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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
Happy New Year. Looking back at 2014, I have come to the conclusion that, while I try to write about a broad array of topics, it is obvious that people come here to read about three subject areas:
A web-based soap opera about gay people, well, that’s the trifecta, ladies and gentlemen! (Keep reading!)
So, what have I learned? I learned that more people read this blog in 2014 than in years past and I learned that the busiest day on the blog was June 16 and the most popular post that day was Where the Beautiful People Go to High School, which is about a web-based soap with (not entirely, but strong) gay themes. It was also the year’s most-shared piece. More than 2,000 readers shared it on their Facebook pages.
Visitors came from 112 countries, including 5 people from Qatar, 1 from Armenia, 1 from Mongolia and 54 from the Russian Federation. To be fair, the vast majority of readers are from the U.S. and Canada, but the international reach is quite astonishing, especially since I did nothing to cultivate it. The Worldwide Web is not named hyperbolically!
So, with that long, drawn-out introduction, here is this year’s Top Ten list of most-popular posts.
It got a second wind this year; I don’t know why. Prom season, maybe.
I did some quick digging and couldn’t find any updates on these prom cuties. Perhaps, like so many others, they went off to college and discovered new cuties to hook up with. If you know something about them, though, let me know.
Over the last year there’s been a lot of yammering about Days letting Chandler go and recasting the role, but mostly I believe it’s just the Interwebs’ usual stuff and nonsense. If you know the show, though, these are hilarious.
8. Why I’m Supporting EastSiders — And Why You Should, Too A screed. A smack in the face. A wake up call. Maybe a primer on how crowd funding and word-of-mouth actually work. This was written at a time when it seemed that, by traditional metrics, the Kickstarter campaign for the second season of Kit Williamson’s bravura web series may not make it to its goal. I figured that I needed to do something. So I yelled a little! Like I do.
Did it help? Doubtful, but they did make their nut and Season 2 is coming soon! So many people have said that this series is so good that it should be on TV. And even though Kit recut the series as a feature length movie that aired on Logo, you won’t find anything this good on television. Nothing this good ever makes it to television. I mean, they don’t call it the ‘boob toob’ for nothing!
I did one other post about the show during the second season but what I didn’t expect to have happen was quickly to turn into an unabashed fan of Kieran Turner’s series about a band of romantically challenged souls.
Recently, I had the opportunity to watch the series in one binge and it may be even better the third or fourth time around. It’s a delight. Nuanced. Crisply written. Witty and smart in all the right places. Warm. And in the final episode? Still surprising. Full of grace notes, this.
Watch it, if you haven’t already. This is my nominee for “Best New Thing I Found on the Web in 2014.”
6. Kit and Van and Cal and Thom and … Cassandra? This one ties for my vote in the category of the best thing I wrote in 2014. You may not think so, nor may the judges from the American Academy of Specialty Bloggers*, but I think its good and it’s an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I opened up a little and told a bit of my story, old and creaky though it may be.
Kit and Van are smart and creative and are both on my shortlist of people I would pay to watch read the phone book. It hurts not at all that they are also drop-dead handsome. I love their sensibilities, I suppose. Ones to watch.
This hit quite soon after the role of Will Horton was assumed by Guy Wilson and a lot of people were saying nasty things about Guy on social media. Sometimes I wish people would keep their yaps shut. So, I slapped at them a bit and ended up getting a number of positive comments including nice note — maybe it was a tweet? — from Guy. I still think it was a good recast. So there.
3. Where the Beautiful People Go to High School Gay. Web. Soap: my blogging sweet spot! HA! A quick little review of the web series Youthful Daze. Proving that you never know what will hit and why, this is the most-shared post on this blog and it was shared more than 1,000 times in the first 12 hours it was up. It’s over double that number now.
It’s a very good series. I was more impressed than I thought I would be, to be honest with you. Bryan James has created a real soap in the best traditions of serials with a lot of, as I put it in the original piece, angsty teens and improbable dramas. I’m glad these types of shows exist and continue to thrive on the web. It makes me think there is a higher purpose to it all than merely showcasing silly photos of cats.
