By Kyle Price-Livingston
I‘m not the world’s biggest soap opera fan, but neither am I one of the genre’s biggest detractors. Soaps get a lot of crap for being trashy daytime TV, and that’s fair. Shows like The Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives have been on the air so long, and cycled through so many plots and characters that their transition to campy-yet-deadpan self-parody is basically inevitable. People tune in to these things for drama, and after a while, it gets pretty hard to create 30-60 minutes of drama using just the same old love triangles. Explosions and evil twins are like breaths of fresh air.
But what if you kept the episodes short? What if you made the relationships more intimate? What if you kept the concept of a the cast of beautiful people drinking and making out in beautiful places, but you put together a cast that have real chemistry and can actually, you know, act? Is what you have left a soap opera?
Venice gives fans a chance to ponder these and other questions against the backdrop of beautiful Southern California. While each of the main cast members has their own scenes and subplots, the straw that stirs the drink, as it were, is Gina. Played by Crystal Chappell, veteran of such soapy titans as Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live and Guiding Light, Gina’s unique combination of wit, charisma, loyalty, sex appeal and crippling fear of intimacy provides the impetus for nearly every plot development in the series’ first season. Her close friendship with her brother Owen (Galen Gering) and her aunt, Guya (Hillary B. Smith), provides the warmth and levity necessary to elevate this show beyond melodrama. Don’t take that to mean there isn’t plenty of melodrama to go around, though. Gina’s on-again off-again involvement with Ani (perfectly played by Jessica Leccia) and her pursuit of the mysterious and alluring Tracy (Lesli Kay) provide plenty of that. As writer and co-creator (with Kim Turrisi) Chappell puts on a clinic for other soap writers in the proper way to weave together a narrative. Oh, and for the curious, yes, the first season does indeed end in an appropriately over-the-top cliffhanger.
4 seasons of this Emmy-winning series are currently available on YouTube. Watch em. You won’t be disappointed.