Soaps March: When a House Is Not a Home

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Ann demands to know, “Why is Guza doing this to Robin? It kills me to see people on the GH boards calling wonderful brave Robin a slut and a cheat because this PPD is being used to destroy her character” … while Elvira rejoices, “Guiding Light’s creative resurgence (headed by the old-school Otalia story, which is every bit as good as the stories that riveted me during the golden age of soaps) is still going strong” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix 

I had a really hard time watching soaps during March.  My old favorite,  All My Children, was a dead bore. My other old favorite, The Bold and Beautiful, went from the ridiculous to out of control, as warring, one-upping “brothers” Rick and Ridge seemed more like those old rival cartoon characters spy vs. spySpy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine than living, breathing human beings. On As the World Turns, 17-year-old Liberty married Parker, who is barely 16.   How desperate for story can a soap get?

Marlena is a hardcore soap watcher of countless decades, so my feelings of overall alienation from soaps this month may be part of a much larger  trend. Are you a loyalist who didn’t feel so loyal to soaps in March?  And how does that make you feel?  I feel … homeless.

But here are a few brief comments on soaps I could watch:     

One Life to Live: At least there were some wonderful, powerful  performances by almost  everyone in the Matthew is paralyzed/Shane has leukemia story.  But this new Stacy … yikes!  She is clearly intended to be a classic soap pyscho/villainess you love to hate.  But Crystal HuntCrystal Hunt’s abysmally bad acting is so consuming you don’t love her, you hate to hate her  Hunt isn’t even skillful enough to be camp. Her Stacy is hollow, a cheap villainess out of a cheesy 1950s horror film,  the kind in which an alligator comes up from the swamp and eats the villainess at the very end.

Some may insist Stacy is just tacky fun. But this is soap opera where long term characterization  requires acting with depth, soul and authenticity.  At first I thought they brought on Hunt to make the awful Farrah Fath (Gigi) look good.  But at least FathFarah Fath has some heart.  I’m sure you can guess how Marlena feels now that two idiot sister characters are the hottest stars on OLTL!  And will Fronsie make them the successors to good girl/bad girl Viki and Dorian as OLTL leads in 2010?  Where’s that alligator?

General Hospital:   Robin’s extremely strange case of post-partum depression (leaving the kid all over town, running off to a bar and smooching a stranger) bears deeper examination, especially if you have loved Robin since she was born, as I do.  Sure, this is soap opera and this kind of bizarre post-partum behavior must have happened to someone in the reality of a medical textbook.  But why give this extreme case to Robin?  Since she was a child, her overwhelming personal attribute has been her dignity.  So what does Guza do?  He gives her a story that literally robs the character of all her dignity!  Here he totally, totally undermined RobinKimberly McCullough — her remarkable and rare intelligence was thrown right out the window.

I smell misogyny, and we all know from the history of women on GH that Guza is a terrible misogynist!  What an awful thing to do to both Kimberly McCullough and us viewers who watched Robin over last two years desperately wanting and trying to have a baby!  My friend pj remarked that this storyline was so wrong and misdirected, it seemed like all through it the Robin we knew and loved literally was not there.  To go from the richly mature, soulful Robin Sri Rao wrote in last summer’s GH Night Shift to this brainless “postpartum”  loser is so Guza, so ABC Daytime,  it’s beyond contemptible.

The Young and the Restless:  Historically, I haven’t always been a big fan of this show, but right now it seems to be the only soap that realizes there are still intelligent soap fans out there.  It pleases us by using classic (don’t say old fashioned) soapGreg Rikaart production elements: high quality acting, writing and direction.  Kevin’s trip back to his childhood of abuse via his abduction was a showcase of both excellent acting (Greg Rikaart) and writing, and just super intelligent production (it seemed very Rauch to me.) The result was real  drama and truly chilling.

Today’s episode, in which Kevin “attempted” to hold up a bank, a la fellow Stockholm Syndrome sufferer Patty Hearst, was just brilliant.  I loved the show in which “dead” Marge sat up in her coffin and narrated the entire episode in her typically wry, funny way.  At the end Murphy asked Katherine to marry him — the one moment of authentic sweetness and love I saw on soaps all month. I guess that’s better than none.

