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Plan B-ET: How Black Entertainment Television could save the soaps.

I haven’t watched BET as much in my life as I do right now.  Although I admittedly don’t watch most of the new shows, I do watch “The Game” and I appreciate how it has slid into more of a dramatic serial than a situation comedy.

I also happen to watch Degrassi on TeenNick.  What can I say?  Not only am I loyal to the Degrassi brand, I love my over-the-top-yet-somehow-realistic serialized programs.

Which is what “The Game” on BET is to me.

I recently read on Shadow and Act or some similar site that BET’s original programs average in the low millions of viewers.  That’s a lot of people watching the same thing.  We’ve seen how social media helped bring “The Game” back and create a loyal audience for Reed Between the Lines and the other new BET shows.

I know that network daytime dramas are expensive to produce.  I am sure Eric Braeden earns more in a week of work than I earn for six months at my nonprofit. But maybe, just maybe, with some tooling around, a daytime soap could work on BET.

I think the day will come that Y&R will get cancelled from CBS.  I think that will happen in the next five years.  I hope not, but I am looking at the genre die slowly before my eyes.  Days of Our Lives will probably go sooner, but I doubt Days could transition to an “ethnic” network – it has never had the loyal African American viewership that Y&R does.

So here is how I would transition Y&R:

First, before you leave CBS, you begin trimming down the cast.  Many of them are lovely actors who would be great anywhere, but let’s be honest here.  The Fisher-Baldwins don’t resonate with black folks like the core families do.  I wish they did.  But they don’t.  We talk about the Newmans, the Abbotts, and the Chancellors.

So trim down the cast.

Next, rethink the 52-week season.  Why on earth do we have an expectation that we will get a new episode of a soap opera every single workday?  That is CRAZY.  And that is expensive.  So stop it.

When you transition to BET, aim for a 30-36 week season – either two 15 week blocks (like semesters) or four sets of nine-week blocks throughout the year.  Wanna know why?  Because we are fine with repeats.  Let the actors do other projects.

And you know what?  I don’t need an hour.  I can live with half an hour.

Air the show twice – once in the day and once at night.  Seems to me that would save some money somehow.  Sure, you’re paying for a scripted show, but you’re airing it twice a day.

The major part of a move to BET, not just the built-in black audience, but the opportunity to bring on another black family just to even up the score a bit.

How come I still don’t know Neil’s parents?  How come Sofia doesn’t have aunts or uncles?  Where the hell is Mamie?  And how about Leslie Michaelson?  Let’s not forget that she earned a third of that 1.5 billion dollar lawsuit that Victor lost.  That’s right, your girl Leslie is a freakin millionaire.  And the DA.  And Sarge and Harmony.

Come on.  This is a good fit for BET if they play their cards right and if Y&R doesn’t get it together.

What do you think?

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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Rashid's Take

 

Pissed off….

Hey folks,

I haven’t written in a long while…and really haven’t felt compelled to by the storylines.  The one that’s gotten my attention (and not in a good way) is the Kevin-Angelina storyline.  It’s really irking me.  The logical gaps in the story are astounding, and more than anything, it just makes me feel uncomfortable.  I really wanted the Kevin-Chloe relationship to work (and I’m sure it still will), but there is nothing redeeming about Angelina.  She has what is called in wrestling “go away heat,”  where you don’t like her, not because she’s a bad guy who’s intriguing, but rather just annoying and a cartoon character.

