in a lather
--- the Buzz to here ---



NBC’s indomitable warship soap Days of Our Lives celebrated its 47th birthday last week (and will air its 12,000th episode come January), and for roughly thirty of those years — give or take a primetime furlough or two, during which time she reigned supreme on such smash shows as Falcon Crest and Melrose Place — the radiant, criminally gorgeous Kristian Alfonso has remained front and center as the show’s primary distressed damsel, Hope Williams Brady. It seems fair to say that Hope’s future has rarely been more in flux: Alfonso’s longtime co-star Peter Reckell has just vacated Salem, bringing to an end — at least temporarily — one of the most storied romances in daytime history, and Alfonso now faces a frame of time breathing life into Fancy Face without her beloved Bo by her side. The Buzz had the great fortune of speaking with Alfonso by telephone a few weeks back, during which conversation we dug into all of the above, as well as her thoughts on the undying loyalty of Days’ ardent fans and the current shaky state of daytime drama as a commercially viable genre of entertainment.


BRANDON’S BUZZ: Don’t let me make you feel old here, but next year marks thirty years since your debut as Hope Williams Brady —


KRISTIAN ALFONSO: I think you’re right! And you know what: I embrace every single year!


Could you have possibly fathomed that we’d be sitting here in 2012 still hopelessly enchanted by the magic of Bo and Hope?


No! No, and I am so thrilled that I am still on Days and that I get to walk through those doors every day. Seriously, it’s a thrill, every single day, and I still get nervous. I still get butterflies! Peter [Reckell, Bo] teased me about that; he [would say], “Are you nervous today?” And I’m like, “I-I-I — I am! I feel the butterflies in my stomach!” And he just shook his head and rolled his eyes.





As ferocious bitch-on-wheels turned eternally conflicted heroine Samantha “Sami” Brady Hernandez on NBC’s venerable soap opera Days of Our Lives — a job she accepted nearly two decades ago, when she was all of sixteen years of age — the astonishing Alison Sweeney has long since mastered the riveting rigors of daytime television, so it shouldn’t surprise you to discover Sweeney taking by storm the world of prime-time television as well: she is the executive producer and star of a new reality series for TV Guide Channel (Hollywood Girls Night), and she is heading toward the climax of her tenth cycle as the host of NBC’s evergreen competition series The Biggest Loser (which airs Tuesday nights at 8pm EDT). (And don’t for a second think television is her only lane: Sweeney is also the best-selling author of a pair of books, including the recent self-help smash The Mommy Diet, a cornucopia of food and fitness tips for expectant and new mothers.) Alison took a few minutes out of her insane schedule earlier in the week to stop by the Buzz to expound on her many jobs, as well as to discuss how she is rolling with the just-announced latest round of changes at Days.


BRANDON’S BUZZ: I suppose my first question would be: are you superwoman?! You’re hot and heavy on Days of Our Lives, where you never stray far from the frontburner; you’re all over prime time on Biggest Loser and the Hollywood Girls Night, and I even caught you on Celebrity Apprentice a few weeks ago judging a contest on behalf of Walgreens — to say nothing of kids and husband and your so-called “regular” life — so when exactly do you sleep, my dear?


ALISON SWEENEY: I’ll be honest: that is certainly my weakness. I don’t get a lot of sleep. But I love my life! I love all the exciting opportunities that come my way and making the most of it. It’s always something different and fun — I’m very lucky.


I know it probably adds many more hours to your workday and stress to your life, but I have a sense that this stint hosting The Biggest Loser over the past few years has been a great blessing in your life—


I love being a part of it — I love the show, I love the way it transforms people’s lives, I love fans who come up to me and say that the show inspired them to lose ten pounds, twenty pounds, a hundred pounds. You know, I meet those people everyday, I see them on Twitter — I actually just retweeted someone who lost weight and feels better about themselves because of information that I was helping provide, and I think that’s so incredible. It makes me feel really special.



