Titans Article #31

NBC soaps up primetime with trashy 'Titans'

(By Nicole Jomantas The Post Ohio U.)

(U-WIRE) ATHENS, Ohio -- Here's a formula that you won't find in your Introduction to Calculus class: Beautiful people + exorbitant amounts of money + sex (or at least sexual tension) = ratings.

So goes the theory behind soap operas, particularly that unique genre known as the "prime-time soap."

Once considered a staple of the 1980s (quick...who shot JR?), prime-time soaps made a return to television in the '90s courtesy of Fox hits Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place.

Both 90210 and Melrose served as an update to shows such as Dynasty, Dallas and Knots Landing by keeping the beautiful people, money and sex and throwing youth into the picture.

But alas even the painfully long-running 90210 bit the dust last spring as Fox finally realized that a cast of thirtysomethings posing as recent college grads was a bit absurd.

But the prime-time soap hasn't died just yet.

On Oct. 4, NBC's new series Titans made its debut, the brainchild of executive producer Aaron Spelling (Dynasty, 90210, Melrose, the list goes on).

Titans (8 p.m. Wednesdays) revolves around the lives of the Williams family and its cast is a relative "who's who" of prime-time drama.

The Williams family is headed by patriarch Richard (Perry King, Melrose Place) and his ex-wife Gwen (Victoria Principal, Dallas).

Sadly Gwen is about to be dethroned by Heather (Yasmine Bleeth, Baywatch), Richard's soon-to-be new wife who has dollar signs in her eyes and a baby on the way. Of course the baby isn't actually Richard's. That would be too simple. Instead we discover, as Heather walks down the aisle nonetheless, that the father is Richard's eldest son, Chandler (Casper Van Dien, Starship Troopers). Does Richard know this? Of course not.

The other Williams children are just as dysfunctional. Brother Peter (John Barrowman of the short-lived Central Park West) appears to spend most of his time bemoaning his older brother and counting his money. Sisters Jenny (Elizabeth Bogush, 90210) and Laurie (Josie Davis, 90210) have quite the sibling rivalry as well, with Laurie playing the role of the "good daughter" and Jenny as the troubled alcoholic.

Other characters intermingle with the family to ensure that there is always fresh conflict to be had.

Although the writing is frequently over-the-top and the acting leaves something to be desired, the show's overall campiness gives it a potentially addictive flair.

NBC is not the only network playing the nighttime soap game. In August 1999, MTV decided to test the theory of creating a soap opera that cuts out the entire concept of a plot and skips straight to the sex. And so Undressed (11 p.m. weeknights) was born.

The premise is simple: create teenage and young adult characters and then write scripts that revolve completely around who's having sex with whom, where they're doing it and whether a sock puppet is involved.

And just in case you get too attached to the concept of individual actors in lieu of an actual plot, Undressed keeps a revolving door of cast members, averaging at least 75 characters per season. Eventually they all begin to melt together into a blur of sexual exhibitions and tawdry bedroom scenes.

After viewing even a few episodes, it becomes clear that perhaps character development does not really matter after all. For that matter, neither do sets, writing or acting ability. All of which are severely lacking in the series - and yet Undressed still manages to suck teenagers in every night.

But then again, that might be the point of soaps.