Here’s a list-y breakdown of my issues with it:

  1. Angelo goes from comic relief to Don?  Yeah, I can’t understand how this one note character goes from bit part to getting more screen time than Lauren Fenmore and other characters I’d like to see more of.  Further, when he was first there, he was the least intimidating gangster in history.  He’ll always be the guy with the ulcer in Dumb and Dumber to me.  Now all of the sudden he’s murking cats?  GTFOH
  2. Kevin suddenly becomes a punk?  Kevin’s a little cray, a little creepy, and generally a good guy….but Kev’s never been a punk.  How in the bluest of hells does this guy who stood up to comic relief Angelo let himself get manipulated by Angelo now?  Especially when he’s done books for him…especially when he has info on Angelo’s secret island…especially when the powerful Victor Newman owes him a favor….especially when he knows what Angelo did to Jeffrey?  Kev could blow Angelo up in 50 different ways, but first he does this bodyguard crap, then he runs off, then he marries Angelina, then he apparently lets Angelo intimidate him into staying in the marriage.  It’s not true to character at all.
  3. Bullying: I’m not a big fan of this whole Angelo’s a big shot and gets what he wants…and so does Angelina.  Angelo is a joke to the power structure of GC, yet he’s running roughshod over the son and grandson of billionaires, and the brother of the consigliere to the most powerful man in the town.  Shut this cat down.
  4. What Angie wants, Angie gets!  I know it happens, but it’s still irksome to see a talentless hack bogard her way into whatever she wants, including a committed relationship where the guy isn’t interested in her.

The sooner this storyline is over, the better.

A few other random thoughts:

  • Yeah…..I’m kind of over “Harmony” talking like a runaway slave and using slang from 10 years ago.  It’s like that parent who’s trying to be hip and can’t quite get it.  You know the type….the guy who’s still raising the roof or “Getting Jiggy with it”
  • I feel kind of bad that Deacon Sharpe is the only person in jail over Diane’s murder.  Y & R apparently hates blue collar folks.  There could really be a place for him as sort of the conscience of the show.  He was absolutely right a few weeks ago when he pointed out the hypocrisy of all these dysfunctional folks.
  • Can Jack catch a break?  Ever?  The last slimy thing dude did was the Victor diary thing and throwing Adam under the bus for that.  But he’s generally a good guy.  I root for him.
  • Adam is another cat I want to root for.  His family has treated him like pure-d garbage since he arrived in town.  Can we finally get the Adam redemption/Newman family reconciliation storyline?   I’ve long advocated bringing back a common enemy to unite Nick and Adam like Cameron Kirsten.
  • I really liked Nick and Avery together.  I really like Avery.  Naked.
  • Am I crazy or did they not explain why Ronan left?  Further, why show that clip of him in the hospital bed doing a crossword puzzle with an evil grin while saying suckers and not follow up on it?

That’s it for now folks!  Take care.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Episode Commentary, Gumbo

 

Devon Have I Been

Actor Bryton James has been speaking to my heart over the past few days in his role as Devon Hamilton on The Young and the Restless.  When it was first discovered that he was Tucker’s son, I wanted to write a piece on it, but I am glad that I waited.

Paternity (and in some cases, maternity) is a staple of daytime drama.  It can be argued that “Who’s the daddy” storylines on soaps are the reason that DNA tests are so popular on Maury to this day.  So while we may groan at the Malcolm-Sofia-Neil paternity quagmire, we secret want and need such drama in our shows.

On the other hand, Y&R has those characters who are on a constant quest of self-discovery.  I was sympathetic with Jill when she discovered that she was really a Fenmore and Jill wouldn’t acknowledge her.  All Jill ever really needed was to be loved and to know that she was loved.  Isn’t that what we all want in some way?  But when Lauren initially rejected Jill, it stung for me because of my own “other family.”

I was born out of wedlock and raised by s single mother.  My father was never there for me.  This lack of interest in my life was reaffirmed when I reached out to him as a young adult and he told me to stop attempting to contact him and “his” family.

Father of the year, right?  At least Victor Newman claimed his own…

Years after that, I discovered that my blood brother had become a member of the same fraternity as me.  Although I reached out and we made a connection in 2007, we have yet to meet face to face.

He lives in the next county over from me.

I’m not sure how much space and time I need to give my “other” family before they accept me, but I’m resigned to the fact that it may be the 32nd of Neveruary before that happens.

I’m happy for Jill.

