With the exception of Otalia - which kicks all kinds of ass, on so many levels - Guiding Light is a mess, and has been for a long time. There. I said it. It wasn't easy to say, and I'm not even lucky enough to have Natalia's smoldering dark eyes to look into as I make my big confession, but there you go. Guiding Light is a mess.
Now, I'm not talking about the kind of mess that can't be cleaned up. I am, though, talking about the kind of mess that requires more than just a quick sweeping. Maybe it's time to hire one of those dumpsters, Springfield. It's time for a long-overdue Spring cleaning, because this isn't new mess. It's clutter that's accumulated over the last few years.
Much has been said about Ken Corday's recent comments about the state of affairs at GL. Basically, Corday said that GL was a mess, that it has been for a while, and that the writers have totally lost their way and forgotten about tradition, history and the core values of the show. He also made references to how bad it just looks, visually. Fangirls are in an uproar. Ken Corday has become the Salman Rushdie of daytime. Watch your ass, Ken. A sort of Sapphic jihad has been issued against you because, those, my friend, were fighting words. Otalia fans are a sensitive, touchy bunch. And who can blame them? Here, finally, we have the best, most realistically written and superbly acted story line about same sex love, one full of tenderness and subtlety and pathos, and it's on a show that has officially been cancelled. Alanis Morrisette should take note: this is ironic. Fangirls want to save this show at all costs, and I think they are doing a pretty kick-ass job of mobilizing. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Lifetime pick the show up and, if they do, the good folks at GL can thank the Otalia fan base for it. These are smart chicks who know how that the Internet is a powerful tool, and that there is strength in numbers. And, while I know there are all sorts of people who love GL and love Otalia, let's face it: girls who dig girls are just the most righteously kick-ass, get-'er-done people, ever. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
So, yeah, a lot of Otalia fans are up in arms about what Corday has to say about GL, and why it ended up on the CBS chopping block. A fair number of them are saying things like, "He doesn't know what he's talking about." Well, let me don my Kevlar vest as I put this out there: Ken Corday certainly does know a thing or two about soap opera. He's pretty much soap opera royalty. The guy was weened on this stuff. It's a mistake to say that he "doesn't know" or "doesn't have a clue" about soaps because, really, few people on the planet have as much insight into this area as he does. This isn't to say that he's at the helm of anything great, himself, right now - Days of Our Lives has been a nightmare for well over a decade. But that's not the same as him not knowing. He knows. He knows full well. And, if the fangirls would stop, catch their collective breath, and really look at his comments objectively, they might just see that there's a lot of truth in what he has to say about GL.
First off, Corday doesn't make any reference to Otalia, when he cuts down GL's current state-of-affairs and production model. I don't see any evidence that he's anti-Otalia. In point of fact, I'm guessing he's probably a little envious that Crystal Chappell is involved in this particularly wonderful story line on a show other than his own. She cut her soap teeth, after all, at DOOL.
What Corday does talk about is how GL has lost its way, so to speak. Lost track of the overall plot, thrown away the core of the show. Can anyone looking at the show, as a whole, deny this is true? Does anyone recognize the Spauldings, anymore? Does it not seem odd that the only Bauer in town is Rick who, himself, is little more than a bit player? Is there a single Reardon left in Springfield? And, while it's vastly improved over the last few months, did anyone really like the initial switch in production models? Will someone who thought filming Olivia with a shaky camera, from behind a fuzzy glass window was a good thing please stand up? Soap opera is a warm medium. That cinema verite'/guerrilla style of shooting is as cold as it gets. And, yes, it's way better, now than a year ago...mostly because the camera operators have found ways to make this minimalist approach seem richer and less sterile. How have they done this? By using their hand-held cameras to capture some very traditional, soap-style shots. Gone are the wacky, experimental, "let's see what it's like shooting up from below/down from the ceiling" shots of a year ago. That stuff worked for Hitchcock, but I'm not so sure there's room for it on television...especially on a daily drama. If you like it, knock yourself out and rent a copy of Rebecca. This is soap opera, where it's about telling a story over time, and not so much showing it via clever and quirky cinematography. I want to get the story from the words, the character development, and Crystal Chappell's eye brows.
Corday does come off as something of a prick in that interview. Like I said - his own show is unwatchable. But he does know the business and the medium, and I agree with a lot he has to say. The writing has been on the wall for GL for a long time. Not just a year. Not five years. There was talk of this show being cancelled way back in the early 90s but, instead of fixing what was broken, TPTB continued to chip away at what actually was working. Here's my short list of colossal fuck-ups on the part of GL production...you'll notice most of them go back a ways:
How it all went so very wrong
1. Firing Michael Zaslow when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness - I still can't believe the way they treated this man who not only by all reports a wonderful person, but the best actor soap opera has ever seen. Shameful. We're a loyal lot, soap fans, and a lot of us found this whole business really ugly. It was not a good move, on any level.
