Soap Box: As the World Turns My Life Upside Down

Posted at 5:00 AM Jun 11, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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As the good people at Hershey's will ominously tell you, change is bad. In rare cases - changes of administration, zany new haircuts, women getting the vote, Britney Spears' re-found popularity, etc. - revolutions should be greeted with loud whoops of hysterical exaltation.

But don't tinker with the minor classics. No need to jazz up my Cheerios with purple sprinkles, there, champ. There are certain foodstuffs, gadgets, clothing items and TV shows that are sacrosanct - their dreary predictability and retrograde fonts are part and parcel of their charm. Just ask Coca-Cola: logos and color schemes are particularly prone to these hard-and-fast brand rules. And soap operas, sweet respites of triteness, pettiness, silliness and general inanity from the rest of our lives, should be as familiar, dull and delicious as PB&J on wheat with the crusts cut off.

So why is As the World Turns changing its logo (and its opening theme)? Yes, it hasn't exactly been burning up the charts in the Nielsen Ratings war, and the cancellation of Guiding Light probably has everyone spooked. But this is the time to stick to your guns, give fans what they love - affairs, intrigue, incest, kidnappings, gun fights, et al! - don't bitchslap them with a hideous new logo. Fans (for the most part) are soooo not having it.

Behold the hideousness:

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Some of my favorite fan (or not-so-fan) comments so far:

"IMO the current looks better. A new opening wouldn't hurt though. This logo looks like something you can make on a home computer ..."
-- tania0688

"It does look like something a person would make on their home computer for a webpage logo or something like that. Not what you would expect for TV show."
-- glowery

"Looks 'cheap' IMO."
-- Dkp

"Yaaaay!"
-- Mark

"It looks too graphical. I would have preferred an actual image of Earth instead of this cheap looking Clip-Art version."
-- DownsideUp

Soap Box: All a-Twitter

Posted at 5:00 AM Jun 04, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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Thank GOD for social media, am I right? I barely have time to skim the headlines on www.nytimes.com, never mind scrupulously review the latest suds downloaded on my TiVo and waiting (and waiting .... waiting) for my undivided attention.

Maybe during my next three-day weekend (Independence Day?) I'll be able to squeeze in some QT with the boob tube between manically bopping between BFFs' BBQ's and fireworks displays, all while texting updates of my status to my friends ... via Twitter and Facebook.

And if I have trouble keepin' up with me stories, I'm sure you do too. Despite a study that claims most Twitter users "are men talking to men" there are a ton of great soap opera-obsessed users, not to mention stars with updates and trade pubs that do the work (ha) of keeping up with the goings-on in Pine Valley and Salem when you're too distracted by plots and subterfuges in your own life to worry about speculation that General Hospital's Carly has disowned Michael for what he's done to her physically and emotionally and the crazy-ass drama that ensues.... But if you still want to stay on top of what's going down (admit it, you know you do!), here are our favorite Twitter resources for all things soap-related:

5. Soap Opera World (this is for the truly hardcore - it specializes in back issues of soap mags from the 70's to the present and generates gossip and speculation about plastic surgery, bad hair dye jobs and wishes it were still the good old days with AMC's Gillian Spencer, Dorothy Lyman, etc.)

4. Chrishell7 (Chrishell Stause's Twitter page - she plays Amanda Dillon on All My Children and she, or whoever writes the page for her, seems totally cute and upbeat and down to earth.)

3. PrattFalls (absolutely not-to-missed hilariousness peppered with inspirational quotes that should be ignored at all costs.)

2. The SoapOperaNetwork (it celebrates the world of soaps past, present and future and gives rolling updates on major soaps).

1. Edenriegel (She plays Bianca Montgomery on AMC, drinks tea, bakes and is generally adorably quirky, girly and RTable).

Soap Box: Let's Get This Straight

Posted at 5:02 AM May 28, 2009

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By Kathleen Wilcox

Good grief! What is it with gay subplots and soaps?

