Luke: How do I get this guy to change his mind?
Damian: It’s simple, son.
Luke: Well, I’m glad you think so.
Damian: I know so. Make him an offer he can’t refuse.

— Luke and Damian

The Kish/One Life to Live/Brett and Scott Story – Lessons for Luke, Reid, and Daytime TV

The other night, I started to do a quickie news post on the uphill battle to LuRe Luke and Reid to OLTL (based on a thread started on the ABC daytime message boards). There hasn’t been much activity in the last week, so I would guess the enthusiasm has largely died in the water.

As previously noted, some big issues included:

  • Telenext/P&G owns the characters of Luke and Reid and aren’t interested in continuing their life
  • Both Van and Eric have expressed that they do not put a long-term soap commitment at the tops of their lists for next projects
  • Many feel that Jean Passanante did not do Luke and Reid justice during her tenure at ATWT and so would do no better at OLTL

As I started to read the discussion board posts (interesting reading, I have to say), I went back to fill in the blanks of the Kish story (on and off screen).

Why is there a Kish article on a LuRe fansite? Because I think there are some interesting parallels and lessons that should be taken away for fans of Kish and LuRe. I have a similar post in mind for Otalia, but that one makes this look like a drabble, so it’ll have to wait until I have more time available! So, what follows is:

  • What Kish fans are saying (about LuRe and OLTL)
  • The Kish story (including YouTube links), so you can have a look yourself, in case you are unfamiliar with Kish (as I am/was)
  • Was it a ‘love story’ or a ‘gay love story’?
  • The love scene: was it all good?
  • The bungled dismissal of actors Brett Claywell and Scott Evans

I will admit I have never followed Kish and have never watched OLTL. I’ve watched a few clips on YouTube (smuchshypush strikes again!) and have cobbled together the summary below through a lot of research.

What Kish fans are saying

Kish fans clearly feel as strongly about their OTP as Nuke and Lure fans, and a lot of the pro-Lure arguments fell on deaf ears. The Kish vs Lure debate sounded awfully reminiscent of the Nuke vs Lure debates – in other words, not fun.

Obviously (and articulately) many Kish fans argued that they don’t want to give Luke and Reid a chance; that they don’t want a new gay “replacement” couple, no matter how hot and exciting – they want the couple they’ve already invested in. That’s what the hard-core Nukies have been saying all along, and I have no doubt that Lure fans would say the same, were the tables turned.

The Kish Story

This summary was compiled using a combination of YouTube, Wikipedia, and SOC recaps. If I’ve made any mistakes, please let me know. For a great summary of the backstory, check out Seth in the City’s post on the subject.

  • Oliver Fish (played by openly gay actor Scott Evans), is a good-guy police officer who debuted in January 2008. For a year-and-a-half, he was romantically linked with two women – Stacey and Layla.
  • Kyle Lewis (played Brett Claywell, who’s straight) debuted in February 2008 as a DNA lab technician and medical student with questionable ethics.  They did not cross path until April 2009 when they saw each other for the first time since college.
  • Early on, they were not known to have any romantic history together. It wasn’t until a few months later that the show revealed this that not only had they been frat brothers, but they were lovers in college. It is later revealed that Oliver has not been with another man since Kyle.
  • Oliver tries to push Kyle away (kiss #1) and continues his relationship with Layla and denies his sexuality, tagging his prior relationship with Kyle as youthful experimentation.
    [tubepress video=bhVb-Vud3-s description=false title=false]
  • Meanwhile, Kyle accepts a marriage proposal from Nick Chavez (played by Nick Rodriguez, who also happens to be gay), agreeing to take part in a mass commitment ceremony for demonstration purposes. When it turns out Nick has real feelings and the wedding is more than a demonstration, Kyle calls off the wedding with Nick and declares his love for Oliver (kiss #2).
    [tubepress video=hM69V5ptjyA description=false title=false]
  • Like Luke and Reid, they have almost-sex a few times and ultimately decide to take things slowly as roommates and fifth wheels whose names are four-letter words beginning with N intervene (but thankfully, no baby rattles).
    [tubepress video=IA8VPuoRxdQ description=false title=false]
    [tubepress video=y_-DBlKrxCY description=false title=false]
  • On New Year’s Eve, Kish finally consummate their relationship in daytime’s first love scene between two men (aired 30th December 2009).
    [tubepress video=oxuPOSbQQjQ description=false title=false]
  • With that promising development, soon after, their screen-time plummets without warning. During their little screen-time during the spring, Oliver discovers that he is the father of a baby girl, Sierra Rose, the result of a one-night (well, a second one-night) stand with Stacy. Instead of romance, a custody battle ensues.
  • On April 12 2010, Oliver and Kyle are awarded custody…and disappear from the canvas (John Dixon style – with no explanation or farewell).
  • Brett Claywell’s final air date was April 16th.

