Another dose of Agnes

Thanks to Lynn Liccardo for mentioning this clip to me – it’s a recent post by Michael Fairman,  a well-known soap journalist.

This is, shall we say, the expanded remix of what Fairman produced as a memorial tribute for Agnes Nixon at this year’s Daytime Emmys.

It’s quite moving to see so many people get so emotional about Agnes and, really, about the passing of an era.

It’s a lovely clip. It gets a bit syrupy at the end – how very daytime! – but much of the clip has some very moving emotions and reactions, real and authentic words from many of the people who loved Agnes Nixon and owed her a debt of gratitude.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Fairman years ago, on that trip where Guiding Light invited a number of bloggers to see the new production model and somehow decided to invite me. Really nice work, Michael.

The joy of the season

I haven’t had a chance to watch Sense8 on Netflix yet, but someone posted a trailer to the show’s Season 2 premiere, which in Sense8’s case, will be a Christmas special. (Thank you, Lana Nieves, for sharing.)

I’m not familiar with the Wachowskis’ work – I know they did The Matrix movies and several other films and shows.

But I was struck by what Lana Wachowski says in the first few seconds of this video. She talks about “the intersection of my life with these fictional characters.” I love her explanation of stories with a viewer’s life, just as a fictional book can sometimes intersect and resonate in a reader’s life.

Lana lists a few TV shows with holiday specials that she remembers – and lo and behold, All My Children is on that list.

I loved what she said here. The holidays are special, and it was perhaps one of the times I loved most about any of the shows I watched.

As Lana Wachowski says in the video, the holidays can deliver a sense of togetherness for some, and underscore isolation for others.

And while the holidays are “special episodes,” they can be great ways to take the temperature of where all the characters are in any story.

Another World and As The World Turns certainly had memorable holiday shows – ATWT started at Thanksgiving with the Hubbard Squash, of course!

But I have to admit, I have the softest spot for Guiding Light and its holiday shows. Especially during the Pam Long years, where the story had a lot of unabashed heart (and, let’s be real, a bit of welcome cheese, too).

I mean, Saint Nick was a character. HELLO!

In 1988, Holly had just returned to town, and Phillip was trying to help Harley with Alan-Michael.

(The Phillip/Harley scenes were among several from that year where many of us saw chemistry between the characters and actors, a decade or so before they were actually paired.)

And then there’s the episode from the following year. Pay close attention to the end of the episode (from around 53:30).

Times change, styles change, and people change, and that’s undeniable. It’s been a rough year, and an angry one.

I wish we were telling more stories that didn’t turn to violence or ugliness as a default setting. I wish we had more stories with vulnerability and heart. Even if it’s a little cheesy.

At the holidays, we could all use a little cheese, and a lot of warmth.

Happy holidays, everyone!

POSTSCRIPT: For more holiday clips, check out this blog post from Alina Adams. Adams was a part of the P&G team for years, and wrote the Oakdale Confidential book, as well as several other P&G show-related titles.

Agnes Nixon: In tragedy and triumph

We learned Wednesday that Agnes Nixon died.

There’s not much I can tell you here that hasn’t been better said elsewhere. The New York Times published an excellent obituary.  Daytime Confidential and We Love Soaps have also paid tribute to Nixon. Many millions were impacted by the stories Nixon told, by the characters she created.

I had two thoughts when I heard about Agnes.

One was to really think about, and deeply appreciate, what she accomplished as a writer, as an artist. She rose from challenging beginnings and family tragedy and strife to become a successful working woman in the 1950s and 1960s, when such a thing was not common. Nixon was not just successful, but completely rocking it at a level that was unheard of at that time.

Even setting all the characters and creative achievements aside, she had few equals in ANY part of television. You had Lucille Ball, who owned Desilu for a time, and then you had people like Irna Phillips and Agnes Nixon. They may not have owned their shows per se, but their services, their creative abilities, became a company and an empire.

Agnes Nixon and her work became so popular because, like the best writers, she wrote what she knew. You can look at an uber-modern 2016 show like “Transparent,” with its core family, the dreams and hopes and disappointments of those people, created and written by someone spilling much of their own life onto that canvas, and you can see the DNA of a writer like Agnes Nixon in those strands. Erica Kane was long rumored to be based on Agnes herself.

Agnes got the balance right, the magic alchemy that gets people involved in a story. So many of her characters – Phoebe, Myrtle and Opal come to mind – were people we all knew, and also, at the same time, people who were just a little bit bigger, broader and brighter than our neighbors and friends.

The other thought, of course, is that it truly is the end of an era.

Her legendary work moves toward memory, the same memories so many of us have as children when we first saw these shows.

I heard the news on Wednesday and heard the first notes of this music, and I got goosebumps hearing this. It took me back to the opening of that book, to the telling of that story, and of so many others.

The words that Nixon wrote for the show, which appeared in the photo album in the show’s opening, hearkened back to the days of Preston Bradley, and the spark that Bradley ignited in Irna Phillps – to entertain people, to inspire them, to comfort them. Agnes Nixon did all that and more.

The great and the least, the rich and the poor

The weak and the strong, in sickness and in health

In joy and sorrow, in tragedy and triumph

You are all my children. 

Phelps and Pratt interview: The allergic reaction

How many Y&R fans feel about Pratt and Phelps.

How many Y&R fans feel about Pratt and Phelps.

My social media feeds were on FIRE this week with the reaction to the TVInsider two-part Michael Logan interview with The Young And The Restless executive producers Jill Farren Phelps and head writer (and co-EP) Chuck Pratt. (You can find it here: PART ONE and PART TWO: BULLSHIT BOOGALOO.)

Many of Pratt’s responses, in particular, are just as tone deaf as you’d imagine they might be. He and Phelps dismiss criticism as the work of “haters.” Most of the explanations he gave for why a story came to be — like the two Jacks story — defy explanation here. Character seems to be profoundly unimportant to Pratt, as it was at All My Children, and his discussion of storyline and characters seems so oddly disconnected and dispassionate.

I’m not surprised about the reaction — not really — but I remember many folks in the soap blogosphere being more cautiously optimistic about Pratt’s arrival.

To which I say (apologies for the language, but it fits): Did anyone ever expect him to be anything other than that asshole uncle that comes over to your house on holidays and makes a mess of everything? Metaphorically speaking, it’s what he did on AMC — which added to the injuries that eventually ended that show — and almost definitely what he’ll do here.

Pratt clearly has serial chops, but writing for nighttime shows like Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives is a completely different animal. There are many similarities, but the pacing and the format allow for a little more sustained over-the-top action. I’ve liked shows that have had Pratt’s work, like DH and Ugly Betty.

But the kind of stories that played well on Santa Barbara and General Hospital are not for every show. They didn’t fit Pine Valley, and they are not a good fit for Y&R.

Y&R is a snoozefest and it clearly needed to be shaken up. But instead of remodeling and updating the house of Jabot, Pratt sees it as a tear down, and will use the wrecking ball itself  as a Friday tag. What will be left standing at the end? Good question.

Meanwhile, we get an EP who claims she’s never heard the online chatter about Kevin and Detective Harding – aka “Harder” — or actor Greg Rikaart’s comments about having Kevin come out as a gay man — because she doesn’t go online.

That gets a serious side eye from me. As does almost everything else about this show these days.

The Dowager senses foolishness and shade in Genoa City.

The Dowager senses foolishness and shade in Genoa City.