Monday, August 31, 2015

TV: When Men Lather

To call   Narco a flop is to state the obvious.

The show is a mess with an annoying voice over attempting to graft together that which the screenwriter couldn't.

On and on, the mess goes, shapeless, unfinished,  unsculpted.

The only reason it's on the air?

Because a lot of men (and some women) love violence?

No, Netflix's latest 'original' is on the air because it's a soap opera.


Oh, yes, like many a Lifetime TV movie, it's 'based on a true story.'

Oh, so, loosely based.

But it's on TV because it's a soap opera.

For years, many men -- many straight men -- took the position of looking down on soap operas.

They were for the weak minded, the myth went.

As was often the case when male myths needed to be exploded, there was Bob Newhart.  Episode 27 of The Bob Newhart Show ("Backlash," written by Susan Silver) found Bob in bed with a bed ache becoming deeply addicted to daytime soap operas.

That was 1973.

By the early 80s, the soaps were on prime time.

Not just the obvious ones but, starting in 1981, Hill Street Blues.

Series creator Steven Bochco likes to pretend it's season five when the show moves to soap opera but it was soap opera from the first episode.

But put some ugly actors on the screen, toss around some gun fire, and it just can't be a soap opera, it just can't be.

It was the soap men could get on board with.

And continuing elements, the key to any soap opera, started getting added to other shows as well.


Because continuing elements (soap opera) hook in an audience.

So Miami Vice, king of the stand alone episodes, starts in with multi-arc ones such as when Sheena Easton shows up playing a love interest who briefly becomes a wife.

These days, pretty much every hour long show has continuing elements -- even Bones.

Long gone are the days of Emergency and Adam 12 and The Rookies and other shows with stand alone episodes that didn't leave story elements to be resolved later in the season.

Despite the fact that most men watching, for example, The Blacklist today refusing to go back to the days of Barnaby Jones, they won't admit that it is the continuing elements, the very soap opera-ish aspect of the show, that keeps them tuning in.

They can (and do) deny.

But reality is reality.

And with regards to the very bad Narco, the reality is the show's not really about reality but it is about soap opera.  It's a garish and violent soap, to be sure.  But it's still all suds and nothing but.

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