Guiding Light Today: A Few Flickers of Light?

By Patrick ErwinDaniel Cosgrove

You may remember the last time I wrote about Guiding Light, I shared my opinion that the show was “operating at diminished capacity.”  Those were harsh words for a show that used to be must-see-TV for me.  Now, I don’t know that GL is out of intensive care just yet, but there’re a few additions to the show that I think are promising — and worth talking about.

The biggest addition to the plus column has to be the return of Daniel Cosgrove in the role of Bill Lewis. I always liked Cosgrove, and in his first go-round as Bill, he was fun to watch. He had chemistry to burn with nearly everyone he was in a scene with. He had a light, playful spirit that reminded me of a younger Josh. He was back-burnered for most of his first run, and just as things were getting good (Bill’s involvement with Olivia), Cosgrove left GL. His return has been amazing; Cosgrove is showing a maturity both in Bill and in his acting that’s exciting to watch. Bill’s explosive anger towards daddy Billy reminds me of the struggles we saw between Alan Spaulding and a hotheaded young Phillip. Cosgrove’s return has filled a void GL has had for a long time — a leading man who is a capable actor in a role we can root for (and who looks good without a shirt on, too).

Lizzie

Another plus is Marcy Rylan, who plays Lizzie. When Rylan inherited the role, Lizzie was a Paris Hilton-wannabe, but Rylan has taken that one-dimensional outline and made Lizzie a fully formed, flawed human being. Even when Lizzie is a bad, bad girl (as she has been in her on-again, off-again fling with Bill), Rylan makes you root for Lizzie. It’s been said before, but the energy and daring that comes across on screen reminds me a lot of former GL actress Krista Tesreau’s portrayal of Mindy Lewis, another poor little rich girl. Rylan has really shined in her recent scenes – dealing with Bill’s shenanigans and dreaming up her own one moment, and coping with the memory of her “dead” daughter the next.

As for the rest of the show, there seems to be a big debate about two of the ascendant pairings on GL:  Cyrus and Harley, and Olivia and Gus. I am happy, in any case, that Gus and Harley are at least temporarily on ice; I think the show wisely realized that “Gush” was completely burned out and needed some recharge time!

The Cyrus/Harley coupling has created a huge reaction among GL fans, mostly negative — since, after all, Cyrus is already engaged to Marina, Harley’s beloved niece. I can see why people are not thrilled with the Cyrus/Harley pairing — it seems a bit out of character for Harley. But I’ll admit it – I think the story could be promising, and here’s why: I wouldn’t want Cyrus and Harley to ultimately be together, but I think exploring this triangle would add some great definition to all of the characters involved. For example, Harley has always been noble at heart and abandoned or hurt by the men she’s loved (Phillip, Mallet, Gus, Buzz). It would be great to see her off her pedestal and on the other side of the fence, understanding the very intense longing that drives men (and women) to make those mistakes. Marina, who regularly comes off as so saccharine sweet as to give Mary Richards a toothache, would become way more interesting if she grew a backbone and dealt with the actions of her fiancé and her aunt. And seeing how Cyrus reacts to these two women, and what his decisions are, might give him some definition – and make him seem far less like a carbon copy of General Hospital‘s Jax.

As for Olivia and Gus, I’m a bit more confused about them. Olivia isn’t exactly an ally of the Spauldings, and it seems weird to have her go after a third Spaulding man. (Note to GL: Stories where any woman sleeps with two or more men in the same family have been done to death on this show.) It’s clear that Crystal Chappell and Ricky Paull Goldin do, in fact, have chemistry – Chappell has had chemistry with everyone she’s ever been paired with. It’s a bit fuzzier as to why she picked Gus to be her special confidante – and why Gus, who was gung ho to marry his baby mama Natalia just weeks ago, is letting himself be sucked into Olivia’s orbit.