No one blinks an eye when gay characters crop up on prime time--Will & Grace's plot relied almost exclusively on the unique reality, horrors and joys of being an out and (mostly) proud homosexual in America today. Marc St. James is one of the most popular characters on Ugly Betty, and Reality TV would not exist with the gaggles of gay participants and judges in its ranks, but there seems to be some sort of mysterious consensus among some of our country's crazier contingent that the hours between 9 am and 4 pm should be devoted exclusively to depictions of straight luurve.

When Bianca and Reese got hitched on All My Children, CNN covered the story with as much breathless enthusiasm as it does the latest behind-the-scenes machinations in Congress over the federal bailout of the auto industry. And the right-wing religious nuts couldn't wait to release a statement on the subject: "I think it is really important to understand that there are a lot of things that people don't really want to see and don't want coming into their homes, and lesbian weddings are certainly one of them," Glenn Stanton of the group Focus on the Family told CNN. Fans didn't react much better.

(Something to keep in mind in the midst of the madness: The actual portrayal of gay characters during Daytime TV has improved dramatically. One of the first gay subplots, aired in 1977 on Days of Our Lives, involved Sharon Duval confessing her Sapphic desires to Julie Williams, who responded by running screaming from the room).

The latest nonsense is happening backstage. The Young and the Restless has waved goodbye to Chris Engen, who allegedly left the soap in a huff when he found out his character (Adam Wilson) was involved in an upcoming same-sex storyline. (He would have had to kiss a boy. Cooties!) A source on set told TVGuide Canada that "Chris hasn't been happy for a while. He doesn't like the dark direction his character is taking. He's called in sick a lot recently and has been taking a slew of meetings with Y&R's [executives] to discuss his future on the show." Michael Muhney will reportedly take over his slot.

Engen refutes the rumors and issued a statement that reads in (large) part:

"I want to apologize to any of my fellow actors who I may have disappointed. I would also like to apologize to those of you who feel slighted by this choice, as I have been branded a 'homophobe' by several members of the press.

This is, of course, absurd and many of my dearest friends are homosexuals who would be more than happy to speak on my behalf. ... True -- I was not comfortable with many of the challenges they presented before me, but I put my head down and did my job. ... I believe that as an actor, and as a human being, I deserve better than to be forced to do something that I don't feel is right on many levels, and that should have nothing to do with the choices that other people make.

My visage and my craft were being utilized to tell a story that I wasn't inspired to tell. I have a great deal of respect for the show in general and all those hard-working people who make it possible, and it is out of respect for them and a sense of duty toward them that I asked to be removed from my duties.

I know this doesn't conform to contract stipulations and it is regrettable that my personal feelings came into conflict with that precedent, although I don't think that would have ever been the case if what was being requested of me was not unprecedented."

The object of Chris/Adam's future affection (and now Michael/Adam's) is Rafe Torres, portrayed by Yani Gellman. The actor told Out.com that while he wasn't aware that a gay plot was in his future when he signed onto the gig, he's totally "cool with it."

GLAAD someone is!

Soap Box: New (Old) Birth Mix-up on GH?

Posted at 5:01 AM May 21, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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Soap operas have never shied away from taboos - in fact, most shows are a hilarious funhouse mirror of the 10 Commandments. Though shalt not kill? Though shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife? Pshaw!

That's nothing.

We've got evil clones, embryo swaps, incest and vampires to contend with ... and yes, the fact that Luke Spencer may have unwittingly unleashed a Cassadine onto the world's stage. Gasp! Birth switcharoos revealed decades after the babes have bounced to earth are always a last-minute, lazy plot twist that fans love to hate - and guaranteed to set the May sweeps on fire. General Hospital is pulling a Stork-over in the form of the lovely Holly Sutton.

That's right folks. Hold onto your hats because rumor has it, she's a Cassadine! (An official aristocrat; descendant of Mikkos, the man who plotted to freeze Planet Earth; relative of chronic kidnappers and keepers of children in basements and nefarious plotters; etc.)

And if Ethan is Luke Spencer's spawn and the H-bomb is in fact a Cassadine - she apparently has some sort of "proof" - that would mean Luke sired a Cassadine. When Helena returns early next month, we'll find out more. Until then, set the fan forums on fire with your ire. I'll see you there!

