By Marlena De Lacroix
I no longer do “Best” and “Worst” lists for soaps. After all, there have been so many “worsts” this year, why would I want to re-inflict the pain on you again? Moi loves mon readers. So, only the “bests” for you, darlings.
And by the way, I firmly believe that deciding on what’s best in daytime for the year is a totally subjective process. What I like is based on my longevity as a soap-watcher and qualities I personally feel are especially admirable in a crumbling genre: intelligence, talent, integrity, creativity, originality, respect for longtime soap fans. Here, then, are Marlena’s “Bests 2007.” What’s yours?
Best #1 — Robin Strasser gets Dorian’s brain back and Erika Slezak gets the spotlight and Viki’s love life back on One Life to Live. I’ve been a Strasser fan since she played Rachel on Another World. For forty years on daytime, I’ve never seen Strasser be boring in any scene. Ever. But it literally hurt me to watch Strasser in the last few years, a time in which fascinatingly brilliant and neurotic Dorian was virtually lobotomized by head writer by Dena Higley. Though dressed tres chic as always, the elegant Dorian turned into an eccentric old kook, and Unsexy Clint’s(!) gal pal. Then, somewhere around the time of the arrival of new head writer Ron Carlivati, the impossible happened: Dorian got her brain back! Undeniable proof: after Asa’s funeral, she smartly forgot about Clint (she had spied him kissing Nora) and jumped back into bed with the ever delicious beyond words David. And she’s staying her old smart self.
Kudos to Carlivati, too, for rescuing Viki from the back burner and giving her a great new hot romance with Charlie. A salute as well to Walter Miller Jr., my old friend and president of the Erika Slezak Fan Club, for doing the interview with Slezak in her newsletter, which alerted the world to Slezak’s dissatisfaction with being backburnered under Higley. If only for reviving my two favorite soap characters, Viki and Dorian, I might join the Cult of Carlivati yet. Right now, I just have his 8 X10 up in my high school locker!
Best #2 — Luke and Noah’s love story on As the World Turns. Here’s the love story that waited 40 years to be told on daytime. Thank goodness, given the parameters of a daytime story today (which includes Luke almost getting shot by Noah’s dad and paralyzed) the gay love tale is being told with naturalness, class and dignity. I think P&G and the producers of this show, as well as actors Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann, should be proud. The gay audience for soaps has always been enormous though generally not publicly acknowledged. It’s about time everyone’s life experiences are represented. My friend Phil, who adores the show, says ATWT is the one soap left in this plot-centric world which actually leads from the heart. Well, it sure does, at least in this story.
Best #3 — Grudgingly, I pick General Hospital‘s Metro Court February Sweeps Stunt. How could I do such a thing? Bear with me:
The Guza/Phelps cabal launched three major story concepts into soap space this year. Two were complete bombs, namely the often incoherently scripted spin-off General Hospital: Night Shift and the boring GH Black and White ball. But the hostage-taking month at the Metro Court by Mr. Craig and his gang was so suspenseful, it became downright addictive on a day to day basis throughout the entire month. My question: if Guza can write something so entertaining in the crime genre, why doesn’t he take his talents to primetime? (And leave us alone in daytime — hint, hint!) But then again he might be uncomfortable. Usually criminals pay for what they do on nighttime shows. As you know, Craig/Jerry Jacks is still walking among us free as a ouiseau (that’s French for bird), kissing women, ten months after his crime.
Best #4 – Actually, a small handful. Assorted mini-bests from different shows: Like the scenes in which Jack “talks” to his dead father John on The Young and the Restless. The essence of Jack has always been interior struggle between good and bad. The dead father-son scenes are truly Shakespearean. John’s the only ghost on daytime who is really a conscience, not a gimmick … Peter Bergman, so brilliant all year long, is the most interesting and multi-dimensional actor on soaps now. Sorry, Eric … Susan Flannery, amazing every single day she appeared on The Bold and the Beautiful as Stephanie. Don’t you think it was curious that this very principled and opinionated actress took an extended sick leave when it looked like Stephanie was going to be officially blamed for setting up Brooke’s rape? … David Canary and Michael Knight of All My Children for managing to plow through the most absurd, badly written scripts on daytime and, old pros that they are, making the shows watchable …The cast of Guiding Light for spending the entire year traveling the country doing charitable work like delivering food to the poor and building houses for Katrina victims. I find it so curious that these good deeds are featured in short segments at the end of every episode, yet I’ve never a feature on their charitable spirits done in any magazine or in the press. Bravo to a company of actors who know how to show they really care!
Best #5 — Whatever honorable methods that have been invented by individual shows to extend the life of the soap genre. For example, bringing back veteran actors (a.k.a. fan favorites) in their old roles. When I tuned in Days of Our Lives to watch John Black’s funeral, there sitting before me was the entire cast of Days, circa 1985! Marlena, Bo, Hope, Patch, Kayla, Tony, Anna, Stefano, even my beloved Doug and Julie. Wow, what a thrill one show gave me! We soap fans love nothing more than “the old days” of our favorite shows, so bringing them back isn’t a half-bad way to save the shows. Now comes word that in the New Year AMC is also bringing back the original Jesse and Angie. The problem is that no one’s bringing back the quality head writers from those years (many of whom have retired or passed away). But it will take more than familiar faces to save soaps. The two most essential elements of good daytime drama — romantic love! family! — must lead the parade home.
Happy New Year 2008