Comments

  1. I’m with ya, Marlena, though I do like the Matthew / paralysis a lot more than I thought I would.

    In the midst of all this, I’m strangely feeling more “at home” in cold snowy Springpak than I do in some of my other town, including Salem! I think Guiding Light has been doing such an incredible job of telling compelling stories, sharing heart-felt human emotions, and FINALLY making good use of their unique outdoor settings. If you don’t believe me, compare Grady’s cliff-falling death to Drucilla’s on Y&R last year.

  2. Ann says:

    Marlena,

    Why is Guza doing this to Robin? Does he hate Kimberly McCullough? I think more likely that he was forced to write this PPD story and is getting his revenge out on Robin because he hates writing for non-mob characters.

    It kills me to see people on the GH boards calling wonderful brave Robin a slut and cheat because this PPD is being used to destroy her character.

    What possessed Frons to agree to this PPD story that destroys a character that has been on the show since she was 7 years old? Probably the same destructive urge that had Frons to agree to the un-abortion on AMC.

    I understand that the PPD story continues into May sweeps. Why? GH stories never last that long. I want Robin to wake up and discover this horror show has been a dream.

    GH is a disaster.

    Ann

    Marlena says: Well, GH has been a disaster for a long time. But I agree, for Guza to tear down Robin is about as low as he could go. My mother had postpostum and it was nothing like this! What an insult to depression sufferers in America! Our Soap Shrink Damon has an interview with Kimberly McCollough coming up in his Soap Shrink At Sea series.

  3. n69n says:

    Frons could make a couple of extra dollars airing SKANKYGETS EATEN BY THE ALLIGATOR — ON DEMAND.

    Marlena says: LOL, definitely, Nornie! I’d love to see you illustrate this! Norn, do the movie poster! You are the best, dear!

  4. DaytimeFan says:

    Murphy’s proposal to Katherine was one of the best soap proposals …I just loved it.

    Eighty-year-olds in love. Fabulous.

    The rest of daytime is so ageist, it is lovely to see Y&R give Jeanne Cooper, as well as others in the cast like Braeden, Thomas Scott, Bergman and Walton, such wonderful material to play.

    Marlena says: Savor the day, savor the day. It’s as if the late Mr. Bill Bell is watching over his old show.

  5. Steve says:

    I agree with your thoughts on OLTL and GH. I can’t say I’m enjoying Y&R. The contempt towards women has never been higher — given that this is a Sheffer show, I shouldn’t be surprised, but how truly, truly degrading for Katherine when she told Nikki to go back to her abusive ex, Victor. Victor is a monstrous, cruel bully, and yet Y&R wants us to worship him. Meanwhile, Kevin’s story, while well-acted by Greg Rikaart, went way too quickly, featured a shockingly bad performance by the man who played Clint, and took a deep turn south when shrieking Amber showed up. I have not felt this disconnected from Y&R in some time, even moreso now that they are trying to force Jill out, after already marginalizing and degrading her. I should have known that would happen when vacuous Billy returned, whenever he’s around long-term her story shifts to what a burden she is to him, or to Kay. Meanwhile, the stories for the black characters have never been so cheap or pointless, and Sharon’s struggles have been turned into some uneasy combination of a bad Lifetime Movie Network TV movie and bad soft porn.

    I’m really enjoying GL now, and of course it seems to be on the way out.

    Marlena says: I guess I was silly to think there was soap nirvana anywhere, Steve. Hogan Sheffer came to daytime while I was away in graduate school, so I never got to interview him and I did not watch his Days. So he’s a misogynist too? I, for one, was never a Victor fan and the worship of him today seems even more potent as it was in the Bell days. He’s no hunk of burning love, as the show still wants us to believe. Certainly the performance by John Michael Gregary as Clint in the Kevin story was meant to be a joke, no? I’m not crazy about Billy, either, and Sharon has always been one of my least favorite soap characters. She’s vapid, and every attempt to add layers to her doesn’t seem to make the character any more intelligent than before. I guess they are giving it a good try now with the shoplifting and semi-graphic sex. Ten to one Rauch would want to recast this crucial role with a more interesting actress. But a veteran actress is a veteran actress and no one is taking chances now.

