Color me sad

2009 was a shaky year for soap diversity, and with OLTL back-burnering the Evanses, and writing off Kyle, Fish and Rachel, 2010 is off to a rocky start. Sure, GH is about to start featuring Maya and Zoe, tenuous Quartermaines by way of the Wards, but I’m not necessarily holding out any hope for major story. Heck, despite my investing in OLTL last year, the only soap that really gave me hope in terms of reflecting the increasingly diverse makeup of the U.S. was General Hospital: Night Shift. And I still don’t understand why the parent show couldn’t have absorbed those characters after a third season was a no-go.

Kyle and Eric were a great gay love story…and bringing them back in the wake of no Bianca on AMC and a Kish-less Llanview would be a great step. And who’s to say Kyle couldn’t be involved with Lucas, a legacy character? Leo and his jealousy issues were compelling, no matter which Rains brother was playing him. And I couldn’t Robin use a pal like Saira Batra on her side while Lisa is making eyes at Patrick? Azita Ghanizada is beautiful, talented, and I’d even put up with Saira being paired with Sonny just to have someone of my ethnic background represented on my soap! And as for Leyla, Lainey and Kelly, who were part of the parent show…well, Leyla was killed off, and Lainey and Kelly are never on. Maybe they’re off in a supply closet somewhere with Matt Hunter?

I don’t get it.

There are dozens of ways to fit more people of color into soaps. I mean, I’ve said this before, but if you have to go the tokenizing and stereotypical route because it’s the easiest way to diversify, every soap has a hospital. Hospitals = Indian doctors. And Port Charles General Hospital in particular has diversity in its very roots: Steve and Audrey Hardy’s biracial grandson, Tommy. Wouldn’t he be a hot twenty-something by now and a great option for Maxie? And what if B&B’s Prince Omar of Morocco (Kabir Bedi), had a rebellious runaway daughter who fled to L.A. in search of his former wife, Taylor/Princess Leila? And she fell in love with Thomas? Or what if a new hot stranger in Genoa City just happened to be a dashing Latin-American or Indian business rival of Tucker’s? Remember when Y&R brought on Eric Steinberg‘s Ji Min? Alas, Ji Min, we hardly knew ye! He was daytime’s only contract Asian actor and he barely last a year!

Man, now I’m all nostalgic. I’m going to have to bust out my GH: NS season one DVD and scour YouTube for season two clips.

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

I think I spent the entire weekend in a Kish-induced haze — leading me to conclude something that’s probably not all that shocking: OLTL’s Kyle Lewis represents daytime’s new generation of gay characters. He’s just your average joe — with a taste for blackmail and a guy named Fish — soap character. 

The closest we’ve come before this is probably GH: NIGHT SHIFT’s Kyle (Adam Grimes), who was a doctor with the same problems as anybody else in the hospital. There was no issue of him coming out of or going into any closets. He was a friend, a brother, a dedicated physician, and a guy who fell in love with one of his patients. AMC’s Lena Kundera (Olga Sosnovska), Bianca’s first serious girlfriend after Sarah, was another character whose sexuality was just a part of her and not a platform for anything. These were just people doing what people do on a soap. I had initially hoped that Y&R’s Adam would hold this distinction as well … turning out to be a bisexual villain, but the show back-peddled from that story so fast that I’m surprised they didn’t trip over something. Adam manipulated another guy — NAKED — but, hey, he’s not into boys that way. Riiiight

Heck, the only bisexual characters on daytime right now are GL’s Natalia and Olivia, neither of whom negate their past relationships with men and their perhaps ongoingattraction to men (hi, Josh!) just because they love each other. Olivia’s very much still Olivia: the broken, dysfunctional woman who will turn to anyone for just a smidge of validation. But the character’s been on a ten year path, and it’s a little bit of a different story than bringing on a brand-new LGBT character. 

