Time to Move


The time has finally come. A mere six months after getting my own domain, I’m finally ready to move the site.

So it’s time to update your feeds and links and head on over to http://soapsbyremote.com (or, if you prefer, http://soapsbyremote.typepad.com).

I’ve switched over to typepad which I’ve used for my personal blog for years because wordpress wasn’t giving me the flexibility to do what I wanted to do within my own extremely limited web design skills and it turns out I don’t have the time or inclination to futz over it any more.

I will play with the design going forward, but for now it’s a case of simple is as simple does.

Emily’s death is frustrating on several levels.

Not nearly as much as one that’s coming because it will be so spectacularly pointless that I do not understand it on a single level, but I’ll save that rant for the time, and this time around just confine myself to “they’re killing another Quartermaine, oh joy”.

GH seems to have taken the attitude in recent years that they’re not afraid to kill off a character. Think about it, who has simply left town recently instead of being shot, strangled, virused or heart attacked? Dillon and Felicia. That’s about it. Sure Ned and Anna come and go and Robert and Lucas haven’t been seen, but Ned’s the only one of those who has actively left town and that was only advised after the fact. I don’t think Laura counts.

But the dead list is quite lengthy when it comes to medium and long-term characters. Off the top of my head: Zander, Tony, Courtney, AJ, Justus, Alan, Lorenzo, Emily and at least one more to come. That four of them are Quartermaines doesn’t help matters, of course, but while they’ve been the centre of attention recently, they’re hardly alone.

When they elected to kill off Alan and bring him back as a ghost, I wrote at length about the need to refresh cast and that sometimes killing off a character can achieve a whole lot more than just having them wind up in the seniors closet or disappeared. It can deliver great material for the show, for the other players. It can deliver drama.

In can also give a long neglected character and the actor that plays them a proper send-off, as they did, momentarily at least, with Tony and Brad Maule. I didn’t resent killing off Tony. I did resent a lot of what they did to him, or didn’t do, in the years before, but at least he got a brief farewell. Had they actually sent Alan into the great beyond I could have coped with that too, and while I do rather love Alan as Tracy’s Track Suited Conscience, it’s hardly the best use of him. But that’s old news.

Killing off younger characters, especially those in core families who we have seen grow up, always strikes me as being considerably more redundant. It does have its place, definitely, but GH seems to be becoming relentless about it. Just because an actor wants to leave, doesn’t have to mean recast or death. There is another option and it can be used to good effect.

There are exceptions, definitely, and while I missed – deliberately – most of her run, Courtney was a character ill conceived from day one and whose death was pretty well universally welcomed. As far as I can tell the only things that were mourned about her passing were that (a) it wasn’t sufficiently satisfying on a karmic level and perhaps getting run over by someone would have been a better way to go; and (b) her death got more attention than Tony’s even though they were both forgotten the instant the funeral was over.

The same can’t be said of any of the others. It would actually have been more interesting if Lorenzo had disappeared and set Jason up as a murderer in the process. If AJ just got fed up with the whole thing and abandoned the family. If Justus got a much better job in another city as a non-mob lawyer. They can go away and not come back for years. Or not at all. But there’s always possibility. There’s always the possibility that – genre-killing strikes notwithstanding – their kids could show up.

If they really have known of Natalia Livingston’s desire to leave for months then they could have easily recast Emily with someone better, or used that time to build up a reason for her to leave. Instead of getting back together, her relationship with Nikolas could have got worse and she could have elected to take a job in another hospital out of town for a while.

Instead we’re now down to the following Quartermaines: Edward, Monica, Tracy, Skye and Jason. Plus an obnoxious red headed child and an anointed baby they’re not yet chanting “one of us, one of us!” about. Of those Skye and Jason and all the kids are substantially estranged from the family, we virtually never see either Edward or Monica and they certainly never get any story unless another relative dies, and Tracy is the only one who has any story of her own and that’s only because she’s a Spencer now.

This was a dynamic family for 25 years. Across numerous generations. There is no reason at all why they couldn’t be dynamic again now. And yet? Now there’s no next generation on screen. Dillon’s gone, Brook-Lyn disappeared. Though at least those two can come back at some point. Emily and AJ and Justus can’t. I can’t imagine they’ll want Michael when he grows up psycho. Which means there’s virtually no hope of further generations until they send Lila (not actually a Q) and Jake through the SORAS machine. Let’s face it, the closest thing the Qs have to a medium term future is Lulu. (Which I get the disturbing feeling is exactly what TPTB like.)

