Soaps aren't just afternoon TV anymore
Posted Monday, October 07, 2013 2:03:00 AM
More and more soap fans are turning to the Internet for their share of romance, plot twists, backstabbing, mystery, love-triangles, and dramatic slapping. Forget "love in the afternoon." With web soaps, it's whatever you want, whenever you want.

All My Children and One Life to Live garnered a lot of attention this year as they found their way back to viewers by adopting an online delivery method. However, they aren't the first or the last soaps to hit the World Wide Web. There's a whole world of soaps out there available to you with a few clicks.

My flirtation with web soaps began much like One Life to Live and All My Children's online versions began, with the cancellation of a beloved televised soap. I was a fan of the Olivia and Natalia pairing on Guiding Light. The two of them had a properly dramatic buildup to their relationship and, just as they finally got their act together and sorted out their feelings for one another, Guiding Light was cancelled.

Like all Guiding Light fans, Olivia and Natalia fans were devastated. Fortunately, Crystal Chappell, who played Olivia, had the idea to start production of a web soap that would star herself and Jessica Leccia, who had played Natalia, as former lovers in the midst of all sorts of soapy drama. Fans enthusiastically welcomed her creation, Venice, to their screens.

Today there are several web soaps to choose from. With the number of televised soaps dwindling, these web soaps aim to fill the holes in our little soap-loving hearts. Whether it's getting your share of backstabbing, bed hopping, questionable decisions, romance, and twisty-turny plots on your laptop or smartphone or just the thrill of seeing favorite actors who are no longer gracing our screens on televised soaps, web series have a lot to offer soap fans.

Like many others, I eagerly watched the first season of Venice, which I'll talk more about later in the article, but that was where my flirtation with soaps on the Internet ended until The Online Network brought us All My Children and One Life to Live. Recently, I listened to Denise Alexander talk about The Inn on Soap Central Live and was reminded there was a whole world of entertainment out there I was missing out on. So, not only am I diving back into the world of web soaps, I'm taking you all with me.

I'm also going to introduce you to a little game I devised in the process of catching up on the soaps I list below. I call it "Degrees of Crystal Chappell." Crystal Chappell is the Kevin Bacon of web soaps. Not only does she star in several, she writes and produces as well. I have determined that it takes me way less than six-degrees to connect Crystal Chappell to a web soap. In fact, she can be connected in one degree or less to every web soap I tested out for this article. My assignment for you, readers, is to try a web soap and play "Degrees of Crystal Chappell" when you do. I promise you'll have fun. Here are my thoughts on the four shows I watched. If you're a newbie to web soaps, I hope you'll find something here that interests you enough to give one a try. If you're already a web soap fan, maybe you'll still find something new to you or perhaps you have something not included that you'd like to recommend. If you do watch something new or if you have a favorite web soap that isn't on this list, please tell me about it by email or in the comments!

The Bay
This series is classic soap. Without giving away too many spoilers, I can tell you that, in less than forty minutes of film (I watched four episodes, each five to ten minutes long), we've got allegations of cheating, troubled teens on drugs, children rebelling against their allegedly unfit mother, an over-the-top villain, and a large gathering of people in a perilous situation. In other words, for a soap lover, this feels like home. We've also got Tristan Rogers, as Commissioner Lex Martin, snappishly saying things like, "If we don't resolve this in the next few moments, I got a set of handcuffs that'll fit you just fine." Oh, you suave, law-enforcing Australian, you!

My only complaint about this series so far is the production values. The sound levels go up and down a lot, and sometimes it's difficult to hear conversations. And the video quality looks a little off. None of it is terrible, but after the great production values of most of the other series I watched, it was noticeable. However, I've peaked ahead at some later episodes, and they seem to have corrected these issues by season two which, from the bit I've sampled, looks and sounds great, so I'll write the season one issues off as growing pains. I'm intrigued enough by the story so far that I'll keep watching.

who you'll know: Mary Beth Evans (Days of Our Lives, As the World Turns, General Hospital), Martha Madison (Days of Our Lives), Tristan Rodgers (General Hospital, The Young and the Restless)
Degrees of Crystal Chappell: One -- Mary Beth Evans played Kayla on Days of Our Lives where Crystal played Carly.
where to watch: The Bay website

The DeVanity family is, to put it bluntly, a family filled with awful people. The first episode is cleverly set up as a TV interview of Jason DeVanity. The questions the reporter asks quickly introduce the viewer to the four adopted siblings of the DeVanity clan. Jason is the head of DeVanity Jewelry, which he's been running since his father's murder. Bianca is best known for her drug addiction, Byron for being a rapist, and Lara for her promiscuity.

