Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann by Jason Kempin/
Why won't As the World Turns let gay teens Noah (Jake Silbermann) and Luke (Van Hansis) kiss on screen, much less have sex? Are execs at the CBS Procter & Gamble soap homophobic? Are they running scared of antigay Christian groups? Or is this a brilliantly masterminded tease guaranteed to make salivating Nuke fans tune in tomorrow?

Whatever the case, this is the biggest controversy to hit soaps in years. Legions of pissed-off Nuke-anistas - a lot of them straight - have spammed the media with complaints about bias against the duo, and many are calling for a viewer boycott. Meanwhile, the right-wing American Family Association reportedly wants the teens dropped from the soap and has asked P&G to make it happen. P&G has banned ATWT executive producer Chris Goutman from speaking to the press about Nuke, so I contacted CBS daytime chief Barbara Bloom to get her POV.

"I can assure you there is no homophobia on the part of the network, nor are we pandering to any group," Bloom claims. "We have not censored ATWT or asked them to hold back in any way." And she's all for having the two boys go all the way - some day. "I really hope the show will continue to evolve the Luke and Noah story, and that they culminate their relationship the way all couples in love do."

But until then, why the almost puritanical lack of intimacy? At Christmas, the camera panned away as the boys were about to smooch, and focused instead on the mistletoe. On Valentine's Day, every ATWT couple shared a liplock except Nuke. And the roadblocks! Earlier this month Noah married Iraqi refugee Ameera (Tala Ashe) to keep her from getting deported.

"I understand why all this makes people scream," Bloom admits. "The only thing you're going to get out of me is that the pacing is slower with Luke and Noah than it is with other romances on ATWT. But that's good storytelling. We're in the business of getting people to watch more."

My take? I think the folks at ATWT are loving the scandal and milking it for all it's worth. How else to explain that recent scene where Luke - in a nod to the controversy - leaned into Noah and seductively whispered, "What is hotter than a forbidden romance?" - Michael Logan