Sunday, April 29, 2012

Parenting on soaps is a tricky proposition

Let’s face it, most parents on soaps are deadbeats when juxtaposed against the real world.

Soap kids disappear for days and weeks at a time – and, in the case of very special soap children, they go up in the attic as five-year-olds and come back down as 16-year-olds in a span of three weeks or so.\

There’s a reason why the vast majority of soap kids are aged rapidly – soaps and kids generally don’t mix.

Notice I said generally. There are some very specific cases where soap stories built around children did work – usually on ‘General Hospital’ for some reason – but those instances are the exception rather than the norm.

This week, Kristina Wagner’s Felicia returned to stand by her daughter – who is about to be sentenced for a murder she didn’t commit.
Felicia should be inducted into the Bad Soap Parents Hall of Fame – behind only the errant father of her offspring Frisco Jones.

Several years ago, in the wake of lagging airtime, Wagner opted to leave ‘General Hospital.’ At the time, the role was recast for a short while – but the recast didn’t work for fans – and the character was written off.

Problem was, her two teenage daughters weren’t. Instead they stayed with their stepfather – who raised three different girls who were essentially abandoned by their biological parents.

Now, this is a soap, you learn to suspend your disbelief, but as viewers we know that Felicia was a good mother when she was onscreen (especially by soap standards). Her abandoning her children didn’t make a lot of sense. On the flip side, Frisco was never a good father so his abandoning his children makes perfect sense.

When you compare that with Anna and Robert on ‘General Hospital’ – who also essentially abandoned their daughter – things become murkier. At least Robert and Anna had no choice (at least at first). Their excuse for leaving her to fend for herself in recent years is a whole other story, though.

So why do soaps keep saddling their characters with kids that they just ignore?

That’ a question I’ve asked myself for years. Take GH’s Liz. She was a young woman saddled with three different kids (by three different fathers) a little over a year ago. The character never had a chance to have any fun. Every time actress Rebecca Herbst got pregnant in real life they made Liz pop a kid out (and each time there was a paternity scandal).

I want to assure the writers of GH, as a fan, I’m more than willing to pretend the actress isn’t plumping up if it means I don’t get saddled with another who’s the daddy storyline.

Last year, Liz was so distracted by the DNA results for her most recent kid she didn’t notice kid number two walk out into the street in the middle of the night and get mowed down by his drunk grandfather. That whole scene was ridiculous because the room the two characters were in was the size of a large closet – there’s no way she wouldn’t have heard him at the door.

All that being said, Liz is probably the best mother on GH – especially now that Robin is dead. I mean, she’s not purposely raising her kid in the mob life like the rest of the females on that show. How sad is that?

Over on ‘Days of Our Lives’ – conniving Sami keeps blowing up relationships (and having kids with different men). Sami’s only saving grace seems to be that she’s a decent mother – and at least you see her with her kids from time to time. Sure, her kids are all screwed up and are going to need therapy – but at least she’s around.

Before GH killed off Starr’s daughter Hope, you rarely saw the toddler because her mentally ill grandmother was always watching her off screen. That makes perfect sense – especially since the kid had been kidnapped a couple of times.

That brings up the other problem, though.

A lot of fans complain about soap characters being bad mothers because you never see them with their kids, but fans should remember that soap actors are sometimes doing 70 pages of scenes in one day. When you add kids to the mix, that only adds to the problems. They also have child labor laws they have to abide by.

Essentially, having kids on soaps is a tedious and tiring prospect.

Even taking all that into account, though, there had to be a better way of writing Felicia off than making her the world’s worst deadbeat mother chasing after the guy who abandoned her and their children several times.

Why not put Felicia in a coma? Send her off to take care of her grandmother? Have her kidnapped by the Cassidines?

The fact is, soap mothers are generally so bad that it’s a wonder their grown daughters can tolerate being in the same room with them – especially since they seem to share men occasionally in this wacky world we’ve come to love.

What do you think? Who are the best and who are the worst soap mothers?

And, in the spirit of the day, click here for the best soap kids of all time list.

Best soap child actors of all time

If bad soap parents are plentiful, then good child actors on soaps are practically non-existent.

Don’t get me wrong, the little girl who plays Emma and the little boy who plays Cameron on ‘General Hospital’ are cute as can be – but they can’t carry their own storylines.

In fact, very few soap kids are capable of carrying storylines – that’s usually why they’re aged so fast.
GH’s Kimberly McCullough is an example of the rare child star who not only carried her own storylines but actually stole scenes from the adults around her.

