Friday, January 30, 2009

Veterans away: What (not) to do

Today, by all accounts, was the final appearance of Don Diamont on the Young and the Restless. The story was told cryptically. By a series of coincidences, Brad was in the Wisconsin woods at the same time as Noah Newman had fallen through ice and was dying. The hero came out in Brad, and he tried to rescue Noah.

Then, in an interesting storytelling device, next we saw Noah, he was in hospital and apparently on the road to recovery. No sign of Brad, but the final shot of the episode was on an emergency lantern at water's edge...flickering, and about to be extinguished.

Only the most spoilerphobic do not know what will happen next.

My point, though, is to address how fundamentally respectfully Y&R dealt with this transition. In the days before this event, they actually ramped up Brad's story. He was in conflict with his ex-wife, his (adopted) daughter was starting to drift away to her biological father, he was at a crossroads in business. He confessed his true love to Sharon Newman, and was rebuffed. He even had a sweet reunion with his first (Genoa City) wife, Traci Abbott.

Now, this is an intriguing writing choice. It makes any subsequent loss of Brad even more poignant. He doesn't just fade away. He is, instead, snatched away with a plethora of unfinished business and a whole new bevy of storylines (fighting Victor, reclaiming his daughter's love, finding new romance and new occupation). In the last days, Brad had been more active than he'd been since Lynn Latham left the show.

Then, on top of it, he is apparently given a hero's farewell. He died (did he?) saving the son of the woman who had just rejected him!

If previews for the next episode are to be believed, this will also spin out in months of new stories...all premised around Brad's death. Nick and Sharon reunited, after a fashion. The increasingly psycho Phyllis will discover Nick's betrayal. Colleen will be bereft...and apparently turn to the (hitherto happily married) first love JT. Abby will surely be rocked by guilt...probably Ashley and Victoria too. Good, juicy, soapy stuff.

Killing a character off like that -- with long term repercussions -- is an act of love. It says, palpably, "you will be missed; your absence will be felt".


Now, I contrast this with the 1/23/2009 farewell of John and Marlena on Days of our Lives. Pillars of the show, they'd languished under years of uneven writing, sudden story switches, and -- most criminally -- long phases of backburner neglect.

Their story was tied up -- literally -- within the span of a single episode. they Switzerland (presumably never to be seen again). Since leaving, their departures have scarcely been mentioned.

No opportunity for farewells...even with daughters Sami or Belle. No dramatic or heroic departure. No repercussions. By my previous criteria, that equals disrespect...for John and Marlena, and for the fans who loved them for so long.


Time and again, Y&R shows how it should be done...and Days...doesn't. Could this, possibly, be part of the reason for the huge ratings difference between them?

And yet, I scratch my head. By all accounts, DOOL is the only show that is consistently GAINING viewers these days. That makes me think I do not understand what soap fans even want. I do know what I want....respect for fans.

Oh yeah. And that they never find Brad's body.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Truth in the Bunker/A Farewell of Sorts

This is really two posts in one.

1. The Bunker

Some of you have surely seen the hilarious (I mean, for me, LITERALLY tear-inducing) viral video Soaps in The Bunker. At a site called, lots of users have apparently been taking a popular German clip (Hitler confronting the reality of his defeat during his final hours in Berlin) and imposing subtitles over it to reflect...whatever. A user named Chris Dunn has done this with soaps...specifically, the inability for the Daytime Emmys to find a network home, which leads to a greater disappointment about the state of the genre. If you haven't seen it, I embedded it at bottom. (If you need any of the "inside" jokes explained, check out this link).

Like all good satire, the best of this video is that has an insider's knowledge, and skewers much (the networks for not showing the Emmys--especially ABC's Brian Frons; columnists Michael Logan and Carolyn Hinsey, bloggers, and the creative state of daytime itself). So, there is a line, during Hitler's final reflections, that tries to be a little serious. It says:

What am I talking about? We brought this on ourselves. We forgot the cardinal rule of daytime. A little hope. A little romance. And a big fat bulge in the hero's pants. Bold and the Beautiful does the same story twelve years running. Did they think no one would notice? All My Kids does a tornado. A tornado! What do they think it is? 1985! They are killing us!

The piece is especially effective because of the use of the quiet tone of the end, and the overlay of this killer nostalgic irony.