OLTL’s Kyle is gay from the get-go…in the most shrug-worthy, blasé of ways. His sexuality is as much a footnote to him as it is to hetero characters like Rex or Blair. He never really announced it to anyone, and that’s where the writers were brilliant. Kyle turned down Gigi’s advances when she tried to get info out of him by just saying she didn’t have anything he wants. And Roxy figured out he was gay mostly by context and things unspoken (catching a guy mooning over a photo will do that). And Kyle’s not sanitized, sainted and beloved. He’s no one’s poster child. AMC’s Bianca, by virtue of being the legendary Erica Kane’s daughter and the trailblazer, became all of the above. They couldn’t really let her be a bitch or, as Roxy might say, “let her freak flag fly.” Lest she undo the whole process of introducing daytime to a core gay character. And Binks learned the hard way during Eden Riegel‘s 2008-09 return that going from saint to sinner wouldn’t fly with viewers. The show tried, too late, to turn PV’s most benevolent lesbian into someone who might have a secret baby with her brother-in-law. Fans weren’t havin’ it. Kyle, by virtue of starting out a blackmailer and crazy Rebecca’s baby brother, has no pedestal to plummet from. 

And he’s found a perfectly imperfect match in terminally nice Oliver, who’s currently doing something not-so nice by dating Layla and breaking poor Kyle’s heart. Yes, Fish is grappling with his orientation and there will be a coming out element to this story, but I really think (okay, hope) it’s not going to be an after-school special. Because these are just guys trying to live their lives. And all my Kyle praise is not meant to diminish Fish in the least. It’s just that Oliver’s journey is different; he still has to get to the place where Kyle already is…and, believe me, I can’t wait till he gets there!

originally posted on soapoperaweekly.com

What would happen if they kissed?

After ruminating on One Life to Live‘s Kyle and Fish all weekend, I was inspired to hit YouTube to look up all of daytime’s LGBT first liplocks*. I think I got ’em all, but feel free to comment and tell me what else to look for.

Daytime’s first same-sex kiss, that of AMC’s Bianca and Lena in 2003

(Since the smooch above, Bianca has kissed Maggie and that one random girl on New Year’s Eve, and had makeout sessions with wife, Reese.)

Four years later, ATWT’s Noah and Luke

2008, GH: Night Shift, Kyle and Eric: (starts around minute 3:51)

2009, GL’s Olivia plants one on Natalia

2009, OLTL’s Kyle and Oliver

And a bonus…

Here’s Christian and Olli’s first kiss, from the German soap opera Verbotene Liebe.

As for answering the question in my subject line: What would happen if they kissed? Well, there has been no noticeable furthering of the moral decay of society. The streets are not overflowing with panic. Children are not suddenly waking up gay because they saw it on the TV. Basically, despite any and all pearl-clutching, what has happened is that daytime TV has started actually reflecting its audience and telling stories about people who, previously, had been marginalized or ignored entirely.

Yay!

*As opposed to cut-aways and creative editing, like in the cases of Y&R‘s Rafe/Adam, Passions‘ Vincent/Chad, etc. I also can’t remember if OLTL‘s Daniel and Mark or Passions‘ Rae and Simone ever had implied kisses and YouTube is short on clips of those stories.

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

It’s amazing how Pavlovian my response to soaps is after 25+ years of watching. I always assume big tragedy, huge trauma and a body count is in store. So it should be no surprise that GH: NIGHT SHIFT’s finale, like the rest of the season, surprised me! Though, hey, I DO have to point out that I wasn’t completely wrong about Saira. (That’s all I can say without spoiling the episode for anyone who hasn’t seen it.) Still, putting that factor aside and taking into account one bittersweet note, GH: NS set my soap world view askew by ending happy.

Is that allowed? Are we allowed to have loving, warm, nonviolent soap opera?

As Kelly Bundy would say, the mind wobbles.

I had braced for impact, expecting the finale to be all about the high drama of the skinhead’s bombs. Cue hectic triage, emergency operations, maybe Robin going into false labor…and Eric somehow ending up with Saira’s liver. I couldn’t have been more wrong, as the bomb threat storyline lasted less than a third of the episode and then viewers were jumped forward a week so the more character-driven stories could find resolution.

I love that the issue of Stone’s custody was left up in the air, and that the mother still remains unknown. I know Antonio Sabato, Jr. was advocating for Brenda, but I think hardcore GH-ers know that 1). Brenda would never abandon her child, no matter how spoiled she can be and 2). The timeline is off, as Brenda was being held captive by Luis Alcazar/running around PC with Jason around the time Stone would have been conceived and born.