Was it a ‘love story’ or a ‘gay love story’?

There has been an interesting sub-thread going on over at LRO on this subject, and for me at least, it’s always been very top of mind. I’ll do a separate post on this sometime in the near future, but in the meantime, it’s interesting to see see how the Kish actors felt very much like they were breaking the same ground that many of us LuRe fans saw from Luke and Reid.

Brett has been quite outspoken about the storyline in interviews, and also went on record in the Zap2It interview as saying:

We blurred the lines of gay and straight love, I think. We showed that there’s no difference between gay love and straight love, there’s just love. It’s unbelievable to me that in an age when we’ve got 18-year-old children across the world dying — dying — we still have suffering and hunger and poverty, but we find it necessary to stand in the way of love.

It was powerful to me to be able to use my art to stand up for what I believe in. It doesn’t directly affect my life, but I believe no human being on this earth should be told who they can and cannot love. If nothing else, I feel like Scott and I stood on a soapbox and yelled that as loud as we could to the world. Whether or not people wanted to hear it or not, whether or not they chose to hear it, they did. The moment we had a voice we yelled as loud as we could and I’m really proud of both of us for that.

I had a much harder time finding Scott Evans’s view on the matter, but he touched on it in his first public interview, which was with with AfterElton’s Michael Jensen:

This is a job, it’s an acting job. No matter what happens, I’m telling the story of a person. It doesn’t matter if he’s gay, straight, man or woman. It doesn’t matter. You’re telling the person of a real human, a story they want to tell. No matter what you’re portraying, you should take it as work and you wanting to get the story out there for people to see.

The love scene: was it all good?

When AfterElton’s snicks published this year’s Gay Battle Royale Kish vs Lure poll for daytime supremacy, question five, “[Who had the better] First Time” was accompanied by the following commentary:

Kish had fireworks their first time. Literally. They also had candles and their own song, making daytime TV’s first gay love scene sweet, romantic, and groundbreaking.

LuRe had a couple of "maybe it’s time," followed by a "we should have done it when we had the chance."

Kish FTW.

Voting not applicable

That, plus the differential in endings, was enough to tip the scales for many voters, as Kish ultimately took the title.Wrote AE’s Michael Jensen when presenting the results:

Kish won the categories for Best Kiss, Best Blond Friend, and Best Ending. Meanwhile, Lure took Best Career Juggling, Best Blocker, and Best Parents. And showing most of our readers have a pretty good sense of humor about the whole Snicks perhaps picking on Nuke a bit much issue, the winner of Whiniest Baby was Noah with 84% of the vote…..And the overall champ? Taking 56% of the vote, the winner is…KISH!

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Brett Claywell was asked about his feelings on the experience and replied:

When you were preparing to do the scene, were you starting to get any push back from the network? Were the writers second guessing themselves? No because our writer is actually a gay man. There were a lot of ABC execs in the booth when we were filming it. I know a lot of people were there watching to make sure that it fit all the standards. I just think people are still so tender and touchy about this subject. It surprises me for sure.

How long after that episode aired did you start to hear that maybe this didn’t go over so well? The day I was released from the show!

