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Home Features Top of the Week Soaps Thrive On Tragedy

Soaps Thrive On Tragedy

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Character conflict, Fan events and Hercules on Andromeda

In the "Speaking My Mind" column of the June 6, 2000 issue of Soap Opera Weekly, editor-in-chief, Mimi Torchin (Hi Mimi! ;o) emotes about her amazing trip to Paris (Ooo la la is right! LOL), says how she is high on life after her uplifting vacation and her enjoying the Daytime Emmys without having the added pressure of hosting the E! Pre-Show this year. She was jazzed. However, upon her return a realization hit. Soaps (all soaps, any soap), dwell on the plethora of "miscarriages, sick and dying children and adults, nefarious characters ruining the lives of good people, kidnapping, murder, disasters, (natural or transportational) adultery, lying and broken hearts."

Wow! Kind of a depressing genre when you see it all strung out that way. Torchin goes on to ask: "When was the last soap wedding that actually got to the 'I now pronounce you husband and wife stage' (or that wasn't invalidated after the fact for some reason)? How many happy, healthy births are there without the complications of 'who's the dad?' and other parental mysteries? How many couples have more than two days of extended happiness?" Torchin concludes by saying that soap fans are starving for romantic fantasy, escape, and a fairy-tale setting.

Torchin makes some valid points. Yipes. Soaps are convoluted mixtures of dire straits and dying, the betrayed and the betraying, the murdered and the murdering. But if they were all happiness and light, all hunky and all dory, all fantasy and no guts, we would tune out in one second flat! There would be nothing for us to root for because everything would be going along smoothly. Every day would be sunny. Every person a role model. Every locale, San Cristobel. There would be no sides for us to take (and heaven forbid, no messages to post!) about the turn in character of our favorite character if our favorite character was the ever perfect, ever popular, best person on earth! Snooze.

In The Screenwriter Within, How to Turn the Movie in Your head into a Saleable Screenplay, a brand new book on how to write a screenplay (which after all, a soap opera is. It's the same dramatic form, just serialized and shorter! LOL), my friend, produced writer, and Professor of Screenwriting in the Tisch School of the Arts Dramatic Writing Program at NYU, D. B. Gillis states:

"Make sure your characters are at odds, disagreeing, irritating each other, and getting on each other's nerves. Let them be at variance over little things, big things, small points, huge issues. Just as in life it's fun to push someone's buttons, it's crucial that this happen in your screenplay. If you want to show a couple in conflict, have them fight over where to eat dinner. The woman wants Chinese. The guy wants Mexican. We'll learn volumes about their relationship from this discussion, largely because it won't only be about where they are going to eat. Talk of a (choice of) restaurant will invariably lead to one bringing up the other's selfishness, which will lead to one's inflexibility, which will lead to how one is immature, and will move on to their mutual dislike of each other's friends and in-laws. "

Etc. Etc. Far more interesting and attention grabbing than, okay, I like Chinese. You like Chinese. Let's order moo goo gai pan. Snooze.

D.B Gillis states in Chapter 24: "Normal, happy, well-adjusted people with sunny dispositions and healthy outlooks on life are BORING! Not necessarily in real life, but on the screen. Any actor will tell you it's more fun to play the villain than the good guy. And most actresses would rather sink their teeth into the part of a bitchy, nasty shrew than the All-American girl, super mom, or kindly grandma with an apple pie baking in the oven. Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As it Gets was reprehensible, unlikable, selfish, controlling, obsessive-compulsive, and a dozen other unseemly things as well. We disliked him so much, we couldn't take our eyes off of him."

Chapter 24 continues: "Not that I'm saying that every protagonist has to be obnoxious, repulsive, hateful or annoying. I can rattle off 25 movies in which the main character was likeable and sympathetic and identifiable. Butsomething was wrong with them. They were nice people, but damaged. Wounded. Screwed up. In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon played an amazingly unlikable Irish punk who happened to be a genius. The point is. Don't make your protagonist sugary sweet, too happy, too content, too unaware, or in denial of his/her problems. Give your characters something dark that haunts them, maybe not every waking moment, but in the small hours of the night. Give your characters a demon. A weakness. A secret, that if ever revealed, would humiliate them. Let the warm-and-fuzzy, touchy-feely people stay in your real life, and keep them out of your screenplay!"

