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Soaps for the 21st Century


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What soaps need in order to stay alive


Happy New Year, Suds Buds!

We wish you what you wish for yourselves in 2000. May all your dreams come true.

Everyone and their evil twin has commented on the best and worst of 1999. I won't belabor the topic here, but will say that two events stand out for me:
Best: Susan Lucci winning the Emmy and being there to see it. Worst: NBC canceling Another World.

With the dawn of the 21st century, we look to the future of the genre. I believe there is enormous potential. Over the past few years soap writing has suffered, IMHO. Struggling to recoup sagging ratings, operating under pressures from parent companies or sponsors, and turning over actors and characters like flapjacks on Bobby Flay's hot grill, producers and writers have lost their way.

In the 1/1-7/00 issue of TV Guide, soap critic Michael Logan maintains that the "old-fart, fat-cat soap establishment views hot, young (writing) blood as a subversive threat," and insists this is dangerous thinking. I totally agree. The genre may be tried and true, but it needs new ideas. How many times do we hear that the head writer of one show is fired only to be hired by another show, then fired by that show and rehired by the former one? With the same core group getting bandied about between shows on a regular basis, how long can the industry continue to survive? Playing incestuous writing roulette will kill the species right off the air.

Don't get me wrong. Seasoned writers, like veteran actors, bring experience and show history to the table. However, soaps need to infuse the core group with fresh faces, both on screen and behind the keyboard, and develop their talents. The new blood does not necessarily have to be young. With age comes experience and with experience comes material. As every writer knows, there are only 7 stories. Period. It's the way the individual writer interprets the story, creates their version of it, and brings their personal experience to it that makes it new and different.

Writing for soaps is an extremely demanding profession. Writers must burn out very quickly. Shifting them from show to show is not the answer. Developing new, fresh talent to support the seasoned writers must be the answer.

Another thing I would really enjoy seeing in soaps this century, is a departure from the superficial, he loves me -- he loves me not, one-note story, to more multidimensional storytelling. Story comes from character. Soaps have a wealth of wonderfully crafted characters. Use the character to create layers in the story. Don't have characters do things "out of character." This only enrages longtime fans, and confuses newer fans. Tell stories with depth and heart.

I once wrote a spec script for the prime time show "Northern Exposure." It got to the supervising producer who read it cover to cover. Unusual behavior for a busy prime time executive. They usually skim the first few pages, if you're lucky. My script grabbed the producer because he did not know where it was heading, and had to read the entire thing to satisfy his curiosity. He called my agent to say that he could not buy the script (Just my luck. At that time the show was not freelancing any material. They opted to take penalties from the Writer's Guild and write everything in house.), but if he could he would. He asked for my phone number to speak to me personally. Another unusual occurrence. He told me how much he loved the spec as it was unpredictable, full of heart, and captured the essence of the characters of his show. I may not have made a sale, but the writing made an impression, and this producer, now creator of his own successful prime-time series, still takes my calls.

It must be that I write what I want to see on daytime and primetime. Heart. Cleverly crafted characters involved in multidimensional stories. I want to laugh, cry, and shake the TV in frustration. I want passion, drama, mischief, mystery, intrigue, innuendo, and fun. I want soap opera in every sense of the word, but I want it fresh and new and lasting long into the 21st Century.

What do you want for your show? Please share your thoughts in the Criticize the Critic folder on the Turtle-Run Message Boards

Soap Notes

NBC's Passions and NBCi has named three actors and three actresses as finalists in the Passions cyber search for talent. Selected by the show's casting directors, equal weight was given to physical appearance, personality, and acting ability/camera appeal. To vote for your favorite, visit www.nbc.com/passions and view the audition tapes on streaming video. You may vote once each for your favorite female and male contestants. The actor and actress receiving the most votes wins a trip to Los Angeles to shoot their guest appearance on the soap. Vote for your favorites now through January 9, 2000. Good luck to everyone!

ABC's All My Children offers it's Crystal Ball invitation crystal ornament for sale. Order at www.abc.go.com or call 888 500-7776. Interestingly, the ornament says: "All My Children Crystal Ball." It is the same ornament everyone in Pine Valley has received and is hanging on the tree at Edmund's. Do you suppose the Pine Valley denizens have any idea what an "All My Children" is? LOL Maybe All My Children exists in some bizarro dimension on Pine Valley television. I wonder if Pine Valley's viewers are happy about their All My Children these days?


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