Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

I gave it a few weeks before I came to an official verdict, and, now, I can say without any reservations that I love OLTL’s Vimal and Rama! Love. I want to draw little hearts around their names. I want to invite them over to my house for chai and samosas. I basically want to be Rama when I grow up.

I mean, folks, this is the first time in my thirty-odd years of life that I can recall front-burner Indian characters on a U.S. daytime soap. (I said “daytime,” because, of course, I wouldn’t forget GH: NIGHT SHIFT’s Saira!) There have been Indian actors, like Kabir Bedi playing Omar on B&B or Sabine Singh playing Greenlee on AMC, but characters…? I really think this is a “Mala’s Dream Come True!” moment.

And, hey, it could’ve just as easily been a nightmare. Diversity doesn’t always mean good representation. Like any other minority community, South Asians often have to make do with tokenization, or with caricatures — ala Apu on THE SIMPSONS and the gang on OUTSOURCED. So I was braced for Vimal and Rama to be sort of hollow, maybe even mildly offensive. But they’re awesome! A few fans have compared the Patels to DAYS’ Craig and Nancy Wesley, and that’s incredibly apt! They’re that same kind of give-and-take team, although Vimal’s decidedly less shady than Craig was. Nick Choksi plays Vimal as this affable, earnest sweetheart. A bit dim, but good-hearted….which is no different from how Joey is written. And Shenaz Treasurywala‘s Rama is a classic soap vixen! When Rama faced off against Aubrey yesterday, I cheered! That arch look she gave Aubrey when she replied to her “I’m sorry” with “not as sorry as you will be,” was priceless. The writing for this couple is great, and pretty authentic. They have conversations like any other soap couple, laced with just enough cultural markers to set them apart. I laughed myself silly when Vimal was babbling to Clint about only telling Rama about the paternity test switch and he quickly covered, insisting he meant the seventh avatar of Vishnu.

I know I’m awfully hard on my soaps sometimes, particularly when it comes to issues of racial, sexual and religious diversity, but I also don’t hesitate to say when the soaps get it right. So, bahut, bahut shukriya to OLTL, Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati and the writing team! (That’s Hindi for “thank you very much!”)


Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

I had quit railing at the soap gods and achieved a resigned state of zen over OLTL’s Ford invasion — my Nov. 5 post highlighted that — but, this week, when Bobby was revealed to have a connection to Joey’s fiancée Aubrey, my ire returned in full force. Is it too much to ask to have one or two stories on OLTL that don’t involve the Fords? Please?

One of the arguments for jettisoning Kyle and Fish earlier this year was that they weren’t tied to core families. Well, the Fords aren’t a core family, are they? And having them on five days a week will not magically Make It So. They’re all still newbies! And when you tell me that newbie Bobby and newbie Aubrey have a past…why am I supposed to care? Reconciling that Joey has returned with a globe-trotting girlfriend he met five seconds ago is tough enough. He’s always been earnest, but this level of naiveté is pretty hard to take! And Kelly scrambling to cover her tracks with him and Aubrey has been pretty excruciating. Poor gal! The story didn’t need the added complication of Bobby knowing Aubrey…especially as he is still very present in the teen story, with Langston, the Jessica baby daddy quagmire, and, of course, his own family’s front burner drama. Why shoehorn Bobby into another plot? Joey’s return arc doesn’t need a “Ford Seal of Approval.” Joey is a legacy character, for crying out loud! I guess I should count myself lucky that they haven’t found a way to involve a Ford with Echo, Charlie and Viki…yet.

Look, I get it. The Fords are not going anywhere. Every SOAPnet promo about the show features them. The boys are dating three young female leads, the parents are tormenting Bo and Nora. It’s a done deal. But does that mean they have to be involved in every aspect of the show? I’ve been watching OLTL since Megan was starring on FRATERNITY ROW, and I don’t know that I’ve seen a brand-new family eat up airtime like this since the Rappaports and the Santis! And we all know how those stories went…


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Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

Okay, OLTL, I give up. Uncle. I surrender. Resistance is futile. I’m on board with the Ford brothers.