Soap Box: Twice the Pleasure

Posted at 6:05 AM May 14, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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Summer is often the steamiest season for soaps with more sex, skin and scandals than I can shake my clicker at. And if the latest rumors are true, we are in for two sizzling pieces of oldie-but-oh-so-goodie sets o' eye candy to ogle at. Let's get this party started!

As all rabid Young and the Restless fans know, Lily and Cane are ZOMG getting hitched this Friday! And word on the street is, the drool-worthy Thom Bierdz (he used to play the character Phillip Chancellor III and in real life, he's currently pursuing his other major passion, painting, swoon). Why it may be true: Cane is supposedly in for a shockaroo on his big day - nothing like bringing back the man who was killed off in a car accident five years ago (though he briefly revisited Y&R as a ghost) and who also lived as the groom (yet another confusing baby switch subplot) until his untimely death! I hope he strides dramatically down the aisle mid-ceremony brandishing DNA evidence of his legitimate status as Jill and Philip II's son.

Oh and Rick Hearst, who was bounced from his semi-permanent post on General Hospital as Sonny's bro Ric Lansing has been snagged by the Bold and the Beautiful to play Whipple "Whip" Jones - a role he had for a few short months in 2002 before being fired by B&B and being poached by GH. Damn, the behind the scenes showdowns between writers, actors and producers must be as intense (but most likely without the glamorous negligees, four-inch alligator-skin heels, tumblers of Scotch and ozone-defying 'dos. I hope.) as the shows themselves - wonder no more from whence this wacky scribes derive their inspiration, Dolls.

Soap Box: Villainous Days FAIL

Posted at 6:00 AM May 07, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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No no no no no!

Days of Our Lives' Stefano DiMera (aka the Phoenix - because he rises from the ashes again and again, usually when ratings are down and writers give in to Joseph Mascolo's probably outrageous, but certainly justifiable contractual demands) is the ultimate soap villain. He has faked his own death 11 times, only to come back to haunt Salem again (with more hair, a bigger gut and shinier suits). Stefano has kidnapped and turned countless characters "evil," most notably, and laughably, Roman, Marlena, Hope and John.

The man is a delicious grotesquerie; a freak of nature; the Prince of Darkness personified; a walking (okay, waddling) reign of terror whose M.O. is kidnapping, talking in a creepy and unidentifiable accent, brainwashing, mustache-and-beard stroking, drug dealing, cackling, murder, publishing, organ theft, forgery, deceit and displaying a disturbing penchant for purple ties.

Dude's had mysterious tumors, suffered kidney failure, risen from irreversible comas ... and now ... he has ... diabetes? WTF writers?! Can't you think of a better (read: more glamorous/scandalous/gross disease, like, I don't know Swine Flu?) ailment with which to temporarily foist him from the set? This lame turn of events is most likely the inevitably half-baked result of market research ... some sort of bizarre attempt at a sensitive PSA designed to showcase NBC's sensitivity toward the increased prevalence of diabetes in America. That's great! Really!

But, seriously folks, diabetes?

Soap Box: Behind-the-Scenes Fun With Typecasting

Posted at 6:00 AM Apr 30, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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I often wonder what soap stars, producers and writers' personal lives are like. What you do from 9-5 (or these days, 5-9) often ends up determining who you hang with, what you do when you're hanging, who you hop into bed with - essentially, it defines who you are.

Finance types tend to frequent rah-rah bars with overpriced cocktails populated by beaming, dancing, drink slinging, high-maintenance, buttoned up pretty people who invariably also work in finance (or aspire to marry someone who does) that get as raucous (some might say obnoxious) as the trading floor during a panicked sell-off; creative types tend to frequent smelly dive bars with $2 Pabst specials populated by sullen, dancing, drink slinging, low-maintenance, unbuttoned pretty people who invariably also do the art thang (or aspire to hop into bed with someone who does) that get as raucous (some might say obnoxious) as an art gallery 12 hours before a big opening.


