"But look, I'd rather light a candle than curse your darkness."
                                Gale, "Raising Arizona"

January 16, 2004

One of our EOS readers wrote this month to lament the GH bias on the net, nay, on my website.  Overall, I had never considered that we might be GH biased.  I knew we were GH heavy and always have been, but deliberately biased??  The entire internet is definitely GH heavy and it's nigh on impossible to find websites on One Life to Live or All My Children.  I have always, for the entire history of Eye on Soaps, had many, many more writers for GH than for the other soaps.  That's just the way it was.  There's something about GH that seems to invite a greater interest than any of the other ABC soaps.  Is it better?  Certainly not in most people's opinion.  It has always leaked more and better spoilers, dripped out more behind-the-scenes news and inspired a particularly fierce and stalwart dedication and passion in its fans than the other two ABC soaps.  Why is it so different? 

My theory is that it's because it's taped in California while OLTL and AMC are taped in New York.  Everything is more outrageous out here (she says from Sacramento... our governor is The Terminator, for godsake...because we can) and things are just a lot more tense and uptight on the East Coast.  Ask anyone who has been to both.  Most of the time, the East Coasters sneer at us and bitch about our lack of work ethic (it's not a lack of work ethic, it's about not trading in ALL OF your hours for a handful of dimes) and we pfft at them and ask them if they can remember what their children look like.  Boardrooms versus barbeques is the eternal struggle between East and West coasts in this country and I think that's also what's going on with the shows.  GH is looser and more glam for being shot on Hollywood's back porch rather than on Broadway's front stoop.

But that's not what this column is about.

This column is about the fact that I do watch all three ABC daytime dramas and actually, on the average, enjoy AMC and OLTL more than GH.  Each week, I write a total of three columns on these soaps:  the spoiler commentary for GH, spoiler commentary for OLTL and the Monday Scoop-a-holics gossip and news column.  Kate does our marvelous AMC spoiler commentary.  I can't gear the Scoop-a-holics to be less GH biased because of the aforementioned predisposition of GH to babble all kinds of news and spoilers compared to the tight lipped East Coast soaps.  What I can do is let my Soap Journal, with the exception of the occasional wild hair muse that refuses to be contained, talk about the two neglected soaps, both of which are entirely worthy of that attention.


As I was writing the Best and Worst of 2003 for AMC, I was reminded of some of the really fun moments we experienced and I have to say, I think AMC carries the humor portion of ABC soaps lately.  I love Tad's lines, Simone's zingers, Opal's eccentricity, Palmer and Adam's rivalry and Greenlee's quick wit.  Although in the past, I have despised the writing of shows unfortunate enough to fall under the seemingly poison pen of (current AMC Head Writer) Meagan McTavish, I have yet to see her damning influence on AMC thusfar (this time).  This being her second tour of duty at AMC (the first creating the much lamented Kit Fisher story, among other script disasters), veteran viewers might be more likely to detect the subtleties of destruction that I could be missing.  Fortunately, her previous stint was before my time, so I didn't have the displeasure of her acquaintance until she started hacking One Life to Live into tiny, bloody pieces, then went on to hack General Hospital ("hack" being the operative word) into tiny, bloody pieces.  As nearly as I can tell, she's been much more subdued this time and although folks who have watched longer than I have (I started in 2001) are likely feeling the slight shift, my opinion is that  it still is preserving the basic integrity of the show.

That's a word that really isn't used much in soaps, but that I really think applies to AMC:  integrity.  In the few years that I have been watching the show, it has become evident that AMC works to maintain the integrity of deep and abiding friendships.  It honors the integrity of shared history (not only between the characters, but between the show and the viewers) and maintains the integrity of the characters themselves, refusing to fall victim to the curse of the revolving door of writers and producers who all bring a new perspective on individual character personality and development.  As I watch, Kendall is always Kendall... Jack is always Jack and lord help us, Erica is always, eternally Erica.  Certainly, those characters evolve and grow and reveal to us new facets of themselves, but always, invariably, we can see the true essence of that character within.  Not so on General Hospital in particular, where it seems we often barely recognize favorite characters after their history and motivations are rewritten a few hundred times.