2. Re-casting Roger Thorpe - Don't get me started on this. It was just....insane. Dennis Parlato did as good a job as humanly possible but, for heaven's sake, some things are sacred. You can re-cast Bill Lewis. You can re-cast Lizzie Spaulding. Whoever thought there was a chance in hell of successfully re-casting Roger Thorpe was truly a moron. If you're fairly new to GL, imagine this: you turn on the tv on Monday morning, and the role of Olivia is suddenly being played by a new actress. Would you buy it, for even a minute???
3. The Nursery Rhyme Stalker - What. The. Fuck. Holly? Really? Shut up. This was too stupid.
4. Reva's Clone - I swear, this was like a death knell. As a soap fan, I'm comfortable with suspending disbelief. Within reason. This was just so freaking awful. And not even just because it wasn't realistic. Fantastical plots can be great (remember Nola's amazing musical fantasies???) , but they have to have a sense of humor in order to work. One Life to Live does a lot of this stuff, but they sort of pull it off because they do it with humor. The Reva Clone story line took itself way too seriously, and it was about as much fun as walking barefoot on broken glass.
5. The demise of Alan Spaulding. No, he's not dead - not technically. But it's obvious that someone has ripped his balls off and replaced his keen, shrewd, cunning mind with a bowl of jello. Alan was a great villain. A man with no conscience. Ruthless. These days, he's sort of a simpering fool. When was the last time he hatched a real, honest-to-goodness evil plan? It's been over a year since Alan, in a semblance of his old form, first put the bee in Olivia's bonnet that ruining things for Natalia and Gus would be a good idea. What has he done, lately??
6. Alexandra, MIA. - Where the hell is she? One thing GL did very, very well was re-cast this role when Beverly McKinsey unexpectedly retired. Marj Dusay has been a great Alexandra, but she's hardly even on the show, anymore. Every soap needs a good, strong, mean-spirited villain and villainess. One of the great things about GL has been the fact that they've had a brother/sister pair of baddies for so many years. Siblings who are as likely to sabotage one another, as they are to sabotage a Cooper or a Bauer. Without a villain, there's not enough conflict. Without enough conflict, drama falls flat. Bring back the Spaulding meanies - the ones who hire hit men, embezzle money, ruin careers, destroy marriages, and sell out their own nieces, nephews and children.
7. Dumb, boring stories about young people that no one cares about or has an emotional investment in. I don't give a shit about Ashley or Christine or Remy. The time and care was never put into place to develop a relationship between the viewer and these characters. Even the ones who do have some history (Lizzie) are just annoying as hell. I know Alan Spaulding. I knew Roger and Holly and Ross. I don't give a damn about these fly-by-nights.
What can be done to fix this mess
1. Give the old heave-ho to extra baggage. Get rid of everyone who doesn't really matter or have anything to do with the core elements of the show. Seriously. Get rid of Remy, Christine, Ashley, and pretty much anyone else in that age range. In fact, Marina and Mallett can also go - they contribute nothing. I'd like to see a Lizzie and James recast, but not now. Maybe get rid of them, and bring them back, with new actors, a year or two down the line. But, make me care. I'm all for keeping Shayne, Dinah, and Bill...there are possibilities there.
2. Back to basics: bring back Ed, Holly and Vanessa. It would not be a bad thing for Amanda Spaulding to show her face again. And a Reardon or two never hurt.
3. For the love of God, give Justin Deas something to do, besides be nosy and pour drinks.
4. Set Alan up with an IV of testosterone. Shouldn't he be plotting someone's demise just about now? And give Alexandra a dose of HRT, so she can get her groove back on.
5. It would not be a bad idea for Reva to leave Springfield, for good. I honestly think they've exhausted every avenue with her, and I'm not really interested in her becoming a quiet, sensible matriarch.
6. Three words: Otalia custody battle. I know this will make people cry. I know it would cause angst. But, believe me, angst is good for soap opera. Alan needs to sue for custody. And, yeah, of course he'll lose. But it would make for excellent, heart-wrenching drama...and give Otalia somewhere to actually go with their relationship. Too much happily-ever-after is not a good thing for a super-couple. Do you know what happens to soap super couples when they achieve 100% happily-ever-after? They leave town. Can you imagine the script possibilities if Olivia has to face Alan in court and explain her relationship with Natalia? Or the conflict Natalia will go through if she thinks her love for Olivia could cost Emma her security and happiness? Or how interesting it would be to see who in Springfield is ok with a same sex couple, and who isn't?
Fix it, GL. Hire a dumpster. Get a tool kit. Do what needs to be done. But fix it.