The Soapgeist: Nov. 15, 2010
SUDSIEST QUOTE FROM THE WEEKEND “If you grope me, I’m going to have to do an arm-wrestling match with you.” — Y&R’s Michael Muhney jokes about inappropriate fan behaviour on wral.com Translation: Only Jeanne Cooper is allowed to tap this magic!
45 YEARS YOUNG A week of DAYS interviews On Air, On Soaps’ Michael Fairman chatted up the cast of DAYS during their Day of DAYS fan event last weekend. Check out the hilarity here.
COVER STORY BYOB: Lauralee Bell and Shirley Jones invite you to their Family Dinner! If you’re jonesing for more Lauralee Bell, Y&R fans will have to settle for their Cricket fix on today’s premiere episode of Family Dinner. Created, written and starring the soap princess, Bell has been stunt casting up a storm: look for Richard Marx, Rick Springfield, Jordin Sparks, and last but not certainly not least, Oscar winner Shirley Jones. Who does Bell think she is: Y&R chief Maria Arena Bell?
In an interview with Soapgeist, Bell laughs, “Yes, we’re trying to up the ante by calling up every celebrity we know! A long time ago, I was in a Richard Marx video so that’s where I came up with the idea of having him on the show. My best friend, Doug Davidson, knew Rick Springfield, and we heard Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers wanted to do the show. And one of our actors on the show, Shari Wiedmann, well, her niece is Jordin Sparks. So why not access all this talent?”
Bell is most excited and psyched about adding an Oscar winner to her ever-increasing list of Hollywood veteran guest stars. “Shirley Jones is so great in this,” enthuses Bell. “Shirley plays a musical therapist — so you can imagine the hilarity that ensues. Shirley’s people were so impressed at how professional our set was because you never know on a web show. We had Shirley in and out within three hours, which is kind of amazing. The web format is so conducive to time-strapped actors, the crew, advertisers and viewers. It’s an easy gig. Of course, Shirley was worshipped during the shoot. From Cloris Leachman, Phyllis Diller to Shirley, these veteran actresses are so in demand which is great to see. For so long, older actresses were not relevant, but now they’re the most sought after. Today, actresses blossom at 60! [Laughs]”
Indeed. Moving to yet another medium was a no-brainer for the versatile, medium-jumping ex- DAYS guest star (Jones played Colleen Brady in 2008). When asked if Jones knew of Lauralee’s ties to William Bell, Jones answers, “I had no idea she was Bill Bell’s daughter, but I was aware of her soap career. Can I tell you how nice and gorgeous she is? She was wonderful! “Working on Family Dinner was an amazing experience and so easy. My makeup took longer than filming the show,” marvels the former Partridge Family headliner to Soapgeist. And Jones wouldn’t mind a second serving. “I’d love to work with Lauralee again on this project. The family on this show is so crazy — they need more of my therapy!”
After four episodes, it looks like
Family Dinner’s latest offering already underwent some behind-the-scenes therapy: the show has increased the quality of its production look thanks to new digital cameras. Also, the episodes will be longer because “we flashback to a lot of excerpts,” explains Bell. “It feels more like a show now. This episode is, by far, better and cooler.” Oh, and the web series is a lot funnier, too.
An impressed Bell praises her real-life pal and peer, Martha Byrne, who released a slew of episodes in her first season of Gotham right out of the gate. “I said, ‘Wait — how’d she do all of that?’ We’re just taking our time with
Family Dinner; we’re playing with things as we go along,” Bell relays. “I need to know where I’m heading before I know where to land. We’re lucky we get to test the waters [unlike on network TV].”
Along with adjusting to the learning curve that is part and parcel of web soap TV, one thing that remains the same is Bell’s character, Karen, is still obsessed with the queen of daytime, Oprah Winfrey. Bell laughed when I suggested she hire a black drag queen to play a faux Oprah at the next dinner party. Why the big O obsession? “My mom, Lee Phillip Bell, started that whole talk show thing in Chicago, and my mom knows Oprah,” she explains. “I met Oprah when I was very young once, but I barely remember. I just love Oprah’s honesty. Even watching Oprah listen is an amazing experience. Karen is a housewife who is stuck in life and I think her only outlet during the day is believing she’s Oprah’s real friend. I think a lot of women feel that way — and I think Y&R elicits that reaction, too.”
