Diary of a Soap Fiend
Is this sweeps? I don't feel swept yet...satisfied, but not swept. I want to be swept off my feet into a passionate embrace with my soaps. If not, like always, I'll live. I give my shows a lot of leeway and while I feel free to complain if they are not up to my lofty standards, anyone who knows me knows I'm not going anywhere. I'm a total junkie and like any hard core junkie, I can make noises about quitting, even resign to doing so, but inevitably, the siren's call is irresistible. I'll be well on the road to soap sobriety and suddenly, "Oooh, something shiny!" and off I go again, in love and excited about what I'm seeing on screen. I'm the hooked up, mainlining, starry-eyed, ever-forgiving soap fan that ABC positively depends upon in the long run. So far, I'm 30 years into these babies and I'm not giving up without a fight.
In saying 30 years, I'm backtracking to the first day of my first soap adventure. With AMC, I'm a newbie, as I've said before, with only about 4 years under my belt. Still, I'm hooked hard. GH and OLTL turned out to be my gateway drug and here I am, sucked hard into Pine Valley and lamenting my missed time. But that's another column altogether...and it has been.
For now, I am focused (for once) on present time and what we saw this week in particular, as well as some discussion about what is supposedly coming up in the future, so those of you who prefer to remain "unspoiled" may want to step out now. I don't often get all spoilerish, but this time, I am feeling froggy.
I, for one, am not sucked into the "Jon has a toomah/ Jon had his toomah removed/ Jon is all better" trap. He was fakin' before and my bet is that he is fakin again. Hearing ol' Big Eyes explain to Jonathan today that he might be sent away to the big house, tumor or no tumor, was no doubt supposed to elicit sympathy from me and all I could think was that there just isn't a straight jacket strong enough or a room that's padded enough for this guy. Erin obviously can't keep him on a leash for five minutes because spoilers say that Jonathan is going to escape AGAIN and go out trying to campaign for his own redemption. Maybe it's the California "special election" (and my disdain for the whole process) that has me imagining him going door to door, mailing out flyers and taking out TV ads to convince all of Pine Valley that he's a new, evil free, tumor free kinda guy. Proposition 42: Reinstate Jonathan to the ranks of Pine Valley's elite.
(For reasons unknown, as I write this, Jeff Branson's voice sounds like Bobcat Goldthwait in my head. Go figure.) "Hi! My name is Jonathan. I used to be a murderer, a psychotic, a girlfriend beater and an all around bad relative to have. I was blown up, found to have a brain tumor, had the tumor removed and now, other than a mad passion for crayolas, I am just Kaaaaay.O. I'm very hot and I am still under contract. I sincerely hope that you will use any influence you may have in our fair town to bring about my complete redemption and get me a choice, front-burner story, preferably involving Simone and much onscreen sex. Since I am completely reluctant to relocate to any of the many other towns in the country whatsoever, I am asking for your support in being reinstated onto Pine Valley's A list. Remember, a vote for Jonathan is a vote for better mental health, isn't that right, Ryan?"
"That's right, Hammer."
"So do your part to make Pine Valley a kinder, gentler town by voting for me, Jonathan Lavery, for Best Redeemed Psychopath. Thank you very much."
There are plenty of people doing a fine job of bashing Ryan, so I'll let it end there rather than throw my well worn Ryan-bashing hat into the ring. (But surely we know Jonathan is the one who made sure that crappy electric heater fell into the sawdust to burn down Kendall and Greenlee). As long as that base is being covered, I am a happy girl.
Finally, spoilers are starting to point to the "something's not right in Kendall's uterus" story. Now we hear that Kendall is keeping a secret from Greenlee, perhaps that the eggs got a little scrambled in the process and this baby actually IS Kendall's. What a surprise it will be if Zach's sudden interest in helping Kendall through the pregnancy is because he actually pulled an Adam Chandler and swapped around the sperm! They've been spinning a DNA roulette wheel since all of this first began and for all we know, that black out could have been Zach's best friend.
