SoapNet mixes drama with hockey in new series
It makes sense that SoapNet would take another stab at creating its own dramas. Last year's Night Shift, the channel's first attempt at that kind of original programming, proved more popular than the reruns of daytime soaps it had been running at 11 o'clock at night. But the difference between this new offering -- about the ladies in the lives of professional hockey players...hockey and soap? -- is that Night Shift was based on General Hospital and used popular stars from the daytime show for the spin-off. If Steve Burton (Jason), Kimberly McCullough (Robin) and Jason Thompson (Patrick) were not in Nightshift, would SoapNet viewers have tuned in?
SoapNet is betting that they will, and thus the creation of MVP. It'll be produced in Toronto and tells the story of the Canadian Mustangs hockey team, the men on the ice and the women who watch them skate -- or something as riveting. It all sounds vaguely like a variation on Footballers Wives. The ABC version of that British hit is still to see the light.
According to Brian Frons, president of ABC daytime, they're going to spend real money to make MVP look like a primetime soap. He said that MVP will have "five to six times" the budget of Night Shift. Of course, that begs the question that since Night Shift was a hit, why not use all that money to do another 13 episodes? Bueller? Beuller? Frons?
There is still no word on whether Night Shift is coming back, but if it does, I hear it will have to be done differently. Last year's production schedule was a killer for the actors and production staff; principals were working on General Hospital during the regular daytime show and doubling up to participate in Night Shift. They were run ragged.
As for the prospect for MVP, SoapNet is promising that it will focus on "the shocking scandals of hockey players -- who are living the life of instant wealth, excess and tabloid celebrity -- with their girlfriends and wives joining the ride." I don't want to burst the soap bubble, but do the folks at ABC realize that ice hockey is not even as popular as golf and tennis on TV? Check the ratings. Even the Stanley Cup finals were miniscule when NBC aired them last year.
Yes, yes, I can hear it now: hockey is just a backdrop for all the drama. Okay, fine. The cast is composed of young stars including Lucas Bryant (Queer As Folk), Dillon Casey (Too Young to Marry), Mathew Bennett (Battlestar Galactica), Peter Miller, Kristin Booth (Supernatural), Anastasia Phillips, Deborah Odell, Natalie Krill and Olivia Waldriff. Mary Young Leckie and Heather Haldane are the executive producers.
The show starts on June 19 and will run every Thursday at 11 p.m. Will soap fans who are currently watching SoapNet to catch up on the daily repeats of The Young & the Restless, Days of Our Lives, All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital, be interested in a hockey drama with no big names and no hook to an existing soap in production? I'll reserve judgment till I see the show, but my gut reaction is -- no.