Tag Archives: soapland

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Episode 976: Another Another World

“It’s impossible! I just saw him die!”

Today, Roger Collins opens a door in the east wing of Collinwood and discovers another world, filled with familiar people leading different lives at the exact same time. He’s fascinated by it, of course, and he spends the whole week talking about how desperate he is to see those exciting new stories. This turns out to be a tactical error.

Because there really is Another World — it airs on NBC at 3:00pm, and it’s doing so well that they’re creating a spinoff, which will compete directly with Dark Shadows.

Now, back in the good old days of September 1968, when Angelique was a vampire and Quentin was still a twinkle in Henry James’ eye, nobody would dare counter-program against Dark Shadows. It was a nationwide sensation, thirty minutes of thrills beamed every day to everyone who mattered.

The Columbia Broadcasting System was the big dog in the soap world, with chart-busters As the World Turns, Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light at the top of the ratings for more than a decade. But in September ’68, CBS took stock of the situation and decided to turn tail and run, moving The Secret Storm from 4:00 to 3:00, where it was safer and the light was better anyway. They threw poor old Art Linkletter into the 4:00 spot, so the squares had something to do if they’d already finished their homework and folded all the socks. And so Art Linkletter’s House Party lived out the rest of its days, unwatched and unloved, a 25-year broadcasting giant felled by a show that at the time was mainly make-believe mad science experiments.

But Dark Shadows has spent the last four months telling a story that nobody really wanted to hear, and squandering the talents of their new werewolf superstar. There is movement in the shadows. The other wolves can smell weakness.

And next Monday, on March 30th — the same day that Barnabas changes channels to Parallel Time, and gives everybody who wasn’t excited about the Leviathans a natural jumping-off point — NBC premieres their brand new soap opera at 4:00pm. It’s not very good, and it doesn’t last that long, but it gets better ratings than Dark Shadows does, because sometimes the wrong people win.

Continue reading Episode 976: Another Another World

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Episode 919/920/921: The New Neighbors

“That’s right, I’m a werewolf, and that’s why you’re gonna start painting right now.”

Here we are, in another haunted mansion, and sitting at the front desk is an audio-animatronic Charles Delaware Tate. He speaks, he turns his head, and his chest moves up and down like he’s breathing; I’d estimate this action figure has maybe six points of articulation. But it can’t be the real Chuck D, because he should be seventy-two years older than this.

Quentin and Chris are visiting this weird wax museum because they’re hoping that Tate can paint a picture for them. But Tate laughs at them, just laughs and laughs, until Quentin picks up a vase of flowers and hits him square in the chest with it.

And that’s how Charles Delaware Tate dies laughing, the target of a floral drone strike. He falls face first onto the desk, and then his head pops off and rolls across the floor.

Continue reading Episode 919/920/921: The New Neighbors

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Episode 878: Flight of the Conquered

“I’d advise you to start running. Don’t stop, because those sounds will always be close behind you.”

Aristede has displeased his employer, the mad Count Petofi, for reasons that I don’t feel like discussing right now. Intent on tormenting Aristede to the grave, Petofi has summoned a demonic prison guard, Garth Blackwood — a man that Aristede murdered, years ago. Now Aristede’s on the run, with the implacable Blackwood following close behind, stomping and growling and rattling a chain.

This doesn’t help Count Petofi achieve any of his goals, but he does it anyway. I don’t really know why.

Continue reading Episode 878: Flight of the Conquered

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Episode 612: Reflections on the Golden Eye

“The trouble, I guess, is that soaps are rather subterranean.”

Here’s a story that isn’t true:

In some ways the situation wasn’t unusual for a soap opera. A girl and an older man, in the process of eloping, had been hurt in an auto accident. However, the condition of the still-unconscious male patient baffled the examining doctors at the hospital. Although he had suffered only a minor head wound and was breathing normally, his veins were almost empty of blood and no heartbeat or pulse could be detected.

The treatment — massive transfusions — was already underway when the patient’s personal physician and a friend arrived at the emergency ward. “What do you think will happen to him?” asked the friend in a desperate whisper. “Who can tell?” was the M.D.’s equally tense reply. “After all, no one’s ever given massive blood transfusions to a vampire before.”