So who are the best soap child stars of all time? Take a gander below. Oh, and I opted for child stars under the age of 13 – since it’s easier for a teenager to act (all that pent up drama). Some of these stars might have grown up and continued portraying the character in their teens – but they all started out as children and stole our hearts.

5. Amber Tamblyn (Emily, General Hospital) – At first, I wasn’t sure saddling Alan and Monica with an orphaned child was a good idea. I didn’t actually see the point. A.J. and Jason had been raised largely in the attic – so I wasn’t sure how the duo would do with a traumatized girl. It’s a commentary on Tamblyn’s talent that she not only charmed viewers but all of the Quartermaines when she moved into the mansion. Tamblyn had heavy storylines through her teen years before ultimately leaving for greener pastures. The character was later recast and killed off – but most fans will always remember Emily as the soul of the Quartermaine family -- at least before they were decimated by the Port Charles mob.

4. Kristen Alderson (Starr, One Life to Live) – Alderson gets made fun of because of her character’s tendency to break into song whenever the mood strikes in recent years – but that’s not her true legacy.  Starr Manning – the daughter of super couple royalty – stole our hearts from the minute she stepped her bratty self into Llanview. Starr was a mouthy conniver who played with snakes, plotted with her father and was disrespectful to her elders. Through the years, Starr grew up into a solid young woman who tried to be a good person. Personally, the character of Starr (and Alderson as an actress) will always get a pass from me – despite the weird singing – because of the scenes between her and Asa back in the day. Pure gold.

3. Camryn Grimes (Cassie, Young and the Restless) – When she was introduced on the soap she was all smiles and freckles. That innocent façade didn’t last long. Young Cassie was thrust into heavy story – and the adult actors that surrounded her thankfully didn’t have to carry her. Grimes anchored a bevy of stories during her tenure on the CBS sudser – but her greatest legacy is probably her portrayal during the characters death a few years ago. This was a case of a soap killing off a legacy character and it working – because Cassie’s death is still affecting her parents to this day. I thought we might see more of Grimes after she left the show, but I guess she’ll always be able to live on as Cassie Newman to her fans.

2. Jonathan Jackson  (Lucky, General Hospital) – When GH super couple Luke and Laura returned to the soap in the 1990s they made waves. Who would have thought they’d be upstaged by a 10-year-old with a shaggy haircut? From the minute he smiled, Jackson stole the hearts of GH fans everywhere. Not only was he portraying the beloved son of soap royalty, but he was also holding his own with two powerhouses. Jackson clearly had a close relationship with onscreen father Anthony Geary – and that relationship showed on screen. When Jackson returned to the role a few years ago, that chemistry between the two actors was still apparent and palpable. Jackson carried heavy storylines from the minute he stepped into Port Charles. A less capable actor would have buckled under the pressure, but Jackson seemed to thrive.

1. Kimberly McCullough (Robin, General Hospital) – She gets the top spot because she started at such a young age. From the minute she came on the screen she was playing heavy stuff. From finding out who her mother and father were and being kidnapped not long after, McCullough embodied Robin and made us believe all of her emotions were true. It helped that she had sparkling chemistry with her onscreen parents, too. McCullough grew up on screen, graduating from trite kid and teenage stories to grown up fare like Robin’s battle with HIV. McCullough was “killed” off GH earlier this year (at her request). We can only hope Robin will ultimately get her happy ending down the road. The character – and her fans – deserve it.

Honorable mentions:

Erin Torpey (Jessica, One Life to Live) – She wasn’t given a whole lot to do as a child – besides from being trotted out for holidays and funerals – but Torpey still managed to make Jessica a recognizable character. Torpey’s biggest claim to fame is Jessica’s teenage pregnancy story, but the truth is, even as a child she managed to shine with her adult counterparts. Torpey's true talent shined most with onscreen mother Erika Slezak and onscreen grandfather Phil Carey -- but she never shrank next to anyone.

Lindsay Lohan (Alli Fowler, Another World) – Even though she’s known as tabloid fodder now more than anything else, as a small child Lohan stole the hearts of viewers and Jake McKinnon as young Alli Fowler. Lohan’s tenure wasn’t long, but it was clear – even at that young age – that she would be a force to be reckoned with. Viewers – like myself – are probably sad to see that she’s torpedoed her career -- especially given the promise it started out with.

Hayden Panettiere (Lizzie Spaulding, Guiding Light) – Before she was an indestructible cheerleader, Panettiere was an adorable sprite that charmed her onscreen parents into doing just about anything that she wanted. She also anchored a heavy and depressing cancer storyline. Panettiere is also recognizable for her role as Sarah Roberts on One Life to Live – but Lizzie was a stronger character for her. Panettiere would go on to steal scenes in ‘Remember the Titans’ – but the actress (now an adult) still talks about her time on soaps fondly.

