If you have ever lived with someone who watches golf, you are impressed by the prowess of Phil Mickelson. And if you have ever lived with someone who watches the daytime soaps, you cannot help but be enchanted by the machinations of Victor Newman on “The Young and the Restless.” There is nothing on daytime or nighttime television that can hold a candle to him.

It must have been a cold and stormy winter day more than 30 years ago that a friend carried a television set into my home and called my attention to Victor and his entourage. When Victor’s enemy, Jack, sneaked into the soapy shower with Jill and washed her back, I immediately became a fan. As I recall, Jill’s eyes were closed so she thought Jack was her current husband.

Soaps have the power of black holes when it comes to sucking in new characters. Just showing up on the doorstep as a deliveryman with a package can result in a passionate affair, marriage, children and a protracted divorce.

One of my favorite characters on the Victor program looks as if her eyes were propped open with matchsticks. You almost expect to see her tossed in a bag and carried off by The Asp and Daddy Warbucks.

Everyone on the show has two things in common. They are rich, and most of them have spent time in prison or are presently in the process of being incarcerated for crimes that they did or did not commit.

One of my favorite Dutch Harlequin Romance books was written by Nora Roberts. It is about a young woman who writes soap operas. You, and other literary critics of your stature, might consider Harlequins to be trash reading. But when one reads them in German, Dutch or Italian, they become world-class literature.

I would argue that there is mental nourishment in Harlequin books. Everything I know about the mechanics of writing soap operas, I learned from Nora Roberts in this book.

There has to be a constant crisis afoot to hold the audience. If the psychiatrist heroine of a competing soap is about to have a miscarriage, your heroine has to crash her plane into a Brazilian jungle – just to keep up the ratings.

Will she survive the crash? No doubt about it. She spent months in an institution after losing her mind, was imprisoned for a murder she didn’t commit, lost her twin sons to kidnappers and was married to a paraplegic NASCAR driver. She is a toughie.

The problems these people encounter are so overwhelming that a viewer on death row would hesitate to swap places with any of them.

Some characters are introduced into soaps just for the purpose of having an expendable someone to murder. We read in Wikipedia that this was the case with Victor, who turned out to be a villain with such crowd-pleasing prowess that he was asked to stay. For 34 years now, he’s been the man we love to hate.

Killing off someone in a soap takes time. The viewers have to be kept on the edge of their chairs for weeks, hoping that something very bad is going to happen. A hand – gloved, of course, to hide the sex of the perpetrator – reaches into a medicine cabinet and removes a vial of pills. Weeks later, there is a party where everyone in attendance hates the targeted person.

At the party, the gloved hand is shown slipping a pill into the victim’s drink. But who did it? Was it the housekeeper whose beautiful young daughter slashed her wrists after being debauched last season? Was it one of his three most recent wives who, upon his demise, will come into various trust funds and full custody of a still-to-be-determined number of children?

Also in attendance are business rivals and assorted male and female relatives, all of whom have been kicked about and trampled for years.

The scene ends with his beautiful young daughter picking up the glass and lifting it to her lips. Tune in tomorrow.

My friend Winky tells me that soap operas do not portray real life. To begin with, on soap operas, they can tie a woman to a chair for a week, and if she gets an occasional drink of water and a scrap of food, she gets along fine.

He says that last winter, he was standing by a big picture window overlooking his front lawn. His arms were around his wife and he was about to kiss her. Snow was falling gently outside. Little birds hopped happily about the feeder as the distant hills faded in the evening dusk. His lips moved closer to hers.

But then he turned his head slightly and quietly belched in his wife’s ear. Spaghetti sauce does not generate a romantic smell – unless you were born somewhere between Tunis and Naples.

Winky says he has seen on the TV screen almost every other bodily activity known to primates. But he has yet to see someone in a soap opera burp in a moment of passion. He hopes that Victor Newman will do it soon and make it fashionable so his wife will come back.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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