And then “a burst of eerie music is followed by a denture-adhesive commercial, and one more episode of Dark Shadows comes to a cliff-hanging conclusion,” except it didn’t happen that way.

Continue reading Episode 612: Reflections on the Golden Eye

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Episode 546: A Little Bored

“I can punish you for having such human emotions!”

Angelique approaches her boss, her eyes pleading. “Mr. Blair,” she ventures, “do you think maybe I should talk to her?”

“Well, all right, Angelique,” Nicholas nods.

“Thank you, Mr. Blair,” she says, and moves toward the door.

“Oh, Angelique…” he says. “You won’t say anything to her about not being able to have any more children?”

“Oh, no, Mr. Blair, I won’t do that,” says Angelique. “But maybe I can help her come to her senses. You know, she has so much to be happy about, Mr. Blair, and I’m going to tell her so!” Fire flashes in her eyes. “Somebody’s got to!”

And then she turns and leaves the room, and the organ music starts up, and it turns out we were watching General Hospital by accident.

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Episode 380: Something Borrowed

“I did not change Mr. Collins into a cat so that you could kill him!”

Dearly beloved, I have a question: Why do they even bother to send out Save the Date cards? It’s a soap opera wedding; they have to know that it’s not going to go as planned.

The bride calls the groom by the wrong name at the altar, and they call it off. Or the groom’s sister goes into labor during the ceremony.  Or the bride shows up two hours late. Or the groom doesn’t show up at all. Or the bride’s ex-boyfriend runs in and punches the groom in the face.

Continue reading Episode 380: Something Borrowed

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Episode 372: Another Country

“Joshua Collins can think up a whole lot of ways to be cruel to a man.”

Vicki has mysteriously traveled back in time, from 1967 to 1795, and now she has to fit in, because she doesn’t know how to get home. She’s actually doing remarkably well, under the circumstances. Personally, I’m not sure what I’d do if I suddenly found myself in the wrong century; I don’t really have a backup plan for that. I’ve just tried to stay in the century that I’m in, and so far, it’s worked out okay. So Vicki does earn some respect, just for getting up in the morning and dealing with whatever year she happens to find herself in.

That being said, it’s Vicki, and she’s an idiot. So, obviously, when she meets a Collins family servant who looks like the guy who kidnapped and tried to kill her with an axe last year, she doesn’t say, “Aha, here’s another person from 1795 who coincidentally looks like someone that I used to know; I should play it cool and introduce myself.” Nope. She backs up against the wall and shouts, “Stay away from me!” and then she screams and screams and screams and screams and screams.

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Episode 334: All Those Dead People

“I’m sure that you can recognize the difference between a cellar with a coffin, and a cellar without a coffin.”

In 1948, James Thurber wrote a five-part series of articles for The New Yorker called “Soapland”, an in-depth look at the world of radio soap operas. One of the many strange things that he learned was that some listeners apparently had a hard time understanding that the shows were fictional. When a popular heroine on Just Plain Bill was going to have her first child, listeners sent hundreds of baby gifts to their local network stations, and when the child died, the stations received stacks of sympathy cards.

That stereotype of the half-deranged soap audience lasted for a long time, and every Dark Shadows-era interview with Jonathan Frid would include at least one paragraph on the weird mail Frid received from female fans, begging for a bite.

But from what I’ve seen, soap opera fans are exactly the opposite of that stereotype. There are currently two weekly magazines on newsstands that are exclusively devoted to documenting the behind-the-scenes mechanics of daytime television production, where producers and head writers are expected to explain and justify every single storyline and casting decision. Following a daily soap opera is like getting a graduate degree in Open-Ended Serialized Narrative in Theory and Practice.

This means that we’re constantly analyzing the soaps we enjoy, measuring the current state of the show against what we’d like it to be. We’re an audience of active backseat drivers. When a favorite character dies, we don’t send sympathy cards — we write letters and emails and furious tweets, actively campaigning to bring the dead back to life.

It’s not just that we don’t believe the characters are real. We barely believe that the show is real.

Continue reading Episode 334: All Those Dead People