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Daytime Opinion Article


Women make better soap opera writers

Written 1/6/04 by Suzanne originally for Bella Online

Men should not be in charge of soap operas. There, I said it. Hope it wasn’t too radical for you.

Think about it: women are the soap opera audience. And we all know, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. So, why are most of today’s soap opera head writers and executive producers men? It doesn’t make sense. No wonder the ratings are failing.

I am always harping in here about the violence on soaps. The primary soaps that have violence are General Hospital, One Life to Live, and Days of Our Lives. These are all written by men, and two of them have male producers as well. I don’t know GH Executive Producer Jill Farren Phelps personally, but from what I’ve read, she’s what they call a real “ball buster”, so having her in charge of a soap opera might be like having a guy in charge. And it doesn’t help that Brian Frons is in charge of ABC daytime, another man. Men are in charge of the NBC and CBS soaps, too (I think Guiding Light might have a female co-headwriter, Ellen Weston).

Soap operas are about to be about romance, relationships, and family. These are all “chick subjects”. What do men know about these things? I know it sounds terribly sexist, but this is my feeling on the subject. Everyone is always wondering why the soap ratings are going down; this may be part of the reason, at least.

OK, let me just say that, there are some men who know how to write soap operas, and probably some of the men in the soap biz are gay, so it is almost the same as having a women write/produce. I’m not saying every single woman is better than every man, or that every man is a terrible soap opera writer. Bill Bell, creator and producer of Young and the Restless for years, is a prime example of a great male soap opera writer. I’m sure there have been some others. But for the most part, if you look at the successful soap opera writers, creators, and producers, they have been women, not men.

Women know more about romance (what guy do you know that even has a clue about romance?) and what women want to watch. Women would rather see people arguing about something, and working it out, than shooting each other. Women want to see happy couples who are torn apart by relationship or family problems, not by serial killers. Women who watch soaps want to see not just the hunky guy, but also the hunky guy’s parents, cousins, grandparents, step-children, etc.

My favorite soap writer is Clair Labine, who created and wrote Ryan’s Hope for years. This was a great show about family and romance (you can see it on the Soapnet channel daily). She has also written many other soap operas over the years. I loved her writing in both General Hospital and One Life to Live. She loves animals, so she created dogs for Lucky and Emily, and a parrot for Todd. She did the breast cancer story for Monica and the AIDS story for Stone, both of which were riveting. I don’t know why she was not successful at Guiding Light; I did not see those episodes. I think, too, that too many “suits” ruin the shows by interfering with the writing. Just let the writers do the stories and stop telling them to write about teens or focus on some lame actor that you think will be the next Cameron Mathison. I wonder what Ms. Labine is doing today, and why they don’t bring her in to save some of these soaps that are doing so badly? I would love to see her take over Passions, for instance.

Another good writer is Maggie DePriest, who was headwriter during some of Another World’s great stories in the 80’s (I have no idea if she’s still alive or what she’s doing). You can see these episodes on Soapnet as well. I guess if you want to watch real soaps, you have to watch the reruns on Soapnet.

My least favorite writer is James Reilly, who created Passions and writes that show, as well as Days of Our Lives. I used to watch Days when he wrote it last time and I have watched some of Passions. The man has some good ideas but mostly he is a hack and a lazy writer. He hates actors, from what I’ve heard. It’s one thing to have exciting ideas, but if you implement them poorly (such as having Sheridan and Luis stay apart for two and a half years or whatever it was…), then that is bad writing. I loved when he had Marlena being possessed, but then there was also tons of scenes where the characters had these long boring monologues or rehashed the story over and over. I think that Days is a lot tighter now, but I hate that he’s killing off so many favorites and old-timers. I hate this idea that it doesn’t matter if the fans hate or love you, as long as they tune in. If they are only tuning in for the fad, what will happen a few years down the line when they get tried of it? Fads come and go. You will lose the long-time fans by killing off their favorites, mark my words. But for some reason, NBC just loves Reilly…I really can’t fathom why.

All My Children is doing great and it’s because Megan McTavish is in charge. She may be the only female in charge of the soaps, at least that I can think of.

Women, take back your soaps! I urge you to write in to your favorite network and tell them to hire women writers and producers! Otherwise we will be watching shows that are nothing more than rip-offs of C.S.I. for the rest of our lives…and eventually, soaps will go away if the ratings don’t go up. Female writers and producers may be the only thing that saves them.

Page updated 12/27/11

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