The scourge of Cincinnati strikes again

If you thought that the cancellation of the last of our beloved shows meant that P&G….sorry, Telenext, would never confound, anger or confuse you again…..

……well, it’s 2020, folks.

Apparently, P&G or related entities are making copyright claims on YouTube videos.

And so hours of our beloved shows – our last connections to these ignored and forgotten hours – are disappearing.

Deleted. During a freakin’ pandemic, when old memories might be the most comforting thing on the Web.

Pissing the fans off since…..well, forever

I understand that this is intellectual property, and there’s a legitimate claim to be made on this content.

But P&G/Telenext has all but let these archives die on the vine. They’ve shown zero interest in getting this content to us in any monetized way.

It’s not that the framework to do it doesn’t exist, since they managed to get the content playing in China not long after the ax fell.

No one would be happier than me if P&G ended up putting together an online archive, similar to what WatchTheDoctors is doing.

But despite a few smart and hardworking people behind the scenes, the company’s overall decisions regarding these shows has mostly confused or annoyed me, as well as other fans. So I’m not optimistic.

Hoping we learn more soon….before the last of our memories just slip completely away.

Brava for Beverlee

I haven’t had much to say here lately – busy freelance projects plus a somewhat cross-country move in the midst of a pandemic (0 stars out of five, do not recommend).

But the news of the latest Locher Room reunion brought me to (happy) tears this morning, and I’ll be there with bells on.

Edited to add: You can see the entire episode here.

AND….

I’d heard from a source or two that there might be a forthcoming book about Beverlee, and that book was confirmed at the end of that episode.

Patrick Dilley, a professor at Southern Illinois University with an extensive background writing about queer theory and women in education, is the author. I can’t wait to read it!

Et tu, Quibi?

Not much to say these days, but before I go off on an extended journey again, a quick note about Quibi.

I’d meant to make this post months ago when Quibi was first announced; it’s both a surprise and not a surprise that it would flame out, burn and crash so quickly.

But the main idea percolating in my head about Quibi was this: why didn’t they develop a few soap operas?

And no, not just because I’m a fan of the genre.

Think about it.

Quibi needed content that would be habit forming, that would make users subscribe and return to the platform on a regular basis.

We hardly knew ye, Quibi!

Serialized storytelling would have been a great hook. Especially if the deep pockets at Quibi had paid talented writers and actors, and cut back on network interference.

Irna Phillips was navigating a relatively new (to the masses) medium when her soaps were on TV in the 1950s, and quite a few soaps in those days crashed and burned before the ones we watched for years took flight.

Quibi could have programmed a mix of old content and new.

Exciting new shows by new writers and creative minds, for sure.

And I would have welcomed 10 to 15 minute increments of [fill in the blank of any P&G show here] and I bet AMC and OLTL fans would do the same for their beloved shows.

Sadly, the platform itself has already crashed.

There *has* to be some way for people to make money, create art, employ writers and actors and do so on a scale that works and attracts an audience.

But the soap genre still hasn’t yet figured out that formula. Luckily, people creating and producing web soaps are still tinkering under the hood!

A brief note

Hello, everyone – haven’t had too much to say recently but I’ll continue to post now and then…..

*IF* I can access this blog – WordPress is rolling out changes that may take the simple editor I’ve used for years and make it more complicated to post. So stay tuned…..

To Texas!

Somehow, despite being a dedicated Another World watcher (with mom), I never became hooked on Texas.

I do seem to recall watching the first few episodes. Beverlee McKinsey’s Iris was there, of course, and I think there may have been an appropriate ooh and aah at seeing her name in the show’s opening, with the “Starring” billing.

It was summer, so I know I checked out those first few episodes, but that was about it.

I know later on, after McKinsey left, it seemed to have a very dedicated group of fans, and that many were upset at what they felt was a premature cancellation.

I also know that Guiding Light has an irrevocable bond to that show, since GL gained a producer, head writer and several actors when Texas ended.

I never had a chance to see any of the later run of Texas, or those final episodes – but I caught them recently on YouTube, and was blown away.

A few of them had me in tears. Those episodes are all heart, and all Pam Long. Truly ALL Pam, as she was writing and acting in those shows!

Her time at GL had plenty of that heart, perhaps tampered down just a bit by executives or the network – but on these episodes of Texas, it was a full on schmaltzfest (and I LOVED it).

A return of a lost loved one, the connection between mother and child, a child born at Christmas and yes, even a reading from the book of Luke (the same one that Linus reads to Charlie Brown)!

As another Texas-based show would later say: clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

I watched these last month – almost 38 years after they were filmed – and it was far too late for a spoiler alert. I’d heard years ago what happens in those final episodes (well, one part, anyway, where a certain Mary-like figure returns home).