and each day that follows

posted at 4:04 pm by brandon in in a lather

“The fans are so loyal, so passionate, so invested in their stories…. I always ask how they started watching Fraternity Row: some of them were stay-at-home mothers, taking a break before their children got home from school; others were college students with free time between classes; many of them inherited a love of the show from their parents, or their grandparents, who were longtime fans themselves. I remember the first time I tuned into Fraternity Row. I was hooked instantly; I needed to know what would happen next to these fascinating people. Would the hero and heroine find their way back to true love? Would the villains get their comeuppance? Or would their crimes go unpunished? Would loving families overcome their obstacles? Or would their troubles prove too difficult to surmount? Ultimately, that’s what soap opera is about: families. Close families, rival families. Families that are unexpected, or families that we choose for ourselves. And when a show is lucky enough to have been on the air as long as Fraternity Row has been on, these families become extensions of our own…. We know them so well: they’ve become our friends. We yearn for their happiness, especially when it’s hard won. We laugh as they laugh, we cry as they cry, and we can’t imagine doing without them. And when things are at their very worst on the show, that’s when we seem to enjoy them the most. There’s just one thing we have to do to keep them in our lives: tune in tomorrow.”

— the ever-eloquent Victoria “Viki” Lord (the peerless, radiant Erika Slezak), on yesterday’s penultimate, heart-wrenchingly majestic episode of One Life to Live, beautifully eulogizing Llanview’s own soap opera, Fraternity Row — and in a funny, marvelously meta way, One Life itself — as only she can. (One Life has always been more than happy to wink right back at us and send up the conventions of the soap genre that it has mastered so brilliantly, even in its last days: in the storyline, in case you’ve been foolish enough to not follow it religiously, WVLE — the local channel which airs soap-within-a-soap Fraternity Row, which once counted, in days which pre-date his successful stint as Llanview’s police commissioner (!), homespun hero Bo Buchanan as its executive producer (!!), and the aforementioned Ms. Lord’s spunky spitfire of a long-lost daughter Megan as its lead actress — has canceled the series after a forty-three year run (wink, wink), which has led to quite the hue and cry from many of Llanview’s citizens, even those of whose undying love for the show we have had no prior knowledge. And Thursday’s episode of One Life featured Llanview’s local talk show paying tribute to Fraternity Row — much the same way The View did this very morning with One Life — which gave Miss Viki one final chance to crumble, cry, carry on with her trademark stately stoicism, and then teach us a little bit more about ourselves. Myself, I started watching One Life in that unforgettable summer of 1988, just a few months before my mother passed away, and in times great and horrific, wonderful and wrenching in my life, I have CLUNG with both hands to that show, above any and every other show, and I’m quite sincere when I tell you, there have been times throughout those years when it felt like I didn’t have a friend in the whole world except for Viki, Bo, Clint, Nora, Renee, Cord, Tina, Megan, Jake, Blair, Joey, Dorian, Asa, Max, Luna, Marty, Gabrielle, Sarah, Mel, Andrew, and Dr. Larry. The show lived its one life with a ridiculously reckless brilliance, and it comes to an end today after some 11,000 episodes and 43 years —- indeed, after one of the most remarkable runs that American television has ever witnessed. And so today, I salute my fellow fans who mourn right along with me, and I thank Agnes Nixon, all the writers and producers, camera guys and crew(wo)men who have upheld and succeeded her genius with all the grace that the world will allow, and all the actors who have collectively breathed such gloriously gorgeous LIFE into the hallways and highways, into the bedrooms and byways, of Llanview, PA. From the bottom of my hard and heavy heart, thanks for every last one of those magnificent memories.)


“I believe that daytime is failing because the people who create it, run it, own it have forgotten what soap opera is. Soaps were originally developed to bring in family, love, infidelity, pain, joy, but family, across the board. Not just young people, not just old people, everybody! I think the mistake has been — I mean, who sees aliens in their lifetime? When you do a story about that, who relates to that? I don’t! It’s just silly! Erika Slezak with twins that, one is from one guy [and the other is…] — wha?! I remember when they did it, I went, ‘Wha…?!’ There’s enough in life, real life — real joys and traumas and difficulties and infidelities and love — there’s enough of that to write stories about…. And when I think that it’s gonna be all over, ‘cause it doesn’t have to be! It’s not some old-fashioned thing; no one just ever brought it into 2012. They didn’t respect
[the form of soap opera]…. they didn’t honor it. And they ruined it.”

