Wednesday, November 22, 2006
MEN OF MANY FACES
My earlier post about the many faces of ATWT's Tom Hughes got me to thinking: It seems that almost every soap has one character that keeps getting cast and recast constantly, changing visages as well as personalities with every incarnation. And that character is usually a member of a core family, to boot.
Besides Tom, there was Chris Hughes on ATWT, whom 4 different actors couldn't quite make work as a teen or an adult; Joey/Jake Martin on AMC, also with four strike-outs; GH's Tom Hardy, and, of course, OLTL's many, many Kevin Buchanans -- #11, Dan Gauthier is on his way out as we speak.
(Over on Another World, Jamie Frame had 10 portrayers from 1970 to 1993, while Search for Tomorrow's Patti Barron was practically the female Tom Hughes, played by everyone from a pigtailed Lynn Loring to, eventually, GL's Tina Sloan and ATWT's Jacqueline Schultz).
The reason for these characters being so problematic is two-fold.
One the one hand, these are characters that TPTB are tempted to bring back again and again specifically because they are such a huge part of the canvas. Their absence is noticeable, and their presence is a simple way to introduce a new face with instant ties to the old. (Who would ATWT viewers rather welcome, another Chris Hughes, or some heretofore never mentioned Hughes cousin?)
But the problem with returning to the same character over and over again is that someone we saw grow up on the canvas offers less freedom for a writer to exercise his story options.
When Ben Reade returned to Guiding Light and eventually was revealed to be a disturbed serial killer, viewers objected. They remembered the cute little Ben who palled around with cute little Michelle Bauer and Bill Lewis (another frequently recast pair) and couldn't believe that their little guy could grow up to become a killer, even though it was explained that Ben's disturbance stemmed from being sexually molested while at boarding school and off the show.
It's hard to offer such soap staples as deep dark secrets and/or a traumatic past when viewers remember you having cookies after school with Grandma. (Not that the writers don't try. Any minute spent away from home is fair game. AW's Sally Frame turned out to have given birth to an illegitimate child while away at nursing school. Tom Hardy secretly married a Black woman in the few minutes his parents weren't looking. Tom Hughes fathered a daughter in Vietnam.)
Such storyline straitjacketing is my guess as to why these core characters have such a hard time catching fire.
What do you all think?
Posted by Alina Adams at 7:00 AM