I also loved that despite them finally coming clean about still being in each other’s hearts, Robert and Anna didn’t have their sunset-and-Mai Tais ending. Because that’s not who they are yet. They still have a lot to work through and Robert has a lot of soul-searching to do. (And can we hope that he also looks up Holly and settles THOSE unsolved mysteries? I’m still bitter about her turning into a mercenarial bitch when they brought her back to Day Shift in 2006.)

Of course, Robin and Patrick were absolutely wonderful. (Yes, every time I say that, I have to pinch myself. It’s like living in the TWILIGHT ZONE.) I was amused by seeing their bedroom, after weeks of them sacking out on the sofa bed, and cracked up when they closed the episode “christening” the Chief of Staff’s office one last time. And Jason Thompson wins the “dangit, don’t make me cry!” award this week, for Patrick’s touching scenes with Robert, where he swore to look at his daughter the way Robert looks at Robin. (How awesome is it that Patrick calls him “Sir?”)

The rest of the gang all had believable wrap-ups as well. I liked that Kyle and Claire made up, that the Saira/Jagger/Leo triangle resolved itself remarkably realistically, that Touissant and Epiphany bonded over his secret son and the responsibilities therein, and so on.

I honestly still don’t know how to process it. A show wrapping up dangling threads, respecting its characters, delivering payoffs, and yet also teasing things left undone…? How novel!

It’s just unfortunate that NS probably isn’t eligible for Emmy consideration. I firmly believe this season could have been a strong contender for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress, Outstanding Lead Actor, and Supporting Actor/Actress nods. Not to mention Outstanding Writing Team. (Yes, I’m a Sri Rao fan. I admit it!)

Is it time for season three yet?

 

originally posted on soapoperaweekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

I am still on Cloud Nine from last night’s NIGHT SHIFT! The dorky grin has yet to leave my face. And all because I rolled out of bed, settled in with my morning coffee, and got to travel back to the 1980s, which was when I was first introduced to GH by my mom. My only beef? They needed to put up an extra title card after the classic ambulance opening with “GENERAL HOSPITAL NIGHT SHIFT” in that old school font: “SPIT-TAKE WARNING, WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK.” Because if you put Tristan Rogers (Robert), Anthony Geary (Luke), John J. York (Mac), Finola Hughes (Anna), John Reilly (Sean), and Sharon Wyatt (Tiffany) in a room together, it is a laugh-a-minute, spill-your-coffee-down-your-shirt extravaganza! (Thank goodness I was still in pajamas.)

I can’t even tell you how many times I choked with giggles — and if we’re keeping track, Geary did it to me the most! He’s also the one who managed to make me cry, when Luke shook Robert by the shoulders, telling him they both deserved better deaths and shouting that he’d kill Robert himself if he had to. I actually had to stop the tape right there and get ready for work — and, yes, I didn’t finish watching until I was ensconced in my office some 45 minutes later. That was amassive hardship. 

The trope of Robert’s past confronting him during his coma was a brilliant one, allowing GH: NS to dust off his old townhouse (I mistakenly thought it would be his penthouse, which is now Sonny’s old digs in Harborview Towers), and, more importantly, it allowed Robert to dust off his old pals! They even explained why Holly wasn’t there. Anna “innocently” saying that her invite to Robert’s death party got lost in the mail was hilarious. But aside from all the in-jokes, the scenes just resonated with history, with candor and camaraderie. I loved the device of Robin’s speech at Robert’s bedside being intercut with the pep talks from everyone in his dream. I LOVED the classic clips of Robin and Robert’s first meeting and Robert and Anna’s first wedding that were shown before the commercial breaks. And I loved the not-so-subtle message that the past creates us, shapes us, and is always with us, but can’t be recaptured. You have to take it and move forward: which is a beautiful way to summarize NS’ handling of GH’s history. It respects it, celebrates it, and uses it to move story into the present and the future. 