Maybe all isn't lost. ... When I turn on my television, just seeing John and Marlena makes me know everything will be alright. Everything will be alright.
In succinct form, the video identifies the chief causes of decline: Redundancy and lack of originality, emphasis on sensations and events rather than real storytelling, overemphasis on prurient interests, and disregard for history and veterans. (Goodbye, John and Marlena)

I have argued repeatedly in this blog that the ratings status of daytime would have happened no matter what--that we're at the mercy of demographic changes and changes in viewing trends. What is happening to daytime is, in many ways, nothing but a microcosm of what is happening to all of the last generation of media. I also believe that at least some of what has happened to soaps creatively has been a reaction to (and perhaps a secondary cause of) this viewership loss. We're seeing the consequences of budget cuts on screen. We're seeing desperation moves (ultimately futile) to stem the demographic tide.

I still stand by that. But there is no denying that daytime is -- creatively -- at a low ebb. We now measure great "moments" on shows, rather than great shows. There are likely differences of opinion about this last statement. Which makes the video--after the tears and stomach pains from the laughing have passed--so effective. I am left, in the end, with the quietness of the end of the Hitler scene. Hope is a delusion. Where we are now is the final chapter of a myriad of earlier strategic missteps. I hope that endnote is wrong.

2. Casiello rejoins the creative side

Congratulations are due to Tom Casiello, who announced that he will begin a trial period as a breakdown writer for The Young and the Restless. I am among the legions of his readers who ardently hope that this is an excellent fit, that he meshes well with his bosses, and enjoys a good long run in the position.

At the same time, it means that Tom will have to leave the blogosphere (he has announced, more or less, that he is doing so). Way back, on his myspace blog (now deleted), he mentioned that there needed to be a firewall of sorts between the creative and fandom sides.

Tom (along with Sara Bibel) has occupied a unique niche in daytime writing. He has been an insider-outsider bridge. He went into daytime writing as a fan, and he has remained one. But he has done a careful job, during these fourteen months of unemployment, at studying the genre and the form. We have explored Douglas Marland's bible with him. He did detailed fan focus groups of every show still on the air (lost, I fear, to Myspace). He explained things to the viewers (e.g., limited use of sets). With his departure from the scene, we lose that soap scholar with an inside view.

The internet message boards have been, strangely, filled with mixed opinions about Tom's move. Those who have enjoyed him and his blogs are congratulatory. Grinches (my word), on the other hand, argue that he has become a cause celebre solely because he "spoke to the fans", and so the joy at his promotion are more about his accessibility to fans than his writing skill. Others emphasize that the breakdown writer has limited creative control over a show (and nowhere is that likely truer than a Bell soap), so his impact is unlikely to be felt.

I think this misses the point! Tom has humanized the soap writer. He has offered glimpses through the keyhole (or maybe, through the keyboard). The fact that fans lapped up his blog (tens of thousands of hits, he told us) shows that he filled an unmet need. The shows and the soap press have pretty systematically refused to try to address the deep fan hunger for "meta" content. They don't realize that part of the fun of soap fandom is a peculiar version of "fantasy football". Tom, however, understood it.

Daytime's refusal to acknowledge fandom as co-owners of the creative product is quite in contrast to primetime, I think. Some of the real buzz shows (Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Lost, Gossip Girl, etc) have writers and producers who regularly speak to the fans. They do so directly (e.g., ComicCon) and indirectly (through regular and frequently interviews with folks like Michael Ausiello). Marceline at SON emphasizes that these writers are simply treating the audience as customers, and the customers reward them with loyalty. Presumably, though, this dialogue also opens up a two-way street. Fans feel heard! And, sometimes, shows can improve in response.

This interactive model of creative-fan interactions is definitely in counterpart to the "auteur theory". Bill Bell, for example, was ostensibly legendary in not really listening to fan feedback or network notes. (There were exceptions. As Sara Bibel has told us, when ratings began to plummet after Y&R's Katherine Chancellor appeared to dally with lesbianism, the story was instantly ended. And, when there was a huge negative fan reaction to a baby's death on Days of Our Lives, Bill Bell reportedly vowed never to do it again...although he finally reluctantly did it with Lauren's faux-child Dylan on Y&R in the early 90s). And that worked. Bill Bell was left unimpeded, and so the viewers just needed to go along for the ride on his creative vision. And what an enjoyable ride it usually was.

But most of daytime is not like that now. For the most part, daytime has lost sight of what the customer wants. I take this less from the plummeting ratings (because I think that has more macro-structural causes), but from the universally negative theme in fan internet boards, letters to the soap mags, and critical opinions.