In any case, it’s good that GL is shaking things up a bit and trying new combinations. In this sink-or-swim atmosphere, shows have to try everything they can to keep the viewers coming back. Not everything GL has tried lately is working (really now –homicidal fourth-graders?) but trying fresh new story with familiar faces is a promising move on GL‘s part.

Comments

  1. MarlenaDLC says:

    Patrick darling, I disagree. Marcy Rylan’s whining gives me hives, the same kind of reaction I know some OLTL fans have to Kathy Brier’s ‘shrieking’ Marcie. Count me in as hating Harley and Cyrus together. Incestuous!

    When a soap starts making stomach-turning, ridiculous matches (like the above plus Gus and Olivia) just for the sake of shaking things up, that’s the mark of a terminal case. (Oops, I’m not supposed to even say that right?). My old favorite expression, “Looks like the last days of The Doctors to me,” may sadly apply here!

    Patrick says: Well, Marlena, I know you and I disagree sometimes on GL (your tolerance for Josh and Cassie as a couple is far higher than mine!)

    I still think Harley being knocked off of her pedestal is a good idea. But my nod to this plot twist with Harley, Cyrus, and Marina is VERY conditional on Harley and Cyrus’ temptation being very temporary. If the show made Harley and Cyrus the rooting couple, I wouldn’t be so happy

  2. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Guiding Light. My best friend in high school’s father played Ed Bauer for a number of years, and I used to watch the show with my parents if you can believe it. I agree with you about Olivia and Gus but then again Olivia has often been impulsive and strange when it comes to the men in her life. Frankly I would rather have seen her with Edmund or even going after Mallet (let Dinah deal with her and watch the fur fly). After Blake and then Harley went through all the Spaulding men (although Olivia did add Alan to the mix), it’s getting a little old. And I too have a low tolerance for Josh and Cassie at least in Nicole Forester’s interpretation. Laura Wright’s scrappy Cassie at least seemed like she and Reva came from the same gene pool.

    Patrick says: Elizabeth, I agree with you that Laura Wright and Kim Zimmer seemed more like sisters. Nothing against Nicole Forester, who’s a fine, capable actress, but she’s never really clicked as Cassie for me. The Josh/Cassie pairing may have worked better with Wright playing Cassie, but we’ll never really know. Exposure-wise, I’m just sick of the character of Cassie — she’s been front burner for 10 years (since she was introduced). Personally, I’d love to see Reva with her other sister, Roxie, but with GL’s small cast and budgetary limitations that’s unlikely to happen.

  3. barbara says:

    Very good article today about GL. Coincedentally, this past week, I just started watching GL again after several years; I grew up watching the show at the time of Philip/Beth/Mindy/Rick’s initial s/l. I have really loved the location shots that I’m seeing and, must say, very interesting camera action (which I haven’t made up my mind about yet). One thing that has not disappointed me has been seeing the actors that I once loved still on (Reva, Josh, Billy, Buzz, Harley, Blake) and still having speaking parts–this is unlike what AMC and GH did to their vets, people whom you never see.

    Surprisingly, I really like Daniel Cosgrove and Marcy Rylan. More surprising to me this week is that I have not found the need to FF through scenes like I was with AMC and GH–I have now programmed it as a series recording on my DVR. I like the show’s ability to transform itself by broadcasting full epps on the internet (way to go CBS shows), I like the shows involvement with community, I like their storylines about the relationships of the characters and how they deal with each other, and I LOVE the outdoor scenes.

  4. Dale says:

    Hello, Patrick! This is my first letter to you. I have been enjoying your columns!

    Guiding Light is one of the all time classics, and has given me countless hours of dynamically presented drama for over 25 years. The list of stories, characters and actors that have thrilled me on this show is endless!

    But the last two years…that’s another story. How the mighty has fallen. I weep for the smart character-driven drama that was! Today’s GL feels so foreign to me. That is mostly due to the fact that the writers are choosing to write plots for characters rather than let the characters guide the plots.

