Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Nuke…just a ratings tease?

Posted by jenn on February 21, 2008

Luke and Noah – a couple with a slightly forbidden kind of relationship that seems to have fans obsessed and calling for more. Every scene featuring them appears adorably cute and romantic, with them discussing their relationship all the time, catering to their fans who don’t mind the sappiness. Fans were pleased by an episode two weeks ago, when the boys had a rather risque conversation about fantasies while sitting in the coffeeshop. Many viewers can’t help but get sucked into the hype, and I believe that the writers just keep the couple around to appease their fans, rather than involving them in new drama. From the few weeks that I’ve seen so far, Luke and Noah rarely have anything to do with the major plotlines and dramatic events revolving around ATWT. In the Valentine’s Day episode, while every other couple’s “what-if” scenarios invariably drew other characters into their stories, Luke and Noah were set apart, meeting up in New York City, far away from Oakdale, isolated from the rest of the show.


This begs the question: where is the Nuke storyline going? And is it simply there to keep ratings up with their popular presence? One thing certainly seems to be driving the ratings up – soap fans have become obsessed with the subject of Luke and Noah kissing. Leading up to Valentine’s Day, it was all the discussion board posts about Nuke could talk about – estimating how likely it was that there would be Nuke liplock on the 14th. Apparently, fans have gone so far as to send hershey’s kisses to CBS in an effort to induce an onscreen kiss. Youtube is full of Nuke videos – many of them catching moments of “almost kisses” or “cheek kisses” and even more devoted to displaying the two onscreen kisses they have enjoyed thusfar, the first of which happened to be the first gay male kiss on American daytime television, (according to wikipedia and a few other articles – I am still trying to confirm). And while one can watch all 6 minutes and 47 seconds of Nuke airtime in the Valentine’s Day episode combined into one video, fans do not get to see what they so desire – instead, Luke goes in for the kiss but turns away when he sees someone walking by, once again teasing the audience. I even came across a video that one fan had made, commenting on the lack of a Valentine’s Day kiss for Luke and Noah when all of the other couples featured in the episode had better luck.


It seems pretty clear to me that the writers and CBS are trying to drag out the Nuke storyline as long as it continues to raise ratings, without actually having anything new happen. Fans will keep coming back to the show to see if Luke and Noah will finally kiss again (or heaven forbid, take their relationship even further – maybe they will decide to go hang out in that friend’s hottub after all!). And while CBS has brought in the possibility of future damage to the relationship with the introduction of a possible future rival for Noah’s affections, their relationship is currently simply plugging along, drama-free.


Perhaps to many viewers, and the writers themselves, the drama involved in the Nuke storyline is simply that it exists. They are, after all, one of the first gay male couples on American daytime television, and the kiss they’ve shared was the first gay male kiss in daytime history. Is that enough? Does their relationship need to progress even further? Or will fans be appeased by their relationship lasting, just as ATWT fans who are offended by the storyline will put up with it as long as it doesn’t go any further (or as long as they can watch episodes where any Nuke moments have been cut out, thus eliminating the story from their radar)? Either way, I feel that fans will start getting antsy about the lack of action and development with the Nuke storyline, and soon, the writers will have to actually do something. The question is, will they risk the ratings and give Luke and Noah a storyline typical of soap operas (as they experienced months ago when Noah’s father shot Luke), bringing tragedy to the couple, or will they simply allow the happy couple to continue to flourish?


12 Responses to “Nuke…just a ratings tease?”

  1. clax10 said

    haha…I agree with you completely!

    I think that CBS is milking this relationship for all its worth…while still *preserving* morality in not exalting and condoning a homosexual love affair as a heterosexual one is. (Hence, the *almost* kisses…some people are probably detested by their affair) There is definitely a double standard with “Nuke” vs. the other relationships on the show though.

  2. Potassium said

    First a bit of an intro. I’m a nobody soap viewer who stumbled across Sam Ford in my search for Y&R rating numbers. I was debating something, I don’t even remember what anymore, on Tristan Rogers’ (Robert Scorpio from GH) messageboard. So that is how I’ve ended up here. I don’t even watch ATWT but I’m watching with interest as GL and it looks like eventually ATWT retools and hopefully expands to the internet.

    I read the beginning of the blog thinking, I don’t care if they are gay or straight, that is the way all soap romances should be written. That is what is missing! How come the writers can’t do that with the straight couples? I truly believe that is the piece that makes the supercouple. It’s about the slow build, the missed opportunities, the almosts. Make me wait for it so when I get the payoff it means something.

    Now onto the second part – The solution to the Noah/Luke relationship is to run with it and anything that might be “problematic” for the larger audience P&G can put on the internet. The new ATWT website http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/10/significant_changes_for_procte.php mentioned here in one of Sam Ford’s blogs, is the perfect place for it. Conversely, the Noah/Luke, dare I say supercouple, will drive traffic to the new site.

