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News for the week of 11-Jul-2011

by Carol Banks Weber

ABC, which is owned by Disney, revealed in a July 7th press release, that it licensed OLTL and AMC to a media and production company by the name of Prospect Park, which will air the soaps online sometime after the TV cancellations. Prospect Park, founded in 2009, is run by a former Disney Studios exec, Rich Frank, and another entertainment industry vet, Jeffrey Kwatinetz. Disney/ABC Domestic Television Group and Prospect Park recently agreed on the multi-year, multi-platform licensing agreement—effectively saving these two beleaguered show. According to the ABC media press release, Prospect Park will take over the production and broadcasting of the two canceled soaps online. Going online will offer the soaps a broader, wider range of bells and whistles only afforded with the Internet: “Prospect Park will produce and deliver the two long-running programs to consumers via online formats and additional emerging platforms including Internet-enabled television sets. Under the terms of the arrangement, the programs will continue to be delivered with the same quality and in the same format and length.” Expect to hear about more from this deal in a week to 45 days, as it’s firmed up.

In a July 7th Wall Street Journalarticle by Sam Schechner, details of the above-mentioned agreement included Prospect Park owning rights to OLTL/AMC for “more than a decade,” with hefty royalties in the millions going to Disney. Prospect Park’s people assured fans that it intends to produce the soaps with the same quality as ABC Daytime’s TV broadcast, and as one-hour, week-day programs. How they’re going to do this with less of a production budget than ABC Daytime – minus ABC royalties – and online, is beyond anyone. Also according to the WSJ article, Prospect Park began discussions with “actors and others involved with the soaps to work out whether they will stay on board...” ABC execs began hashing out a way to save the soaps in May, not long after the cancellation announcement.

Austin Peck (Rick, the Porn King) tweeted on July 2nd about his July 1st wedding to longtime girlfriend Terri Conn (Aubrey). They had a small ceremony, their second, attended by Julie Pinson Warlock (ex-Janet, ATWT). Peck and Conn met and fell in love while working on ATWT.

Jason Tam (Markko) will indeed return, briefly, before OLTL is over—for the debut of David’s flick, Vicker Man, in late-July.

Gossip for the week of 11-Jul-2011

by Carol Banks Weber

Word is, ABC Daytime might’ve turned down offers to purchase OLTL/AMC all this time, because execs were already trying to turn the soaps over to Prospect Park for an online continuation—since their discussion presumably started in May.

What if Gary Tomlin (former OLTL director, executive producer, script writer, and head writer) was asked to return not to OLTL but to GH as EP Jill Farren Phelps’ replacement? And what if currently OLTL EP Frank Valentini wasn’t tapped to go over to GH as a new EP but for bigger things within ABC? That’s the latest rumor posed by a source for RavenBeauty, posted at her Facebook from last week.

Some in the soap industry aren’t too sure whether to cheer or wait for the other shoe to drop, following the news announcement last Thursday that ABC gave licensing rights to continue airing OLTL and AMC online via Prospect Park. I suspect RavenBeauty is one of them. I definitely am another skeptic. Sure, it’s fantastic that the two doomed soaps were saved for online continuation. But at what cost? Going online isn’t lucrative—even if they charge everybody to view the episodes. What if they go online with much fanfare and high-fiving, only to tank—as ABC Daytime probably figures would happen?!—thereby shutting fans up and shutting them down, and getting their way in the end as planned from the beginning. Food for thought.

SoapTown USA/Llanview CRAZE columnist god Jeremy in Chicago despised this Baz character from the very start [“Strange Days,” week of July 4, 2011], presuming him gay even though the writers hadn’t meant for that to happen, as well as unnecessary. This part’s hilarious: “… who is this Yorlin Madera look-alike with the idiotic hat? Why are we being forced to watch Tomas' son hit on Starr? And why does Ron Carlivati insist on using ridiculous names for his characters? I thought Cutter was bad enough - now we have ‘Baz,’ though I prefer to spell it ‘BaZzz.’” Read what Jeremy had to say about Robot Todd, too. He’s not thrilled about TIIC just letting Trevor St. John slip through their fingers either.

For some unfathomable reason, head writer Ron Carlivati couldn’t just spring Roger Howarth on everybody Todd Manning knew when they finally received confirmation the actor was returning. Dismissing instantaneous interaction in such a limited timeframe (hello? OLTL is going off the air in January you idiots!)—which almost every soap fan is clamoring for, Carlivati instead turned to the lurking and finding characters who didn’t know Todd Manning as Roger Howarth to interact with. Hence, Sam and his imaginary playmate. Plus, Carlivati told SOD that since Howarth was so great with kids (Starr) during his first OLTL tenure…

Last week, I reported here – as rumor – a June 29th claim by a source for Daytime Confidential’s Jamey Giddens that Trevor St. John (Todd) might’ve intended on quitting on OLTL over a year ago despite TPTB’s best efforts to keep him on till the very end. Furthermore, this source claimed St. John kept at it up until the last minute when he changed his mind but, by then, it was too late for the writers to reverse their Roger Howarth-fueled course. TPTB (namely, executive producer Frank Valentini) tried to do everything in their power to accommodate St. John’s many diva demands. They even let him try out for pilot season back when Todd went into a coma, which messed up their tight schedules and pushed back Howarth’s return, just to show good faith—only to have him insist he’s still gonna bail (and/or want in only as recurring). Bless their accommodating hearts.