If Jill represents the sometimes fragile and delicate side of me which can easily wilt at the thought of rejection, Devon represents the tough, “strong black man” archetype which every black man is or aspires to be at some point.  He is a protective brother, loyal son, and good friend.  His background isn’t identical to mine (though he was emotionally and physically abandoned by his father) but he still has that tough, “I can do it myself” outer shell.  He doesn’t “need” anyone, but he chooses to need Neil Winters.  He chooses to be vulnerable to Lily Winters.  He chooses to rely on Malcolm Winters.  This is his family – the one that he chose and the one that chose him.

Bryton James has been acting the hell out of this part.  So has Jeanne Cooper.

The range of emotions that each has displayed though these scenes has been phenomenal.  One can’t help but imagine what a wonderful reunion of grandmother and grandchild this could have been if Mrs. Chancellor had just gotten it together and done the right thing.

Rightfully so, Devon can’t forgive her just yet.  And he doesn’t even want to be a son to Tucker.  I’d be heated as well if the man who fired me turned out to be my father.

For those of us with these sorts of paternal issues, Devon Hamilton, expertly exemplified by Bryton James, has given a voice to those frustrations.  I will probably never be able to adequately write about the frustration and disappointment I feel because of my own father, much less will I be able to adequately explain how the absence as a father has impacted me, for the worse as well as for the better.

But if you want just a taste of how that feels, check out Bryton’s portrayal of Devon as this story unfolds.  I am digging it.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Rashid's Take

 

Naw, we good: Why Y&R Doesn’t Need Drucilla Winters

In 2006, after six months of employment with many accomplishments under my belt, I resigned from a good job.  I never received the proper level of support from my immediate supervisor and the working environment was fairly toxic.  The straw which broke the camel’s back was when he wouldn’t give me two days of leave to go out of town on a speaking engagement.

So I quit.  It was a good-paying job for somebody living with family, prior to the economic downturn.

Now, ask me would I quit a job in 2011?  Heck no.  (But I’ve been laid off from one.)

When I left that organization in 2006, they were fine without me for five more years until they ceased operating this past January.  Yes, they made decisions which I didn’t agree with, and neither did my friends who I left behind.  And when my replacement didn’t work out, I did put into the universe that I would return to work there if they doubled my salary.  Of course that didn’t happen.

They moved on.  I moved on.  We’ve both had ups and downs.  But one thing I didn’t do was openly and actively campaign for my job back.  I had quit.  It was over.

***

I read with interest the tweets of the actress who portrayed Drucilla Winters.  She is indeed a talented actress and I do miss her character from time to time.  And I agree that the way her character was written out was stupid at best.  A cliff?  Really?  And somehow Sharon’s ass living out shined Drucilla’s death!  Where they do that at?

I have also heard the actresses various radio and podcast tirades against the show’s production staff and certain actors.  Basically, although this is a woman who campaigns for her job back, this doesn’t sound like a woman who wants to have a job.

But my gripe is not with the actress and her campaign.  I will attempt to describe with this post why there is no need for Drucilla in Genoa City.

First, she’s dead.  I think we’ve had way too many resurrection stories on soap operas in general.  True, the body was never found.  But I think a more compelling story will be when they do find her body and have to bury her.  Neil, Lily, Devon, and Malcolm don’t seem to have truly healed from this and I think properly burying her would be a good way to exhibit their chops.

Second, Neil has moved on many times over.  When I think of Dru and Neil, I just don’t have the automatic “spark” in my head that I have when I think of Jesse and Angie from All My Children – and I rarely ever watched AMC!  Neil and Dru have practically been estranged for longer than they were together.  if she did come back, I wouldn’t want Neil with her.

Third (and this is not a good reason, but it is among the more valid ones) I never saw the mother-daughter chemistry between Lily and Drucilla like I should have.  I am not sure if that’s in the writing or the acting.  In fact, I may have said before in these very pages that I just plain don’t like the Lily character and wished for her death when she had cancer.  Isn’t that awful?  But I was so eager to sacrifice Lily so that Neil would have something – anything – to do or talk about.  If Drucilla came back, what would the implication be for Lily?  I just don’t see it.

