Shiny happy people

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the miraculous news about the USAirways jet making an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York. 

But what’s struck me as being noteworthy – nearly as noteworthy as the wonderful news that everyone made it safely out of the plane – is how intense the reaction and response to this event has been. The pilot of the airplane has become a folk hero, with dozens of Facebook pages springing up in his honor. 

It occurred to me that we’re a nation that has, in the last decade, seen two wars, a host of catastrophic events (9/11 and Katrina being the two most visible examples) and a long, tenacious political campaign that bled nastiness and dissonance every day. AND the icing on the cake, of course, is the financial collapse that has had an enormous impact on nearly everyone. 

I think after all of that, people are ready to embrace a happy story like the story of Flight 1549. 

Of course, this had me thinking about the stories we see on daytime. I’ve been railing about the dark themes I’ve seen on all of the shows for years, particularly General Hospital, which to me always seems on the verge of venturing into snuff film territory (yes, an unpleasant thought but an accurate one) and often features darkness, misery and misogyny in heaping doses daily. 

Serial dramas live on conflict and challenges, but the most compelling shows leaven the high drama with an equal amount of joy – whether it’s romance or comedy. I’ve talked before about Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty here, and one thing I love about those shows – and miss about my daytime shows – is that they may all have drama, conflict, bitter enemies and the occasional homicide, but they ALSO each have humorous elements we see in every show, as well as loving, stable characters that fill the protagonists with joy. 

I’m not suggesting every show introduce an annoying Pollyanna character who skips around town talking about daisies, puppies and kitties. But it’s a simple equation – difficulties in life are leavened by humor and joy. Those feelings make us relax, bring us vulnerability and leave us feeling hopeful – or at least ready to fight the next battle. 

I hope some of the writing teams realize by the overwhelming response to this joyful story that a happy story – or a happy ending to a long, challenging path for characters – might just draw the viewers they’re targeting as much as those dark, depressing stories would.

3 thoughts on “Shiny happy people

  1. Well said. A small dose of humor never hurt anyone on daytime. I do laugh at some of the sarcastic lines that are said on various shows, though that can be more on the actor’s ability than the writer’s skill. But you make an excellent point in singling out GH for dark and dreary.

    I miss seeing on ATWT Lucinda’s witty banter with her dear Ambrose Bingham (William LeMassina died years ago; I assume they didn’t recast Ambrose…did they?). Was it Lurlene who was Josh Lewis’ secretary on GL? Though I don’t like Arlene Sorkin, even Calliope on DOOL was amusing, especially along with John DeLancie’s Eugene….and I’m sure I’m missing a ton more of the comedic/humorous characters.

    (Oh, and though I may get flamed for this, I found very little of Passions funny. It was such a gross parody of daytime to me that it went from having the potential of being funny to downright painful.)

  2. Tristan Rogers has said something similar in his blog. He argued that the GH Scrubs wedding was the kind of feel-good family-centered story that soap viewers craved…especially in this time of trauma. The idea is that soaps can offer that “take me away” moment…and the distraction can be good and heartwarming, and not just the usual soap Sturm und Drang.

    I’d add, to that, that the enormous ratings success of Oprah’s weight gain (“Best Life Week”) offers another template too…stories grounded in real, relatable tales. Soaps have occasionally featured heavier characters (e.g., Y&R’s Joann and later Traci, OLTL’s Marcie, GL’s Ashlee). There have been stories about weight loss too. But never has the real consequence of living with weight, taking it off, fluctuating really been told as an ongoing arc. This would NOT be boring. Many viewers would tune in to share the struggle with their beloved characters.

    The GH-ification of soaps that started in the 80s means that relatable human drama about relationships, family issues, and, yes, heroic moments of triumph all appear infrequently nowadays. But, I suspect, that if they were to return, many viewers would be more satisfied with their soaps.

  3. Patrick this blog entry made me giggle. The idea of someone going through a soap town skipping, while talking about puppies, daisies and kitties would be hilarious, but only if whatever show was doing this would be in on the joke. 🙂

    Bringing some levity while not undervaluing the material is a good thing. I think GH’s Spinelli for example is supposed to be that kind of character though since he works for Jason he may not be seen that way. Soaps in the past used to have a lot more of these kinds of characters like Ambrose and Wanda who worked for the Lewis family that Matt mentioned. GH had Lucy and her duck Sigmund. It used to be “normal” to have comedic characters on soaps, but other than a few exceptions we don’t get to see that too often and the regular characters tend not to make jokes or have fun very often.

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