I want to be Zach's best friend... friend with BENEFITS! Rrroowwwlll
I loved how Di got all assertive and confident with Tad on Friday and ended up just planting one on him. There might be hope there yet, especially since Brian Frons has said that he likes Krystal and Adam together. I'm betting they get friendly just in time for the real Dixie to come back. What a mess she is going to have, thanks to her previously-unknown sister, Di, who has made it completely impossible for anyone to believe in the Real Dixie, right down to the DNA proof. They'd sooner believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy before they'd buy another, "No *I* am the real Dixie Martin" story. (One more candidate and we can play a rollicking round of "To Tell The Truth.") What I want to know is how Di managed to recognize everyone and pull all of Dixie's memories out of her tiny, well-toned butt. Hey, I was completely hooked in. Did she channel Dixie during those times when she would walk down memory lane with family members or go through boxes of Dixie's crap with Tad? Is she The Mighty Mysterio and just intuited all of that correctly? If so, that broad needs to be working parties for money on the side. How *does* she make her money, anyway? Ah yes, the kindness of others. Like so many others...
She's the luckiest jailbird I know.
Happy, happy 1pm. Once again, OLTL has not stumbled, has not winced and has not hesitated in its pursuit of a dark, gritty and macabre subject. Admittedly, when I first heard that they were going to pursue the deaths of both Margaret and her child, I figured the spoilers would be true, that it would not REALLY be Margaret and that they would ease around the tense bits to make the story more socially acceptable. Did I forget what show I was watching?
In my opinion, this is where OLTL differs from GH right now. GH plays out the bad stuff, the over the top stuff, the socially-objectionable stuff in a way that is so ludicrous that we put it in a part of our minds where this could never really happy. The shoot out with Faith in the church was exciting and violent, but it was so outrageous, with Faith laughing and shooting and the slow motion and the music behind it that we could take the time to back up and formulate the thought, "Wow, Jason looks really, really hot with those two guns!" It is all very cinematic and panoramic (HYDROmatic! Why this story could be GREASED LIGHTENING!) that there is no thought in my head that it is in any way real. I know that in a minute, Bill Ludel is going to say, "cut" and Cynthia Preston is going to get up laughing and Steve Burton is going to throw an arm across her shoulders and stage folk will start moving the props around in preparation for another scene.
OLTL is not only bold with subject matter, but they are also fully able to use a gentle brush stroke in telling a truly hideous story and to do so in such a way that we are gradually absorbed, sometimes before we even realized we're sucked in. I know this to be so because any more, I pretty much dismiss and dislike any story with Blair and Todd in it. For one thing, with every day that goes by, I miss Roger Howarth more. It's rare that I lock a character in with one actor because I truly do believe in recasts and feel they are often necessary to keep the show and a story moving. It's only realistic and practical to recast, even for major, integral characters.
Roger Howarth spent so much time developing Todd and showing us tiny layers, peeled off a sliver at a time, making Todd into a human being instead of a monster. Yet no matter how human he became, Todd was always and forever flawed in a major way. His intimacy issues were critical to his personality and it's not that I would ever thing Todd could not "get better," but I definitely do not think it would occur in a matter of a couple of years with nothing new or particularly different going on. Let's face it, Todd and Blair have been locked into pretty much the same storyline dance since they met and the pattern rarely changes. Admittedly and to OLTL's credit, that is likely what would happen in a real life, dysfunctional relationship, but to try and play it off as though Todd had a major personality renaissance without any stimulation that would motivate it is pretty ludicrous.
It's the writing, but it's also the flippant, boyish, devil-may-care portrayal that throws off the essence of Todd. Trevor St John is not particularly a bad actor and I am not saying that. TSJ is a GOOD actor and that is what bothers me. When he was still playing Walker Laurence, it was his acting and portrayal specifically that gave me the message, "Holy shit, this is TODD!" As do many OLTL folks, I remember the exact scene where he nailed it. It was when Walker, who Viki barely knew well enough to effectively pick out of a crowd, burst through her patio doors, into her living room and poured himself a drink. HIs demeanor, the way he carried himself, the way he spoke... it was all Pure Todd... Pure Roger Howarth Todd. I don't know how long TSJ studied tapes of RH as Todd to hit it so dead on, but I do wish he had not lost that along the way. The next time he really, really had it was when he was visiting Mitch, his presumed brother, in jail and he did the "Gotcha!" scene. Pure brilliance.
