Where the Beautiful People Go to High School

Back from my moving-across-half-of-the-country sabbatical to bring you a quick check-in on the goings-on at Westfield Prep. And there are a lot of things going on!

For the uninitiated, Westfield Prep and environs is the mythical(?) Southern California setting for the super-soapy teen web drama Youthful Daze.

When Tommy Dinato (Ethan Daniel Corbett) comes back to town, it’s clear that he has a past with Drew Castle (series creator Bryan James), but it’s not until a heated argument turns into a heated make out session do we learn that their history is a romantic one.

YouthfulDaze2

Nothing stays private for too long thanks to the movie studio everyone carries in their hip pocket. Will this restroom snogfest become fodder for the high school gossips or is it Grade-A blackmail material? As they say, tune in tomorrow.

Now, campers, your faithful correspondent, ‘Uncle Grandpa,’ is a bit long in the tooth for angsty teen drama, no matter how cute the angsty teens happen to be, but I was struck by this statement from creator James, “…[Youthful Daze] showcase[s] the straight storylines and the gay ones with no hang ups or discrimination in execution. We are a soap opera that has something for everyone.”

And that’s the way it should be. Besides, every generation needs their angsty teen stories and improbable dramas; it’s how we learn we’re not alone in the world. Take this well-crafted little soap out for a spin, I think you’ll enjoy yourself.

Here’s a preview, and below a link to one of the latest episodes.

http://ww2.webisodesnetwork.com/youthful-daze/videos/1304

Soapland: Corrie vs. the Rest of the World

hulu — DAVE HOLMES TELLS YOU WHY YOU NEED TO BE WATCHING ‘CORONATION STREET’.

Corrie-Rovers

The Rovers Return Inn, the local for Coronation Street on the venerable ITV drama.

Interesting piece by Dave Holmes, who thinks you should be watching Coronation Street. I don’t have anything against Corrie, per se, only if I was making a suggestion as to which British soap to watch, I’d encourage you to watch Emmerdale.

In fact, I already have. Several times. And Hollyoaks.

Like Holmes, I’ve done my fair share of disparaging American soaps, but I’m currently captivated by the Will Horton-Sonny Kiriakis love story on Days of our Lives, so I’m not going to say anything snarky about, you know, Stephano or annoying town gadabout Julie Williams.

But regarding Holmes, isn’t it convenient that the only U.K. continuing drama available on hulu is Corrie? Hmmmm??

WilSon, Love & Thanks – Thoughts for Valentine’s Day

This is a “Thank You Letter” of sorts.

On Valentine’s Day, after an elongated mulling-it-over period, the character of Will Horton on Days of our Lives is going to accept the marriage proposal of his longtime love, Sonny Kiriakis.

1525008_660625057322942_1674446718_n

Guy Wilson (l) and Freddie Smith play Will and Sonny, a young gay couple set to be married on NBC’s Days of our Lives.

I thank the DAYS producers and writers and NBC for that. For making a same-sex couple a part of the landscape. For treating that couple no different than any other young lovers. For weaving them into the fabric of the core families and for understanding the importance of allowing this relationship to play out over time. They should definitely be thanked.

I also want to thank the young men who portray these characters — Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson. They are doing yeoman’s work and they’re excited about doing it, which is even nicer.

“Will said no when Sonny popped the question last month because it’s a soap and it has to be dramatic,” said Smith in an interview with The Advocate that was published online on Feb. 13. “But when I found out they were finally getting engaged, I was thrilled.”

Also last month, when I wrote about the significance of Sonny asking Will to marry him, I got this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 9.10.43 PM

I was really quite shocked, I have to say, even though I had already heard through the grapevine that he’s a genuinely nice guy. No one, least of all me, expected him to (A) read what I had to say, (B) care that I was saying it, or (C) think it was important to let me know. That’s rare.

So, thanks, Guy. Not only was it nice, but he turned me from someone who was a fan of the character to a fan of the actor. In my loooong tenure in the theatre, I learned that while the business is full of prima donnas, the nice folks who persevere always finish first.

(Also, in my other life, part of what I do is explain branding and marketing and relationship-building to people. That tweet? That’s marketing.)

In the Advocate article, Smith also said that he’s received many letters from fans telling him of the impact of this story.

“In fact, one of those letters that touched me the most was from a young man who told me he was able to come out to his grandmother by saying, ‘Grandma, I want you to know that I’m just like Sonny.’ That really tugged at my heart because without this storyline he may have continued to keep his feelings to himself, but he was able to be comfortable enough to be honest instead. That’s why I’m so happy DAYS is showing this, because it’s part of life and people need to see themselves reflected on TV.”

