The Bauer Barbeque

I’m sure it’s still happening this year, right?

Just remember to bring extra burgers. Rick’s grilling skills are almost as bad as his surgical skills.

 

Really, Alan, a sweater in the jungle? Style game on point, I suppose.

Alan-Michael couldn’t just hitch a ride with someone….

From 1990. So many familiar faces.

MARY STUART, people. Pay homage.

A few years later, in 2001. And more Mary!

And the final one *sob*.

Danny Boy

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 5.06.32 PM

Danny Boy? Sorry, I know Daniel Cosgrove is a grown man but I just had to slip some Maeve Ryan realness in there for a moment.

There’s some talk in the soap stratosphere that Daniel Cosgrove is leaving Days of Our Lives.

Thus far, it hasn’t been confirmed by the network, but a few reliable sources (here and here) have posted information, so it seems legit.

DAYS has been doing a massive reset on what seems like an annual basis for a few years now, and TPTB decided to go back to the Classic DAYS template again, so it’s understandable that newer characters might hit the road.

But I’m bummed for the show and bummed for Cosgrove.

Why?

I think he’s a really solid actor, a great fit for the soap medium, and has a great sense of humor.

I don’t want to pigeonhole Cosgrove in a comparison, but his humor, charm and handsomeness should mean a front burner role a la Nathan Fillion. I could totally see Cosgrove playing a Castle like character on any show, daytime or nighttime.

But for some reason, only his time on Guiding Light really captured that. His pairings with Crystal Chappell and Emme Rylan, in particular, were great showcases for that sort of crackling, humorous banter.

I didn’t have any solid sense of his Scott during his second go round at All My Children, and he was put into an unenviable position at the end of As The World Turns. He was tasked with redefining Chris Hughes, an oft-recast character who (a) had to woo the town’s, erm, best networked and most popular widow and (2) die for pretty much the last six months of the show.

His time as Aidan started off in a promising way; he and Kristian Alfonso had great chemistry, and Aidan seemed like a great antidote to the sadness of Hope coping with the end of her marriage to Bo. I was even hoping that the writers might bring in a sibling for Aidan, or in some way expand his family.

But the dead wife kinda put a kink in that. I think that story might have damaged his character, or derailed the rooting value for Hope and Aiden. And as soon as Peter Reckell’s return was announced….well, I suppose it was inevitable.

I’ve enjoyed Cosgrove’s work from GL forward. He was one of the many folks I met during my GL set visit in December 2008, and you could practically have made a show out of the backstage stuff he was doing.

Here’s hoping he lands on our screens again soon — day or night, small or big screens.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy seeing what happens next with Aiden — with a bit of wariness, hoping that they don’t destroy his character in the process.

The Moldavian Massacre Conundrum

Olivia Pope: STILL slaying.

Olivia Pope: STILL slaying.

A few weeks ago, I listed several prime-time or streaming TV shows in my “Steal This” series.

But one of my favorites — ABC’s Scandal — was not on the list.

I’ve long been a fan of the work of Shonda Rhimes. I think she’s hit on a great formula that mixes emotional narrative and tight, well-woven plot in a very heady cocktail, and clearly, with the success of Grey’s Anatomy and now Scandal, it’s been a recipe for success.

But I’m beginning to think Scandal has become a victim of what I’m now calling the Moldavian Massacre Conundrum.

Everyone loves a plot twist, and Scandal certainly gave us a lot of them.

But if you have a steady diet of OMFG moments, wig snatches and twists designed to make us clutch our pearls and gasp, the question then becomes: What’s next?

And often, it must be bigger, badder and uglier than the week before.

The Moldavian Massacre, of course, was the capper to an over-the-top season of Dynasty. And it begs an excellent question: If you have shot everyone in the damn room, or set everyone on fire, where on EARTH do you go from there?

Scandal had become addicted to the OMFG moments (or at least the ABC promo department had).

And indeed, where can it go next? Some people think Scandal’s season 4 ender was a bit of a letdown, but I think it was an inevitable reset for a new direction.

I don’t know if it could sustain the pace it had been at before. Who is the “white hat?” Every major character has blood on their hands of some kind: Olivia, Fitz, Mellie and Cyrus, for sure. Huck has killed more people than most armies.

I get that this is not a story where people hold hands and sing “Kumbaya,” but who the hell do you root for in this scenario? Even the most anti of antiheroes (or heroines) must have some basic rooting value for the audience to give a flip.

