profile.  After being in the public eye for so many years, he chose to live his final chapter in a very private and personal way.  His Tonight Show career spanned 30 years.  My grandmother could not sleep until she got her fill of “Johnny.” My cousin was a Page on the Tonight Show when it was shot in New York.  My husband and I got to participate in  one of Johnny’s final broadcasts, thanks to a writer friend.  But what’s most memorable about Johnny Carson is the start he gave so many young comedians.  Don’t think that any talk show host since has dedicated so much air time to bringing up new comic talent.  For me, that’s Carson’s legacy.

On Johnny Carson’s passing, Bob Wright, Vice Chairman, GE and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal said:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Johnny Carson today. Johnny was a part of our NBC family for more than thirty years, long after his retirement in 1992, and he was a dear friend to both me and my wife, Suzanne. As host of "The Tonight Show," his gift was the ability to make millions of Americans feel they too had a close friendship with Johnny. His professional and usually anonymous personal generosity launched the careers of countless stars and helped thousands of people. With his lightning quick wit, effortless delivery, and immense charm, he was without peer in late-night television. His death marks the passing of a show-business legend and a man of warmth and sincerity. We offer our heartfelt condolences to Johnny's wife Alex and his entire family.”

Carson’s Tonight Show predecessor, Jay Leno said:

“No single individual has had as great an impact on television as Johnny. He was the gold standard. It's hard to believe he's actually gone. This is a tremendous loss for everyone who Johnny made laugh for so many years.”

Soapdom sends out condolences to the friends and family of Johnny Carson. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on.

Get All Access to Soapdom in January

Soapdom is running a special January promotion.  If you get the annual all access pass to Soapdom for $34.95, I’ll send you a limited edition Soapdom.com 2005 Refrigerator Magnet Calendar! It’s way kewl. Plus, everyone who gets the annual subscription this month will be entered into a drawing to win a brand new DVD of the feature film “Wimbledon,” starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany.  And let me tell you, this is one fun feature to have in your DVD collection. Kirsten Dunst couldn’t be more appealing as the world-seasoned tennis pro, and Paul Bettany is delightfully charming in this underdog gets the girl romantic comedy.  Find out more on Wimbledon, and good luck. I hope many of you enter to win the DVD.  We have a number of them to give away, so your chances are good!  And your all access to Soapdom means you get to see First Look photos and special content first, plus getting the run of the site all the time any time.  Subscribe this month to take advantage of this special January promo.  Click to find out more.

Til the top of next week,

Linda Marshall-Smith
CEO, Soapdom, Inc.

What do YOU think?  Share your thoughts in the "Criticize the Critic" forum  on the Soapdom.com Message Boards

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Linda Marshall-Smith (QueenRuler, Soapdom.com)
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