This past Saturday I met my girlfriends Sharlene and Robin for dinner at the yummy restaurant Matchbox. A gamut of topics were covered but at the end of the evening Robin was exclaiming, “Oh man, Kelly’s ruined soaps for me!” We had been discussing reality TV shows and somehow segued into scripted soap operas. Sharlene and I have known each other almost 20 years, so she knows my quirks and how analytical I can be. She knows how I am quick to mention when something in a show or movie would never translate into real life. Here are a few of the examples I shared:
It cracks me up when the actors are constantly standing in a room with lots of furniture and they never sit down. This scene from The Young & the Restless is even more ludicrous because the character Nick Newman is on crutches and it takes him several scenes before he sits down. I cannot imagine anyone in real life with crutches standing up to have a conversation once they got home.
This scene from The Bold & the Beautiful shows the actors pacing around the room never sitting down, but I find it funny because the character Taylor says: “You don’t expect me to sit around at home all day…” and my response would be that you don’t do it now, so why start? And on top of that, they completely ignore “the baby” until the very end of the clip.
I understand the importance of blocking on a soap opera; it’s good to see the facial expressions of all the actors in the scene simultaneously. Having a lengthy conversation with someone’s back is simply not normal. Yelling at someone’s back is even funnier to me. This classic Katherine and Jill argument on Y&R is a good example:
When you are about to give or get bad news, the expression “are you sitting down” usually comes to mind. Well, not in the land of soap operas; not on General Hospital for this scene when Dr. Quartermaine comes to break the news to Robin that she is HIV-positive. At the end of the scene the doctor says “we need to sit down and discuss…” yeah, yeah, yeah…we know that probably won’t happen.
A few more soap-isms that make me laugh:
- Characters with very little job skills all of a sudden become CEOs of multimillion dollar companies.
- At these high-powered companies, none of the people really do any work. When they need to inform someone in their life about major news they never just call them. Instead they leave the office and head out to the ranch, the coffee-house, the hospital or go stand outside in a park while it’s snowing to talk.
- Babies that are born are all of a sudden teenagers six months later, but all of the adults are exactly the same age.
- We all know that a death means nothing because anyone can come back to life to boost ratings.
- The co-mingling of partners and endless bed-hopping becomes almost incestuous after a while. Plus, some women don’t seem to get the reputation of being a slut for being with all the male cast members. When all was said and done All My Children’s Erica Kane’s full name was Erica Kane Martin Brent Cudahy Chandler Montgomery Montgomery Chandler Marick Marick Montgomery.
- There’s always one minority family hanging on for air time.
- Even though it was one of the biggest soap opera love stories of all time and the TV ratings were over the moon (30 million viewers!), it’s still fascinating that Laura married Luke on General Hospital even though he raped her.
- When characters who have been on again/off again for a couple of decades decide to reconcile they embrace each other with a passionate kiss like they are teenagers all over again. I am not saying it’s not possible, but how many times can Y&R’s Victor Newman yell at Nikki and make her cry, then still make her weak in the knees with a kiss after 30 years.
- In order for new viewers to tune in on any given day it’s the script writers’ responsibility to provide dialogue that always rehashes the same dilemma in varying ways. Plus, they always have to include the names and relations of the characters in every sentence in every episode.
The ending of a scene in which an actor is shown delivering a staggering line or leaving us with a telltale expressive face is called a “tag.” It’s a soap opera staple – an art form – that lingering expression we all know too well. I think all soap stars can take a lesson on tagging from this little guy.
I’m sorry if I ruined soaps for Robin by sharing these observations. I have a feeling lots of people have them; I’m sure Robin has had many of them as well. A soap opera wouldn’t be “a story” without all of these elements. I know it’s all fantasy and part of the genre. I think it would be fun to spend the day with your friends or co-workers and have everyone talk and “block” like they were on a soap.
I had to end this post with this example of some of the worst acting and shameless, overdone product placement from Days of Our Lives. Cheerio!