So, let me get this straight. After St. John courteously blogged his status with OLTL the other week – he’d asked to stay on till the end but TPTB chose not to renew his contract – so-called insiders went to DC and SOD and had a field day.

They proceeded to not-so-subtly blame everything going wrong on St. John in the auspices of clearing the air and telling the whole story. They made it sound like they did everything they could to make him happy and make him feel valued [ROTFLMAOPMP], offering a renewed contract to him that would maintain his “present salary, not a cut, and he refused.” But big, bad St. John then dared ask – after they’d already written the breakdowns and scripts for the next stories – to stay only as recurring, putting these wonderful, decent, hardworking people out.

The show supposedly made it clear that St. John was one of the beloved fan favorites they wanted to stay till the end, but he had other ideas and gave them so much trouble.

Really? I heard quite a different tale, you know—the WHOLE STORY.

Why are TPTB so quick to throw St. John especially under the bus here—after all these years of faithful service andhe’s a damned good actor, one who put OLTL on the map? Other soap actors have asked and been given time off to film outside projects and try out for pilots, without question, why has St. John been singled out for condemnation because of it? Kelly Monaco (Sam, GH), for example, reportedly can take off any ole time she feels like it for any ole reason at all, but not St. John—if this version of events is to even be taken seriously. Why hasn’t anybody in the soap media gone to St. John to get his take, even if it’s a, “No comment” (actors have been gagged, btw; none of them are allowed to talk back), or, “We tried to contact so-and-so, but he couldn’t be reached?” Why should we believe a word out of any inside source’s mouth speaking on behalf of and to defend execs … after all the half-truths, deception, and backstabbing they have done to all of us in the past (oh, we’re not cancelled!)? Where’s the context?

Put yourselves in St. John’s shoes for five seconds.

Maybe just maybe you wouldn’t be loving it over at OLTL if you went through what he has. Play along with me if you will…

What if – despite what an insider told Giddens, aka SOD’s latest spiel – St. John didkeep expressing his interest in staying on with OLTL if they’d have him, if they’d have him? That the problem may not have been St. John dicking around and waffling up until the last minute so much as certain people in authority dicking St. John around? Not unheard of, considering ABC Daytime’s hardball tactics in the past with other soap actors it tries to control.

What if St. John had been led to believe no one wanted him around to continue on as Todd? What if he may have been told that they’d rather have Roger Howarth? What if he had to watch his entire storyline for the past eight years be systematically decimated, as if none of it ever mattered, as well as his salary cut—all to allegedly make way for Howarth’s return?

What if it’s TPTB who were jerking St. John around from way back about this Tale of Two Todds begging Roger Howarth back stunt, not St. John at all and, like any normal person with any sense of decency, decorum, and integrity, the poor guy spoke up with some concerns and refused to kiss ass?

And how about this scenario, folks?

What if you were Trevor St. John (Todd) and you felt like you were being made to feel as miserable as possible, so you’d have no choice but to escape (quit)? Wouldn’t this make you feel defeated? Would you want to leave where you weren’t wanted? What then?

IMHO, if whomever is in charge – be it one person or an entire clusterf*ck – preferred Roger Howarth to come back as the original Todd Manning all along, there are nicer, more professional ways of dealing with the situation. As Tyler Christopher (ex-Nikolas, GH) was heard saying to fans at a recent Chicago public appearance about his involuntary exit, people should be treated better. Whatever the truth is between both sides, one thing’s for sure: once again, ABC Daytime mishandled the situation, they didn’t do ENOUGH to keep a treasure like St. John, thus, leaving a nasty taste in my mouth.

There’s another rumor from last week that a certain OLTL actress had had enough of TPTB’s allegedly giving the shaft to St. John, risked her own job, and told them where to shove it. Expect to see her character assassinated beyond repair as punishment.

Based on my own dealings with St. John, and the feedback received by fans in attendance at his public appearances, this is not a typical self-involved, two-faced, fly-by-night, shilling actor who takes his job for granted as his due. No, this is a decent, straight-shooting man of integrity who tries to bring a level of quality and standard to every role he takes on—without walking over people in the process—who means what he says, who I couldn’t ever imagine behaving in any unprofessional manner. My guess is that he fought like hell to continue to deliver the best he could in his role for the people who mattered most to him, the viewership and his co-stars, the ones who actually gave a damn.

Besides, it’s never too late to keep St. John on. Pretend he’s Roger Howarth.

Next up to leave before the end, by her own alleged volition: Bree Williamson (Jessica).

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