So, The Doctors piqued my interest in soaps. They'd already gotten my attention as a child, with their artful openings which usually featured incredible music. I remember before The Doctors, my mother went through a Days of Our Lives phase. It had a couple on it they were kind of the poor man's Steve and Eydie Lawrence.
Soaps have always embraced music and singing. I always loved the music from the opening of Guiding Light. I didn't watch it; but if I happened upon the opening I would listen to the music while watching those mysterious tree branches dappling said light:
So, what really got me started on soaps was my sister Kate. Like most young teenage girls, she went through a soap opera phase and she brought me along with her. Our go to soap was General Hospital, mostly because it came on at three o'clock, so you could watch it from start to finish after school while you had a snack. We had snack phases too. Kate went through an ice cream sundae phase and I was into Chun King Mini-egg rolls for most of 1978 and 1979. The trick was submerging them in cooking oil and preparing in a toaster oven. The toaster oven was key. Here's an ad for the tasty little rolls. It's not exactly politically correct; but remember, this wasn't all that long ago. And then Chung King tried to position their products as health food. "Try Chun King for your beautiful body!"
So, I started watching GH in probably late 1978. I came in on the tail end of a storyline that involved Laura Webber. She had killed some guy named David who was much older than her, who she'd been having an affair with. Her mother, Lesley, took the rap. When that died down, Laura (played by the then 17 year-old Genie Francis (and amazingly talented) married Scotty Baldwin (the delightful Kin Shriner) and started working at The Campus Disco. That's where she met Luke Spencer (Tony Geary) and the rest is history. Here's a typical GH dramaturgy from that period:
Of course, All My Children was a favorite during the summer, as it came on at 1pm and if you were at school you couldn't watch it. And the major draw on that show was Erica Kane and her endless string of gorgeous paramours. One in particular, Tom Cudahy, was a dim-witted, studly jock who Erica had tied around her finger. It was a blast watching Erica manipulate men. I daresay it was empowering.
So, my most very favorite movie is Tootsie. Its story revolves around a fictional soap opera called Southwest General. Now, is it because of the soap opera element that Tootsie is my favorite movie? No. Not entirely. Tootsie is my favorite movie because, as Pauline Kael said, it's a "love letter to actors."
But the best thing about Tootsie (besides its nearly perfect script) is that it respects actors and the soap opera genre. Soaps are on five days a week. That's a lot of hours. And a lot of it is filler. Just two people talking to one another. For an actor, to make pedestrian conversations interesting, is the true test of their talent.
Why do I watch General Hospital today? Well, one reason is friendship. Friendship you ask? But Chris: they're fictional characters. They don't really exist, you might say. And I might disagree with you. Fictional characters can be as real as any real person. Mr. Darcy is 207 years old. But people still get hot and bothered over him. Batman is 82 but he's still going strong.
Yes, I feel like the people who live in Port Charles are my friends. I live in a rather isolated area and my best friends are all hundreds/thousands of miles away from me. But I can hang out with Laura Webber Baldwin Spencer Cassadine Collins five days a week for an hour. And I've known her since I was a kid. And she was a kid!
Also, I enjoy watching other actors work. There's an actor on GH who I particularly enjoy. His name is Roger Howarth. He was playing a character named "Franco." Franco was an artist who was also a deranged, psychotic serial killer. But then, he stopped killing and tried to be nice. His bad behavior was all because of a brain tumor, you see. Once the tumor was removed, he was the nicest guy on Earth. But then he died. When Franco died, Roger Howarth went away. But now he's back, looking exactly like Franco, only playing an entirely different character. And nobody has yet to remark on his astounding resemblance to the late Franco. But that's all just soap opera silliness. What I like about Howarth is his dry sense of humor (and you know that's the actor; not the character so much). I also admire his chameleonic experiments with his look. What I most enjoy is watching him thrust and parry with his castmates. He's a good actor and he knows it; and you can almost see his gears clicking when he's working with someone who's not quite at his level (not that the actors in this scene are in that category). He comes in at the 2:05 mark.
But just think about all those soaps back in 1977. It was really a sub-industry of the television industry. Think of all the work it generated for not only actors; but writers and artists and all the behind the scenes people. Now what do the networks offer us during the day? Endless talking heads, a couple of lame game shows and two annoying coffee klatches that I would rather chew glass than have to listen to. But not really any worse than what they're offering at night: a bunch of lame game shows, people murdering one another and people investigating it; and remakes of shows that weren't all that great to begin with.
It's no wonder the networks are dying. They're not only not thinking outside the box; they're climbing into it and sealing themselves in.
Remember when Snoop did a version of the One Life To Live theme? Well, here it is.
I was going to talk about another soap, Passions, which I was into for a little while; but I'll save that for another blog.
Ciao for now.