So Long, Larias

I’ve marveled over the years about both the reach of my occasional posts and the staying power of one particular one from 2013. It’s less about me and more about the power of serial storytelling.

blog-salatutYouTuber “MissFinlandia88” started subtitling the gay love story between Elias Vikstedt and Lari Väänänen on the Finnish soap Salatut Elämät (more or less, Secret Lives) about five years ago. In early January 2013, I first wrote about this pairing and how, thanks to one intrepid YouTuber, the show and this couple gained a worldwide English-speaking fanbase. It has been the most-read post on this blog since the beginning.

Social media, you see, works along the same constructs as a soap opera.

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Paavola (left) and Roslöf portrayed Elias and Lari on a Finnish soap opera, known around the world thanks to an intrepid YouTuber who subtitled their scenes for an English-speaking audience.

Sadly, for fans of the Elias and Lari pairing — now known worldwide by the portmanteau Larias — the show has decided to kill off Elias, a shock twist that’s left fans reeling.

Elias came on as an already-out high school student and the son of one of the show’s long-serving characters. He fell for, and had a closeted romance with hockey star, Lari, whose tortured coming-out was the basis for much of their early story. But, it was less about the writing and more about the chemistry between the actors Petteri Paavola (Elias) and Ronny Roslöf (Lari) that propelled the story and sparked the imaginations of the fans.

When Paavola left the show for several months last year, Roslöf’s character took up with older doctor Kalle and now, in spite of Kalle’s recent rampant alcoholism, maybe he’ll once again take up with the grief-stricken Lari, who’s still recovering from a recent gunshot wound. (He was accidentally shot by Elias.) It’s a soap, remember!

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In a recent Instagram post (above) Paavola thanked the couple’s fans and MissFinlandia88 who “took our story around the world.” He also thanked English-speaking fans on YouTube.

Well, all good things come to an end. For Paavola, who has been moonlighting as a real estate agent, he’ll still keep in touch with his on-screen ‘better half.’ The duo have become good friends and even play hockey on the same team. You never know where even a made-up gay relationship will take you.

To start over and watch everything, check out MissFinlandia88’s YouTube channel.

2015 in Posts

It didn’t really surprise me that you decided to read what you read in 2015 on this blog. It pretty much follows a pattern that’s been set over the last several years. I am, however, strangely fascinated by certain posts that have incredible sticking power, year after year.

Here’s the Top 10 List, starting with the most-read post. (And thanks, by the way, to the tens of thousands — I can’t believe I’m not making that up — of readers. I am truly blown away.)

1. Return to Silver Lake: Long-Awaited Arrival of EastSiders Season 2 Does Not Disappoint, Sept. 2015
2. Verdict on EastSiders Season 2: Most Assuredly the Best of the Lot, Oct. 2015
blog-eastsidersFar and away the most read stories this year were my reviews of the second season of Kit Williamson’s great web series, EastSiders. I’m glad they were and I hope they drove at least a couple of people to the Vimeo site to watch. At the end of these six episodes I am so much more impressed with these folks than I ever thought possible.

 

3. Congrats, Freddie Smith, DOOL, on Emmy Wins, Inclusion, April 2015
blog-freddiemmmyJust a short piece on Freddie’s well-deserved win at the Daytime Emmy’s this year. My DOOL WilSon fans don’t disappoint! I found the investment of the actors in this storyline so important and Freddie, in particular, embraced Sonny from the jump. It’s a shame it’s not there any longer.

 

 

4. Finnish Soap’s Gay Storyline Finds International Fans Thanks to YouTube, January 2013
blog-salatutThis one slays me. It was written three years ago and was the most-read story in 2013 and 2014. For 2015, it got knocked down a couple of pegs. If you search “Finnish soap” and “gay” or “gay storyline,” this comes up in the top two or three results. I didn’t think of it then, but I should have tagged the show’s title, too. Oh, well. Live and learn!

 

5. Kiss Me, Kill Me, Watch Me, September 2015
blog-kmkmA quick review of the David Michael Barrett-penned, Casper Andreas-directed gay noir film, which I thought was a terrific watch and said so. I hope those who have seen it around the country on the festival circuit think so too. It premiered at Chicago’s Reeling LGBT film festival the same week as EastSiders season two landed, both starring Kit Williamson and Van Hansis.

 

6. Thanks, Petteri Paavola, April 2015
blog-petteriSee #4. This was a short piece referencing that piece when actor Petteri Paavola, who figures prominently in the LGBT storyline on the Finnish sudser Salatut Elämät decided to take a sabbatical from the show. It cracks me up that now if you Google him, this piece ranks on page one of the results (at least in the English results)!