So do soap folks spend their Friday nights in bedazzled outfits bitch-slapping each other, guzzling whiskey on the rocks and swapping partners Dosey Doe? Maybe not, but it seems they're incapable of leaving their penchant for high drama on the set - and they all seem just as content to be typecast as villains and heroes in real life too (especially the folks at The Young and the Restless, God bless 'em):

The Hothead

Nia Peeples recently excoriated co-stars and execs in an interview with BlogTalkRadio Among her complaints: head writer Maria Arena Bell's failure to take or return her calls; fellow star Kristoff St. John's lack of preparation ("he won't remember dialogue") and the lack of juicy scenes during her year-and-a-half stint on Y&R ("I've only had about a handful of really good scenes). Don't hold back, Nia; I'm sure industry execs will be psyched to work with a fired actor who doesn't just set bridges on fire - she bombs 'em!

The Delusional Ditz:
Emmy winner or no, Bryton McClure keeps coming up as being ripe for the chopping block. As rumors that he's already off contract at Y&R float ominously about, McClure has reportedly been doing double duty as an actor and a professional spin doctor, contacting websites personally to assure them that he isn't in fact leaving (but word on the webz is, he just hasn't been told and CBS is staying suspiciously mum on the subject).

The Martyr:
The happiest case of theatrical spill-over: former Y&R actress Victoria Rowell (Drucilla Winters) and current scribe is playing the role of do-gooder by reaching out foster children in honor of National Foster Care Month. Hopeful writers can attend the workshop called "Writing Gives My Heart Wings" that she's holding on May 2 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in L.A.

That's the kind of extracurricular drama I can get behind!

Soap Box: Time to Get on Mine and Wag My Finger to-and-fro

Posted at 6:00 AM Apr 23, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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I usually abandon my generally lefty politics (as well as my pride, common sense and disdain for skunky highlights) when tuning into my stories, but it's tough to do that when plot lines get all up in my grill with their own highly subjective world view.

Take All My Children, for example. Now I'm all about Bianca. I think it's fabulous that soap writers have taken it upon themselves to drag viewers kick and screaming into the 21st century as the country's moral compass naturally evolves and its concept of what constitutes a traditional American family changes: namely, a happy couple who are together because they love each other, gender be damned.

(Incidentally, soaps have been partially credited for the gradual - but at this point quite clearly mainstream, Holla Obama! - normalizing of relations between people of various hues and creeds.)

Other AMC fans haven't been as thrilled with the Bianca and Reese's (temporary) factory o' bliss. AMC's head writer, Charles Pratt, Jr., has claimed that the love story was swiftly curtailed (their marriage was annulled about 2.2 seconds after they said their vows when Bianca found out that Reese smooched Zach the night before their big day) because Eden Riegel (Bianca) was leaving the show without his knowledge - and by the time he became aware of the situation, it was deus ex machina time. The fans weren't altogether pleased with the way the Sapphic romance played out. Check out this (hilarious) video that fans posted re: the Bianca debacle.

Disturbingly, Soapcentral.com recently posted a poll about the Bianca storyline: 58% voted that the storyline failed "because viewers don't want to see lesbian stories"; 26% voted that the show "did a disservice to same-sex unions with this storyline" with only 1% voting that "the storyline played out like any other soap story" (the remaining votes went to aisle-straddlers).

(Incidentally, when story lines starring black people and - gasp - interracial couples came out, many viewers also predictably flipped their wigs and whined about it. But now no one thinks twice - when Sami Brady hooked up with Brandon Walker on Days of Our Lives, we were all too busy wiping the drool off our collective chin to get jazzed about the sociopolitical implications OMG what about the children!)

Bottom line: like it or not, it's high time for mainstream gay romance to be portrayed in a respectful light (which, hasty exit aside, AMC accomplished). That alone should win over a few new fans to replace the old fans who are defecting because they "don't want to see lesbian stories."

NB: Riegel's coming back on April 24 to go to gay Paris ... with Reese!!!!! Whoopeeeeeee!

