Truly Madly Deeply

The term “supercouple” gets thrown around a lot, and has come to mean merely “a couple that’s really super.” However, to my mind a true supercouple adheres to a certain storytelling formula that Days had in the 80’s. It throws two well-established characters, generally opposites, together in a situation that has nothing to do with love. Attraction is generally immediate, but there is something about their situation that makes the coupling seem impossible. Internal conflicts arise based on their opposite natures and on their life situations, but these are overcome one by one as the attraction and, later, love between them cannot be denied. Later conflicts are more external, but ideally still tap into character-based issues. I think of Steve and Kayla, Shane and Kim, and Jack and Jennifer as the purest examples of the supercouple formula, with Bo and Hope kickstarting the era, and Roman I and Marlena and Doug and Julie offering (perhaps) the initial inspiration.

To say the show moved away from this formula in the mid-nineties is an understatement. And yet the legacy remained. In positive ways, as we see with Bo and Hope and Steve and Kayla, who are still sexy and wonderful all these years later, and whose fans are still devoted.

The legacy remains, too, in negative ways.

Nowadays we have couples with supercouple PR without the stories to back them up. Their status as true love soulmates has not been earned over time through internal character struggles. Instead, their coupledom is based on chemistry between the actors (and sometimes not even that), a hasty declaration of love, some generic obstacles (scheming third parties being the most common), and the constant assertion by other characters that this couple is meant to be. Carrie and Austin and Shawn and Belle fit into this bastardized version of the supercouple.

Attempting to address this problem, a common suggestion on message boards now is that the show shouldn’t take sides in a triangle. Why should EJ be demonized to make Lucas look better? Write each character as best you can, the argument goes, and may the best man win. This argument sounds good, but I think in the end it doesn’t work. Demonizing one character for the sake of another is never a good idea. But not to have a plan for which couple is the “endgame” leaves the writers and actors at sea.

We can see the effects of keeping an open mind on Days of the past few weeks. We have “Lumi week” followed by “EJami week.” We have Belle playfully sexing up Shawn before his job interview followed by a eyesnog fest with Phillip. An actor has to know who to look at lingeringly. If Belle loves Shawn, Phillip’s attentions should be annoying. If on the other hand Shelle is dead and Belle is going to be with Phillip in the future, she should be looking longingly at him. If she is drawn to both men for too long, she is dangerously close to coming off as wishy-washy and capricious.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see the show toying with other couplings. For too long, the show has lazily behaved as if every couple they threw together that accumulated a few fans was true love meant-to-be, never to be questioned or challenged.

Back in the 80’s, the show didn’t try to turn every couple into a supercouple. The show was organized around couples, but they didn’t try to turn Jennifer and Glenn into Bo and Hope. They weren’t afraid to move on to the more successful Jen/Frankie pairing, and they weren’t afraid to move on from there to Jennifer and Jack. But at any time, the show generally had a plan. It wasn’t afraid to change direction, but a triangle was never presented without it quickly becoming clear who the “winner” was eventually going to be.

What’s happening with Chelsea and Nick is a fatal consequence of not making up one’s mind. Soaps have long adhered to the tradition of bringing on a new character as a foil or spoiler to the existing couple, as Jett is for Chick. And I heartily support making the foil character a good guy and a viable option. But there’s a line you don’t go over.

Part of the problem is that Nick is being demonized in favor of Jett. In fact, the Nick/Chelsea/Jett dynamic resembles the Glenn/Jen/Frankie dynamic after the show had decided to go for the Jen/Frankie pairing. It also resembles the Pete/Melissa/Lars triangle when Pete was transformed into a jealous, insecure, pretending-to-be-paralyzed tool in order to pave the way for Melissa/Lars. For good or ill, the show always took sides in triangles back then, and they knew how to demonize the guy who was on the way out. This character assassination is very similar to what is happening to Nick now.

But I’m not quibbling with the deballification of Nick (well, I am, but not here) as much as with Chelsea’s sudden seeming sexual attraction for Jett. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Steve and Kayla’s great falling in love story, where no matter what doubts they had, they always longed to be together. Chelsea and Nick’s story, as haphazard as it has been at times, has shown them really earning their attraction and love. To suddenly have Chelsea truly drawn to another man seems a betrayal of all that has come before. Imagine if, when Jack came on the scene, Kayla had decided that Steve was too rough compared to the smooth and sophisticated Jack, had rolled her eyes at Steve’s insecurity and jealousy, and had exchanged longing looks with Jack across the room?

Maybe it would have been more realistic. Maybe even compelling storytelling. But one thing it would not have been is romantic.