Thanks for your insight, D.B. Inspiring book!

My point is this. (You knew I had a point, didn't you? LOL) Drama needs to be dramatic! Duh! It needs conflict for us to stay glued to the TV. The more the "complications" to an otherwise happy situation, the more we begin to feel for the characters. Why do you suppose Luis and Sheridan on Passions are such a super couple? Because for one reason or another, they have not yet been able to admit or share their feelings. Soon as one starts, something interrupts. A complication! It makes us unnerved. It makes us want to shake the TV, but it makes us care about them, and watch tomorrow just to see if they will overcome their hurdles then. Conflict and complications sell screenplays, and make us tune into to our soaps every day.

What do you guys think? Please post your thoughts on the TRO Message Boards! And to Mimi Torchin, I have one question. Is "transportational" really a word? LOL


Production began May 8, 2000 in Toronto, CA on Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, an upcoming syndicated sci-fi series starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) as the leader of a rag-tag crew trying to save a war-torn universe. Keith Hamilton Cobb (Noah, AMC) also stars. http://www.andromedatv.com

Wednesday, June 7, 2000 join Cameron Mathison (Ryan, AMC) at Humphrey's, 175 Humphrey Street, New Haven, CT from 9-11 PM (approximately. Call 203 782-1506 to confirm time and if there will be a cover charge). He will be bartending ("and partying," says Cameron), as well as photo ops and autographs. Get up close and personal with Cameron and have a cold one for me!

Sunday, June 11, 2000 join Mark Conselous and Kelly Ripa (Mateo and Hayley, AMC) at Sesame Place Soap Opera Day, Langhorne, PA from 12-2 PM. For info call 215 752-7070

Sunday, June 11, 2000 join Cameron Mathison and Esta Terblanche (Ryan and Gillian, AMC) for Brunch in Pine Valley, Chicago Style at the Holiday Inn, O'Hare Airport, 5440 N. River Road, Rosemont, Il. According to Cameron there will be lunch, drinks, lots of Q&A, autographs, pictures, and door prizes. Tickets are $75.00 each. Call 847 671-9896 for further info.

One Life to Live Judges Sing-A-Long

Saturday, June 24, 2000 Rabs Country Lanes in Staten Island, NY will host it's Fifth Annual Sing-A-Long Spectacular to benefit the charity, Rainbows Hope. Rainbows Hope benefits children who are stricken with chronic and terminal diseases. All proceeds will go to the charity. Tickets are $25.00. Call 718 979-1600 for information. OLTL stars judging include, Linda Dano (Rae), David Fumero (Cristian), Robin Christopher (Skye) Patricia Mauceri (Carlotta), Catherine Hickland (Lindsay), Kale Browne (Sam), John Bolger (John), Charissa Chamorro (Sophia), Don Jeffcoat (Joey), Timothy Gibbs (Kevin), Herve Clermont (Jared), Darlene Vogel (Melanie), Ty Treadway (Colin), Jason Shane Scott (Will), Erin Torpey (Jessica), Kamar De Los Reyes (Antonio), Gina Tognoni (Kelly), Christine Toy Johnson (Lisa West), Michelle Visate (KTU) and other surprise guests! A must for NY area OLTL fans!

Days of Our Lives

Victor Webster reprises the role of Nickolas again this week.
Bella Pollini plays Will's babysitter, Mrs. Nesbitt.
Marjorie Harris returns as Miss Glaze, the teacher.
Michael Zara portrays the bell-man at the Green Mountain Lodge.


Jade Harlow has been cast in the recurring role of Jessica Bennett. Her first airdate is Monday, June 5, 2000.

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