Now, Todd is just a normal, ordinary guy with a long rap sheet and a mean streak to him. He's not complex. He's not tortured or particularly troubled. He's just mean and antisocial. It used to be that Todd's ability to love, possibly for the first time in his life, around his distinct intimacy and trust issues, was what made him so magnetic. The energy around Todd was like the energy around handsome gay guys... If *I* could be the one who is special enough... (No, I don't think that way, but we all know there are some women who do)
If it had been left that Todd was intimacy challenged to the point that he could barely manage to have sexual relations with the wife he adores, and then only once in a blue moon, imagine how much more profound Margaret's rape of Todd would have been. Imagine how much more damaging and invasive and destructive! We're talking YEARS of setback rather than a few days of hesitancy. With TSJ's Todd banging around with Blair like bunnies for months and years before, fans who were not around for the RH portrayal would not understand the profound impact such an act would have on Todd, above and beyond how horrific the act itself is anyway. Most of those who were here likely forgot in the wake of New Todd's Sexual Freedom Fest.
But I came to praise Cesar, not to bury him. Yes, admittedly I found myself thinking the unthinkable as the full story of Margaret and Todd rolled out, from the initial obsession (when Todd was "dating" Margaret for info on Buchanan Enterprises) all the way through to Todd's arrest this week. The unthinkable was not, "What if Todd actually killed Margaret and her baby" but "What if Roger Howarth were playing this?" Of course, the point is moot and these kinds of thoughts are redundant, but like the combination to my locker in high school and the long non-existent phone number I grew up with, they are stuck in my brain and can't seem to let go.
Still, even with those sniggling thoughts in the back of my brain, I was very impressed with story. OLTL did not dodge or cringe once, but simply moved forward with the story and told it with aplomb. Instead of treating it as a "cataclysmic event" or blowing it up into a media fest, the story unrolled quietly and simply as a police investigation. With Lacy Peterson's death still lingering in the air like burnt toast that is long gone, we watched a man trick a pregnant woman into getting into a boat to go away with him. As with any murder mystery, the clues were there. The boat was small and unsteady. Margaret stated she could not swim. Either character, given the presence of firearms coupled with desperation and a good bit of personality disorder, could have ended up as a victim. We watched them row away. We saw Todd return, fire all of the body guards and state with assurance that Margaret would no longer pose a threat to his family. We saw the body (thankfully, OLTL was tasteful enough to draw the line and not make it "the bodies") wash up onto shore and we watched the investigation begin with a good degree of realism. Unlike on GH, we know that the dice are not loaded. The bad guy is not always going to get away.
Yet we are soap viewers and we also know that things are seldom as they seem. More directly, we are OLTL viewers and we know damned good and well that Bo Buchanan can NEVER arrest the right person on the first try no matter how sewn up the case might seem.
I believed right up until the DNA announcement (and pretty much still do) that the baby could have been fathered by someone else... someone who had an idea of what had happened between Margaret and Todd and who might want Todd out of the way. Somone who is crafty and devious and genius and determined. Someone who could charm Margaret into believing that he could help her pass off a baby as Todd's child. Someone like Spencer Truman. Someone who could gain access to DNA results at the lab without drawing a lot of attention to himself. Someone who is clearly after Todd's wife. Someone who knew right when to step in and start comforting Blair.
We definitely have not seen the end of this story and I applaud OLTL for having the courage to tell it and to do so with more of a "CSI" approach than a "Sopranos" approach.