Robyn Richards (Maxie Jones, General Hospital) – Richards may not have grown up to be the best actress, but she’ll always be the center of the best soap story in history – the tragic tale of Maxie getting cousin B.J.’s heart after a bus accident. Richards was young at the time of the story, but she showed gravitas when playing opposite of the adults that surround her. Maxie has been recast a couple of times since Richards' day – but child Maxie will always leave an indelible mark on our hearts – mostly because she took cousin B.J.’s.

What do you think? Who are the best child soap stars of all time?

A Facebook Nation . . . of whiners?

A fluke spring cold knocked me down for the count earlier this week – leaving me nothing to do but channel surf and scroll through Facebook on my cell phone.

Yes, I know I would have bettered myself with reading – but the cold medicine wouldn’t even let me get through a chapter without falling asleep. It was one of those weeks.

While scrolling through the endless sea of updates something became glaringly obvious to me – Facebook has changed our world.

In a good way?

In a bad way?

I’d say both.

On one hand, it’s nice to keep in touch with people you might not necessarily ever see again – like high school classmates and the branch of the family tree you don’t want to publicly acknowledge. Facebook is a way of keeping up with their life without actually being part of it.
On the flip side, Facebook (and Twitter and My Space, etc.) has also turned the world into a bunch of “oversharers.”

I mean, people are on the site glamorizing their two-week old relationship one second and then explaining they got dumped in the next. I’m not exactly sure that’s healthy.

I know I’m guilty of certain behavior on Facebook, too, including complaining about my co-workers and arguing politics with my family – but I think there are still some things that should remain private.

Sharing pictures of your pets and kids is one thing, but sharing your sexual escapades and general disdain for your ex is another. And, if I’m being honest, I’d rather see pictures of the pets than the kids (that’s just me, though).

I can’t help but think that some people are sharing this information because of all the people that crowd into their threads to give them a virtual pat on the back and tell them they’re the better person and things will get better for them soon. It’s an information highway pity party really. I honestly think some people get off on everyone on Facebook essentially running to their rescue.

Facebook is a great tool for networking, keeping old friends updated on big life events and even gossiping – but it shouldn’t be used as a self-esteem booster.

One of my biggest pet peeves on Facebook is those long-winded status updates – you know, share if you love your mom, or share if you have the best big sister in the world, blah, blah, blah. I’ve yet to see one that says to share if my cynicism is starting to jade me – that one I might get behind.

I personally love the people who post those and then say they’ll be “watching” and know who does it and who does not do it. Like somehow not doing it means you hate your mother or something.

I also think that people that like their own posts have narcissistic personality traits that should be explored with a therapist – but that’s a whole other complaint – along with the spelling and grammar complaints (The Kardashians are losers people, not loosers).

So, now I’m going to leave you to flame me about how I used my blog to blast Facebook. Go ahead, I deserve it. I’ll be over on the Soap Central message board whining about how stupid the current multiple personality story is on ‘General Hospital.’

What do you think? Has Facebook created a society of whiners?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Top moments in entertainment include a Chelsea Lately Detroit shout out

This is really the last week of relative quiet before the network shows gear up for their final run of the season.

There were still a handful of shows that aired new episodes – but all of that was trumped by President Barack Obama slow-jamming the news on ‘Late Night’ with Jimmy Fallon.

Love or hate his politics, his good nature is palpable and the fact that he has a sense of humor about himself makes him that much more likeable.

In other reality television news, E!’s Chelsea Handler gave a shout out to the city of Detroit – claiming it’s one of her favorite places in the world right now.


Because of Wayne County Judge Wayne McCree – who notoriously texted photos of himself shirtless to a female employee.

Handler’s humor is an acquired taste, but her hilarious take on McCree’s motivations (and amazement of what was beneath the robe) was must see television for any Southeastern Michigan resident who couldn’t help but laugh at the scandal when it first broke.

In scripted television, the pickings were slim. Without further ado, though, this week’s top television moments are:

5. Supernatural – It’s been a rough two seasons for this show, but things are slowly starting to get better. This week’s outing was actually rather fun, in fact, and this show has been struggling to find the fun for a long time. Charlie Bradbury was a winning character – I mean who didn’t love her getting advice from her Hermione bobblehead and she showed me a Princess Leia shirt I simply must get -- but Dean and Sam seemed a little lighter this week, too. Sure, they’re still dealing with ghost Bobbie and the possibility that he’ll go revenge crazy, but both Sam and Dean were charmed by Charlie and her antics. They’ve tried adding females to the show throughout the years – and it’s failed every time. I think Charlie might be a viable option if they ever want to consider that again – but that’s just me. Peace out, b------.