    It sounds like someone over at P&G has a clue and it might even fall together here in the next month or so. As a lowly GH fan I’m jealous!


  3. I think the whole Nuke relationship is an interesting representation of how gay couples are often portrayed in the media. You can take a look at gay characters in media and it’s not difficult to see the different stereotypes that are often played out: from the “Fab 5” making over the worse cases imaginable, to Stanford who plays the role of the savvy best friend who gives freely gives advice on “Sex and the City.” These characters are often understanding, caring, trendy… and are often portrayed as the trendy best friend that deciphers whether if the Sabrina Gucci bag really does go with those patent leather pumps or one of the high fashion judges like Michael Kors or Nigel Barker who know all about beauty and design.

    The Nuke relationship really gives a new perspective on gay relationships, a topic that hasn’t really been explored in a lot of mainstream media. It even mocks the stereotypical gay relationships, having Luke and Noah contemplate joining the hard partying-sexually revved gay scene when they are given an invitation to spend the weekend at the lake house. Don’t get me wrong, the media has come a long way since Sal Mineo’s ambiguously gay character Plato in “Rebel Without a Cause,” but even now, it’s hardly an accurate portrayal of gay relationships.

    The relationship isn’t really about shock factor, it’s more about playing out a fantasy. Women often complain about how their partners aren’t caring, understanding and have troubles communicating. The two characters portray a fantasy: what it would be like having the perfect man who was sensitive, romantic, understanding, and wasn’t embarrassed to share them with you.

    The whole relationship is extremely interesting and plays a role debunking the gay stereotype while fulfilling a fantasy relationship.

  4. jenn said

    Fourfourteenam: You bring up some interesting points that I hadn’t even considered – such as how homosexuals are portrayed on primetime television in their regular lives, not just in their romantic portrayal. As an avid watcher of Sex and the City myself, I see that comparison, and I recognize the stereotype that you bring up, such as the trendy best friend with lots of advice. It is clear to see that Luke and Noah don’t fit that stereotype, from my limited watching. It is interesting that ATWT shows a softer side of a gay relationship – in many ways, this is like the relationship between a heterosexual couple. [Interestingly, that comparison with the heterosexual is even seen in the Valentine’s Day dream sequence where it takes a day of sight-seeing before the two boys actually recognize that they are homosexual.]

    As Potassium so rightly brings up in the comment above, they have slowed things down to let it play out with a slow build that shows the development of the relationship. This is where I see such a stark contrast, however. This slow build to a relationship, with the missed opportunities, is not as typical of soap opera romance once the two individuals involved have started a relationship, no longer opposed by external forces. As to the Nuke storyline being a fantasy relationship…all fantasies and dreams come to an end, and while it might not be typical of soap operas, I’d like to believe that a person could find another person that was perfect for them without that situation not actually being possible.

  5. laura47 said

    Having only watched two weeks of ATWT, but having also read up on the Nuke history, I am personally okay with them having a calm period in their relationship. I am sure there will be troubles down the road, that always happens for Soaps couples, but I am happy to be able to watch one stable, happy couple in the mess of divorces and adultery and everything else that goes on. I like happy couples, even though I know that happy couples tend to be boring in long form stories. When I am shipping some potential couple on some show, I worry about what will happen to them if they actually get together on the shows, because I know it’s unlikely TPTB will let them just live happily ever after, because that is so much less interesting.

    Historically, gay people were often doomed in popular media. One could sometimes get away with having a gay character if they were evil, or were killed or otherwise “punished” for their homosexuality. There were tons of “trashy” romance novels about lesbians back in (I think) the 1950s, that were allowed to be published as long as at the very end everyone went straight or whatnot. I’m told the “straight” endings often became very cheesy, and many readers just ignored the endings and kept the characters gay in their minds. When one half of Buffy’s first lesbian couple was killed off, many fans of the show were doubly upset because of the history of killing off gay characters.

    So right now Luke and Noah are relatively problem free, while surrounded by straight couples with all the typical soap couple problems. Gay couples have as many problems as straight couples. I don’t think Nuke should have the one perfect, problem-free relationship in the history of soaps (though if you read the history, they’ve had some serious problems!). However, if Nuke being portrayed (for now) as nice, sweet, happy, gay boys who don’t conform to the stereotypes many people have (the ones that we saw in with the lakehouse boys with their drugs and partying), and that changes some viewer’s opinions on homosexuals even a little bit, then that makes me happy. Sure, it should be about telling good stories, but I’m all for thinking about the consequences of your stories and being socially conscious, and I freely admit that I support efforts to change negative stereotypes about homosexuality.