The big question is, does Bell’s character watch B&B and Y&R, too? “I’m not going there because I’m trying to separate my daytime career from my other projects,” winks La Bell, who admits several Y&R actors have asked for cameos on Family Dinner but Bell has declined because “I don’t want to confuse the audience. That’s too much to ask in this day and age with all the options available.”
One thing that isn’t confusing is her chemistry opposite hunky co-star Dan Cortese. Is an affair on the menu in the near front-burner future? Bell laughs, “We’re true friends, so that may be awkward if I wrote in a romance between our characters. I’m not sure how my husband would feel about that! But Dan’s really great and energetic. His timing is perfect and he’s so funny. I love flirting with him as my character on set, especially when I stick my chest in his face! I really want Family Dinner to succeed, not even for me but for my cast and crew because we all want to continue working together forever.”
THE SUDS PEN Part 2: Black writer and poet Kola Boof on her soap stints! Last Friday, self-professed ex- DAYS, World Turns and Y&R writer Kola Boof sounded off on Victoria Rowell’s backstage woes, the lack of diversity in daytime, and working in Salem before news of her controversial Osama bin Laden scandal broke out. Today, Boof returns to weigh in on creating DAYS’s EJ Wells, her accusation that ABC president Brian Frons asked her to slip him the DAYS bible, and why Sony was planning to get rid of Deidre Hall years ago.
TVGuide.ca: Why do you think there’s a stunning lack of African-American presence behind the scenes on the daytime dial? I’ve asked my black writer friends if they’d work for soaps, and they all say, “hell, no.” They want a larger audience because they’ve been disenfranchised for so long. They prefer to toil on primetime and/or film to get their message to a bigger audience, à la Tyler Perry, who is a soap fan. Kola Boof: Exactly. The majority of black writers do not want to write for soaps. A lot of my friends have been offered gigs on soaps, but they turn them down. My friend, Tracy Price-Thompson, who is also a best-selling novelist, was asked to help write AMC, for example. The other thing is that daytime is looking for writers who watch the soaps, and a lot of black writers don’t because often what you see on daytime is silly. I know another black writer who writes for Shonda Rhimes on Grey’s Anatomy and she’s turned down three daytime soaps. GH wanted her because she knew the medical jargon but why would you give up primetime for soaps?
Don't get me wrong — there is some racism behind the scenes on soaps, though. I didn’t have a problem on DAYS within the community until people found out I was head-writing. Peter Brash, whom I used to love, made a comment to Ken Corday saying, “How is a black woman going to write an all-white town? Even Abe and Lexie are white!” Ken was floored and told him that they don’t see race and DAYS loved my ideas.
For example, I had this great idea: The city of Salem was going to celebrate Alice’s 100th birthday amidst the backdrop of a murder mystery which would culminate all in the same week. I called the story, “Citizen of the Century.” But they vetoed that, even though they liked parts of the story. Through that, the rest of the team found out I was head-writing, and they weren’t happy. Remember, writing DAYS back then meant writing it with Ken and Stephen Wyman.
TVG: Did you create any DAYS characters we should know about? KB: Yes! I created EJ Wells and I actually cast the deciding vote to cast the marvelous James Scott. There was another actor up for the role from Passions, [Justin Hartley], who did a great accent and was really good. But I pushed for Scott because he was perfect; he was EJ. I created that whole story, which I titled “The Devil Finds Work.” James was the total package: sexy, debonair and talented. They couldn’t decide on whom to cast so they asked me to make the final decision. Luckily, they listened to me.
There is a lot in the EJ bible that didn’t make it to air. Like, EJ was a race-car driving gigolo, not a lawyer. Had I not been fired, you would have seen all of that. TVG: When did your stuff air exactly? KB: My stuff aired from April to July of 2006. EJ came to town to avenge his mother, Susan, who was in an asylum at that point, and who was coming back to the show for November Sweeps. Eileen Davidson was willing to come back to DAYS, but NBC never contacted her. I was only going to ask her back to tape for two days; we were going to splice her into five episodes. We couldn’t get Eileen back long term, but we could for a couple of days. Then when [ Y&R fired her], we could have brought her back but they never did because I wasn’t there anymore.
