Soap Opera Weekly: 10/18/10

I understand that no self-respecting AS THE WORLD TURNS fan will ever watch its replacement, THE TALK, but just in case you felt any twinge of morbid curiosity, I watched it, so you don’t have to.

As the commercials hinted, THE TALK is a bald-faced, we’re-not-even-pretending-to-try-to-hide-it imitation of THE VIEW. If you’ve seen that, you’ve seen this. There’s a reason my colleague Mala dubbed this show THE RE-VIEW. Julie Chen, Holly Robinson Peete, Sara Gilbert, Leah Remini and Sharon Osbourne literally brought nothing new to the table as they strutted out, waving to the audience, and took their places at a…er, table.

The premiere THE TALK began like a reality show featuring the hosts and Julie narrating, as documentary-style footage replicated such BIG BROTHER tropes as seeing the set for the first time. Julie asserted that they all had instant chemistry, but that doesn’t translate on-air — hence, the need to inform the audience that they have chemistry.

Leah immediately put the audience on the spot by openly fretting that they would “hate” her. Throughout the show, she indulged in a lot of broad mugging. However, the most self-indulgent section consisted entirely of family members wishing the hosts good luck.

THE TALK is so mom-centric (constantly referring to each other as mothers, and Marissa Jaret Winokur as “mom on the street”) that it is in danger of shutting out women who have not given birth. As for any stray males who wander across the show: Just say no, dude… There’s nothing for you here. Heck, there’s barely anything of value for women. A segment addressing how to talk to your kids about sex was shockingly juvenile. The women giggled like 10-year-olds over the names of body parts, calling the clinical terms “disgusting” and favoring euphemisms like “cupcake.” (Seriously!) In all, the segment was an embarrassing disaster.

Julie wrapped with an imitation of THE VIEW’s entreaty to take time to enjoy the view by telling her viewers, “It’s always the right time to have The Talk.” (Say, isn’t “The Talk” a euphemism for telling your kids about sex? Talk about irony!) Sharon ended by promising, “Tomorrow, we’ll be different.” One can only hope.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 9/20/10

I’m not the biggest fan of self-improvement reality shows, but there’s something about UNDERCOVER BOSS that really connects with audiences (and okay, yes, me).

I suppose UNDERCOVER BOSS doesn’t even qualify for the “self-improvement” category like, say, THE BIGGEST LOSER. But it’s not about competition, and clearly the CEOs are not playing games when they don disguises and infiltrate their own companies for a taste of what it’s like to work the front lines.

The second season kicked off this week with Stephen Joyce, president and CEO of Choice Hotels International, sampling the inner workings of his hospitality chain. For his first job, Steve worked in the maintenance department, performing chores like cleaning the pool and arranging deck chairs. At the end of the day he got stuck in an elevator and had to…you guessed it, call maintenance. He went on to try cold-calling in the sales department, as well running the front desk at the tiny Comfort Suites division, where desk personnel are the only employees on-site.

UB may only be in its second season, but the episodes have settled into a comfortable routine: The boss meets several real workers and realizes that these dedicated, hardworking folks could use a little break (such as this week’s Ricardo, who was working two jobs, seven days a week, to send his children to college); boss also encounters at least a token stinker who needs retraining. At the end of the hour, the boss announces raises and scholarships and training programs, etc. It’s a feel-good formula.

This week, Steve declared that he had learned what has become the cardinal lesson of UNDERCOVER BOSS: It’s easier to ignore the human element when you’re sitting in your office, instead of getting down and dirty in the trenches.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 9/17/10

The new fall season is getting under way in stages, and I have to say that the new shows I have started watching are not exactly blowing my socks off.

This week’s premiere of SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA probably disappointed me the most, because I actually had fairly high expectations for it, based on the series’ track record of being entertaining. However, this cycle’s charisma-challenged cast left me cold.

The CW has trotted out two new series, and while not awful, HELLCATS and NIKITA have not wowed me. I was hoping HELLCATS would be more like MAKE IT OR BREAK IT than…what it is. Although the second episode was an improvement over the premiere because it focused more on characterization and deepen the relationship between the girls and their mothers, I think it would help greatly to reimagine Gail O’Grady‘s Wanda as much less-cliched character. And, if HELLCATS is planning to appeal to the GLEE demo, it should add more performance segments.

NIKITA arrives with a lot of baggage because it is carrying the legacy of two movies and an earlier TV series. That’s a lot to live up to, and so far this version of the female-assassin story is keeping it low-key. Surprisingly for an action series the pacing of the episodes has lagged. By far the best thing about NIKITA is star Maggie Q, whose smooth and controlled line readings give Nikita an unflappable calmness and confidence. I’m not sold on Shane West, but Lyndsy Fonseca (ex-Colleen, YOUNG AND RESTLESS) is growing on me as young operative-in-training Alex.

I just hope NIKITA and HELLCATS keep practicing…until they get it right.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 9/16/10

AS THE WORLD TURNS’s Jack and Carly got married yesterday for, like, the 17th time and, thanks to cancellation, fans can be pretty sure that it will stick this time. But what caught my attention about their 42nd stroll down the aisle was that the vows Jack and Carly wrote for themselves focused quite a bit on the negative.

“I mostly have made the mistakes — terrible ones, some of them,” Carly admitted, adding that she is no longer “stupid enough” to promise that she won’t make more.

