Picking up the threads

1975 GL

This is essentially a “Part Two” to my previous post, about reboots and revivals of our favorite soaps.

A reboot’s on the wish list of many Guiding Light fans, as well as fans of other P&G shows.

I mean, in this era of procedurals, could anything make for a more obvious reboot than The Edge of Night? With a fabulous update of that theme song, of course.

And there’s certainly been interest in these shows.

Supposedly, someone’s been trying to sell GL as a property pretty consistently since it left CBS for That Game Show That Shall Not Be Named.

This post suggests that before Paul Rauch’s death, he’d been working on getting some version of GL back on the air.

There were several attempts that centered around GL head writer Jill Lorie Hurst; the early attempt to form a production company (A New Kind of Light) with several GL stars and, more recently, the teaser video showing many GL stars together.

I am a fan of Hurst’s work and was hoping (and still hope!) that one of the ideas would catch a wave, that something of these ideas would come into bloom.

The plot thickened this week with the announcement of “Sudsville,” a platform for soaps that may be similar to Hulu or Netflix. There’s scant information so far (and I’m not loving the name), but it’s a promising sign that interest is still there.

The raw materials are there for a reboot of these shows, but before moving forward, we have to acknowledge the wreckage, too: the failed reboots of All My Children and One Life to Live.

The cost of those failures goes far beyond fans missing their shows. There was a substantial financial loss to Prospect Park (one of their own making, it could be argued, but a loss nonetheless).

It may have cast a cloud of fear over other producers and companies, scaring them away from rebooting other properties.

The AMC and OLTL reboots are pretty interesting to me, because in terms of content, I think there were great lessons to be learned there.

I think AMC 2.0 nailed its landing far better than OLTL 2.0, mainly because AMC 2.0 did the very thing I would want to do for a GL relaunch – weave in the foundations of the past, but also use as a launching pad for the next generation and a time to clear out some of the more worn pieces of story.

AMC 2.0 tried to chart its own rhythm and its own path. The Miranda/AJ/Pete story featured three characters the audience knew and loved, and it was one of the most realistic and root-worthy portrayals of young characters I’ve seen in a while.

The show used some veterans, too, and pulled some surprising characters out of mothballs (Dimitri and Billy Clyde).

There were some mistakes; Celia was mostly a “who cares?” character, and the perennial pain parade that was inflicted on the Hubbards got very old after a while. But overall, it was a strong showing.

OLTL 2.0, on the other hand, was an attempt to do an exact transfer of the old show over into the new space. It had many strong moments, and most of the same cast, but it simply wasn’t as watchable.

It hadn’t changed the pace and the mapping in necessary ways. And some of the stories just felt stale and uninspiring.

And that leads me back to the question I posed in my prior post: What would a reboot look like? How would we adjust the focus on a reboot of, say, GL or ATWT, to capture its essence, but adjust it for a shorter episode length, or a limited series arc (13 episodes a season)?

I’m still thinking……


Bay City Confidential

According to We Love Soaps, yesterday was the anniversary of the launch of Another World.

I’ve had AW in my head lately, because I just re-read Harding Lemay’s memoir of his time as AW’s head writer, Eight Years In Another World. After many years of being out of print, I learned a few weeks ago that Eight Years had been published on Kindle. (As much as I’d love the hardcover, ten bucks trumps a hundred bucks – the price of some of the rare used copies!)

AW is, in fact, probably most responsible for the initial formation my soap watching habit.

My mother was a fan of DAYS and AW, so I watched both shows with her on those sick days and rainy days, and would often make a point to catch the shows during summer break. While DAYS served up high drama with Doug and Julie, something about AW felt so real.

AWIt felt like we were eavesdropping when we’d see Rachel and Iris and Mac, or when Ada and her omnipresent dishtowel were dispensing advice (or scolding the hell out of someone who was being an ass).

We laughed at Vivian’s mishaps and escapades, and some of Iris’ odd friends.

There are many different species of soap, and when the media covers soap operas, they usually talk about the hair-tossing, oft-wedded, no-one-ever-dies garden variety.

Every show, of course, has been guilty of that kind of trick from time to time – some more often than others.

But AW was the first show that felt like watching real people. It was like watching a theater performance every day. I’d feel that way about later iterations of ATWT (during the Marland years) and about GL. 

As I get older, I find the reminders of the passage of time increasingly rude. So the realization that AW has been off the air for sixteen years is one I find hard to believe.

But AW is still accessible, with a number of clips on YouTube. It continued as text-only for several years.

I mentioned that a big reason for rebooting this blog was the clicks my older entries have been getting, and the amount of chatter over the P&G soaps I was seeing online.

I cracked up when I saw someone on a message board identify themselves as “Ada Hobson’s Dishtowel.” (Lemay said in his book that Constance Ford loved using props during a performance.)

When AW was cancelled, many of us thought it was a sad ending for a show that had just suffered too many changes in producers, writers and cast in its last fifteen years.

What we didn’t realize was that it had been a cautionary tale and a harbinger of things to come.

As we start seeing more web soaps and more shows on new platforms like Amazon and Netflix, I hope that they’ll study AW and remember that the characters and their lives are the glue that kept things together and kept us in our seats — not mobsters, guns, doppelgangers and forensics.