So, it is kind of ironic that Tom is going to the best show on daytime -- and, arguably, only one of two shows that are still auteur-driven. His fourteen months of study, his "open mike" to the fans...the very things that could potentially have made him a kind of "Damon Lindelof of daytime"...are the very things that Y&R probably needs to avoid.

It is GH or ATWT or GL or AMC or DOOL that need to listen to an educated writer with his finger on the pulse of fandom. Sadly, most of those shows don't employ breakdown writers anymore.

So, I salute Tom and thank him for the gifts he has shared with us these past 14 months. I wish him great luck, satisfaction and longevity at Y&R. I hope this trial turns into a long deal. I suspect he'll still take his lessons of the last year and build them into his outlines. Maybe, in some small way, even on his strongly written show, he'll be able to inject his obvious love for the fans in small ways. This is a good passage, but I will surely miss him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The gay male soap fan

With gays erupting all over daytime :-), I thought this historical article might offer some interesting historical context on a segment of the audience that was long ignored.

In another long-promised excerpt from that out of print soap book I have been drawing from, I wanted to share this tail-end excerpt from Jane Feuer's chapter, "Different Soaps for Different Folks". Her broader chapter considers the question of how soaps, programmed for such a mainstream audience, have come to have such specialized appeal for subgroups like African American women and gay men. Because the appeal of soaps to gay men has been a through theme in this blog, I thought I'd include some her comments on that topic. The article is old (1997), so it would be interesting to think about whether what it says is still relevant almost 12 years later.


The Fan and the Gay Male Audience

Although they may not he counted as a commodity audience, demographic groups other than women in the age range of eighteen to forty-nine may he interested in soap opera as an art form. The common word for those viewers who are overly invested emotionally in soap operas is fans, and according to Michael Kape, the level of affective investment differentiates the fan from the ordinary viewer. (Very few soap fans are as extreme as, say, the one who stalked soap star Andrea Evans and forced her to leave One Life to Live.) Kape makes a distinction between fans who merely have an emotional investment and the readers of Soap Opera Now, whom he sees as better educated and more discriminating. But not everyone agrees with this distinction. Many academics believe that the audience/fan distinction has been too sharply drawn, and they now feel that viewers may be deeply emotionally involved in soaps and, at the same time, may be critical of them.

If fans have been given bad press, perhaps too sharply setting them oft from other viewers, then one group of viewers presents a particularly interesting case: gay men. Gay men are known to be more devoted fans of soap operas than straight men. Since many gay fans are not forthcoming about their sexual identities, this is an impossible audience to study statistically. Yet Michael Kape believes that the networks are aware of their presence, and that they will do more to cultivate this audience in the future. According to Sean Griffin of the University of Southern California, who has researched among gay male fans of All My Children, the show's producers are aware of this audience, or hoped to increase its size by creating the openly gay male character, Michael Delaney.

Network recognition of the gay male fans is only part of the reason why this alternative group may be of interest to students of soap operas. Gay male viewers, like African American women viewers, raise the question whether different audiences receive different messages from the same programs; that is, whether or not they constitute interpretive communities that differ from the assumed eighteen- to forty-nine-year-old housewife audience. The experts I interviewed disagree about whether gay men create different meanings from soaps than other audiences. Michael Kape does not believe that gay men respond differently from other groups. He says that if you look at the origins of soap opera as a form that relies heavily on emotional response, you will discover that "people are people," that sexuality ultimately does not affect responses to powerful soap opera dramatics. Sean Griffin, on the other hand, says that it does. His interviews with gay male fans of soaps from the Internet news group "" led him to the conclusion that gay men had a fundamentally different response from other viewers to the introduction, for example, of the gay character Michael Delaney (played by Chris Bruno) on All My Children. According to Griffin, however, the responses of gay men are not uniform, and some conform to those of women and straight men. Some gay men, for instance, agree with some straight viewers that actor Chris Bruno is perfectly believable; other gay men find that the actor, who has declared that he is straight, is uncomfortable in the role. (There are straight fans who share this view too.) Griffin says that "Gay men seem more often to do a 'double reading'. While they remain completely engrossed in the story lines and characters, they also see the whole thing through the eyes of ‘camp'."

