Campy vs. classic: Two soap opera styles duke it out for daytime ratings supremacy
Something’s not sitting right for ”Passions” star Deanna Wright: a pair of horns, to be exact. Wright’s afraid they’ll fall off her head and ruin her transformation from teenager Kay Bennett to a pitchfork-wielding devil hell-bent on punishing her cousin Charity for stealing her true love Miguel. But the 22-year-old actress has had to make several adjustments since joining the unorthodox soap. ”Passions” chronicles life in a small New England town called Harmony — which is also populated by zombies, demons, and a 300-year-old witch named Tabitha.
”The supernatural stuff threw me for a while,” Wright says. ”I was like, ‘This isn’t what soaps are supposed to be about. They’re supposed to be about love! I’m supposed to be romanced! I’m not supposed to be sending my cousin to hell!”’
Viewers disagree: Wild plots like Kay freezing Charity in a block of ice — not to mention the recent arrival of ”aliens” on ”Days of Our Lives” — have helped NBC become the only net to post gains among women 18-49, and also propelled them to number one for the first time ever in September. Meanwhile, veteran soaps continue to lose viewers with traditional stories like Victor and Nikki’s fourth wedding on CBS’ ”The Young and the Restless” and Erica Kane’s 11th engagement on ABC’s ”All My Children.” With NBC now ranking as the No. 1 destination among girls 12-17 — a holy grail demo rich with potentially lifelong fans — sensational, campy stories could be the genre’s future.
”The chain of inheritance that soaps had a lock on — grandmother to mother to daughter — has changed,” says ”Passions” creator Jim Reilly (the same guy who penned the memorable buried alive story arc on ”Days” in the mid-’90s). ”So we have do something where they’ll tune in and go ‘Wow, isn’t that crazy?”’