14 thoughts on “Truly Madly Deeply

  1. Agree, agree, agree. And the thing about Chelsea’s change of heart is even more glaring because there was no reason for Jett to suddenly become more appealing at the time he became more appealing. Two conversations – mainly about how his best friend is a dick – do not a change of allegience inspire.

    Now, if they had wanted to move Chelsea away from Nick for some infathomable reason, then they should have done it in one of two ways: either much earlier before she’d got over her justifiable issues with his lack of truthiness and when her making friends with and then leaning towards someone else would have made sense; or over a much, much slower period of time with active reasons for her to be attracted to someone else.

  2. You forgot Jennifer and Emilio! They dumbed down Emilio so she could be with Jack! (Just kidding).

    Great blog entry. I think what we are experiencing today is how supercouples have evolved from the supercouple status to “twu luv” status. Carrie & Austin and Shelle are examples of couples of such. To what end? Carrie cheated on Austin by having sex in a flying bed with Mike and running off with him. Shawn and Belle were never really together and the only time they had sex was when they were unconscious.

    Chick is the most disheartening because I think Days had an opportunity to make a viable couple to last in the style of S&K and Bope instead of Carrie & Austin, Shelle or even Lumi. They had so much going for it, excellent chemistry between actors who could also act really well. Original setup with Geeky boy redeeming bad girl and an idea of doing an unusual triangle in the form of Internet dating where Chelsea would be conflicted between her online beau (who in her mind is the PERFECT man) and a guy so not her type. Instead they charged through this interesting idea and ended it prematurely as well as making numerous more mistakes that would have ruined any other couples chances.

    Still Chick works and even right now while I’m so furious at the way they are crucifying them, I still think they can overcome this. It might be denial but I’m holding on to it as tight as I can.

    Imagine if, when Jack came on the scene, Kayla had decided that Steve was too rough compared to the smooth and sophisticated Jack, had rolled her eyes at Steve’s insecurity and jealousy, and had exchanged longing looks with Jack across the room?

    Don’t forget, Mary, that to really compare it to Chick today, Kayla wouldn’t have shown attraction to Jack until AFTER she slept with Steve, which of course, was really disappointing for her but Steve was unaware. I know, I know, BAD SEX doesn’t apply to S&K as they weren’t as inexperienced as Chick but BAD SEX in a soap is still BAD SEX and it’s just not done!

  3. I know I should have mentioned BAD SEX explicitly in my post, but I find it so depressing and wrong. Talk about lack of romance. And the idea that S&K could ever have bad sex is an idea that doesn’t belong in the universe.

    The supercouple concept in the wrong hands is a dangerous weapon. You have Shelle and C&A, who in no way have earned the title, getting built up like they’re the next Big Thing. (Though I do see that changing, so I’ll give HS props for that—though the way he’s doing it is somewhat schizophrenic.) And you’ve got Chick who had the chops and the character depth to handle the big supercouple story and TPTB are shooting themselves in the foot.

    80’s Days did character assassinate people like Pete and Glenn and Emilio in order to make the coupling they wanted look better, but they also were very good back then at the triangle where the third wheel served the main couple’s story without getting demonized. They’re never a serious rival but they’re not thrown under the bus either. Britta wasn’t demonized any more than she already was when she was brought back for that short stint. Chris was protective of Kayla but misguided, not wrong. Jack at the beginning. I’m trying to think of non-S&K examples and I’m coming up short, but you get the idea.

  4. I have no idea who Pete and Glenn were. I always appreciated they tried to pair Emilio off with FauxMelissa. I still have a soft spot for the big lug and I felt he deserved a woman to love him. Too bad she killed him or whatever happened.

    Sigh, and to remain on my bitterness attitude, I have found some more Jake and Paulina clips from AW. At least they had a few years of goodness before the show ruined them so Paulina could live forever with Joe, the most boring character in soap history. J&P were my second all time favorite couple in soap history, right after S&K. Ugh.

  5. I think I fast-forwarded the Pete demonisation (can’t imagine why), though he is an interesting example of someone who was part of the intended super-couple: when I first started watching Pete and Melissa were the lead younger couple and he was throwing hurdles in their way by being a stripper and getting Ivy pregnant. So that he was eventually thrown under a metaphoric bus in favour of a dolt in leg-warmers with no character whatsoever is kind of hilarious really. Melissa really had a thing for those dancers of various kinds with bad hair, didn’t she?

  6. I will admit here that I was a Pete and Melissa fan at the beginning of their story. Kindof like Tripp for Emilio, I retain some affection for the big lug.