Do you think had there not been the sex scene, you guys would still be there? I don’t know if we’d want to be there if we hadn’t done the sex scene. A year ago, I wouldn’t be saying this. I think the storyline would have been incomplete without the sex scene. Daytime, for 42 years or however long it’s been on television — that is what daytime does. They tell love stories over and over and over to people across the country. Year in and year out, day in and day out, they’re telling stories of love and they’re telling true stories of relationships. We would not have been truthful if we had held back that scene. I will never, ever regret [it]. I’m very proud and I stand by all the work we did.

This is like the other side of the coin for Eric’s interview with Nelson Branco, where he was asked and responded:

Were you disappointed LuRe didn’t make love? It seems a little mean. Couldn’t they have had sex — even off-screen — before Reid left to retrieve Chris’s heart? Do you feel the viewers were cheated? I don’t know. Listen, you and I have talked about this before — their love story is not a natural progression. And it’s because it’s a gay storyline. LuRe doesn’t move in a natural way a normal couple would progress. Um, given that, I have nothing more to say about that. It’s not [fair].

And speaking to Michael Fairman, Eric commented:

Did you think there was going to be a sex scene between the two of them before you found out how Reid was going to be killed? Was anything ever on the table to have that scene occur? Nobody had ever mentioned anything.  I just assumed that is where that was going, and even when I got the scripts that he was going to be killed, I still wondered if they were going to have them have sex or not before it happened.

I thought it would be really good if they had gotten together, and then he got killed. Yeah, it would have!  But, that is not the way it went….That frustrates a lot, and no story is reflected in daytime television, as it would be in life.  So that is a given.  But it is frustrating for everybody and should be.  They are not at a point yet where they should be, to tell a gay storyline as they would a straight storyline.  And, that has to do with who their sponsors are and their audiences are.  And, they have to take that in to consideration, and everybody understands that, but that does not make it less frustrating.

The bungled dismissal of actors Brett Claywell and Scott Evans

So, the good news for Kish is they got their love scene, and no one was killed when they were written off the air. The bad news is, OLTL did such a bad job of ending the storyline (and making the announcement to their actors), it’s not a given that the actors would return if asked.

From published reports, it sounds like OTLT viewership continued to plummet during late December and early January. Needing to make a change, Kish was a convenient scapegoat, and would pander to at least the conservative demographic.

ABC executives were variously quoted at the time as saying that the mainstream audience didn’t like the Kish storyline, that they had independently chosen to move along, and that Brett and Scott were let go for poor performance. The inconsistent stories fueled speculation that network executives were acting out of fear and/or homophobia.

While the rationale for the decision has been widely disputed, it seems pretty clear that the way ABC went about dismissing their very popular actors was reprehensible, with Brett finding out by happenstance when he stopped by the studios, and Scott learning when people tweeted him for confirmation.

Here is the timeline, best as I could make out…

According to Wikipedia, on March 10, 2010, TV Guide revealed that Fish and Kyle would be written off by mid-April. According to ABC network sources, Kish was to blame for the show’s recent low ratings….Executive producer Frank Valentini later released a statement stating “We are concluding the story that we set out to tell with Kyle and Fish.”

In a March 2010 Zap2It article, Brett elaborated: “We found out separately. I found out the day before the story broke; I was at "One Life to Live" because I was submitting my Emmy reel. And the same day I’m submitting my Emmy reel, Frank [Valentini] tells me that they’re no longer continuing the storyline and that I’ve filmed my last day.”

When asked by Entertainment Weekly specifically whether he had an inkling that there were people unhappy with the love scene and that they were being written out, Brett responded:  “The [love scene] episode aired December 30 and we were released two weeks ago [on or around March 11]. We weren’t filming as much anymore. They were barely using us. If the ratings declined, there has to be some reason and somebody has to be blamed for it….The story broke the last day I was on set. It happened very abruptly. I could see the writing on the wall, but it was very abrupt how it happened.

A March 2010 article in the Boston Herald reported that Scott Evans was “blindsided” when he learned of his firing via Tweets, saying: “With the amount of time and dedication and the effort I put forward with this story line, [they could have had] the decency to call me.”

