I’ve been trying to keep my soap opera blogs at a minimum because honestly, it depresses me. Now writing about the classic age of soaps, heck get me started and a Bartle and Jaymes in me and I can chat about it for hours until you start to back away and say “Stay away from this girl! Stay far away!” However, I need to write a plea today, to The Young and the Restless. They just hired Paul Rauch as a creative consultant. Oh, boy. Bad, bad, bad idea.
Paul Rauch is one of the most decisive soap opera figures. Either you love the guy or you can’t stand him. I just can’t stand him. There are times when he can be brilliant and knows soap opera so well it’s scary. However, sometimes he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and boy does it show.
Let’s start at the beginning, as Maria Von Trapp would say. Paul Rauch was the executive producer of Another World from 1972 to 1983. The ratings were high, Harding Lamay was writing great scripts, and all systems were just on. Steve and Alice (played by Jacqueline Courtney and George Reinholdt) were the pre Luke and Laura, star crossed lovers torn apart by evil Rachel (first by Robin Strasser, then Victoria Wyndham) Wyndham eventually grew tired of being the Bitch, so they toned her down and matched her with Mac Cory (Douglass Watson). A new villainess came down with Iris (Beverlee McKinsey). It worked. People loved the show.
However, Rauch wasn’t happy. He decided to tinker around a bit, and he wanted to stay in the good graces of Harding Lemay, the headwriter at the time. Lemay didn't like Jacqueline Courtney and Virginia Dwyer, because they were too "soap opera acting" for him. One of his good moves was increase the show to an hour. However, he did a bone-headed thing: he fired Jacqueline Courtney. Yep, he fired Alice one of themost popular characters on the show! Way to go, Paul! Hey, he wasn’t content in doing that, let’s fire Virginia Dwyer who plays Mary Matthews! Yeah, she is the matriarch of the show, but let’s kill her off! Better yet, let’s kill her on Good Friday! She’ll have something in common with Jesus!
The show never really recovered from Rauch’s boneheaded decision. He tried to get the viewers back by increasing the show to ninety minutes. This was too much drama for our soap opera viewer. An hour is fine, but ninety minutes? That’s watching a movie, five days a week. Too much to ask, even for us soap fans.
After Another World, Rauch went on to One Life to Live, which went pretty well in the beginning. He revisited one of the earlier storylines with Vikki Buchanan’s split personality, Nikki Smith and Erika Slezak delivered powerhouse performances as both personalities. However, he treated some people the same way he treated others on AW. Lillian Hayman, who played Sadie Gray since the show debuted in 1968, found out she was being let go in a parking lot. A parking lot, gentle readers. Not by Mr. Rauch himself, no, he didn’t have the guts. He sent someone else to do his dirty work for him.
This wasn’t some day player, mind you, but a woman who won a Tony award and was on the show for eighteen years. She deserved better than being told she was being fired in a parking lot. Not content with firing a lady in a parking lot, he fired Ellen Holly who played Carla Gray. Holly was a woman who was one of the first main African American actresses in a soap opera. Rauch was doing well!
After being fired in 1991 for low ratings, Rauch moved on to Santa Barbara. SB had a following for being over the top and funny. Other soap actors left steady gigs to be on the show because it was so well done. However, Rauch soon left his mark on it as well. I watched it around this time and although it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t the same. It was too little, too late, and SB was canceled. Now normally when soaps are canceled, but they usually do something classy, like Maeve Ryan singing “Danny Boy” on Ryan’s Hope, or Mary Stuart thanking her viewers on Search for Tomorrow. Not Rauchy boy. At first it was going well with people waving goodbye to the camera, goodbye, it’s been swell! Then Paul Rauch comes on a dark set. You think he’s going to do something nice like thank the viewers, say good-bye. He takes this moment to put out his cigar on the floor and walks away. No matter how you feel about being canceled, you put your best foot forward. You are professional. Paul Rauch couldn’t do that, and it was a tacky way to send off the show.
However, I’m still mad at Paul Rauch for helping ruin my show, my soap, Guiding Light. At first when he took over, he gave the show a B-12 shot, the sets looked better and the storylines improved as well. However, the women on the show paid the price. Intelligent women characters soon became simpering idiots. He got rid of Alexandra Spaulding (Marj Dusay) and Bridget Reardon (Melissa Hayden) The ladies played smart women and he had no time for smart women. Holly Reade played by Maureen Garrett, a funny smart businesswoman soon was in a storyline where she kidnapped all of Springfield’s children and held them captive. Beth Raines Spaulding (Beth Chamberlain), a funny sweet artist came back and she became a neurotic mess. It did not make sense.
Then there was how he and Mary Alice Dwyer Dobbin (who was Proctor and Gamble’s person for soaps) treated Michael Zaslow. Zaslow had been on the show for years as Roger Thorpe, one of the best villains ever on daytime. Zaslow started to slur his lines, have trouble moving. It was soon discovered he had ALS, Lou Gerig’s disease. They did the worst thing possible: They fired him. Dwyer Dobbin said in a famous interview “People don’t want Roger played by a wizened old man.” They didn’t know the viewers of Guiding Light. We would’ve watched Zaslow blink. Rauch could’ve spoken up. He could’ve said no, don’t do this to a man who has done so much to this show. He didn’t. When Fiona Hutchinson protested publicly Zaslow’s firing, her character Jenna was killed on camera months later. Ironically, Michael Zaslow died the same month.
Rauch left in 2002. Now he’s back as a creative consultant on Young and Restless. I know executive produers aren’t saints. They aren’t holding hands with the actors and singing folk songs. However, with Rauch’s record of accomplishment, the people on Young and Restless should be very scared. Especially the women. Yes, they might play smart accomplished women now, but no one knows tomorrow. Watch out for parking lots. Don’t get sick. Make sure you’re working Good Friday. You never know when Paul Rauch is going to strike.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries