One Soap That Brings It Agnes Nixon and Bill Bell Style!
I was thinking about soap operas and looking at the current and future state of the genre. There is one soap out there that actually brings in ratings and has all the trappings of what made Bill Bell and Agnes Nixon such iconic writer/creators in this genre.
So what soap am I talking about?
Y&R? I wish!
Then what soap? (Gentleman a drum roll please)
Mad Men! The series which about to embark on its 6 season is exactly what classic soap opera was in the 70's and in the 80's (when the ratings were miles head). And guess what it is not centered on a female nor is the soap geared toward women per-say. But it is everything that Agnes and Bill would sign-off on.
Mad Men centers around the lives of men and women working in an advertising agency in the early 60's and their extended lives outside of work.
On Mad Men the inner workings of corporate advertising is as much a part of and important to the soap as their lives outside of work. Often times the two spill into one another and that causes the greatest of drama.
All of the stories are 100% real and incorporate real life events from the 60's as threads within the soap.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOQfBdCT-AI Creative director and junior partner of Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency and, as of the fourth season, a partner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, he is the series' main character. He is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking executive with a shadowy past who has achieved success in advertising. He was married to Elizabeth "Betty" Draper and has three children with her, but his history of infidelity, along with his revelations to her about his past led to their separation at the end of season 3 and eventual divorce. Draper's real name is Richard "Dick" Whitman; during the Korean War, he assumed the identity of Lieutenant Don Draper, who was killed in front of Whitman. Draper was due to be sent home, so by switching dog tags with Draper, Dick found a way to escape his rural, traditional family.
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHo0sPISTKs Olson rises from being Draper's secretary to being a copywriter with her own office. She becomes pregnant with Pete Campbell's child, a pregnancy that neither she nor her family or coworkers seem to notice, until she goes to the emergency room due to illness, and they tell her she is in labor. Campbell is unaware of her pregnancy until the end of season 2, when Peggy tells him that she gave the baby up for adoption. In season 3, Peggy is approached by Duck Phillips to leave Sterling Cooper, but turns him down, despite the fact that his persistence leads to a romantic relationship. While he rarely acknowledges it, Don appreciates Peggy's abilities, leading him to choose her to go with him to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. She is given more freedom to come up with her own creative advertising ideas, with Don always pushing her to be better. During season five, Peggy feels increasingly unappreciated and patronized by Draper. In the episode "The Other Woman", she leaves SCDP to accept an offer to become head copywriter at Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moH1Dctkozw A young, ambitious account executive from an old New York family with connections and a privileged background. Campbell tries to blackmail Don Draper with the Dick Whitman information he has learned, but it doesn't work. Don and he are antagonistic some of the time, but later develop a grudging respect for each other, culminating in Don's approaching Pete over Ken Cosgrove when forming a new agency. Campbell and his wife, Trudy, were unable to conceive a child early in their marriage, and he only learned of his child with Olson at the season 2 finale. At the end of season 3, dissatisfied with his treatment at Sterling Cooper regarding a promotion, he secretly plans to leave the firm. Unaware of this, Don Draper approaches Campbell with an offer to join his new firm as long as Pete brings accounts worth $8 million of cash flow. Campbell decides to join Draper, with the condition that he be made a partner, though his surname does not appear in the new firm's name (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce). Campbell is one of the few characters in the show who does not smoke. He looks up to Don in many ways. Campbell is often shown cheating on his wife, and is not above manipulating and blackmailing women to get them to sleep with him.
Betty Francis (née Hofstadt, formerly Draper) (January Jones): Don Draper's ex-wife and mother of their three children, Sally, Bobby, and Eugene Scott. Raised in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she met Don when she was a model in Manhattan and married him soon thereafter. At the start of the series, they have been married for seven years (1953–1960) and live in Ossining, New York. Over the course of the first two seasons, Betty gradually becomes aware of her husband's womanizing. After a brief separation, Betty allows Don to return home when she learns she is pregnant with their third child, but first has a one-night stand of her own. She leaves for Reno at the end of season 3, in December 1963, with the intention of divorcing Don. At the start of season 4, in November 1964, she has divorced Don and married Henry Francis. She, the children, and her new husband move to Rye. Betty's relationship with her children is often strained, in particular with Sally.