 

 

7. The Hourglass is Empty: Why Killing Will Horton Ends Days for Me, October 2015
blog-guyWhen Days of our Lives stupidly killed off legacy character Will Horton it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. It was bad enough to erase a culturally very important LBGT storyline off the map, but to monkey with the legacy of the show? No. I quit watching. Many readers felt the same. This late-in-the-year piece is still pulling in readers who, one assumes given the comments, are also still ticked-off at the direction of the show.

 

8. Hasta Luego, Mr. Smith, August 2015
blog-freddieA quick thanks to Freddie Smith when he left Days of our Lives. He was the best performer on daytime since Van Hansis in my estimation and his exceptional talent is sorely missed.

 

 

9. High School Same-Sex Couple is Prom-Bound Internet Sensation, June 2013
blog-promkidsThese guys are nearly out of college now, I think! However, this one keeps bubbling up. I looked to see if it got the most views around prom time, but no, people are searching for this year-round. Another example of the lightning fast changes happening on the social landscape. This was NEWS — in all caps — two years ago. Today, not really. As it should be.

 

10. Just Us Guys, Just a Little Bit Meta, May 2015
blog-justusA riff on Chris Lilly’s web program about a teenager and his gay dad shot as a vlog. I liked the premise and I liked the leads (Scott Hislop and Skyler Seymour) and said so — though in the first iteration I misspelled Hislop’s name and was appropriately shamed. I fixed my mistake as I was boarding a plane, which was a comedy show all it’s own!

 

Other things of Note
Three pieces in the top twenty focused on LGBT issues in daytime drama and were written in prior years:
11. Like Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Ticked Off at American Dramas. Again, Nov. 2012
12. I, Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game and Celebrating the Zeitgeist, April 2014
19. More Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Revisiting and Revising, June 2013
And one piece focused on LBGT issues on pay television, namely between HBO’s Looking and Showtime’s Shameless, which, I think, is the best thing going:
17. Shamelessly Looking for Something Else: Real Talk About Pay TV Gays, March 2015
I also liked, Love Songs (in the Key of Gallagher): Wrenching Coda to Another Perfect, Discordant, Improbable Season of TV’s Best Show, April 2015, but it didn’t get much play. That’s fine. I’m happy with base hits.

Where Are You?

Here’s a map of where my readers came from in 2015:

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  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. France
  5. Germany
  6. Brazil
  7. Russia
  8. Netherlands
  9. Australia
  10. Ireland

Finland came in at #12, obviously wanting to find out if the rest of the world was still following “Elias’ Story” on Salatut Elämät!

There were also:

22 visits from Romania
15 visits from Puerto Rico, which, last time I looked was not a separate country, but….
15 visits from Iraq
  2 visits from China
and one visit each from 27 other countries including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Krygystan and Cambodia.

I am certain that if anyone would have told me when I started this blog on a whim in 2012 that I would have readers in 111 countries and would have met so many interesting people — so many of whom have had amazing, insightful, extraordinary things to say — I would have told them that they were utterly nuts.

Thanks for this visits. Keep on reading. And if you do like something, please like it or share it or comment on it so that I know you’re out there! All the best for 2016 and beyond!

The State of the LGBT Storyline & Characters on Days of Our Lives

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Christopher Sean, Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson played “the gays of Salem” on Days of our Lives. They are seen here at the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2015.

The cut below is from a good article by Jim Halterman regarding the loss of the big LGBT storyline on NBC’s Days of our Lives.

While I understand new writers coming in with their own objectives and vision for the show as well as the preoccupation with celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the show, the fact that the LGBT presence (which has brought the show accolades over the past few years) is dwindling is definitely disconcerting.

Source: The State of the LGBT Storyline & Characters on ‘Days of Our Lives.’ | XFINITY TV Blog by Comcast

Like many people, I was extremely invested in the so-called WilSon story over the last four years and DAYS’ blockheaded move — certainly in my estimation — to take this story off the table led me to say good riddance to the show and stop watching.

Here again is my take to augment Halterman’s.

The Hourglass is Empty – Why Killing Will Horton Ends ‘Days’ for Me

I had heard the rumors, but decided that I wouldn’t believe them. Surely the powers-that-be over at the venerable NBC daytime drama Days of our Lives wouldn’t be so stupid as to kill off the character of Will Horton. But I suppose I was the one left with egg on his face; they were that stupid.

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Freddie Smith as Sonny Kiriakis and Guy Wilson as Will Horton on the characters’ wedding day in 2014. The ‘WilSon’ story was a powerful example of LGBT inclusion and that loss is the most poignant of all.

And let me tell you why…

There are a couple of things you need to know if you are working on a serial. First, people get attached to characters and families and pairings in different ways than they do in shows that only air once a week for half the year. Second, mess with the show’s “bible” and tent poles at your peril. Third, trying to recreate the “thrilling days of yesteryear,” as the old radio announcers encouraged, never, ever works.