Griffin's research found that the gay culture's investment in the diva phenomenon (as explored in The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and The Mystery of Desire by Wayne Koestenbaum) factors into the pleasure of some gay male fans. Griffin makes the comparison of certain gay men who are staunch defenders of Erica Kane with those who are tired of her snotty egotism. Griffin also finds that gay men generally have a greater sense of whimsy or irony with regards to soaps, because they know that they are not the networks' intended audience. He also believes that the ability to read the small clues or social signs that help gay men identify one another in an often hostile society may help them in reading where soap story lines are going (in other words, which two characters are being set up for a romance, or that a character has been limping although others ignore it).

Lastly, gay men obviously like looking at handsome male actors. Here, it is hard to differentiate between how straight women and gay men appreciate the show. In the online discussions of soap opera Web sites on the Internet, Tad Martin was usually spoken for by the female fans, while Pierce Riley (at least when played by Jim Fitzpatrick) was championed by gay men. When asked why this research is important, Griffin replied, "Well, my main interest (other than I am a gay male myself who loves soaps!) is how gay male fans challenge the often rigid ideas about how who the viewers of soaps are and how they read these things." If this is true, then the title of this article, "Different Soaps for Different Folks," is a lot more complex than it seems. It is not so much a question of say, Generations being targeted at black viewers and The Bold and the Beautiful at whites. The issue is really that different audiences seem to make different meanings out of the same soaps.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A little Nuke and the world explodes

Well, I realize this is a post that is happening a week after Luke and Noah had sex on ATWT. In my defense, I have been away at a family funeral. In addition, though, I really wanted to let the event gestate a bit. There has been so much written about it (hence the explosion of the title), and so much of it was contrary to what I thought I saw, I needed to let it all percolate. If you missed it, here is what I'm talking about:

In the end, my thoughts about the event are positive, and in line with Nelson Branco's quote from Sri Rao (writer of Night Shift 2): “Good for them. One small step for Nuke, one giant leap for daytime...”

Rao should know. He accomplished, with Night Shift 2, what daytime had failed to do: tender conversations between two men who really got to know each other, were confident in their sexuality (for the most part), and for whom a kiss was not a huge deal, but just beautifully tender and arousing to almost anyone who saw it. If you missed it, I mean this.

For me, Nuke sex was beautiful because (a) of the passion we got see leading up to it, (b) because NO LONGER can it be denied that Luke (scion of a core family) is a sexual being who -- yup -- has actually seen his love naked and actually related to him in a sexual way. (Make no mistake about it...there was contingent out there that thought Luke's celibacy was an 'appropriate' response to his 'wrong' attractions), and (c) because it is almost like the "last wall" has fallen (More on that below).

Most importantly, we're past it now. If Nuke ever has sex again, it won't be such a big deal (nor should it be). The big obstacle has been jumped. And for those who don't like Nuke, well, now the way has been paved for a couple you might like more. Never again will a gay male couple have to go through all this nonsense to merely kiss on daytime. That is a victory.

To be clear, All My Children accomplished the same thing for lesbian sexuality years ago, with Bianca. To see the remarkable intimacy of Reese and Bianca now, it is easy to forget how difficult it was for Bianca to be given on-screen kisses with Lena or Maggie years ago. But, those "outrages" perpetrated, Reese and Bianca are now free to be more openly loving.

The gay male sexuality was an extra hurdle. Make no mistake about it, when Brian Frons says "our lesbians are cuter", he is reflecting the fact that woman-on-woman sex is simply not as taboo anymore. Of course, this plays into the whole straight-male-porn-fantasy. Straight women never seemed to have a parallel enjoyment of gay porn in the mainstream, even though Carrie Bradshaw and the Sex and the City girls seemed to like it.

Indeed, Michael Moore suggested, tongue-in-cheek, in Mike's Election Guide 2008 that if the gay marriage amendments had been about lesbians, they would have readily passed. Showing a picture of two brides-in-veils with interlinked tongues, Moore wrote (pp. 35-36)

I am told that no one is opposed to watching two women kiss. Men love it, women love it, and the women doing it love it -- something for everybody! I don't think it is female-on-female love that has so many people (men) discombobulated. I think when they say they are against gay marriage, what they really mean is that they are against this:

(picture of two men kissing)

Now that is disgusting! Guys going all borkeback on each other--gimme a break! The state can't sanction that!
So, as a sociopolitical act of activism, I honestly believe Nuke is so, so important! Not because it is the first mainstream depiction of gay male sexuality, but maybe because it is the last important one! Let me expand on this by addressing some of the many critiques I have read about the story these last weeks.

This was not a "first". Indeed the whole story shows how locked in a conservative past soaps are.