Joan Harris (née Holloway) (Christina Hendricks): Office manager and head of the secretarial pool at Sterling Cooper. She had a long-term affair with Roger Sterling until his two heart attacks caused him to end the relationship. In season 2, she becomes engaged to Dr. Greg Harris. By season 3, they are married and at Greg's request Joan quits her job at Sterling Cooper. Their marriage becomes tested when Greg's difficulties securing work as a surgeon force Joan to return to work at a department store, prompting her to call Roger Sterling to ask for his help in finding an office job. Because of her invaluable managerial skills, she is later hired for the new agency formed by Don, Roger, Bert and Lane. Meanwhile, Greg's desire to further his career as a surgeon leads him to obtain a commission in the Army, and early in season 4 he is sent to basic training and then to Vietnam. While her husband is deployed, Joan and Roger have one sexual encounter, which results in her becoming pregnant. Joan initially decides to terminate the pregnancy, but changes her mind and gives birth shortly before the beginning of season 5, with her husband unaware he is not the father. Greg returns from Vietnam during Season 5, but he and Joan separate and are divorced by the end of the season. By the close of Season 5, Joan has become a partner in SCDP.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery): One of the two senior partners of Sterling Cooper, and one-time mentor to Don Draper. His father founded the firm with Bertram Cooper, hence his name comes before Cooper's in the firm's title. A picture in Cooper's office shows Roger as a child alongside Cooper as a young adult. In season 2, Bertram Cooper mentions that "the late Mrs. Cooper" introduced Sterling to his wife, Mona, whom Sterling is in the process of divorcing in favor of Don's former secretary, 22-year-old Jane. Sterling, a World War II Navy veteran, was a notorious womanizer (living like he was "on shore leave") until two heart attacks changed his perspective, although they did not affect his drinking or smoking habits, which remained excessive. Prior to his marriage to Jane, Roger had a longstanding affair with Joan Holloway. In season 4, he and Joan have a brief romantic encounter, and Joan becomes pregnant. It was revealed in season 3 that sometime in the mid-1950s, when Don was a salesman at a furrier, and eager to break into advertising, Roger met him and through that connection Don was hired. Season 4 also has Roger less involved with the day-to-day activities at SCDP than he was at Sterling Cooper. His primary function is to manage the Lucky Strike account, which is responsible for over half of SCDP's billings. However, in the "Chinese Wall" episode, it is revealed that Lucky Strike is moving its account to a rival agency, forcing a dramatic downsizing of the firm.
Lane Pryce (Jared Harris): The English financial officer installed by Sterling Cooper's new British parent company. He first appears in the first episode of season 3. His role is that of a strict taskmaster who brings spending under control, in particular by cutting out frivolous expenses. His efforts are so successful he is to be sent to India to enact cost-cutting measures, a move which Pryce is not looking forward to making after having settled in with his wife and child in New York. An unfortunate accident at work handicaps his replacement, thus allowing Pryce to keep his current position. Pryce warms to American culture, and foresees some form of cultural and societal changes in his observations on American race relations. When Putnam, Powell, and Lowe is sold, he realizes he has become expendable, and negotiates to become a founding partner in the new agency alongside Don Draper, Bert Cooper, and Roger Sterling, Jr., with his firing all the employees who are going to go to the new firm, then getting fired himself, thus voiding the non-compete clauses in their contracts and freeing all of them to build a new firm. Pryce liquidates his portfolio in order to pay for his partnership in the new firm and is in financial difficulty while SCDP was establishing itself. He faces a crisis when Inland Revenue demanded immediate payment of his British back taxes. In order to pay the debt, Pryce secretly negotiates a $50,000 line of credit on behalf of the firm and announces to the partners that the SCDP has a $50,000 profit and is able to pay bonuses. In anticipation of the bonus, Pryce forges Draper's signature on an early bonus check to himself, and views it as a 13 day loan which will be made good once the bonuses are paid. However, the partners decide to forego their bonuses despite Pryce's pleading. In the penultimate episode of season 5, Cooper discovers the cancelled check and confronts Draper, who in turn confronts Pryce demanding his resignation. That weekend, Pryce types out a resignation letter and hangs himself in his office.