Personally, I loved Will and Sonny. It was such a great, forward-looking, innovative pairing. It was very contemporary, yet very much rooted in the history of the show. Since he was born on-screen to Sami and Lucas (Allison Sweeney and Bryan Datillo, a storied DAYS supercouple themselves), Will always figured prominently in the show’s plotting — outrageous though it could be sometimes — and his slow, torturous coming out process was incredibly nuanced, garnering three Daytime Emmys in a row for then-portrayer Chandler Massey.

Meanwhile, Sonny, the never-seen-on-screen-before SORASed son of Justin and Adrienne (Wally Kurth and Judi Evans, another storied DAYS pairing) and nephew of Victor (the peerless John Aniston), came back to town as a happy, out young man with an entrepreneurial spirit and an eye for young Mr. Horton. Sonny was Salem’s “white knight” and actor Freddie Smith played him perfectly.

DAYS made headlines in 2014 when they pulled out all the stops and threw daytime’s first same-sex wedding when Will and Sonny got married. In all my soap-watching years I’ve never seen a better contemporary story or more emotional episode or anything approaching the meticulous plotting that came together in that show. It was first class all the way.

And then it all went to hell.

Of course, that’s really American serial drama’s M.O., but DAYS took idiocy to a new level when its new writers killed off Will last week and basically drove the gays from Salem. I’m furious about them lessening the presence of LGBT people on television and that’s enough to make me turn the damn thing off for good, but to also mess with the show’s core legacy? As a writer, I may even find that even more offensive — because it’s lazy storytelling.

You see, when you tell a long-term scripted story, you have to have central characters — often called “tent-poles” — to anchor the drama. Will Horton was a tent-pole character for the entire generation of young people on the canvas. Without him, you only have no direct named link to the original center of the family at the heart of the show, so that part of the tent just collapses and severely limits your storytelling ability.

There’s an old rubric out there for writers that says you shouldn’t be afraid to “kill your darlings.” In other words, if you can advance the story in a positive and compelling way, you shouldn’t be afraid to get rid of a character, even if it’s a shock exit. And while I believe that wholeheartedly, I also know that it’s a knife-edge. You can’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

The last time I remember some daytime writer/producer doing something this egregious (there have probably been others, God knows) was in 1993 when Guiding Light killed off Maureen Reardon Bauer and left an entire part of the core canvas floating around aimlessly. Honestly, there were some good storylines in the decade and a half the show had left, but it never really recovered completely.

And Days of our Lives doesn’t have 15 years. There are fewer and fewer people watching daytime television and as the ratings fall off a cliff, DAYS’ great idea has been to bring back some of the fabled supercouples of yore: Patch and Kayla, Bo and Hope, John and Marlena. And a few DiMera villains have been dusted off, too.

But, here’s the thing: it will bump up ratings a bit for the 50th anniversary next month, but it won’t sustain viewership. You may have been in love with Patch and Kayla when you were a teenager, but, you know what? You’re middle-aged now. You’ve got responsibilities. A job. Kids. You’re not sitting around reliving the 1980s every afternoon for the 60 minutes it takes to tell a 37-minute story.

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The late Frances Reid and MacDonald Carey as Alice and Tom Horton were the center of Days of our Lives when the serial began its run in 1965.

Besides, a bunch of heroes and heroines in their 50s and 60s is not going to play out very long. You can’t hang the entire canvas on that.

The next Tom and Alice could easily have been Will and Sonny. You could have created a new, inclusive contemporary Salem dealing with contemporary problems and situations and you could have still had Julie Williams popping in to be a nuisance a couple of times a year and you could still hang the ornaments on the Horton Christmas tree and make Alice’s damn doughnuts.

Well, you won’t, though. And you won’t have me watching. When Will died, so did my interest. I simply loved the Will and Sonny storyline and I loved Freddie Smith and Chandler Massey and Guy Wilson and I loved how it all reflected the real world and I loved that it was a touchstone for people who had no other way into LGBT issues. Nothing carves those pathways as well as continuing drama. It’s sad we won’t have that any longer.

And, I suspect, we won’t have Days of our Lives much longer, either. Everything they are doing now smacks of desperation. I’m actually glad I won’t be around to see the end of DAYS. I suspect that it will be terribly painful. And completely unnecessary.


Previous
I Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game and Celebrating the Zeitgeist
Congrats, Freddie Smith, DOOL on Emmy Win, Inclusion
‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem

More Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Revisiting and Revising

Hasta Luego, Mr. Smith

(Aug. 18, 2015) — With today’s program, Freddie Smith aired his last contract scenes after a four-year run as Sonny Kiriakis on the venerable daytime drama Days of our Lives. Smith, 27, was this year’s recipient of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor for his work in the role.