The rest of my reasons are a hodge podge:

  • Leslie Michaelson is a baaaaaaaaad hush your mouth and we need to see more of HER.  (I say this not because we can’t have additional black actresses, but for financial reasons, use the ones you have!)
  • There’s still some life left in Sofia’s character – she’s one of the few that has a life outside of being a Winters and I love her more when she’s devious with Tucker McCall.
  • Yolanda/Harmony is about to make ALL A Y’ALL forget about Drucilla.
That’s it….I know the Drucilla stans are about to light my ass on fire…. bring it on!
 
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Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Rashid's Take

 

What’s the Big Deal About Nikki Newman?

Over on Days of Our Lives, they have brought back John and Marlena, Carrie and Austin, and Jack.  And they fired eight actors, ostensibly to make way for the new ones.

You could argue that Days of Our Lives is going through a renaissance – indeed, it’s the only soap that I watch which has even intentionally said to the fans “Yeah, we know it sucked, but we’re changing things and it’s time to come on home now.”  So even though they canned my beloved Vivian, and my favorite “Ghoul Girl” Chloe, I think I can ride out this storm with them because it seems to be for the health of the show.

Meanwhile, back in Genoa City, Nikki Newman has been off the canvas for quite a while.  As my mom would say when one of our relatives would go incommunicado, “She’s off on a speaking engagement.”  And frankly, I don’t miss her.  But more on that in a second.

What bothers me is the news from Daytime Confidential that four Y&R actors have been let go and Nikki is coming back.  Colin, Heather, Sam, and Malcolm are allegedly out of there!  (And word on the street is that Genevieve may soon be gone, too.)

Yes, Debbi Morgan is also coming to Y&R, so maybe it’s hasty to just say “That damn Melody Thomas Scott took our jerbs!”  But it definitely seems like a bunch of folks had to die so that Nikki could live.

And for what?

Nikki’s most intriguing storylines have been pretty much anything she did which wasn’t with Victor.  And I’m sorry, but Victor is about as relevant as Olivia post G-Unit.  But because they (the writers, the producers, whoever) insist on trying to make Victor and Nikki work, we get stuck with her getting abused emotionally by this gorilla of an executive and sorry excuse for a father.  She’s just not interesting!  I don’t get it.

Let’s just let this character go.  Seriously.  Nikki and Victor need to ride off into the sunset and let this thing end on a high note.  There is no more story left in Nikki.  And since Victor never seems to get an adequate comeuppance, let him go, too.

It’s time for a renaissance in Genoa City.  And here’s how I would do it:

Bring super-couples back full force.  Let Billy and Victoria be the anchors of the show.  Love them together.  Especially when Victoria makes use of the TCB and slicks back that hair once in a while.  Make Tucker and Ashley WORK.  I surprisingly like them together – even better when they are being ruthless business people.

Let Neil focus on the inevitable King Solomon-esque battle between him and Tucker for Devon’s loyalty and affection.  And put Devon in a triangle with whatever Tatyana Ali’s once-a-month character’s name is.  Bryton can act his ass off – we need more of him.

Keep Malcolm – don’t fire him.  And if you do fire him, only bring Shemar back.  I don’t want to lose Julia Hightower and I just don’t see her around as much if Malcolm is gone.

Keep Sam for crying out loud.  He has chemistry with Sharon, but also with Victoria.  And heck, he’s a nice, real person.

Do I despise Eden Riegel?  Not as a person, but you know Vail Bloom was MY Heather.  But there is still use for the character – it’s like they’re not even trying to make her work.  And speaking of lawyers – we need more Rafe and more Leslie (who technically should have been made a millionaire when the Newman kids won their lawsuit).  I like Avery, but dammit I don’t like the retconning of Phyliss’ backstory.

I can live without Cane and Lily, Noah and Eden (and whoever the new chick is), and a few other folks.