Bertram "Bert" Cooper (Robert Morse): The somewhat eccentric senior partner at Sterling Cooper. He leaves the day-to-day running of the firm to Sterling and Draper, but is keenly aware of the firm's operations. Bertram is a Republican. He is fascinated by Japanese culture, requiring everybody, including clients, to remove their shoes before walking into his office (which is decorated with Japanese art). He is a fan of the writings of Ayn Rand and implies he knows her personally. Among his eccentricities, Bert frequently walks through the offices in his socks and intensely dislikes gum-chewing and smoking (an oddity for the time, especially considering Lucky Strike cigarettes is a major client). He owns a ranch in Montana and is a widower with no children. Don approaches him about buying back the agency at the end of the third season, which evolves into their forming the new Sterling Cooper firm. In season 4, Don and Peggy stumble upon an audio tape recording of Roger Sterling's memoirs that reveals that Bert received a war injury to his groin, and that ultimately he was castrated by an incompetent doctor. Later in season 4, in the episode "Blowing Smoke", when the agency is forced to radically downsize its staff following the loss of the Lucky Strike account, Bert tells the others that he is quitting the business. He isn't seen for the rest of the season, but is back at work at the beginning of season 5.
Salvatore "Sal" Romano (Bryan Batt): The Italian-American former art director at Sterling Cooper. Sal is a closeted homosexual. Reluctant to act upon his homosexuality, he twice avoided sexual encounters with different men. By 1962, Sal had married Kitty, who seems unaware of Sal's sexual orientation, yet begins to realize that something is amiss in their relationship. The issue of being closeted for Sal is shown in brief but stark contrast against the newly evolving social attitudes toward homosexuality. Sal's secret crush on Ken Cosgrove comes uncomfortably and awkwardly close to being revealed during a dinner in Sal's apartment. Later, when a recently hired young advertising exec, Kurt, casually announces his homosexuality, Sal remains painfully silent while his fellow co-workers speak disparagingly about Kurt. In the premiere of season 3, Sal has a brief interrupted homosexual encounter with a hotel employee while in Baltimore, the end of which Don accidentally witnesses. Don, who was in the midst of a heterosexual encounter of his own at the same hotel, finesses this uncomfortable situation through a coded conversation about their current client, London Fog. He suggests the tagline "Limit your exposure." Later in season 3, Sal rebuffs the sexual advances of Lee Garner Jr., the drunken playboy son of Lucky Strike's founder and a key client. Angered by the rejection, the client demands Sal be removed from the campaign and Roger fires Sal in order to appease the client and keep his $25 million account. In a conversation right after the firing, Don shakes his head at Sal, saying "you people," implying that Don is not sympathetic to people who aren't able to put the company ahead of their personal preferences. At the end of the episode, Sal is seen calling his wife Kitty from a phone booth (presumably in Central Park), in an area frequented by gay men cruising for sex. On the phone, Sal explains to Kitty he would be working late that night. Sal does not appear again during the rest of the third season, and does not appear in the fourth or fifth season.
Now my woman and I spent the last month watching a marathon of every episode of the first 5 seasons and I came to the conclusion that soaps would benefit if writers just watched that series and saw how they churn on-going realistic and smart drama and mimic it. This would a boom too the industry.
Y&R and B&B would be the most beneficial by this. Why because like Mad Men does so well they use to incorporate timely corporate tales into their storylines that actually mimicked the real world industries they fictionalized on TV and spun drama out it that spilled over into their personal lives.