where the writers are
fool me once, shame on you…

fool me twice, shame on me... fool me... so how many times has it been?

Fan response to last week's news that Grant Aleksander will be returning to Guiding Light next month to reprise his role as Phillip Spaulding was, well, let's just say, muted.

On TWoP, hnee  was apathetic:

That should be good news, but I just can't get excited about it. I don't see why anyone would want to join this sinking ship.

Over at MediaDomain, Leprechaun was sad:

Part of me would be thrilled to see him (if I still watched regularly) but another part of me dreads the thought of him wandering around the pathetic ghost town they're calling Springfield.

Then there were the resigned, glass-half-empty fans. Also at MediaDomain, DanRegionWannabe:

I will miss GL a lot when it's gone, but now that GA is returning, there are so many ways they could have a GL ending that is worthy of the show's amazing run.

A sentiment echoed by Look Both Ways TWoP:

Normally I would think that spoiler would be extremely exciting, but at this point, I think it's either a) last ditch effort to revive the show or b) they are going all out for the "finale."

Pessimistic to be sure, and given the current state of GL, I'm hard-pressed to disagree. But where I see resignation, Tom Casiello sees cynicism. But what Casiello percieves as cynicism, really masks, not just apathy and resignation, but a wariness summed up by Rosebud1 at MediaDomain:

Been there, done that.  We've seen practically every soap on the air bring back familiar faces w/TONS of hype, but rarely have we seen quality follow through.  I'm not happy w/just seeing familiar faces & hearing familiar names mentioned.  I want to see quality stories being told & a viable REASON for the character to be back, longterm.

All the hype about Rick's return & Ed's returns ended up fizzling into nothing.  They both became pathetic shells of their original selves, playing second fiddle to vapid, uninteresting, unfocused characters.

It should be said that this is no reflection of Grant Aleksander as an actor, or his relationship with GL fans. And this wariness is not limited to GL. As the World Turns fans are still smarting from last year's debacle surrounding Scott Bryce's firing from his role as Craig Montgomery, a situation Rosebud1 could have been referencing when she described legacy characters brought back to, "play(ing) second fiddle...," in Craig's case, propping up Meg and Paul. And the general consensus among One Life to Live fans is the Andrea Evans' return as Tina Lord has been a squandered opportunity.

Regarding Aleksander's return and the renewal of Days of Our Lives for 18 months, Tom Casiello suggested, "at least we're seeing a little inspiration. Something's being jump-started. Will it work? Nobody knows, and only time will tell." But fans have been burned so many times that few are will to grant TPTB the benefit of the doubt, an issue Casiello confronts in his subsequent post.

And the truth is, there no indication that TPTB have any idea that what they're doing will work. There's a whiff of desperation about the whole thing - that they're just making it up as they go along, which begs the real question, "is doing something better than doing nothing, when what's being done hasn't been well thought out?" If recent history, in the form of John McCain's presidential campaign, is any indicator, the answer, in that case, thankfully for the country, is a resounding "no!"

In fact, as the McCain campaign illustrated, this willy-nilly "better to do something than nothing" attitude is actually counter-productive, again, thankfully in this case, but not when it comes to television. In an on-line interview with MIT's Henry Jenkins, media scholar, Sharon Ross discusses why TPTB are so often off the mark when it comes to bringing viewers the shows they want to see. She was referring to specifically primetime shows, but her insights are equally applicable to daytime:

Often the industry (especially at the network level) thinks of their viewers in simple, market-research oriented terms. Executives often forget that viewers are complex human beings who come to any given program with a plethora of expectations that can defy what a survey reveals or what a PR professional assumes about a given audience for a show.

As Ross's comments suggest, the lack of trust Tom Casiello described between soap fans and TPTB (or TIIC, TAHIC, TMFIC if you prefer), is not limited to daytime soaps. This same wariness is also taking it toll what media studies scholar, Michael Kackman, calls, "the ‘mature' complexity of the contemporary serialized prime-time drama."

I mentioned to a friend my unhappiness with the direction Dirty Sexy Money has taken in its second season. She told me TPTB always screw up those kinds of shows in the second season. True enough most of the time, but the problem is actually much worse. Too often, quick-on-the-draw network execs pull the plug on serialized shows before viewers have a chance to connect, which leads viewers to hold off watching the next season's new shows, which, if continued, will lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy that serialized storytelling cannot sustained coming to pass. Back in January, New York Times television critic, Virginia Heffernan had a sobering consideration of Friday Night Lights. And here's a link to a discussion Sam Ford and I had in 2006. Sad to say, the situation hasn't much improved in the ensuing two years, which raises real questions about what the future holds for seriality on network television.

© 2008 Lynn Liccardo

Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lynn Liccardo and for non-commercial purposes only. Lynn Liccardo

4 Comment count
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all I can add Lynn, is one word...


I tried to write about Alexander coming back but the blog accidentally got deleted. I'm going to try again this week, but for me GL is a day late and a dollar short.

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Grant A

Instead of lifting quotes from boards and the net, here's my suggestion, Lynn:  why don't you interview Grant Aleksander himself? 

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connie, thanks so much for your suggestion

and, not that i wouldn't love an interview,  but the post isn't really about about GA;  it's about what the reaction to his return says about the relationship between soap fans and TPTB.

since i attribute the quotes and provide links when i can, i'm not sure exactly what it is you seem to be objecting to.

and yes, i do realize that i just ended that sentence with a preposition!

point of imformation: not all readers will recognize connie as long-time soap critic, connie passalacqua hayman, who posts under the nom de plume, marlena de lacroix.


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That did it, Lynn. Go to the corner!

Grammarphobe girl is here and she's cracking the whip!
I don't know what I would do if I interviewed Grant Aleksander. I would be such a fangirl. "Um, yeah, remember that scene you did with Judi Evans, and you two were mimes, that was cool. And the scene when you broke down and cried in the country club when Phillip found out Jackie was his mom, wow." He would think I was nuts.