Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

I have been bantering back and forth today on Twitter about the new General Hospital opening. Apparently, people are really happy with it. I'm a little more reserved about it, but most of you know I don't have a particular sentimental spot for GH. As I'm sure you all realize, I like the introduction to AMC better, but really that's irrelevant to my point.

Here's the deal. I want the entire ABC soap block to thrive so I'm thrilled to see ABC trying to win the easy points. That old GH opening was ridiculous. Although the new intro is certainly much nicer and much more contemporary, it's still a little derivative of the AMC intro, and I think that sells GH a little short. I feel the same way about the OLTL intro. Why does everything on ABC daytime have to look the same? That's not a rule in Primetime and, to be honest, I don't want to watch 3 hours of lookalike programming. I think each show should have its own identities beginning with their opening and closing sequences. ABC can brand the time period with the similar visual cues on the bumpers between the shows.

Back when ABC Daytime stamped AMC, GH and OLTL with similar opening looks, I'm sure it sounded like a good idea to some corporate marketing dingleberry, but as a fan I want creativity—something that hooks me when the show starts. I love that AMC theme song. When I hear that guitar strum I go all Dick Van Dyke jumping ottomans to get to the TV. I like how AMC kept the falling pictures motif, how the photos blast across the screen in synch with the music, and the vintage pictures of Pheobe. It gets me stirred up emotionally every single time. It's not as sentimental to me as the 1990 version where the lamp turns on and camera pans across senior cast members Phoebe, Langley, Brooke and Adam, but it's better than most of what's on TV day or night. Think about the pitiful one to five note chimes for Lost, Heroes or Desperate Housewives. The opening sequence and theme song has become a lost art.

The AMC theme song has layers. It starts with a catchy little strum, then a startling guitar strum grabs your attention and the song swells into a rich pallet of piano, winds and strings before gently fading away with a misty eyed Bianca blowing away in the wind and Erica taking her place back in the AMC family album. (So far, I don’t like anyone in the fly away other than Bianca. It definitely shouldn’t be a dude in the flyaway.) The original AMC opening and theme was quite appropriate in its day, but even at the age of 5 I remember thinking, "They really need to perk this up". The "white pearls" opening sucked if you ask me. Bringing back the falling pictures in the mid-90s was brilliance.

Oops, I've digressed. Yes, I'm biased. AMC is my sentimental fave on all counts, but I have a lot of heartfelt sentiment for OLTL too, especially the Cord, Tina, Max, Gabrielle years when I watched it without fail. When OLTL came out with that Peebo Bryson theme song for OLTL it was a BIG deal. Honestly, my favorite was the instrumental version with the pictures of the town and the collage of faces at the end. It told a story. It always made me feel like I'd left Pine Valley and taken a quick drive to a nice town not far away where Wanda Woleck sold pie and people traveled back in time and to underground cities. The main thing was that after an hour of AMC, the OLTL theme song perked me up and commanded that I pay attention for another 60 minutes of soap. The Peebo vocals were OK and are kitschy fun now, especially when Norn sings them, but a little over the top at the time. I'll never forget when they dropped that opening and went to the waving silk sheet with the Jugband opening. It was hideous. I quit watching. It was like an intro for a bad porno sponsored by Macy's home department or something.

But consistently I would flee the room when that old GH theme song que’d the ambulance pulling up to the hospital. It was an instant turn off for me. The retiring opening bugged me too. It was a testament to cheese with Tony Geary kicking over the chair in the end like he’s some sort of bad ass. Sure for die hard fans, I can see why that was maybe no big deal, but for passive viewers like me it elicited huge eyerolls.

I will say that when the corporate branding dweeb decided the three shows needed a unified look that the openings for GH and OLTL improved dramatically over their immediate predecessors. As much as I may not have cared for them they were way better than openings for Y&R and other soaps. GL was OK for a while. Another World had a decent opening when it used Crystal Gale's vocals. The rest of the soap intros were like time warps to the past--in a bad way. Anyway, clearly the OLTL and GH intros were rip-offs of the AMC idea and I think the copycat approach does them a total disservice. Why not free the creative teams of each show to produce individually styled openings that showcase each shows thematic cues? Why not give them all access to orchestral arrangements capable of producing equally rich, classic instrumental pieces on par with AMC or the best shows on TV? After all, these shows air 5 times a week! That guitar theme on OLTL is so annoying and that screeching sax solo thing on GH reminds me of similar screeching sax themes from the 80s like LA Law. Even the older AMC falling pictures opening used a saxophone that today sounds dated.

