This week I have decided to prattle. No one theme, just lots of thoughts abut the soap world in general. I cannot get into that mode without expressing my utter despair at the devastation in Haiti. It is a tragedy that continues to unfold. Perhaps while All My Children's Erica is talking about her trip last year to Ethiopia and how it made her feel as if she had achieved something important, she will mention Haiti. Both areas are in need of aid, not just today, but everyday.
Some daytime actors who hit some rough patches while negotiating their contracts might come to the aid of some prime-timers who have been acting up.
I thought that a few soap actors who were not happy with their contracts were being babies. I take it back. I bequeath the "big baby" award to Conan O'Brien. This has nothing to with what I think about his talent. It is about his constant sniping at Jay Leno. I do not know anyone who works with Conan. I do know several people who work with Jay. Even those who no longer work with him always have stories about how he has helped them. One story that I have heard from several people is about the early years when NBC was so pleased with Jay that they wanted to give him more money. Leno told them he made enough money. He would like raises for his staff. At first the network said no. Leno retorted that he would give the staff heftier pay from the money NBC offered him. Why not cut out the middleman? NBC did just that.
Conan may be just as giving; I just never heard the stories. My big issue with Conan is his whining even though he will get over 30 million dollars. The network would have kept him; he just did not want to move his time slot. I worked on television for a lot of years. Time slots changed all the time. Ask Charlie Gibson. He was moved, passed over for promotions, and was always a gentleman. When Bob Woodruff was named to take over for the late Peter Jennings, Charlie never complained. When Woodruff was seriously injured in 2006 while covering the Iraq war for ABC, Gibson stepped in. For three years he had given ABC news great ratings. He told ABC executives if Bob Woodruff was ever ready to return to the anchor chair he would be thrilled to turn over the spot.
When Charlie decided to retire and pass the baton to his former Good Morning America
co-host, Diane Sawyer, he wanted no ballyhoo. Sawyer is another class act. She was also considered for the 6:00 p.m. news spot after Peter Jennings' death. She was considered for the 6:00 p.m. post after Woodruff's almost-fatal accident. When she did not get either, she never made a fuss. On press junkets, reporters always vote for the classiest and nastiest person on the tour. If Diane Sawyer is on the tour, she always gets the classiest blue ribbon. The nastiest changes from year to year. That is usually because nasty eventually gets the boot, and classy usually has staying power.
The other amazing thing about the late-night wars vs. the daytime contract wars is how performers on other shows behaved. During the soap opera controversies, few opinions were ventured. When actors were asked point-blank, the most negative comment offered was the opinion that everyone has been asked to take cuts. That was about as "scathing" as it got. In late night, David Letterman has been taking pot shots at Leno for the past two weeks. We know he is still angry because Leno got the Tonight Show
gig. It has been 15 years-get over it!! You have a great gig. Jimmy Kimmel has even donned a prosthetic chin to make fun of Leno. Boys, get out of the sandbox and play nice. You would think that those late-night guys who make a gazillion dollars would just act like their humble daytime counterparts.
I would give a gazillion dollars if General Hospital would get Jason out of the mob. Steve Burton is an amazing actor. As a teen, he managed to make "grandmother, can I take you to the mall?" sound interesting. At one point, he was ready to leave the show. The actor hung around and was given an amazing storyline. When Jason was wondering what to do with a life crushed by his brother's drunk driving, he was amazing. He still is amazing. That scene in which he took Michael to task for being a spoiled brat was riveting.
Sadly, for the most part with Jason, it is the same old same old. He may not be asking grandmother if she wants to go to the mall, but scenarios are continually repeated. He and Sonny disagree. Jason decides it is time to leave Sonny's employ. Sonny will not relent. Jason finally leaves and then it is more of the same. Lately, Jason and Sonny are like the movie "Groundhog's Day." Haven't we seen this all before?
Unmob Jason. Who cares how it is done. Just do it. I had hopes his time with Franco might make him understand that why you kill does not matter, because in the end you are killing. For a minute, it seemed that might be the case. This week, we are back to "gotta protect Sonny" mode.