2. I Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game, and Celebrating the Zeitgeist This piece hit big after the April telecast of the wedding of Sonny Kiriakis and Will Horton on DOOL. It was an outstanding week of programming and it was the first time in my soap-watching memory (and that’s a LOOOONG time) that I can recall a multi-year story arc tied up so well. It really was this genre at its finest and it didn’t hurt that everyone surrounding the two outstanding actors at the center of the action was a veteran soap performer.
In the months since the wedding, I haven’t felt as enamored of the writing. It’s seemed inconsistent and sometimes downright head-scratching. Still, there was a part of that first arc that so enraged me that I nearly stopped watching, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but I do wish the writers were more artful in their plotting.
This is the piece that ties with No. 6 for best thing I think I wrote this year.
It’s a quick cut about a gay teen storyline on the Finnish sudser Salatut Elämät. Thanks to the uploader and captioner who goes by the handle missfinlandia88, I still watch these clips from time to time on YouTube. It’s not the greatest soap I’ve ever watched — sometimes it’s downright groan-worthy — but other times it’s pretty good and I enjoy the two leads. Also, I appreciate the fact that while the stories are sometimes a little far-fetched, at least the Europeans have moved past the U.S. in their inclusion of LGBT characters into their stories.
Anyhow, if you’re still reading, that’s the list. Thanks for reading these for the past year. Thanks for your comments and your “likes” and shares, which tend to be the only way one knows that you are connecting with the world. And thanks for continuing to check in. I started this blog a couple of years ago as a way to talk about things I wanted to talk about. I didn’t expect anyone would care. I was pleased — and shocked — to find an audience and am excited that it continues to grow.
I’ll be honest with you: I used to hate weddings. Now, because I can have one of my own, I guess, I’ve come to embrace them — real or pretend. For example, I’ve done a lot of television watching and crying for the last week as Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis got married on the daytime drama Days of our Lives.
This is NOT normal behavior. Certainly not from this curmudgeon!
But I can’t help it.
A veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of Days of our Lives’ royalty flank Sonny (Freddie Smith) and Will (Guy Wilson) at their wedding. On the far left: Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) and Justin and Adrienne Kiriakis (Wally Kurth and Judi Evans). On the right: Sami Brady (Alison Sweeney), Lucas Horton (Bryan Dattilo) and Kate Roberts (Lauren Koslow).
And it’s a perfect example of why I’ve always been a fan of the genre of serial storytelling. It’s not because of any giant spectacle or sweeps month ratings grab: it’s because these important stories, told slowly over time can fundamentally alter behavior, lead public perception and change people’s lives.
I came out as a soap opera lover as a teen — years before I came out as gay — and I even studied soaps in college! Often, it’s been a maddening relationship. While soaps have sometimes been on the cutting edge telling some sociologically important stories, in others they have been unbearably slow in embracing a changing society.
Some Gay Soap History Let’s take LGBT issues, for instance. In the seven years — yes, only seven — since the first gay male kiss on daytime, we’ve come to the first same-sex wedding*. That’s an impressively short amount of time, especially given how late Days came to the party by introducing Sonny Kiriakis in 2011 as an openly gay man and developing the long, sometimes painfully slow arc of Will Horton coming to terms with his own sexuality and falling for Sonny.
No, I won’t fault Days for finally coming to the table around the desert course, because they seized the zeitgeist by the horns, stopped the music and reset the conventions of the genre and committed to telling a contemporary love story in modern terms using today’s social norms and not relying on unfounded paralytic fears of an older, less wiser, generation. When so many people were predicting the end of soaps, Ken Corday did the right thing in trying to save his: he decided to shift the focus to contemporary values, begin to compress the time it took to tell stories in serial drama and let the naysayers be damned.
It’s the only way you make change happen. It’s the only way you become relevant.
No one should wonder — at all — why Days of our Lives won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama last year.
Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson portray Sonny Kiriakis and Will Horton, daytime’s happiest gay supercouple. Would that we all looked this good in our own wedding pictures!