But I suppose my main point is this:

I’d rather the cast stay as it is without Nikki Newman than to bring her back and cause others to lose their jobs.  All there is to it.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2011 in Rashid's Take

 

It’s coming back *bew bew bew* like they said it would

So I know this blog is primarily about The Young and the Restless, but as many of you know, I have been a fan of Days of Our Lives since the 80s.  (I came to Y&R in earnest in 2003)

I am really excited about the behind-the-scenes changes going on at Days.  They have been talking about late September as being the starting point of “Days 2.0” if you will, but if you are like me – a fan who said “Man BUMP this show” – it’s time to come on home to Salem.

Start setting your DVRs NOW.  A lot of old tired storylines are wrapping themselves up and a lot of good storylines are revving up.  Maggie’s in the hospital and the DiMeras and Kiriakises are feuding hard.  A lot of old favorites are on their way back and we’re losing some stunt casting (Sayonara, Carly; but we will truly miss you, Vivian!)

We’ve clearly lost Steve/Patch to the Young and the Restless, but it will be nice to have Jack and Jennifer and John and Marlena back full time!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Rashid's Take

 

The Inexplicable Return of Evil Adam?

So….I’m sure somewhere in my first 70 posts, I’ve mentioned somewhere in the neighborhood of millions dozens of times about my failed grad school experience.  How I have 10s of thousands in loans, but no Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology to show for it, due not to my grades, but rather the worst case of writers’ block in history.  (Sidenote: If you’ve paid attention to my blogging patterns, you can see how streaky and undisciplined I am…shut up, Rashid!)  I say all this to say that those thousands of dollars spent on my graduate psychology education are about to pay off for you.

I’ve previously compared Adam Newman to Darth Vader, especially in that Lord Vader had one speck of light in the darkness that consumed him, his love for Padme’.  Similarly, Adam’s one shining light was his love for Sharon.  However, did I mention how Darth Vader’s last encounter with Padme’ went?  No?  Yeah, he killed her.  Similarly, Adam figuratively killed Sharon, luring her into a false wedding, then leaving her at the alter, and more importantly, thowing away the evidence that could clear her of murdering my Skye. 

Adam’s actions simply don’t make sense on the surface.  Sharon has slept with Nick since her and Adam have been together.  Why such a violent reaction to Sharon falling in with Sam, who Adam has no confirmation of her sleeping with?  It seems like killing an ant with a sledgehammer, until it occured to me that Sam is what Adam was raised to be by his mother.  Simple, country values…a good man.  We know that the only thing that truly draws regret from Adam is how his mom would have viewed him, as evidenced by his breakdown on the stairs in the ranch during his gaslighting of Ashley.  He went ballistic, not because Sharon betrayed him, but because she betrayed him with a man he KNOWS is better than him, and is what he should be.  When you come face to face with the best you, it’s jarring.  It completely shakes your foundations. 

When you know that, Adam’s actions make perfect sense, in his twisted mind.  Making Adam more one dimensional again limits him as a character.  I’m curious to see where they go with him now, because his one redeeming quality is gone.

On another non-Y & R note, I’m falling in love with wrestling again.  All because of one man…CM Punk.  CM Punk has apparently been given some latitude to go off-script, single-handedly reviving WWE, and making Raw seem must see again.  It started with a worked shoot promo (reality based, but not entirely real)

and culminated with the most scintallating, organic outpouring of emotion in recent wrestling memory two weeks later, when CM Punk won the WWE title at Money in the Bank

I’ve often lamented the too slick, sports entertainmenty feel of wrestling today.  I’ve said their booking is horrible and there are no great characters, because they’re all written by the same people who write scripts for everyone.  If this saga has shown nothing else, it has shown that the wrestlers need to be unleashed again and given a chance to shine.  CM Punk has done what I thought was impossible;  he has made Raw must see TV again, returning last Monday night.  I only hope it can be sustained.  However, I’m enjoying the ride for what it is….not that I watch that kind of thing!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Gumbo