Why I came back to Soaps…

My Days of our Lives episode yesterday was preemptied a good deal, so I can’t really discuss the episode. I haven’t watched Survivor yet and I think anything I say in regards to Lost will only talk about the beauty that is Josh Holloway. Josh Holloway

So I’ll talk about after having been been away from soaps for so long, how could I come back to soaps after so many years of successfully weaned from them. There is really one word for it but I’ll get to it in a second.

On TWoP, someone brought up when the last time I cried on Days of our Lives. I cried last when Isabelle died and hardest when Steve died. (Honorable mention goes to the Chelsea/Hope scene at Christmas though because that very nearly did me in.) But the hardest I cried ever on any TV show, primetime included, goes to General Hospital. The episode they killed BJ.

I don’t remember much before or after the storyline. I don’t exactly remember when it happened. I do remember being shocked and my mouth dropping when it was revealed BJ was brain dead. I’m not sure if the show was that successful hiding spoilers, SOD revealed almost everything even back then but for some reason I had no idea that was coming. The storyline leading into this was Maxie, Frisco and Felicia’s daughter needed a new heart would a heart become available? I knew during this time there would be not be killing off Maxie. They rarely killed child characters and even when they did, it usually came sudden and quick. What the show did instead was have BJ become brain dead from a wreck of some sort (I think it was a school bus accident) which came out of the blue. Naturally BJ was a match to Maxie and everything happened so quickly (rare on soaps) but the decision was made to do the transplant.

What I remember crying about was from two specific scenes. The first was Lucy Coe learning the fate of BJ and her reaction to such news. Lucy was at the hospital and found out rather quickly of the situation (she was on the board I think). Also, she at one time had been BJ’s stepmother. OMG, the scene where Lucy winds up being the one to tell Felicia (accidentally) that the heart is coming from BJ is one of the most heart-wrenching moments of all time. I can actually tear up just thinking of the scene RIGHT NOW. Question for those that remember it more vividly, memory serves that Lucy also went and spoke to Bobbie consoling her but I may have just made that up in my head because I love the angst.

The other scene is Tony Jones, BJ’s father. In true soap opera fashion…only Tony can be the one to remove the heart from his daughter’s body and attach it to his niece’s body. This should have been one of those moments where I went “Oh, COME ON!!!” because the ridiculousness and contrivance that Tony would have been scheduled at all to handle any surgeries with his own niece as the patient was too much. But that didn’t bother me. Tony gave an awesome performance where he sat down and talked to BJ right before surgery. He was saying goodbye. Up until then I took the character of Tony Jones for granted, finding him to be the more bland of the Jones brothers. His performance changed my mind on that.

So why bring all of this up? It’s what I loved about Soaps. The one word. Not drama. Not love. Not Sex. It’s Reaction. Yes, revelation of events happening around them and watching the characters reacting to it.

Primetime TV now seems to always skip the reaction scenes. Every damn time. Let’s start with a Season Final from a couple of seasons ago. CSI. The end of the fifth season Nick got buried alive. BURIED ALIVE!! Promos told us it would happen so we (the audience) knew it was coming. So at the start of the episode, we watched as Nick, innocent to his own fate, began processing the scene. Suddenly the scene changes and it’s obvious Nick has already been taken. What irks me is…..Grissom and Catherine arrive at the scene already knowing about Nick and jump in their super CSI mode. Warrick shows up a few minutes later, and wouldn’t it have been great to get his reaction seeing as how it could have easily been him kidnapped instead? What a waste of displaying these actor’s talents. Remember the end of the pilot? New CSI Holly is shot on duty and Det Brass informs the rest of the CSIs and the audience is allowed to witness all of their reactions. Later, when Holly died on the operating table, the camera jumps to each CSI’s face so we get their realistic reaction. Now, 5 years later, we get a chance to witness the same actors reacting to a very similar situation on someone they actually know (much better than Holly) and we wind up cruising into “working the evidence.”

