Go on Pretending

Go On Pretending: Let’s Give Soaps a Little Class

Chapter #20: The respect daytime drama deserves

collage of early soap operas for go on pretending serial

Rose knew exactly what she was supposed to think. “Sounds wonderful.”

And, to be honest, it didn’t sound bad. Soaps were considered a woman’s medium, its writing deemed trite, melodramatic, and confessional, fit only for bored housewives. Combining serialized storytelling with critically acclaimed dramaturgy could be a boon for the genre, and earn it the respect it deserved.

“I would love to discuss some ideas for — “ Rose began, already thinking of roles she could write specifically to showcase Jonas’s vocal range and power. 

“Shakespeare,” Lewis said. “He’s prestigious, right?”

“Y-yes,” Rose said slowly, “many would agree with you there.”

“So I’m thinking a little rewrite on Shakespeare, but keeping the important parts, so it still sounds good. Then breaking it up into 30-minute blocks — commercials only at the beginning and the end, classy — to keep folks coming back. Do you think you could write something like that?”

“Yes,” Rose said. Because she’d learned agreeing when someone asked whether you could get a job done was never a bad idea. She’d work out the details later. 

“Great. We try it out on WEVD, local market, so if we self-destruct, few people will know about it.”

And you can dump all the blame on me, Rose also did not say.

“Let’s start with Othello. Perfect for your Mr. Cain, right? Like it was written for him.”

Othello. Jonas would make a wonderful Hamlet, King Lear, Henry V, Richard III. But, of course, the former Mr. Levy/Levin wanted him to play an angry Moor swayed by his jealousy to strangle the white woman he professes to love. A moral there for everyone. Rose wondered if it would’ve been more insulting for Lewis to ask her to adapt The Merchant of Venice — but, classy, commercials only at the beginning and the end, and likely the pound of flesh turned into a pound of Cheese Whiz. Then Rose realized that no Jewish executive could propose a Jewish-themed show. It would pigeonhole him for the rest of his career. The way Othello pigeonholed Jonas.

Rose said, “I’ll speak to the management at WEVD.”

***

The management at WEVD said, “No.”

Well, not the entire management, just the programming director she’d met with before. “Shakespeare is too hard to understand for our audience.”

“I’d rewrite it. It’s what they want me to do.”

“It’s elitist. It’s for the hoity-toity types uptown. We’re the people’s radio station.”

“Shakespeare wrote for the people. He wrote for the masses, not the elites. And there were translations of Shakespeare into Hebrew as far back as Vienna in the last century. It’s been done in Yiddish in Poland, and right here on the Lower East Side, too. Ibergezetst un farbesert, translated and improved,” Rose quoted an expression she’d heard her entire life.

“We’re the worker’s radio station,” he amended, seeing as how she wasn’t accepting his previous argument.

“And we will present them with a worker’s version of Othello. A socialist version.” Rose had no inkling how she might do that. But she’d learned that claiming you could get a job done was never a bad idea. She’d work out the details later. After she’d worked out the earlier details.

He didn’t appear convinced. So Rose felt obliged to sweeten the pot, “Procter & Gamble is committed to buying advertising time for three nights a week, for three months, with an option to extend and syndicate down the line.” They’d only agreed to the first part, and orally at that.More details to iron out later.

The programming director stopped shaking his head and began slightly nodding. The nodding became his reaching for a pen and signing his name to the piece of paper Rose brought him, one she could take back to P&G to confirm WEVD’s acquiescence to their project. He shoved it across the desk at Rose and gestured for her to shoo.

As she left, she heard him mumbling something about, “Those capitalist bastards….”

***

When Rose told Jonas the news, he picked her up, spun her around, and hooted and laughed. Then Jonas set Rose down, and they both descended to Earth.

“How are we going to do this?”

“The same way the Negro and the scheming Jewess have done everything else.”

“By making it up as we go along?”

“By writing our own happy ending.”

***

Click here for Chapter #21!

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To start Go On Pretending at the beginning, click here.

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Alina Adams is the New York Times best-selling author of the As the World Turns tie-ins, Oakdale Confidential and The Man From Oakdale, and Guiding Light’s Jonathan’s Story. Check out her new historical fiction, My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region, out now! Only $.99 cents in January 2023!

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