Carolyn Hinsey's Afternoon Delight - A reader's review
First, allow me to establish some credibility on the subject. When I was 16-years-old, I was left at home alone for the weekend for the first time our family's history. Most teenagers would have a party, but I went out and bought Soap World by Robert LaGuardia (and a Sara Lee coffee cake) and stayed up all night to devour both of them. Since that time, I have collected books on soap opera history, anniversary books and scholarly articles on the genre. I've also read the histories of the British soaps including, Eastenders, Emmerdale, and Coronation Street. In addition I have read every edition of Soap Opera Weekly since it was published as well as Soap Opera Digest. In fact, having lived abroad as a teen, as well as in boarding school, there was a time that one could follow a soap opera storyline strictly from the magazines. Today SOD's synopses are filled with nonsequitur that makes it impossible to use as a supplement - i.e. Mary opens the door to a big surprise (and then no follow up on what was the surprise).
Getting back to the review
Carolyn Hinsey was present for the death of the soaps from the perspective of a journalist. She had two choices when writing this book, either name names or be a sycophant. Ms. Hinsey does not name names. In fact, she laments that stars won't go on record to discuss Chris Goutman, then she inserts a story about first hand knowledge of actors feuding during the AMC Puerto Rico filming, but she doesn't name the actors. The gossip that is included has been well documented elsewhere, including in her magazine. What interests me, as a soap fan, is how did the magazines choose to deal with the information. What were the struggles to report the story? However, this is rarely mentioned.
Most informed soap fans will remember that Ms. Hinsey was once the editor of SOW and now writes for SOD. When she was fired from SOW there was huge response on the New York Magazine website noting that she was difficult to work for and demanding. However, her personal struggles are never included in the book. As a result, I feel that we have missed out on hearing about a unique part of the genre.
In addition, the tone of the book is odd. At times she sites sources, although far too often the sources are her own magazine, than at other times she writes in first person personal. As a result the book reads like a long blog post written by a petulant teen.
I also don't understand who this book was written for? It seems to be written for fans, but as a fan I don't really care if networks want to use Ms. Hinsey's plan for more product placement or long dissertations about the failings of the neilson rating system. I'm a fan, I have no control over whether CBS chooses to use social media to promote their soaps. Network executives are not dumb as they are portrayed and I am sure that they are well aware of the limitations of the current rating system. So, I am unsure as to whom Ms. Hinsey had in mind as the audience for this book.
Overall, the feeling that I had when I finished the book was that the experience was akin to reading an 8th grade book report. My experience with middle school book reports is that the student stretches to fill the required number of pages. This book felt like Ms. Hinsey had to stretch her weekly column from one page to 300 pages and she simply could not complete the task. Although I am sure that Ms. Hinsey had no control over the size of the font or the spacing, these factors as well as the endless use of lists that are printed elsewhere and poorly printed black and white photographs feel like filler. It also reads as if it were written last week. I'm sure that if I go back to read this book in a year I won't remember Rafe-2 but the story is referenced without any context. Furthermore, it is horribly organized. There seems to be no rhythm or reason to why the chapters are in this order. The center of the book has a review of the recent soap opera history, but the selection is odd. Another World is covered but neither Sunset Beach nor Passions is mentioned in that section. Later in the book we are "treated" to Ms. Hinsey's review of the current shows but rather than consider their place in the history of the genre; each soap is critiqued based on its performance in the last twelve months.
Lastly, while it may be nit picking (although some would consider an email review this long to already be subject to nit picking) - there were facts in the book that were just wrong. For example, I know that the first gay storyline was attempted on Y&R not AMC as written. Also, Ms. Hinsey makes a joke about how social storylines aren't used on B&B because they don't translate well in other languages. In order to make the joke Ms. Hinsey remarks that it would difficult to translate for South Africa, because nobody knows how to say "Lithium in Swahili." It is not enough that the joke is not funny but I remember that B&B is broadcast in using Afrikaan because I read about it in the article about Brandon Beemer visiting South Africa in Soap Opera Digest.