  6. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    I agree our soaps just don’t feel the same anymore. It’s hard to watch “AMC” and not get that sense of family and history that was always the staple of the show. Not seeing Ruth, Joe, Brooke, Liza and many others just isn’t the same…

  7. Cyber says:

    I agree about the GH PPD sk I have several issues with how this played out but underneath it all I still am trying to interpret this as a “love story..” I think on the history of Robin pre and post Patrick Drake as well as their first encounter up until now to “help” me try to pull this together.

    Guza can not write love stories he simply can’t do it. I gave up on that long ago so I have fan fiction for that based on GH characters…which is a testament to “what women want to see” on soaps and “take time to read.” Fan Fiction flourishes in wonderful romance stories…and they don’t read like a Harlequin Romance novel…there is plenty of other aspects to these stories, just “more” romance.

    I would have liked to have seen the PPD more slowly build up…since it can be as long as a year before its onset. I would have liked to have seen Robin “happy” with her husband and child and then “descend” into this depression.

    I like Elizabeth’s friendship with the Drakes and I hope it doesn’t get trashed.

    I didn’t see the need for sleaze Robin meeting Brad didn’t have to happen it was an unecessary addition. There is no denying Guza writing of “most ” veteran characters is horrid…and I feel that for some reason Robin is not being written with the same positive “focus” of NS2 in which she and Patrick were delightful.

  8. Jenn says:

    I’m not sure what is going on with General Hospital right now. The show over the holiday season of 08 was sweet and romantic and classic soap. Robin and Patrick’s wedding was the nicest thing I had seen on a soap all year, and now, merely 3-4 months later, there is no love, there is no romance. The only couple on the show who is ever shown as happy is Jax and Carly, and now their union is threatened by this secret (which I am still not sure why Jax is not telling Carly about). The Robin storyline has been a huge drag, I am over the Maxie/Spinelli/Johnny/Lulu/Winnie storyline (where every character seems to get more and more annoying every day), Sonny and Claudia are the most vile, revolting couple that I think I have ever seen on GH. Where is the love? I still wish with all my heart that TPTB will bring back Lucy Coe eventually and make her Spinelli’s mother, give him a little bit of grounding in Port Charles.

    It’s just sad that a mere few months ago I was singing this show’s praises with the touching wedding of Patrick and Robin. Now the show is a completely different show. I’ve had GH on the past few weeks but I honestly haven’t been paying much attention. I end up reading magazines during it, or reading a book or doing housework. Because I could care less about most of the storylines.

    Marlena says: I agree, Jenn, GH has gotten even more unwatchable lately, if that’s possible. This show badly needs an intervention by the head of ABC Daytime. The only problem is he needs an intervention on himself!

  9. Elvira says:

    I can’t speak for other soaps but Guiding Light’s creative resurgence (headed by the old-school Otalia story, which is every bit as good as the stories that riveted me during the golden age of soaps) is still going strong. March was a very good month for GL. Sadly, the show appears to be on the brink of cancellation.

    Marlena says: It’s gotten to the point where I can watch GL again and Otalia is just super. It would be a tragedy for all of daytime if GL got cancelled! Keep up the good fight, GL fans!

  10. Michael says:

    Unfortunately, Robin is just the latest example of Guza never being at a loss to find a character he couldn’t destroy. Honestly, there isn’t one character on this show that Guza hasn’t made worse over the years – and we won’t even discuss what he has done to the identity and backbone of the show.

