Audacious list (3 of 10): Fear the Frankenshow!

To some degree, the first two things I mentioned on the Audacious List are things that have affected, or are affecting, other genres. (Primetime TV has gotten much better at diversity, though its treatment of female characters is schizophrenic.)

But the next issue on my list? Well, I think it may be completely unique to daytime. And let me say it again:
FEAR THE FRANKENSHOW! IT WILL FRIGHTEN YOU! SCARE YOU! IT WILL CHASE AWAY ALL FEMALE VIEWERS 18-49!

What do I mean by “Frankenshow”? In a nutshell: Almost every show on the air has been on for more than 30 years. In that time, those shows have operated under myriad writers, producers and network heads. And the older the shows get, the more those different creative forces begin to show. And when you have a show that tries to please fans from different eras and different storytelling styles, you have a show that doesn’t gel in a cohesive way. You have a schizophrenic narrative woven together from different fabrics. Ladies and gentlemen, the Frankenshow.

I swear, I do watch all of the shows. But I talk a great deal about “Guiding Light”, and it may be a perfect example of what I am talking about here. GL was especially guilty of being a Frankenshow a few years back. There was an odd division of the show: the traditional characters and stories in one segment, the Santos/mob stories in another segment, and San Cristobel in a third. It felt very much like three different shows, and many of us traditionalists hated it. (GL isn’t as guilty of this now. But then again, it’s because they fired half the damn cast and put everyone left in a field in New Jersey. The stories, such as they are, are at least creatively similar now.)

Most shows have had to serve these different masters. Most of them have not been hugely successful in doing so. But when I thought of the “Frankenshow” name for this syndrome, one very interesting piece of data leapt out at me. If you look at the shows with the least writer turnover, least turnover in production, and most consistency in terms of character, story and atmosphere…..you also have the two highest rated shows on the air (Y&R and B&B).

This would seem to be all the encouragement that creative forces at other shows would need to tweak their cast and their stories and try to make those different eras and different aspects of the show coalesce and work together. What several shows have done instead is take on a COMPLETELY new tone. Hey, it’s easier from the writer and the EP’s point of view to throw out the baby AND the bathwater and start fresh.

The obvious example here is General Hospital. GH tried to balance action/adventure and traditional soap for many years. The current writer and producer have largely abandoned that concept and have dramatically changed the TONE of the show. It is now a dark drama somewhere between film noir, The Sopranos, and Law and Order. (Closer to The Sopranos, no doubt, since the lawmen never prevail on GH.)

I think this will continue to happen as the shows continue to age. Some shows have managed it better than others. And it seems to be most noticeable when a cast member or member(s) leave and storylines shift. And I admit, this is just a theory – I have no data showing that this concept has decidedly affected ratings. But I keep thinking, how would you as a reader react if you were reading Gone With The Wind and suddenly, just as Scarlett was about to marry Mr. Kennedy, the book turned into On The Road? Or Watership Down? Bloody hell, you wouldn’t like it at all.

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2 thoughts on “Audacious list (3 of 10): Fear the Frankenshow!

  1. I think AMC is most guilty of this right now. I have never seen a show try so hard to please old viewers with fan faves returning (Angie & Jessie) and pillaging adult faves from other shows (Gus & Harley). At the same time, they make it IMPOSSIBLE for us to watch a whole episode with horrible stories (Ryan & R.Greenlee, Annie and whoever) and killing off decades of history (Julia, Dixie…). Throw in some terrible nubies and nauseous camera tricks and I’m out of there.

    Response: Damon, all great points.

    But I will say that as of this moment, Angie and Jesse’s reunion gets my vote for THE soap moment of the year, and perhaps the past few years. Whatever was in the water for those shows? AMC should bottle it and sell it for every other show! It was just beautiful beyond words.

    I’m still heartbroken about Beth Ehlers leaving GL. I don’t blame her, but it’s sad. I don’t know if I can watch her on AMC.

  2. Yes, Patrick, and you prove your own point. Angie and Jesse’s reunion was BEAUTIFUL and demonstrated what soaps could still be. Contrasted with everything else going on with AMC and it was like watching the ultimate FRANKENSHOW.

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