Cheap Heat 10.24.02 – Wrestling V Soaps

I’ve made mention before that watch Soaps. I’m not scared to admit it in fact, I challenge anyone to actually put your pre-conceptions aside and pick one. Watch it from Monday to Friday for two weeks, and see if you don’t consider watching it the next week. They are televised crack. The best thing is: they don’t have a season, they don’t have reruns, and the story is always moving albeit slowly.

After two weeks of listening to writers, and the WWE itself, ring in on how “soap opera” storylines are going to help the business and draw in new viewers, I find it necessary to chime in. If the WWF is trying to steal from soap operas they have a long, long way to go. Let’s start with some posts pulled directly from the 411 Newsboard.

”The idea is that angles based on daytime soap operas, which feature

ridiculous plotlines spread over several weeks to hook viewers.”
.

Ridiculous plotlines? Very arguable. Soaps steal plotlines from everywhere. Save for Port Charles and Passions, which run supernatural storylines with vampires and witches (of the two, only Port Charles is worth watching), soaps generally steal storylines from everywhere, but they’re not ridiculous. They also have the unique ability to explore issues in an occassionaly intimate way, spread over months and months. In the eighties, One Life To Live ran a storyline with a black woman who was light enough to pretend she was Latino. After months of making her a good, lovable character, it came out that she was actually black, forcing people to thing about racism. All My Children ran a storyline about a character with AIDS, and how you survive with it and how it affects the people around you. Currently, one of General Hospital’s lead character is suffering with paraplegia. You get to see, every day, how this affects the people around him.

Also, spread over several weeks. Yes, the key is “several” weeks. Soaps don’t build on a four week system. Four weeks doesn’t build a story. One Life to Live played “who’s baby is this” for A YEAR AND A GODDAM HALF.

And hooking viewers? A soap doesn’t hook viewers with its intensely deep plots. The reason a person can’t stop tuning into a soap is for the simple reason: they know how to end a show. Plotlines dangle from day to day. You can watch an hour long show and not one interesting thing will happen, but that last 10 minutes is the hard sell for tomorrow. The person who was thought dead walks back onto the set. The big secret is aaaaaaalllmost revealed, but not quite. Will they finally tell tomorrow? Just recently, on All My Children, one of the characters fell off a waterfall. The final scene was him holding onto a log under the falls and then going under. Is he dead? Who knows but will you check to see the fallout the next day? Probably. As I write this, the man’s wife who has been grief-stricken for the last week, is shown walking out on the bridge that her husband just fell off and looking over the edge. The show ends. What’s she there for? To mourn or to jump? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Then, you have the WWE. Yes, Kane the necropheliac rapist is a ridiculous plotline. HHH dressing up as Kane and doing dirty things to a mannequin that’s a ridiculous plotline. Throwing a handful of BRAINS at the camera. That’s a ridiculous plotline. This is supposed to draw viewers? No. If this does anything, it will turn off current viewers and NO word of mouth will spread.

Bischoff had it down on Nitro. He ended every week with a cliffhanger. They’ve been trying to do that on Raw, but the one thing they don’t do is write “episodic television.” You force the viewers to WAIT a week to see what the big revelation is. HHH says he has something to say about Kane. Kane stops him from telling the first week. People wonder “was it something important.” The idea is a delicate balance of introduction and resolution and for God’s sake, resovle everything.

The WWF’s current strategy is to introduce as many things as possible as quickly as the can then drop the things that aren’t working. Soaps drop NOTHING and if they do, it’s with explanation. A character comes back to All My Children after being presumed dead for five years they don’t forget that she had kids. They don’t forget she was a doctor. For God’s sake, on One Life To Live, a guy who has been off the show for ALMOST TWENTY YEARS comes back because he was involved in a kidnapping. Granted, he was supposed to have been bashed over the head and killed Twenty Years ago but details.

WWE has decided to move forward with a more risqué, soap opera laden

direction for the product, especially on Raw.

Corpse-f*cking? This is risque? Not exactly, disgusting maybe not risque.

The idea is that casual viewers might be lured in by the soap opera and stay because of the wrestling action.