Which is not to say that Emily’s death hasn’t generated great material very well played, and there will no doubt be more to come next week when the actual Qs get involved. But that is itself a problem because it just serves to show what the writers and actors can do when they put a little effort into it. Which, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, just drives me nuts because it only serves to highlight what they don’t do during the rest of the year.

During the rest of the year Sonny doesn’t have real human reactions to things, just a stock set of reactions – though I do admit that he’s been better under the combined influences of Kate, Diane and Alexis in recent months than he has been in years. During the rest of the year Carly is incapable of thinking of anyone but herself or being quiet, and yet when Emily dies she can still be her wilful self but be more aware of Nikolas and Jason than she is of herself. Unlike Mr Bernard, I think Laura Wright always does a pretty good job, but it’s days like Thursday that show how many more layers she’s capable of when her character is not written as a relentless shrew.

It shouldn’t take sweeps stunts and killing off legacy characters – even ones I was not particularly enamoured with – to bring that out. Of course, I know that this is a refrain I’m going to continue to sing for as long as this regime is in charge, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

I’m just glad this attitude wasn’t about in the late 90s, otherwise Kimberly McCullough’s desire to move to other pastures may well have resulted in a target on Robin’s head instead of a trip to Paris. And where would be now if that were the case?

I did think this week was a good week for GH, it’s just that the central point seems so cynical. Especially if the rumours that Natalia will continue to appear through to May are true.

And one has no choice but to assume that come February, if the show is still on the air, that Monica will have a lot to worry about. But hey, if they kill her off, we’re sure to get Ned back to give yet another eulogy! And then it’s just a question of who will be left for her to haunt.

I think I’ll save my God, They’ve Killed Another Quartermaine rant for later in the weekend.

To give them credit, I guess the powers that be do realise that there’s nothing like killing a legacy character for no good reason to bring out the quality emotional performances in everyone else (even a character for whom most affection resides with her original portrayer).

I do think GH did a pretty damn good job so far this week. Between the reveal of Jake’s parentage and the great performances over Emily’s death, with some lovely little moments in between.

I do have some questions though.

Why is Jax, who at least equals if not exceeds Jason and Jerry for time spent running around in the rain and getting half drowned, so clean?

Jason looks appropriately worked over and positively running with dirt, and Jerry’s roughed up, but Jax actually looks better than he did when the evening started and his shirt is white, white, white.

Speaking of white shirts, why is Logan still wearing his vest? I didn’t know he was so at home in a tux.

Where are Maxie and Georgie?

Why do I like Sonny’s girlfriend so much? Oh, actually I know the answer to that. It’s because she makes this face when Sonny claims not to hold a grudge.

I was also rather fond of her wondering aloud whether he was a typical male who couldn’t ask for directions (not that I’m sure who they could ask) or whether he really just didn’t want to find out if Ric was okay. With extra points for her not giving a fig about Carly or being the least bit jealous.

When did Lulu get to the point that I cheer when multiple people – Spinelli, Nadine, Elizabeth, Johnny and Jason – tell her to get over herself in one scene? I know she crossed that line for others some time back, but she’s officially there for me now.

Related question. Logan arrives at the barn to advise Lulu that her father has had a heart attack. They then leave the barn leaving behind hmm, let’s see, two of the six medical professionals on the island. Was that well thought through?

Finally, before it passes permanently into history, or the young person’s equivalent of the track suit of the afterlife, a question which has been on my mind for years: why does Emily’s calling Jason “Jase” simultaneously seem very real – a sister having a pet name for her brother – and highly, highly annoying? It bugs the crap out of me every time Natalia Livingston delivers the name, even though it feels like a name she should deliver.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Emily’s Death: The Good, the Pointless and the So, So Frustrating.

Caps courtesy Clarissa.



One of my major soap pet peeves? The final scene reshoot.

The start of the episodes of both Days and GH on Monday did it, and combined to force me into print on the subject.

Phillip comes to visit Belle and Claire in hospital and offer to take them home and for ice cream and Belle calls him on it. Twice, delivered in a slightly different fashion and blocked completely differently. Once at the end of Friday, differently at the beginning of Monday.