Olivia’s parents, played by fantastic actors, are both responsible for hundreds of deaths. It’s hard to have them sit at the dinner table after that, you know?

Fitz ordered an invasion of a country for Olivia (now, talk about a narrative stretch).

I was a longtime Grey’s Anatomy fan, but that show experienced some of the same issues. It became a huge tragedy porn-fest. The guy that shot up half the hospital — that was fun. What made me stop watching was the plane crash. To have to watch that happen, and the aftermath, was just too much for me.

Yes, it’s fiction, but if I wanted to watch incessant ugliness, loss and death, I can watch the news for that.

And after I’d briefly stuck my toe in the water this year, another big tragedy played out with the death of a major character. I get that Rhimes is, by her own admission, ‘dark and twisty.’ But some of this seems repetitive.

It’s a problem that daytime faces, too. Some shows have had this issue, and General Hospital is certainly near the top of the list.

And now, Chuck “Chuckles the Clown” Pratt is blowing shit up and sending in the clowns — and doppelgangers — at The Young and the Restless.

Not everyone craves the type of intimate, slow-build storytelling that I love. I get that.

But there has to be some pacing and balance for any show, and a skilled writer who can weave story well and unmask someone at JUST the right time.

Because otherwise, if you set everyone on fire, what comes next? What has the narrative power to come next? And can you feed an audience’s bloodlust?

 

REFRESH: An elegy for Springfield

gl1952

NOTE: I haven’t done a reblog/Refresh post in a while, but this post from August 2009 seemed like a good one to repeat today.

None of this is news, but if you’re a newer viewer, or wanted to refresh your memory, here’s a good place to start.

AN ELEGY FOR SPRINGFIELD

I guess this is the fifth stage of death: acceptance.

This is an elegy I never wanted to write, for an old friend who’s slipping away as we speak.

Guiding Light, a story that outlasted Sheherazade’s 1001 Nights, a world war, twelve presidents, and the entire rise (and fall) of the radio and television industry, will cease to exist on our screens in a few weeks. The last scenes have been filmed. Except for a trickle of post-production work, GL no longer exists.

Much of what I’ll post in the next several weeks will be nostalgic remembrances about favorite actors, favorite storylines and favorite moments. But I wanted to take some time to talk about the last several years of GL.

To paraphrase Talking Heads: “And you may ask yourself…..how did we get here?”  In talking about the end, we need to go back to the beginning.

When I started to watch GL in the early 80s, I was hooked because it was the smart show. Granted, soaps are escapist and fun and “smart” is a relative term. But it WAS a smart show. Stupid choices were made and dramatic repercussions followed, but in general, the characters were intelligent, engaging, and had a point of view. They fantasized about classic films, quoted from literature and lived enviable lives. The stories flowed from who they were.

There were a few bumpy patches in the 80s, but through several head writer teams (the wonderful Marland years, Pat Falken Smith, Pam Long’s two tenures as head writer) that intelligence was a throughline for the characters and the stories.

Many of us remember the most recent “golden years” of GL, when Nancy Curlee and Stephen Demorest wrote the show in the early 90s. It was a smart, grownup show with characters of all ages entertaining us. Mature characters like Ed Bauer, Holly Norris and Roger Thorpe were squarely on the front burner.

And here’s what you really need to focus on and remember: In 1993, when GL was at its strongest creatively, CBS pulled its support of that classy, intelligent show. They pushed for changes to the show, changes that would make GL more attractive to younger audiences. And they withdrew their support when several of the CBS owned & operated stations switched GL’s timeslot to an unfavorable morning slot.

This directive had already been coming down from CBS for a few months. It undoubtedly was the catalyst behind killing the character of Maureen Bauer. It was the last time that GL was really on solid footing. And it was the last time CBS gave GL the support that it deserved. Compare 1993 to 1994, when the show became almost unwatchable (with only the Vanessa/Matt story gaining any interest).

Another World, another long-running P&G soap, ended in 1999 after 35 years. But it had been starved of stability for many years before its demise. It was undoubtedly at its finest during the Rauch/Lemay years, and it had several years of solid story in the early 80s, when the Love family and Carl Hutchins ruled the canvas, and during the Donna Swajeski years.

But after those periods, it was painful to watch AW. It went through a revolving door of head writers and executive producers. Every time a new producer or writer would come onboard, characters would come and go, actors would come and go. There were a few stable characters (Rachel, Cass and Felicia) but you could watch AW and not recognize it a few months later.

