Anyone (well, any UK folks) remember Albion Market? No? How about El Dorado? If youre not from the UK (or have good taste in television) then Im just throwing seemingly random words at you. What Im talking about here is discontinued soap operas. Soaps that have run their course, been axed, and consigned
forever to drift off into the empty ether of space and nostalgia. Seems like such a waste. That these shiny little self-contained worlds that shine and sparkle for a moment in the light of public attention should burst and fall back down to earth in such a bitter, career-staining mess.
But its a fact of life times change, tastes change, and sometimes what seemed rubbish and ill-conceived at the beginning just remains stupid and ill-conceived and peoples viewing habits never catch up. All thats left is a shower of jaded actors and maybe a solitary fansite on some dusty corner of the Internet. So whats to be done? How can we salvage something from this sad and sorry state of affairs?
Obviously, whats to be done is this in most cases, the death of a soap is trumpeted well in advance in a vain attempt to go out in a pop of glory with a touching and poignant final episode. So, with forewarning, we form a TV production company and arrange a series of clandestine meetings with the ill-fated stars of the doomed soap. Approaches are made, contracts are signed, and, behind the scenes, wheels are set in motion.
So the tragic day comes, and the final episode of the soap is aired. The credits roll, and the audience bid farewell to these tawdry characters forever. Cue adverts, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
But then something strange happens. The ads finish, but instead of a new program starting, the last scene of the soap returns to the screen. Someone yells, Cut! or thats a wrap, or somesuch guff, and the actors all turn and hug each other. As the cheap cardboard scenery is wheeled away behind them, the camera pans back to reveal other cameras, lighting rigs and so on. So thats that then, says one actor, dejectedly. See you in panto, says another as he walks off set. I just cant believe its all over. I thought I was set for life when I got this gig
Next scene is the final show party, shown in all its gory, drunken detail. Some cast members seem to act to type, others prove to be the opposite of their screen personas the programme switches between all of them in fly-on-the-wall documentary fashion, revealing little bits about their true character.
Or their true faux character. Because this is just another soap, about what happens to soap actors when their fame fades. Thanks to the ill-will inspired contracts that were signed, the actors from the old soap have all agreed to participate in a new kind of drama - perhaps a tad more bitter and cynical - which fictionally follows their lives after the spotlight of celebrity has passed them by.
Some characters do better than others. One is blessed with a lucrative series of adverts (and all I have to do is wear this Admirals uniform), another maybe moves into a more well established soap others dont fare quite so well, and (perhaps based on real-life examples) we see their life descend into a horrible spiral of petty crime, hissy fits and self-destructive despair. Another just goes back to being a postman, but takes to wearing shades so that he doesnt have to recite his soap opera catchphrase on every doorstep in town.
And I didnt mention the Crossroads Motel once. Dammit.