And still, the impact was quiet moving. The last few minutes of Part One had me sobbing.

To Texas!

Happy birthday, Beverlee McKinsey!

Sunday marks what would have been Beverlee McKinsey’s 85th birthday.

I knew it was somewhere in early August and just searched to see when, and was greeted in my search by a recent article, published in a newspaper in McAlester, Oklahoma – Beverlee’s home town.

The article even features Beverlee’s yearbook photo. So lovely. You can see the whole article here. 

I shared my memories of Beverlee and her work five years ago to mark what would have been her 80th birthday. Her work is remembered and her talent is appreciated still today.

The next stage for serialized storytelling

The screen may change, but the story remains the same.

I really enjoyed The Locher Room‘s session with soap writers last week. I love learning about the nuts and bolts of making a show as much as I love the end result, and it was great to see Jill Lorie Hurst, Jim Brown, Millee Taggart, David Kreizman and Courtney Simon talking about their time as GL writers.

There was a moment near the end when Alan asked the writers if they’d ever wanted to create their own soap.

They weren’t exactly stumped, but there was silence, and the general reaction was: where would it play?

Certainly, the chances that a network would take on a daytime soap again is between slim and none. (I’ll get back to this later.)

We are at around the ten year mark (astonishingly, surprisingly) from when all four remaining New York soaps left the air.

There are people working hard to take the format and make it work on other platforms.

I’m not as familiar with web soaps as Roger Newcomb, who has done a beautiful job promoting new series, and supporting creative excellence with the Indie Series Awards

In the beginning, many web soaps were getting their sea legs and finding their way in the new platform. Acting and production choices had to be adjusted or modulated. Some shows had five minutes of content and seven minutes of opening and closing credits!

I’ve checked out several shows, including Anacostia, Venice and After Forever.  I also loved the show Weight, a pilot featuring Martha Byrne.

I think writers and creators have figured out the beats, and the scope, and the engaging stories for a web series or similar format.

What no one has figured out yet…..is how to make it work, or be worthwhile, financially.

Venice might have been successful at breaking even or making a profit, since it was sold by subscription.  (Definitely welcome any information on this from those in the know.)

Beyond that, many shows have had backers, crowdfunding, or were able to be done on a wing and a prayer – and the creator’s own money.

________________________________________________________________________

We’ve been hearing a LOT about the Quibi platform lately. It launched recently – in the midst of a pandemic – and a recent Vulture article does a deep dig on the behind the scenes power struggles, as well as Quibi’s content choices.

The intended demographic is, as elsewhere, a young crowd with disposable income. Quibi apparently stands for “quick bites” and the content playing on the platform is in the ten to fifteen minute range.

I’m wondering why there aren’t, and weren’t, any soap operas on Quibi. It seems like a no-brainer to me – an opportunity to develop content that drew viewers back multiple times a week, and got them hooked on a story.

Quibi may survive its bumpy launch – the owners have some deep pockets – but it may be another platform to think about for similar stories.

Yes, I loved the hour soaps and the languid pace of its storytelling, but the same kind of work could be done, and cut into eight to ten minute segments.

As I mentioned above, the networks are riding their existing soaps to the finish line. It is unlikely any new soaps will ever be seen on network TV. I mean, broadcasting TV like NBC, CBS and ABC may themselves drastically change in the next decade; it’s likely that all three will stop broadcasting or limit programming, and send viewers to a streaming channel with a monthly fee.

Soaps were running on a strict model of same time, same channel for so many years, but I look at something like HGTV, where so often, content is repeated frequently before unveiling a new episode. It’s what networks should have been doing with soaps for years, re-running them at night or on weekend omnibus airings, like EastEnders does in the UK.

The industry is STILL tinkering with some of the technical and financial elements to continue this kind of storytelling into the 21st century.

There are ideas like Quibi floating around, but there are still other pieces of the puzzle as well; as we learned from the Prospect Park production fiasco, content providers also have to, y’know, PAY those writers, actors and crew members.

Let’s hope we can still have programs with intelligence, heart and love – not just romantic love, but the love of close friends and of family, of knowing that you’re home….or knowing that, when you’re lost, that light in the window will guide you to where you need to be.

 

Irna Phillips: All hail the queen

I didn’t see this when it originally appeared a few months back – I’m grateful to my friend (and Phillips expert) Lynn Liccardo for sharing this with me.

Appropriate that in a view of 100 women over 100 years, Irna Phillips would be recognized for her contributions.

The article (well, a short summary) can be found here.

And what a great illustration!

Irna Phillips in TIME.