What a freaking ripoff. This is just one example. That same year, Without a Trace ended it’s season with two of their agents, Martin and Danny, getting shot up in a car with a mass of bullets. When the season premiere came along in the fall, their coworker’s reactions were skipped and they were already hard at work trying to find the jerks that did it. NCIS got closer when they killed off a primary character in a horrific way a few years ago and we went from the immediate shock reactions to the characters to them back at headquarters hunting down her killer. Remember on The West Wing when Zoey Bartlett was kidnapped? We got Leo’s reaction and a brief moment of President Bartlett being told of his daughter’s kidnapping. What’s funny is a few years later in real life John Spencer died and the show was forced to write in his death. If there was a time I would have forgiven a show for not giving us the character’s reactions (since the actor died in real life) it would have been then. Naturally, we get to see everyone’s reaction. And you know what? I’m glad they did because it just added more to the tragedy of the episode.

Does anyone else notice this? Is it just me? Is it too much to ask if the producers deem it necessary to kill off a favorite character of mine to not help sweeten it by actually showing the other characters’ immediate reaction to the news? It was only a few years ago when ER had that EXCELLENT episode where Carter and Lucy were stabbed while the rest of the team was just outside. We got to see Dr. Weaver’s immediate reaction to seeing two of her co-workers on the floor and calling everyone to act. It was awesome. My favorite moment of Mash was the moment when everyone was told that Col. Blake was killed when his helicopter crashed taking him home. I know the story behind that scene was those pages of the script were held back from the cast and they were shot almost as soon as they got the news. The reactions were real and they certainly were real.

So why don’t they do it anymore? They might insist there is no time anymore for such things and it drags the story down. I say..the actors on primetime are supposidly considered high price talent, especially the bigger named ones. Let them work for their price tags. I know I crave it. I want to see it. Maybe that’s why I’m loving Lost and Heroes so much. Because of the subject matter along with the shocking moments the shows are famous for, it’s necessary for us to see the characters reactions.

So I returned to DOOL mainly because Steve and Kayla returned. I stuck around for the fact it’s a soap and ultimately it’s all about the character’s reactions. Do they disappoint us on this? Sure. Are the actors up to it? Not always, but I appreciate when they try. What I don’t appreciate when they skip it. I know people will say lately DOOL has been skipping reaction shots and that is true, especially on Marlena. That’s a subject I think for another post. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Why I came back to Soaps…

  1. I haven’t watched the other shows you mention, but I know what you mean about soaps. The biggest asset of a soap is that it has time for those touches that we love so much: the reaction scenes, the brother/sister interactions (Steve/Adrienne, Kayla/Bo), the pointless (sometimes) but wonderful banter between a happy couple (some recent Sami/Lucas).

    I too could go on to criticize but I won’t today. It’s so nice to have good things going on again finally that I’m just going to bask in it.

  2. Tripp, I totally agree. The reactions say a lot about the relationships of the various characters and I always look forward to them, and I do think they tend to get skipped on a lot of shows out there – though I find myself watching less and less prime time at the moment. The thought “I can’t wait to see what such and such says when he/she finds out about that” is one I often have, and am disappointed if I don’t get to see it.

    I wonder that they’re not afraid of too much exposition, something that soaps obviously are not. But it doesn’t take too much exposition to make it work. The audience knows what’s happened so you don’t need to show the telling, only the reaction – as with that scene with Leo and Jed when Zoey was kidnapped – and it can have just as much impact, if not more, without dialogue.

  3. Mary, I have good things to go on about DOOL right now, in spite of the last few months. It’s why it’s harder for me to watch primetime shows. I think most of the time they skip the revelation/reaction scene because there isn’t enough time (as they say). I do understand that actors hate acing on exposition moments but to me it seems like they would jump at the chance for a moment to either “reveal” or “react” on news that will change their character lives forever (presumably). I will say I loved how they did it on the pilot for CSI. When they stated the character of Holly was killed…it went directly to all other characters one by one where we can presume they just heard about it.

    Zara, there is a cool blog out there by a sitcom TV writer named Ken Levine…naturally sitcoms are a different beast than drama/crime/soaps but he always will give out interesting tidbits and facts. He insists that actors especially hate exposition and will gripe to the writers the most about it (on TV series). I found that very intresting. Below is a link:

    http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2006/08/what-actors-hate.html

    I found it very interesting (and entertaining).

  4. That is an interesting piece Tripp, and I am sure that actors hate delivering exposition almost as much as I hate watching it be delivered – especially, especially, on soaps. But I agree with you that these scenes can be about the nuances of a particular reveal or reaction rather than getting bogged down in “A did X and then B did Y, isn’t is amazing?”

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