— the peerless Linda Dano — an Emmy-winning veteran of the soap grind for nearly three decades — offering her thoughts on the continuing decline of the art of the soap opera, which took another paralyzing hit last week with the tragic cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live, on
Brandon’s Buzz Radio. (My full fifty-minute conversation with Dano, during which she was quite candid with her opinions on the current state of daytime, in addition to previewing her imminent return to QVC and waxing wistfully on the upcoming royal wedding, will be available for download later this weekend, and trust me: it’s a doozy.)


what’s in a name?

posted at 10:02 pm by brandon in in a lather

“Who are these people I keep hearing about? Burt and… Laura?”

— the marvelous A, requesting more information on the greatest love story in the history of American soap opera — that of Luke and Laura on “General Hospital” — after listening to my interview with former “GH” star Lynn Herring on Brandon’s Buzz Radio. (Gotta love him!)


he’s b-a-a-a-ack

posted at 9:11 pm by brandon in in a lather

I have no idea why no one else online seems to have gotten their hands on this nugget of information, so I’m breaking big soap casting news right here on Brandon’s Buzz tonight: I’m thrilled to announce that one of the Buzz’s favorite actors, the magnificently dashing Gordon Thomson (with whom I had a riveting two-hour chat back in January on Brandon’s Buzz Radio, and who will likely be returning to my hot seat sometime in May), has just joined the cast of “Days of Our Lives” in a recurring role. Thomson — best known as slick, sinister Adam Carrington on the ’80s classic primetime soap “Dynasty,” and as the finest and most wittily erudite of the three Mason Capwells on the late, great “Santa Barbara” — will be portraying Walter, the father of Owen, the mysterious new character being played by Latter Days star (and “Guiding Light” alum) Wes Ramsey. As of now, Thomson is only slated for five episodes, but is hopeful that the role will be expanded. (A first airdate is not yet known; Gordon relayed to me that he has just begun filming, so Walter should show up in Salem just in time for some May sweeps madness.)




Growing up, I was an NBC kid.


To this day, I have clear memories of getting home from half-day preschool just in time to catch the closing minutes of “Texas,” have lunch, and settle in at my mother’s knee for a full afternoon of “Days of Our Lives” and “Another World.” That marvelous lineup of daytime entertainment underwent multiple changes as time marched forward — “Texas” (the first soap cancellation I ever survived, funnily enough) left the air in 1982 (just as it was getting good!) around the same time that “Search for Tomorrow” came over from CBS to finish out its legendary life, and my beloved “Santa Barbara” came along in 1984 for a remarkable nine-year run — but throughout my formative years as a television fan, NBC — with its softly glowing series (didn’t you always love the way “Days” looked just a tad fuzzy back then, almost as though it were shot through a thin film of super-sheer pantyhose?) and its magnificently endearing characters (Marlena! Roman! Felicia! Cass! Rachel! Cruz! Mason! Julia!) — was always home.



Dear Mr. Obama,


I understand you’re kinda new at this racket, so let me say at the outset that I’m willing to give your shameful ignorance the benefit of the doubt, and willing to believe your silly, impetuous actions on Friday will never again be repeated.  But, sir, you’ve been president-elect for barely a week, and you’ve already made no fewer than one enormous miscalculation, one which, try as I might, I simply can’t allow to stand.



cleanup on aisle five

posted at 10:26 pm by brandon in in a lather

I’m sure what follows is funny to no one but me, but the beauty of having my own blog is that I have the power to indulge myself in that which amuses me greatly.


Earlier this year, Ellen Wheeler, the executive producer of the 71-year-old American institution “Guiding Light,” spearheaded a radical revamp of the classic soap, switching to handheld digital cameras and adopting a more “natural” shooting style.  In addition, the show’s home base was moved from its traditional Manhattan studio out to Peapack, New Jersey, several of whose locales — churches, municipal buildings, gas stations, and residences — now double for those in fictional Springfield, the town in which the show is based.