    Let’s start with reverend Joshua deciding to conceal the paternity of a child. Or how about his scenes with Jeffrey in which they discussed hiring a hit man to off Edmund. Huh? Josh has been assinated to serve the Cassie character, and to be a part of a sluggish who-done-it.

    How about the hasty and unnecessary break up of Harley and Gus? On the day the divorce was final (which was a speedy process, even in soap time), Gus was proposing to Natalia, the new love of his life!

    Then there’s Olivia’s sudden, out of the blue interest in Gus. Alrighty then.

    Let’s not forget Harley’s romantic pursuit of a criminal with a questionable past. This is just yucky. Should I go on?

    GL is tampering with long time characters to serve inane plots. The show does not bore me, though. In fact, I find myself watching the show with mouth agape at the idiocy and the shame of it all. Everyday stuns me. I am too busy being shocked and disappointed to be bored.

    This is a show that has lost its feel for community. Characters are boxed into certain plots and rarely cross over into other character’s lives or storylines. Do you remember how masterfully this show used to weave its characters into multiple plot lines?

    I also find the choppy way the show delivers its stories affects continuity and momentum. On this show, you just know that if something is heating up in story A, it will be dropped for a week so story B can be showcased. By the time they get back to story A, who cares anymore?

    It’s not fun to trash an old fave like GL. But, changes are needed and needed fast! I agree that Cosgrove is a (suprising) shot in the arm, but GL needs to find its center and heart again. Fast.

    All the best to you with your columns, Patrick!

    Patrick says: Dale, I agree, GL has fallen very far from what it once was. There’s a lot missing from the show we all loved. But as the title of this post says, these are “flickers of light.” At this point, I’m trying to be an optimist!

  5. DS0816 says:

    Amazingly, Patrick, I disagree with your assessment on Crystal Chappell having chemistry with everyone. Pairing her Olivia with Gus, for however long, is strange and won’t work. The Harley/Cyrus/Marina trio seems manufactured. “GL” doesn’t know how to write for Mandy Bruno as Marina. I fail to see anything remotely interesting about Cyrus.

    All of this comes across as if “GL” wants to experiment. Only, what the shows scribes may expect — and hope to achieve — I don’t find clear, nor worth the tampering of the established and successful. And these latest developments, especially in putting Gus and Harley on ice, is in the same orbit as the two decades’ old, on-and-off seesaw that is Josh and Reva. Yes, it’s the way some soaps function; ah, but the way I function is to tune out ["GL"] and tune in something else.

  6. Greg says:

    Hi Patrick! I have to say very interesting read.

    I completely and totally agree with you on the return of Daniel Cosgrove. He’s given the show a much-needed shot in the arm. His scenes with Marcy Rylan have been supremely entertaining, and she does (on occasion) cause me to remember the days of Mindy. Her chemistry with both Bill AND Billy is wonderful to watch and actually, it’s her relationship with Billy is what prompts me to make the connection between her and Mindy. She has made the character of Lizzie a lot more dimensional, thanks in no part to the writing.

    On the other hand, David Andrew MacDonald’s return last month was another thing the show desperately needed. I understand the budgetary issues probably prevented the show from signing him on for a long-term contract, although I think the show needs him back. I was never a huge “Edmund Winslow” fan, but after his last return, I really took a liking to the character. DAM plays Edmund like walking a tightrope, giving you glimpses of the sympathetic human lurking behind his evil doings. And Springfield needs a true villian, other than the cartoonish Alan Spaulding.

    I, like most other viewers, am very sick and tired of the Josh/Cassie trainwreck. The only time I have been able to find them bearable was when they recently had some arguments about Will. It’s ironic in a way that the only time this couple has had any kind of chemistry is when they are fighting. Otherwise, it’s a horrible pairing and I’d go so far as to say one of the worst in daytime history. But that’s just my opinion. And again, I agree that the Cassie character should be back-burnered. And SOON!

