Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Chanukah is not Christmas.

I realize that, on the surface, that distinction should seem rather self-evident (what with the whole Jewish/Christian being entire different religions thing).

But sadly, the difference has not been honored on television.

My Jewish heritage is wildly misrepresented at holiday time, lumped together with Christmas. According to television, Chanukah and Christmas might periodically manifest different external trappings - you say, "jelly donuts," I say "belly full of jelly," - but deep down, behind the screen, they're exactly the same, which means a one-size Holiday Special fits all!

This misguided sentiment was flat out articulated in an episode of the early 1990s sitcom, Love & War, where WASPy Wally assured her Jewish boyfriend, Jack, that religion was no obstacle to their relationship since, "Chanukah and Christmas aren't all that different. They both celebrate Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men... and Women!"

Actually, Christmas celebrates Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men (she threw in that part about the women).

Chanukah celebrates a hard-won victory over an occupying army.

And what did that occupying army do, exactly, that so pissed off the People of Israel that they were willing to hole up in the hills and launch repeated, arguably suicidal raids against a foe with more men and superior weapons?  Turns out that Syrian Greek King Antiochous had passed an edict ordering Jews to give up their trappings, traditions and texts, and to become like everyone else around them.

Chanukah celebrates a triumph over forced assimilation.  (And as for those Jews who wanted to assimilate... let's just say the zealots known as the Maccabees weren't too fond of them, either.)

But, somehow, that part of our important story doesn't come up much on TV...

Read all about it, here, with examples from soapy shows like Friends, Brothers & Sisters, The OC and more! (Plus, you will never, ever believe which show actually got it right!)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


General Hospital:

Guiding Light:

One Life to Live:

Ryan's Hope:

The Young & the Restless

Monday, November 25, 2013


All My Children:

Another World:

As the World Turns:

Days of Our Lives:

More tomorrow - Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I've written before about coming to America as a child (including the traumatic tale of when it looked like my teddy bear might not be making the journey with me - click here for the horror!).

I wrote about how weird it felt for me to write about wholesome, Christian, Midwestern soap opera characters in my As the World Turns and Guiding Light tie-in novels when I'd never been Christian.  Or Midwestern.  Or wholesome. (Click here for an unconventional tale of faking it.)

But now, in honor of Thanksgiving, I've written about how television presents the immigrant experience. The good, the bad, and the are you kidding me?

There’s no pretty way to say this: TV made me an American.

When I first moved to the United States at the age of seven, I believed that everything I saw on screen was a documentary demonstrating how “real” Americans actually lived. (The fact that we didn’t have a gargantuan staircase like on The Brady Bunch proved that my family weren’t yet real Americans.)

However, while I was perfectly willing to accept at face value everything that the miraculous, marvelous machine (and it was in color, too!) that sat in my living room told me about my new neighbors, I was a bit puzzled by the manner in which they represented my fellow immigrants.

Take, for instance, the TGIF hit, Perfect Strangers, and the less well-known, syndicated series, What a Country.  Bronson Pinchot’s character, Balki, was from some vaguely Eastern European/Mediterranean country that couldn’t have been too far from where I was born in Odessa, (then-)USSR. And stand-up comedian Yakov Smirnoff, who played Nikolai, was actually from the same city as my family.  So, in theory, I should have known dozens of people just like them.

Why then, did both these shows appear to be under the impression that because you spoke English like a child – simple syntax, limited vocabulary, taking idioms literally – that meant your thought processes and reactions were that of a child, too?  On both shows, the new immigrant was basically a toddler in an adult’s body. Nothing like the engineers, doctors, and professors all around me who, yes, may have been watching Sesame Street to pick up the language, but managed to remain adults, nonetheless.

Read more, here.

Monday, November 18, 2013


We Love Soaps has a wonderful tribute to actor George Reinholt, who died last week at the age of 73 after creating several memorable soap roles, including Steve on Another World and Tony on One Life to Live.

When putting together my book, Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Moments, the incomparable Connie Passalacqua a.k.a. Marlena De Lacroix (Editor, Afternoon TV Magazine, 1980-1983; Columnist, Soap Opera Weekly Magazine, 1989-2001) had the following to say about what she believes to be soaps at the top of their game:

Alice and Steve’s break-up after she learns Rachel is pregnant with Steve's baby.  (This scene) is the high point of a wonderfully-written love triangle. 