The core premise, for me, is what Kay Alden meant when she said "Soaps are not an avante garde medium". (She said this at Sam Ford's MIT symposium, in relation to his Masters defense).

Another way I viewed the Nuke sex, specifically, was as "My heavens! There are boinking on homo-sect-choo-als on Aunt Mildred's STORIES!!! On ATWT!!! On one of the two oldest daytime shows! On a show that debuted in the Eisenhower era! On a show with a median viewer age in excess of 60 years! "

Much of the negative commentary about the "innovativeness" of this relates to the fact that Dynasty and Melrose Place and Brothers and Sisters and Hollyoaks and what have you all did it before.

True, that! And AMC has to continue to get credit for really having a core gay character first. (The history is longer, as you can see here).

So, why am I celebrating so much?

ATWT's gay male sex is not necessary the FIRST shoe to drop. Instead, I think Nuke may be interesting because it is the LAST shoe to drop. If we take the conservative, staid, stuck-in-the-past, pander-to-the-mainstream, do-not-inflame soap genre (I don't actually think it is all like that), and THEY have homo-sect-choo-als kissing and is a true marker of culture change.

But in the end, my connection to this tale is more emotional, and it all goes back, again, to the fact that these are Aunt Mildred's STORIES! And now, with the wavy-whisps of an old-school flashback, I'm drawn back into the past... I am sorry this is a ramble, but it shows you that I'm not responding intellectually to this tale....

... what a difference might it have made to young men 30 years ago, if Nuke had been around then. Back in the day when soaps were more truly intergenerational? To show that gay men were decent, loving, respectworthy members of core families. That their mothers and grandmothers and neighbors still loved them, even though they were attracted to the 'wrong' sex. How many doors of healthy conversation and attitude change might it have opened?

[For those who do not believe that the generational experience of coming out is a whole different thing, compare Saul and Kevin on Brothers and Sisters. That is a totally authentic representation of how things have changed.]

Young gay men probably look at Nuke and say "come on! No big deal! We've been here and queer forever! The timidity and forcedness of the Nuke story is so in contrast with our lives".


But man oh man oh man has the world changed!

Someone from my genereation looks at Luke Snyder in AWE! The world has CHANGED! Imagine if, 37 years ago, Phil Brent had been a young gay man on AMC, and the triangle involving Chuck and Tara had been because Phil wanted Chuck! What a different world that would have been!

Even as the world moved along, soaps just DIDN'T. Not in major or significant ways (although that link above shows that some brave souls TRIED).

Now, finally, the "soap train" has arrived at the station. That is a big deal. (The "station", by the way, is the acceptance of gay male I posted earlier...for women it has been futher along).

When I look back on my nearly 44 years (damn, I feel old on this board), I simply cannot tell you how stunning Nuke is. It is truly akin (I know you'll accuse me of aggrandizing) how I imagine some African Americans felt when Obama became president. The world has changed!

All the feelings of things you could never achieve when you were younger...well that ceiling suddenly opens up...and you almost get a feeling of vertigo....imagine if the world had always been thus! How different might life have been?

Thirty years ago, there was NO ROLE MODEL, certainly not on soaps. Think about what Luke IS! He's the white-bread scion of a countrified-citified Oakdale...middle crazy hair or dress or lifestyle. And average fella, he probably shops at malls instead of Soho thrift shops, not "loud and proud"...just a typical guy. (Yes, I know he is a Grimaldi...but I am ignoring that). To SEE THAT EVERY DAY!! EVERY DAY!!! Wow!

That changes the world! At least mine!

From the perspective of "jaded youth" that is well past all of this, I can see how Nuke is nothing special. From the perspective of someone who NEVER THOUGHT this day would come is very special indeed.

For me, this is as fundamental as Uhura-Kirk. That interracial kiss was subversive, IMO, not because it was 'first', but because it infiltrated the white-male bastion of SciFi. If you were going to show that kind of 'miscegnation' to THAT had pushed the audience very far. ATWT is a very similar bastion....with a mainstream audience of older, homebound women....mothers of sons who live in environments where it still may not be acceptable to be gay. (You know...Prop 8 voters). Now, every day, even here, they cannot deny the existence of this reality. Maybe, if they don't tune out, they'll see that Luke and Noah are decent and regular. Not perverts or pedophiles or sluts. Just striped-shirt wearing doofuses who go to college. Maybe they will recognize their sons...and judge less harshly, having had their attitudes adjusted, if they sons turn out to be gay too. For all of you who are 'way past' a society that does not accept gay male sexuality, I'm here to remind you that the MAJORITY of people in many areas are NOT 'way past' the issue. ATWT and its ilk can be fundamental tools in the cultural evolution. (That is also why it is important to not yet p*ss those people off and show them sweaty thrusting in a bed. Get them ready in baby steps. That day will come...)

