Daytime Soaps Are Back — Could They Save TV?
On July 22, Laura Wright, aka General Hospital‘s Carly Corinthos, walked onto the Los Feliz set of the 57-year old daytime drama for an emotional back-and-forth with her onscreen BFF, Steve Burton (Jason Morgan) — the first scene she’d shot in four months due to COVID-19 shutting down production. “We got it in one take!” she happily reports. “We stepped right into the relationship. It’s definitely incredible to be back.”
Fans are thrilled too as soap operas lead the way for the rest of the TV industry to return to work. ABC’s General Hospital joins CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless as the first U.S. scripted series to offer new installments since the coronavirus shut down TV production in March. (NBC’s Days of Our Lives resumes filming in September, but they shoot far in advance and never ran out of episodes.)
Making a TV show during a pandemic “has been a heck of a learning curve,” B&B executive producer Bradley Bell says. “It’s always been ‘drama first.’ And now it’s safety first and drama second, with face masks and shields and the control room divided up by plexiglass.” The winners are the fans, who have been watching classic episodes of their daytime faves while they wait for new installments to give them a good escapes from the world. “To say there’s a familiarity and comfort level there would be an understatement,” says Karey Burke, ABC President of Entertainment, in regards to the network’s GH.
But how are they shooting those all-important love scenes? Very carefully! Spouses of actors have been brought in as stand-ins and has helped keep those moments maintain their sexiness. In one scene on B&B involving two characters kissing, Bell explains, “Darin [Brooks, who plays Wyatt) stepped out and Katrina Bowden‘s (who plays Flo) husband stepped in and she held her hand on the side of his face to hide his sideburns because they’re longer than Darin’s,” he says. “The little things that we noticed that hopefully no one else will.”
Another daytime drama staple are the infamous huge amounts of dialogue and a lightning fast shooting schedule to give audiences five episodes a week, 52 weeks a year. Today, things have slowed down. “We’re presently doing one show a day, which normally we’d do about six or seven shows a week,” says Frank Valentini, executive producer, GH. For the actors, the slowed down production pace has been a welcome adjustment. “All the years of us hearing, ‘Hurry up!” We don’t hear that anymore!” says Y&R‘s Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman).
To maintain social distancing, large group scenes are out. Actors’ real-life partners step in for love scenes. Cast and crew all wear masks and are tested. Now that daytime dramas are managing to function within the safety parameters, primetime series should follow suit. Bell says he’s received calls from many producers, “all very curious as to how we could do this as responsibly and safely as possible.” Says B&B‘s Thorsten Kaye (Ridge Forrester): “I’m glad we’re back and here to give something [to the fans].”