After a while, that instability just killed AW. It wasn’t one producer, one writer or one story that did AW in. There was no single “show killer.” But every time those changes came, a few thousand viewers stopped watching.

To a degree, the same happened with GL. When CBS changed its support of GL from solid support to conditional support back in ’93, that’s when the changes started coming. Frequent writer changes, even during the years that Paul Rauch was EP.

And the show’s narrative was radically changed. GL was so schizophrenic for so many years, with stories that didn’t complement each other. You’d have a few minutes of Classic GL with a character like Phillip or Harley or Reva….and then the next scene was about the Mob. There was no cohesiveness.

One of the biggest losses of stability came in 2005 when budget cuts forced GL to cut several veterans from the cast. And though the Jonathan and Tammy story was engaging and attracted a lot of new viewers in the “right” demographic, it made many long-term viewers throw up their hands in retreat. And when those characters left Springfield, so did the new focus of the show.

Again, I don’t think any one person, one writer or one producer was responsible for this loss of stability. What many people don’t realize is that CBS talked about canceling Guiding Light as early as 1995. That’s FOURTEEN YEARS of a corporate parent who put GLin hospice care and then looked at the clock and waited, if not willed, GL to die.

It’s easy to demonize and point fingers. But it’s hard for me to shift blame solely to, say, Barbara Bloom when reports have surfaced that she fought hard to keep GL on the air as long as she could.

I’ve said before in this space that I respect what Ellen Wheeler managed to accomplish with little support and an even smaller budget. As a fan of Eastenders (which is set on a permanent set and includes outdoor scenes) I said at the time that the new production model launched that I “got it” – I got what she was going for, and liked the idea. The execution of the idea was shaky at first (and some sets remain unpalatable to the eye), but the outdoor sets have been really appropriate this summer.

Clearly, however, the radical change in sets and surroundings was like an organ transplant – too much change for the audience to accept. Like the flood in Henderson that was the last stand for Search for Tomorrow, the new Springfield failed to catch on with the audience.

In my opinion, the weakest link for GL over the last several years has been the plot-driven writing. I’m not a fan of David Kreizman’s work. That’s the biggest question I have for Ellen Wheeler: Why did David stay HW as long as he did? (Answer: supposedly, someone higher up at CBS insisted on it.) I think Kreizman’s writing certainly made the show weaker, and that is something that Wheeler ultimately has to own – and answer why it happened on her watch.

The last several months have shown a return (too late, unfortunately) to more classic storytelling and classic characters. Grant Aleksander’s return as Phillip, and Phillip’s effect on the Spauldings, has been the most powerful and consistent story on GL for the last few months.

But this leads to my other question: We were hearing about Grant’s return, and Jill Lorie Hurst’s ascension to the head-writing team, as early as last fall. Why the hell didn’t this material (and the great Hurst-penned Otalia material) not kick in until January and February? I can’t help but think that with a few more months, and a bit more traction, April Fools would not have happened.  (Again, reports seem to suggest CBS has veto power over stories, and apparently the Phillip return and Coop’s death was the end result of months of back and forth – ergo the delay.)

The excellent Mimi Torchin interview with Maureen Garrett (which ran recently in Nelson Branco’s Soapgeist column)  underscored how severe the changes were to the show from where it had been before. Production had been stripped down to a bare minimum. So had most of the scripts.  And we’re seeing the same changes at ATWT.

We’re seeing the same changes everywhere, really. And though the actors and producers and writers work really, REALLY hard to minimize changes on our screen, they do affect what we see. Because the biggest effect is on the sense of community and connectivity that these shows have.

And perhaps that’s why I’m having a Zen moment now as GL comes to a close. There may be stories I still scratch my head at. Of all the story choices for Otalia…..they chose to make Natalia pregnant? And there was three days of mourning for Jeffrey O’Neill – a character that’s been around for all of six years and isn’t even dead – when Ross Marler, a character who was part of GL for 26 years, got 26 minutes a few years ago?

But I’m mostly happy about what’s happening. I am very happy, ultimately, that GL lived for an extra year or two, long enough for the story narrative to come back to where it is now (and away from Grady and nuCassie). I’m happy that many of the people I’m seeing on screen are acting…..well, like I expect them to.

And in so many scenes, I see community and connectivity. Love may save the world, but it’s a connected community of characters who create another world – or thousands of other worlds – that will keep us reading, watching and listening. Let other shows learn that lesson before all of these visual storybooks disappear like the Light.

Still missing the Light

What would appear in YOUR viewfinder, dear reader?