Alice was the quintessential, young, innocent heroine. 

Rachel, the young villainess from the wrong side of the tracks, was Alice's sister-in-law, but had set

her cap for Steve Frame, a square-jawed young industrialist, Alice's love. 

They had a back-street affair.  At Alice and Steve's engagement party, Rachel harrowingly told Alice her baby was Steve's, not (Alice’s) brother Russ'.

Read more from Connie, as well as daytime's best actors, writers, directors, producers and experts about the soap opera moments they'll never forget - and go behind the scenes to find out how they happened by clicking the image below!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Back in June of 2012, I wrote for Mommy Poppins a blog post about the most important issue of our or any other time: Where to find free and clean public bathrooms in New York City.

(If you think I'm kidding about this being the most important issue of our or any other time, please be advised that I stopped writing historical romances and switched to contemporaries when I came to the decision that nothing romantic ever happened prior to the invention of indoor plumbing.)

Now, I am happy to report that other intellectuals have picked up the banner of my cause, as the aforementioned piece has, just this past week, been quoted on GoodReads, and on Improbable Research in conjunction with a "landmark session at the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics."

Finally, organized science is catching up to my brilliance.

You're welcome, world.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


ABC's veteran figure skating director, Doug Wilson, has a new book out, The World Was Our Stage (click the link at the bottom of the post to buy). 

Almost fifteen years ago, I interviewed Doug for my own book, Inside Figure Skating.  Now, in honor of his autobiography, I am excerpting his insights from the chapter Lights, Camera, Axel: How Television Changed Figure Skating.

Read Part #1, here.

Part #2, here.

Part #3, here.

And enjoy Part #4, below:

At the 1988 Olympics, the plan was to make Russian Pair skater Ekaterina Gordeeva, the Olga Korbut, media-darling of the show.  It was a fine plan, hampered by the fact that Pairs was, and typically is, the first discipline to finish competition.  Meaning an immense build-up was impossible.  Undaunted, television refused to abstain from their scheme, so that, even though she'd already won the gold, Katya stayed on the air for the duration of the Games, whether she was walking around the village, or simply sitting in the stands.

Another plan that didn't come off quite as it was supposed to was Doug Wilson's coverage of Brian Boitano's Long Program.  Wilson was determined to catch the definite head-turn at the start of the routine, in all its "Napoleon" glory.  But, as it turned out, "I'd planned an opening shot, a first shot of his face, before the head-turn, but, because something happened prior to his going out on the ice, the camera I'd planned to use was not available.  I had to use another one, in the left corner.  It turned out to be a better shot than what I planned.  Which, again, proves that if you really work hard and do your homework, it's amazing how lucky you can get."

At eligible competitions, television producers try their best to be unobtrusive and not disturb the natural rhythm of the sport.  Yet, at a live event, a production assistant is often stationed by the judges' desk to insure that marks are revealed at television's convenience.  A nervous skater may be sitting in the kiss-and-cry area, waiting to see results that will inevitably affect the rest of their life.  But, if television happens to be in a commercial at the moment, the skater will just have to wait a tad longer.

For professional competitions, on the other hand, television doesn't mind getting involved, operating on the philosophy that the skaters and producers are working together to present the best show possible.  For instance, at the 1995 Challenge of Champions, Wilson evokes, "(1994 World Champion from Japan) Yuka Sato had a moment of presentation which was on one side of the arena, between what would be the blue (hockey) line and the red line.  I presumptuously asked if she thought she might be able to re-choreograph that a little, so when she stopped to make that presentation, she was at the red line position, directly in front of my camera.  There's a no-man's land between center ice and the corner, where we have no camera.  Very often, great skaters -- because when they skate in arenas they want to cover the whole audience -- will stand in that position, making eye-contact with the audience.  And all I see is an ear.  They're looking away.  What they want to do to the audience of 1,000 people in front of them, they're not doing to the TV audience that's ten million people watching center-ice.  If they're about to present themselves to the world, it's better if we see their faces."

However, sometimes the face television presents to the world is not necessarily the one the skater wants...

More from Doug Wilson on this blog, shortly...

Meanwhile, check out his book at the link:

Alina Adams is the author of the Figure Skating Mystery series, including Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop and Skate Crime.