    The Harley/Cyrus/Marina story is getting old. Harley, for this viewer, has been relegated to FF material. I find myself unable to sit and watch her making google eyes at her niece’s fiancee. It’s sickening. I agree with you again on this one – if CHARLEY is the end game for this storyline, I will be extremely upset.

    I love Crystal Chappel as Olivia, but the the whole setup with Gus came across as forced and unrealistic. This just goes to show how unimaginative and uninspired this writing regime is. If they are unable or unwilling to write something compelling for a robust character like Olivia, they move on or be sent packing.

    Finally, in channeling your theme “A flicker of light”, I agree there are some bright spots. Bill/Billy/Lizzie (as I talked about above), the story of Doris and Ashlee is one that I normally find very interesting (outside her relationship with Coop) and now the return of Jonathon. Hopefully that will result in more of Reva on-screen than we have been seeing lately. How can you have an outstanding, dynamic, fan-favorite like Kim Zimmer on the backburner for (most) of the year? Her presence alone is enough to incite interest in a story.

    The other bright spot for this viewer is the “Good Son” take on the Will storyline. Are some scenarios a little out there? Yes, but since when has a story on a soap not meant that you had to suspend disbelief a little? For the most part, the story pacing has been done well (shocker) and the writing and dialogue are pretty good.

    Enjoy your articles, Patrick. Keep up the good work. GL is still my favorite soap opera on the air – it always has been and always will be.

    Greg

  7. BL says:

    I’m just going to address your article specifically, Patrick, and not go more into detail about other issues. Simply put, I don’t trust TPTB, so while I may like certain parts of the show, I have no faith in them to do a good job consistently. Like other shows, GL has treated most of their veteran actors and the characters they play horridly, history (long term and recent) is ignored, and misfires are explained away as experimentation, innovation, or budgetary in nature.

    Getting back to what you wrote, Patrick, I agree with you that having Daniel Cosgrove and Bill return to GL was a great idea, and I will give them credit for that. Bill can be funny, romantic, dramatic and Cosgrove is actually likable.

    When Marcy Rylan is around Danny Cosgrove or not shrieking I like her a lot better. When they started working her with Jordan Clarke and Gina Tognoni, I started to actually like her in the role of Lizzie. It was as if a lightbulb went on in someone’s brain that realized that Lizzie should be more than some pampered Spaulding princess. I was kind of amazed that someone remembered that Phillip wasn’t a Spaulding by birth and that Dinah and Lizzie should have a relationship. Having Lizzie break away from the Spauldings and stay away once Sarah was gone was a good idea. Just like her Dad, she needed time and space when she wasn’t under Alan’s thumb to develop as a person. While Phillip loves Alan, Alex etc, he didn’t spend his life as their puppet, and spent time with his friends and other family. I do wish they had developed Lizzie and Bill’s relationship more slowly and would acknowledge how Bill was married to Lizzie’s mom Beth when she thought she was Lorelai.

    While I find Lizzie more likable with Bill, I think the whole Harley/Marina/Cyrus triangle has made those characters unlikable.

    I don’t find Harley/Marina/Cyrus triangle that incestuous, and it is a lot better than Marina’s last “love” story. Putting Marina with Alan-Michael, a guy who was married to her two aunts (Harley and Lucy) and her mother (Eleni) who was actually pregnant with Marina while she was still married to AM was a lot more nauseating. While in real life people can become close due to tragedy the way it has played out so far is lacking? I’m missing the motivation. If Cyrus is supposed to be a cad, if he is supposed to care for one or the other let us know, if he cares for them both and is torn, show us for goodness sakes. Also this is a role reversal for Harley, usually she’s the one scorned, but now she’s the other woman. How will that change her as a person? So far it seems like Harley is more upset that she is interested in her niece Marina’s man not the fact that she wants someone who is in another relationship. Why is Marina so desperate to keep Cyrus that she tosses away her morals? She gave up her career and now her self-respect. Why? The story needs depth.