Why We Love Them
Nick Fallon, nefarious ‘smarmy’ evildoer — assayed brilliantly by Blake Berris — tried, in the days leading up to the wedding, to undermine Will’s confidence, something that was pretty easy to do in the past. He said that the reason that people in Salem were captivated by Will and Sonny was that it was a good old-fashioned romance where the worldly guy (Sonny) came back home and fell in love with the golly-gee wholesomeness of the hometown “total newbie” (Will). And, do you know what? He was right.
That’s why we love this story. It IS a good old-fashioned romance. We love this story for the same reasons that people have been crying at the end of romantic movies, plays and television shows since those media were invented: humans fall in love with love and we love nothing more than watching people fall in love. Oh, and we love happy endings.
When Sonny begins to come up the aisle, on the arm of his mother, there’s a moment when you think he may bolt and run up to Will. His is a character that knows his own mind and he knows what he wants and he has always known that he wanted Will more than anyone or anything else.
When Will sees Sonny coming up the aisle, realizing that he’s there for him, it almost takes his breath away. Forever questioning, forever wondering about his self-worth, forever feeling inferior, you realize at this moment that Will gets all of his strength from Sonny. Sonny has infused him with power, allowed him to be himself, allowed him to grow up and become his own man.
When Will says at the end of his vows, “But most of all, Sonny, I love you,” everyone knows how full of truth and how redolent with meaning that short sentence is.
Wilson and Smith’s off-screen friendship and chemistry along with their respect for Will and Sonny’s relationship infuses and elevates their on-screen portrayals.| Image: @THEguywilson
Telling the Tale
The writing of the wedding arc has been as superlative as it gets throughout — careful and nuanced — and, in the very best traditions of serials, reaching deep into the story for anchors to bring everything together. Tad references getting told off by Victor Kiriakis in his best man speech; that’s from the summer of 2011, when Sonny came to town. Victor’s own arc from telling Tad “no one talks to a Kiriakis like that” to showing a bigoted associate the door with a “Family values, my ass!” has shown masterful continuity.
And more than that, the short scene in the park on the way to the wedding with Will and T seems like a throwaway, but, without saying it aloud, what Will is remembering is exactly where Sonny kissed him for the first time — an occurrence that began after Tad disowns Will. Then comes Sonny’s kiss, which Will is not ready for, leading Will to sleep with Gabi, T punching out Sonny, Gabi getting pregnant and setting the whole plot in motion.
In other words, they played the long game. Soaps NEVER play the long game. It’s so astonishing, I can’t even think of a time when a story was so well plotted and so well written in a multi-year arc. I was infuriated — just infuriated — when Gabi got pregnant by Will because it seemed an easy way to bust up Will and Sonny’s nascent relationship with every tiresome, hackneyed, eye-rolling, old-fashioned soap opera cliche in the book. Why? Because soaps NEVER play the long game. But here? Son of a bitch, if they haven’t neatly tied up every loose end.
As such, OF COURSE a reformed T is the best man, standing up for them proudly. OF COURSE Lucas has become one of Will and Sonny’s biggest champions. OF COURSE Marlena is the one to marry them, her long arc with Will’s struggles comprising some of the most special scenes over the last several years. OF COURSE EJ DiMera saves the day for a Kiriakis wedding. OF COURSE Sami, however inadvertently, throws a spanner into the gearbox. OF COURSE Justin and Adrienne are the most supportive parents in the world. OF COURSE there’s no “DAYSaster” event [Sami’s wedding is coming!] because it would ruin everything that’s absolutely, positively right about this story.
What I think elevates it further is the power of the central performers. Guy Wilson, while a seasoned actor, had only been playing this role for a very short amount of time before these scenes were shot and his roughly four months of screen time — including many days where this story has not been shown — is an awfully compressed interval for someone to claim a character, stamp it as their own and make the audience believe in your characterization — especially an important character previously played by a popular actor.
I’ve watched Guy’s performances closely since he began and he started to charm me early on. He’s a subtle performer who commits readily to the material. His innate intelligence and commitment to the role and the story show through in his performances. As Will is now an older and maturing adult, some of Guy’s choices are bolder than his predecessor, but he plays true to the character brief. The character continues to grow.