TVG: Did you ever meet James E. Reilly? KB: No, but he sent me an email saying, “thank you,” when I wrote him a letter complaining how many flashbacks he uses, and how the pacing of his stories move way too slow. Of course, I also told him how underappreciated he was and the stories he wrote that I loved. He had no problem with me and wouldn’t mind writing with me at some point; but he had his own issues with Ken and NBC, especially with Stephen because James and Stephen were at war. They hated each other.
TVG: Do you think firing Deidre Hall was a mistake? KB: Marlena was my favourite character on the show, but the first thing they told me when I joined DAYS was: “Do not write for Deidre!” They were trying to force Hall out by not airing her. It was a several-year program to fade Marlena out. They theorized, if the audience only saw Marlena once or twice a month, the audience wouldn’t care when DAYS axed her. It devastated me because Marlena was the character I most wanted to write for. I wanted to have her involved dramatically with Sami and Belle, along with her own big storyline. Instead, they had Belle talk to Lexie for advice, which I found just silly! But Deidre also had it in her contract that she was not to be called “grandmother” or “gran,” which made it difficult. She was the star of the show — make no mistake. When the ratings went down, DAYS used Marlena and John to boost the ratings like they did with John’s car crash.
TVG: What do you think of DAYS’s recent ratings woes? KB: I think they are making a huge mistake by focusing the show around EJ and Sami. Don’t get me wrong: I think Sami is a great character but it was Nicole who brought DAYS to the top of the ratings last year. Ari Zucker is a phenomenal actress, especially when Nicole drove the show. Fans really get into Nicole when she’s a bitch. But no matter how hard they try, Sami will never be Marlena. [Sighs] It’ll never work. Sami should be half-evil and half-good, not a heroine. I like Alison Sweeney but she’s not Deidre Hall. I think Ari is more of a star than Ali. But, as you know, there are politics behind the show. Other than that, I think it’s smart that they brought Suzanne Rogers back to the fore as Maggie.
TVG: There are rumours that Dena Higley doesn’t head-write the show. Do you have any insight? KB: No, not really. I wouldn’t be surprised, though. Heck — people’s husbands write the show! Who knows? That happened with Lynn Marie Latham at Y&R, too. You can never trust the credit roll in daytime! Sometimes an executive wrote an entire week of a soap. When you see a really bad week that doesn’t make sense it’s because an executive wrote it. That happened a lot at P&G … You see, they want quick ratings with quick fixes instead of building momentum in a storyline and rooting plot in character. It’s sad because you make incredible dough as a soap writer. The money was the best part. [Laughs] I sometimes made $15,000 a month just giving them ideas as a consultant.
TVG: Would you work on another soap? KB: I would love to! I have begged to write AMC. I wrote bibles for AMC. I know DAYS won’t take me back because they can’t — and it’s not even personal. I doubt I could go back to Sony because of this interview [laughs]! I wrote [ABC Daytime president] Brian Frons all these emails listing all the reasons why I should be head-writing AMC. They had a transsexual on the show, and I said, “Brian, I’d be perfect because everyone thinks I’m a transsexual [laughs]!” And when Angie and Jesse came back, I wanted AMC really bad, obviously.
Brian and I got into a tiff over Star Jones’s firing from The View but it got blown out of proportion. Some people have even accused Brian and me of having a sexual relationship, which is so not true. The only thing that happened between us was he tried to steal me from DAYS, which prompted Ken to call Brian and cuss him out. That was one of the best moments I’ve ever witnessed in my life: Ken cussing out Brian because Brian offered me so much money to send him DAYS’s bible! Can you believe that? On daytime, you don’t do that. Yes, I did freelance on the side when I was on DAYS but Stephen Wyman knew I was writing for One Life a few times, when [Todd] was on death row. It was minor work, but I was at DAYS at the time, however, Sony didn’t care I was doing stuff on the side.