As for Sonny, Maurice Benard is a sensitive, intelligent guy. He certainly has said nothing to me about this, but I can imagine he must be shaking his head when he has to justify Sonny's actions when he is acting like "Father Knows Worst." Like Burton he is a great actor, so he makes it work. Just think what he could do with a story that made some sense.
It may not make a lot of sense, but I am loving the twist to the "who kidnapped Sydney" plot on Days of Our Lives . E.J. is behind it. I am not loving that DAYS got rid of my favorite characters. I have always loved Lucas. I think Bryan Datillo did fabulous work. Sometimes it was hard to play a character that was always dumped on, but he was great. What was really great is that it was a like father, like son storyline. Just like his father, Bill Horton, he had drinking issues. Datillo has said he could have stayed but did not want to be relegated to off-contract status.
Now another hurrah for DAYS. Making Maggie not only the voice of reason but giving her own story is wonderful. Talk about another pro. Suzanne Rogers never complained when she went from front-burner to no-burner storylines. A great lady playing a great character. Hopefully this will be a soap opera trend. Yes, you can have young characters on a show, but you also need those in middle age-can it be true that Bo, Hope, and Carly are now in that category? Well, if George Clooney is, they can be too. Now older characters like Maggie get their chance too.
Now for a soap opera trend I hate. I swear the daytime brass must have a "Rolodex of rotten writers" tucked in a desk drawer. Whenever a writer is fired, head scripters who have helped shows get the axe wind up on another show. Time after time, a writer gets a show. The writer is eventually fired. The writer is hired by another show. Sometimes the writer is re-hired by the same show. Yes, that would be Megan McTavish.
I was hoping that Lorraine Broderick would get the permanent gig as AMC head writer. Now it seems she was only a temporary fix. She was doing a great job. There are rumors that the team of writer from the late and once great Guiding Light may be getting the post. They are now working on As the World Turns. No, I am not blaming them for ATWT being canceled. If we were in a whom to blame mood we could give a list, but not today. What AMC must have is a head writer that gets the show's multilayered characters. Bizarre "you have never seen this before" stories will not work for this show. AMC can move to the Warner Brothers studio, and it will not stand a chance if it does not go back to basics-characters to care about, stories that make sense, and rich dialogue.
Finally, my last rant. If the rumor that One Life to Live's Jessica is going to be mentally destroyed because Mitch gives her electroshock therapy treatment, I will launch a protest. Doctors take an oath to first do no harm; soaps which are on every day and leave a major impression on an audience need to take the same vow. It is fine to entertain. Do all the clonings, back from the dead, even death by pancakes plots you want to. They may be tough to watch, but they are harmless. Inaccurate portrayal of treatment for mental health is not harmless.
I have a horse in this race. I have a relative whose emotional health and life was literally saved because they had a series of ECT treatment. When done properly they can take people out of the darkest disease-depression. A major symptom of depression is suicide. Just like an elevated temperature is a major symptom of a virus. My relative made two serious suicide attempts. After ECT and therapy, he has flourished. He is doing breakthrough research at a major medical center for Multiple Sclerosis. Without ECT, he would have continued his suicide attempts and eventually been successful.
If OLTL does a story where ECT is used as a cheap plot device and sideshow, OLTL takes two giant steps backward from its wonderful three steps forwards for the Fish and Kyle gay love story. Please get this one right. Many year ago, I won a writing award form the California Psychiatric Association for best future story of the year because I dissed the way soaps treated mental illness and hospitalization for those who needed it. It was a shameful trend that continues today.
Another World got it right when Cass suffered from depression. He was treated, understood his illness, and knew he could have wonderful life if he continued listening to his doctors. GH got it right with Sonny and Robin's need for medication and treatment for two very different mental health issues. Sonny has bipolar disorder and needs medication to be all he can be. His bipolar diagnosis has nothing to do with his being a pathetic father. Robin suffering from postpartum depression needed short-term treatment and medication to help her deal with the issue. Please, ABC, do not take away what you did for viewers with a story that may make viewers fear getting the help they may need for a happy, productive life. I will wait to see how the story plays out, but please do this right. Mental Health is too important an issue to get wrong.