Soap Box: They're Creepy and They're Kooky, Mysterious and Spooky

Posted at 6:00 AM Apr 16, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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Did you ever have a week in which every abominable, irritating, creepy and vaguely menacing individual you've known since middle school emerges from their little corner of the primordial ooze to taunt and badger you? Long forgotten feuds, co-workers from a half page past on your resume, long-lost third cousins and deadbeat neighbors of your 9th-grade soccer team captain, Betsy, all come knocking at your (usually virtual) door at once with various and sundry inappropriate requests and demands, sending you (if you're me) running for the sweet relief of your daytime stories.

This week, unfortunately, there was no relief from the ick on the idiot box. In fact, my favorite soaps seemed to be brewing up a veritable bubble bath of scummy behavior, making the bizarre blasts from the past I've been contending with look like kitten confetti in comparison.

To wit:

EVIL RAPIST KIDNAPPERS FROM YE OLDE FRAT HOUSE

On One Life to Live, Zach, is back in town to glean money from the poster child for unsavory ruffians everywhere, Todd. While both were responsible in some way for Marty's rape, Zach can't let go of the fact that he spent several years in prison while Todd lived "the good life" on the outside. Looks like it could be back to the big house for Zach-he's kidnapped Cole and Starr! Genius move, Zach. (And, natch, the freakazoid employed the uber-spooky/cheesy line "Twinkle, twinkle, little Starr" when Todd's daughter entered the room before launching his evil, sure-to-fail revenge plot).

HE STALKS, HE BALKS ... HE'S ... GROOMZILLA!
I love it when typical gender roles are given the ol' fliparoo, but this is taking it a bit far. On Days of Our Lives, E.J. has donned his princess wedding tiara and he's not going to give it up without a fight (preferably with a lot of biting and scratching)! (Never mind the fact that his bride-to-be's fam won't be attending the festivities, she's a lying sociopath and drunk and baby snatcher oh my). But like a heavily medicated David's Bridal model, E.J. is in Zombie mode, alternatively accusing Nicole of harboring feelings for other men, pledging his undying devotion to her bleach-blond behind, flipping his overheated lid when she, er, switches pediatricians without telling him, and threatening to "call the whole thing off!" unless he gets his fancy pink ballerina way RIGHT NOW!

RAIDERS OF THE BURIED SKELETON
We all have 'em, and that goes double for soap stars--quadruple if you're Erica on All My Children. David is now dangling the fact that he "saved" Kendall and Ian in front of her frozen-in-horror (not Botox! not Botox!) face and brandishing an unnamed, filthy skeleton from her past as blackmail for the D.L. on Adam. Erica, spineless as always in the face of personal humiliation, immediately gives up the goods, spilling that Krystal and Adam had recently had it out, with Adam emerging from the tussle in victory. David intimated that he isn't done with Erica yet ....

Hey, soap opera writers! How about giving us some love next week? Literally! A few plots that involve bodice ripping/galloping on white steeds down abandoned, strangely rose-strewn beaches/fruity drinks? Spring break! Spring break!

Soap Box: Oh Noes. Trouble in Paradise on ATWT

Posted at 7:00 AM Apr 09, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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I don't know about ya'll, but this week has been a doozie for me. But Thursday is here, the long weekend (yay Easter/Passover/Other Relevant Religious Rituals Occurring This Weekend That Tangentially Involve Stuffing Massive Amounts of Food and Candy Into My Mouth) is nigh, and the soaps are here to scrub away any remaining icky bits of stress and grime benumbing my addled mind. So hey, if you think your relationship is hitting the skids, join me, flop back and flip on the idiot box for a little dramatic relief.

This week, I'm turning to As the World Turns, the hookup dysfunction junction du jour.

And ZOMG you guys. Just when things were looking up for young, tragically embattled lovebirds Parker and Liberty (after their attempt to run away to Cali was stymied by their meddling folks, Parker found out that if he got hitched, he'd finally have access to his trust fund), their relationship, financial status and future as an uber-couple are in serious jeopardy!

