Ever eat too much, then when you belch you accidently throw up a bit in your mouth? It's a pretty disgusting phenomenon that prompts you to rush to the bathroom for a swig of mouthwash, that is of course unless you're a cow, or in some cases a soap opera. Cows regurgitate their own vomit, or cud, on purpose to feast on it over-and-over-again and unfortunately so do many soaps.
Across the struggling daytime landscape we are seeing show-after-show rehash tired, old plot lines, stereotypes and cliches–some that worked the first time they tried it, and some that didn't. Instead of attempting something different, the majority of soaps are relying on lazy, contrived storytelling that betrays the memories of once great couples and storylines as opposed to paying them tribute.
While The Bold and the Beautiful with Ridge and Brooke: Take 75 and Days of Our Lives with "Switched at Birth...Again" are grievous offenders when it comes to cud-chewing, General Hospital and As The World Turns are by far the worst. I just finished watching Bob Guza's long-awaited "never been done before in daytime" storyline and I cannot believe how dissapointed I am. As most of you know I am a fan of Guza— which puts me in lonely company here at DC— and count GH as one of my favorite, guilty, pop culture pleasures of any medium, that's why as a fan of his work, there is no one better than me to say there was absolutely nothing revolutionary about this story. Not only has it been done before on daytime, it's been done by GH, and better!
Basically Guza combined the amazing Port Charles Fire storyline with the contrived Monkey Flu debacle and put them into a blender for a gloppy, lactic mess. He also employed the same "Put Patrick in a dark room with the Feds" device he utilized on the first season of General Hospital: Night Shift. Then there are all of the romantic (eyeroll) pairings GH is pushing. This soap aborted a promising coupling between Ric and Claudia and sacrificed the popular Skate pairing, to put Claudia with Sonny. Apparently this is all in hopes of recapturing the magic of Sonny and Carly 1.0. Sorry, the thrill, much like Sarah Brown's blonde tresses, and the patience of Rick Hearst fans, is gone.
As if one overly-pimped, inorganic pairing that insults viewer intelligence isn't enough, GH fans are also having to force back down a doughy, not-quite-as-as-tasty Nikolas and Emily redux—only she isn't Emily, how inspired. Seriously, a lookalike? How many times are we going to see this in daytime? People can blame the automobile industry all they want, but contrived, stereotypical, been-there-done-that storytelling is what is really killing daytime by driving away viewers in the hundreds of thousands each year.
Here's a thought: if you think you might want to bring Popular Actress A or Popular Actor B back one day, then don't kill off their character! Emily could have been offered a prestigious cancer research position in England. She could have initally rejected it because of Nikolas, then he could have broken things off with her at Monica and Edward's urging so that she would take the opportunity of a lifetime. To add to the dramatic tension, Nikolas could have been really cruel to Emily, even going so far as to pretending to have an affair with Leyla, all to make her believe he didn't want her, while secretly only wanting her to follow her dream and aching inside because of what he was doing to her. This way, Emily could have left Port Charles alive and well, then one day the good doc-in-training could have returned once Natalia Livingston decided she wanted her job back, as most soap actors do after facing the cold, cruel world of pilot season.
No, this scenario might not have made for such a spectacularly bloody Sweeps period death scene, or spun off as riveting a storyline as "The Brain Fart That Made Nikolas Horny For Ghosts", but it would have spared daytime it's 18,000th return-from-the-dead/lookalike storyline, and prevented GH from killing off yet another Quartermaine. It's a shame a phenomenal actress like Claire Coffee and her quirky, unique character Nadine— who actually has chemistry with Nikolas— has to be sacrificed at the altar of this nonsense. Oh well, at least JaSam is back together to save the world and of course that fixes all the soap's problems right?
While the cud-chewing at GH has me popping antacids, I can at least still bear to watch the show—Someone give Carolyn Henessy, Kirsten Storms, Jason Thompson, Kimberly McCullough, Nancy Lee Grahn, Brandon Barash and Bradford Anderson bonuses—the only episode of As The World Turns I've been able to get through without reaching for a barf bucket in forever was the charming Valentine's Day special. Can the citizens of Oakdale stay in Fairy Tale Land forever? It's a sad, sad state of affairs when brilliant actors like Maura West, Michael Park and Colleen Zenk Pinter are given their best stuff to play in months as The Blue Fairy, Gepetto and The Wicked Witch of the Oakdale, as opposed to Carly, Jack and Barbara.
Unlike General Hospital, where Carly and Sonny, Nikolas and Emily and (sigh) Jason and Sam were all at least popular couples many moons ago, the Paul/Meg/Dusty/Emily/Craig cluster freak has been the symbolic equivalent of a bad order of Spicy Basil Thai Chicken from its inception. This storyline has left ATWT's dwindling audience running to our restrooms and/or sitting on our couches clutching our abdomens, with tears streaming down our face from the moment it disgraced our screens.Now they've gone and added poor Carly and Dr. Kevin Collins to the Great Vomit Fest!
Why is daytime so afraid to try something new? What do they have to lose? GH had some of the best couplings in daytime in 2008 with Liason, Nikolas and Nadine, Skate, Ric and Claudia and Spinelli and Maxie, but instead of going with that they decided to dust off old scripts from years earlier. ATWT did the exact same thing by scrapping Holden and Carly and Casey and Emily and bringing on that dismal Jen lookalike, then recasting Lucy and Maddie with people who don't possess one-tenth of the stage presence or appeal of the actresses who made those roles popular.
Contrary to popular belief, soap fans aren't stupid. We know cud when we taste it and we want something fresh to eat, our digestive tracts, as well as our loyalty deserve it. Thank the Soap Gods there are shows like One Life to Live and The Young and the Restless who are managing to pay homage to their history, while also telling new and refreshing stories that don't leave viewers with a really, really bad, like awful taste in our mouths. If you aren't watching OLTL or Y&R and you are longing for a soap that actually tastes like the comfort food daytime dramas you grew up, I encourage you to give them a try. I promise you'll finally be able to keep a soap opera storyline on your stomach.