So, thanks Freddie, for understanding the broad reach and importance that can come from telling bold, yet distinctly human stories over the long term and telling them well.

I’ve said it forever — and often loudly in defense of the importance of the continuing drama — but we humans only exist by storytelling, by sharing our experiences with one another, by finding out what we have in common with others and what sets us apart.

tumblr_mzhzgc7eXq1risl97o1_500

Will said no to Sonny, when he proposed last month. How he could resist that face is beyond me!

I am so excited, as a gay man, that we are seeing so much more inclusion and diversity in society and having it being reflected back by touchstones of cultural significance, like DAYS; it’s such a positive step forward. We have to press on and not let this fall by the wayside.

As I write this, I do wonder how it would have been if, when I was in my early 20s and coming out, I had been able to say to my own grandmother, “I want you to know that I’m just like Sonny.” That’s probably how I would have done it, too. Grandmother did love her ‘stories!’ Guess that’s where I get it from.

Anyhow, thanks world, for changing and for welcoming our “tribe” more and more into the rich polyglot of society.

My own husband is upstairs in bed. I’ll join him in a bit. He said he wanted a nice dinner for Valentine’s Day, so, not being the roses and chocolates type, I took him at his word and I will cook something a little fancy for dinner. Maybe we’ll uncork a bottle of wine.

The rest of the day, we’ll both do a lot of “gay things” that are so foreign to the rest of the world: work, run errands, walk the dogs through the infernal never-to-melt snowbanks that surround us. I may even do what I’ve been threatening and look for work in the warm part of California! We’ll end the day talking about our future, how happy we are, and how we met more than a decade ago because, even though it’s OUR story, it’s a good and funny one. Maybe we’ll put on a movie. Or maybe we’ll watch Will say yes to Sonny all over again. After all, it’s good to warm your heart before turning in.

Thanks, finally, to those who read these scratchings. Your thoughts, comments, shares and likes are well and truly appreciated.

Go love somebody. Happy Valentine’s Day.

‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem

Who could resist this face?

tumblr_mzhzgc7eXq1risl97o1_500

Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith) proposes to a headless Will Horton (Guy Wilson) on the NBC drama Days of our Lives.

Evidently, the new incarnation of Will Horton on Days of our Lives; that’s who.

Will said “no” to Sonny — actually, he first said “Wow!” — and then explained himself and the couple ended up in the sack anyway at the end of a rather sweet scene that had a few subtle comedy bits thrown in for good measure.

The most interesting thing about this scene to me was the fact that a network television show actually showed a man proposing marriage to another man. A first for daytime; a first since the DOMA and Windsor decisions last summer; and a first not to make a distinction between same-sex and opposite sex couples. It’s a powerful step in the right direction and I have to applaud DAYS for it.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I was no fan of how Will ended up becoming a father, but the soapy aftermath — including Freddie Smith’s bravura comedic performances delivering the baby and his beautiful monologues at Will’s bedside after he was shot — has cemented my love for this couple.

I desperately want DAYS to keep them together because they can be significant role models for gay youth; a powerful arrow in the quiver of hope for young people who believe they cannot find a solid relationship. I really don’t care if they make them a crime-fighting duo (might be fun) or have Sonny and Will take over the sketchy Kiriakis empire from Uncle Vic and do battle with a new generation of DiMeras or maybe Sonny, Will and T could roll the Brady pub into a burgeoning Salem nightspot conglomerate. Whatever. But I would like them to do it together and not fall into the old, old soap opera trope that finds only old people happy together.

When Will and Sonny began seeing each other, Sonny’s mother, Adrienne, sort of “poked the bear” in the guise of Will’s father, Lucas, telling him that the way the world was changing, who knows, they could end up as in-laws. Evidently, a lot has happened since then because Salem, according to Sonny’s proposal, is now in an Equality State. That made me laugh, I have to admit, but it’s also another gold star in DAYS’s column. Historically, soaps have been far, far behind the curve of social change — let us not forget that the very first same-sex male kiss in daytime was Luke and Noah on As The World Turns in 2007!! — so it’s nice to see a daytime serial in touch with the zeitgeist.

Read all about the episode in the fantastic (as always) blow-by-blow liveblog courtesy of “snicks” on The Backlot: Liveblogging “Days Of Our Lives” A Decent Proposal – thebacklot.com.

tumblr_mzggny6wVY1tpbsilo1_500

Three episodes in and Guy Wilson has already been proposed to! Must be something in the water in Salem — and I don’t mean Nick Fallon!

