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 Two Scoops: February 7, 2005 columns
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John Aniston
Soaps used to matter
For the Week of February 7, 2005
Somewhere along the line, soap writers decided that the supernatural and way out crazy people were more exciting viewing and ratings boosters than the day to day problem solving.
First off - a big apology to all for being late this week. For some reason, I woke up on Saturday feeling 'blurry', so although I carried on with my chores, I wasn't myself. When I awoke Sunday morning, I discovered I'd slept for 14 hours straight! And spent the rest of the day fighting off dizziness, nausea, and generally feeling off. So I wound up spending Sunday in bed, occasionally rising to bounce off the walls on my way to making yet another cup of non-Salem tea.

Why am I telling you this? Because, dear ones, in the past I could have been sure of finding at least one place on the air where someone was dealing with something similar, and I would have been eager to find out what the heck was the problem and how to deal with it.

Sure, there's now GOOGLE, and a million other quicker, perhaps smarter ways to check on your health on line, or on health programs on the LIFE channels. And I do use those resources, when I'm really worried about symptoms in myself or within my family. But in the 'old day's, I'd have been sure to find that someone on one of my soaps was coping with a variation of my problem. Because soaps used to be a great place to take your physical 'temperature' as well as your emotional 'barometer'.

Did soaps give up on showing us 'reality' when 'Reality TV' took over? I know so many women who agonized through menopause, alcoholism, depression, abortion, or breast cancer along with a beloved soap character. Maybe they were, or knew someone, with an addiction to gambling, sex, or shoplifting. Some of us related to how desirable the husband next door (or teenage son!) looked in his Speedos. Maybe we even had a yen for the 'girl next door'. We literally 'felt their pain', as we not only learned about a physical or mentally based problem, but were offered the ways and means to cope with how the problem affected not only our own bodies, but those around us.

Now, I'm certainly not advocating watching Soaps over seeing a professional for physical or emotional crises. But assuming that all the people all over the globe who follow the soaps not only have the insight to realize they have a problem, let alone have access to a professional, would be ridiculous. Soaps mattered when they appealed to the reality of day to day life, and offered potential solutions. People in denial, people in the middle of physical or emotional drama, had a chance daily to learn how to cope in a more healthy way.

Okay, certainly not ALL the soaps! And certainly not ALL the issues. But if you were a soap viewer, you could see how you, your family, your neighbor, or neighborhood could possibly benefit from how the writers on a soap saw a bigger problem 'mountain', and broke it down into a smaller 'molehill'. You had a chance to tackle real life with real solutions. In effect, early soaps were early 'Reality TV'. It was how people with access to daytime TV stayed in the loop and seemed to know more than their limited access to current issues would have warranted. It was a lifeline. It was a helping hand. It was when Soaps mattered.

Somewhere along the line, soap writers decided that the supernatural and way out crazy people were more exciting viewing and ratings boosters than the day to day problem solving. And for a while they were correct; viewers flocked to visions of the floating possessed Marlena, the emergence of satanic criminals, and hints of decade long feuds raged between opposing families. Trouble is, every time you up the ante on what's going to appeal to jaded soap viewers, you move further away from the reality of what brought the viewers in in the first place.

Now, producers, directors and writers search frantically for the next quick fix, the next uncharted psychological, psychosexual or psychotic delusion that will bring viewers running back to their show and boost ratings for a week or two. They toy with our minds and emotions, and like the looky loos on the highway craning to see a car crash, the viewers race to have a peek, and then just as quickly race away to the next soap with the next, newest ugliness. And then, they wonder why soap ratings overall have never been lower!

So why was I feeling ill this weekend? Probably overly stressed, or forgot to take medication. Maybe I was just exhausted from multi-tasking - I do try to do too much, my husband calls me 'your average over-achiever' - or maybe I was having a reaction to the Flu shot. I feel fine today, so I'll just file this incident away. But if one of the soaps had a character dealing with a similar situation, you can bet I'd be watching to see how that character was coping with the problem! Unfortunately, I'm more likely to find someone coping with being hypnotized into imagining they were a mass murderer, while dealing with being presumed dead on a desert island that had been transformed into a perfect simile of my neighborhood. Strangely, my little part of the world has a shortage of maniacal supervillains.
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Last week I asked if anyone had any ideas for a way that Salem could write themselves out of it's current slump, and back into ratings favor. Some of you did send email's with your thoughts and suggestions. Here's a summary of what I received:

"I liked what you had to say...but I didn't see anything about Belle, Shawn & Philip. I think the first thing to happen is that Belle gets divorced and is back with Shawn. This thing with Jan Spears drugging Shawn/blackmailing Mimi has gone on way too long. But the most annoying character to me is Kate. I think she needs to go. There are quite a few characters who need an overhaul! " - from Eileen Davis.
"I am a true soap fan and understand recast but the woman who plays Belle is too OLD. They have destroyed the soap with the island and now the recast that are not even close. " - from Barbara Elam
"I agree with everything that was in the latest Two Scoops, especially about bringing back some of the old characters like Mike and Carrie and Kayla and Batch. I'm so tired about these mixed up matches that are going on and the dragging out of the storylines. Get a move on and get things back to where they were. What kind of picture does this show to the younger viewers. Are they to expect that this is the way of life? All lies and coverups. No commitments " - from Alene
"One suggestion is to bring Shawn and Belle together because they are soulmates. Say that Georgia really died at birth (because she did), and pair her up with Patrick. Marry Sami and Lucas and have Kate be exposed for trying to tear up the couple and being actively involved in her childrens love lives. Bring all the missing Salemites home and reunite them with their loved ones. As for the drama... If Georgia must be cast make her be Chelsea and have her and her mom fighting for Patrick. Mimi's abortion should be exposed and Rex will have to choose will he be bitter, or stay with Mimi. Brandon, Lucas, Rex, and Philip should conspire against Kate to pay her back for breaking up couples and bringing couples together that should not be. Philip will blame his mother for Belle dumping him, because she consistently told him to court her. Hope will find out that Kate was trying to break up Bo and Hope and Hope will join forces with Kate's kids. Roman will break up with Kate because she broke her promise after he "died" Mickey will choose Maggie and Bonnie will go after the next money man...Victor! With half of Salem hating her Kate will leave Salem and promise to never return." - from Antoine.

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Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of soapcentral.com or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen, what has happened, and to take a look at the logistics of it all. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same view point.
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