I believe part of that character integrity is accomplished by the fact that most of the cast are in roles that they either originated or were aptly recast into with a good deal of consideration given to maintaining the continuity of character.  Mind you, I never saw Sarah Michelle Gellar as Kendall, but I can't imagine anyone being better cast as Erica's ballsy, yet vulnerable daughter than Alicia Minshew.  As an outsider who cut teeth on GH and OLTL, I was triply impressed that the casting director actually took the time to not only find someone who could act, but who *gasp* actually looks like the family she's supposedly long lost from! 

I'm not saying that I enjoy all of the actors and characters on the show because I definitely do not.  Although it hasn't been the case as of late, Bianca's sanctimonoply normally grates on my nerves to a major degree, but that doesn't mean that I can't see that Eden Riegel is quite a good actress.  It's sort of like when you hate the sound of opera music, but can still appreciate that the singer has talent doing what you don't enjoy hearing.  Convexly, I've always, for reasons I don't quite understand, enjoyed the character of JR, but through both GH and AMC, I've not taken a shine to Jacob Young's acting.  There's something in his inflections and the way he seems to rely on volume to convey nearly every emotion that doesn't sit right with me.  I'm not saying that the people who love him don't have a reason to, it's just that it isn't a good fit for me.  It's quite a tribute to AMC that I can enjoy characters played by actors who don't normally move me and at the same time, enjoy actors who play characters I don't normally like.

The reason I most regret being a newcomer to AMC is that the characters who most entertain and intrigue me most are seldom shown.  I wish I could have watched to see Palmer's marriages to Opal and to Vanessa.  I wish I could have seen the history of Ryan and Gillian and maybe actually liked her a bit (because I was sure cheering the assassin when that princess was shot).  I would have liked to have seen Brooke and Liza going at it as teenagers and young adults.  It would have been great to see goth Hayley and to see if I hated all Santoses equally or if just don't like the ones I've seen so far.  I wish I could have seen more of Dimitri the first, who I only saw long enough to say, "Wait, isn't that Dex Dexter?"  I wish I could have seen the courtship of Stuart and Marion.  That's what I missed by being a Joanna-come-lately to Pine Valley.  You can read about these things in recaps and e-mails bringing you up to speed, but it's just not the same as watching it unfold in living, low-definition, cable TV color.


I've watched the happenings in Llanview since the show first came on the air, riding the waves of its highest heights and lowest lows (and some of them were pretty doggoned low).  OLTL has always seemed to be the bastard child of the ABC line up, suffering for years from middle child syndrome, never carrying off the savoir faire of AMC or the glam and bam of GH.  Ever struggling to compete by offering elaborate sets to support dumb stories (Eternia... and not He-man's home), OLTL has always carried its own charm.  Like the girl next door who doesn't realize how beautiful she really is compared to the Barbies on the cheerleading squad, OLTL has maintained its dignity through some horrible writing phases, demonstrating the amazing resilience of soap operas in general.  On GH, the Corinthos family takes over the show and fans go wild.  On OLTL, the Rappaports take over the show and the ratings go into the toilet. 

The recasting methods of OLTL seem similar to fly fishing:  skip your line across the surface and reel in whatever bites with little regard to whether the NuNuNu holds any resemblance in looks, actions, mannerisms to the original or last in the long line of actors to play a character.  The rare exception to this is the interesting recast of Todd with Walker played by Trevor St John.  After a series of rapid fire recasts of the Buchanan children who bear no more resemblance to one another (or their predecessors) than a litter of Heinz 57 puppies, actually being able to watch Walker before it was confirmed he was Todd and spot his Todd-like aspects was great fun.  I'm a really, really hard sell AND quite a fan of Roger Howarth, but I've had no trouble accepting that Todd is Walker is Todd is Trevor.  This is one recast that I unexpectedly warmed up to right away and for me, that's a blessed joy.