The New Guy
I’m kinda tired of the nonsense in the comments on articles about Guy Wilson and whether or not he’s going to be as effective in assaying the character of Will Horton as two-time Emmy winner Chandler Massey.

Soap fans can be just downright nasty sometimes, forgetting that recasting is a part of life for a continuing drama. It was assumed, once upon a time, that nearly every role would be recast at some point. When there were two dozen soaps on the networks, it was always an interesting day when the announcer would say, “The role of Nola Reardon will be played today by….” It was like having a substitute teacher. The actor could be sick, but the story never stopped.

And pre-Internet spoilers when you didn’t know everything in advance, “The role of Nola Reardon will be played today by” was how you knew that it was a temporary recast. But when Dan Region intoned, “The role of Tom Hughes will now be played by”  that meant a new contract player.

What I’m saying is, suck it up, folks. Recasts happen. Guy might be the best thing that’s ever happened to this character. You don’t know. Or, he could just suck. You don’t know that either. Just give him a chance to settle into the role. Ultimately, the character is more important than the actor in the broad scheme of continuing drama.

You should just be happy that DAYS decided that the character and the couple were important enough to the landscape to invest in a new actor.

Saying Goodbye to the First WilSon Incarnation with a Bit of Snark

(Jan. 7, 2014) — Chandler Massey walked along a fake riverbank with Freddie Smith a few months ago and then was “handed his cards,” as they used to say in vaudeville, before being shown the door at the venerable NBC soap Days of our Lives.

w-and-s-dool

Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith, right) will have to start rubbing noses with a different Will Horton when Guy Wilson takes over the plum role from Chandler Massey (left).

Tomorrow, the angsty blonde half of DAYS’ preeminent (and only) same-sex couple will come back from their journey to that fake riverbank looking a bit different than when he left. That’s because Guy Wilson debuts in the role that won Massey two consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards: Will Horton.

It could be a painful transition, except that, thanks to The Backlot’s pop culture maven, known only as “snicks,” we have “Will & Sonny: A Love Story in Pictures, Part Two” to bring Wilson up to speed on WilSon. Make sure to click on Part I and Will’s California Adventure, too.

This is just about the best way to watch, I think!

All My Children Gets the Axe Again

It’s not every television series that can boast (?) of being cancelled more than once, but that’s the case with the once-perennial fixture of early afternoon viewing, All My Children. While there hasn’t been “official” official word from the show’s producers Prospect Park (at least publicly as of this writing), tweets from star Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard) expressing thanks to fans have been widely circulated and quoted by generally reliable sources such as Michael Fairman On Air On Soaps and retweeted by Cady McClain (Dixie Martin).

(Update: Cady McClain [always a class act, BTW] confirms via Michael Fairman.)

The cast of the "new" All My Children included many familiar faces, including original cast member Ray MacDonnell and longtime co-stars Cady McClain, Jill Larson, David Canary, Julia Barr and others. Image: Ferencomm/The Online Network.

The cast of the “new” All My Children included many familiar faces, including original cast member Ray MacDonnell and longtime co-stars Cady McClain, Jill Larson, David Canary, Julia Barr and others. Image: Ferencomm/The Online Network.

There’s going to be a lot of snarky fan reaction on the Innerwebs in the coming days and weeks along the lines of:

  • I knew it wouldn’t last.
  • Why couldn’t it have been every day?
  • I didn’t want to watch on Hulu.
  • I couldn’t figure out how to get it on my computer, so I gave up.
  • They didn’t have Erica Kane.

And here’s what I have to say about that, quoting that wonderful singer-songwriter Phoebe Kreutzboo frickin’ hoo.

Honest to God. I’m just happy to see someone try to do something differently. I was appreciative of the opportunity, as a viewer, to meet these characters on this new canvas for a while. To have produced 43 episodes in this new format is not a loss, it’s a win. Producers are finding more and more ways to interact with audiences through the Web than they ever have before:

  • Cady McClain made a cool short movie;
  • Freddie Smith, Shawn Christian (DOOL) and company are making a web series;
  • Indie phenom Adam Goldman is producing his second brilliant web series;
  • Broadway’s Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead produce, script and star in a smart web comedy
  • Kit Williamson and Van Hansis (ATWT) starred in Williamson’s exceptional web program….

I could go on and on. But to the naysayers, just remember, small, closed minds have never discovered new worlds, written great novels, played great music, developed cures for disease or launched the next life-changing app. They laughed at Edison, too, you know.

