As The World Turns is finding out there is such a thing as bad publicity. The CBS sudser is making international headlines as fans protest the show -- and some boycott the entire network -- until gay supercouple Noah Mayer (Jake Silbermann) and Luke Snyder (Van Hansis) are given another kiss.
Nuke, as fans call the couple, have only kissed twice -- both six months ago, in a highly publicized event that drew both critical applause and high ratings. But the soap has been awkwardly avoiding all physical contact ever since the two young teenagers became an official couple. There was even a Valentine's Day montage during which every couple in Oakdale except for Nuke kissed -- they merely hugged.
Now the show's own actors are speaking up about the controversy.
Austin Peck (Brad) and Terri Colombino (Katie) -- whose steamy, straight sex scenes are by far the most racy on the show -- don't mince words when asked about the Nuke cool-down. ATWT got scared off because there were two men, Peck tells Out. Colombino says there's one simple reason her character's sex life won't suffer the same fate: I have a vagina.
It's possible the protests of the past week may still spark a positive outcome. A veteran actor on the show tells Out, Producers are rethinking their decision. To say they are panicking is an understatement.
CBS' senior vice-president of daytime TV Barbara Bloom has said that Luke and Noah's romance will continue. "If that means there is a natural progression to the physical relationship, I would be in support of it," she told the AP.
Of course they would, says the veteran actor. Now the powers-that-be are wondering how to turn the media attention to their advantage, the actor says. I personally wouldn't be surprised if Noah and Luke kissed by May sweeps. There's an old saying in soaps -- make them wait. And perhaps that's been their intention all this time. Soaps are dying, and losing audience every day -- and they've been handed a life jacket. We'd be dumb not to put it on.
A publicist for the show itself offered Out a lukewarm statement of support: We've purposely told Luke and Noah's story slowly to bring our viewers along with us and engage them -- which we've clearly done... We are telling Luke and Noah's story in the most authentic way we can, being respectful of all the people who watch the show.
Procter & Gamble Co., which owns and operates the 52 year-old soap, last featured a gay character in 1988. But the advertising giant still maintains that there is no discrimination at work here. There's no kissing ban, maintains Jeannie Tharrington, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble Productions. She defends her company's creative decision to pan away from any affection between Nuke: "It's always hard to please a diverse audience." Of course, that audience includes another protest from the right-wing American Family Association, which claims P&G is the top pro-homosexual sponsor on television.
Roger Newcomb, the major Nuke fan from Rockland County, New York, who spearheaded the fan protests of the show, points out that in the world of daytime hijinks, Luke and Noah's story is fairly tame. This is a show that has told stories on kidnapped babies, mothers working as prostitutes, meth addiction and murders this past year, yet they have no qualms over offending anyone with that kind of material, Newcomb says. But to show two men who love each other showing affection -- well, that's just too taboo for them.
Nuke's portrayers have been quiet on the brewing controversy, though Hansis recently spoke to Soaps In Depth. I don't write the show, and so I'm the wrong person to talk about that, he said. I think the show is telling the Nuke story very well. And there is a lot of support behind the couple from P&G and CBS. As for the visible lack of intimacy, Hansis said, It's important as an actor to show that. To show the connection, that's what people do in real life. They touch each other. It makes sense that if Noah and Luke are a couple they would be very close and intimate. So that's kind of what we go for.
One rival daytime executive suggests that another network should pen its own gay love story -- but unlike ATWT, tell it properly. Clearly there's a demand out there, the executive says. And we wouldn't be shy about showing any kissing. We'd kill for this kind of publicity!