4. Once Upon a Time – Mr. Gold (aka Rumplestiltskin) is probably the most dynamic character on the show – and that’s saying something on a canvas that is littered with dynamic characters – so an episode devoted to his history was welcome. I know I was not only interested in what happened to his son, Bae, but who, exactly, August was in modern times. I thought it was a little heavy-handed at first – especially if August did indeed turn out to be Bae. Since he didn’t, I found the ending of the episode both exciting and intriguing. We still don’t know the truth about August, but we do feel a little more sympathy for Mr. Gold. We also know why he created the curse for Regina – and what end he’s working towards. This show continues to excel – and I can’t wait for the second season.

3. Game of Thrones – Most of the episode was a weak outing for a program that’s consistently one of the best out there right now. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m sick of Dany in the desert and I’m ready for Joffrey to have something terrible befall him. Sunday’s episode didn’t advance either of those causes frankly. What it did do was give us some more nudity, some more uncomfortable incest, and the birth of something truly awful. What was it? I have no idea. It grew in this woman’s womb in a short period of time and when she expelled it – all I can say is that black smoke with claws is truly terrifying. This show continues to get bigger and better, but I am worried that the broad cast is going to hurt it eventually. Personally, I will never tire of Jon Snow, Arya and Tyrion – but most of the characters are richly drawn and highly entertaining. It’s hard to believe this season is already half over isn’t it?

2. Private Practice – This show consistently outdoes ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ anymore – so I don’t understand why it is the program in danger of being cancelled. This week’s outing had sweet moments with Addison and her new baby, tense moments of therapy with Pete and Violet, interesting personal dynamics between Charlotte and Cooper in regards to Mason and even funny moments between Sam and the new doctor when they both acknowledge that Addison has issues when it comes to men. It was the scenes between Amelia and Addison that carried the show, though, as we realize throughout the episode that despite Addison’s assurances that her baby would be fine – the opposite was true. Amelia’s baby actually is gestating without a brain. After a shrill showdown with Addison – where Amelia admits she’s jealous and hates her at the moment – Amelia ultimately decides to continue carrying her baby so its organs can be harvested at birth and save other children. People better get their hankies ready for that one.

1. House – Most of the characters on the long-running (and mercifully ending) FOX show aren’t even likeable anymore. Wilson, however, is. The revelation this week that he was suffering from cancer was not only shocking but scary. We know that a lot of characters are returning for the finale – including dead ones. I’m hoping Wilson won’t be getting visits from the other side. Given all the despicable things he’s done, I’m hoping it’s somehow House that dies and not Wilson – but I’m not holding my breath. The acting on this show is still topnotch, but I can’t remember the last time it was relevant. Here’s hoping the venerable show doesn’t limp to the finish line but sprint.

Honorable mentions go to:

Grey’s Anatomy – After last week’s engaging episode, this week was maudlin and tedious again. Alex and his intern fall flat – and I don’t care about their rubber baby. Plus, I’m hoping April is one of the characters that dies in the finale. She is not only useless, but annoying to boot. That being said, the scenes of Christina and Meredith – on either side of the hotel room door – as Christina finally admitted Owen cheated on her were riveting.

Gossip Girl – I’m still not sure I understand the Serena as Gossip Girl storyline, but this week’s episode showed signs of life. Not only do we find out that Elizabeth Hurley’s Diana isn’t Chuck’s mother (that was a lame reveal anyway) – but now we find out that Bart Bass is probably not Chuck’s father. Instead, it seems that the slimy Jack Bass – Chuck’s horrific uncle – may have supplied the DNA that made Chuck. This week’s outing looks fun, with Chuck and Blair joining forces (anything has to be better than the painful Dan and Blair scenes). I’m also hoping that Lily somehow regains her footing, especially given the fact that her ex just stole half her mother’s money and skipped town. I would hate to think that Rufus and Lily wouldn’t be together at the end. I’m actually a proponent of this show ending this year – but it looks like next year will be its last. I hope the show can find a way to sustain itself for another year – because I think Dan and Nate have run their course and Serena is almost completely unlikeable now. As much chemistry as they have, Blair and Chuck can’t carry an entire season again. They already did that in season two.

What do you think? What were the top entertainment moments of the week?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fifty Shades of . . . Hey, I’ve read this before

Literature is sweeping the nation again.

No, I’m not talking about ‘The Hunger Games.’