Additionally, two thumbs way, way up on the very simple, cheesy, but oh so creepy and effective way OLTL has of using dolls to jack up the intensity a few hundred notches. First with "The Haunting of Dorian" and now with "The Quasi-Haunting of Todd," I have got to admit, they gave me a chill.
How did you like that brilliant segue into the Tessica story? While not one of my favorites by a long shot, it is again a testimony to the deft pen of OLTL scribes and the talent of the actors involved that I am in any way interested at all. When the Niki Smith story started back in the 60-70's, I was enthralled. I was very young and had never, ever heard of such a beast as DID, then called "Split Personality Disorder." There was only Niki; no Princess or Tommy or Jean Randall. Viki was such a goody-goody that it was truly stunning to see her transform into a barfly who captured the deep affections of our dearest anti-hero, Vinnie Woleck.
As each story closed with the assurance that Viki was successfully integrated and that Niki was an integral (but never, ever seen) part of her new, combined personality. Sadly, once we got into the 90's, each time Niki came back, it was more and more of a disaster. Erika Slezak inevitably throws her all into playing this character who is so very different from Viki; however in recent years, Niki has become less of an anti-Viki and more of a cartoon character. The addition of the other "alters" made the story more complex, but not particularly more interesting. Jean Randall, my own favorite alter, is little more than Viki undergoing deep, no-bullshit-taking PMS. Honestly, without the added benefit of not remembering when an alter takes over and what that alter does while in control, I can honestly say that I have all of Viki's alters living in me. I have Princess, the part of me who wants to curl up into a ball and have a good cry. I have Jean Randall who is convinced she is surrounded by incompetent idiots and wishes they would all just piss off. I have Tommy who is enraged and just wants to break stuff. I have Tori who is maniacal and wants to set people on fire or push a pillow onto their heads until they just SHUT THE COMPLETE HELL UP. I have Niki who wants to go out and party and wear outrageous clothes and not be bothered. The only one I don't have is Viki, the smart one with all the money. If the writers truly wanted to come up with archetypes who would garner the complete affinity of its viewers, they did a fine job. Viki is likely the only one we CAN'T relate to on a daily basis.
Speaking of intentional juxtaposing, I applaud the introduction of the character of Nash, who is sane, calm, strong and loving, compared to Antonio who is, let's face it, just frickin nuts. I would like to believe that Nash is on hand to ease Antonio out of the picture (and DON'T give me that "fiery Latino machismo" bullshit, please). I fail to find any redeeming quality in this guy at all. Are we supposed to admire that he finally managed to work the system and dig and dig until he found enough ammo to take his daughter away from the family she loves and the home she knows only to dump her with Layla the babysitter 43 seconds after he regains custody? *I* want to call the social services officer myself! Who watches Jamie while Layla works her waitress job? Does she hang out in the bar waiting for the moment when she will have to morph into her alter, Janie?
Antonio has never given two craps about his daughter as anything other than a pawn to one-up RJ while RJ and Lindsay actually saw the little girl and loved her for who she is (sometimes, in Lindsay's case, to the point of obsession). Everyone was happy with the previous arrangement except Antonio and heaven knows if Antonio ain't happy, he's going to fight and spit and have a fit until he gets what he wants. It would be lovely if Cris will call him on his crap once he's out of prison, but I suspect the Valiant Vega Brothers will again be teaming up to fight all crimes, real and imagined. Of course, they will have to take out about 10 minutes to give Carlotta the new score card for who is and is not her son this week.
God, I hate Antonio. Can you tell? He even out-Ryans Ryan Lavery and that is hard to do. One of my happiest Antonio moments in forever was when Viki was laying into him this week and giving him the bitching out of a lifetime, leaving him little to do but push his little sneakered toe into the ground and mumble, "Yes Ma'am" several times. I have always admired Viki's ability to just go off on some deserving target and just rip them a new one without even bothering to break into a sweat. Preach on, Viki, preach on!
