Monday, September 2, 2013
As I began to research past abortion stories on soaps, I found that many seem to have fallen into the more typical patterns of this kind of storytelling in American media. The earliest such story appeared on Another World in 1964, when Pat Matthews' illegal abortion almost killed her. The first legal abortion was of course Erica Kane's on All My Children in 1973--an event the show notoriously negated in recent years when the fetus Erica thought she had aborted appeared in Pine Valley, fully grown after having been miraculously saved by the unscrupulous doctor who had performed the initial procedure. Needless to say, this "unabortion" had soap fans in a serious uproar, incensed not only at the absurd revision of history but even more so at the political ramifications of undoing this landmark event.
There have been many more soap abortion stories over the years and the process of researching them is a long and challenging one. But I have no doubt that viewers have seen some thoughtful deliberations on the part of characters they care about while watching these stories. Some surely have included subtle and not-so-subtle messages about the evils of abortion, but others, like Lulu's story, have presented much more careful consideration of the matter than we tend to get anywhere else in our popular culture.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
The soapy blogosphere is all over this story, so I won't go into more detail here. But the old-fashioned nature of the phone-in poll strikes me as a bit odd--perhaps just a way to appease the protesters, making it look like P&G is addressing the matter as they proceed with a story that seems immensely popular with fans?
Update: Here's Ad Age's take on P&G's polls and their possible outcomes.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Because of my love for all things Zwick/Herskovitzy I was so, so excited when the duo's new series, quarterlife, began its life as an internet-only series. Since then, NBC has picked up the already-produced episodes for broadcast, and I look forward to seeing them on air this February. But we've been keeping up with the online episodes, nonetheless, and I am happy to say that they've finally gotten really good, finally are beginning to live up to their producers' impressive cred.
The online eps of quarterlife range from about 7 to 14 minutes each, but these segments are clearly that--segments of hour-long TV episodes chopped up for twice-weekly internet streaming. It's a clever idea and all--finding a way to distribute a series when the nets decided not to pick it up--but it seems a bit disingenuous to call 44 minute broadcast TV episodes chopped into bits an internet series.
Just aired are the segments that make up what would be the 4th broadcast episode. Written by Devon Gummersall, also the actor who played MSCL's unrequited lover/uber-geek Brian Krakow, "Goodbyes" has all the markings of great prime time drama, and of Bedford Falls drama in particular--parallel plotlines that enrich each other in the similarities and differences of the characters' experiences, subtle dialogue that exposes character, sweet humor laced with awkwardness, Snuffy's music--just lovely and perfect.
Most perfect, however, was the story told in this episode about the growing romance between Dylan and Eric. I've liked both of these characters all along, but "Goodbyes" moved them up a notch for me into the pantheon of great Ed and Marshall couples or, better still, Ed and Marshall maybe-couples and sort-of-couples, for romance in the Bedford Falls-averse is always fraught and painful. In particular, the story of Dylan and Eric in this episode fulfills my fantasy of seeing what would happen if MSCL's Angela and Brian were to finally, actually, and really get together, a possibility only briefly hinted at in the final moments of that series. Dylan has always been an Angela-esque character and, in "Goodbyes" Eric proves himself to be the sensitive, if slightly bumbling, man that Brian always seemed he could become. Their scenes in bed make this particularly clear, but I also see it in some brief moments of this "episode":
Dylan and Eric coming inside with their bikes is sweetly reminiscent of Angela and Brian's bike straddled talks. And the moment when Dylan walks upstairs evokes for me the shot of Angela walking upstairs in the MSCL credit sequence (and taken from the pilot episode):
Too much of the early quarterlife episodes dealt with Jed and Danny's frustrated efforts to become filmmakers-- a plot way reminiscent of Michael and Elliott's story on thirtysomething, an arc I love in that show but that reads as old and boring when it features Jed and Danny. Now, however, thanks perhaps to the intervention of Brian Krakow himself, quarterlife may be becoming more My So-Called Life than thirtysomething. I always knew that Angela and Brian were destined for each other--or at least for a really awkward attempt at destiny.
I'm a bad blogger, or delinquent at the very least. Just wrote a little something about Farrah and the 1970s for the Duke University Press blog (publishers of my book on sex and 1970s TV). So read it over there--and maybe, maybe more here soon from me.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
The blondification of these gorgeous brunettes is a crime. Stop the highlighting!
Also on the soap front is this exciting new promo for Guiding Light's new shooting style (also to be used on P&G's other soap As the World Turns):
This cheaper production mode is looking mighty good here. In a time of great threat to the soaps' survival (not just the writers' strike but declining ratings all around), there are some fascinating instances of creativity and innovation at work. I don't think that the soaps are bound for extinction, as some have predicted, but change is definitely afoot. With so much of it for worse, I'm hoping that P&G's experiment in borrowing reality TV-style shooting is as promising as it appears here.
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Monday, August 26, 2013
A single seller is offering up her lifelong collection of SODs, year by year, as she prepares to move. You may think this sort of thing would sell for a few bucks, but their rarity makes them quite valuable to those in the know. The winners of my failed auctions seem to run TV collectible businesses and so surely know the market for such things. Most old soap mags sell on ebay in single issues, and most are from the 1990s on. I'm sure these folks will be able to sell off the collection they are acquiring, probably issue by issue, making back their money and then some.
But my desire for these yellowing stacks of industry propaganda comes from a different place. Lots of TV ephemera is hard to come by, but little of it is as difficult to track down as the soap press. Very few libraries retain their holdings beyond a couple of years, and some libraries (ahem, Milwaukee Public Library System) don't have any soap publications, past or present. As a graduate student, I was blessed by the South Central Wisconsin Public Library system's collection of SODs from the '70s on (when the mag began), all handily stored in Madison's Central Public Library. I spent many delighted hours there devouring these magazines, which offered me story details, the occasional feature story of interest, and lots of letters to the editor full of great audience info. Made my dissertation, and the subsequent book, much better.
Now, as I begin to work on another book project exclusively focused on soap history, I very much want access to those old SODs again. One problem: the Madison Public Library THREW THEM OUT. I found out about this last year and so my indignation has (barely) abated, but I can easily get worked up about it again. Please note: this is one of a HANDFUL of libraries in the country that have any run of SODs beyond the past few years. According to Worldcat, only the Popular Culture collection at Bowling Green has a full run (not even the Library of Congress keeps them, though they do have Daytime TV, a now-defunct pub of the same genre that was also quite helpful to me in past research).
When I saw that this ebay user was selling off a nearly complete collection of SODs I had fantasies of owning the whole lot, of turning myself into the archive no one else cares to maintain. Alas, the financial investment seems too great and so I will likely trek to Bowling Green for a few fleeting days with these texts.
I do admit that the huge challenge of doing this sort of work is pretty appealing to me--brings out my youthful ambition to be a private detective, a la children's lit heroine Trixie Belden (Nancy Drew was too wimpy for my tastes), or an intrepid spy, a la Harriet the Spy, also a favorite read of my past. While I do believe strongly that our libraries do a disservice when they neglect to archive popular publications or, for chrissakes, THROW THEM OUT, the persistence required to actually track these things down is part of the fun of researching denigrated cultural products like soaps.