I'll be honest, this one was the most difficult for me to get into because I generally look for at least one likeable character to latch onto, and, four episodes in, there wasn't a likeable person to be found. These siblings and their partners are constantly backstabbing, grappling for power, and bed-hopping. There's no time to be pleasant.

Despite my reservations, I was kept interested enough to keep watching the downright scandalous things the siblings were getting up to. We learn early on that Lara and Bianca share a dark secret. Of course, in a family full of backstabbers, secrets don't remain secret for long. The unravelling of their lives and the tantalizing piece-by-piece unveiling of past misdeeds to the audience pulled me into the show and kept me eagerly jumping to the next episode. This is a fast-paced show and, though the episodes are only a little over six minutes long, each episode is packed with action and reveals that leave you desperate to know what's going to happen next.

Who you'll know: This cast of talented actors is relatively unknown to soap fans but, if you give the show a try, I think you'll be glad to have met them.
Degrees of Crystal Chappell: One -- Mike Dirksen, who plays Alex, also played Jake Horn in seven episodes of Days of Our Lives where Crystal played Carly. I admit that I had to cheat and check for this one.
where to watch: DeVanity website

The Inn
In one of the first episodes of The Inn, the creeptacular keeper of the inn the title references reassures Crystal Chappell's character, Jane, when she says she doesn't have the money to pay for her room. "We always find a way to make you pay," he says.

If you are anything like me, you will choose that moment to shout loudly at your computer, "Oh, woman, you do not want to stay at this inn. Run now!" Of course, given the title, it would be the world's shortest series if Jane didn't make the questionable decision to stay at the inn where bizarre and downright unsettling happenings are the norm.

This show feels more like a great thriller than your standard soap, but it makes the list for its cast of soap stars. The story is confusing, freaky, and all kinds of entertaining. If you like half the fun of your entertainment to be wondering what the heck is going on, this is the show for you. As you watch, it quickly becomes evident that, not only do you not know who is and isn't telling the truth, you're not even sure of what is and isn't real. The one thing I was sure of was that every episode left me wanting more.

Who you'll know: Denise Alexander (General Hospital, Another World), Crystal Chappell (Guiding Light, Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful), Michael Sabatino (Days of Our Lives)
Degrees of Crystal Chappell: Zero -- Crystal plays the lead character.
where to watch: The Inn website

The relationships and characters in Venice are ridiculously charming. The focus isn't just on romance but also on family and friendships. Relationships are definitely the show's strong point. Gina (Crystal Chappell) and Ani (Jessica Leccia) lead a strong ensemble cast as exes who still share a strong bond despite the fact they couldn't make their romantic relationship work. The show does a solid job of playing up the off-the-charts chemistry between Chappell and Leccia as Gina and Ani while still making their relationships with current love interests compelling and easy to root for too.

If you read many of my Two Scoops, you may have noticed I want there to be lesbian relationships in everything. And, I have to say, televised soaps are really failing me there these days. Venice, however, delivers in spades. I'm smitten with both Lara/Ani in the show's present and Gina/Ani who we see as tenuous friends in the present but also see as a happy couple in flashbacks. I'm just as torn in the middle of this love triangle/sometimes quadrangle as the characters are.

Hillary B. Smith as Gina's Aunt Guya is far wackier and more foul-mouthed than Nora Buchanan, the role I'm most used to seeing Smith in, but she shares Nora's charm and charisma and has me laughing out loud nearly every episode. Jordan Clarke is also spectacular as the Colonel, Gina and Owen's cantankerous father with whom they both have a strained relationship.

As much as I love the characters, I originally left Venice after season one because the story and pacing weren't doing it for me. I'm glad I decided to give season two a try. I still feel the show is a bit slow in parts, but the pacing and story improved greatly from season one. There's a huge event right at the start of the season that I think will ripple throughout the season and really shake things up. I'm looking forward to watching the rest.

Who you'll know: This is a who's who of soap stars and, if you're a long-time soap fan, you'll know pretty much everyone like Nadia Bjorlin (Days of Our Lives), Crystal Chappell (Guiding Light, Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful), Jordan Clarke (Guiding Light), Galen Gering (Days of Our Lives, Passions), Jessica Leccia (Guiding Light, One Life to Live), Hillary B. Smith (One Life to Live)
Degrees of Crystal Chappell: Zero -- Not only is Crystal one of the lead characters, she created this series. If it's possible to have negative degrees of separation, Venice does.
where to watch: Watch one through three for free on Venice's YouTube and subscribe to season four at the Venice website

What are your favorite web series? Which ones do we need to check out next? Do you want to see scoops and spoilers for your favorite web soaps? Let us know in the Comments area.

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