By Marlena De Lacroix
What’s a soap critic to do? There are only six soaps. I have a long memory and remember the very early 90s, when Bill Bell originated the homeless storyline with Stephanie, which way proceeded the current one. Ken Corday is an enemy of free speech; he sought to destroy the critical arm of Soap Opera Weekly years ago. But alas. The great and ultra creative Jim Reilly is dead and cursed now by Ken and followers. All that is long ago and distant — to some and those who were not in the daytime world long ago in the first place.
The root of criticism in daytime is executive change. You call for an executive change when you see a bad soap, a soap that is marked by cronyism, a soap that doesn’t move, or centers too long on one character or is marked by favoritism or sexism or inside politics. Yet, all the current headwriters and producers at daytime, as if in a time warp, seem locked into place. We have Ken, enemy of the First Amendment at Days of Our Lives. Fronsie eternal at ABC. All the Bells and the bravura Rauch at Y&R, Jill and Bob at General Hospital. They all seem to be on lifetime contracts. What’s a soap critic left to criticize? How does one call for change?
As I’ve written, I was not too happy Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati were spared their jobs at OLTL after rock-bottom ratings and an embarrassing streak of sexism never before seen in daytime. But Frons gave them a stay of execution. And the show has begun to show improvement. Somewhere, somehow, the sexism disappeared and the two built a new family in the Fords. I have to struggle to remember their names, but all three actors have come a long way. The oldest Ford, as played by Nic Robuck, has suddenly become a romantic hero. Isn’t it cool your husband Cole goes to jail for murder and the same day your new boyfriend James comes to visit you and Starr tries to seduce him in her bedroom? Even as your mom Blair flirts with the very same James the next day.
What I’m saying, if shows are rethought and replanned and internally criticized, improvement is possible. The sexism is magically gone from One Life to Live as if those at the network were reading all the professional soap criticism. On the other hand we don’t see much of Dorian, and no Robin Strasser is soaps without sugar. I fell immediately under the spell of John Wesley Shipp. What a magnificent actor! I love his villains. Doug Cummings was one of the best villains in As the World Turns history. Those who wrote about John as a living torso should have shame on themselves. John had primetime shows (Dawson’s Creek) and even starred on Broadway. Already, his evil, evil Eddie Ford, all beer and prostitutes, is shaping up to be soap’s big thing. The only thing Eddie doesn’t do yet is belch through his scenes.
I also watch General Hospital and follow the Brenda saga. So she had a baby and left it somewhere. It looks like Jerry Jacks has something to do with all this and will be back soon. There’s no reason to waste the marquee value and true chemistry of a couple like Vanessa Marcil and Maurice Benard. And Robin looks like she needs a lot of help in the on-going saga in which Lisa is torturing her to take away her husband. Fires! Endless kidnappings! Stuck in a hole! David Benzali (Murder One) is coming to General Hospital as a confidante for Robin. The sexy bald master actor is wonderful. It wouldn’t surprise in the least if he turns out to be the much feared and talked about Balkan!
As for All My Children, I don’t have much good to say. Killing off Thorsten Kaye is one of the dumbest soap moves ever (he has a lot of fans including me). All this leads to is hope that Erica and Caleb will get together and that her boring fiancé Jackson will see the high road and take it and leave. If All My Children can improve, than I’d say that was a soap miracle.
So, perhaps there is still some hope after all. I’m still watching — for now. How about you? Do you have any hope for the future?