Scott also told AfterElton’s Gays of Our Lives, “I was surprised, but only because I had done a couple of interviews the week before all this came out, and they asked what’s the future, and I was like, ‘I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. There’s the baby storyline.’ And then I find out online, and I was like, ‘What’s happening?’ I asked Brett what was going on, and he said, ‘I found out yesterday that I was being let go.’ They didn’t need to let me know I was being let go because I’m not a contract. They didn’t need to tell me. As a recurring character all they need to do is stop calling me. I was upset because I felt like, you know, blood, sweat, and tears for this show, and I love the show and love everybody there. I wish I had found out before [the news] had broke.”

Anyone who needs convincing how little notice the actors were given should watch Michael Fairman’s video interview with them. It was posted on his On-Air On-Soaps blog on March 11th, right around the time the news broke. Based on the actors’ demeanor, it was filmed before they learned the news. In it, the two talk proudly about their work, its impact on the gay community and themselves, and where they think things might be headed (no signs of trepidation).

The actors were apparently given so little notice of the end of their storyline, that Brett Claywell went on to say to Zap2It: “Scott and I were disappointed that we’d already filmed our last day together. That would’ve been nice to know. We were like, ‘We’re not even going to work together again.’ That was the most upsetting part.”

In the GOOL interview, Scott Evans similarly observed, “I’ll tell you, that’s the worst part. I’ll go on record saying this, the worst thing is I shot my last day not knowing it was my last day. Between the camera people, and the props people, and the makeup people, and the lighting people, and the hair people: I didn’t get to say goodbye to anybody. There are people there … I had so much love. On my last day, Alan, one of our station managers, came up to me and said, ‘I want to tell you, you are one of my favorite people.’ Because I do my job, I know my lines, I get there on time, and to not be able to say goodbye to those people sucks so hard. [The viewers and fans] have another month or whatever leading up to it. For me, it was just like cold turkey.”

A mere few days later, OLTL went on to win a GLAAD award (presumably decided well before the firing news broke) for Outstanding Daily Drama Series. Scott said, “We spent the whole red carpet talking about the cancellation of the story line instead of celebrating. We won, but ultimately, we lost

Meanwhile, in reference to the GLAAD award won by the show, Brett said, “We saw the trophy backstage and otherwise there was no mention of [the cancellation] during the ceremony. I don’t know if GLAAD is upset with "One Life to Live" — I didn’t get it. Scott and I presented!…I thought they would at least mention us because what we did was groundbreaking.”

Meanwhile, on top of not informing the actors, rumors about ABC’s handling of the firing reached even more outrageous proportions. Daytime Confidential wrote: “A Canadian publication printed that Scott Evans and Brett Claywell were let go because of a lack of commitment and too much partying.”

Both Brett and Scott denied such allegations (and I wasn’t able to find any verification of the rumors), with Brett telling Soap Opera Digest "It’s so false it’s slander. Scott and I were nothing but professional and completely 100 percent dedicated to our work." Otherwise, Evans and Claywell have been quiet about the situation, keeping their comments confined to a handful of tweets.”

Daytime Confidential went on to report that despite ABC’s reported claims that viewership dropped in 2009 because of the Kish storyline, “One Life to Live hit a new low as fans tuned out in droves, following the shoddy, fear-based exit of groundbreaking supercouple Kyle (Brett Claywell) and Fish (Scott Evans). OLTL lost 227,000 total viewers, hitting the soap opera’s all-time low rating. OLTL was also down year-to-date 310,000 not-so-mainstream viewers, and was dead last among total viewers.”

Based on these published reports, even if Kish did get their love scene and a happy(er) ending than Luke and Reid, it sounds like the dismissals could be described as unprofessional at best, and probably more accurately as  downright lousy (among other adjectives).

I wouldn’t wish this kind of treatment upon Van, Eric, or any other actor (Good luck, Terri!), much as I hope they find plentiful and rewarding work soon.

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