It's sort of like the characters on AMC for the past couple of years. Instead of unique characterizations by a diverse cast with unique diction and articulation and look, everyone in Pine Valley looks, sounds and acts the same. They even all were the same clothes from some cheap mall store in NY. Erica is a mother whose children have children, but don't call her Grandma. She and Adam have to compete with 20 year olds for dates. Angie has even morphed into Black Annie now with the straight hair and bangs! The homogeneity of the characters is amplified by the indistinguishable intros to each show. Except for the guns, the head wounds and the occasional time warp, it’s hard to tell where one show stops and the others start. Soaps are about diversity and the creative process. ABC should give each of its soaps their own room to create an identifiably unique stamp in the Daytime lineup. I don't see Whoopi straightening out those nasty dreads and getting bangs.

I do like some of the visual cues in the GH opening-the roulette wheel behind Geary, the hospital, etc., but when did Port Charles turn into such a mega-metropolis? And what's with the creepy castle on the hill? Did those people from Passions move to Port Charles? I love the use of the actors real names--a classy touch. Better music may have won me over.

Now it’s time to re-do the OLTL intro. I just hope that when it happens, OLTL gets to strut its stuff a little so it stands out as something other than the show between the other two. It is absolutely the show on the edge of pop culture and it's opening should clearly depict that we aren't in Pine Valley anymore.

As for AMC, I feel like I've been through a war. We've been fighting for this show for years. I’m losing characters that I’ve known for 20 and 30 years. How does a soap fan put into words the connection he or she has to the characters in a show? When I’m sick at home from work, those people are always there for me! They always show up at exactly the same time to make me feel better. (Unless the weather's bad or the President needs to talk to me.) I love them and I miss them when they disappear.

Today, my beloved Brooke showed up. I doubt today's episode was outta sight exciting, but I'm ok with that. It’s a comfort that she came home for a visit. I don't need to be thrilled to the core every day. I so hope Brooke stays longer than planned, but it’s a sign things are returning to some semblance of normal. I'm still suffering from “PPT”-“Post Pratt Trauma”. I'll be having a nice day and then Shazam! I remember Brooke disappearing into the hospital elevator, the Satin Slayer, Reese kissing Zach, Zarf, Poison Pancakes, Stuart hitting the ground dead, Marian being hauled off to Oak Haven, Aidan talking to a vent, babies being held like Mufasa to a tornado ravaged sky, baby swaps, sex by candlelight, Jupiter sized Moons hovering outside Ryan’s window. I need normal on AMC for a while. The theme song and intro are the only parts of the show that haven’t been completely gutted, and I’m not ready to give them up. For now, they are sacred cows.

And you just thought I was just going to write love letters to Brooke English this week, didn’t you? One thing’s for sure, it’s not boring on AMC, OLTL and GH these days. There is a lot to discuss along with Idol and whatever else pops into your astoot minds. This is where you tell us all about it, right here. And remember, if you haven't heard last week's podcast, it's available on Itunes or the link at the bottom of last week's blog post. Funny stuff! Don't miss it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are You Ready?

  • for AMC in HD
  • for PVP on TV... Guide.ca, that is?
  • for new Head Writers DK and DS?
  • any other abbreviations my brain is too fried to be clever about right now?

We here at the Pine Valley Podcast are thrilled to be back! Due to various illnesses, inclement weather, etcetera, etcetera, Jordan and I have hard a hard time getting together to record our little show. But we're back, for now, and it's oh-so-grand! We love doing the podcast, and hope you enjoy it. It's our first in over three weeks - yikes! And so much has happened - our beloved James Mitchell passed, AMC started airing in HD, Lorraine Broderick's episodes started airing, Jordan and I started watching again, and, oh yeah! Shadow, Jordan and I got nominated for two Spirit Awards on TVGuide.ca, courtesy of the lovely Nelson Branco! The (soap) world is a very different place since you and I last spoke, and it's just tickling us pink.

