DID YOU READ

Seven prominent soap opera guest stars.

Seven prominent soap opera guest stars. (photo)

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It’s strange that people don’t seem that interested in the fact that James Franco is in the middle of a two-month guest star arc on the soap “General Hospital,” now 45 years long and still going strong. Whatever Franco’s reasons, it’s hard to blame him for the move — if I were a uniquely talented comic actor who kept getting cast as glowering and moody (blame “Spider-Man”), I’d want to take that image to its logical extreme as well.

But Franco’s hardly the first prominent guest star to grace “GH” or the soap opera world in general. Stretching the definition of “prominent” a bit, here’s seven great moments in soap opera guestage. (Sadly, Sammy Davis Jr.’s turn as “Chip Warren” on “One Life to Live” wasn’t available for YouTube perusal.)

Elizabeth Taylor, “General Hospital” (1981)
Princess Diana got more than 750 million viewers worldwide for her nuptials, but 1981’s second most successful television wedding — between Luke and Laura — got a decent 30 million, and Diana herself sent some champagne along. It remains a cultural touchstone, one of the few references non-soap viewers like me get. Less remembered are two things: Elizabeth Taylor also came by shortly after the wedding (as “Helena Cassadine”), and apparently the plotline that season included a sinister weather machine that started a blizzard in the summer. Taylor plays at the level of the show, no better or worse than anyone; you just have to remember who she is to make it special. La Liz knows tumultuous marriages, yes she does.

Carol Burnett, “All My Children” (on and off from 1976-2005)
Even while “The Carol Burnett Show” was going strong, Burnett was a huge enough fan of “All My Children” to guest in 1976 as a hospital patient. Then she got her own character starting in 1983 and returned in 1995 and 2005. And, one of those times, guess who she ran into? Elizabeth Taylor, natch.

Jerry Springer, “Days of Our Lives” (2007)
It’s only natural that daytime talk shows’ trashiest purveyor of “real-life” soap operatics would also be found appearing on the (only marginally more acting-heavy) dramatic equivalent. He’s been on “Passions” and “Sunset Beach,” but his highest-profile stint was on longtime survivor “Days of Our Lives,” where he delivered a remarkably unconvincing turn as “Pete,” gambler extraordinaire. Sure, he can handle being kissed by two blonde casino slatterns, but for some reason he can’t do a convincing drunken reel. You’d think he’d have it down by now.

James Franco, “General Hospital” (2009)
Like Elizabeth Taylor, Franco plays it straight, neither altering the tone to fit his personality nor screwing up royally. As Movieline‘s Julie Miller notes, Franco’s been admirably game with the hectic shooting pace of soap operas, but they still had to cut down from two takes per scene to one to accommodate him. He barely makes it through this take, but considering he’s an amateur at this, it’s impressive. Oh yeah, this is a really silly plotline about a painter who murders people. Or something.

Snoop Dogg, “One Life To Live” (2008)
Yes, Snoop’s got over 40 acting credits not as “himself.” Granted, most of those roles have names like “Huggy Bear” and “Captain Mack.” He also has at least a little range — check his surprisingly effective turn in “Training Day” for proof — but he’s mostly called upon to be his genial self, whether in character or not. Here he’s Snoop Dogg, performing some lesser latter-day material, making the middle-aged white folks feel comfortable and at ease (he tutors one woman on how to flow like him) and buying drinks for everyone.

Bronson Pinchot, “The Young and the Restless” (2008)
For six episodes, the sharp-tongued Bronson Pinchot was Patrick the publicist. Publicists can be unctuous and annoying; Pinchot puts a self-satisfied topspin on it, confident in himself and seemingly without any kind of personal center whatsoever. He’s way above and beyond what’s going on around him.

Roseanne and Tom Arnold, “General Hospital,” 1994
I’ve saved the best for last. For one deranged episode of “General Hospital,” Roseanne and Tom Arnold guested as a couple with documents Luke and Laura needed to blackmail someone. The year of their divorce, they’re on-screen as a deeply unhappy married pair: she runs the casino, he tries to pick up women in it. Channeling the same crazed intensity he brought to “True Lies,” Tom Arnold tries to jump all over Laura by telling her “I want to take you on a magic carpet ride.” Meanwhile, Roseanne starts making out with long-lost love Luke on the couch after the following exchange:

LUKE
Destiny's fickle, Jen.

ROSEANNE
Whatever.

Arnold enters at about 2:50 below; it’s essential viewing, marital disintegration as comic psychodrama. I’m not the biggest expert on soaps, but I’m pretty sure this is a rarity: if they were always this deranged, some sharp Douglas Sirk scholar would’ve picked up on it by now. This video may be the best thing you watch this week — it’s definitely mine.

[Photo: James Franco on “General Hospital,” ABC, 2009]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.