The story was lousy. Nuke was a terrible insta-couple.

This critique points to the origins of the story where, it seems, Luke's unreciprocated attraction to Noah was a little rushed. The basis for the mutual attraction was never firmly established, so -- other than the fact that these are two gay men -- we don't really know why they are together at this point.

I think this is a broader critique of ATWT's writing, and so it is not specific to Nuke. Also, at this point, I really don't think it is fair to call them an "insta-couple". After over two years? INSTACOUPLE?? That just is no longer true. The FOUNDATIONS of the union may be shaky...and I'm not saying this is terrific writing. But honestly, they've earned the right with enough shared history to be more than an insta-couple.

The whole thing was rushed, shoehorned into a single episode. It was almost like "let's get this over with".

The point is that a gay man, who is a member of a core family, whom the audience has been allowed -- more or less -- to see grow up has also been allowed to become a fully embodied sexual being on his show. And that is major. Within the context of this single episode, it was also a good soapy setup -- from the fight in Midtown to the feverish kissing and locking of doors, to the post-coital tenderness. Since ATWT is trying to get us to view the show in a more "episodic" way, this was a good episode vis-a-vis Nuke.

Sex on this particular day made little sense

This is Tom Casiello's point. This love scene didn't get the build-up of some "losing virginity" stories on other shows. Given how long this couple has been denying themselves, why on this random January Monday?

I don't know. I can't defend that choice in particular. But in the real world, people have sex. They don't schedule it for particular days or plan it or announce it with weeks of foreshadowing. They just "throw down". Nuke could no longer deny it.

I actually think it was a beautiful breakthrough for the precipitant of Noah's passion to be Luke's admonition that "You're selfish with your feelings". Finally, finally, Noah had an epiphany. And the forceful way that he kissed Luke was both hot and completely appropriate for the heated conversation that preceded it. So, for me, watching this episode (I confess!) in made perfect sense. It seemed like a classic moment of anger-dissolving-into-passion. Indeed, the utter "prototypicality" of that kiss made me happy...Nuke was getting treated like just about every other soap couple. That's all we can ask for.

The scene should have been comparable to what we see with het couples, otherwise gay men are on the "back of the bus"

This "back of the bus" comment showed up on both Usenet, and in a comment to Tom Casiello's piece on this topic.

So, the activist in me says...sure...sweaty naked men kissing all over each other in bed MIGHT WELL have been the more appropriate soap template to use. Except Luke and Noah are young, and soaps typically use a more chaste approach for young sex.

Second, can we remind ourselves of the national realities here? Gay marriage amendments were turned down by the MAJORITY of voters in three states in November 2008. For us to ignore the context in which this story plays out is ... naive. I suspect there is a lot of overlap, for example, between the population that voted against gay marriage and the population that watches P&G soaps.

In addition, P&G/CBS received vociferous protest against Nuke kissing (thank you, Rev. Wildmon)! A scant year ago, there was even a visible kissing ban! P&G/Televest/Telenext/whatever was sufficiently scared that they ran a PHONE POLL to help them decide whether to continue the Nuke tale!

In light of the extreme caution that has been taken so far, why would we now want to engage in a sudden act of sensory 'flooding' and show hot sweaty sex? Baby steps is the key....

I may have a different opinion here. I believe that a softer, more "lamb-like" approach is the right one to take here, given that the majority of Americans is still not comfortable with gay male sexuality.

Let's face it. If I want to watch sex -- gay or straight -- I can find lots of porn on this here old internet.

So, soap sex is ... well ... usually hokey. At its WORST, it is arched backs and sweaty brows and treacly music.

I'm not saying, sometimes, that can't be remarkable to see, but for the most part, I'll pass.

Most of soap sex is off screen. Every married couple on soaps gets to have their sex off screen. And that's fine. I really don't need to to see ATWT's Tom and Margo grunting away fortnightly, or however often they do it .

This was Nuke's FIRST sex. It may get "hotter" as time passes. For me, what is important is that the threshold has been crossed.