For those of y'all who have mentioned that we've been a little, ahem, down on All My Children for, oh, the past two years or so, then this (might) be the podcast for you! Okay, so it's not all good, but it sure ain't all bad! And it's been a very, very long time since we've been able to say that.

So join us, friends, for some lively conversation and only a *little* AMC bashing! And please, please, please don't forget to tell us what you think about it all, here.

2/12/10 Podcast

Thursday, February 04, 2010

My How Things Have Only Slightly Changed

Yesterday was the first day an entire AMC-LA episode aired in HD. In the past I have recorded the AMC replays on SoapNet because the city I live in airs AMC on a one day tape delay. I don’t know what it is about SoapNet, but none of its HD offerings ever look so hot to me. Y&R & GH always look a little grainy compared to their original CBS/ABC airings which are incredible. Anyway, I checked out AMC-LA-HD on Hulu and it was amazing! Everything really does look bigger, brighter, and cleaner. The sets have been nicely updated with fresh paint, roomier rooms and doors that don’t wobble. And low and behold everybody got a haircut, lost their fake tans and look great-maybe even younger. I worried about how some of the older actors would appear, but my fears were unfounded. The entire cast looked their best. The only thing that irked me was seeing Chuck Pratt’s name scroll across the screen again. I hoped HD would mark the end of Pratt’s run on AMC. Dude, take a hint!

I have to be honest about my viewing habits lately. I’ve been working like crazy and busy trying to keep up with the kids. I hurt my shoulder earlier this month and the minute I get home I pop a painkiller and let it work its magic. Even if AMC was airing fascinating stories, I’d be hard pressed to lucidly get through an entire episode so I’ve continued to skip around and fast forward as if Chuck Pratt was still there in his glory. This is how I approach AMC right now: I watch the opening to refresh my numbed mind about whatever happened the day before, then I scan the first five minutes for evidence that Chuck Pratt is still in the writing credits. If I see Pratthole’s name I mutter something vile and inappropriate and place my finger carefully on the FF button watching Madison, Frandi, JR and Marissa whiz by in a blur. I slow down to sample what’s happening if I notice the Chandlers, Opal, Tad & Liza, Greenlee & David and, like watching a trainwreck, Erica & Ryan. Anyway, I’m able to finish an entire episode in less than 10 minutes.

Because I’ve been skimming the show so liberally I’ve been reluctant to post a new blog, but the last post was getting pretty long so I’ve thrown caution to the wind. Remember though, at the time I’m writing this I’m two hours into some primo painkillers and typing with a gimpy arm so cut me some slack.

Everybody’s raving about GH and OLTL so I’ve been checking them out. There’s just no comparison between the amazing quality of the stories airing on those two shows and the crap on AMC. I have never been a member of the GH fan club, but I have to admit the parts I watched last week were chocked impressively with so much intelligent dialogue and palpable emotion. Even though I barely watch OLTL, it’s filled with tour de force performances, great comedic qualities, and lots of tender and scary moments. Watching OLTL is exhausting because you run the gamut of dramatic emotion from grief to joy. Now I’m totally jazzed about the OLTL snow storm. I was never excited about the AMC tornado, and I watch AMC everyday.

There’s just not much happening with the AMC storylines that’s grabbing my attention. These days when I watch I find myself mostly just observing the differences in the new sets and stuff like that. It’s like “OOOh, Adam got a new couch.” or “WOW, that’s a nice mantle in Liza’s apartment.” Amanda had some nice performance moments a few days ago but, honestly, I’m grasping at straws to stay interested. I feel myself slipping into a donut hole, but I’m desperately trying to hang in there until LoBro’s stories begin airing. I hear she wrote some amazing stuff for sweeps and for Brooke’s return, but good gosh bring it on already.