    Like you said, Patrick, Olivia is on her third Spaulding man. I think that is kind of crazy when you think about it. Sleeping through families is a soap staple, but sometimes it gets repetitive especially as she’s the third female character to go after these guys. On top of that Olivia was also with two Lewis men (Josh/Bill) and two Cooper men (Buzz/Frank). That said what is worse is how Gus and Olivia battled back and forth with her locking him in a basement and Gus kidnapping Emma. And now without Olivia and Gus ever discussing this past, Olivia decides to allow Gus to raise her child if she should die. This is especially annoying as that story was created with the current group in charge. That said I do think they have chemistry.

    I do agree that GL is all about mixing up the couples and sometimes it feels like it is just because they can. It is as if they don’t think anything from the past can work and that they wanted a new GL. Well, in a lot of ways they’ve succeeded in that goal of creating a new show with some familiar performers/characters. Sadly I think the cost was too high for many.

    Patrick says: Hi Blosslover — thanks for your comments. I always love to read what you’re thinking, because you know the show so well and your comments are always so thoughtful. As I said earlier, I’m trying to be an optimist, but I don’t at all disagree with your assessments here.

  8. Cherry Ames says:

    Patrick, I almost never watch GL anymore it has gotten so poor in terms of lighting and production and the stories! Oy Vey! They are really unbelievable.

    I do agree with you on 2 things: I really like Marcy Rylan and I think she has come a long way in a short time. #2. I agree that GL (all soaps really) need to cut it out! with the incest and near incest and the just plain “icky” partnerings. I think Reva may be the worst but I also dislike OLTL where Viki has been with Clint, his halfbrother, Ben and she had a brief flirtation with bro-in-law Bo. But that’s nothing compared to Asa who had many of Bo’s women before he ever did. I know all soaps do these king of pairings but they aren’t terribly romantic, to me.

    I’m not sure GL will ever recover. The money just isn’t there for better production and a sort of sadness seems to have settled over the place.

  9. LujackLvr says:

    Hello, Marlena.

    As a first-time writer to your column [but a 27-year viewer of GUIDING LIGHT] I agree with most of your assessment of my favorite show.

    For me, GUIDING LIGHT has not been the same since my beloved Lujack was killed on screen nearly 23 years [Dec 2, 1985] ago. I tried to stop watching GL but was too hooked on my favorite show at the time. Of course my heartbreak was eased when Vincent Irizarry returned to GUIDING LIGHT 5 years, 7 months and 3 days after my beloved Lujack died from massive internal bleeding as Lujack’s unknown twin brother, pony-tailed ace reporter Nick McHenry Spaulding. Since Nick and Susan left Springfield, I have had plenty of reasons to keep watching…Richard Winslow and Gus being the latest dangling carrots. I also like Reva and Josh [never been a big Crash fan and I am hoping Josh & Reva will find their way back to each other once again.]

    I also loved Roger and Holly…never having seen their first round, I thoroughly enjoyed their 1989-96 run. In my opinion, GL has not been the same since the death of Michael Zaslow and sadly Maureen Garrett’s Holly was so tied to him that there was nothing the writers could do with her [pairing Holly with Cowboy Sam and Billy Lewis just felt wrong] but let her drift in the wind.

    I loved Richard and Cassie, and I am so pleased that Bradley Cole returned as Jeffrey only 8 mos after GL realized their grievous error and remedied the situation.

    As for the new filming format GUIDING LIGHT has been hyping for the last few weeks, I am eager to see how this will work. Since the ratings at the lowest I have ever seen them [at 1.9], one hopes that this new format will work. I say, Bring it on. GUIDING LIGHT has always been a great show, and I wish it and its actors, producers and writers much success with all the changes in the future.

    Patrick says: LujackLvr, both Marlena and I are glad you’re visiting the site — thanks for the comment! Glad you liked my commentary on GL. I’m approaching the production changes with an open mind, myself.

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