Now, EVERY TIME we see those men on screen, America will know that they have seen each other naked, in a lustful way. That new reality suffuses every scene. That is DIFFERENT. That is ground breaking. That is what Monday opened. Two men who are explicitly sexual with each other, on the front burner. Now, when they touch, we will know it is a "knowing" touch...and like Tom and Margo or -- heck -- most days Brad and Katie -- we know they'll follow up on the "touch" later. No longer is this denied.

Once the conservatives catch their breath and stop their puking (men having SEX! how AWFUL!), the next sex scene (whenever it happens) could well be shirtless in bed together kissing. Who knows? Who cares? Again, if we want to see two men in flagrante delicto....well...there are other sites for that.

This is commercial TV! It plays to all kinds of sensibilities. How often are African American characters (the few who exist) given those arched-back scenes? How often are characters over 40 given those scenes? There are all kinds of racist, sexist, ageist and homophobic sensibilities that are being 'considered' as these soaps get put out...that's the reality of an advertiser-supported medium that needs to appeal to the "minivan majority" (ugh).

The fact remains....we KNOW, and we cannot deny, that two men now exist in Oakdale who related to one another fully as loving and sexual beings. That is ENORMOUS. I cannot believe people aren't just jaw-droppingly astounded at how ENORMOUS this is.

There should have been advance publicity

When she was still at SOD/SOW, Carolyn Hinsey expressed this point regarding Nuke's first kiss. Recently, I have seen this opinion expressed -- say -- via the Marlena Delacroix site.

I could not disagree more. I think this publicity is working EXACTLY as it should. Why?

First, again, let us not deny the hordes of protesters. Let us not forget the early 90s, when Thirtysomething lost all advertisers for an episode because two gay men were simply shown in bed together. Why give them an advance warning to get organized?

Second, let us not forget that the method-of-the-day is viral. I defy you, in the modern era, to show me many examples of where advance publicity has had ANY effect on ratings! Genie Francis' returns to General Hospital have been promoted...and there was scarcely a ratings blip. The sole exception to the "benefits of publicity" that I can recall was during the "Sudden Impact" arc on Young and Restless (8/6/2008). There, clever banner ads and some out-of-daypart-and-off-network TV ads did convince lapsed viewers to come back to see the newly re-energized Y&R.

But, for the most part, publicity is irrelevant now.

Instead, Roger Newcomb reports that over 300,000 have watched the Nuke sex on Youtube alone. Who knows how many more people saw it on Fancast or, etc.

Those who proclaim the need for publicity are LOCKED IN AN OLD WORLD, where the only way to watch a soap was on TV. "Set your VCR" is an outdated phraseology, even if you substitute the word "DVR". If you miss a show, you can catch it (legally) online, and the network gets to count both the "hit" and the advertising revenue!

Indeed, the lack of advance publicity is BRILLIANT. It teaches viewers they HAVE TO WATCH, or they'll miss it. That avoids a one-day ratings spike (useless), and might encourage return viewership.

Viral, viral, viral, viral.

Whenever you want to complain about a lack of publicity, just remember these phrases: "TV is dead" and "Viral is in". ATWT is playing well to the modern world!

And for those who feel the lack of publicity was "defensive", as in "The network was chicken, and afraid to stir up protest"...well....when everyone is out to get you it is OKAY to be defensive. When you're going to stir up a hornet's nest, it is okay to wear protective gear! That's not cowardly...that's smart!

Sharing ice cream with grandma, post-coitally, was icky and diminished the moment

Yeah, Lucinda coming in the house was a bit icky...but remember that Nuke had sex in a house that they share with half of Oakdale. In that context, given the fracture that occurred between Luke and Lucinda over Brian's hidden sexuality, it was a moment of rapprochement that actually felt very good in light of the preceding tension between them.

MOREOVER, think how radical the scene was!!! Luke and Noah had just exchanged bodily fluids!! They had actively had sex. Even if Lucinda didn't know it, these now fully-embodied sexual young men were sitting next to her, in a moment of healing, eating ice cream. In other words, Luke and Noah's sexuality didn't distinguish them or ostracize them. They could simply co-exist, do normal things, have nice family scenes. Yes, a little post-coital languishing might have been nice...but the normalization and routineness of the Oakdale scene was nice, too.

It reinforced that gay male sexuality did not lead to the end of the World. Indeed, it kept on turning like always. What a terrific message!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On the Rise of the Soap Superblog

An interesting thing happened yesterday. Eric Braeden did his 9,000th interview for The Man Who Came Back. (Just kidding...but he has generated terrific press. Publicist Charles Sherman should be pleased that even the New York Times covered the story. *I stuck a mini-review at the bottom of this post).