I know what you’re all thinking: “Wait, WHAT?! Mala, you were doing so well with your seething hatred!” But, dude, it’s been like fighting a war of attrition day in and day out. Just like how, every day, Ford is a little less clothed…every day, a little of my wall crumbles. I am tired of building it back up again with “I miss Kish and Schuyler” bricks, tired of fighting the inevitable. Because you just know when abusive Ford Daddy, Eddie, hits town, the “feel sorry for the Fords, love the Fords” indoctrination will be in overdrive. So, I’m throwing in the towel in advance. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Just call this post “Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fords.”

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Daytime’s true colors aren’t shining through

Yesterday, for the first time in years, we had a black leading man highlighted on daytime: U.S. President Barack Obama, on The View. Yes, folks, in order to have a full hour devoted to a black man in daytime programming, to have a voice and tell a story on the front burner, he has to be the most powerful elected official in our country. “Post-racial,” my ass!

This was the absurd series of thoughts that was running through my head this morning…that soaps are a truly fascinating microcosm of society and yet, the seven shows we have on air do not represent current American society in the least. A genre that helped women realize they had places outside the home and validity outside the traditional two-parent household, that featured integration and AIDS education and cancer awareness…has fallen behind in mirroring what this nation has become. We have one significant leading man of color: Maurice Benard as General Hospital‘s Sonny. One. And his half-Cuban (God forbid he be wholly Cuban!) character is an unrepentant mobster. Um…whoo-hoo? Yay? All My Children‘s Hubbard family, The Young and the Restless‘ Winters and Days of our Lives’ Carvers barely rate airtime unless they’re in scenes with white characters. Latin characters are few and far between as well: Days‘ Hernandez family will soon be losing a member, when Arianna is written off; AMC jettisoned the Santoses, and Y&R‘s Rafe holds the trifecta of being Latin, gay and seldom seen. And Asians…? Please. In the 32 years I’ve been watching soaps, there has been one contract Indian character on soaps…Dr. Saira Batra, and she was on GH: Night Shift. Can you imagine CNN telling Sanjay Gupta he could only have a significant role after 11 PM? GH‘s Kelly Lee is a glorified dayplayer. Y&R‘s Ji Min Kim was killed off. I mean, I could go on and on listing the examples of diversity fail…but listing it does no good. Someone has to change it.

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Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

Okay, just how stupid is OLTL’s Langston? She hears Cris and Layla talking about how Ford is having frequent special delivery sex with Karen the Pizza Girl, Langston catches them red-handed and yet she buys Ford’s excuses and proceeds to suck face with him? Have some sense, woman! And some pride! And, oh, how about some concept of hygiene? At least send his skeevy butt to gargle with Listerine and kill the Karen cooties before you stick your tongue down his throat! 

Langston used to be one of my favorite daytime teens, but I can’t remotely comprehend the person she has become. She’s selfish, and she’s dumb. And I can’t wait to watch Markko kick her sorry behind to the curb later today. Because he, too, has been turned into such an idiot during this storyline. Poor patsy Markko, who had to fight his conservative father to have the right to be with Langston. She repaid him by shagging Ford on every flat surface. Gross! That OLTL tried to put Ford in this love triangle based off the hilarious bucket scene from last year was the biggest error of all. Ford is a sight gag, not a character. His whole purpose should be to walk around shirtless (Lord knows that’s all he does anyway; I think David Gregory‘s wardrobe amounts to one shirt.) and be strategically doused with water. 

It’s just a shame that now the story is all wet. 

And watching it makes me want to shower in bleach!

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Baby I love your way

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that I love soap opera babies. And while I’ve definitely been more vocal about it in the past year, I’ve always enjoyed watching cute kids steal scenes. So, in mostly chronological order, here are ten of my favorite daytime darlings. This is by no means a definitive list, because I could go on and on…

GH’s Lucas. Check him out in 1990, with Tony and Sean, starting around the 4:40 mark. That little face! This story was 20 years ago now, and I still remember this kid. I think he went on to guest star on several sitcoms after his stint on GH.

AMC’s Miranda. Little boys played Bianca’s daughter for as long as the show could justify her not having much hair. They’re definitely on my top five “cutest of all time,” list and I was bereft when AMC recast!

GH’s Cameron. A few babies played Elizabeth’s tyke, including one many viewers fondly referred to as “Bighead Baby Cam,” but Ashwyn Bagga’s “Desi Cam” was my favorite. (I could build a whole post around how half-Asian babies are the most representation we get on daytime, LOL.) Love his little eyebrows!

