LEE:If you’ve been keeping up with the soap industry via the Internet (or the magazines, for that matter), you’ve probably heard about this new craze that has the world-wide-web on fire: the web series. Web series are a relatively new addition to the ‘net, and they typically target a small niche group of fans. I don’t know who it was, but someone let out-of-work soap actors in on the web series fad and all of a sudden every soap actor is producing, writing and starring in their own series. This is great for hardcore fans of these actors and of soaps in general, but judging from the current crop of web soaps, there are still some major kinks to work out.
Let’s start with the big one. Crystal Chappell (Lauren’s gal) clearly knew she had a great thing going when her lesbian love story with Jessica Leccia created a huge following for both women and Guiding Light. Chappell decided to capitalize on the success of the “Otalia” story by creating a web soap centered around two lesbian women living in Venice, California. It was a great idea; fans of Otalia would have somewhere to turn when GL ended, and Chappell would gain more exposure as an actress, as would her cast of soap vets from various other shows. Unfortunately, good ideas don’t necessarily translate to good entertainment, and the first episode of Venice felt like several things: a) a teaser for the real show, and b) professionally shot fan fiction. The first episode was too short to get any sense of what was to come, and the characterizations were vague at best. Speaking of short…
Martha Byrne’s Gotham was announced and debuted within a very short amount of time. Unlike Chapppell’s relationship drama, Gotham seemed to be more along the lines of an 80s primetime soap a la Knots Landing. That’s all well and good, but the first episode was THREE MINUTES LONG. The first two minutes were opening credits interspersed with Michael Park listening to voicemails, and the third minute was Martha Byrne chatting with Anne Sayre about their big party. Whereas Venice was a bit short at seven minutes, Gotham left NO time for any sort of development in regard to story and character. Byrne should call Chappell about borrowing Venice’s light and sound crew, because the production values were rough (understandably so).
This all sounds pretty negative, but I’m sure there will be improvements as time goes by. My suggestion for both shows is to try to tell more self-contained stories in each episode, so that the viewer feels like they’re watching a complete show. It worked really well with Eden Riegel’s (ex-Bianca, AMC) Imaginary Bitches and even better with geek-chic diva Felicia Day’s The Guild. Hopefully they’ll take a cue from those shows and work on making the Internet the future of soaps.
There’s one other web show I totally neglected to mention, and I only have nice things to say about it: Wed-Locked, created by and starring Guiding Light’s Lawrence St. Victor and Karla Mosley (Remy and Christina). It’s simple, funny and at times touching. You can find it on YouTube.
LAUREN:Okay so I admit, I’m a Crystal Chappell fan; I admire her hustle, her determentation, her soap connections (Hi Jessica Leccia, Tina Sloan, Jordan Clarke and Hilary B. Smith) plus fellow DOOL castmates Galen Gering and Nadia Bjorlin who all jumped on board. Chappell wanted Venicetheseries on the web, and she succeed in that part. Girl was the hardest working player in the soap world in 2009. However,I have to call out the fact that when one usually has a web series, one might want to make sure that the website is actually up and functioning, before going live. Plus the fact, she has a devoted fan base who decided Venicetheseries was going to be “THE BEST THING EVER, OMG its SOO GOOD” before it even premiered. Really? Who can live up to hype like that? Apparently Crystal Chappell can, because she kept on hustling. She raised funds through selling clothing items out of the Venice shop, but overlooked one major detail, the website. It’s sad when I see Tina Sloan or Hilary B Smith tweeting that they could not get onto the website to watch episode two.
This is no way a diss to Crystal Chappell, however if you are a paying customer, then you have the right to give constructive criticism. I’m giving Chappell and all the people involved the benefit of the doubt, because web series are definitely in its infancy, but you have to work out these kinks before charging for a product. It’s marketing 101. I would definitely suggest she postpone any future episodes until she gets all the website kinks worked out. I want her to succeed, because I’m a fan. I’m not an Otalia based Crystal Chappell fan, so I’m really don’t care if Jessica Leecia or Crystal Chappell don’t share so much screen time in Venice. I was a fan of the Otalia story, on Guiding Light, which is gone. So I am able to separate the two, when watching a performance. Crystal Chappell is a great actress, no doubt about that, but watching the first episode, the first thirty seconds clearly was to give the Otalia fans want they wanted. Nothing is wrong with that, they deserved it, but I need to see how the characters were different from Natalia and Olivia, and thankfully, Jessica Leccia came through and showed me through her non verbal communications that Gina was clearly not feeling the closeness or intimacy of their history. As a fan of cinematography the product values on Venice are absolutely stunning.
Gotham the series: Martha Byrne is another veteran in the soap genre. She knows how the business works, she is a student and fan of the late, great, Douglas Marland, and she is forever in my soap loving heart, for bringing the awesome Lisa Peluso out of obscurity. Seriously, Lila on Another World is one of my top ten soap characters. I also commend Byrne on her excellent sponsorship of famed designer Nicole Miller, and hey, her website worked! However it seems like Gotham’s biggest problems so far is plot development, and editing values. Seriously, I was watching and wondering why Margaret Reed would would all of a sudden, make out with Michael Park, while the fabulous Maeve Kinkead is speaking at some charity function. I’ll give Byrne credit, she wants,(as the rapper Jay Z said in his song I Know) “That old thing back” meaning, good old fashioned, over the top soapy moments...You know dramatic eye stares, when an old flame walks to the room, but unfortunately if you aren’t a fan of soaps, you would be wondering “WTF was that all about.” As Lee mentioned above, it does have that Knots Landing campy feel to it, however it’s Martha Byrne, and she seems like she knows what she is doing, having written for Bold and Beautiful earlier this year, so I am curious to see, as time goes by, how she handles and fixes Gotham. Gotham does have potential to be really good. I cannot wait for Lisa Peluso to arrive.
Wed locked by GL’s alums Karla Mosley and Lawrence St Victor, is very cute, basic, and to the point. No fancy production values, just simple situations that newlyweds deal with on a daily basis, proving that you don’t have to go all out, to get your point across on the web.
We are fascinated by web soaps, and cant wait to see were they go from here.