While integrity might be the hallmark of AMC, I have to say that what distinguishes OLTL from its ABC siblings is that it carefully places really, really good actors in pivotal roles to support the foundation of the show.  They can throw a Jenn Rappaport or Kelly Cramer Buchanan (although I have to confess, she's more believable in the Nuform of Heather Tom) into the mix with strong, entertaining actors and it's not a crisis.  At this time, I would say that OLTL definitely carries the win for best actors overall.  Ilene Kristen, Peter Bartholomew, Catherine Hickland, Timothy Stickney, Robert S. Woods, Trevor St. John, Robin Strasser, Tuc Watkins, Kassie DePaiva, Kristen Alderson, Phil Carey, Michael Easton, Nathaniel Marston, Hillary B. Smith, Ty Treadway, Melissa Archer, John-Paul Lavoisier, Nathan Purdee, Kathy Brier... the list of truly talented actors goes on and on.  Their comedic timing is absolutely amazing and their ability to convey and evoke emotion is just outstanding.  When the writing is weak, the actors are able to add sufficient verve to keep the scene lively and fun.  Case in point is the weak and barely viable Aunt Betsy story.  While the story itself is barely limping along, seeing Dorian and David work together is always exciting, especially when money is involved and particularly with the recent development of David's (evidently) genuine love for Dorian.  I can't wait to see that come to fruition.  Now, with the introduction of the blah and bland character of Adrianna into the mix (as a new actress, which may help), Double D will be even more challenged to maintain the momentum of interest in this story.

More so than the other two, in my opinion, OLTL has been fearless about trying new angles for fun, unique and entertaining moments, such as the unexpected marriage between Max and Roxy (regretfully left to flop to its gasping last dying breath on the beach), the surprise wedding of Asa and Gabrielle or Asa and Rae and the unlikely friendship of Roxy and Viky.  Boldly forging tight connections between RJ and Dorian, Viky and Starr, Todd and Jessica and other mismatched folks, OLTL is able to broker alliance over diversity in a most delicious way.

Sure, the show gets caught in it's own wheel ruts more often than it should, often failing to recognize in a timely fashion what isn't working (Sam and Nora, Jen and Joey, Flash and Llanview) and quick to kill off what IS working (Al and Marcie, Max and Roxy, Lindsay and Troy).  Some characters seem to be caught in endless repeating cycles, such as Todd and Blair, Kevin and Any Married Woman or Lindsay's complete inability to redeem herself in anyway, reduced to skulking around Llanview and more often than not, dining alone.

For a long time, the show was known for its vibrant and original stand alone shows, such as "Babes Behind Bars" and "Trading Places," but this gift seems to have left with the change of producers and head writers.  Kassie DePaiva's tribute only seemed to strike well with a few viewers, with most of the audience finding it a bit too artsy fartsy for their taste.  Yes, the woman can sing, but let's just tell the story, shall we? 

Just because OLTL's fans aren't as verbose and widely represented (count the websites, folks) as the GH fans doesn't mean they don't get their messages across.  Wholly betrayed by the abrupt firing of Nathaniel Marston, thereby ending the Al and Marcie romance (because let's face it, there's no romance now, just Al stomping and snorting around like Ferdinand the Bull, est post bee), fans revolted in masses, demanding and getting his return.  Sadly, the victory seems to be short lived and there are concerns about a "Monkey's Paw," Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For effect when Valentine's Day (promised by the powers that be to be a "tear jerker") rolls around.  Fans of Fiona Hutchinson were aghast that after a cumulatively long tenure with the show, Gabrielle was given the paltry demise of being strangled on a bathroom floor.  As Kate, our favorite cynic, said, "At least let her die in a nice Palace Hotel suite."  On the floor of the potty with toilet tissue on her heel is about as undignified as you can get.  The cold reception to Tracy Melchoir's les than satisfactory match up to the role of Kelly was quickly and quietly remedied, while most fans were quick to say that it wasn't necessarily that she was particularly bad, she was just very badly cast.  Ditto Bruce Hall as Joey.  The biggest mistake in those two instances was in not only choosing an actor who looked nothing like the previous one in the role, but in also completely changing the character, leaving the viewers to wonder who the hell this person even was until some character we knew and trusted shouted out their name and gave us a positive ID. 

