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.


Norrth said...

I don't know how you did it but you actually made me feel better about "Brad" and "Drucilla's" fate on the YnR. I think you're absolutely right that the YnR respects the show's vets.

soaphunks said...

Don Diamont. Sigh. :(