Soap fans are a notoriously skeptical bunch. I'm not sure if that is something that has been present since the dawn of televised serials, or if it is something that has developed over time after hearing lie upon lie from network executives.
"No, so-and-so actor is not leaving the show." "We are committed to the show and we have no plans to make any changes to our daytime lineup."
It isn't a surprise that soap fans were unwilling to believe that a company they'd never heard of could somehow swoop in and save not one, but two canceled daytime drama series. Prospect Park's deal with ABC to license All My Children and One Life to Live might still be a secret if it hadn't been for the New York Post leaking the story back in July. Well, maybe not, because someone would have had to explain why All My Children ended the way that it did.
There are now new reports all over the Internet, claiming that the Prospect Park deal is either a done deal, still not finalized, or not going to happen. It really depends which web site you read, and what their personal agenda might be. So many of you have written in to ask if I could help set the record straight. Honestly, I can't. Prospect Park is playing everything close to its vest, so there isn't much that can be said that hasn't already been said somewhere.
Prospect Park still needs a good-sized Powerball win in order to have all the money they need in place to make the Internet versions of All My Children and One Life to Live happen. How much exactly? Not sure -- but I've seem estimates of $40 million and up.
What I find interesting in all of this chatter are the things that the so-called mainstream media hasn't picked up on. In fact, I haven't seen anyone pick up on certain aspects of what's being said. First, Jeff Kwatinetz has said that it won't be cheaper to produce the Internet versions of AMC and OLTL. To me, that would seem to indicate that the actors are not being asked to work for much less than what they're currently being paid. The biggest fear had been that actors would have to work for low wages and be forced to take up collections to supply the craft services table.
This project is such a huge undertaking. I do believe that this all could have been made so much smoother if ABC had just been upfront years ago when it decided that it wanted out of the soap business. Just think of how many other suitors could have come to the table with ideas. And it certainly would have given Prospect Park more time to make deals with the actors, hammer out contracts with the unions, find studios to film the soaps, hire writers, devise a clever name for their online channel, and all of the things that go along with producing a television program. They might also have had some time to limit the "ick" factor of being on an Internet series that some have expressed . There are still way too many people who believe that Internet videos are nothing more than viral YouTube videos or pornography. Even worse, they may be fearful of being associated with me!
Before we get off the topic of money, let's dive in for part two of our look back at November Sweeps storylines from the past 16 years. In last week's column, we took a flashback to 1995 through 1997 to look at the plane crash that "killed" Maria, Michael Delaney's coming out, and Janet clobbering people over the head with random objects. This week it's time for 2000 through 2003. I'm laying the coordinates into the wayback machine, and zooooom!
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 2000
As I am sure you are aware, when Sweeps rolls into town it usually means that someone, somewhere is going to have a party or gathering. In November 2000, one of the most unusual parties in daytime history was held. It involved a small, somewhat intimate -- you'll understand in a moment why I am chuckling -- gathering aboard a yacht. That's right, AMC fans: it was the infamous Libidozone party.
Time hasn't really changed my opinion of this storyline all that much. I thought it was a bit silly back in 2000, and I'm kind of feeling the same way right now. There were highlights, but few. Ryan ripping off his clothes and yelling, "Let's get naked!" remains one of the most memorable lines in recent All My Children history. Then there was Laura being pushed overboard. Wasn't really a fan of Laura, so that didn't bother me, too much.
Actually, let me clarify that. I liked the original Laura -- Lauren E. Roman. That was back in the days of Laura being homeless, living in the woods with Janet and Piece, and all of that rustic, woodsy goodness.
There was also another storyline that just started to rev up, but it didn't play out until after Sweeps. Erica followed Bianca to New York and found her with Sarah. Sarah was Bianca's first love from their time in a rehabilitation center. Sarah, however, had since moved on... with a man.
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 2001
In the wake of the most horrific act of terror to ever take place in America, daytime reworked many of its stories. All My Children didn't alter its storytelling dramatically, but it did feature a Sweeps storyline that involved violence.
In 2001, the evil drug lord Proteus menaced Pine Valley. Before we learned that Vanessa Bennett was actually Proteus, I had high hopes for the plot. Evildoers can be so much fun on the soaps. But as the storyline played out (and dragged on), I began to get the feeling that the writers didn't know who Proteus was going to be. At the end of the story, I wasn't buying that Vanessa was Proteus. To this day, I still don't believe it. I do, however, love Marj Dusay, and would be giddy if she'd be able to return to the show.
Other plots of note: Frankie Stone was found dead, and Chris Stamp was positioned as a romantic interest for Erica. I was never a fan of Chris Stamp, but I did like the plot twist that led everyone to believe that he was Ryan's dad.
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 2002
It's no secret to any soap fan that sometimes a soap storyline gets dropped. There are usually a variety of reasons -- actors leaving the show, new writing teams, audience ennui... In 2002, Mia was seeking the son she'd given up for adoption, William. After Mia flew off to Genoa City, er, Seattle, she was never mentioned again. Frankie certainly never mentioned that he had a son floating around somewhere. I wonder if the network decided that (re)acknowledging Frankie had a son would somehow imperil or diminish Frankie's relationship with Randi. There has never been an overt statement that Frankie doesn't have a child, but they've certainly ignored it. Or maybe the writers had always been hoping that we, the viewers, would forget about it.
Not a whole lot else went down in November 2002. I may need to go back into the news files and see if there was a writing team switch just before (or after) November Sweeps. So far the big highlight that I've found is Liza pushing Mia out of a window at Chandler Mansion. There was also Edmund accidentally calling Maria "Maria" during an intimate moment instead of "Maureen." Don't you just hate it when you call out the right name during sex?
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 2003
Oh Gosh. 2003 also had a host of characters that no one cared about. There was Juan Pablo Renato Ruiz de Vasquez and his brother, Carlos, just to name a couple. There was, however, some pretty decent story smattered about.
Michael Cambias had just been killed, and everyone in town had a reason to kill him. The thing I liked most about Michael's murder was the creative use of fake flashbacks to show where everyone was at the time of Michael's demise. Seeing Adam and Palmer work together and grouse about having to do it was priceless. Soaps aren't being written the same nowadays to allow for this sort of rivalry to be recreated. There were layers to the Chandler vs. Cortlandt feud.
Elsewhere: Bianca was interested in Lena, Kendall claimed to be carrying Michael Cambias' child, and the town celebrated Thanksgiving.
All My Children didn't have the holiday traditions of other soaps. They tried for a while with the Crystal Ball on New Year's Eve, but that ended years ago. What I wouldn't give to have everyone gathered together this year. I can almost see it now. Erica, realizing that she has no green beans on her plate, turns to Jack asks for a spoonful. Jack turns to Erica and snaps, "Frankly, Erica, I don't give a damn what you want." Jack rises from the table and storms off. Dejected, Erica then realizes she won't be getting any stuffing either.
We're halfway through our Sweeps flashback. What are your memories of the years discussed in this week's column? Click here to send me feedback and to share your memories. I'll post your comments in a special column that will be posted after I've finished my Sweeps columns.