I should note some positives about the show so nobody thinks I’ve just turned into a hater. Granted the stories are still lame, but the dialogue is much better. The actors seem reinvigorated and it shows in their performances. Not only are they acting better they look better. Seriously, who knew KWAK’s boobs were going to look so great in HD! Her abundant HD cleavage alone almost made the investment worth it. The new Chandler and Wildwind sets are more substantial and it’s nice to see people spread out a little. Even the hospital and Tad’s place seem less claustrophobic. That’s great for Tad considering half the town is still living in his house. Having Opal around more and mixing it up with Erica and the gang on a regular basis is a blast. She gives the show a huge pick me up every second she’s on the screen.

Now that Rebecca Budig is out of bed, she looks hot and is showing some spark. It took that girl no time to ditch the Dearfoams and hospital garb and slip into a tight little suit, some stilettos and proper accessories. Who knew Nurse Gayle was such a good personal shopper? Anyway, Greenlee seems to be putting a worthy effort into her performance this time. Maybe that Bob guy she was married to was dragging her down during her last stint and the divorcee life is agreeing with her. Then again, maybe she just has an easier time working off David's slight speech impediment than Aidan’s unintelligible ramblings. David and Greenlee definitely have chemistry and whatever they do together, it should be fun. When she was with Aidan she always looked a little confused like "WTF did he just say to me?".

The Chandler’s are getting more interesting as a group and Adam looks healthy. Of course he's getting to grope Annie so it's no wonder he’s perked up. Marissa in all her Hee Haw-teeth glory still bugs me, but she gets sort of interesting when she’s pissed at David. Maybe these new writers can do something with her.

Amanda and Jake I love, but I fear AMC ran their coupling into the ground before they could rescue them from Pratt’s storyline. Again, maybe the new writers will surprise us. One thing for sure is that they need to be freed from the clutches of evil Dr. Dave and the endless baby drama.
Forgive me for slipping back to the negative but I’m sorry, Randi is the new Turd. I see no improvement there and wish she would land an amazing hair deal or contact lense deal requiring her full attention outside LA. I agree Madison may have some chemistry with Ryan, but she’s kind of a bore lurking around Fusion playing Mammie to Erica. And speaking of Ryan, Cameron needs to lay off the Botox or whatever has erased virtually every traceable line from his face! I can’t blame him for tidying up a bit for the HD premier, but his face is less expressive than Erica’s. It’s like they told him he was going to have to play with Erica’s snatch and the look on his face froze forever. Whatever the deal is with him, Lucci has never looked better. Maybe it’s one part genes, one part surgical and one part pilates, but we should all be so lucky to look so phenomenal at her age. I think something about this move and HD has refreshed her entire appearance.

It’s been a while since LA has been so enamored with a celebrity like the city has fawned over Susan Lucci. They have rolled out the red carpet for her and I’m so happy to see her get the proper respect she deserves. ABC is incredibly lucky to have her. Let’s face it, she’s the most recognizable face in daytime and if this deal in LA flies, ABC should kiss her ass.

So that’s it. Not much to say about the show itself while we continue to wait out this transition.

The two most important things to note are this:

First, AMC lost a legend when James Mitchell died. Just the fact that he was on the show for 30 years is amazing. Just try to think of someone you know who has held a job anywhere nearly that long. I loved Palmer and the entire Courtland clan. They were introduced to AMC when the show expanded from 30 minutes to 60. I could go on and on about him and my favorite Palmer stories, but our own AMPHITRION said it so beautifully in the blog:

When a great soap actor dies, we mourn twice. First, we mourn for the man, but also we grieve for the character. James Mitchell was a remarkable, accomplished, and incredibly talented actor, teacher and dancer. Palmer Cortland was one of the greatest characters in the history of daytime. I am sad the world has lost this great man and these two souls. I will miss them both.

Secondly, regular PVP poster AZGAL’s mother died this past week. Although we never met her mother, we all understand how much the loss of a parent means to a person. I wish I had words that could lessen AZGAL’s sadness right now, but at least she knows that she and her family are in our thoughts and prayers as they grieve.

So what’s on your mind? Feel free to spill the details right here.