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When Fans Devotion Actually Hurts Their Favorite Stars

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

This story was inspired by an actor we won't name, who voiced a concern recently that we've heard from several: His fans have been so aggressively supportive that they're likely to get him fired. The demands are such that even the hint of flirtation with another character is met with major protests. "Do they want me to be bad in scenes with other people?" asks one bewildered actress, facing the same problem. It's a phenomenon unique to soaps, particularly the supercouple. "Fans sometimes cut their nose off to spite their own face,' explains Talent Manager Michael Bruno, whose clients include Rebecca Budig (Greenlee, ALL MY CHILDREN), Robin Mattson (Heather, GENERAL HOSPITAL), Colleen Dion (Felicia, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL) and Jed Allan (Edward, GH). "If you have a supercouple together, there's only so much you can do. When fans dig in their heels, the show is more likely to say, `Let's write them off in a big wedding, and they can live happily ever after.' And then what have you accomplished?"

That would be unemployment, or at least less airtime. The characters may be riding into the sunset, but the actors? They're out of a paycheck. "The fans being fiercely loyal to a certain couple is so odd." maintains one long-time soap viewer. "They talk as if they are real people, that they are meant for each other, that they deserve each other. But they are pieces on a dramatic chess board who die if they don't get moved around. The only time a couple should get a happy end¬ing is when a show ends. I cannot think of one time when I ever thought, 'Gee, I hope these two stay together forever.' The nature of the genre is that they can't or don't."

AS THE WORLD TURNS's Martha Byrne (Lily), who knows what it's like to be part of a supercouple - it's 19 years and counting for Lily and Holden - understands where fans are coming from because she has been there herself. "I was a Luke and Laura [of GH] fanatic, and I wanted them together, but I enjoyed the struggle of them being apart," she points out. "You give them a struggle so the resolution is sweeter - even if it takes 10 years.People are very dedicated. [YOUNG AND RESTLESS's] Victor and Nikki are the perfect example of a couple who they can tear apart and put back together how many times? And [the writers] do it really well because they're so stable as characters that you can basically do anything with them now, and the audience will go on the journey with them. That's a really good lesson. They're the only couple it has been done with successfully who are still around and haven't been written into a corner. Not that it's easy. It's difficult to keep coming up with ways to break them apart and put them together again. But Jon [Hensley, Holden] and I are back together again, and we aren't on as much:'

While most pointed out that "happiness" doesn't necessarily have to equal, "back-burner?" that is generally what ends up happening. "That was a really serious issue with, and had a big effect on, Ryan and Gillian," agrees AMC's Cameron Mathison (Ryan). "They tried Ryan/Hayley for a little while. They tried to mix it up in all these ways, and the fans wouldn't have any part of either of us with anyone else. Ultimately. that led to Ryan and Gillian having story together that was wishy washy. They never really had a main story. We didn't have a lot to do for a couple of years " And Gillian, of course, ended up sacrificing her life on the supercouple altar.

Okay, that might be a little dramatic, yet it's a fear that many stars have.

Since when do fans wield such extraordinary power? "Fans need to cool it! They're doing the actors a disservice. They're boxing them in," laments one GUIDING LIGHT viewer, who asked to remain anonymous because of the powerful online interests that frustrate her, especially one fan group that has been especially successful. "The biggest danger, to me, of fans pushing the way [some] do is that the powers-that-be really get some wrong ideas. [These fans are] very organized. And they always get their way! I've seen a post on their message board: 'Well, we get whatever we want; what shall we ask for next?' Unfortunately. in some cases, that's not far from the truth. "The networks at this point, because they're doing so badly. are more willing to bow to fan pressure.' claims Bruno. "People who normally love Kristian Alfonso hated that Hope slept with John [on DAYS OF OUR LIVES]. And they literally changed story - didn't they change the paternity of the baby?" (Yes.)

Of course. DAYS recently risked alienat¬ing its audience forever by trusting its head writer. James E. Reilly. to follow his own path. By killing off 10 of the show's most popular characters, DAYS was betting that fans would wait out the story. "I try to temper what the viewers say with the following philosophy: A thousand letters that say they love the show are equal to 100 letters that say they hate it;" says DAYS Executive Producer Ken Corday. "And here's why: You have to listen to what the people are saying, but at the same !me, you can't let the viewers think that they're writing the show. Had we done that, we would have stopped killing these people maybe two or three murders in, not going all the way through the murder of Alice "

DAYS's gamble sure seems to be pay¬ing off because it is pleasing viewers - now - even if it horrified them a month it's all said and done, if we were going to ago. "I never blame the fans, but we have end the soaps tomorrow. Josh and Reva to be very careful in this industry to take would be together. Bo and Hope would be what's being said with a grain of salt," says together, even Sonny and Carly would be Byme. "They have every right to verbalize together. Fortunately, we're not ending the what they feel: I just think it's more important that the powers-that-be interpret their feedback appropriately.

"The reality is, you have to be in it for the ride." concludes Bruno. "In the end. when it's all said and done, if we were going to end the soaps tomorrow. Josh and Reva would be together. Bo and Hope would be together, even Sonny and Carly would be together. Fortunately, we're not ending the shows tomorrow, and we need story!"

Jennifer Lenhart
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