June 30th is the day, in 1952, that Guiding Light began its long, continuing story on television (after 15 years on the radio).

It’s been nearly six (!) years since it ended, and nearly five for As The World Turns, but I still miss watching those shows, and seeing those people.

And though my love for ATWT and GL is pretty equal overall, I’ve been drawn to GL clips on YouTube a lot lately.

(Not that this would be obvious if you looked at my Twitter page or the header at the top of this blog or anything….)

ATWT, particularly under Douglas Marland, was no slouch at telling stories with a lot of heart and a lot of love.

But what I often loved the most about GL was how it wore its heart on its sleeve.

So I’m serving you up some Christmas in (almost) July realness today.

If you don’t want to watch all of this clip, start at around 42:00 and catch the very end. (And the credits, too.)

I know that this is an era that is bygone; that this type of show is no longer made in New York City, that we’ll never see anything of that scale again, that the money and the sets and the cost of everyone involved is far out of reach.

Perhaps.

But the heart, the optimism, at the core of this story is what I’m missing these days.

Bring us all the darkness in the world, and an unlikeable antihero, if you must, but know that we’ll care about him, and all the people around him, if you have one person who sees the good in him, and believes in him, as Maureen Bauer saw the good in Roger Thorpe.

In this age of nihilism, I keep craving stories that show me the shared connections we have, the things that make us a little less lonely.

And I know those stories can be told, because I watched it happen for years.

It makes these words – appreciated by some, derided by others – take on a new resonance for me.

There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone.

All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.

(Oh yes, I went there!) 

Notes on a blog – the second time around

Same as it ever was....except, not.

Same as it ever was….except, not.

It’s been just over a month since I resurrected this blog.

This SO feels like when a favorite character leaves one of our shows…..and then returns five years later.

Everything’s the same, except…it isn’t.

I feel like I’ve been struggling to reclaim my character, as it were!

I still feel like I’m finding my voice, but I know that a lot of the things I’m thinking and the questions I’m asking are taking me away from the remaining four daytime shows. I think I’m really looking to see where we can tell stories next, and where people will hear us. Is that a web series? A new platform, like Netflix/Hulu/AppleTV?

I’m excited by the possibilities ahead, but am also kind of surprised at how little everything has changed since I originally put the blog on ice.

I’m surprised that web series haven’t gained more traction, or found other platforms where they can be shared. The evolution and development of these ideas hasn’t happened as quickly as I think many of us believed. Maybe it was the financial downturn, or possibly that old guard leadership didn’t understand the value of new pathways, but it’s still on a slow burn.

My posts may be even more nerdy and wonky than before. Maybe that’s a reflection of how I’ve changed since my original blog. I went back to school and earned a BA. I became fascinated by academic research into TV and into the ways we represent ourselves, our lives.

Or, if we’re members of minority groups, how the larger majority represents us on screen.

I really haven’t spent as much time on history, or on my old favorites (the P&G shows) as I had intended, but I’ll be doing some more of those types of posts, too.

Transitions: Another B&B post

bold-and-the-beautiful-spoilers-october-20-24-2014

Sorry, I’m a bit late on returning to The Bold and The Beautiful’s story about Maya, who we now know as a transgender woman.

It’s not exactly an apology, but I have to say, Rick and Maya’s conversation about it, which happened in late May, was a beautiful thing.

I mean, seriously beautiful.

(apologies for the shaky quality)

That was a surprise, and I applaud B&B for making that moment happen.

I still have reservations, as I expressed in my initial post, about the way it was all done. Even setting the But It’s A Soap factor aside, this was a lot of spectacle for something which shouldn’t be treated as a spectacle for our entertainment. It’s someone’s essence and someone’s life.

I will not back down from my criticism on that point.

I’m glad that this shows different textures in the characters of Rick and Maya – making the audience see their vulnerabilities – and I’m sure the upcoming scenes with Maya and her parents will also explore those themes.

But I think the way to really honor Maya as a character….is to allow her to be a flawed person. A bitch. Someone who makes things happen.

A recent TVInsider interview with Bradley Bell has him calling Maya the show’s “next leading lady.”

Let’s hope he means a new Stephanie, and not a new Hope!

But in all of the criticism, I do have to say that it’s phenomenal that Maya – a transgender woman of color – could BE that character on a daytime soap in 2015.

In an era where shows seem to either approach stories with extreme caution, or run to the other extreme and burn bridges for quick eyeballs, B&B’s commitment to the character and the story is a fine thing indeed.