14 January 2007 | Chip_douglas
Failed attempt at a new kind of old fashioned soap
This media soap was an attempt by Dutch broadcasters AVRO, BNN and TROS to lure soap loving Holland back from commercial channels to public television, and they certainly tried to make it something different, yet still nobody sat down to watch. Instead of broadcasting every weekday in prime time like all the popular rivals, "Het Glazen Huis" was shown at 21.00 over the weekends (saturday to Monday) although declining ratings soon found it being broadcast later and later on the evening and eventually moved to Wednesday - Friday. Set in the world of television production itself, HGH seemed to criticize commercial television with it's Call-in shows, banal quizzes and, indeed, popular soaps, yet also showed a lot of self parody with a soap within a soap and later on, even a real life soap revolving around one of the characters. One episode featured a TV producer complaining that every scene in her newest program seems to be shot through blinds, just like all the office scenes in Het Glazen Huis itself. The directors also had a tendency to use split screen. Produced by Endemol productions, comparisons to Dutch media tycoon John de Mol (developer of "Big Brother") and his family seemed all too transparent, leading to a disclaimer at the start of the show to insure this was indeed a fictional family they were (not) watching.
Arnold Gelderman, whom for years was only known to Dutch Disney lovers as the man who oversaw the dubbing sessions and usually gave himself a nice supporting voice-over part, was drawn back before the camera after an absence of 30 years to play Axel Westhof, the all powerful head of the family, perhaps a bit too obviously patterned after Vito Corleaone (family bonds mean everything to him, he wants his son to go into politics, his eldest son was murdered long ago, etc). Willeke van Ammelrooy, without a doubt the biggest name in the series, got surprisingly little to do as Axel's wife and mother of four (minus the eldest that was killed). All three of the Westhof children, Robert, Nora and Angela have jobs in Television and are married/engaged/lovers of other TV personalities. Of these three, Robert (Mattijn Hartemink, later replaced by Harpert Michielsen) has the biggest faults and the most charm, making him the ever popular character you love to hate. This show was a throw back to those big Eighties soaps like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" when unscrupulous business men and total bastards were always in control. Surprisingly, the least watchable characters turned out to be the younger, underdog characters (the kind of people commercial soaps thrive on): Daan, Cas and Bibi, who are on a somewhat unexplained three person crusade against Westhof, and granddaughter Angela who falls in love with a teacher ten years her senior, then spends most of her on screen time arguing with everyone and packing her bags to move out of places.
Since most writers nowadays are movie and television buffs, and it's always best to write about what you know, the team behind the plot lines on "Het Glazen Huis" obviously had a ball inventing fake titles and a broadcast history for Westhof Television, of which we catch glimpses here and there, peppered with the occasional cameo by Dutch celebrities. This makes you wonder how many of these behind the scenes settings were fake and which were real. As the series progressed, it also became apparent they had taken care in crafting a back story for every plot line, while still including the usual soap opera clichés like illegitimate children, adultery and May-December romance. But still, it was not enough to pull in a big enough audience. Maybe it was all a bit too inside. After a while an effort was made to put some of the more difficult, political story lines aside and concentrate on the relationships, but soon the decision was made that "Het Glazen Huis" would shatter by episode 61 (of a proposed 114). Still, this premature cancellation gave the writing team the opportunity to do something not usually seen in soaps: to bring every plot line to a satisfying conclusion (though some of them should have been wrapped up much earlier). They also finally gave Willeke van Ammelrooy and Diana Dobbelman (playing almost the same kind of secretary as she did in the early eighties smash "De Fabriek") something to do, as well as introducing one last semi-regular character that had up till then only been mentioned in passing.
8 out of 10