Pine Valley
It was terrific to see folks like Cady McClain and Debbie Morgan and Darnell Williams and Jill Larson in old familiar roles — even the never-count-him-amongst-the-dead Matthew Cowles — but it was even better to watch some terrific new talent like Eric Nelsen and Denise Tontz and Rob Scott Wilson emerge and breath new life into characters whose names, but not much else, were familiar to longtime viewers.

So, again, we write the elegy — and eulogy — for Pine Valley, but we move on, figuring out what’s next and where we’ll be tomorrow and what we’ll tune into then. Something new. And different. The world still turns. Well, as it were.

______________________________________________________________________

Recent Ramblings on All My Children:

From Male-on-Male Rape to Lunatics in Flooded Pubs: Why U.K. Soaps Leave the U.S. in the Dust

John Paul McQueen is about to be raped. That’s the bad news. The good news is that John Paul McQueen is a fictional person and no such real horror will be visited upon the actor who assays the character, James Sutton. But, the fact that he’s about to be raped by another man on television and that the aftereffects will be played out in a long-running storyline, well, that’s something we don’t see everyday. In the United States, that is.

soaps-hollyoaks-john-paul-mcqueen-at-work

Schoolteacher John Paul McQueen (James Sutton) on the U.K. soap Hollyoaks. The deep repercussions of the rape of the popular character will be felt for sometime throughout the fictional Chester village. |Image: Lime Pictures.

Soaps in the U.K. have been significantly more LGBT-inclusive than those in the U.S. I’ve written about a few of my favorites before and John Paul, specifically, here.

James Sutton portrayed John Paul during two stints (2006-8 and 2012-present) which have seen him transition from gay teen to father, schoolteacher and generally upstanding member of the community. The show has never shirked away from hard-hitting explorations of important issues, but one of their boldest may be the upcoming rape of John Paul by one of his students.

As one of the counselors that have been integral to story development notes, this is not about straight men and gay men; it’s about power. I’ve always been one to praise continuing dramas on this side of the pond for tackling big issues, but we’ve never been bold enough to go this far. And that’s a pity.

Here’s a terrific piece about the storyline.

Killer Cameron – The Dales’ Crazed Guy Next Door

At this year’s Inside Soap Awards in London, Dominic Power walked away with the statue for “Best Villain.” I’m not sure there was ever any competition.

I’ve been watching continuing dramas for a long, long time and I am pretty certain that I’ve never seen a portrayal as chilling as Power’s of guy-gone-unhinged Cameron Murray in the exceptional ITV soap Emmerdale.

dominic_power_large

Dominic Power as Cameron Murray, Debbie Dingle’s seemingly mild mannered mechanic/truck driver boyfriend from Jersey who turned the Yorkshire village of Emmerdale on its head.

And I think that the fact that he didn’t look like a serial killer — none of the classic tropes showed up — that audiences were stunned a year ago when he killed village baddie Carl King (and let then-girlfriend Chas take the rap). Surely his comeuppance would be quick and justice swift. Not so. He killed hapless farmer Alex Moss and, just when it looked like he was going to be exposed by Chas’ half-sister, Genny Walker, he offed Genny as well.

soaps-emmerdale-6685-6

During the Woolpack seige in October 2013, the hashtag #KillerCameron was trending worldwide, so popular was this storyline featuring Dominic Power as unhinged serial killer Cameron Murray. |Image: ITV

Eventually he got sent down, but escaped from a prison van and armed with old Zac Dingle’s shotgun, took a dozen people hostage in the village pub, the Woolpack, during a near-Biblical flood.

This was gripping, nail-biting television, folks. Part action movie, part horror movie, part exceptional drama, there wasn’t a second of this story that wasn’t among the best of the best of dramatic television broadcasting.

1486976045_2750688343001_emmerdale-flood

Cameron Murray (Dominic Power) and Debbie Dingle (Charley Webb) in the flooded Woolpack basement just before she gets away and he inadvertently offs himself at the end of the epic “seige week” on the ITV powerhouse Emmerdale. |Image: ITV

And when Cameron finally met his ignominious end — by electrocuting himself with a live light fixture in the flooded pub basement — you realized that nearly every storyline on the canvas was cinched together and drawn taught. A breathtaking thing. Even more breathtaking, I think, than building a replica of the Woolpack basement at the underwater stage at Pinewood Studios and filming the scenes like a major motion picture.

Give ITV props: they don’t skimp on production values. And it shows.