I didn't think I would be able to fit new Clint into the role with that stunning, oh-so-not-Buchanan blond hair, but he is pulling off the personality well, if he would only add a dash more cowboy. Clint was always so tough and wise and strong and daddy-like with that underlying threat that he could totally start wailing on someone if they crossed him wrong. He's like Mr Arnold, the dad from "The Wonder years." (Yum!)
I like the connection that seems to be growing between Nash and Clint and I suspect that is going to become even more pronounced now that we are hearing that Nash is actually related to someone currently on screen. I'm guessing he might be Clint's son (what? another one?), which will get the message boards buzzing about whether or not Nash and Jessica are related. The answer is no because Jessica is the daughter of Viki and Mitch and is only related to Clint by way of adoption.
Well, here it is. Here is how GH screwed up this week. Carly's hands. We kept seeing these teaser shots of "a woman's hands/gasp* and it was really built up as some kind of major revelation by the time we saw Carly's face on Friday. Well, that's where they screwed up. Carly has been in the sanitarium for about 47 seconds. It's not as though it's a big deal that she's managed to escape and is now on the train. That's just typical Carly. It's not a big deal that they did plastic surgery on her during the 47 seconds she was in the sanitarium and now looks like someone else. Why are we supposed to get all choked up over seeing a character who was on screen two weeks or so ago or about someone who we don't even recognize? If I happened to be a person who doesn't follow the soap mags or have online access, I would have no clue why there was a such a build up to seeing this woman. I'd be saying, "Who the frig is that?"
Any time a recast comes on board, we must have the obligatory 4-5 scenes in which other characters call the recast by name repeatedly. "Well, I don't know, CARLY, maybe you SHOULD go back to the nuthouse, hmmm?" "I agree, CARLY, it has been too soon!" "Now, CARLY, get that straight jacket back on and take your meds like a good girl." That gives us time to wrap our brains around, "OK, now THIS chick is Carly." I need the requisite announcement where for three or four days Don Pardo voices over, "The part of Carly Corinthos is being played this week by Laura Wright."
This was just dumb... leading up to the face of a woman we don't even know. As usual, GH needs to take a page from somewhere else to do it right, this time being OLTL. [Make wavy lines in front of your face with your hands to carry you back in time] 1972 I'm sitting in my living room, docilely watching OLTL with my mother, who is ironing. Because steam irons were not all the rage yet, Mom had gone through and "sprinkled" the clothes by shaking water all over them from a sprinkle bottle (sort of a laundry asperger). Mind you, if she could not get around to ironing the clothes within a few minutes of the sprinkling process, she would have to stick the whole damp bundle into the deep freeze to keep them from mildewing. So here's Mom, ironing her sprinkled clothes and here I am, 11 years old and already a soap fiend. We're watching a rather benign episode of OLTL (there were a lot of benign episodes of OLTL), when all of a sudden, someone says something to a bum in an alley, the bum turned to respond and the whole world tipped on its axis and our brains melted to the insides of our heads and the angels didn't sing, the angles said, "OH MY GOD!!" Mom and I both screamed at once, our jaws on the floor and said in unison, "AAAAAHHHHH!!! It's JOE RILEY!!" Mind you, it worked because 1) It was Lee Patterson, who played Joe Riley from the git go and 2) It was completely unexpected - we were all unspoiled back then and 3) Joe Riley had been dead for freakin 2 years and there was no hope of a return.
This does not work. There were so many things about this that just didn't work. Imagine if we had seen "the hands" for days, tense and clutching and being all handsy and then in the last few minutes of Friday's episode, instead of Laura's Wright's brand spankin new Carly, we'd seen... Genie Francis' old school Laura? What if SHE'd been the one to break out of the sanitarium, come home for her son's wedding and to tell LUke about how Helena had drugged her and held her captive in her own body, much as Stefan did to Helena herself? Right now, when Luke is feeling something almost like remorse about how LuLU has been discarded, when Lucky is marrying the love of his life, when Nikolas has lost the love of HIS life, when Luke has been trying to love Skye and just can't get it up to speed, when *cough*splutter* Luke is married to TRACY QUARTERMAINE... It's the very perfect time for a Laura return. (Not to mention that Laura finally has a daughter who actually looks like she might not be adopted!)