Anyway, the interview was with Not Soap Opera Digest or Soap Opera Weekly. With a little soap blog. (Of course, he does plenty of interviews with the mags too).

New, fan-driven media are on the rise. It seems the old soap (print) press may be left behind in the dust?

Eric Braeden is a sharp businessman. His decision to do an interview with a blogger suggests, to me, that the worm has turned. Moreover, it isn't just Braeden. If you look at the major fan-driven internet radio shows, like Buzzworthy Radio or In The Zone or Stardish Radio or Daytime Confidential, each of them have had major and minor soap spades!...during this last year. It is not just actors. These radio shows have also featured some top writers, giving die-hard fans FINALLY some insight into the creative process. (My only quibble about the radio stuff is that it is very hard for hearing impaired people like me, especially since mostly telephones are used for the interviews. I wish wish wish there could be transcripts. Indeed, if that were to happen, there would be widespread forwarding...and the impact of these interviews would be greater. Look at what happened with Victoria Rowell!).

And, if we want to talk about the ascendancy of soap blogs (and, I believe, the decline of soap magazines), we need only look at the Guiding Light Blogger-experiment. Someone is paying attention!

That this all ties in to the concept of new media, and finding new ways of having active, engaged fans promote the genre to their peers...something Sam Ford and Tom Casiello have talked to us even more engaging!

In addition, there is the emergence of two new classes of websites that, I think, attract many eyeballs. The first is the rise of the just-in-time news site! Week after week, Nelson Branco breaks major news and gossip, and he also consolidates other news in an unrivalled way. Daily, Daytime Confidential does the same thing, with a mix of opinion and spoilers that is unrivalled. And Roger Newcomb consolidates news, globally, several times a day.

The poor old print outlets, with their delayed release and poor mailing times by their fulfillment houses end up giving us old, cold news. When you take what they offer wrapped up in ads for psychics and collector plates and "fashion spreads" that have little interest for most readers...the days of the clunking magazine dinosaurs seem, sadly, nigh.

There was a time when the mags were the only game in town. What a blessing! But that era seems to have passed.

Also emerging is the "opinion columnist". Now, opinions are never in short supply on the internet (heck, look at me!), but there are a few columnists with genuine street cred! From soap writers Sara Bibel and Tom Casiello to soap-mag-pioneers like Marlena Delacroix, we get opinions based on experience. The insights are truly breathtaking sometimes!

Roger Newcomb and Tom Casiello, in particular, have further been doing something that the magazines fail to do: Embrace history! Roger has shared excerpts from many historical clippings (e.g., Time, Newsweek) on the soaps. Tom has also shared some truly amazing historical documents. SteveFrame's SoapsWEB is a treasure trove of archived historical material. No "professional" site...can touch that!

More and more, if I want to look for good criticism, insider insight into the creative and marketing process, breaking soaps "news", or historical documents and perspectives, I look to the Superblogs. Can the soap magazines survive?

On the other hand, can the bloggers survive? For the most part, I suspect, we are seeing "labors of love". If they don't pay the rent too, are they sustainable? Maybe...because they are written for love, not money.

* Mini-review:

(By the way, I saw the film. You know...for what it was billed as...a Western revenge's a fine movie. It is really terrific, as a long-time Braeden fan, to see him bring his particular intensity to this genre. The film is genuinely discomfiting in places -- which it is meant to be. The only sad part is that the film was originally meant to be centered around a large African American labor action in the Reconstruction era. There are still threads of that story in the film, but most of it ended up in the "deleted scenes" part of the DVD. Clearly, they decided to tighten the narrative, and to focus on the more dramatically interesting violation-and-revenge arc. I'd recommend the film to anyone who enjoys Braeden, and wants to see him in a different milieu. Since he had total creative control over the project, the film also offers insights into the kinds of stories that Braeden likes to tell.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Y&R When Brad Carlton had a lightness...

A usenet poster, Travlr, sent me this, and at long last it is online.

In it, Brad Carlton (Don Diamont) proposes to Ashley Abbott (Brenda Epperson) in 1990, on the Young and the Restless. He uses an innovative "rap" song ("When Will You Say Yes"). This was a fun, goofy departure from the then-usually-serious Y&R.

It also shows a time when Brad still had an appealing lightness, rather than the darkness that will soon cause us to lose him. But I have lamented his departure elsewhere....