E!’s ‘Dirty Soap’: When Life Is Almost Just Like Fiction
The first thing I learned while watching “Dirty Soap,” E!’s new reality series about the secret lives of daytime soap stars is what a fantastic actress Farah Fath actually might be. As sweet, supportive and recently dearly departed single mom Gigi Morasco on “One Life to Live,” Fath was one of the most rootable players on the soap. I may not have shed a tear a few months ago when Gigi succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning, but I did move forward to the edge of my seat, praying that girlfriend in a coma would pull through.
Mine may have been a Gigi admiration society of one. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the character, but a favorite sport on soap message boards during the four years that Fath was on the show was to deride the actress’s acting skill, or rather, perceived lack thereof. No, she wasn’t the strongest actress in soapland (as Mimi on “Days of Our Lives,” a role she played from 1999 to 2007, she functioned in two modes: whiny and shrill), but based on the evidence from the first two episodes of “Dirty Soap,” Fath’s former “OLTL” costar and the most Emmy-celebrated female thespian in daytime Erika Slezak might have nothing on her. It’s the performance of her career, miles away from loveable Gigi.
Minutes into episode one, Fath had already confirmed that her reputation as a workplace shrew usually precedes her — her boyfriend of four years and former “OLTL” fiancé John-Paul Lavoisier concurred — she put her ex-roommate and on- and off-screen BFF Kirsten Storms (Maxi on “General Hospital,” formerly Belle on “Days,” a role she started one month before Fath’s arrival as Mimi) on blast for being bad news, and she was trying to coerce her poor boyfriend into co-buying an L.A. house he clearly didn’t love because she wants one, like, yesterday.
By episode two, she was nagging Lavoisier for wiping his face with his dirty socks; dissing his mom, Bambi (yes, as in Disney’s most-famous deer); discussing his exposed penis with their “OLTL” costar Josh Kelly (Don’t ask, just watch!); and urging him to put a ring on it already. “I’ve never been a kiss-ass. What you see is what you get,” she said by way of explaining her harridan ways.
She’s Erica Kane with a choppy blonde bob. Even if her “Dirty Soap” bitch routine is all an act, it’s a good one. If she keeps it up, she can dump the BF and get that house on her own: Some executive producer should be knocking on her door with the perfect bad-girl role any day now.
Fath’s new BFF — who, like Storms, used to star on “Days” — is Nadia Bjorlin, an actress who comes across as being as sweet, guileless and slightly monotone as her “Days” character Chloe Lane. I don’t hate her because she’s beautiful. I hate her because she’s been joined at the hips and lips for the past five years with “Bold and the Beautiful” star Brandon Beemer. He might be the only man in daytime as gorgeous as she is.
Of course, what would any soap — or any reality show about them — be without conflict and a scheming middle-age witch on wheels? Enter Bjorlin’s Persian mom, who, within minutes of her arrival in episode two, announces that “if you’re a good cook, you’re a good lover” and that she’s squarely down on her daughter’s love. “If you get married and have children, I will kill you myself,” she tells her daughter. Someone, please get this woman her own show, quick! If Chloe thought Kate DiMera was dangerous, Bjorlin’s mom seems like the type to eat her young for breakfast — or stab them with largest knife in the drawer! — while reading the newspaper and sending emails. And she’s not above slamming Beemer to his face, which she does over and over. I love her already.
Elsewhere we have Kelly Monaco acting as weepy and sentimental as her “General Hospital” alter ego, Sam McCall. When Kirsten Storms was urging her to start getting over her ex, with whom Monaco had just broken up after 18 years, by burning her prom dress, I felt like I was watching an episode of “GH,” with Maxie bossing Sam around while planning her wedding to Jason. Some things never change. Watching Storms is like watching Maxie, and she’s probably the “Dirty Soap” star with whom I’d least want to spend the afternoon.
I could spend all day watching “Days of Our Lives” star Galen Gering, and his wife, Jenna, is just as watchable, though for a totally different reason. If there’s a character that typical soap viewers (moms of a certain age) are supposed to “relate” to, it would be this former actress who is now a stay-at-home mom with the two kids and makes no secret about her dislike of her husband’s love scenes with costar Alison Sweeney.
It probably doesn’t help that at one point Galen raves about his good fortune, getting to go to work every day and “make out with my super-hot costar.” Some are saying the plotline seems contrived, especially after 18 years together and 11 of marriage, but to me, it feel based in the reality of being an ordinary housewife. I suspect Jenna’s issues with Galen might have less to do with his kissing scenes than they do with lingering resentment over sacrificing her career for motherhood.
Forget the Farah/Kirsten rivalry — which, if the producers know what’s good for the show, they will milk for a good cat fight by episode four — this is the stuff of classic adult drama. At Bjorlin’s goodbye-to-”Days” bash as Jenna sat on the sidelines stewing and shooting daggers while watching her husband be the life of the party, I found myself hoping that a star was being born. The marriage might depend on it!
While it was kind of painful to watch the cracks in the Gerings’ union, and Galen being apparently oblivious to Jenna’s inner conflict — or maybe he just doesn’t care that much because he’s too busy looking forward to making out with his super-hot co-star — I am ready for ensuing fireworks in the coming weeks. In soapland, a happy marriage is as boring as a supportive mom. This might not be true in real life, but then reality TV, like soaps, have very little to do with real life.
Bring on the drama — even if it’s mostly scripted!
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