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Christopher Sean (Paul), Freddie Smith (Sonny) and Guy Wilson (Will) attend the GLAAD Media Awards earlier this year. The three were part of a particularly soapy love triangle that drove much of Smith’s last months on the show.

Sonny, one half of the WilSon supercouple, was a good guy; a rarity in the world of soap. As an out, well-adjusted young man, he helped Will Horton (Chandler Massey, then Guy Wilson) come out, fell in love with him and, in a daytime first, married him in a nearly-weeklong event in April 2014 that harkened back to the “good old days” of soap extravaganzas when audiences were large and budgets were larger.

And the plotting that led up to the wedding was some of the best I’d ever seen on American soaps, but I haven’t thought it was that great since. Oh, there’s been plenty of drama, but a lot of it has been kind of absurd and typical of American serial writers. Still, in spite of the ham-fisted plotting of Sonny’s exit, Smith has never disappointed, always playing true to the character.

Rumor has it that Smith will return to Salem briefly for the show’s 50th anniversary event in November.

Freddie Smith left an indelible mark on the canvas of Days of our Lives, but serials keep going; that’s just what they do by their very nature. Like, you know, sands through the hourglass….

Thanks, Freddie for the hours of entertainment. You’ll be well and truly missed.


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Some Other DAYS/WilSon-Related Posts
I, Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game, and Celebrating the Zeitgeist
More Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Revisiting and Revising
Like Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Ticked-Off at American Dramas. Again.
WilSon, Love & Thanks – Thoughts for Valentine’s Day
‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem
Christopher Sean and Seeing More Asian Men On Television

Congrats, Freddie Smith, DOOL on Emmy Wins, Inclusion

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Freddie Smith (l) as Sonny Kiriakis, opposite Guy Wilson as Will Horton, picked up a 2015 Daytime Emmy Award for his portrayal of “one of the good guys” on NBC’s venerable drama, Days of our Lives.

Kudos to Freddie Smith, who won a richly deserved Daytime Emmy Award yesterday for his role as Sonny Kiriakis on NBC’s Days of our Lives. Smith, whom I have long-called the best actor on soaps, was overshadowed in awards seasons past by three wins in a row by then-scene partner Chandler Massey. Smith has had many more Emmy-worthy scenes than this year’s reel showed. I’m glad his quiet, subtle, earnest acting did get the respect it deserves.

Smith has already wrapped filming, and the show will suffer for it, but continuing dramas are just that — continuing. Like sands through the hourglass, baby; you just keep keeping on!

One thing, though, Smith embraced Sonny from the jump and he made this young gay man more than just a poster child. DAYS integrated him into the canvas, involved him with tentpole characters — some of my favorite of his scenes were two-handers with the great John Aniston — and made him a three-dimensional person, a good guy, and someone to root for. The fact that the character was gay was completely immaterial. Sonny and Will had daytime’s first same-sex wedding and DAYS pulled out all the stops and wrapped up the best-long arc plotting I’ve ever seen on soaps. The show, deservingly, tied for Outstanding Drama last night as well.

I have sentimental favorites in the pantheon of American daytime dramas, but the continued inclusion of LGBT characters into the narrative in challenging, meaningful ways will always mean that DAYS comes first in my book. Also, Peggy McKay; I mean, come on!

Freddie dedicated his Emmy to the LGBT community. He’s a class act, that one.

DAYS/Freddie/WilSon-Related Recent-ish Posts Include:

I Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game, and Celebrating the Zeitgeist
‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem
More Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Revisiting and Revising


H/T Ron, aka 477mrfixit, for the cut

Thanks, Petteri Paavola

Petteri Paavola, in case you are not in the know, is a young man who has played the role of Elias Vikstedt in the Finnish soap opera Salatut Elämät for the last four years.

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Ronny Roslof (left) and Petteri Paavola portrayed lovers Lari and Elias — known by fans worldwide by the portmanteau Larias — on the Finnish sudser. Roslof remains on the show, his once-closeted character is now in an out relationship with an older man.

He announced recently that he was leaving the show and the character was written out, having headed to Belgium to live with his mother. It’s not known at this time if he will return.

The relationship between Elias and Lari captivated audiences around the globe, thanks to YouTube and the good offices of MissFinlandia88, the handle of the dedicated YouTuber who subtitled these clips in English — and even got the show’s blessing to do it.

What do I care? Well, a post I wrote about Salatut Elämät in January 2013 has been the most-read piece on this site for two years running. Go figure. Who knew gay Finnish soap opera characters would bring so much of the world to me?

If you don’t come back — or even if you do, — thanks, Petteri. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many of your fans!

The Infamous Most-Read Post

So Long, Larias – The Last Post