Jack related how, “You brought me back from a very, very dark place, the darkest place I think I’ve ever been.” And, instead of promising her a clean happily-ever-after, he mused how, “None of us know where we’re gonna be in a year.” I took that to be a meta remark about how the show is going off the air and lots of cast and crew will potentially be out of work 12 months from now.

But then again, this couple has probably said every lovey-dovey line there is over the course of their 50-odd weddings. What’s left to rhapsodize about? Sure, there were upbeat lines, (like when she called him, “my true north, my soul mate, my best friend”), but it was the dark spin overall that I found fascinating.

With cancellation looming at the end of the week and, let’s face it, the legitimately angsty storylines over the course of the last year (Jack shot his own brother to death!), what else should we expect? I’m holding out hope that CarJack can find their path to happily ever after — with or without a compass.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 9/09/10

Allow me to interrupt the death spiral of AS THE WORLD TURNS in order to praise Van Hansis‘ turn as Luke in the demise of Dr. Reid Oliver.

This story is an example of what can happen when a soap focuses on a core family and tells a story about characters in whom viewers have invested a lot of time and love. Luke has been (pretty much) a front-burner character for months, and I am glad that ATWT took a break from crowding out veterans with throwaway newbies like Blackie and Gabriel in order to tie off Luke’s story. It may not have been the happy ending with Reid that so many fans wanted, but at least it was something.

Now, I concede that Reid (Eric Sheffer Stevens) was a relatively new character himself, but Reid benefited from an “old school” slow introduction; one that allowed audiences to get to know him in small doses over time. Hence, it felt like viewers were losing a friend as he lay gasping his last wishes on that gurney. Viewers were able to feel empathy for him, and suffer with his unjust death. (I choose to believe that Reid died because he was a healer trying to help a patient — not because an experienced brain surgeon panicked in a moment of stress and forgot how to work a seatbelt.)

And his doom afforded Hansis a chance to really swing for the fences. When Luke agonized over donating Reid’s ticker to Chris, it came across onscreen like Hansis was carving out his own heart. His performance was an epic and worthy swansong — and so far, clearly the best thing about the end of ATWT.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 8/30/10

The 62nd Primetime Emmys was kind of like a horse race last night: It started out really strong, moved at a gallop, then faded badly in the final turn, before finishing with a favorite and a dark horse in the winner’s circle.

First of all, I have to give kudos to GLEE’s Jane Lynch for pulling off my favorite win of the night; I figured she was the only guaranteed lock of the night, and luckily it happened. It was fantastic to see her win for such a vivid character and performance.

Speaking of GLEE, I loved host Jimmy Fallon‘s opening piece, in which he teamed with GLEE regulars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer and Amber Riley — as well as totally random guests Jon Hamm (Don, MAD MEN), Nina Dobrev (Elena, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES), Jorge Garcia (Hugo, LOST), Tina Fey (Liz, 30 ROCK), Joel McHale (Jeff, COMMUNITY) and AMERICAN IDOL’s Randy Jackson (as well as reality gadfly Kate Gosselin, whose 15 minutes is long past over) for a performance of “Born to Run.”

Fallon did a nice job keeping the show moving, even if he did rely a little too much on musical humor. The tuneful tributes to canceled series (like 24 and LOST) were clever, but I was less enamored of the audience-participation bits. Special kudos to Ricky Gervais for his hilarious segment, in which he complained about the ceremony not serving alcohol, so he doled out beers. (It was just a joke, and those waiters served non-alcoholic beer…)

My favorite wins: In addition to Lynch, I was really happy for THE GOOD WIFE’s Archie Panjabi, as she really brings to life a kick-ass character in Kalinda.

Least-favorite wins: Edie Falco in the comedy category (Since when is NURSE JACKIE a comedy?). And, as Falco herself noted, “I’m not funny.” Also, Kyra Sedgwick over Julianna Margulies smacked of a career-achievement award. And MODERN FAMILY beating GLEE just didn’t fly with me. MF’s absurdist humor strikes me as plot-driven “anything for a laugh” funny, whereas GLEE’s comedy feels more like it arises from character.

Tactically, I think it was a mistake to group the show by segments, but it did make it easier for fans to watch: saving the miniseries and movie category for the final hour was probably for the best; if it was going to be segregated, the-powers-that-be certainly didn’t want to lead with the HBO love-fest.

While it was tough to pay attention until the end, the two big categories were saved for last: MAD MEN won its third straight drama trophy (I thought last season saw a dip in quality, but it finished strongly, so that’s what voters must have remembered) and MODERN FAMILY unseated 30 ROCK. At least MF is funny, even if it’s no GLEE.

But I was quite happy with the Emmy ceremony as a whole.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 8/18/10

What does GENERAL HOSPITAL have against Brook Lynn? She was brought back to Port Charles as a hired…er, gun to break up Lulu and Dante by sleeping with him (and documenting it). Already hounded by charges of credit-card fraud, Brook accepted the job as a prostitute. Then, yesterday, she became something worse than a scam artist/hooker: She became a would-be rapist, stopped just short of her goal.

At Jake’s, Brook slipped Dante a roofie that left him zonked out and unaware of what he was doing. Then viewers watched Brook continue to feed him alcohol, steer him to a deserted location, and take advantage of him sexually. Clearly, his faculties were impaired and the babbling guy was in no condition to make judgments or give informed consent. She started kissing him, stripped off her clothes and climbed on top of him. That was a clear violation.

Brook was clearly in the wrong, and if the roles had been reversed, surely viewers would have been outraged by a man drugging a woman in order to molest her. If GH’s intention was to show how low Brook has sunk, well, then, mission accomplished.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com