Deep Soap: Mad Men and Women

by | January 11, 2010 at 11:17 AM | Deep Soap

Alison Sweeney as Sami Brady (NBC)

Alison Sweeney as Sami Brady (NBC)

Stepford Sami

I have loved, and at times loved to hate, Days of Our Lives’ Sami Brady since she was a paternity test stealing, angry, insecure teenager.  Sami was at time bad ass (shooting her rapist in the groin), at times frustrating (torpedoing all of her romantic relationships with her constant lies and manipulations) and all too human.    I think anyone who was not the prom queen could occasionally relate to her resentment of the perfect Carrie.  I rooted for her to grow up and figure out that if she just gave people a chance, some of them would like her.   I enjoyed her maturation over the past two years into the show’s flawed younger heroine.  One of the reasons I enjoyed watching Sami is that she was always proactive.  Apparently, being in a happy, functional relationship sucks the initiative right out of her.  Suddenly Sami is a passive wimp.   Sami should be responding to her baby’s kidnapping by going vigilante like Liam Neeson in Taken, and tracking down the kidnappers herself after hacking into the DiMera bank accounts to finance the venture.  Instead, Sami is wringing her hands, worrying about whether she should honor EJ’s request to keep the news that they received a ransom note from Rafe. Apparently now that Hope and Carly are filling the designated “strong woman” slots, Sami is relegated to hapless victim.   When Sami unloaded on Nicole after learning she stole her baby, I thought that I was witnessing the birth of an angry Sami who would use her devious mind for good not evil.  Instead, she has morphed into the person I never wanted her to be: Carrie. Please, PTB, when Sami figures out (and let it be her, not Rafe) that EJ engineered the kidnapping, let her go into full on revenge mode.  It is about time that Rafe, and the audience, got to see the real Sami.

Mixed Messages

As General Hospital’s Franco saga winds down, the show presented us with a curious example of good and evil.  Apparently, Franco is evil because he killed a man just to watch him die, while Jason is heroic because he kills people for money.

Jason: With a gun in my hand I wasn’t broken. I was competent. And that’s what I think about when I kill. I just do my job, you know? I don’t even think, I just react. I’m not like you.

Franco: I always knew I was different. I felt nothing. People would laugh or cry. I never understood why. I taught myself to mimic them. I passed for ordinary. I was 18 when I went to prison for a crime I didn’t commit. I learned a lot. All those cons going on about all the people they’d killed. Most were lies, but they made me curious. So when I got out, I decided to kill someone, just to see what it was like. I shot a man in Tribeca. Watched him die. I didn’t feel a damn thing. And so I turned it into art. And I’ve never stopped.

If GH was actually going to use this as a springboard for Jason to realize that he really is just a murderer, and attempt to leave his lifestyle behind this could be a fascinating beat to play with this character.  Or the show could go the other way, have Jason acknowledge that he was a villain and embrace the dark side.  I would find him far more likable if he were not supposed to be the good guy.  Instead, having Jason leave Franco to heroically rescue his girlfriend, without reflecting on the fact that all the people he has killed also had people who loved them, makes the story not just hypocritical but confusing.  I guess the moral is it is okay to kill people if you are brain damaged, but not if you are a sociopath.

A Life Well Lived

Present and past employees of The Young & The Restless and The Bold & The Beautiful gathered to remember writer Jerry Birn at a memorial lunch on Sunday.  I was among the many alumni there.  It felt like a college reunion. There is something about Y&R.  No matter what you do afterward, a big part of your heart will always belong to Genoa City.   The attendees included Victoria Rowell. Yes, she wore a hat.  His wife, Patty Weaver (Gina) gave me permission to write about the event. Held at his beloved country club, overlooking his favorite place on earth: the golf course, this was an afternoon of laughter not tears. The invitation requested that everyone wear festive attire.  There were Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s on the tables, a tribute to Birn’s fondness for chocolate.  There was also an open bar, in honor of his other favorite sustenance.  As people got up to speak about his life, I realized how little I knew about the man who used to pop into my office to verify details of the show’s history then retreat into his.  He was not just someone who used to work in advertising.  He was the former chairman of a major agency whose accomplishments included persuading Walt Disney to allow his animated characters to be used for branding and advertising.  Jerry Birn, was, among other things, the man who brought you Peter Pan peanut butter. No wonder Y&R has had so many good corporate storylines. Both he and Bill Bell actually spent time in the It’s amazing that instead of retiring after a career that anyone would deem a success he instead decided to learn the craft of soap writing. Perhaps if Mad Men lasts long enough, Don Draper can embark on a soap career, too.  Doug Davidson regaled everyone with a hilarious tribute to Jerry’s unique eggplant hair color.  We also learned the storyline that Jerry somehow never managed to get anyone to approve: naked island.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Jerry was, like daytime soaps, a product of a different time, when executives had martini lunches and nobody ever dressed down.  Y&R became popular in part because it possessed this elegance and glamour.  It also, for a long time, reflected those values behind the scenes.  They do not make them like Jerry Birn anymore.  It was a privilege to know him and to have spent a little bit of time in his world.