By Patrick Erwin
Hello everyone! Sorry I haven’t been around as much lately. I’ve been dealing with the plot twists and turns of my own storyline, including a move to another city — not just any city, but the Windy City of Chicago. Chicago is, of course, the cradle of soaps, where Irna Phillips started it all and where Bill Bell began. Speaking of cities, I’ve managed (despite my busy schedule) to visit several soap cities. Here’s my postcard from each …
Postcard: Oakdale – It’s no secret that As the World Turns has been the center of an incredible amount of friction, both onscreen and off. Many of the stories that played out on our screens over the last several months were incredibly dark and depressing (like Dusty’s murder, the custody battle for baby Hallie, and the Craig/Paul/Meg/Rosanna triangle, to name but a few). I have to say, though, that I’m finding the last few weeks of ATWT to be very encouraging. Many of the darker stories have come to a conclusion, and the mood is way more balanced.
I was as befuddled as everyone when I heard that ATWT cast actor Jon Prescott, who is all of 26, is the new Mike. But having watched a week or so of his scenes, I think they made a good choice. He evokes Mark Collier’s easygoing take on the character of Mike, and his scenes with Marie Wilson, who plays Meg, were a breath of fresh air. (Is it just me, or does Prescott look a bit like Guiding Light‘s Daniel Cosgrove?)
ATWT may have had some major departures from its canvas recently (not even factoring in Martha Byrne, whose last air date comes later this month), but the silver lining of the recent cast exodus is that we’re seeing a lot more of some familiar faces, and a lot less of a few characters monopolizing story. At the top of the list for me is the welcome return of Tom and Margo on the front burner. Their journey backr started with the return of Casey, the introduction of Casey’s friend and fellow ex-con Matt, and the enigmatic Gray, who was revealed to be the brother of Margo’s rapist (a nice nod to history). But even after the culmination of that story (with a fearless Margo killing Gray in self defense), we’ve seen more of them than we have in years. I was overjoyed when I watched some recent scenes with Scott Holmes (Tom) and the wonderful Ellen Dolan (Margo). Unlike some other characters who have undergone personality transplants, these were the people I met and fell in love with many years ago — the steadfast, somewhat ornery Tom, and the impetuous, caring, passionate Margo. Viva la veterans!
Postcard: Salem – I don’t know who’s written what, and I still find it shocking that the entire Days of Our Lives staff was fired. (So, apparently, does the Writers Guild of America!) But I have to say, DAYS has been on fire ever since the Colleen/John reveal. The show has managed to put a believable end to the “who is John Black?” question – and even though we thought it was answered before, I really love the direction of this story, as well as the performance of Drake Hogestyn, who has blown the dust off of John Black, and proved once and for all that he is more than just a raised eyebrow. Between John’s story and the aftermath of Grandpa Shawn’s death, three front-burner couples (John and Marlena, Bo and Hope, and Steve and Kayla) have been re-energized.
And what sounded to me, on paper, like an idiotic idea – Steve’s psycho ex-girlfriend stalker – has been amazing. I remember Tamara Braun’s performance as the second Carly on General Hospital, and how she made that role her own. Here, in a role she’s originating, she’s a revelation as Ava — sexy, dangerous, and exciting. The character of Ava, and Braun’s fearless portrayal, remind me a lot of the early days of Michelle Stafford’s portrayal of Phyllis on The Young and the Restless. Ava’s a delicious antagonist, though I do hope the show pulls back the reins a bit. DAYS does have a tendency to ramp up the villains and then write them into a corner, a situation they’re trying hard to undo now with EJ. I’d love to see Ava be a troublemaker and cross paths with as many Salemites as she can!
Postcard: Springfield – I won’t talk too much here about the new production style – it’s been debated to death and I think either you like it or you don’t. I’m still trying to be patient and let them work out the kinks. (“Trying” being the operative word……)
Much of the last few weeks at GL has been focused on Olivia’s near-death and the death of Gus Aitoro. (That cloud of darkness that left ATWT seems to have found its way to the office of the writers and producers at GL!) This was a sad and emotional story, played beautifully by all involved. I’m almost reluctant to complain, but it has to be said: it’s nearly a carbon copy of a story GL did just a few years back, when Richard died. Both Richard and Gus were major characters in front-burner romantic stories. Rick got Richard’s heart; when Gus died, his heart went to Olivia. The story of Richard’s death was very well done, but in the long run, it ended up being a story GL regretted (and tried to fix with the introduction of Jeffrey O’Neill). The fact that GL has done that same story so recently, and that it affected many of the same people still on the canvas today (Rick, Reva, Cassie) lessens the impact of this new story.
On the flip side, if we can’t have Philip Spaulding back on-screen (yet?) I like the idea that Dinah is scheming and impersonating Philip. It’s a neat trick that allows Philip to be a part of the story, and it has really allowed several characters to interact with each other in new and fresh ways. And any story that has Alan being homeless works for me!