I owe Roger Newcomb a huge apology.
You see, Roger gave me a DVD screening copy of Manhattanites, the movie he wrote and co-executive produced, a while back. I’m being vague and saying “a while” because it was an embarrassingly long time ago. No one needs to know HOW long ago (and Damon Jacobs, I’ll be in touch with you to arrange for payment of hush money).
I just have some sort of weird ADHD when I’m at home (versus a theater) that makes it a challenge to sit down and watch a movie. But last week, I finally saw Manhattanites.
The movie is both a self-contained story and also shares the same fictional world as Roger’s radio soap Scripts and Scruples. has a Altmanesque Short Cuts feel to it, with seemingly random characters’ lives intersecting. The tagline: “Are we living in mere coincidence?”
The star of Manhattanites, unquestionably, is the magnificent Ilene Kristen. Her performance as public relations diva Marilyn has it all – humor, bitchery and vulnerability that will just break your heart. Lev Gorn, who recently appeared on Guiding Light, plays Marilyn’s fiance Blake. Gorn is magnetic and utterly sexy. And Forbes March plays Matt Malone, a rising star in the art world and one of Marilyn’s clients.
There are other subplots (including a love triangle with Matt’s brother Todd that is refreshingly colorblind and cultureblind).
I really enjoyed the movie (it has a boffo surprise ending). If I had any comment about it at all – and I don’t mean this critically – it doesn’t “read” as a movie so much as it feels like chapter one of a continuing story.
Which brings me to my point: Why the hell hasn’t anyone in daytime hired Roger? He’s smart, he’s creative and talented. He’s got two radio soaps, a feature film and arguably the most comprehensive and timely blog in the soap blogosphere. You couldn’t ask for a more comprehensive resume or online calling card. What arm does he have to gnaw off to be hired?
And the bigger questions: Why aren’t soaps hiring any of the people who know them, love them, and respect their history? We all read Tom Casiello’s funny, thoughtful blog and cheered when he was hired at Y&R. Casiello’s work crackles on the screen and I think it’s no coincidence that Y&R is both regaining (or at least stopping the bleeding) in the ratings and is having a critical renaissance. I didn’t see Sara Bibel’s work on Y&R, but if her scripts are as sharp and insightful as her commentary, then some soap should snap her up.
I’ve only spoken to Roger a few times, but I’ve always been amazed at the reach of his creativity. (And I assume that’s not just because he’s, like, 6 foot 9.) There were a few times when I have talked to him that a shiver went down my spine, because Roger reminds me just a bit of Douglas Marland in terms of his thoughtfulness, his approach and how he sees character and story.
The difference is that in Marland’s day, there were open doors for new blood and the genre was still growing. Today, most soaps are in hospice care, cutting off limbs to sustain a meager existence for as long as possible.