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Daytime Opinion Article

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

No more teens!

Written 1/9/03 by Suzanne originally for Bella Online

What are the things that soap operas do to make viewers mad?
1) bring in new characters and give them too much screen time (shove them in our faces every day).
2) Bring in pretty faces that can't act.
3) Fire actors we like or neglect characters/actors we like.
4) Artificially age children on the show.
5) Ignore history of the show.

It seems like lately, all the soaps do everyone of these things in an attempt to bring in "younger viewers". Personally I think that the writers are pressured by the networks (who are pressured by the advertisers) and that's why these changes seem to come out of left field. Of course, it's always the writers who are blamed when this happens, and they are the ones fired when ratings don't go up.

On General Hospital, we have Lucas, Maxie, and Georgie. Long-time viewers remember when these characters were born on the show. They tried to replace the actress who has played Maxie for years, last year, but after critics and fans alike had a fit (and the new actress was a terrible actor), they brought back Robyn Richards (Maxie). She may not be as gorgeous as the actress they hired to replace her, but she looks like a real teenager (because she is!) and she is a good actress. You would think they would learn from their mistake with Richards, but instead they aged the characters Lucas and Georgie to create a "teen scene". On the net this is called "Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome" or SORAS.

Most teenagers are not good actors so I'm sure it's hard to find ones that work. It's hard enough to find adult actors that "click". But nothing will make it harder for teenager actors than to immediately throw them into a storyline and give them too much airtime. The audience won't like it and I'm sure it's hard on the inexperienced actors as well. The actor who played Lucas, Evan Bonifant, was sulky and cute in that teenage way, but he needed some time to find his way. The writers didn't really seem to know what to do with him, either. Does he like Maxie or Georgie? Is he dyslexic or what? Fortunately GH has not been hitting us over the head with the characters as much as some shows do, but the scenes with the teens are not as well-written or clear-cut as the ones with the adults.

Apparently GH decided to blame the problems on Bonifant, so he has been fired, and replaced by some other sulky teenager, I'm sure. Let's hope they find a story for the teens and gradually ease us into it, not throw it in our faces. By the way, the actress who plays Georgie is a good actress, too.

On Port Charles they don't seem to have any teenagers except for Serena, whom we hardly ever see. I like Serena but I'm glad she's not suddenly the center of attention, with a bunch of new teenage friends that I don't care about.

Other shows could learn these lessons. As the World Turns is one of the worst examples right now. They hired a handsome ex-model (Agim Kaba), SORASed Aaron Snyder and brought him back to town. I'm sure that if they had gradually re-introduced Aaron to us and given us some time to get to know him and the actor a little time to adjust, it would have been fine. Instead he instantly came to town and got a lot of screen time, which he wasn't ready for. He had to learn to act first. Soap producers, please, we don't want to just see a pretty face! Agim is gorgeous but who cares if we don't like his character? We have to know about and care about a character before you give them a storyline.

They paired Agim with Peyton List, who plays Lucy, and Jessica Dunphy, who plays Allison. Dunphy is the best actress of the three and she is playing the "bad girl". It's great that they have given all three characters ties to long-time characters that we already know. It would have been nicer if we had gotten to slowly know each character and how they interact with their families and each other, before they decided to give them so much screen time and then give them a major story. The producers or writers seem to remember great teen on-the-run stories of the past (such as Luke and Laura on GH) without remembering that we already knew these characters way before they were in peril. So now the teens-on-the-run story is the weakest part of a good show.

All My Children has the same problem with its insta-teens. Jamie and J.R. were already characters on the show, but a number of cast changes and SORASing have made us not care about them. Now they have two girlfriends that we are supposed to care about. In general, the fan reaction is "yuk, we hate them, bring back our favorites". J.R. was great when he was played by real teen Jesse McCartney. McCartney was a good actor and seemed like a great kid who was acting out and got into drugs because of his screwed up family. Because of his talent, we could see the good kid underneath. But they couldn't keep McCartney because he has a successful band and wanted to pursue that. So they hired another actor and SORASed both J.R. and his brother Jamie. For some reason they hired a short-term actor to play J.R. so he had to be replaced, too, just when we were getting to like him. The new actor is cute and sullen but not a great actor. Maybe he could develop into one gradually, but in the meantime they're giving him lots of major scenes and airtime, and he's not up to the challenge.

I can't tell yet whether the actor who plays Jamie is good or not. The teens who play their girlfriends seem fine, but they are giving them way too much story, too soon, and expecting me to care about them. Instead I'm thinking, "Who cares? Where is Tad?" AMC has a lot of problems besides this one, unfortunately. It's just the latest in a lot of stupid decisions. The head writer has been replaced, so let's hope he fixes things up soon.

Other soaps make these mistakes all the time. They seem to think that teenagers are just going to start watching a soap because it has some baby-faced actors pretending to be teens on the show (or on the run). Teens aren't any stupider than the rest of us. They want what we want: good stories and good acting. We all want to see people of all ages on the shows. Soaps need multiple generations to interact, just like they do in real life. I certainly am not going to tune into a show because it has a 40-year-old woman, so why would teens tune in to see teens? It doesn't make much sense.

Days of Our Lives and Y&R seem to have learned from past mistakes. Both of these shows have interesting teens in reasonable storylines. They have good actors and stories we like. They interact with other characters on the show. They don't keep their older actors on the back-burner. And they don't throw the teens in our face overnight and expect us to care. I hope the other shows are paying attention to these two shows!

Page updated 2/28/13

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