Oh, wait, other stuff happened in this episode, too, didn’t it? Claire resigned. Jagger got served with custody papers by Stone’s Mystery Mom — and then got a serving of Saira’s undeniable charms. Kyle and Eric had an achingly sweet scene where Kyle actually admitted his vulnerability and Eric promised to come back to him from clinical trials in Portland — which, I might add, went a long way towards soothing the pain of Calvin and Michael’s breakup earlier that night on GREEK. Toussaint found out he has a secret baby. And Patrick, totally rocking the threads of gray hair, was receiving threats from those skinheads he refused to treat two weeks ago. 

Which means we can all guess what was coming when they cued up the closing montage to “Make You Feel My Love,” by Adele. Soaps have trained me well. The minute everyone began pouring into the parking lot — a wistful Kyle and Eric, despondent Claire, Patrick with his Concern Face, and an all-too happy looking Saira and Jagger — I knew trouble was ahead. I was actually yelling at my TV, “No, Saira, don’t walk away!” because she totally had the pre-Lily Clink!Boom expression on her face. (For the uninitiated, that refers to Lilly Melgar’s character on the Day Shift blowing up in front of Sonny’s eyes in Luke’s club’s parking lot in the ’90s. She had this wonderful, beatific smile on her face as she glanced back at Sonny and you just KNEW she was toast.) As Patrick gazed around the lot, it was just a matter of guessing WHAT was going to go boom. The ambulance, like in the NS season one premiere? The dumpster? (Yes, it was the dumpster.) And the thing is, I didn’t even MIND the flashy FX and very typically “Friday cliffhanger” feel! 

Why? Because the biggest boom, this episode’s most powerhouse moments, didn’t come from violence. They came from love, the love Robert’s friends and family feel for him — and the love viewers feel for the wonderful show that GENERAL HOSPITAL used to be.

 

originally posted on soapoperaweekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

We haven’t even gotten to the super-duper Nostalgia Alert edition of NIGHT SHIFT with Luke, Sean and Tiffany that airs Oct. 14, but I’m already a wreck about this show going away. Just like last season, I feel like I’ll need a support group to get through the withdrawal.

Every note of last night’s episode was perfect. From Robert and Anna cuddled together on the hospital bed, to Anna breaking down as she described her and Robert’s connection to Jagger… oh, man, I felt like I was in grade school again, watching Robert pine for Anna as she committed to Duke! Then there was the Patrick and Robin scene, where they were simply sitting on their sofa bed giving each other comfort. When’s the last time we saw that kind of moment in the afternoon? I loved the way Kimberly McCullough strokes Jason Thompson’s hair and touched his face as Patrick confided his insecurities about being both Chief of Staff and a father. And I have to give major kudos to Thompson, who is not only not afraid to cry, but he’s REALLY good at it. That’s right, folks, Jason Thompson is not an Ugly Crier. Alert the media! Wait, I AM the media. (LOL.) It’s the little things that give a couple authenticity, and both the junior and senior Scorpio sets excelled at that last night.

I was also really glad to see Saira stand up for herself in a way that was perfectly in character. She’s so gentle, so nice, that of COURSE she wouldn’t go ballistic on Leo for cheating. The simmering hurt and passive-aggression was spot on, and I really felt for her when she explained to Leo why his love confession wasn’t enough.

Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, we had Kyle and Eric scenes. A 14 episode season makes it nearly impossible to take things slow, and yet NS manages to make all their relationships feel like they’ve gone on for ages. There’s a connection factor, a give-and-take between script and actor chemistry, that made Claire and Ryan feel real, that makes Saira and Leo’s affair feel like it played out over months, and that makes Kyle and Eric compelling. I loved that in the wake of all of Eric’s blatant flirting, it was Kyle who made the first move, pulling him in for a kiss. And that was some kiss. Kyle, who never takes chances, who is always worried about everyone else, just let go and took the leap. If he’s “rewarded” for opening up like that by Eric dying on him, my heart’s going to break into itty bitty pieces.

But on a tangential note, I’m really hoping that Claire and Kyle are able to mend fences since they’ve now both been embroiled in very Izzie/Denny relationships and fallen for patients. And I have to say it again: Adam Grimes is this season’s find. I would love to also repeat “Bring him to GH: DAY SHIFT” but at this point I’m realistic enough to know we would never see Kyle if that happened. They have WAY too many characters already to do his story the justice NS has.