In late February, when the show’s new production model was unveiled, Wheeler gave a multitude of interviews to the mainstream press trumpeting the enormous changes, and expressing profuse joy over being able to now show the soap’s characters driving real cars, waving from real porches, and primping in real salons.  (As she herself intoned excitedly, “Now when a character is getting down on one knee to propose, he doesn’t have a patch of fake grass sliding out from under him in the studio. It’s there in the beautiful park and believable!”)



dishing with the stars

posted at 2:01 pm by brandon in in a lather

Over the past few months, I’ve become great pals with a fabulous woman name of JoAnn Kubasek, who hosts a fascinating online talk show called Stardish on the BlogTalkRadio network.  Although of late, the show has branched out into the worlds of film and Broadway, Stardish’s main beat is the soaps; JoAnn has recently landed terrific interviews with industry icons like Linda Dano, Catherine Hickland, Michael E. Knight, Ilene Kristen, and countless others, and she has done yeoman’s work in constructing this amazing forum for the fans to connect with their favorites.


I’ve had the immense honor of participating in the evolution of this show, both on air (it’s been great fun being able to pick the brains of some of my favorite stars, and — although I did no such thing — JoAnn likes to credit me with “saving her ass” the night she had soap legend Judi Evans, whose acclaimed work she was unfamiliar with, as a guest) and behind the scenes (I’ve done some freelance writing on behalf of the show in recent weeks, and eagerly anticipate further assignments).


Depending on the lineup of guests, Stardish airs most weeknights at 10pm EDT (9 here in Texas, y’all) and can be heard at  I’m quite excited to be co-moderating a soap chat on the show tonight, and you’re all invited to attend and throw your two cents in!


more the survivors’ affair

posted at 11:27 am by brandon in in a lather

“This… inferiority complex that daytime [television] has with regard to prime time, I think, is hurting it, especially because, ironically, prime time has become so much more like daytime! It’s almost like soap operas lost the battle and won the war, because, with the exception of a few police procedural-type shows, I can’t think of a single prime time or cable show that doesn’t have soap opera elements.”

— former “Young and the Restless” writer Sara Bibel, discussing daytime’s woes on the BlogTalkRadio show “In the Zone”


i’ll give you tomorrow

posted at 12:36 am by brandon in in a lather

Sure, it’s not in the same league as the impeccably rendered coffee table scrapbook that Gary Warner assembled for the soap’s 30th anniversary in 1998, but considering the sorry state of affairs that is daytime television these days, I gratefully choose to appreciate the fact that we get even this much.

In The “One Life to Live” 40th Anniversary Trivia Book, longtime soap journalist Gerald Waggett delves into the legendary soap opera’s rich history and, alongside the standard year-by-year plot recaps, character bios, and Emmy data, manages to dig up a few kernels that even I didn’t know (and I pride myself on knowing everything about this show!), including the revelation that executive producer Paul Rauch, despite his vehement protestations to the contrary back then, was trying to lure Robin Strasser (who had left the show on bad terms with Rauch a few years prior) back to her signature role as Dorian Lord in 1990 but was instead forced to recast with Elaine Princi after Strasser turned him down flat, or that the passionate objections of my forever fave Hillary B. Smith convinced head writer Michael Malone to change the ending of his spectacular 1993 gang rape storyline (the trial was originally slated to conclude with a not guilty verdict, but after Smith — who played Nora Gannon, the attorney defending the rapists — intervened, Malone had Nora realize her clients’ guilt and deliberately throw the case during summation, thereby causing a mistrial).

As is typical with Waggett’s soap-related books (of which I own four, including this one), this one contains some frustrating factual errors (Claire Labine didn’t replace Malone as head writer, but rather the disastrous team of Peggy Sloane and Leah Laiman; Sloan Carpenter wrote Lord of the Banner in 1993, not 1992) that a true daytime expert wouldn’t have allowed, but all things considered, this is a nice way for both new viewers to get a crash course on the show’s history and for freakish devotees like myself to take a lazy stroll down mem’ry lane.


the sincerest form of flattery

posted at 10:14 pm by brandon in in a lather

“Aaron [Spelling] and I set out to try to do a serial to be competitive with ‘Dallas.’ Someone at ABC actually suggested we do a show called ‘Fort Worth,’ which we said, ‘Noooo… I don’t think that’s a very good idea.'”

— “Dynasty” producer Douglas S. Cramer, recalling the television classic’s dubious origins