The WWF is forgetting their core audience. Storylines drive wrestling. I will agree to this wholeheartedly. Without storylines it’s just two guys fighting to a pre-determined outcome. Suspense drives soaps as much as drama does. There has been a stalker terrorizing a woman on General Hospital for more than a month. We still don’t know who he is. That sense of “What’s gonna happen next?” Action, adventure all these things can get people watching. A rehash of the Tom Green show doesn’t. We’ve been there we’ve seen that.

Both the Kane/murder/rape storyline and Undertaker/cheater storylines are considered to be a success.

According to who? Vince and Steph? They like the way it came off, but does anyone besides them care? The audience certainly doesn’t seem to. The Undertaker/Sara stuff that’s a soap storyline. In fact, it’s even a reasonable angle. Was she telling the truth? Who put her up to it? Hell, it might even get someone to tune in next week. It did it’s job. Not to mention the fact that Sara is pregnant. Could Brock perhaps intimate that it isn’t ‘Taker’s? Why not?

But then you run into a problem when you have a situation like they did at the PPV. Steph is in a room talking to Tracy, and Tracy says “between you and me, Steph.” The soap world revolves around secrets. Who is keeping what from whom and how long can they keep this secret. In the structure of the WWE, there can’t BE any secrets that’s the format of the show. For them to show things, it has to be on Live TV. Everyone can see it. The only way to keep a secret is if no one knows it which isn’t nearly as fun as how the person is going to find out, but somewhat fun in the subject trying to find out.

I will argue that the Kane/HHH storyline, done properly, would also have been reasonable, but they did it with the wrong characters. Soap characters have actual background. When something hits the screen, it is gospel. Things aren’t forgotten, stories aren’t erased, pasts aren’t rewritten. Pasts are WRITTEN AROUND but not written over. HUGE difference. If they explained why and how Kane was suddenly not in an insane asylum for his entire life, and wasn’t a burned, scarred freak. I mean, he was supposedly burned in a fire when he was a little kid when he was in college, did chicks dig the mask? What happened to the asylum? That is writing around a pre-written past.

Most disliked the skit and were left wondering what the point of it

was, and what it will accomplish. Most of the locker room feels that WWE is now trying to create the most shocking angles they can get away with in order to draw attention. This theory was supported today by WWE

releasing a statement concerning the skit. Most feel that WWE released the statement in hopes that the mainstream media picks it up and thus

promotes WWE.

WWE was somewhat disappointed yesterday at the Smackdown taping due to

the fact that no mainstream media outlet covered the controversial

Triple H/Katie Vick segment from RAW. The segment was designed to get WWE attention, but nobody bit on the bait.

There’s an old saying: “Fool me once, shame one you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The WWE will never get mainstram media coverage after the debacle of the gay wedding. GLAAD and mainstream media tried to pick up coverage on the WWF’s gay wedding. What happened? The WWF got around their stipulations. Something we fans are quite used to, but the media doesn’t like to look stupid, which is what the WWF did to them. They backed them, covered them, and the WWE turned around and shit on them. So what, all of the sudden the mainstream media will forget all that.

And, on that note, what did they think? The mainstream press would be rushing to cover the simulated rape of a corpse? Oh yeah, I can see it on Good Morning America now. Katie Couric with her sickening smile saying: “And in other news, the WWE launched themselves in a brand new direction by having one of their wrestlers, known as Triple-H, simulate sexual acts on a corpse. We here expect this to catapault this company to the top of Monday Night Ratings.”

Right.

The only media group who would think about covering this is the PTC, and the WWE has successfully cut their balls off. Besides, in Vince’s immense arrogance, did he think the press was totally going to forget about the real problems of the world, like the people getting shot in Washington or the country possibly going to war with Iraq. Yeah, we don’t have more to worry about than Vince changing the direction of his company.

So, you can argue that the WWE is going in a “soap opera” direction but I say: don’t insult soap operas like that. Soaps’ strength lie in their power of continuity. Stories are not forgotten, and characters stay in character. Soap writers can keep characters compelling 250 days a year the WWF wishes it were so lucky. They’re lucky to keep their characters compelling for five minutes and, once they do, they refuse to cut their hair or buy a first class ticket when they should be in coach, and they have to de-push them. Because, you know, we can’t have that locker room getting all uppity.

The WWE isn’t a soap. The writers don’t deserve that much praise.

End Transmission.