where the writers are
guiding light project: if life is like a box of chocolates…

then soap opera is like hollandaise sauce. Making hollandaise is tricky business. It's an emulsion, and you have to keep whisking; add the butter to the eggs too quickly, the whole thing separates and falls apart. And so it is with how soap opera viewers suspend disbelief.

The very nature of soaps demands more of viewers than other dramatic media when it comes to suspending disbelief. It's a delicate balance. And more than any other dramatic medium, outside elements can influence how viewers take in what's on the screen. Sometimes those elements can enhance (here). Sometimes they intrude: when Harley wasn't able to find her father's name at the Vietnam Memorial, it should have been a moving moment. But for me it wasn't because while Justin Deas had not yet appeared as Buzz Cooper, the news that he would had been widely reported in the soap media. Had the story revealed that Buzz was alive while Harley was looking for his name, then I would have been able to fully experience the emotions of those moments at the Wall. But because my knowledge came from outside the story, the emotional impact was blunted. 

It can be a real juggling act and most of the time viewers deal with it. But there are limits, and last week Guiding Light exceeded them. I could go with Ed diagnosing Phillip's terminal illness in the absence of any on-screen symptoms. It was a small sacrifice to watch the scenes between Peter Simon and Grant Aleksander I described here, and the story I hope will follow.

That was Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday... Well, let me start by acknowledging that soaps have always played fast and loose with pregnancies, which often exceed the actual human gestation period of 40 weeks. Though not always; on As the World Turns (which has abandoned any pretense of realism) Vienna was showing a couple of days after she conceived. But when the Friday previews all but said that Natalia is only now finding out that she's pregnant  19 weeks - 19 WEEKS! - after she slept with Frank, well... Let's just say it's time to toss the hollandaise.

I mean, viewers all knew that the writers had to get Natalia off the canvas to accommodate Jessica Leccia's maternity leave. But introducing a pregnancy almost five months after conception? And after several scenes of Natalia knocking back tequila shots? That actually could have been an interesting story: a devout Catholic confronting the possibility of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - after coming to grips with falling in love with a woman - but not with the show ending five weeks after Leccia's return. What is Jill Lorie Hurst thinking? Or is it Jill Lorie Hurst? This post on TWoP raises an interesting possibility:

Jen419 speculated in the awesome Behind the Scenes Drama thread that the recent twists sound more like David Kreizman's work, and I agree. I wonder if he took on more of a role when Jill Lorie Hurst was instructed to craft a year's worth of storylines for that one-in-a-billion chance GL would get picked up by a cable channel.

Of course, word is that David Kreizman is coming to ATWT. Can't wait!

© 2009 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

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Lynn, I'm just waiting for the scene...

where Natalia will look down and say: "Oh my God! I've been pregnant for five months and I didn't know about it!"

Jennifer Gibbons, Red Room