Somehow I just can't start this column with my usual "Has your week been bold and beautiful" schtick. I can't bring myself to make jokes with the entire soap genre in danger of extinction.
And don't think that's an alarmist statement, either. The cancellation of AMC and OLTL doesn't just affect fans of those shows. There's a growing sentiment among networks, a sentiment that started with the cancellation of GL and ATWT, a sentiment that says it's all right to cancel soaps, because they're just an old-fashioned, dying genre anyway. Even Oprah Winfrey jumped on that bandwagon, which appalled me. When a primetime show gets cancelled, there's what -- 30 or 40 shows to replace it in a single season? Daytime fans don't get that luxury. It's not like the old days anymore -- we lose a show, that's it.
And you don't just cancel two shows under the guise of plummeting ratings when there are still millions of people who follow them every day. Now, are any of the soaps -- including B&B -- what they should be these days? Hell, no. What's behind that? Is it just that our soaps are so desperate to compete with talk shows, reality shows, and decreasing attention spans that they think shocks, stunts, and implausible, plot-driven stories will excite viewers? Or is there actually a conspiracy that has network execs going to writers and telling them to write crap storylines so disgusted viewers will give them an excuse to cancel soaps? I honestly don't know.
Whatever's going on, if AMC and OLTL go off the air, we could well lose the remaining four soaps in a matter of a year or two. And this isn't just about phasing out the entire soap opera genre -- scripted television as a whole is being threatened, too, and don't fool yourself into thinking it isn't. Otherwise Brian Frons wouldn't be telling us viewers want to see more reality shows.
I keep going back and forth between feeling hopeless and hopeful about the future of soaps. But just because the soap I Scoop about isn't in any immediate danger doesn't mean I advocate us resting on our laurels. Yes, I left messages on ABC's viewer feedback line, and also contacted them through Hoover, who pulled their ads from ABC and has become a conduit for sending viewer messages to ABC. But Hoover's unprecedented action -- and that Brian Frons is now under fire because of it (according to the New York Post, anyway) -- makes it very clear that getting sponsorship pulled is a way of talking to ABC in a language they'll understand.
Like all corporate entities, networks don't think of creativity or that audiences have followed their shows for decades -- they think of bottom line. So talk to them on that level. Go to Soap Central's Support Our Soaps page for info on where to contact the advertisers. Cite Hoover's example. Respectfully ask the advertisers to pull their ads from ABC as well, and note that you are choosing not to buy their products until they do. You know how they say "money talks" -- thinning out ABC's wallet may be the only way to let them know loud and clear that not only do viewers want soaps to remain, but that we're not going to stand for them being unilaterally cancelled.
Of course, a show has got to be good for viewers to keep watching it. So this is the time for all the soaps to step up their game. Lose the boring characters, stop being shocking for the sake of being shocking, pay attention to history, and listen to the fans. We know what we want to see, and we don't need for a network exec or a head writer to tell us what that is. That's just one thing that's so awesome about soaps -- there's so much history and continuity, and we really, deeply care about both.
B&B still has a ways to go, but this was a pretty good week overall. For one thing, we only had to endure Oliver/Hope/Liam/Amber one day instead of five. But it's still a mess. Hope has decided to "move on" with Oliver -- yet she shouldn't be moving on with anyone. By her own admission, she's not over Liam -- bad enough she got with Liam when she wasn't over Oliver! I rebounded a lot when I was young -- Hope is young -- but this really doesn't send healthy messages to the audience. And Oliver, knowing Hope still loves Liam, is working off a 40-watt bulb when he needs a 100. You know what I mean?
Ah, well. At least Hope cutting off Liam's phone call is different, and they're still hinting about Oliver being the father of Amber's baby. Of course, Marcus is in the running as well. I suppose, at some point, things will get very interesting with this story. We're just not there yet.
Now, I have two things to say about the continuing Thomas/Brooke Affair. First, it needs to end. The majority of us fans do not want it. It's what made me think conspiracy theory in the first place -- "Hmm, what's the best way we can alienate viewers? I know! Put Brooke and Thomas together!" You've already heard me rage about why I hate the story and the implications if these two cross the line, so I won't go into that again...all I know is that they've been on this for six months, and enough is more than enough. I can't believe Steffy actually said it best -- that it might sell a few magazine covers but that "people really don't want to think about them actually being together." So knock it off, B&B! The time for mincing words is over.
Second...well, at least it's taking a different turn. We've actually got a B&B disaster on our hands! And it's about time. Didn't I say at New Year's that we needed one to shake things up? And who flew us into that typhoon? None other than Alan Pietruszewski, who played Captain Andy. I've known him since the start of his career, when we did a production of Oklahoma! together. He's like a house on fire right now; he's working really hard and headed for the big time. I'm proud to say "I knew him when." Way to go, Alan! Except for that whole flying-Brooke-into-the-ocean thing. (Kidding. Kidding!)
