Thinking Fans’ picks and pans for 2008: Cherry Ames pans Todd/Marty as “the foulest story ever” … DSO816 picks the Angie/Jesse reunion … while Marlene agrees GHNS2 set the bar higher for all soaps … and more. See Comments below.
By Marlena De Lacroix
Last year I decided I will no longer do “Best” and “Worst” lists for soaps. After all, there have been so many “worsts” this year (real life deaths, superstar firings, General Hospital limosex and other tasteless storylines, wasted returns of some soap veterans), why would I want to re-inflict the pain on you?
So, darlings, here are my “bests.”
General Hospial Night Shift 2 — As I wrote last fall,”If they could bottle this show, they could save soap opera.” This 2008 soap dared to remember that soap opera is supposed to be about love, compassion, close friendships and the importance of family. I had scheduled an interview with the show’s exec producer, Lisa De Cazotte, to accompany this column, but it had to be rescheduled for early next year.
Days of Our Lives plane crash — The best produced episode I have ever seen in all my decades of watching the ordinarily unremarkably produced Days.
Actors (almost) save crumbling soaps — Despite the widespread wretched writing this year, some actors still managed to give remarkable breakout performances. Best examples: One Live to Live‘s Kristen Alderson and Kathy Brier, All My Children‘s Melissa Claire Egan and The Young and the Restless’ Elizabeth Hendrickson. And in tough times on bad soaps, I especially enjoy the comic relief provided by such character actors as OLTL‘s Tuc Watkins and Peter Bartlett and GH‘s Carolyn Hennessy and Bradford Anderson. But to me, it’s still the veteran soap actors who continue to be the jewels in the crown of daytime. These include Robin Strasser, Peter Bergman, Erika Slezak, Melody Thomas Scott, Judith Chapman, Maura West, David Canary, Susan Flannery and John McCook (who never gets credit for his endless hard work and backstage leadership at The Bold and the Beautiful.) They and other vets are the glue that keeps the crumbling soap genre together.
Two octogenarians score big –In a medium obsessed with youth, Jeanne Cooper, age 80, won her first Emmy for Best Actress. Agnes Nixon, age 80, stole a whole episode of AMC when she appeared as a timeless sprite named Aggie. Brava.
Adult couples, and other couples you can believe in — Edged in here and there among the youth lust thrusts and the momentary marriages are a few mature story couples who almost seem to be having realistic adult relationships. Hail Viki and Charlie on OLTL, two people who found love by understanding each others’ troubled lives; illness-tested Reva and Jeffrey on Guiding Light (a vast improvement on Reva and look-alike Richards’ romance in San Cristobal years ago), and Tom and Margo on As the World Turns, celebrating 25 years of rocky but believable marriage. Robin and Patrick on GH are younger, but the characters/actors are always perfectly intellectually and emotionally keyed into one another. They are the rare soap characters I buy as being truly in love.
Amazing returns –Tamara Braun sizzled as Ava on Days and Reese on AMC. Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan energized AMC. A deeper Tristan Rogers dazzled on Night Shif. Florencia Lozano knocked us all out as Tea on OLTL. Jeff Branson literally brought new life to GL as Shayne. And I love Thinking Actress (watch her face as she works) Sarah Brown on GH, even if her perpetually black-clad character Claudia is a despicable ho-a. As I predicted, multi-soap executive producer Paul Rauch and Y&R are a perfect match. And how improved the show is: the acting is deeper, the performers look a lot classier. There’s no equivalent for PR’s experience and good taste!
TPTB are listening — As in the old days of SOW and quality soap magazines, TPTB are now reading these blogs and actually reacting. But more importantly, they are taking steps (okay, baby steps) to occasionally acknowledge at least some of our complaints. Christmas Eve last year, GH aired the depressing funeral of the murdered Georgie. This year, they’re airing Patrick and Robin’s joyous family wedding just a few days after Christmas And special kudos to my colleague Roger Newcomb (We Love Soaps.com) who so brilliantly publicized the Kiss Campaign, launched when ATWT ridiculously would not let Luke and Noah kiss for three months). He even got the New York Times involved. And ATWT gave in! Proving that fans rule when they work and think hard enough! P.S. As soon as I complained that former mental patient Addie on OLTL should not be portrayed as a stereotypical lunatic wearing scuba gear to dinner and a wedding dress with a price tag on it, OLTL corrected the situation.
The year’s best storyline — Will the real Ron Carlivati please stand up? It’s a mystery storyline with lots of unexpected twists and turns and contradictions. And it stars the biggest star in the soap opera universe (if you read the soap boards). He’s drooled over by viewers and (unprofessionally) infatuated journalists as if he were a major on-screen male hunk. Carlivati’s work was wonderful enough to win an Emmy in June, yet it’s been a wildly uneven year for him, even considering the handicaps of the strike. He gave OLTL a great spring, a 40th anniversary summer of both good and not-so-good storylines, then slipped into an almost unwatchable fall. He writes exquisite character-rich stories like last year’s Viki and Charlie falling in love in Paris, Texas. Then he capped 2008 with a shatteringly misogynistic story in which a “lovelorn” Todd entrapped amnesiac Marty and raped her again. Viewers and bloggers either adored or reviled the hot button story. (“It’s sexist,” cooed one brainless female critic, “but I loved it.”) In 2009, will the real Carlivati please stand up?
So, Thinking Fans, what are your bests of 2008? Send’em. You know the drill.
And Happy New Year to all!