Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Which I Take Something Very Personally and Have A Good Vent

Warning: I don't usually do this, but a rant is coming. A very long rant. I will use bad words. I may say controversial things.

You have been warned.

So 2010 hasn't been a banner year for me. It pretty much sucked from the stroke of midnight for a variety of reasons. Y'all know my kitty, Anya, has been sick, and I've recently gotten some bad health news about a close family member, plus there's an echoing silence on the book front. I don't know anyone who isn't stressed about money, myself included. I kept hoping March would bring with it both warmer weather (check) and some good news (ha!).

January was, without a doubt, Anya's very worst month—weight loss, vomiting, peeing everywhere except the litter box (including my bed), constant fear I'd come home from work one day and find her dead. My stress levels were through the roof from it and a serious lack of sleep wasn't helping. Then one day while trying to decompress on Twitter, I clicked on a vid link because it promised "hotness." Male hotness, to be precise. I needed eye-candy, so I clicked. And it delivered.

It also alerted me to something I didn't know existed: an emotional, realistic, beautifully-written and honestly-acted love story on a soap opera. It touched on themes of unrequited love, longing, and the need to truly accept yourself as you are before you can give someone else your heart.

I know, right?

Did I mention this heartwarming story is about two men?

If that offends you, catch you on my next post.

If not, please keep reading.

Through the power of YouTube and some dedicated fans, I was able to discover a story line that's been running on the ABC soap "One Life to Live" since around June 2009. Brilliantly brought to life by actors Scott Evans and Brett Claywell, the story of Oliver Fish and Kyle Lewis is a gem in the world of daytime television, and it was groundbreaking in many ways. It was also expectedly controversial.

I mean, really, how could an honestly-told love story not be controversial? (<--yes, that was sarcasm)


So I dove into the Kish story line via YouTube and during a month of my life where I cried almost every single day, this little break from reality was a wonderful treat. It opened my heart and my mind a little bit more, and in February, I started watching OLTL every day on television. I've heard from other folks that OLTL is one of the best-written soaps, with one of the most diverse casts, and I admit I was surprised by the quality of writing I saw. I was never a soap watcher, but I've seen bits and pieces over the years (my grandparents were big soap watchers when I was a kid), so I was expecting overblown melodrama and barely-passable acting. The show actually has some very witty dialogue, (mostly) believable story lines, and a very (with a few exceptions) talented cast.

I let myself immerse in the other characters outside of Kish, follow the story lines, and by the end of February, I was hooked. I was prepared to become a long-time viewer—which is big for me, because my television viewing has dwindled to nearly nothing this year. Even long-time favorites (I'm looking at you, "24") have failed to capture my attention like they used to.

Does this make me feel a little possessive of the show? Maybe a tad. Does this mean I take the Kish story line a little personally, because it helped me through a very tough period of time? Definitely. I was just settling in to the idea of seeing these guys on TV for a while, and loved the fact that OLTL had a pretty good cast of characters in my 25-30 age group. Then the cast started dwindling. One actress left on her own. One actress was fired. Another actor, Scott Clifton (who has been doing amazing work these last few weeks, and who I was looking forward to seeing more of) was fired.

Ugh. The age group was dwindling. Okay, well, at least Kish was still around, and there's still some decent actors in that age group. I wasn't happy, but I could live with it.

So I got online last evening to find an article on TVGuide saying that the characters of Oliver and Kyle will be written off the show and gone by mid-April. Next month!



In the middle of a week that began with some blah news, this did not help my mood. Reading the rest of the article, and the apparent reasoning behind letting the actors go, incensed me further.


And I quote:
But sources at the network say the duo failed to resonate with the mainstream audience.

WTH? The mainstream audience? Don't they mean Focus Groups made up of people who are rarely habitual watchers, who are given select scenes and made to judge a character based solely on those scenes rather than a larger body of work? I hate the word mainstream, anyway.

Okay, so I've learned a little about "One Life to Live" and its landscape of characters in the last six weeks or so, so let me get this straight. A committed couple with a healthy relationship (ie, they don't keep secrets and they friggin' TALK to each other) isn't resonating with the mainstream audience. Um…okay.

I admit, as a shy bookworm with a penchant for SF, fantasy and horror, and a deep love of geekery, I've never been terribly mainstream. But this "mainstream audience" who objects to Kyle and Oliver apparently have no problems with:

A leading man who is a convicted rapist. Who was planning to steal his teenage daughter's baby and raise it with the woman he raped. Who is a narcissist. Who uses money to buy whatever the hell he wants—his daughter's affection, most recently. (even worse, the actor has one expression and it telegraphs constipation)

A leading lady whose husband just died, but who is already entertaining thoughts of (and smooching it up with) an old flame, and said old flame is in a relationship with another woman who just found out she's pregnant. Homewrecking is a theme on this show, I've noticed, that is quite the valued trait in its female characters.* (oh, and "old flame" is another unfortunate with only one facial expression)

An absolute whack-job religious zealot who storms into town, blackmails the mayor, kidnaps a pregnant woman so he can raise her baby as the "chosen one," kidnaps his own daughter and gives her electro-shock and then tries to rape her, and is now planning something else (that likely involves kidnapping small children) from jail with the help of his baby-stealing accomplice. **

*Now, I realize things like infidelity and homewrecking are staples of soap operas, but come on! This is more acceptable to the "mainstream audience" than a gay couple?