    It makes me embarrassed and somewhat ashamed that at one point in time a little over a decade ago, I wanted Robert Guza on this show. After the Labines left, and he was writing for about six months before he left the first time, I enjoyed his stories. It was the intro of Carly and Stefan and Nikolas and almost all the characters were being used, some in new ways. He had the promise of being a great GH writer. So, I don’t know what happened but he returned as I had hoped and subsequently has spent the last decade or so tearing this show apart, corrupting and cheapening all of the characters, and basically driving off most of the fans in the process. Yes, I know the networks love to blame anything under the sun for the decline in soap ratings EXCEPT for the writing but come on – they can’t stand on that crutch of an excuse any longer. When a man like Guza can literally write a show into the ground for YEARS, watching ratings decline bit by bit in the process, and his reward is to KEEP writing the show into the ground? Well, the soap genre is doomed. Clearly, they’ve given up hope and are allowing free reign to a person who doesn’t respect the genre, the history of the show, who clearly doesn’t understand the identity of the show and who is almost certainly a misogynist. Explain to me how one can write female characters like he does and think female viewers would enjoy watching women being debased and humiliated on a regular basis. Explain how the line between good characters and bad characters becomes so blurred that even good characters can have no real issues with murder or lying or stealing or destroying people’s lives. Explain to me how you can possibly think that giving a core soap family the story spotlight – as we’ve heard several times before – can be translated into killing another one of them off. And on that thread, explain to me why it seems the only way Guza can write a character off is by killing them – AJ, Alan, Stefan, Emily, Logan, Georgie? The only way any of this makes sense is if Guza and ABC (who okays it all) sees no future here. Why do you need core, legacy characters if there won’t be a show to feature them? So, kill them off, it doesn’t matter; corrupt the integrity of the show and make killers the stars, it doesn’t matter; treat women like dirt and drive off female viewers so you can work through your vile thoughts with your male characters, it doesn’t matter.

    Should a miracle happen and Guza actually gets let go – that will be the ONLY sign that ABC cares at all for this show and this genre. Anything short of that means we are all just twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the cancellation button.

    (PS – I’ve given up on the show at this point. I don’t watch anymore because I can’t stand the show. I read message boards and columns like yours, hoping for some sign of a turnaround.)

  11. Cara says:

    I started watching GH when Robert Scorpio first came on the show and I have to say I have never been so utterly disgusted with the current state of this once amazing show. This show had people tuning in day after day, year after year because we were so invested in the characters who were for the most part admirable and had integrity. But what I see now is a town of losers, deviants and criminals, a town by the way I would never want to visit. They have now reduced a once bright light in all of this, to the gutter trash that completly rules this town. I think the what really needs to be done is have Guza and Frons analized by a team of Austrian psychiatrists to determine why they hate women so much, why they think they are nothing but deviants, hos and losers and why they think they can only be redeamed or validated by men or their version of what a heroic man is (ie Sonny, Jason) Its really scary that these 2 men are walking free among society and are allowed to promote their version of what a woman of today is. They need to go ( preferably in a strait-jacket) and I mean like yesterday, otherwise the fate of this show is painfully obvious.

  12. Dale says:

    Oh, Marlena, what is left to be said about the Stacey Morasco fiaso? (Hey, I rhymed!) This is juvenile acting and storytelling that is painful to watch. But wait! I don’t watch! Total fast forward material. I am not sure that even a skilled actress could save this mess. The writing is suspiciously un-Carlivati like and it makes me wonder what the heck is going over at OLTL. This is what we get force fed, and meanwhile Viki is MIA? Puh-lease! We can only hope that this hot mess ends soon. But at least we have Tea – the anti-Stacey, who brims with intelligence, wit and humor.

    Marlena says: Hey darling! I agree with every word in this letter. I am especially bitter about the absence of Viki with these two nincompoops on my screen every day. I am loving Florencia Lozano’s Tea — she’s so ripely beautiful, mature and smart, she must be marked for murder. This show’s production regime and ABC has already shown repeatedly how much they despise women who aren’t bimbos.

  13. David C says:

    The only way to watch One Life these days is to fast forward through any scene with Crystal Hunt. As I wrote on another site, her acting is so bad its like a spoiled high school girl who intimidates her principal into alllowing her to have the lead in the school play, only she has no talent, skill or chemistry with any living human being on the stage. (Maybe she’s great with the scenery?)I f Stacy is intended as the show’s next great villainess they have to fire Hunt asap — no, sooner than that. She is embarrassing to watch and I feel such empathy for her co-stars. I will say this about her — any weak actors in her scenes are giving Emmy worthy performances when compared with La Hunt.