Let's backtrack to what led to B&B's version of Airport '77." There was much jubilation and glee over Thomas being gifted with five percent of Forrester stock. All right, a nice show of faith on Ridge's part there. But now, as CEO, Ridge owns less of the company than Steffy! And why is Thorne, who's been there as long as Ridge, not pitching a fit? He has zero percent! (Talk about not listening to the fans -- we want Thorne! Yet he's constantly shoved aside and disrespected -- tsk!) Also, we need more Eric. John McCook's warmth just lights up the screen. Ridge's own warmth toward Thomas this week took me back to the glory days, reminding me how Eric was always so supportive of Ridge.
But I don't think Ridge should be so blasť about Thomas and his attraction to Brooke. "He's learned his lesson," Ridge claims -- but I'm not so sure. It seemed like a little too much of a one-eighty to go from slashing Taboo's budget and preventing a women's line to reinstating everything and sending Thomas and Brooke off to Australia together! You'd think putting them on a plane together would be the last thing Ridge would do. Who hasn't learned his lesson?
At least Ridge did learn the lesson of finally locking the door before getting down to (monkey) business with Brooke in his office. It's amazing any actual work gets done at Forrester Creations! How many times do we need to see these two go at it? To say nothing of the fact that Ridge purposely ignored his private line at work! If he had picked up, he would have known about the typhoon, and the Australia trip could have been postponed. Good one, Ridge. It was up there with Ridge getting Brooke all steamed up in the steam room before Hope's graduation party. Not that Brooke and Oliver weren't responsible for what happened, but Ridge played a part in it, then as now.
"When did Thomas become catnip to women?" Brooke wanted to know. Indeed. B&B is trying really hard to portray Thomas as a player -- too hard. I still say Thomas is gay and is surrounding himself with women to convince himself (and others) that he isn't. But I digress. I don't buy Thomas and Dayzee as a couple, but I loved Dayzee's demeanor during their goodbye. Even though she was joking around, she was also spot-on when she told Thomas "you might think more of yourself if you think less of yourself more often." Score! She at least had the decency to say her goodbye privately. What the hell was up with Madison and Summer throwing themselves at Thomas in front of Brooke? This is a work situation, not the Playboy mansion! Honestly.
Was it just me, or did it seem those on Air Forrester flew into that storm awfully fast? The report said it was in the vicinity of Fiji. It takes five hours or more to fly that far from L.A., not five minutes. And how silly was it for Brooke and Thomas to be yelping during the power outage, completely ignoring their oxygen masks? Did they think the masks dropped from the ceiling for decoration? At least, Captain Alan, you reprimanded them for that -- even if you went for coffee instead of leaving a message for Ridge like you should have. (Wink.)
Much was made of Thomas not wanting to let Ridge down, and of Brooke and Thomas swearing nothing inappropriate would happen between them. (It better damn well not.) So why on earth would Brooke ask Thomas how many women he has in his life? Asking for trouble, that's what that was. It made about as much sense as Brooke trying on a shiny gold dress in the middle of flying through a storm. I knew the second it went on that disaster was imminent -- after all, it was so Dynasty. Tragedy in sequins! That's how we used to roll, y'all.
So, the next jolt from the storm brought the plane down (even if it didn't bring down the oxygen masks again!), and Brooke and Thomas were left fighting for their lives in the freezing water. Compelling stuff! And so much to talk about at family reunions -- now both Ridge's wives have gone down in planes. Taylor and Thomas have both gone down in planes. I can only hope Thomas doesn't follow Taylor's lead and make love to Brooke to keep warm, the way Taylor did with James during the Big Bear quake in '94. I don't know where it goes from here, but as long as it doesn't involve sex, I'm good.
Now, you know what's reallygood? The you-know-what flying between Katie and Bill! This is easily the best storyline B&B has going right now. But poor Steffy...she's nearly pathological. So she understands Bill, and Katie doesn't? What Steffy's saying is that she doesn't have a problem with Bill's plan to kill Amber! And how many times, in how many ways, does Bill have to demonstrate that he is devoted to Katie before Steffy finally clues in that he's not interested? Maybe it's the mixed messages he's sending, sticking his tongue down Steffy's throat one minute and pushing her away the next.
And why, when the topic of pursuing Bill came up between Steffy and Stephanie, did La Forrester not put her foot down and tell Steffy to snap out of it? Yeah, she rolled her eyes and said Steffy shouldn't go see him. But, as a woman who always cried lack of morals when Brooke or Lauren went after married men (usually Eric), she should have made a stronger case for Steffy not following in those footsteps. Maybe Stephanie was tired out from her lung cancer medication. Wait. Did Stephanie ever have lung cancer? Because you wouldn't know it these days.