Jason walks in on Sam, Lucky and Elizabeth fighting and announces that it’s not Sam’s truth to tell. Twice, delivered in a completely different fashion, blocked similarly but from a different POV, and with a bunch of different lines before he spat it out. Once at the end of Friday, differently at the beginning of Monday.

At least the scene on GH kept going to deliver the punchline, so to speak, while the Days scene ended in exactly the same place and therefore repeating it served no purpose whatsoever.

Anyway, that’s my pet peeve for the day, now nicely aired so I can get on with the watching and/or fast-forwarding.

Things have definitely evolved on the WGA strike front when it comes to soaps over the last week.

It seemed when the strike was called that there were unlikely to be scabs and unlikely to be reruns and more likely there would be news show replacements and perhaps the daytime soap genre would fall by the wayside.

The very real possibility of the genre disappearing, not to mention the costs of production verses the costs of being on strike no matter how strong the force majeure suspension clauses in everyone’s contracts, clearly started to impact as soon as the picket lines started being walked.

Now there is open talk of scab writers already working, and strong rumours of several writers at The Young & The Restless (now debunked) and possibly one at Days crossing the line and going back to work.

There is no doubt that soap writers and producers are in one of the more invidious positions in this battle. While writers and producers on prime time shows that are on the bubble and may not get picked up as a result of an ongoing strike may lose their shows, prime time TV isn’t going anywhere. Daytime drama may well end up consigned to history. No jobs for striking writers to go back to, fewer jobs for actors and producers and camera operators and craft service and grips and sound engineers.

The strike can bring a lot of TV to a stand still with showrunners and actors and teamsters and many others supporting the writers, and that may bring the conglomerates back to the negotiating table. Eventually the networks and distributors and other players will care fundamentally that they don’t new episodes of dramas and comedies and maybe even talk shows to air. It will start to cost them. And that means that a degree of power lies with the WGA even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. Unfortunately the daytime section of the community has no power at all.

In daytime ratings are declining, quality is declining, presumably advertising dollars are declining, and it has been a steady downhill slope for years. So it’s easy to see how an attitude of “let them strike, there won’t be anything for them to come back too and we can put on some other talk show that’s just as soapy but far cheaper on in that slot” would be taken.

It seems clear that both the soap producers and the soap writers can see that possibility with sharp clarity. So where does that leave them? The only way to maintain the genre is to keep the shows on the air. And the only way to do that is either to hire scab writers – even where the individual producers themselves are sympathetic to the strike and may have downed tools – or to encourage/coerce guild writers to cross the line.

And the writers themselves see a future of not only short term pain, like their prime time colleagues who are living on small cheques from job to job, but the possibility of not having a job, or a genre, to come back too.

That must be hell.

Then you add in the extra twist of the knife: the new media residuals writers are fighting for. Were the charming Brian Frons’s view of the future to come to fruition and we were reduced to watching soaps on our mobile phones, guess what would be a soap writer’s main source of residuals? Oh yes, new media. The very residuals the WGA is fighting to obtain.

Talk about a rock and a hard place.

So for all the rants I may launch about the bad writing, even perhaps going so far at times to note that some new writing blood might be a boon to the genre, this is not the means by which I would want to achieve that.

I started out this post like my previous notes about the strike, simply intending to update a little, rather than get political. However, I feel like I probably need to put my position out there. I work in the television industry down here in my little corner of the world where the unions are not nearly as strong as they are in the US – I have seen Hollywood producers choke when seeing how little every participant in the creative process down here is paid and how limited to non-existent their rights to residuals are – and I negotiate with and on behalf of writers and actors and directors every day of my working life. I work a lot in so-called new media. I work on both sides of the line, I’m a producer, I also work with a lot of writers. I very clearly see both sides.

I’m also just a viewer. I write this blog just as a viewer. The fact I also work in the business is purely coincidental and rarely impacts on what I write here.

From both those perspectives I feel for almost all the participants in the genre. I see that the producers are in an awful position. I want to continue to be able to watch and mock my stories in the short and the long term.

But ultimately I believe in what the writers are fighting for and think that writers across all genres, including this perilous one, need to keep fighting for it. Which means no crossing the line. Which may mean, unfortunate as it may be, putting the genre on the line.

Aside from regular and industry news outlets, Snark has been compiling good soap-specific strike updates, and United Hollywood is the unofficial blog of the writers strike. Go visit them.