 

originally posted on soapoperaweekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

Can you believe there’s only a handful of NIGHT SHIFT episodes left? Whatever shall I do with myself? I’m especially despondent now that this season has really hit its stride.

For instance, Patricia, Leo, and Kyle’s confrontation scene in the breakroom last night actually made me cry. Kathleen Noone proved why she’s a veteran powerhouse, establishing character history and motivation in such a way that I felt like she’d been on the show this whole time. Ethan Rains finally came into his own, showing us the vulnerability in Leo that would’ve helped us key into him had it been written into the premiere. Maybe it’s because I’m an ethnic minority myself and also because my brother was a perfect student while I was the slacker, but he totally got to me. I just wanted to hug him and apologize forever thinking of him as “NapoLeon.” And Adam Grimes showed why he’s the breakout star of the season. If he doesn’t land on GH: Day Shift, it’ll be a shame and a waste, because Kyle is everything you’d want in a gay character: He’s a fleshed out, fully realized person being played by a talented actor. He’s no token, he’s no desexualized saint. And his immediate chemistry with Chad Allen’s Eric had me grinning. I know it’s too early to call it, but I think they might be my favorite gay couple on TV, closely followed by GREEK’s Calvin and Michael, who are just as witty and adorable as that show’s straight couples. (And interracial to boot!) And, okay, yes, the fact that I totally crushed on Chad Allen during his MY TWO DADS/OUR HOUSE era helps. (By the time he hit DR. QUINN MEDICINE WOMAN, I was all about Joe Lando‘s Sully. We can thank Lando’s turn as OLTL’s Jake Harrison for that. Jake and Megan…sigh!)

The rest of the episode was enjoyable as well. I loved Robin being all freaked out by last week’s Awkward Pre-Kiss Moment with Jagger. I loved Patrick’s expression of utter disbelief when kinder, gentler Epiphany tried to counsel him in the supply closet. I loved Jagger, Robert, and Stone all bonding. I love how this is a show that strengthens key family ties, whereas the parent show is one that relishes tearing them apart. And that’s really just a sad commentary on GH. Why should we HAVE to tune in to a primetime show to get family interaction? To get diversity, richness of character, and nods to history? Why is a reunion with Anna, Sean, Tiffany, Luke, and Robert happening at 11 p.m. instead of 3? Gee, I guess it takes away from prime Zacchara and Sonny/Kate time, huh? We might miss mob drama! Gasp.

Though, okay, I will concede that GH rallied a little by bringing back HalluciLaura and having Lulu, Lucky, and Nikolas share scenes, and also by having Matt Hunter turn out to be Patrick’s brother. Still, that’s not enough and, for me, it’s just a little too late.

But at least GH isn’t as derivative as the new 90210. WHY am I still watching this? It’s. So. Bad. Every single storyline is predictable and Shenae Grimes‘ Annie is even more unlikable than Brenda was back in the day. (Have I mentioned I’m a Kelly girl? Because I SO am.) I dislike Annie SO much that I was actually cheering when Adrianna got one over on her. She’s a petulant, wishy-washy brat. I would rather watch scenes with her awesome parents, Harry and Aunt Becky (I don’t even remember Lori Loughlin’s actual character name! LOL!), than watch her. On the plus side, I continue to think Dixon is adorable and I love his budding romance with Silver. It’s the only bright spot in the otherwise snoozeworthy teen set. You know you have a problem on your hands when Kelly, Brenda, Harry, Aunt Becky, and Ryan are all the real draw to this show. I also have to put in an honorable mention for James Patrick Stuart (ex-Will, AMC) and Christina Moore, who, as Naomi’s divorcing parents, probably had the sexiest moment of the entire episode. Way to show ’em how it’s done!

Also? I was already having Spring Awakening issues because I get a lot of “bestest musical EVER!” rhetoric from friends. Thanks, 90210, for officially hammering the last nail in the coffin and making me never want to see it.

 

originally posted on soapoperaweekly.com