Thursday, May 9, 2013

Not Your Grandma's Soap

I have been working with Emmy-winning actress Martha Byrne, best known for her role as Lily Walsh Snyder on As The World Turns  for a few years now. After the show went off the air, and us soap fans were starving for more content,  Martha co-created a series/soap for the Web, called Gotham. I am very excited to say that this  Emmy-nominated webseries (yes, I did say "Emmy" again!) is coming to TV this year AND to digital platforms, which means, you can watch it just about anywhere and everywhere you want to.

But first, a little bit of history. If you are not familiar with web soaps, they are different than traditional afternoon soaps. They are shorter, for one thing, and the sets, hair and makeup are not what we are accustomed to. There are a whole lot of them out there, often referred to as "indie" soaps, and they feature many of the characters we are used to seeing on our TV sets. The storylines are also sometimes different than what you would see on the boob tube, basically anything goes.

Now let me speak to the word "soap". The term "soap opera"  is sometimes a turnoff to anyone who thinks 30 is old. I asked my son's girlfriend, who is 19, if she would watch a new soap and she said, "No, that's what my grandma watches in Poland.". Soaps clearly have a bad rap with the millenials.

I have been watching "soaps" since I was 16. It all started when I was home from school for spring break and there was nothing else but game shows to watch. Now, that may be hard to believe now but in the 1970's  there really wasn't much on TV for a teenager to watch and Monte Hall was not as pleasurable to watch as was Drake Hogestyn. I tell my kids that the only kid's shows that came on were a few after school on Channel 5 and then some on Saturday morning. I can still sing "Exercise, Exercise", and then find myself  "freezing". Ah, the good ol' days. But not really. We did not have much of a selection. Until the Partridge Family and Brady Bunch came into our lives. Ahh, now that was good TV.

But back to "soaps". Traditional soaps have a very slow pace. Martha's "Gotham" does not. The storyline is easy to follow. I watch "Revenge" and some other serial dramas and the story moves so fast I sometimes have to think why things unravel the way they do. But then again many times the plots do not make sense, so it's better not to think.

I recently read some pieces by Lynn Liccardo, an icon in the "soap" world, and she spoke of  "vertical storytelling". This is when you know each of the characters and their history because they are more like real people than fictional characters, so what they do and how they interact makes sense. However, this knowledge only comes with knowing the characters for a long period of time and this is the benefit of daily "soap operas". There were also weekly shows back in the 80's, like Knots Landing (one of my all-time faves), Dallas and Dynasty, that were  pretty much  "night-time soaps". If you compare what happens in one episode of  Revenge these days it is pretty much the entire season of one of these night time "soaps".  Not only would the viewers have known "who shot JR" the next week but they would have found out on some spoiler alert on the Internet before then anyway.

Content has had to change with the medium. If I missed Marcia getting hit in the nose with a football I would have had to wait to see it when it was repeated at the end of the season. I much prefer the 24/7 availability of content we have now, though working a VCR was a lot easier than using 4 remotes to access Netflix.

Gotham is more like a night -time soap. It is a serial drama, and you will get to know the characters well, but it is not your Grandma's soap! It only has one year on the Web, so the stories are easy to catch up with, but they'll be a great recap for the first episode. Expect to see some great storylines with people of all ages, engaging characters, suspense, drama, glamour, romance, and a cast of known faces and some upcoming stars.

I've posted the official press release and video in my next post.  Be sure to "Like" on Facebook!