S.O.S. Springfield

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S.O.S. Springfield
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The week of March 24, 2008
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It's so hard to like Harley lately. Where is the Harley who fights for her family, doing anything that she can for the Cooper clan?

Easter is supposed to be a holiday spent with loved ones and family. In peace and harmony - not blasted apart like a child's toy carelessly left in the middle of a freeway in the path of an oncoming semi. Yet this is how Springfield feels to me these days. Friends and family are so fractured that the only product GL needs to plug is "Head and Shoulders" since fans are scratching their collective heads these days.

Like your friends and family, the characters on GL are familiar to you. Whether you like a character or not, they are part of Springfield, and part of your life as long as you watch GL. I know that many of you FF through scenes with stories you don't like (sadly I don't have that luxury or I couldn't write about them). But each time you FF you lose part of the story, and lose at least some interest in the show. I can't blame you, but I wonder how long GL can take this kind of hit. Part of me (the sappy unrealistic side) really wants GL to get a huge hit of caffeine and realize more viewers = continued employment. Not that I like to make threats, but it's a matter of fact. Without viewers, ad revenue is down and the show can't survive.

We've seen the show move to more hand-held camera work, and exterior shots. I like the idea, but it's like falling into the deep end of the pool when you aren't a strong swimmer. I'm more of a stick my toe in the water for a good half-hour before I commit to going in. Just in case. Like "just in case" the fans don't like it, or "just in case" the actors and crew who have to deal with it daily are having difficulty adjusting. We've seen anonymous comments that some of the actors are having concerns with the changes. It means less rehearsal time (we've all seen scenes that should have been re-shot) and probably longer hours for everyone who has to commute to a remote site, set up, shoot, and tear down equipment. Trust me - it's not a joy to have to do that every day. Once you are finished shooting you pretty much want to go home and relax. It's a big change for everyone - even the fans. I just hope, in the end, it pays off.

But while technical changes can be difficult to speculate about before they take place, storyline issues cannot. Every major story change affects the fans - both positively and negatively. While I'm not saying GL should write the show 100% based on what fans say, they need to be mindful of the overall story they are telling. How much change is going on at any one time? Casting changes are not always in the hands of the show (Ricky Paull Goldin's exit is a case in point) but the show has to be ready to deal with changes as they occur. And how that change will affect their ability to continue to produce a show fans will want to watch.

Speaking of Ricky Paull Goldin (Gus) I read an interview with him recently where he said that he was unhappy with the changes in storyline (as was I) and he decided to leave the show. We've talked about contracts and such before - and Ricky certainly is free to leave (although I'll surely miss him). But in fact, the Gus I loved has been gone for awhile. The Gus who waited for Harley while she was in jail, visited her often and moved across the street to be closer to her would not walk away with his high school sweetheart with nary a backwards glance. Sure, the actor looked identical, because he was, but the character was changed so much that, if someone else had stepped in at that moment, I would have thought it was a new character.

Once RPG decided to leave, the wheels were set into motion of how to continue this farce of a story they have given him. Marrying Natalia was a noble thing (although the zero chemistry factor couldn't have been foreseen - the popularity of Gus and Harley is hardly an unknown entity) but this marriage, then placating a dying Olivia who has a crush on him? Seriously? Gus loves Natalia, throws away a marriage he fought time and time again for to sneak around with his wife while he pretends to be single for his ex-sister-in-law? I realize this is daytime, but come ON!

This week we'll start to see how the show plans on wrapping this part of the story up. I won't "spoil" you hear, but I have to admit that it's wholly unsatisfying. The only positive is that I'm sure I can write next week's column today - but I will refrain until I actually see the shows. Two twists in this story are so out there, and will certainly be the talk of message boards for some time to come, that GL has me pretty worried. It's like watching a pretty cruise ship go by. You see the pretty paint job, the pools on deck, and people enjoying themselves. Until you see the iceberg ahead - and no one in the captain's chair. This is how I feel about the show of late. The actors are doing their jobs - telling the stories given to them. But who is feeding them the stories? And, I have to ask, have they ever watched the show? Do they know about the history of the show, the characters, and how they all work together? If not, hey, drop me a line. I've been watching since 1976. I know there are plenty GL fans out there that will gladly help you with story ideas. Why? Because we have a vested interest in the show. It's not a "job" for us - it's like an extended member of the family. And when someone messes with my family, you have to go through me first. I might be a little short and out of shape, but I would take on any and all comers who think this show is just something they can ruin, and walk away from.

While Gus, the character I loved, has been gone awhile, I personally want to wish Ricky Paull Goldin well at AMC. I've gotten to meet Ricky so many times over the years, he's taken me on tours of the studio and really talked to me about how much he loves his craft - and the fans of GL. For those of you who haven't met him, Ricky is definitely someone who appreciates all that the fans do to support the show and the actors on GL. He's never taken that for granted - even when GL dropped the ball on his character and wrote him as someone we didn't recognize any more. So we'll see Ricky Paull riding off into the sunset (will the blow up doll be with him?) and off to new adventures in Pine Valley. Springfield will surely miss him - as will I.

RPG might be gone, but his on-screen partner, Harley is still in Springfield, I think. Like Gus, she seems to have undergone a total transformation of late. It's so hard to like Harley lately - although I adore Beth Ehlers. If Harley were my friend, I'd have to take her away for a long girl's weekend so she can get over whatever spell has been cast on her. No one likes to be alone, I guess, but with each passing day this character is slipping away before my eyes. Where is the Harley who fights for her family - doing anything she can for the Cooper Clan? Surely she's not the same person who sleeps with Marina's fiancÚ' then expects Frank and Marina to embrace her for her choice in boyfriend. And she jeopardizes her children's future by taking out a second mortgage (when the market is in a freefall?) for a guy who hasn't had the same zip code for consecutive years since he was a tot? Is she as insane as Phillip? Love might be blind, but it doesn't have to be dumb as well. This new, needy Harley is hardly the girl we met delivering Daisy in a car all those years ago. Sure, she has moments where she needs to lean on her family and friends - we all do - but she's going to have no one left at the rate she's going! Come, on GL - close the book on this couple ASAP - and get the Coopers back to the great family we know them to be. Leave the crazy stuff to the Spauldings!!

Speaking of, who saw Dinah as the person impersonating Phillip? While I think it's great that Dinah has some of her old spunk back, as a Phillip fan for 25 years, I hate being tormented thinking/hoping that he'll return. I mean, the realist in me knows it's a long shot. But I feel like Billy Lewis must at a bar when you keep showing pictures of him to me. And showing the picture of Ross this week had me flipping the channel to OLTL - Jerry verDorn is another veteran we really needed to keep in Springfield.

I realize that GL has to change and evolve to survive. But in the midst of all of that change, you have to keep part of the show that brought all of us to Springfield in the fist place. I fear TPTB have lost sight of that recently. Hopefully they can realize that while its great to try new and different things, don't alienate the fans you already have by doing a complete 180 in Springfield. This show hasn't survived for 70+ years for it to become so drastically changed overnight.

Hope you have a safe and Happy Easter!!! And Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law (and GL fan) Ruth!! Keep the Light Shining and Have a Great Week!


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