By Sara A. Bibel
Life In Fast Forward
Many of us soap viewers share a dirty little secret — the fast forward button. When that character you hate or the couple you find the opposite of romantic comes on screen, a simple press of the button and they’re gone – along with the commercials. It saves time, it lowers blood pressure, and makes the viewing experience more pleasurable.
On the internet, soap fans have become amateur editors, creating their own customized versions of the show. Shipper fansites post only the scenes involving their favorite couples. A creative One Life To Live fan has taken to uploading episodes minus the teen pregnancy storyline to YouTube. (In all fairness, it has gotten much better now that Starr’s pulled a Juno and decided to give the baby up for adoption.) It reminds me of that version of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace without Jar-Jar that circulated a few years ago. Although, Ron Carlivati’s writing is far more entertaining than anything George Lucas has come up with in years.
Unlike other genres, where skipping a scene can render the story incomprehensible, soap operas non-linear structure allows viewers to skip entire storylines. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being a bad soap fan by skipping the parts of shows that don’t do it for me. In theory, every soap storyline and character should impact the rest of the canvas. But, unfortunately, soaps are no longer intricately woven tales where a couple’s break up impacts their parents, children and exes. If you’re getting a kick out of the surprisingly entertaining Erica Kane in prison story on All My Children, you can skip the Aidan/Greenlee/Ryan/Kendall/ Zach/Annie polygon that has managed to make everyone involved unlikable. The stories don’t intersect. I always stop and watch when a character I love unexpectedly crosses into the stories that I find dull, but unfortunately that rarely happens. It’s one of the factors contributing to the demise of daytime. If viewers are invested in individual stories rather than the show as a whole, they’re going to start flipping channels or fast-forwarding. When the storyline or relationship they’re following ends, they may end up giving up the show all together.
One Wedding And A Funeral
It’s odd what offends me on soaps. A man becomes vastly more entertaining after having his memories sucked onto a computer disk by his mortal enemy? (John, Days of Our Lives) Sure. Why not? Two cousins fall in love? (Jonathan and Tammy, Guiding Light) Sexy! I was riveted to the screen. But Monday’s episode of One Life To Live got my blood boiling. Bo cheerfully planned to marry Lindsay on the same day his beloved niece buried her husband. He even proposed in the church where the funeral ceremony took place while Nash’s coffin was still there. I wished I could reach through my TV set and smack him in the face. In analyzing my strong negative emotions, I realized that I had such a strong negative reaction because the plot involved a realistic situation. I doubt anyone I know will ever have their memories downloaded onto a disk. But I, like everyone else, have lost loved ones. I have cried my eyes out at funerals. There was nothing romantic or celebratory about it. If anyone in my family blithely announced that they planned to get married that very same day, I would have been appalled. If I were supposed to be appalled by Bo and Lindsay’s behavior, I’d be okay with this plot twist. But I get the feeling that the speed-wedding is to facilitate a plot point, and the audience is supposed to overlook Bo’s tremendous insensitivity. Bo’s supposed to be a good guy, and his young son is in full support of the marriage. (I may be eating my words next week.) It will be difficult for me to think of Bo as a heroic family man after his behavior.
The Demise of ABC Previews
Every cloud has a silver lining. This week, I have finally found a bright side to daytime’s budget cuts. ABC is getting rid of its previews of the next episode. You may be asking yourself how on earth they could possibly cost any money. Someone’s got to edit the footage together. That person gets paid well. Editing is a skilled, union job. If the editor works five fewer hours a week, over a year it adds up. Plus, part of the time spent on episode previews can be used for advertising. One extra commercial a day can generate at least an extra $25,000 per week for ABC. Episode previews are a relatively new phenomenon that sprung up around the time of the O.J. trial – presumably in an attempt to keep viewers tuning in despite the frequent interruptions. The problem is that previews often give too much a way, ruining what would be a surprising moment. Days of Our Lives has spoiled scenes from the ends of episodes before. I would have been as surprised as Dorian was when David and Addie announced they were married on One Life To Live if the moment hadn’t played in the previews of the prior episode. Traditionally, soaps ended with a cliffhanger. If you wanted to find out what happened next, you had to tune in tomorrow. It worked. Now anyone with internet access can find detailed spoilers for upcoming story. Still, I have to hope that without previews a bit of suspense is coming back to ABC daytime.