One of the things that I admire and appreciate greatly, in addition to the incredibly high quality of acting and charisma of the cast overall, is that One Life to Live (and All My Children as well) does not overtly demonstrate that they are (for reasons I can't even begin to contemplate) at war with the fans.  To sound trite, the show isn't a smart ass.  It doesn't try to make us look foolish or rebuke us for liking or not liking particular characters or pairings.  The show is very forgiving and for the most part, kind to its viewers, with the few exceptions outlined in the previous paragraph.  Sure, we've had to endure our groanfests as well, like "Hyatt Regency, Maui" (three words destined to strike terror in the hearts of OLTL viewers all over) and "Somewhere in the South Pacific," but during the lean times such as those, the crappy stuff wasn't the only thing going on and we didn't have to completely wear out the fast forward button to get some pleasure out of the show.  We can see that Nora and Bo are going to get back together.  We can remember they were good together before (although I'd prefer she got back with Hank, myself) and though we're sad about poor, dead, God-I-Had-A-Crappy-Two-Years Gabrielle, we can also see that it was a necessary tool to move things to where they needed to go.  They didn't talk down to us and they didn't rub it in our faces.

While viewer courtesy seems to be the prevailing trend, there are many things I don't think I can ever reconcile.  Why did we have Flash lusting after Cousin Joey while "Dueling Banjos" played in the background?  Why did we have Keri come back just long enough to bug the crap out of us, go crazy and then get killed again?  Why did Liz have to die instead of Keri the first time?  Why can't Mitch stick around and be menacing some more?  Why can't Asa and Renee finally get married again?  Why does Antonio keep getting his badge back when the guy is clearly certifiable?  Why don't the hottest guys in Llanview, Dr Larry and Reverend Andrew, have a story sometime?  Why is Rae still able to practice anything even remotely related to counseling?  Why don't Bo and Nora dance as well as they used to?  Why is it that the hottest woman on the show (Lindsay) never, ever gets any sex any more, but Jen is seldom seen with her clothes on?  Why can't Roxy ever have a real romance?  Why is menopause turning Carlotta into a judgmental, raving lunatic, psychotic bitch who shouldn't be around cutlery?  (Remifemin, darlin, Remifemin)  Did Victor Lord really write a letter in which he apologized for all of his wrong doings or did Dorian make that up?  Why can't Troy McIver show up, prove that the guy who went nuts was really Colin all along and that he's ready to live in Llanview with his shirt off forever more?  Ty shouldn't always have to be bad, clothed or crazy, should he?  As our current day Marco Dane, I demand that he be given a long term contract!

I've heard a lot of talk about the forthcoming demise of soaps, particularly OLTL, and in my opinion, it's the one I'd most like to keep around.  Although I will continue to watch to stay current and out of curiosity on a few storylines, GH could fall off the TV scheduled tomorrow and I don't think I'd go to the funeral.

For that reason, I'm lighting a candle in the net darkness that curses OLTL and AMC.  The sites that are out there for these two are among the best soap sites on the net, but they are few and far between.  I intend to give these two troupers the attention they deserve and to spend my Soap Journal writing time on them instead of GH (unless I absolutely have to rant about something).  I'll still write the GH spoiler commentary and yes, it will still be heavily weighted in the gossip column just because there is so much more GH info out there and it's not fair to leave out bits just to even the score.  In this journal, however, my focus is going to be on the shows that I feel are more deserving of my extra-curricular attention.  I invite my other writers to do the same if they feel so inclined.  Our AMC and OLTL readers deserve commentary as well.  So flame on!






Bravenet Hit Counter