11.25.2006

The (Annotated) Guiding Light

If you have any interest in seeing the Marvel crossover episode of the The Guiding Light, stop reading here as this is spoiler-filled.

I've never sat through a complete episode of a soap opera (unless you count Smallville, which my wife is continually comparing to a soap), and it's likely I never will again (unless, maybe, they pull another stunt like this).

Just to give you an idea of the great writing that plagues these shows, here's an exchange between the doctor and husband shortly after a main character gets electrocuted. She's lying unconscious on a gurney.
Doctor: She's got no breath; she's got no pulse. Nothing.
Concerned Husband: Is she going to be okay?
Doctor: She's doing fine.

Maybe I just watch too much House, but with my limited medical experience, I thought no breath and no pulse meant you were dead. Apparently, in Soap Opera Land, it means you're okay. (Well, I'll give you that Comic Book Land has its share of characters that are dead but end up alive and walking around a few issues later.)

The premise of the episode is that Harley Cooper accidentally gets electrocuted by some Halloween decorations, and develops super hearing, super speed, super strength, electrical "shocking" powers, and the ability to "supercharge machinery". I think she even phased through a ceiling at one point. Soon after she discovers she has the abilities, she is talking to her father who says, "People are in the dark, searching for a light to guide them." Suddenly, she is the superhero, Guiding Light.

The episode actually does a decent job of trying to blend a comic book feel with the show. Rather than the normal intro to the show (I taped the next day's show just to check), the opening credits show all the characters drawn comic-book style. There's even updated superhero music for the intro. Rather than the expected fade-to-a-commercial-focused-on-someone's-intense-face, the scene fades to a comic book panel before each commercial, and after each commercial, the show starts back with comic panels introducing the scene. Comic panels are even interspersed with live action to tell the story.

But that's about all it does well. The requisite bad superhero puns abound: "You look like you could use some enlightenment;" or "Don't look so shocked." The acting is just sad. The stunts and special effects are silly. And what's with those eyes? Even the comic book references are forced. Even before she gets super powers, there are a number of references:

  • "...battle the forces of evil."
  • "This costume won't be ready for fighting crime."
  • Husband: You can't save the world. Harley: I can try.
  • "Super powers. Ha."
  • While chasing off some Halloween pranksters: "You evil-doers!"

But that's just the beginning. There are a number of Marvel-specific references. Superheroes don't actually interact with these characters for the show - that was saved for the backstory contained in the Marvel comics - but there are a ton of references made.
  • Title of the episode: She's a Marvel
  • One of the (two) kids is wearing a Captain America costume.
  • "Do you think Iron Man and Captain America need reading glasses?"
  • In the background of one scene, the marquis on a building reads "Marvel Comics Convention".
  • When asked if he thinks this superhero thing is for real, a detective responds: "Yeah, why don't I just call Spider-Man. He's on my speed dial. Right above the Incredible Hulk and the Easter Bunny."
  • After getting bored with the whole crime-fighting gig (after a day), the main character says to the bartender (who happens to be reading an X-Men comic), "I wonder if the Fantastic Four ever gets tired of putting away the bad guys."

It was an interesting idea, but I don't think I'll be adding the show to my DVR line-up.

For more info, Comic Book Resources has a good article: Behind the Scenes of the Marvel/"Guiding Light" Crossover, and CBS even has a couple short behind-the-scenes videos (Marvel Meets Guiding Light and Marvel Special Effects and Stunts).

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