TVG: Anything else you’d like to add? KB: Just one thing about Y&R: I should make it clear that it wasn’t Sony, and/or the Bells who wanted Christel Khalil back and Davetta Sherwood out because of their ethnicities: it was CBS.
Ed. Note: A spokesperson for Brian Frons denies that the ABC Daytime president has ever been in contact with Boof, but he does admit she has written him several letters.
THE IDIOT RATINGS: Nov. 1-5/10 Winners: GH reclaims its status as ABC’s top soap; DAYS/One Life post slight gains! Losers: AMC and One Life lowest-rated sudsers! (Courtesy of Soap Opera Network)
Numbers are based on Live+Same Day ratings (Compared to Last Week/Compared to Last Year)
Note: On Wednesday, Nov. 3, soaps were pre-empted from 1 to 2 p.m. on the East Coast
Total Viewers 1. Y&R 4,790,000 (-88,000/-44,000) 2. B&B 3,043,000 (-65,000/-99,000) 3. DAYS 2,426,000 (+2,000/-440,000) 4. GH 2,407,000 (+125,000/-375,000) 5. OLTL 2,368,000 (+23,00/-82,000) 6. AMC 2,321,000 (+51,000/-255,000)
Households 1. Y&R 3.4/12 (same/-.1) 2. B&B 2.2/8 (same/-.1) 3. DAYS 1.8/6 (same/-.3) 3. AMC 1.8/6 (+.1/-.2) 5. OLTL 1.7/6 (-.1/-.2) 5. GH 1.7/5 (same/-.4)
Women 18-49 Viewers1. Y&R 1,003,000 (-33,000/-120,000) 2. GH 782,000 (+95,000/-137,000) 3. DAYS 660,000 (-10,000/-209,000) 4. OLTL 623,000 (-6,000/-99,000) 5. B&B 618,000 (-32,000/-86,000) 6. AMC 551,000 (+23,000/-150,000)
PICTURE OF THE WEEK NOH8 for Y&R’s Christian LeBlanc Gagging a topless Le Blanc proves 50 never looked so good! VIDEOS OF THE WEEK AMC’s Jordi Vilasuso’s sudsy one-night stand; B&B in six minutes Schwing! The former GL Emmy winner may just be able to get this viewer excited about Pine Nuts again.
After 20-plus years of incestuous love geometry, it's no surprise that even the most ardent B&B fans are confused with the enduring and convoluted Forrester clan saga. However, this handy B&B YouTube video for dummies makes trying to figure out its history a little simpler. Accidental soap boinks sold separately.
REMOTE CONTROL — The triumphs! The malfunctions! And the crimes against soap humanity! << REW: Venice: The Real House Lesbians of Venice My mentor and pal, Mimi Torchin and I recently bitched up the lack of gay sex on Venice, but Venice creator Crystal Chappell made up for the lack of rainbow sex with a steamy — literally — shower sex scene involving Nadia Bjorlin’s Lara and Jessica Leccia’s Ani. Yes, it’s too bad about their unfortunate looks (ha!), but it’s refreshing to watch an adult sex scene between two consenting adults that doesn’t revolve around a set-up for a paternity mystery, à la daytime. Although it’s been a tad frustrating not seeing Lara and Ani — or Ani and Gina — hit the sheets, er, showers earlier, Chappell is obviously taking a page out of Agnes Nixon’s rule book by making them laugh, cry and wait for the good stuff. In that same vein, Chappell is more than likely probably waiting to give her loyal fans what we’ve all be craving for: a partially nude same-sex love scene starring Chappell’s very single Gina. At this point, it could be a solo sex scene for all we care!
SUDS POLL Who should be daytime’s next cougar? Click here to vote. —Carly Manning, DAYS —Dorian Lord, One Life—Alexis Davis, GH —Hope Brady, DAYS—Diane Jenkins, Y&R —Maggie Horton, DAYS —Diane Miller, GH —Phyllis Newman, Y&R —Gina Brogno, Venice —Jill Fenmore, Y&R
Editor’s Note — Some readers are having trouble accessing our polls on Firefox, so use Safari instead
THE NELSON RATINGS Can’t watch all the soaps this week? No worries — here’s a cheat sheet!