    I tuned out for a year and came back, and was shocked what had happened to Pete. The Pete/Melissa/Lars triangle was soooo long and drawn out, and it pretty much featured the worst aspects of all three characters:

    1) Pete, emasculated, insecure, resorting to tricks to hold on to Melissa
    2) Melissa, faithless, deceiving, passive—a GHH before the term was coined
    3) Lars, well, being Lars

    They finally ran Pete out of town, and Melissa ended up with Lars. Then she hurt her knee or whatever it was and stupidly kept dancing because she was afraid if she wasn’t a dancer anymore Lars wouldn’t love her.

    And she was right! Lars left her as soon as she injured herself so severely she couldn’t dance anymore.

    Oh, God, it was excruciatingly bad.

    Why do I remember this so well? I think it’s because, like you say, Zara, it’s one of the only times they turned the male half of a fairly major couple into a complete tool in favor of the new guy.

    Beefcakes, though. Hee hee hee.

  7. Thank you for reminding me that it was called Beefcakes! I had forgotten that name. And for the record, I was pro-Pete and Melissa in the beginning too. Maybe that’s why I blocked out the rest of the story.

  8. Well, I can’t comment on the Pete/Melissa/Lars thing as by the time I came to Days that was way over. I didn’t even know who Lars was so imagine my horror at seeing him strutting around half naked with Britta purring at him to find out he was her brother! I swear Drake and MM use these scenes before doing a scene together.

    But I can live at a bitterness camp. I’ll still upset about Jake and Paulina on AW. J&P were so awesome and though estrangement always happened, you knew they would wind up getting back together again. After Jake “died”, they threw Paulina quickly into a relationship with a dolt (hee!) named Joe. OMG, he was like the hulk without the charming green skin or backbone! Anyway, a year later Jake came back and I thought they would surely put them back together. No, they didn’t and it still breaks my heart. STILL!!!

  9. Excellent post, mp. Of course I agree with every word. I would love to see a real supercouple story “live,” not just through old clips, but tptb are too impatient and maybe too incompetent to do one properly. Even with Nick and Chelsea, who are the first characters in I don’t know how long with the potential to become a supercouple, I had to ignore a lot about the start of the relationship for me to get into them. But into them I got, and soon after my heart was broken. At this point I’d almost rather tptb give up on the supercouple concept all together and take the show in a new direction. I have no idea what that could be, but I’m tired of the poorly done “love” stories.

    Tripp, you’re breaking my heart all over again over Jake and Paulina. They’re tied with Ryan/Vicky as my favorite soap couple. Judi Evans will always be Paulina to me. I still cannot believe she chose Joe over Jake. I could have lived with Jake and Paulina breaking up, but JOE?! Was there something going on behind the scenes? I still don’t get it.

  10. It seems to me that Days just can’t seem to plan longer than a few months in advance now. My suspicion is that Kenny goes whichever way the wind blows and is always changing direction on his HWs. The slow build of a supercouple story would have a hard time surviving that kind of treatment.

    I can’t do without love stories, but I totally agree that other kinds of stories would be good too. And those “other” stories are good opportunities for chem tests of various characters, as well as general character development.

    You guys are making me so curious about Paulina and Jake. I love Judi Evans, so I bet I would really like them.

  11. I don’t think it’s just Days that can’t plan ahead at the moment, it’s a chronic problem and I think symtomatic of the rather perilous state of soaps generally. Which doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

  12. Oh, Mary, let me open your eyes to the awesomeness of the world of J&P. Now JE didn’t originate Paulina but when she took over the role you have to hand it to her jumping in with both barrels. I remember watching AW “casually” and liked J&P (they were getting into a marriage of convienance) and suddenly right before the wedding JE took over. I was thrilled as I did like her a lot as Adrienne and Beth and wanted to see how she would do such a different role as this one. She was awesome!

    Here is a sweet mvid (Notice the song LOL):

    and here is a fun one:

    and here is a scene that is them at their comedic best:

    Sigh, I still can’t believe they split them up for good. *sad*

  13. Oh, man, I can tell I would love them already, Tripp, from those clips. I always loved Adrienne but I like Judi Evans bounced up against a “harder” type, instead of Mr. So Cute but So Schmoopy Justin Kiriakis. (I loved Beth and leather-jacket-wearing Lujack, and the brother/sister chemistry of Adrienne and Steve.)

    Now I’m doubly mad that Another World is not showing on Soapnet, because I know that Judi Evans was about to arrive when they cancelled it.

  14. Awwww, that makes me more sad that Soapnet pulled the episodes. The chance for you seeing J&P for the first time.

    If you are a JE fan, she really did great as Paulina. Here is one of when she decides to take a stand against Jake and I think she deserved an emmy for this (there are 5 more parts after this):

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