    Marlena says: I never saw Crystal Hunt on Guiding Light, where she played one of the Lizzies. Can someone out there tell me if she was as bad on that show?

  14. Linda says:

    Love your columns! I share in the disgust of GH as well as B&B, which fortunately is only 1/2 hour of trash. The bottom line with GH is that the writers are first and foremost to blame when they cannot even write a storyline with a beginning middle and most of all, end. The Feb. sweeps were so ridiculous to watch, but mostly because there was no resolution to the Equinox participation, no reason given at all for the whole disaster and the only one being pursued by the FBI is Spinelli, whose crimes are miniscule in comparison. We were teased into believing that Trevor’s death would be more than just that, especially with his ties to Ric, Sonny, etc. Why even get interested when we know nothing will ever be resolved?

    Marlena says: I feel your pain! GH hasn’t been resolving their stories for a very long time and it is a cheat to their viewers. We want resolution. You mean they killed off my Trevor (Marlena loved him) and never gave it any worth? Guza must go! Jill must go! GH really is bad right now!

  15. Marilyn Henry says:

    GH now is as bad as it has ever been, I think. It is not only boring, repetitious and dark, it has this overall feeling of decay and blandness. It is repelling.

    The sets are colorless and often dark. The costumes are all grey or black or so drab as to be of undetermined color. As an artist, this tries my soul. The lighting is awful, causing actors to look pale, aging, or just plain tired. There are no extras in the various scenes, thus the restaurants are empty except for the two focus people, the hospital is empty, the hotel lobby is empty–places where people would be expected to be, there is a dreadful lack of life and activity. So even with the lead actors emoting for all they are worth, the scene lacks life and any sense of place and reality.

    And I could not agree more with Thinking Fan Linda when she says the stories have no resolutions. SO many opportunities for story to come out of story are just passed up. We never learned what was in the briefcase locked in the hotel safe during the Metro Court hostage thing. That crisis was supposed to have taken place because of Jerry going to retrieve that briefcase for someone he talked to on the phone–but once the lobby blew up and everyone was out, there was no answer to the plot. The briefcase apparently self-destructed. That was it. Consider how much more story they could have told out of that–maybe Helena ordered it because it contained the formula for a toxin she was developing to hold certain countries hostage…well, you see what I mean. Story leading to more story. And why are they making agent Rainer a boring corruptible type–the actor, Mark Pinter, can deliver as we all know, so why not make him a hero for Alexis to fall for? But, oh yeh, forgot, They hate the Alexis character at GH and therefore won’t ever give her decent air time. Even if Nancy Grahn is just about the best actress they have.

    Why did they make the mayor, played by hunky John Bolger, into a fool instead of allowing him to date Alexis? Why have they turned Luke Spencer into this unrecognizable drunken lout, stripped of his lovable Luke Spencer personality? How could Geary let that happen? I don’t even like Luke these days and I don’t believe a word coming out of his mouth.

    Well, the questions go on. TPTB just don’t care. They hire nonentities like the Ethan character and immediately he is a repulsive pick-pocket. Seems like they hire one, fire one–it goes on and on. Why should the audience invest in any of these in and out characters? We know they won’t be around long. Why is Sonny still being treated like a romantic lead when he has sunk into being the most tediously predictable piece of trash and is now spending his time going around giving motherly advice. I am SO weary of him and I despise Claudia–can’t even look at them anymore at all.

    All that talent wasted. It is criminal. Fans have been telling them for years now to dump the nasty mob crap and give us good stories we can feel good about watching. No one at GH or ABC is listening. No one.

