A reader's view

 Soap Opera Digest, 1991

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Are the Dobsons doomed ?
Nancy Harrison, New Philadelphia, Ohio

I seem to be the only person disturbed that NBC decided to settle Bridget and Jerome Dobson's lawsuit and return them to Santa Barbara. My concern has nothing to do with the Dobson's ability. I am sure they can greatly improve the show's quality and help it return to its former glory. But what does this sudden decision indicate about NBC's plans for Santa Barbara ? Rather than demonstrating that NBC is giving Santa Barbara a chance to improve its ratings, I think this out-of-court settlement means that NBC has decided to drop Santa Barbara and is just readying a replacement before cancelling the show.

If NBC believed the Dobsons could pull up Santa Barbara's ratings, it would have worked out a deal with them long ago, rather than waiting until the show had been irreparably damaged. Santa Barbara had been moved to kiss-of-death time slots by so many local affiliates (many of them NBC owned) that it is going to be almost impossible for the show to recover, no matter what the Dobsons do, and I'm sure NBC realizes that.

So why would they even bother to bring them back ? If NBC had canceled Santa Barbara before the Dobsons' $52 million lawsuit was resolved (the Dobsons seemed to have a fairly strong case), NBC may have lost. As long as Santa Barbara was on the air, NBC could cut a deal giving the Dobsons control of the show in exchange for a much smaller settlement. Once Santa Barbara was canceled, though, money was the only compensation NBC could give the Dobsons. While I am sure the Dobsons got a great deal of money in this settlement, it is probably much less than the original amount. I fear this sudden settlement means NBC doesn't plan on having Santa Barbara around long enough to be a bargaining chip in court. NBC can kill two birds with one stone by allowing the Dobsons to regain control of Santa Barbara and then canceling it.

If I am correct, the day Santa Barbara is canceled is the last day I'll ever watch NBC daytime (what's left of it). I only watch Another World and Days of our Lives out of habit - a habit I would quickly break if Santa Barbara were no longer in the lineup. Santa Barbara fans may be few in number, and they won't forget how the show is treated. NBC should remember that.


Stop bashing Santa Barbara
Marilyn Henerry, Evansville, Indiana

As much as I have to beg, the time has come to say, please, soap watchers, give Santa Barbara a chance. You will never know boredom there ! Moreover, Jerome and Bridget Dobson (Santa Barbara's head writers) took great pains not to drop people or storylines when they returned this year. They care about viewers and do not insult them. They do not talk down to them, either. The Dobsons may not always do what we want, but they aren't dull.

I hesitate to boast about Santa Barbara, but I cannot help myself. You've heard it all before - how witty, intelligent, colorful, complex, innovative, fun and out-of-the-ordinary this show is. So why is it near the bottom of the ratings in the Nielsens, and yet second from the top in popularity polls ? People really care about Santa Barbara. They like other shows; they love Santa Barbara.

Why can't the networks cater to the bright, above-average viewer now and then ? Why do they spend all their time seeking out the non-thinking couch potatoes of this world ? Bright people buy products, spend money. What would it hurt if a show caused one to think, to smile at witticisms instead of guffawing at adolescent slapstick ? What's wrong with a show that has fascinating, complex, credible human characters interacting, instead of one-dimensional pretty faces reading clichés ?

Since the Dobsons' return, the show is back on track with a vengeance ! Given a year or two, they will turn the tide, I'm sure, and I pray NBC will give them the time. It is uncanny how much the writers know about family behavior, about human hearts and reactions. The words they give the characters are never banal, never time-killing small talk.

For instance, until he was sent off to boarding school this year, Santa Barbara had the most natural, watchable juvenile performer on soaps (Justin Gocke, Brandon). Santa Barbara also has such actors as Robin Mattson (Gina), John Callahan (Craig), Jed Allan (C.C.), Gordon Thomson (Mason) and Karen Moncrieff (Cassie), whose various portrayals of characters on other soaps once bored me stiff. Now the way their characters are scripted on Santa Barbara has made me sit up and cheer.

Who would have guessed that Mason had such great comic timing, or that bland leading man Allan could tear the roof off as volcanic, sexy, meddling, billionaire patriarch C.C. ? Callahan, once the regulation pretty-boy slimebag Leo on General Hospital, became a twinkle-eyed, energetic, intelligent and endearing leading man on Santa Barbara.

And Kelly (Carrington Garland) was very nice before a small and smarmy con man named Quinn (Roscoe Born) was allowed to steal her brains, but maybe she can be rescued. We're now thankfully rid of the dreadful Quinn/Robert/Kelly mess and the Eden-split personality mess (though Marcy Walker will be missed), both of which the Dobsons inherited. We now have a new girl, the breathtaking, young, Bergman-esque Maria Ellingsen (Katrina) for a story with Mason. And we have compelling new stories in the Herr Dieter intrigue, the Julia/Craig pairing, the mystery of Cassie and Warren's involvement, and possibly even a story for lovely Rosa. I can't wait for what will happen next.

This is a show that won an Emmy for Outstanding Daytime Drama three years in a row, and anyone who knows the show could hardly quarrel with those wins, regardless of what they think of the awards in general. One year, Santa Barbara won 13 Emmys - and did NBC do extra promos or shout on-air congratulations ? Nope. Santa Barbara is the No. 1 prime-time show in France - a hit the world over - but since it is owned by New World rather than NBC, that popularity neither profits nor impresses NBC.

So if the show survives, it will be because new viewers decide to sample and savor it, thus raising its ratings and stimulating higher advertising rates. What a shame such quality as this must rely on the flighty ups and downs of a profit sheet, but that's reality. Help us Santa Barbara fanatics before it's too late. The show deserves your attention, and you deserve the best entertainment available. You and Santa Barbara were meant for each other.