Monday, May 12, 2008

On my iPod, it's 1975

I finally finished my viewing of the first 4 seasons of Entourage. I had recorded the series to DVD from HBO, transferred the episodes to my iPod, and watched them at the gym while working out on the elliptical trainer (and sometimes the treadmill, which is really too bouncy for such a tiny screen and my workout effectiveness is ENTIRELY secondary in priority to my iPod TV watching). I've written before about how much I love being able to watch TV while working out and how that feeling seems to transfer itself in full to whatever I am watching. So I totally enjoyed Entourage, which may be the subject of another post. I'm sure my pleasure was in part due to the efficiency/pleasure combo of the situation, but I also got a kick out of the show's unabashed masculine fantasy. But more on that later, perhaps.

I've decided that my next iPod TV project is going to be my backlog of Ryan's Hope episodes. I've been archiving these from Soapnet for the past couple of years, determined to save them all. I've watched bits and pieces, but have long wanted to start from the beginning and plow through. So this week I've begun with episode 1, from July 1975. RH was a half-hour soap that aired from '75 to '89 on ABC. Created and run for many years by Claire Labine, one of my fave GH headwriters of yesteryear, it's a soap that seems to be remembered fondly by many. I watched a bit in the '80s, but certainly not in the '70s. I'm just a few episodes in, but I'm really enjoying it so far. Again, iPod/workout magic is surely in effect, but so far it's an expertly told story. We are introduced to 9 regular characters in the first half hour ep (more like 20 minutes without commercials), all of whom have identifiable traits. The first week included location shooting in NYC (RH has been one of the few US daytime soaps set in a real place) and the seeds for some real soapy goodness--bantery romantic relationship between Mary and Jack, classically manipulative villainess in Delia, twisted familial dynamics between Faith and Papa Coleridge. And aside from the clothes and hair, it is not reading as dated to me.

Soapnet stops its RH reruns at the end of 1981, reportedly because the onset of popular music on the soundtrack thereafter has created rights issues. (This is also reportedly the reason why the much beloved, short-lived NBC soap, Santa Barbara, has not made a Soapnet appearance.) I'm not promising I'm watching straight through '81 at this point--I may take a break to watch something else for awhile--but now I'm definitely plotting when I can get to the gym to watch some more.


lliccardo said...

hi elana --

i've been meaning to comment for a while. i'm so happy you're enjoying ryan's hope. it really does represent the best soap opera can be. i'mg going to respond to both your rh posts here.

i don't know how far you've progressed in your viewing, so i don't want to spoil things. but, i was very intrigued by your ponderings re roger and bob having a thing for mary.

it was always very clear to me that the creators knew their characters very well. this was confirmed to me by dave feldman, who worked for both abc and nbc daytime. he told me,
"gave all the major characters backstories far beyond anything that was revealed on the show. This not only helped them in developing story ideas, but they shared this information with
the actors, too, who appreciated the information"

i posted a while back on henry's blog about my reintroduction to rh in a piece called, "yearning for the world as it was." i've recently collected my soap opera writings in a blog at red room,

Elana Levine said...

Hi Lynn,

Thanks for the comment. I've been enjoying your blog, too. I'm only in the second month or so of RH, but it's been interesting to see some of my senses of what may be going on coming to fruition--Mary has now had conversations with both Bob and Roger that reveal their feelings for her. Don't know yet if any of this will go anywhere, but I'm glad to know my soap instincts were right about what was being so subtly telegraphed.

Like you, I'm amazed by, and so enjoying, the long scenes in which characters really talk to one another, often revealing tidbits of their pasts that lend insight into their present actions.

I suppose it was easier for Labine and Mayer to know their characters well since they were the ones who had created them. Perhaps one reason today's soap writers struggle so with honoring and addressing character histories is that they haven't been there since the beginning. Not that I'm trying to let them off the hook (although I blame network execs moreso than writers for the pretty sorry state these days).