Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Saving Soaps: Why it's time to break the rules!

Don't put two new characters in a room together. Don't kill off any legacy characters. Don't go against the grain. Simple is better.

Out of those four statements, which do you agree with in terms of soap operas? A "purist" may say that all of them are relevant, which I believe is true. However, I'm going to be bold (and maybe a little Beautiful) and say that simplicity is always better, but sometimes it's necessary to put two new characters in the same scene, kill off a "legacy" character and go against the grain in order to grow and thrive. So many times I've read that putting unfamiliar characters together alienates the viewer, that killing off legacy characters drives away longtime fans, and that trying new things and experimenting always leads to disaster. I don't think that's true at all. Here's a few moments where soaps broke rules... successfully.

Don't put two new characters together: OLTL's Kyle and Fish

Kyle was an unlikable med student who seemed destined for a quick exit to the show when he blackmailed Natalie, Jared, and Roxy. Fish was a minor cop whose sole purpose was comic relief. Then, out of nowhere, we learned that Kyle and Fish had a past with each other and were very much in love. By connecting these two random characters, the show created the best love story of 2009. That they were written out in 2010 is not a testament to success but a poor decision by network executives convinced the reason for low ratings was not a mixture of murder, rape and mayhem but a gentle, timely story of identity, family of choice, and love.

Don't kill off any legacy characters: GH's BJ Jones

Killing off a legacy character always leads to controversy, but killing off a CHILD legacy character is even riskier. GH pulled this off to stunning effect when they made the shocking decision to kill innocent, young BJ Jones in a bus crash. Written with grace and tragic beauty by Claire Labine, BJ's death led to the eventual end of Tony and Bobbie's marriage, saved Maxie's life through a heart transplant and brought the community of Port Charles together. Tony never fully recovered from his daughter's death, and on his eventual deathbed Tony gasped with happiness and comfort as he saw his daughter before passing on. In this case, the character's death changed the show forever and brought GH much acclaim and success.

Don't go against the grain: ATWT hires Hogan Sheffer

Soaps continue to hire from within, and time after time it has failed. Look at the countless runs of Megan McTavish, Jean Passanante, Chuck Pratt, Leah Laiman and many more. They are all talented writers in their own right, but they have burned out over the years and haven't delivered. When ATWT hired Hogan Sheffer, he revived the show and redefined it for a new era. Soaps need to continue to use new blood, look at Jill Lorie Hurst and Ron Carlivati! Both revitalized their soaps (GL and OLTL) and brought much acclaim to each soap.

What do you guys think soaps should be doing differently? Sound off in our comments section, we really want to hear from you!


Lee and Lauren

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