Top 3 Soaps to Watch: 1. Venice, venicetheseries.com 2. The Bold and the Beautiful, CBS/CTV 3. One Life To Live, ABC
Top 3 Storylines to Watch: 1. Whatever Happened to Big Baby Colonel?, Venice 2. Stepmother’s Day, B&B 3. Two Paternity Tests to Switch, One Life
Top 5 Actresses to Watch: 1. Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R) 2. Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke, B&B) —tie— Susan Flannery (Stephanie, B&B) 4. Crystal Chappell (Gina, Venice) —tie— Nadia Bjorlin (Lara, Venice)
Top 6 Actors to Watch: 1. James Scott (EJ, DAYS) 2. Jerry verDorn (Clint, One Life) 3. Jordi Vilasuso (Griffin, AMC) 4. Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) 5. John Aniston (Victor, DAYS) —tie— Jordan Clarke (Colonel, Venice)
Top 3 Duos to Watch: 1. Victor and Maggie, DAYS 2. EJ and Sami, DAYS 3. Lara and Ani, Venice
Top 3 Couples to Fast-Forward Through:1. Nick and Sharon, Y&R 2. Sonny and Claire, GH 3. Ryan and Greenlee, AMC
Top 3 New Duos to Watch: 1. Nikki and Deacon, Y&R 2. Starr and James, One Life3. Brenda and Dante, GH
Top 3 Newcomers: 1. Nic Robuck, One Life 2. Adam Gregory, B&B3. Luke Kleintank, Y&R Top 3 Rivals: 1. Carly and Brenda, GH 2. Taylor vs. Brooke, B&B 3. Griffin and Jake, AMC
Top 3 Love Equations to Watch: 1. Deacon/Nikki/Victor, Y&R 2. EJ/Sami/Rafe, DAYS 3. Dante/Brenda/Sonny, GH
Top 3 Soap Magazine Covers (based on art direction): 1. Soap Opera Digest: Y&R’s Nick and Sharon 2. ABC Soaps In Depth: GH’s Brenda/Sonny/Carly 3. Soap Opera Weekly: DAYS’s EJ/Sami and One Life’s Paternity Nightmare
Top 3 Best Reads/Buys at the Newsstand: 1. Soap Opera Digest2. Soap Opera Weekly 3. ABC Soaps In Depth
Top 3 Soap Moments To Watch:1. Friday: DAYS’s Victor has a horrific realization about Maggie. “Omigod, she really is a redhead,” he says. 2. Wednesday: Desperate for love and some action, Venice’s Gina begins dating a lesbian played by Peter Reckell. 3. Friday: DAYS’s Brady visits with Isabella’s ghost again. “Mom, do they have Ed Hardy swimwear in heaven?” he asks.
Want to dish the soaps with Nelson Branco? Join
The Suds Report discussion group today on Facebook.
Nelson Branco is the managing show writer for CTV's national talk show, The Marilyn Denis Show, which debuts in January 2011. Part time, he works as a Toronto freelance entertainment journalist, who regularly contributes to Hello! Canada, The National Post, The Los Angeles Times' theenvelope.com, TV Guide USA, tvguide.com, Inside Entertainment, OUT, OK!, Entertainment Tonight, etalk Daily, and fab magazine, along with spearheading the soap coverage for TVGuide.ca's popular daytime-TV hub. After graduating from Ryerson University in 1997 with a Radio and Television Arts BA degree, he moved from Toronto to New York in 1998 to take on the roles as senior news editor at Soap Opera Update. Branco first freelanced for Soap Opera Weekly as an intern in 1994, and after leaving Soap Update to help create and launch Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly in 2003, the Winnipeg native continued to freelance occasionally for its sister publication, Soaps In Depth. In addition, Branco has successfully helped create and launch various magazines In Touch Weekly, Hello! Canada and Canada's first celebrity magazine, Weekly Scoop, where he served as its news and entertainment director. Branco was also a producer and an on-air expert on TVTropolis series, Planet Soap.