First, let's back up a sec. When the P-man found out that marriage was the ticket to an Easy Street paved in gold, he immediately proposed to Liberty, as one does, when one is a greedy, narcissistic bastard. She accepted, as one does, when one is desperate for love no matter how polluted the source. A judge gave them the go-ahead to get hitched, despite their tender ages (Parker's 16, she's 17).

But, alas, the temporary bliss that only cold hard cash and model good looks can buy has been cruelly shattered by "reality." After spending a honeymoon totally penniless (it's complicated), the gruesome twosome needed cash - bad (how else to maintain their illusory bliss)? So Parker steals a wad o' green, almost goes on trial for robbery, gets the charges dropped, gets Craig appointed as his trustee so he can access his cash (a plan that royally backfires; Craig refuses to give up the goods when Parker requests access to his millions) ... and the gruesome teenage twosome move in together (finally!) in Milltown. Let's just say their first weeks of living together haven't exactly been filled with the nubile bliss fairy tales and rom-coms are made of.

Crazy coinkydinks aside, Parker's selfish, combative streak is threatening to slash the already partially tattered blue skies of their felicity like an unexpected thunderstorm over a no-rain-date picnic in the park. I know, it's totally shocking that a 16-year-old dude with a (frozen) trust fund would attempt to cruelly assert control over his new bride who he married, evidently, for his money, not her honey.

There is NO WAY this marriage is going to work for more than five minutes unless Parker gets his cash money - and Craig is a tough nut to crack. He gave Liberty a little tour of a local college campus as a way of reminding her of what she'd be missing out on if she stays strapped to her increasingly mendacious ball and chain.

Whew! That was a workout. If you need me I'll be in the kitchen treating myself to some Cadbury Cream Eggs.

Soap Box: Scandalous De-sudsing at CBS and the Top 5 Fan Reactions

Posted at 1:00 PM Apr 02, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

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The best way to forget your own drama, mama, is to revel in someone else's far more scandal-ridden life. And if you don't happen to have any relatives, co-workers or close pals who have accidentally made out with their siblings, gotten knocked up by their vilest enemy (in disguise!) at midnight on a tempest-strewn beach in what was the most memorably passionate moment of their life, discovered they were angels or attempted to poison their alcoholic fourth husbands by stuffing perfumed kitty litter into their martini-olives every night, well goshdarnit, that's what soap operas are for!

Over here at the Soap Box, we will generally devote this space to keep you abreast (con heaving breasts) of the most ridiculous and sublime plot twists in soap land. However, this inaugural entry is devoted to a suds-related news item so calumnious, so disgusting, its existence can't, nay -- shan't! -- be ignored!

CBS is foolishly putting the kibosh on Guiding Light - the oldest dame on the airwaves, and just a year after giving her a radical facelift. The beloved soap, created by Irna Philips in 1937 after giving birth to a stillborn baby when she was 19 years old and finding inspiration for the tearjerker in the on-air sermons of Preston Bradley, will go dark September 18.

Sob!

The show was responsible for such knuckle-whitening story lines as the love-hate tug o' war between step-sibs/spouses Roger and Holly; Dr. Daniel St. John's murder of his former sister-in-law, Jean Weather, by clapping her in the noggin with a plate she gave him, and Hurricane Katrina. The writers also dragged the specter of post-partum depression, sexual harassment and abuse in all forms out from the shadows, helping countless women grapple with their own demons and realize that, hey, it could always be worse.

During its 72-year run the show garnered 69 Daytime Emmy Awards.

Unsurprisingly, fans are freaking the F out -- here the awesomest reactions from various and sundry online forums (NB: we do not take any responsibility for posters' grasp of grammar and/or punctuation and/or basic spelling):

5. "my first instinct to this news is that it is an april fools joke.

and if by some fluke it actually is true, you're all a bunch of idiots for picking april first to make such an announcement. that's like advertising 101. you don't make branding announcements on april first, because no one is going to believe you.

so...

if it's true, you're jerks for announcing it today.
and if it's not true, then everyone who believes you was a jerk for believing such a story on april fools day."
-- "daunteculpepper"



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