  6. samford said

    A lot of great thoughts combined in this thread, too numerous to respond to at once. First, I want to say welcome to Potassium in joining the conversation and thanks for the find words. Look forward to having you interacting here and hope you stick around throughout the semester, and even beyond, if there’s a way for this site to continue a life as a blog about soaps. I think that one of the great appeals of Luke and Noah is, as Potassium points out, precisely that we’ve been able to see them portrayed as more of a “normal” couple than almost anyone else on soaps at present, in that much of their drama hasn’t come in constant betrayal and conflict between one another. In many ways, this show has taken advantage of some of the greatest attributes of the soap opera, in being able to tell a story slowly. I do agree somewhat that Noah and Luke are sometimes relegated to too much of an island, away from many of the other characters on the show, but that is a problem throughout soap writing. At its best, these shows should involve constant crossover of characters, but the nature of writing all these scripts amongst a geographically dispersed team of writers often makes this unrealized potential. After all, currently living at the Snyder farm is: Emma Snyder, Holden Snyder, Luke Snyder, Faith Snyder, Natalie Snyder, Noah Mayer, Meg Snyder, Jack Snyder, Sage Snyder, Parker Snyder, J.J. Snyder, Brad Snyder, and sometimes Ethan (Holden and Lily’s baby). Obviously, Holden and Lily potentially getting back together might change this, but the point is that all these characters live there, but they always seem to be in the kitchen in shifts. The moments we do get to see Luke and Meg talking, or Brad and Jack, and so on, are great, because they inevitably become character-driven instead of plot-driven scenes, cases in which the family reflects and shares what is happening with one another, as Luke and Lucinda do from time-to-time.

    This is the function Emma Snyder serves for Luke and Noah, to be sure, but I still often wish to see Luke and Noah together more often. Considering some of the remarks Brad made when he first arrived to town that offended the rest of the family (making a joke about someone being gay in an unflattering way, not realizing Luke had come out), etc., it would be great to see Luke with cousin Brad on occasion, etc.

    Instead, it’s easy to forget, for instance, that Parker and Will are brothers, that Katie and Craig are brother and sister, and so on, when these characters rarely interact on screen and are instead locked into “their storyline.”

  7. samford said

    By the way, as something of a soaps archivist myself for ATWT, I have some collected scenes from the past few years that I can always show during our daytime class sessions. For instance, I have some scenes here and there involving the build-up for Luke’s coming out. Perhaps it would be worth watching someday soon?

  8. lynn liccardo said

    sam’s right, a lot of thoughts in this thread. i’ll comment on just a few.

    those who see nuke as a throwback to soap couple of old are absolutely correct. as agnes nixon (who was an early writer of both atwt and gl before she went to abc) put it back in the day: “make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait.” sadly, in recent years this has devolved to “hey, nice to meet you. wanta f***?”

    as for the nuke story, if the spoilers i’ve been reading on mediadomain are correct, there’s plenty of story (and a lot more waiting) coming down the road. which is good, albeit, frustrating and giving rise to real questions about how far cbs and p&g. but another axiom of soaps is that happy couples are boring couples. since conflict on soaps is largely driven by who was sleeping with whom and who will be sleeping with whom, this is a particular problem for gay couples. what to do after the inevitable breakup?

    this used to be a problem for interracial couples. thankfully this has changed. with nuke, the only voice of dissent from family and friends, however gentle, as come from emma. while it’s never been clear, bonnie is a bi-racial child, the product of a black mother, attorney jessica griffin (were that tptb bring her back) and a white father, ducan mckechnie. at the time of jessica and duncan’s marriage, it was lisa who had a real problem, along with jessica’s family. a subplot was lisa confronting her own racism. but while interracial couples now raise nary an eyebrow, when it comes to gay coules, soap writers face challenges that are deeply inbedded in the structure of soap storytelling that have nothing to do with homophobia.

  9. laura47 said

    For instance, I have some scenes here and there involving the build-up for Luke’s coming out. Perhaps it would be worth watching someday soon?

    I’d love to see that! As much as I say I am okay with Luke and Noah having a nice, normal relationship right now, I know that it was not a smooth road getting here and I would like to see some of those bumps!

    I hope the homophobia is handled well next week, and also anything involving the Iraqi girl and Luke and Noah’s relationship. They have the potential to show us some very real and honest situations there involving cultural barriers and sexuality, and I hope they make good use of it!

  10. laura47 said

    Considering some of the remarks Brad made when he first arrived to town that offended the rest of the family (making a joke about someone being gay in an unflattering way, not realizing Luke had come out), etc., it would be great to see Luke with cousin Brad on occasion, etc.

    Oh that is so easy to picture! Brad makes some big dumb comment, everyone looks all awkward, Brad has no idea anything’s wrong, hilarity ensues. Brad seems so simple and so dumb but somehow I like him. How did he react when he found out Luke was actually gay?

  11. Mark said

    Laura47, that scene is on YouTube:

    And these scenes where Brad is defending Luke (without Luke knowing it) are interesting too:

  12. samford said

    Thanks for sharing these, Mark!

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