Mind you, I don't think Genie Francis WILL return as Laura, but would that have not been a much more staggering, profound soap experience?
Dial it down and think of how it would have been if we'd seen "the hands" for days, tense and clutching and being all handsy and then in the last few minutes of Friday's episode, instead of Laura Wright's brand spankin new Carly, we'd seen... Cynthia Preston as Faith Roscoe! What if Faith could barely walk and was half-out of her mind (what was left of it) with revenge for Sonny and was actually the one who orchestrated the whole train crash to get her vengeance on an arrogant, holier-than-thou town who treated her as a throw-away person and left her to die. Since Carly had been seeing Faith a good bit, that would have been a really nice tie in. What if we saw Faith making out with Manny, all hot and bothered over the engineer's dead body?
I mean, if you are going to go to the trouble of a major lead up to a big revelation, take the time to make it work. Showing us someone we don't even know and a character who is only newly absent is no big whoop at all.
GH, you screwed that one up big time.
There were two particular scenes, both on Friday's episode, that really resonated with me. One was when Jax and Nikolas were throwing Styrofoam furniture away from the door, Courtney starts to help and Jax grabs her by the shoulders and says something to the effect of, "NO! You miscarried once!" I wanted so much for Courtney to say, "SURE, WHEN I JUMPED OF OF A GIGANTIC FLIPPIN BOAT into the 'icy' waters off the coast of Colombia!! Not when I moved a 4 pound fake couch!"
The other, which had me literally laughing out loud, was when Ric was telling Sonny about the desperate situation of his baby being born right here in the middle of a train wreck and a cave in and Sonny sort of "Pfft'd him." I really needed Sonny to say, "Buddy, you don't want to get into a pissin contest with ME about babies being born in bad situations. I shot my wife in the freakin head while she was giving birth, now top THAT!"
Although it would have been more dark and sinister than even GH tends to tread (but my mind is a dark and sinister comedic place), it would have been funny to me if Emily or Robin (take your pick, I can hang with either one starring in this scenario) were delivering Alexis' baby and Sonny walked up saying, "Pfft, I can fix this," pulled out his gun and shot Alexis in the head through Emily or Robin. We are always barking about how much we love a nod toward GH history and that would be a pretty strong one.
Actually, I liked Alexis until she became weird, podAlexis. Nah, I don't want her shot in the head, especially during birth, but if Carly could get the hots for Alcazar by being shot in the sex brain during birth, maybe Alexis can get jarred back into being a thinking, intelligent, rational person with one of Sonny's mind-altering, psychotherapeutic bullets. Hell, I can get the hots for Alcazar without even being shot!
Interesting that in very nearly every scene over the past few months, Alan is written as though he lost the drawstring to his mental marble bag. He is coming off as boorish at best and senile at worst. Of course, that's a better shake than Edward, who just isn't coming off at all because he is conspicuously absent. I'll bet John Ingle is not at all surprised by that. But I'm thinking Jed Allan is.
Seeing Robin and Sam side by side really brought home to me what twinners they actually are, to the point of being absolutely staggering. The Brenda, Hannah, Lily thing is coming into mind as I look at them. If they don't go for a long-lost twin sister story, they are doing us all a major disservice. Robin and Sam look more alike than did Sam and Alicia, which is hard to do.
The best part of GH this week was the cave in, which resulted in a good old fashioned Moldavian Massacre cliff hanger where on Friday, everyone looks dead, but on Monday, everybody will get up and brush themselves off and be OK with the exception of poor Reese, who, as Sage so delightfully put it, will be in little Reese's Pieces.
All in all, for its warts and flaws, I walked away from this week's offering of ABC soaps feeling satisfied, more so than usual, but with far too much worthy of being picked at to feel as if I'd gotten swept away.
I've seen a good bit that's better and a whole lot more than is worse, so that makes me a happy girl.
See? I'm not that hard to please!