Freddie Smith as Salem’s ‘white knight.’ Sonny generally keeps true, but we all know he has an edge. His last name is Kiriakis, after all.
On the other hand, he plays most of his scenes opposite Freddie Smith, the young man who created Sonny Kiriakis and who is, for my money, one of the finest young actors on the air, so Guy has had to hit a pretty high bar every time he’s up. (You’ll note that I did not say “on daytime.” That’s because I believe that differentiating between actors on daytime and primetime — or now online — is a meaningless and often demeaning construct.)
Freddie is such an easy performer — smooth, solid, layered, confident — everything that Sonny needs to be. He always matches the show’s veterans note for note and lifts up the entire scene, not merely playing his own sides to showcase himself. It is the hallmark of understanding of what it means to be an ensemble player. And it’s damn rare, in this day and age, to find that understanding and ability in someone so young.
New Order Built on the Past
The thing about serials is that, for an audience to buy into them over the long-term, they need to develop relationships with certain characters and certain families. That multi-generational feeling was very much in evidence in Sonny and Will’s wedding and the powerful turns by veterans Deidre Hall, Wally Kurth and Bryan Dattilo [who made me weep like a baby, damn him!] and a lengthy knock-out of a monologue masterfully delivered by the peerless 86-year-old Peggy McCay, served to cement the couple firmly into the bedrock of this show.
I received a tweet awhile back in which the writer called Will and Sonny the modern day Tom and Alice. It was the perfect response. Perfect.
Frances Reid and Macdonald Carey as Tom and Alice Horton, the original central “tent pole” characters of the long running NBC drama Days of our Lives.
If Days of our Lives is to have a promising and relevant future, its anchors must be placed in characters that both mirror modern life and reflect back on the long history of the show. For decades, Tom and Alice Horton were that center. Plenty of things happened to them, plenty of drama swirled around them, but Tom and Alice as a unit did not waver. Looking back, it’s hard not to think of one without the other. As the show nears the half-century mark, it seems to me that the next generation’s standard bearers of a rare solid soap opera relationship should be Tom and Alice’s great-grandson and the man that he loves.
It is the perfect way to honor the rich history of the program, to honor the genre and to show that the deep, deep roots of serial storytelling have a place in the modern world to tell today’s stories and tackle today’s issues.
In five years, I would love to see Will and Sonny raising their child — or maybe even more than one child by then — and interacting in fundamental ways with the other denizens of Salem while creating a loving and stable home at the center. It would be a powerful statement, one that Days seems to be on the cusp of making. It is certainly one that I would relish.
For the nonce, though, I’m just happy that this story has come into my living room (and smart phone and laptop) and that I was able to share in it. It was simply magnificent.
*Okay, okay, okay, fine! TECHNICALLY this is not the first same-sex wedding. Bianca and Reese on All My Children in 2009 were the first, but that’s a storyline fraught with controversy, not to mention poor plotting and lack of integration into the canvas. Also, their marriage would not have been legal where they lived, because Pennsylvania, where fictional Pine Valley is located, was not — and still is not — an equality state. Days has made Salem’s locale into an equality state in the plot — by fiat — and this is the first daytime TV same sex marriage in the post-DOMA era.
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.
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??
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).
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 Kreutz — boo 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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!
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 as Sonny Kiriakis
Van Hansis as Luke Snyder
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!
Like soap operas, the newspaper industry has been slow to innovate and adapt to the digital age. Instead of embracing new ways to tell stories, and new platforms to tell them on, soap operas — like newspapers — resisted. That is, until now. This week Bloomberg TV interviewed veteran soap actress Deidre Hall and co-executive producer Greg Meng from the daytime serial Days of Our Lives, which has seen a four percent resurgence in ratings since the show revamped itself in 2011 (and it’s not even the most popular afternoon soap on air). The Bloomberg segment reveals several interesting points that I believe are applicable to the news industry in its report, ”You thought soap operas were dead…. They’re Not.” The same holds true for newspapers.
A good piece. The Bloomberg segment (linked in the cut above) is good, but it would have been better if the empty-headed anchors knew a scintilla about what they were talking about. Well, not like we’ve never seen THAT before!