A Shout Out to Hollywood Heights

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a.  Connie Passalacqua Hayman 

Although I am decades older than the target audience, I enjoyed the first four episodes of the new Hollywood Heights.  It’s the new teen soap on Nick at Nite, created, written, produced and acted by several daytime veterans.  What I really admire about this show is that it has good soap bones.

Hollywood Heights is a multi-generation show based on relationships, not on the shock and schlock plots we are so used to in daytime.  The kids and their parents actually seem to care about and even love one another, as daytime characters did in days of old.  Brittany Underwood (ex-Langston, One Life to Live) stars as high school senior and young aspiring songwriter Loren, who, along with her close friend Melissa (Ashley Holliday), really digs rock star Eddie Duran (Cody Longo), a very cute nice guy who comes to town to do a concert, and later sponsors a song-writing contest.  We meet Loren’s mom, Nora (Jama Williamson), Melissa’s family and Cody’s girlfriend, bad girl Chloe (Melissa Ordway) as they prepare for the big event.  The hour long daily show has a large cast!    After a ticket mishap, Loren and Melissa finally get in (their antics reminded me of Lucy and Ethel) and Loren is given every teen girl’s fantasy — Eddie touches her hand and looks into her eyes in the middle of a song.

Remember when daytime soaps used to be about female fantasies? Here you go junior style.  The canvas is full of kids and their elders, each of whom has a secret or a story hook.  Remember daytime soaps when older characters had their own stories?  One of the fathers, Don, is played by Grayson McCouch (ex- Morgan, Another World, ex-Dusty, As the World Turns) and I really like Williamson who plays Loren’s very young single mom.   Oh to have to be a teenage girl and have such a sweet “best friend” mom like this! 

The show is put together by many backstage daytime vets like director Owen Renfro (General Hospital), line producer Jeanne Haney (Passions, General Hospital Night Shift) and produced beautifully by Jill Farren Phelps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, etc., etc.)   The show is the baby of headwriter Josh Griffth (One Life to Live, The Young and the Restless), who has nicely adapted it from a Mexican soap.  I guess the reason the show appealed to me so much is that a lot of careful thought seems to have gone into it, and it reminds me of soaps they way they used to be.

Comments

  1. o says:

    I’ve just caught up on the first three episodes and was quite a bit more impressed than I expected to be. Underwood never really swayed me one way or the other throughout the entirety of her stint on OLTL, but she has either been working on her craft, or she too has fallen under the famous Phelps spell, because she has instantly become a contender here. Longo is soap-hunk cute but seems to actually have something happening behind his eyes (unlike the typically vapid young bucks populating daytime the past few years). And I quite like Williamson as well, and can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen her somewhere before. (A quick IMDB check didn’t turn up anything that I would have watched, but I was instantly drawn to her likable, easy demeanor, and — at least right now, three episodes in — hers is the character I most want to spend more time with and learn more about on this series.)

    Marlena once opined that La Phelps stamps her imprimatur all over her shows the way that Louis Vuitton does his luggage, and sure enough, there are plenty of standard and immediately identifiable JFP touches — the snappy music montages, the steamy romantic flourishes (though not TOO steamy this time around, as we’re aiming at teens here!) — on display in “Heights.” I just wish, since the bulk of the show’s freight is being hauled by the teenagers, that she had a stronger young cast to work with.

    In my opinion, Phelps has not always gotten her due in the past for her brilliance at casting striking young talent in her shows and fostering those performances into something truly special. (Think Monti Sharp and Melissa Hayden on “Guiding Light” a hundred years ago, think Kevin McClatchy on “Another World,” think Jason-Shane Scott on “One Life to Live,” think Scott Clifton and Kirsten Storms on “General Hospital.”) Underwood is much-improved, no doubt, and could yet blossom, and Longo is worth keeping an eye on, but the rest of the young cast still seems a bit lost. (In fairness, I’m only three episodes in, and this show is already more compelling than something like “Sunset Beach” ever managed to be in three YEARS.)

    We look forward to reading Marlena’s thoughts and comments as “Heights” evolves this summer, Connie! Welcome back, stranger!

    Marlena says: Thanks, Brandon, love you! I will be posting very regularly from now on. Critics and fans alike have certainly delivered their punches to JFP over the years, (especially on One Life to Live, and the General Hospital she produced, working with Guza (ouch!) and Frons (ouch! ouch!) But outside of all this, she really does have brilliant production skills, with 30 continuous years of soap employment to show for it. I agree, she is quite good developing young talent. I think the young talents on Hollywood Heights really haven’t found their footing yet, but will improve. Let’s see what happens with this show in the next couple of months….

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