Cable's Great Freedom Has Not Improved Soaps
By Steve Reddicliffe
Dallas Times Herald
May 26, 1983
By day, GUIDING LIGHT, RYAN'S HOPE, GENERAL HOSPITAL, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, AS THE WORLD TURNS, ANOTHER WORLD, CAPITOL, DAYS OF OUR LIVES, EDGE OF NIGHT and ALL MY CHILDREN.
By night, DALLAS AND DYNASTY, FALCON CREST, and KNOTS LANDING.
The soap operas have come to cable television. Not an armada of soaps, but one here and there. Showtime, the pay-cable service, currently offers two nighttime adult soaps ("adult" meaning occasional bare breasts and behinds), A NEW DAY IN EDEN and LOVING FRIENDS AND PERFECT COUPLES. EDEN debuted late last year, LOVING FRIENDS in January.
And Ted Turner's cable "superstation," WTBS, has a new weekday soap called THE CATLINS, which is set in the Big Peach, Atlanta.
LOVING FRIENDS appears weeknights at 11 p.m., EDEN a half-hour later. THE CATLINS is shown at 11:05 weekday mornings, and repeated 12 1/2 hours later.
Cable television, as everyone knows, is the new communications form that was going to bring the watching world all sorts of new programs. It is difficult to imagine how soap operas qualify.
But those who work on Showtime's nighttime soaps contend that cable gives them more freedom in the areas of language and nudity. And the creator and executive producer of THE CATLINS says that he is not obsessed with attracting viewers in the 18-to-34-year-old age group as are those who oversee soaps for the commercial networks. Cable, he says, allows him to use older characters.
Douglas Marland, who created A NEW DAY IN EDEN for Showtime, says he was attracted to cable television because it provided an opportunity "to handle adult situations more openly and honestly."
Marland's credits include stints as head writer on both GENERAL HOSPITAL and GUIDING LIGHT, but cable gave him his first shot at creating a soap.
David Jacobs, executive producer of LOVING FRIENDS had created soaps before - first DALLAS and then KNOTS LANDING, of which he is executive producer.
LOVING FRIENDS is his first cable venture.
"I like the freedom (in language) I've been given so far, which is considerable," Jacobs told me earlier this year.
Nudity is entirely a different matter, according to Jacobs.
"I wanted to do it naturally, but that turned out to be harder than I thought."
When KNOTS LANDING's Donna Mills turns over in bed and has a sheet pulled up to her chin, that is not natural, Jacobs says. On cable, sheets don't have to be pulled up to chin-level. But, he says, "I don't think the nudity makes the show sexy. The freedom has to do with content."
One LOVING FRIENDS episode, he says, had to do "with the protocol of a menage a trois." The menage in question, he adds, was "shown as very destructive."
A viewer probably will not find a hint of a menage a trois on WTBS's THE CATLINS.
"I was more interested in doing responsible, adult stories than I was in having people hop into bed all the time," says C.T. McIntyre, creator and executive producer of THE CATLINS, a show underwritten by Procter & Gamble Productions (P&G Productions, a division of the packaged-goods firm, also is responsible for GUIDING LIGHT, AS THE WORLD TURNS and ANOTHER WORLD, among other network soaps.)
McIntyre says that being on cable has allowed him to populate his show with characters not often seen in network soaps. THE CATLINS has more male characters, he says, and "much older characters, which you virtually do not see on daytime television" because advertisers are most interested in reaching younger viewers.
All of this talk of cable "freedom" is stirring, but has that freedom produced soaps that will knock one's socks off?
LOVING FRIENDS is dull. THE CATLINS is duller than dull. And EDEN, the most watchable of the three, often seems to echo DALLAS and DYNASTY on the scheming character and bed-hopping fronts.
Ah, the freedom of cable.
You never hear talk about pre-fabricated housing on any network soap operas.
Of course, cable television has yet to have naked people talking about pre-fab housing, but stick around for a while. Trailblazing takes time.