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The Death Of Daytime -- Part Four
No matter how you cut it, in one form or another, there is a lot of bad writing proliferating daytime soap operas. A lot of writers seem to have forgotten they they're writing for the enjoyment of their viewers and not for their own amusement.
As previously stated many writers will push forward a character or actor that is a personal favorite of theirs, but who may not be a favorite of the audience. As they go to further and further lengths to make you love what they love, they may ultimately destroy what the audience loves in the process. I remember when Emma Samms returned to General Hospital many years ago after the exits for Tristan Rogers and Finola Hughes from the show. They had practically every man on the show drooling over her character and singing her praises, which turned off many viewers. The writers just loved the character of Holly so much they wanted ever character to love her, too, which had the opposite effect on the audience.
It's actually a story that has been repeated on pretty much every show at one time or another. And the effect this type of writing has on the audience is generally the same. The audience gets suck of one character being treated like she or he is the be-all or end-all of the universe.
Sometimes writers will write something and not think of what the consequences will be in the long run. For instance, they'll have a character commit a heinous act, and then they'll come up with some ridiculous contrived plot twist to keep the character on the show so he or she doesn't have to face any consequences for their actions. It's where the phrase, "What were they thinking?" came from.
A current situation is the death of Baby Jake on General Hospital by Luke Spencer who was drinking and hit the child and just kept driving because he didn't realize he'd done it. Where do you take the character from here after you've had him do something like that. If you want to keep him around, then you know he won't go to jail for his crime. But if he doesn't do jail time, what kind of message is that sending out about people who drive drink and end up killing someone? So what were they thinking when they came up with this plot twist, and did they even think beyond to how they keep this character viable after what he's done?
You sit watching someone do bad things to another character waiting for someone to pay for their crimes or wait for the outfall when some big secret come outs, and when that moment comes you get no pay-off for the time you invested in the story.
I remember when it finally came out that Carly was Bobbie's daughter on General Hospital and Luke had known all along but lied to his sister, Bobbie, that her child was dead. This story had been going on for well over a year. Carly had come to town and stolen Bobbie's husband from her. The reveal happened in front of a room full of people, which killed the individual reaction as one by one people learned the truth. Robin and Felicia, two of the biggest Carly haters and Bobbie lovers, never were even shown reacting to the news. And when Bobbie finally confronted Luke she was only mad at him for a day before she had pretty much forgiven him. There wasn't any real pay-off to viewers who sat through so much garbage waiting for the truth to finally come out. You were left feeling you'd wasted all that time for this?
Years ago, when there was one story that was sad and depressing the show would balance it with having a least one couple happy. There also used to be some comic relief on these shows, so you didn't come away feeling all gloomy and depressed. Not anymore. It's all gloom and doom.
Currently on One Life To Live they've got one teen bullying another to the point the victim is contemplating suicide. They've got one guy who just married a golddigger and he doesn't even know it. One woman is being controlled by her trashy alter ego. Another man has been shot and is lying in a coma, while his family worries he'll never wake up. Another woman is about to find out her husband is cheating on her. Try finding any happy or feel-good moment in that.
One of the things I always liked about soaps, especially in the summer, was that it was always something new every day. Now it seems like the writers are basically writing the same story over and over again.
Bob Guza's greatest writing moment on General Hospital was when Sonny watched Lily get in his car and blow-up. It's so great, Guza keeps rewriting that scene over and over and over again. He did it with Jason and Robin and he just did it again, with Sonny and Brenda.
Another repetitive story Guza likes to use for Sonny is having Sonny not use any protection and a woman coming up pregnant with his child. Sonny is like the old woman in a shoe. He's got so many kids, he doesn't know what to do.
The same goes for the writers of One Life To Live. No matter how many times Viki integrates her multiple personalities and she's supposed to be cured, a few years later she's suddenly suffering from the same problem all over again. And now they've got her daughter, Jessica, doing the same thing.
No Character Development
Another great thing about soaps is since they air five days a week they could develop characters more deeply than a prime time show could. And once upon a time it was true. There used to be some great characters on these shows. Used to be being the key word.
The current crop of writers don't seem to know the least little bit about character development. They bring on a new character with the minimal amount of character development and expect fans to love them. They do nothing to explore these characters to explain why they are the way they are. One Life To Live recently recast the role of Jack Manning and have made him a bully terrorizing fellow teen, Shane. They've done nothing to explain how this character became a bully or why he's targeting this teen in particular. The show apparently wanted to do a bullying story since it's one of the latest hot topics, but they didn't lay any kind of groundwork to make this story the least bit interesting or believable.
No Character Consistency
The current writers don't seem to be very good at telling stories that are consistent to the characters, either. Instead they dream up a story and then warp the character to fit the story they want to tell. In the process, they ruin the character.
Two former legacy characters were brought back to General Hospital and they totally rewrote who they were. Rick Webber was brought back and he was written as a serial adulterer, to tell some story about Laura having some secret from the past she couldn't remember. They also did a real number on Laura's formerly close relationship with her stepfather Rick, having her suddenly not be able to stand him. It ended with Laura remembering killing Rick's lover in the attic, losing her mind, and being sent off to a sanitarium, after killing Rick when she remembered.
And when they brought back the Holly character again, for a third time, this time she wasn't the bee whose honey everyone wanted. She was a vile cold-hearted con woman. She was also cheap and easy. Nothing like the character Holly originally was.
No, That Isn't What You Saw
Another thing these writers like to do is tell the viewer that what they thought they saw isn't really what happened. It's pretty insulting to viewer intelligence, but when viewers are outraged over some plot twist the writers are pulled, to save their own bacon, they try to undo what they wrote.
General Hospital had Michael, when he was a child, kill his biological father, AJ, then when viewers were so outraged, they rewrote and told viewers that you only thought you saw what you did. He didn't really did it. The same went for Laura killing her stepfather, Rick. Someone else did it, and it only looked like Laura did it.
The bad and shoddy writing on daytime soap operas is the biggest problem and is the cause for many viewers tuning out soaps. Who wants to watch a show that insults your intelligence? When viewers have to yell, "But so-and-so would never do something like that," or "I know what I saw, don't tell me I didn't see it," then you've got a very big problem.