Did I call it or did I call it? Last column, I joked that Taylor would end up being Bill and Katie's therapist. But really -- who else in all of L.A. would they get? To B&B's credit, though, Taylor is much more in her element as a psychiatrist, and much truer to the character. Thankfully we only had her objecting to Thomas' Australia trip for two seconds -- but it really proved my point: Nervous Nellie Taylor is like fingernails on a chalkboard, but Doctor Taylor rocks my socks. She even finally got a clue about Steffy! Acknowledging Katie's plea to talk to Steffy, Taylor said, "You can count on that." Well, it's about damn time! Anybody else looking forward to Taylor opening up a can of Whoop-Ass on Steffy?
Bill, of course, functioning as a snarling dog who's been put in a cage, acted predictably in therapy. Lying on the couch, making snarky comments, and thinking Katie was the one with the problem. I would even go so far as to say Bill was just plain mean in spots. And you know what made that great? Katie stepping up and not putting up with it! Heather Tom really shone this week, and what a sight to behold. Katie turned it right back around on Bill when he accused her of "emotional violence." And tying this current arc into what happened with Storm is a great move. It was revisionist history to talk about the flashes of rage Storm had during the years the Logans were off-screen, but we did see how those flashes almost got Katie killed -- no wonder she'd be hyper-aware of the damage Bill's rage could cause.
But Bill wouldn't see it that way, walking out on the session -- and Katie -- almost as if to pay Katie back for walking out on him. Can this marriage be saved? I don't know, but this is some damn good storytelling, and B&B needs more of it. Not that I'm not grateful for the drama we got this week!
It just goes to prove that the soaps can still knock it out of the park. Bill and Katie's conflict -- even the plane crash -- this is the kind of stuff we need to see on our screens every day. Good, solid stories mired in history. Because when you break it down, the soaps' very survival depends on it.
Here are some thoughts from the Two Scoops e-bag:
• "Are we supposed to believe that a handsome, wealthy, dynamic billionaire (Bill) would be so enthralled by an immature 20-something (Steffy)? Bill knows she paraded her 'goods' before his son just a few months ago. Is Bill supposed to be dumber than Owen, Oliver and Liam and want this low-class stalker?" - Moe
• "I am still wondering why the writers are going along with the incestual theme of Thomas and Brooke... [And] Katie is a very strong woman...why is she now running away from her problems with her husband. Katie marrying Bill is a very perfect match and can handle her husband very well, so please let her do so while staying with her husband." - Magsta
• "Great column, Mike. The Thomas saga continues and is driving me crazy. I have to wonder now if Thomas isn't doing all this on purpose because he really has an endgame here of taking Brooke from his father...there has to be a reason B&B is drawing this out so much, so long." - Pat
Let's wrap things up with some Points to Ponder:
Interesting comment at Bikini about "all Nick's ladies" (Taylor, Katie). At least Aggie's sudden disappearance got mentioned. But does that place play any other music except that bad reggae cue left over from the '90s?... Jackie and Owen have been AWOL for months -- so do we have to watch them make out first thing?... "I don't take joy in failed marriages," Steffy said. But she couldn't wait for Brooke's marriage to fail, could she!... Great continuity, Nick talking about being the sailor who ran from therapy with Taylor... Steffy said she was "a little too busy to concentrate on PR" -- well, that's her job! And Ridge can't just "hope" that she'll still do that job. Is no one on contract at FC?
Finally! Stephanie reminded Steffy (and us) that Bill owns 12.5% of the stock and worried that he'd bilk Steffy out of her 25%. But I had to laugh when Stephanie said Steffy knew right from wrong -- um, since when?... Pam made "5% cookies" - well, at least we had a momentary break from the lemon bars... How was it possible Stephanie didn't know anything about the Australia trip?... It was great of Thomas to save Brooke (the underwater scenes were movie quality!), but where did his shirt go? It just conveniently flew off in the crash?
Nice to see Whip and Taylor, but you'd think they wouldn't be so lovey-dovey -- Whip did sabotage Thomas, and just a few weeks ago Taylor would have dumped Whip for Ridge in a Paris minute... All Katie's talk of Storm to Taylor -- am I right in remembering Taylor and Storm dated?... Eric ribbing Brooke about not knowing how to use a web cam and offering for he and Hope to tell Brooke "everything you need to know about the 21st century" was classic -- but Ridge saying Eric's taste in music stopped at Sinatra in the same episode seemed to contradict it... Speaking of technology, Oliver (or whoever's creating his texts for the show) needs a spelling lesson -- the text said there was "lot's of traffic!" Not only was that a lie on Oliver's part, but there's no apostrophe in that word!
And glory be, a B&B soap day lasted only two real days instead of two weeks! Someone must have been listening. Now it's time to get yourselves listened to. Make comments on the Soap Central message boards -- but don't stop there. Visit soapcentral's Support Our Soaps page and contact ABC's advertisers -- help save AMC and OLTL for the sake of all soaps! As for B&B, write in and tell them not only what you're not happy with, but what you are happy with. Encourage them to make B&B the absolute best it can be. It's not over, Scoopers -- we can still save the soaps. Keep watching, be alert, and now, more than ever, be bold!