Dominic Power on the end of the Cameron Murray Era

Said Tony Stewart in the Daily Mirror after the Inside Soap Awards:

But the Yorkshire soap should have had more gongs. For their part in the Best Storyline of Cameron’s killer cover-up, either Charley Webb (Debbie Dingle) or Lucy Pargeter (Chas Spencer) should have walked away with the Best Actress accolade, even if Jacqueline Jossa as Lauren Branning has been one of the saving graces of the blighted EastEnders.

Both Charley and Lucy have been consistently magnificent as the lovers of serial killer Cameron Murray – with Dominic Power rightly celebrated as the Best Bad Boy, if only for his body count of three. Or four if we count his own electrocution in a cellar full of water last week. What a way to go!

Stewart did note that Emmerdale did win Best Soap. Like Murray, was there ever reason to doubt?

Now, if we can ever get some real gutsy storylines for Will and Sonny. After all, shouldn’t we be dealing with the effects of Nick Fallon’s prison rape by now? Days of our Lives’ writers might want to tune into Hollyoaks to get some story ideas. Just sayin.’

Langford on Soaps: Best Gay TV Characters

Langford on Soaps: Has “My Husband’s Lover” Jumped the Shark? – thebacklot.com, Page 6.

Scroll down the linked page about halfway to get to Anthony’s top ten list. Sometimes when I read his opinions of soaps, it’s like we’re watching two entirely different shows. A wide divergence of opinion — it’s what civilized discourse is all about, Congress. This time out, however, it’s something else entirely.

Eric Sheffer Stevens (l) joined As The World Turns in its last year on the air as Dr. Reid Oliver. His pairing with Van Hansis' Luke divided audiences between those who wanted to see the electric pairing of Stevens and Hansis and those wanting a happy ending for Luke and his former love, Noah, played by Jake Silbermann. Reid Oliver's death was central to the plot of the show's finale, though it did not satisfy many viewers.

Eric Sheffer Stevens (l) joined As The World Turns in its last year on the air as Dr. Reid Oliver. His pairing with Van Hansis’ Luke divided audiences between those who wanted to see the electric pairing of Stevens and Hansis and those wanting a happy ending for Luke and his former love, Noah, played by Jake Silbermann. Reid Oliver’s death was central to the plot of the show’s finale, though it did not satisfy many viewers.

I like his list. I think I would have replaced #s 10, 9, and 5, but other than that, I think he’s onto something.

Like Anthony, I think Reid Oliver and Brendan Brady were, in many ways, some of the most important gay representations we’ve had on television. And, I, too, have a soft spot for John Paul McQueen, Aaron Livesy and Luke Snyder!

The 50 Greatest Gay TV Characters

The 50 Greatest Gay TV Characters.

Courtesy of The Backlot. I did participate in this poll and I’m pleased to see that a few of my recommendations made it in.

I’m particularly pleased about the page linked above, featuring #s 9, 8 and 7 — the delicious fantasy soap opera trio of Sonny Kiriakis, Will Horton and Luke Snyder! Just think about it for a minute!

freddie-smith-dool

Freddie Smith as Sonny Kiriakis

van-hansis-luke

Van Hansis as Luke Snyder

chandler-massey

Chandler Massey as Will Horton

I also appreciated the inclusion of Justin Bartha’s David Sawyer (The New Normal) at #35, the exceptional Luke McFarlane as the equally exceptional Scotty Wandell (Brothers and Sisters) and two of my favorites from across the pond: #23 Kieron Richardson’s Ste Hay and #12 Emmett J. Scanlan’s Brendan Brady from the UK sudser Hollyoaks.

With few exceptions — #s 1 and 2 while deserving of inclusion, don’t deserve the top spots — I think this is a great list. At least there’s SOME representation out there. We can always use more, but at least it’s not the desert it was in the olden days!

Liveblogging “Days Of Our Lives:” Home Sweet Hell

Liveblogging “Days Of Our Lives:” Home Sweet Hell – thebacklot.com.

Are ya reading the liveblogs of Days on The Backlot? You should be. It’s terrifically snarky and actually way better than watching the whole damn episode. And, I mean, really, we’re all only over there for Will and Sonny anyway, so… Anyhow, highly recommended, though you get less of that adorable Freddie Smith this way.

tumblr_mdtf8eB4sG1risl97o1_500

The aforementioned adorable Freddie Smith, who portrays good guy gay Sonny Kiriakis on Days of our Lives. Smith was nominated for a Daytime Emmy earlier this year.