I’m talking about the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy by E.L. James.

Of course, to call ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ literature is akin to calling ‘Howard the Duck’ a masterpiece. In reality, the trilogy is essentially erotica – written on a third grade level.

What’s the difference between erotica and porn you may ask? Porn is visual and erotica is written – that’s the only difference.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is set mostly in Seattle. It tells the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. What is the story? It’s S&M kids (not to be confused with M&Ms).

Now, I don’t want to give the whole plot away – and I use the word plot loosely. My problem with the first book (I have not read the second and third – which have also been mass released – and have no intention to) is not the sex.

I read a lot of books, and there’s sex in quite a few of them. I just prefer my sex to have some actual prose and story with it – and when I don’t, I want something down and dirtier than ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Understand the distinction? I want a fiction book to be better written and I want erotica to be hotter? ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ fails at both.

On the prose level, this book could have been written by any middle school student with spell check. There’s nothing special about the writing and there’s certainly nothing special about the story. In actuality, this subject matter was tackled better by ‘The Story of O’ years ago.

As far as the erotica, I’ve read steamier stuff in several recent vampire fictions books – including Gerry Bartlett’s ‘Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans,’ which came out earlier this month.

There are any number of bodice rippers that tackle this exact subject matter in fact – and they do it with more aplomb and entertainment. At least they don’t try to be something they're not.

So why has ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ went viral? I have no clue. It’s the same stuff that’s been around for years – it’s just dressed up in a prettier package frankly.

I do know some people who have read it and call it “hot” fiction – and then they giggle like 12-year-olds. Maybe I have a different basis for what is hot – but this wasn’t even tepid to me. If I wanted to read about men mistreating women I’d just look in the cops and courts section of any newspaper. 

In fact, with the Bashara case getting so much press locally these days, this book’s phenomenal rise is fairly interesting – or frightening if you know anything about that incident.

I’m all for people reading more – and if this is what gets them reading, more power to them I guess. If they’re going to do it, though, they should probably admit what it is about the book that is speaking to them – because it certainly isn’t the writing.

What do you think? Is all the hoopla surrounding ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ deserved?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is AMC's 'The Killing' in danger of cancellation?

Is AMC’s ‘The Killing’ in danger of cancellation?

That certainly seems to be the buzz anyway.

The show, which saw a substantial 19 percent drop in viewership with the season premiere earlier this month is continuing to struggle – despite the fact that the program still manages to chug along creatively.

The season premiere brought in a 1.8 million viewers and a 1.4 rating among households. With subsequent viewings, ‘The Killing’ only reached 2.5 million total viewers. In comparison, last year the show’s freshman season opened up with 4.7 million total viewers – including encores.

What’s at the heart of the drop?

While ‘The Killing’ executives may not want to admit it – and as of now they haven’t – viewers are still ticked about last season.

The writers never promised that Rosie Larsen’s killer would be revealed in the first season finale – but AMC’s advertising campaign certainly pointed to that very fact. When it didn’t happen, and the show instead ended on a cliffhanger, viewers were angry – to say the least.

Then the show runners and show star Mireille Enos essentially told fans to “get over it.”

That’s not necessarily how you engender fans to your side kids.

I think that show producers and writers thought that fans would just suck it up and return to the show because it was well written and well acted.
If that were the general rule, we were never have been subjected to the Kardashians.

In fact, fans have obstinately refused to return to the show – something I didn’t think would happen.

I expected the show to drop in viewers, don’t get me wrong, but not like this.

I’ve stuck with the show, even though my interest is starting to wane. I still like the actors associated with the program (Enos especially), but I’m kind of over the whole central murder mystery.

Not only am I losing interest in who killed Rosie, I’m definitely annoyed with the storylines surrounding her parents. The weird sexual stuff going on between her aunt and father is bad enough – but her mother abandoning her sons and hanging out with random strangers at a hotel is like a course in Bad Writing 101.

Then you have the mob subplot – which not only appears to have been hastily written but it also has a few holes in it.

When you compound that with Richmond lying in a hospital bed feeling sorry for himself – essentially I’m just kind of sick of it.

I will continue to watch throughout the duration of the second season – mostly because we’ve been promised that Rosie’s killer will be revealed in the final episode.

After that? Probably not. I think I’ll just move on and free up some time on my television schedule.

Of course, that’s assuming that ‘The Killing’ gets a third season.

AMC is used to shows getting a lot higher ratings than ‘The Killing.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if network executives just dump the show and try for something else.

Only time will tell, I guess.

What do you think? Is ‘The Killing’ living on borrowed time?