Soaps and sources

A lovely library magazine rack – unlikely to feature Soap Opera Digest.

Dedicated soap fans can be real pros at discussions – from the old RATSC boards at Google to the controversial boards at Television Without Pity and beyond, there always seems to be discussion spots for soaps (classic and current).

There are a few really popular ones out there, especially at some of the bigger soap blogs and news sites.

I still occasionally check out an LGBT themed message board I discovered a few years back, when I saw a lot of visitors to this blog from that site.

It often has a dedicated thread related to P&G shows, and a few weeks back, one poster was arguing with another about a claim neither could substantiate.

“Where are your sources?” the accuser asked.

That particular person was a bit of an ass about their argument, and didn’t endear themselves to any of us reading the discussion.

But the whole thing got me thinking about how hard it is to substantiate things that we’ve seen and heard.

I read every copy of Soap Opera Weekly that was ever published, from first to last, and almost every copy of Digest from around 1985 or so until a few years after GL and ATWT ended.

But there is no comprehensive online archive of either magazine. Some Tumblr accounts exist that share photos or covers, sure. A few transcripts of articles are out there, but it is a tiny number compared to the number published.

The kindest thing I can say about Digest’s existing website is that, well, it’s anemic. (To be fair, Digest is likely just trying to keep the doors open and the presses running, so it can’t take on a project like archiving its entire existence.)

I think there may be a small, small handful of libraries that carry some span of published issues, some kind of archive of one of those magazines, but they are few and far between.

Years ago, before I ever wrote for the Marlena blog or posted here, I read a piece in Digest about a writer at GL. It was a bit (in one of those middle of the magazine “roundup” type interviews) where he shared a small fact about his parents and their family tree.

That fact was, I thought, an interesting one to know based on a story GL had playing out at that time, and so I tried to add it to Wikipedia. But one of the editors there (also a soap fan) refused to allow its addition.

I understand why – I had no verifiable source. And I didn’t even have an issue number or approximate time frame to narrow down in locating the issue.

“Hello, Digest Back Issues? Can I borrow six months’ worth of…..Hello? Hello?”

Yeah, not happening.

I’m sure there are sources from private collectors and a library here and there. It’s a topic I should discuss with a few of the wise soap academics I know when I get a chance.

But the fleeting, temporary nature of a lot of the soap publications goes hand in hand, I suppose, with the way the suits at the networks saw soaps – fleeting, temporary space fillers.

The REAL story of soaps

The “real” Genoa City

Dear ABC and People

Hello! Hope you’re all safe and healthy.

How nice of you to think of us soap fans when you created The Story of Soaps special.

An A for effort. You tried, and we appreciate it. Some bits of it were nicely done.

But overall….well, I’m reaching for my most diplomatic language.

It might have been a fun Buzzfeed listicle-style schedule filler for you folks at ABC, but for some of us, it didn’t really hit the mark.

Or come anywhere near it.

But hey, next time you want to craft content about the history of soaps?

You should reach out to a journalist named Rose Schmidt.

She’s not a megastar reporter – not yet.

Rose isn’t, to the best of my knowledge, a big soap fan. I mean, it’s possible that her mom, grandma or aunt might have memories of their “story,” but she doesn’t say much about soaps on social media.

She’s relatively new in her field. She graduated from high school in 2013, attended journalism school, and has been working at TV stations in Wisconsin for the last few years.

And yet?

Somehow, with little knowledge of the genre, Ms. Schmidt turned in the best, most respectful piece of media on soaps I have seen….well, possibly in my entire damn life.

Somehow, against all odds, she turned out a piece of reporting that

  • Didn’t make fun of soaps or the fans who watched/watch them
  • Had a respectful tone
  • Didn’t connect the entire worth of the genre to nighttime shows, or who acted on a show before they won an Oscar, etc.
  • Didn’t ask unrelated figures for comment
  • Didn’t pass opinion on the genre or call a time of death for soaps

I mean, she even tied a local historical element into the story.  Milwaukee, you see, is near a little Wisconsin town you may have heard of: Genoa City.

(As for the soap connection to Lake Geneva, another nearby town about 90 minutes from Milwaukee, you’ll have to watch the video.)

There’s also a guest appearance by the always-excellent and knowledgeable Elana Levine, who released Her Stories earlier this year to great acclaim.

I’m being snarky, but it almost makes me want to cry how damn good this piece is. And at the risk of repeating myself, this reporter was not an expert.

And yet.

I’m sure ABC and People spent thousands to clear clips and produce a ninety minute (after commercials) special. It’s a shame that in just over 6 minutes, they got their asses kicked by a young journalist (and her much smaller production team).