    Marlena says: Marilyn, as always you read my mind. I, too have noticed the emptiness of the sets, of the town and of course, Guza and Jill’s minds. It seems like they have left the store, but forgot to put the lights out. Tony’s ridiculous character, the overlooking of Alexis’ life and sexuality, Sonny giving out motherly advise (this cracked me up), are all evidence that no one at the show or worse, the network, is supervising this soap. It’s a scandal! And you are right, no one is listening. This is totally unprofessional for a major network.

    Can I ask you a favor? This message gave me an idea. Can you draft a letter to Anne Sweeney, the ABC Entertainment Chief, saying all you have said here? I’d like to print it here as an open letter to her. Only your eloquence will help her see what’s actually happening. And our other Thinking Fans can add their thoughts too. It’s time to expose this rotten soap!

  16. Linda says:

    As a short follow-up to this discussion, I was on the set of GH Feb. of last year and what a difference between then and now. Megan was anticipating a possible Emmy nom and was gathering her tapes, Rick H. was excited about an upcoming storyline that actually gave him some screen time (it bombed unfortunately), Dylan W. was still around & Nancy was more visible. Rick H. and Sarah taped their first bombshell encounter together and Stephen M. was plalying Trevor to the utmost. Missed opportunity by having Claudia and Sonny hook up, when she and Rick should have. And now we have Megan, who was so promising, and Rick H., one of the most talented and congenial actors around, on recurring. Just another nail in the coffin.

  17. Purple Haze says:

    The degradation of General Hospital is almost fascinating in a car-wreck watching way. I never thought I’d see the day where I fast forwarded Tony Geary scenes or Jane Elliot scenes, and yet when they are on with Ethan watching is the visual equivalent of a dentist’s drill.

    They are writing Ethan as if he is Cary Grant and I virtually scream at the tv — do the writers ever even *see* their work? What kind of hallucinogens make them think the actor who plays Ethan is suave, debonaire, cool and hot? Well, he is hot in a way. A HOT MESS!!!!!

    The contrast between how Ethan is written and how he is on screen has destroyed the credibility of any scene he is in. I am even fast forwarding John Ingles’s scenes when he is with Ethan.

    I don’t like much on this show (except for the Crimson set, which I love) — the repetitive nature of the dialogue has even begun to destroy my love for Brad Anderson — but I continue to hang on, as many have expressed, in the hopes that someday some “wiser heads” will prevail and this once-compelling show will regain its luster.

    As far as “The Young and the Restless”, today’s show (Friday) where Kay gets the DNA results, Chloe’s wedding, etc., was one of the best soap opera episodes I have EVER seen — so kudos to Maria Arena Bell. Kevin/Amber were not on which was fine by me because that storyline is so dark and painful if it were also written horribly it could qualify for “General Hospital”!

  18. Marilyn Henry says:

    Hi Marlena,
    I re-read Michael’s reply above and feel much of it should be incorporated into ‘our’ letter to ABC. He makes so many valid points. The humiliation of women on the show, the destruction of core families, the need for real romance (as opposed to gross sex), the lack of decent values, etc., all this needs to be pointed out.
    There is no good vs evil on this show. It is just evil vs evil-er. No heroes here; just two corrupt losers occasionally saving other losers. Known criminals are invited to all the town’s social occasions as if they are respectable citizens. Makes no sense. The moral balance is nearly non-existent. Anyone in PC evidencing decency is either killed off or corrupted (or like Emily, comes back as a tough, gum-chewing, raccoon-eyed mess!). And viewers cannot relate at all. Most of PC is populated by people I would never want to know or spend time with in my own life, so why would I want to devote an hour a day with them?
    ****

    I know. I should have given my first reply more time to gestate–but I jumped right in. There is just too much wrong with GH for one letter to do it. About once a week I watch and ask myself: Are they actually trying to get this show canceled? I suspect other fans are wondering, too. The solution seemed too easy–fire Guza (and Jill) and hire the writer who wrote the successful summer Soapnet GH. That show had what GH has been missing for years now: Heart. (Not that I relished watching Robert downed with prostrate cancer!) But I wonder if solutions are too late now. So much has been destroyed and the show so little resembles the true GH–well, a really exceptional writer could probably do it, but only if the network left them alone to accomplish it. And that won’t happen.

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