ATWT’s Johnny. I only seem to be able to find clips of this kid sleeping, but I swear he did more than that! This footie pajama-clad cutie made a heartbreaking baby switch storyline a little easier to bear.
GL’s Sarah. Not only was she full of personality, but Sarah absolutely looked like Tom Pelphrey (Jonathan) could be her father, and they had a beautiful rapport.

GH’s Emma, with bonus Cameron and Jake. The hair clip! The total chillin’ on Patrick’s lap! The girls who play Emma are just beautiful. I mean, there’s just a whole lotta cute in this scene.

Days’ Sydney. There’s a reason they built an entire story arc around the Sinnema twins. They are total stars. LOL. I also think Sydney has the best suspicious expression in all of daytime. Just look at how she gives new big bro Johnny the stink-eye.

Y&R’s Delia. Genoa City’s littlest fashionista can wrap playboy daddy Billy —and everyone else — around her finger. And, oh my gosh, someone has actually done Delia fan vids. Here is a birthday tribute to the triplets who play her.

Y&R’s Faith. Faith has these big ol’ expressive eyes, and she’s such a talker. Here, she plays with Nick’s tie and his cuffs, while babbling away. I choose to believe she was telling him and Sharon she’d rather watch soaps than baseball.

OLTL’s Sierra Rose. Soda Pop, Sierra Mist, the Guppy…she’s got all kinds of names, and Oliver’s daughter is a total scene stealer, even when she’s sleepy.I love her playing with Fish’s fingers in this clip and how obviously comfortable she is with both guys.

Feel free to share some of your own favorite babies in the comments!

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

I have a dent in my head from where I just smacked it into my desk…thanks to this article at TV Guide Magazine discussing the OLTL Kish-off.

The major source of my head-desking? This: ABC Daytime PR chief Jori Petersen now says “The Kish story did not have the appeal we hoped it would. We are going to spend our time on stories that have a more favorable reaction from our audience.”

I know that ABC Daytime faced a lot of opposition to Kish…much of which the average viewer isn’t even aware of. But is the show really going to elicit a “favorable reaction” for the stories they’re focusing on right now? One only has to step back and look at the massive changes in Llanview these days. It’s not the same show it was a few months ago. Is this the network’s idea of appealing to their target demographic?

Rewriting Rex’s back story yet again and stripping Roxy of all her blood ties (not to mention her best friend)? Turning the “Cramer women” storyline into one where Kelly’s just on a solo mission and Dorian, Adriana and Cassie aren’t involved? Is teen Jessica earning some massive raves that I’m not aware of? Is Langston cheating on her sweet, loyal boyfriend with some skeezy dirtbag playing well in Peoria? Are folks really cheering for a potential Todd and Kelly hookup?

I’ve gotta say…if you’re using the rationale of spending time on stories that have more “appeal” and said stories involve a mentally impaired woman throwing herself at her high school boyfriend, smutty barely legal sexcapades, and the town rapist getting yet another love interest…something just ain’t right. At least not for me. I’ve been watching the show for over 20 years and fall into the coveted 18-49 demographic, but I definitely haven’t enjoyed watching a strong woman like Rachel disappear or seeing a perfectly serviceable character like Schuyler hop aboard the crazy train to Cuckootown.

In contrast, for me, some of the sweetest recent scenes on the show were those that aired today between Kyle, Fish, Cristian and Layla, as Kish brought Sierra Mist er, Sierra Rose home. It was four friends having a genuinely human scene about having this new little person in their lives. The kind of scene that, on paper, isn’t remarkable, because any four characters could spout the lines…but, onscreen, is resonant because it involved two gay men, a Latino man and a black woman.

And I’m going to indulge in a bit of English major-style hyperbole here, but if you can’t continue to focus on vibrant, diverse 20-somethings looking toward their futures…what does say about the future of soaps? Ironic much, folks? And once the Kish/Cayla foursome is disbanded for good, the only bright spot for me is Blair and Elijah…who don’t even have a storyline! They just show up, look gorgeous, and then vanish!

I hate to say it, but when it comes to watching OLTL these next few months… well, it just doesn’t have the appeal that I thought it would!

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