Soaps and the Family Tree, Part Two

(Photo credit: Claudio Edinger)

I’ve mentioned my love of genealogy a few times here, talking about my own experiences in this post.

In another post, I mentioned PBS’ Finding Your Roots, which had featured former ATWT cast member Julianne Moore in one of their segments.

Although the segment didn’t feature any half-sisters/cousins coming back from the dead looking exactly like Julianne but with a strange accent that sounded somewhat like a British accent crossed with Madonna…..well, it was still interesting!

But I was really surprised to see a recent episode of Finding Your Roots. One of the guests in this particular episode was Gaby Hoffmann, who’s had a long and varied career as an actress, but who I know best as Ali Pfefferman from “Transparent.”

I was very surprised, a few years ago, to learn that Hoffmann’s biological father was the late Anthony Herrera, known to soap fans as James Stenbeck from As The World Turns.

I remember learning this via a photo in the New York Times a few years ago – the photo at the top of this post – and Finding Your Roots showed a glimpse of the same photo in their segment on Gaby.

The photo shows Viva, Gaby and Gaby’s older sister…..and a TV set, tuned to ATWT, with Anthony Herrera and Colleen Zenk on the monitor. (Colleen is also in the video clip that was included.)

It’s a connection that, to be honest, I kind of pushed out of my mind. For a few reasons.

One reason, sadly, is that Hoffmann and Herrera apparently did not have a relationship.

And the second, somewhat related reason….is that in some of her earliest Transparent scenes, Hoffmann really resembled Herrera in certain expressions, and I had to sort of block that connection out, so I could just appreciate her work on its own. Which I do.

Hoffmann’s Finding Your Roots segment is very captivating, and very much uniquely Gaby Hoffmann. Her life story could be a movie of its own – her mother, Viva, is a famed part of the Warhol artist and actor community.

It was definitely a compelling story — as well as a sad and surreal one to watch.


NOTE: You can see the episode here.  The episode also features Tea Leoni, with an equally captivating story about Tea’s mother.

Cautious optimism

Gramma's been messing around with Photoshop again!

Gramma’s been messing around with Photoshop again!

I’m cautiously optimistic about some new developments we’ve been hearing about over the last few weeks, all from veteran creative forces in daytime.

Writers Janet Iacobuzio and Nelson Aspen are launching a series, and the list of talent is impressive: Colleen Zenk (Barbara, ATWT), and Anna Stuart, Stephen Schnetzer, David Forsyth and Alice Barrett Mitchell (Donna, Cass, John and Frankie, AW), to name just a few.

That’s one project, with platform and viewing opportunities yet to be announced.

And then there’s Sudsville.

From what we know, Sudsville is a brand that will be dedicated to fans of soaps, and it’s led by former daytime writer Meg Kelly.

There’s a mix of content, from a proposed trivia show with Guiding Light’s Michael O’Leary (Rick Bauer) as host, to a soap called Year Rounders.

I’m really intrigued by what I hear so far.

I’m not exactly thrilled by the Sudsville name, though it does a great job in terms of short-handing what the network’s about.

And, OK, I don’t want to be Ebenezer Soap Scrooge, and I get that at this stage of the game, the money is going to production and talent. But this graphic for the website – oy, vey. This is very 1995 GeoCities.

But the idea of Sudsville? I am totally on board.

The “caution” with new shows, of course, is the very recent experience with Prospect Park, and the ways that the crash-and-burn of One Life to Live and All My Children’s 2.0 versions may have scared other production companies away from attempting new shows or reboots.

I’m also very intrigued by the company behind Sudsville: Conklin-Intracom.

Conklin-Intracom is not an entertainment company. Its “About Us” page includes a description for an arm that is a “global telecommunications systems vendor.”

On their website, they list one of their products as “Intelligent Personal TV” (IPTV).

This seems to be the likeliest possibility for where the Sudsville content might live.

So this makes me still “cautious.” Like Prospect Park, the company launching this has new and potentially great ideas, but also doesn’t have experience with serialized TV.

Granted, the runs of these shows, especially the first seasons, will be much shorter (I believe a handful of weekly episodes, instead of 40 episodes off the bat).

The lack of experience at Sudsville might be helpful if they get out of the creative team’s way and let them do their job.

With the Iacobuzio/Aspen project, their collective experience, and Nelson Aspen’s ability to promote the show, could be the shining jewel in the crown.

I’m not sure how this is being funded, or if any of the same contract/union issues will emerge with such a low-budget enterprise.

But I’m hopeful. If The Powers That Be, 2.0 Version, can figure out a space and a way where we can create content, get it to the audience and monetize it to the point that everyone makes money…..? Then we might see some really, really great storytelling again.