**This guy's story line had way more air time since it began last November than the combination of all of the Kyle/Oliver scenes aired since last June, and yet "the gays" are being blamed for bad ratings this past winter?


Yes, I just said that. According to several sources, ABC received some flak for some of OLTL's gay-centered story lines last fall. Never mind that ratings continued to be somewhat low even after those story lines got the kibosh. Never mind that as I just said above, the Kyle/Oliver scenes were maybe 1/20 of the overall storytelling landscape during that time frame. Never mind that K/O drew brand new viewers to the show because of their story(and I wasn't the only one), and that ratings were on the upswing in February.

They became the scapegoats for what is a much larger lack of good story telling over the last few months. And it sucks that The Powers That Be at ABC Daytime aren't spreading the blame around or taking responsibility for stories that are (according to some people more familiar with the show's history than I) rehashes of the same old stories that have been told and re-told for the last five years. Oh no, let's blame bad ratings on something NEW and DIFFERENT that actually drew in new viewers and brought INTERNATIONAL attention to OLTL.

I get that some of the gay-themed stories have seemed in-your-face to some viewers. There will always be people who don't want to see an accurate portrayal of American life on their TV screens, on film, or in the books they read. Fine. But others do. And for ABC-D execs to bend over to the will of the naysayers?

Do they compromise by scaling back the more heavy-handed stories? Do they step back a little with the characters until the hotheads cool off? Nope. They listen to uninformed Focus Groups and put the characters on the chopping block.

And now Scott Evans and Brett Claywell, two very talented actors, are losing their jobs. And the absolute suckiest part of this entire suck-fest? According to his Twitter feed, Scott found out via that damned TVGuide article. How much does it suck to find out that a character you've put so much time and effort into for over a year is being written off—from a website?! The entire OLTL cast has been, so far, silent about the news, but it's probably safe to assume Brett found out in a similar way.


The 20/30-something age group is being whittled down—my age group, damn it. But I guess I'm not the mainstream audience that soaps want watching. At this rate, all the show will have left is teenagers (with their "High School Musical" May sweeps nonsense) and 40+ characters who rotate beds, push each other out windows (no, I'm not kidding), and mope around pining for people they can't have.

Maybe it's a good thing these talented young actors (Scott Evans, Brett Claywell, Scott Clifton, Amanda Setton, Crystal Hunt, Daphnee Duplaix) are getting out while the getting's good. Maybe I'm taking this more personally than I normally would, because the K/O story helped keep me sane during a really rough month and a half. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow and regret posting this at all (nope, I edited and added to it, because yeah, I wrote most of this last night while pissed). Maybe.

All I know for sure is that after April, OLTL has lost this brand new viewer. I also know from a message board I frequent that quite a few long-time viewers (and by this I mean people who've watched the show for upwards of 23 years) will quit watching.

I've never been so proud to not be "mainstream." And by that, I mean I'm not someone with my head stuck so far up my own ass that I can't see a good thing on my television screen that hasn't been told and retold eighty-five times in the last sixty years. It means I don't have time for a show or a network that lays blame for its own failings on the heads of actors who've done everything asked of them in order to breathe life into two characters that have trail-blazed daytime television.

It means I can see a good story in something—fuck that, a good LOVE story in something—no matter if it's a man and a woman, or a man and a man.


Shame on you, "One Life to Live." Shame on you.



weeghosties said...

Send that post, in its entirety to ABC. I'm serious. They need to see that the decisions they're making are losing their audience. Network television isn't doing well these days, they need to pay attention to what viewers want, not what makes them a little uncomfortable. You can bet the writers of those storylines are gone as well so it's not just your actors out of work.

And big hugs to you, sweetie, call me if you need to talk!

Kelly Meding/Kelly Meade said...

I probably will. Hard copy letters have more impact than emails, so that's the way to go, I think.


Glinda Harrison said...

I agree with Stacey: Send it to ABC. It is a beautifully written post. Over the last few years, I have quit watching, Bones, House and Ghost Whisperer, just to name a few, for exactly this kind of thing. Let them know you are voting with your feet.

{{Big Hug}} to you and Anya!

Melanie Hooyenga said...

I third that opinion. I don't follow soaps but I had heard about their storyline and it pisses me off that in 2010 people are still afraid to see healthy relationships. Excellent points about comparing it to the other storylines -- all of which encourage illegal and immoral behavior. Ugh.

Kelly Meding/Kelly Meade said...

I've been hanging around a fan board the last few days, watching for links to articles about the write-off. It's amazing the different "reasons" that ABC-D is tossing out through different sources.

Um, backpedal much?

And a major soap site in France picked up the news. That just tickles me!

It's also sort of sadly ironic that the show is up for a GLAAD award this evening....


It is my Cuz's fav soap! She is not going to be happy!

Hope kitty is better {{Anya}}