New Year's is a time for reflection - and for resolutions (usually ones I don't keep involving diet and/or exercise). So as we celebrate a new year, I want to look back at those little things that really didn't go so well this year on GL.
You can't think about the year 2005 on GL without thinking of all of the casting changes. With 200+ channels on the air now, soaps, like other shows, are fighting for viewers. I always tell readers that the economics of the show aren't important to viewers, but are most important to the networks. Viewers = advertising revenue = budgets.
With the dreaded budget cuts, we've seen actors that we've known and loved leave the show. Most notably Jerry verDorn (ex-Ross), who has been on GL nearly since I started watching in 1976. I was on vacation this week, and got to see him on OLTL, and it was like a slap in the face to see him on another show, on another network. With each departure of a beloved veteran, you take the chance on losing the characters fan base as well. Of course, this shouldn't dictate every move the show makes, but it should certainly be considered before making cuts. Or before making casting moves that make the actors want to leave the show. Loyalty is a commodity that needs to be cultivated and appreciated - both in the cast and the viewers. This is something that I think GL fails at miserably.
Believe me, the bulk of the mail I have received this year talks about casting changes and how they affect the way viewers perceive the show (Don't forget the old adage - perception is reality). I know exactly how those disenfranchised fans feel. Back in 1997 my all-time favorite actor, Michael Zaslow (Roger Thorpe) was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - better known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and let go from the show. He was re-cast (I'll never say replaced) by Dennis Parloto, who the fans never took to (which was not his fault). I think a big part of my GL love and loyalty died with Zaz. I know that GL, and all shows, are a business. They are in the business to make money - but at what expense? Without the fans, there is no show. I had so hoped that GL would finally understand this. We've finally gotten rid of MADD (Mary Alice Dobbin-Dwyer) and Paul Rauch, to whom I assign most of the blame for much of the mess in recent years. But without some changes, I don't know if it's enough to save the show.
As I sit here, writing this column, I wonder, as I have for many years, how and when it will all end. Is this my last "Best and Worst" columns for a show that has been a huge part of my life for 30 years? Or will the show continue to limp on for a few more years, and just lose fans like air out of a worn tire? Pretty depressing thoughts for fans to think about, I know.
The other real pitfall I see is the pace of the show. We see the same characters nearly every day and others not for months, it seems. Stories take forever, and utilize all of the air time, while fan favorites are nearly non-existent. Before last week, when was the last time you saw Rick Bauer? Or Lillian? Instead of introducing new characters, bring back fan favorites - but only after you show each cast member at least twice a month.
There were a number of storyline plots that really stick in my mind as duds for 2005 so I'll share them here. While this certainly isn't a complete list, this is a major reason ratings remain down and don't seem to be heading for an improvement anytime soon.
Reva's menopause storyline - While I know there are a large number of "Reva-haters" out there, who think she takes up too much air time, this story could have been a "plus" for the year. However, TPTB, who obviously knew that the bulk of their viewers are women and will go through menopause in their life, they butchered the story. Reva went nuts, acting like an irresponsible teen for a few weeks, had some hot flashes, and ruined her marriage to her true love - again. The time spent on this story did not do the topic justice.
Cassie's infertility - As half of a couple who cannot have a child, I really wanted to see GL focus more on the infertility issues than having Dinah impregnated. This issue affects many families, and could have been, like the menopause story, something where the viewers could see themselves in the story, without the added drama of switching babies and all that GL did to this one story. I loved that the story involved so many cast members, but could have done without the completely un-original baby switch storyline.
Michelle's amnesia - I have this theory that there are really only about 25 storylines on any daytime drama. This one has been overdone and really needed to be shelved - permanently. This is yet another story where GL has broken up a couple more times than Liz Taylor and expects us to believe they always find their way back to one another. Soap characters DO have extremely short memories - or there would be no soap weddings - the characters are always doing bad things to one another, yet being forgiven for a multitude of sins. Note to TPTB: the fans don't forget that Edmund locked Cassie in a tower, or that Danny nearly had Michelle killed, etc.
Tammy and Sandy - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Talk about a snoozer! I never liked these two together. Another case of TPTB amnesia - how can everyone forget that Sandy lied as much as Jonathan when he came to Springfield? The "golden boy" has just as much tarnish as Johnny boy - and he ruined Tammy's perfect wedding.
Alan and Beth? - OK, is there ANYONE out there who is thinking this couple makes it to their first anniversary? What a waste of the talents of Ron Raines and Beth Chamberlain - both forgotten characters in Springfield these days.
Alan's Quest for Freedom - I was intrigued by the thought of Alan "killing" Phillip, but how can he be set free after less than a year? Of course, TPTB were counting on Grant Aleksander returning as Phillip (as much as I miss you - good for you, Grant!) and making this a moot point. But even TPTB can't be stupid enough to recast this fan favorite - or can they? This has to be the reason that A-M has returned - but the story still doesn't wash in my book. Alan belongs behind bars.
Springfield's Men of Mystery: Sandy and Jeffrey - Two characters who seem to get a bunch of air time, with little or no back story to them. Each character has been in town long enough to have fans get to know them a little better. Either show us how they fit into the thick of things in Springfield, or move on to characters we know more about.
Now, what WOULD I like to see in 2006? It's a very short list:
1) Happiness/Love That Lasts - how is that for originality? I am so tired of soap relationships that last half a second. How about showing us that a couple has troubles, sure we all do, but works through them? Not terribly original, I know, but something many of you seem to want as well.
2) Springfield Citizens Actually Working - Besides the Cooper family at Company, how often do we really see any of the characters work? Spaulding Enterprises, a long forgotten entity, has gotten some play lately, but not much. Where is Cedar's these days? The Springfield Journal? WSPR? Towers?
3) More Friendship Stories - I loved when we saw Harley, Cassie and Blake get together and do things. The same goes with the guys - Josh, Billy, Buzz, etc. Show more interaction outside of families. Real life issues, not all crazy plots that only happen on a daytime talk show.
4) Return of Fan Favorites - In order for GL to survive, they need to keep the fans they have, and try to gain new ones. Getting rid of veterans to hire newer (cheaper) actors isn't working. While you might get more (and younger) viewers, you are losing the "veteran viewers" that have stood by you in the good and bad times. Can I get more of Holly in 2006? Or are the rumors true that you want to get rid of this beloved character as well?
5) Less Fiction More Fact - Don't devote weeks on crazy storylines that are so over the top they aren't believable. Real life is pretty darn interesting - so try using things that could really happen to our favorite characters and less over the top stuff. No one really returns from the dead, or marries every guy in town.
Those are just the basics - things that I would like to see GL focus on for 2006. I would hope that the show takes the time to read the emails you send, and listen to what the fans say about the show. While we don't have any money invested in GL, we each have a certain portion of our time invested in the characters on the show. The sooner GL realizes this, the better off the show will be.
I do encourage all of you to let GL know how you feel. Their email address is GL@cbs.com I also forward comments sent to me (even if I don't respond to your emails). I am trying to get to a bunch of emails that I received recently, but haven't gotten to all of them yet. (I totaled my car on the 23rd and have been trying to get all of those pesky details resolved quickly - not to mention trying not to sit at the computer too much - my neck and back are pretty banged up right now) I hope to get back to you and answer any questions soon.
I hope that all of you had some time to spend with your friends and family over the holidays and that you have a safe and Happy New Year!!!