General Hospital: No Spoiler … What a Great Surprise!

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

When I think about Old Man Soap Opera, I think of someone teetering on a cane off to the inevitable.  So who thought today he’d pull one of his oldest tricks out of his pocket: the element of surprise!

Did you see today’s General Hospital?  We all knew (from a cliffhanger on Friday’s episode and via Frank Valentini’s tweet) that something big was being revealed today. But (and listen up, other producers) he did not spoil it.

Ian Buchanan
As Duke Lavery (gasp!) in the sanitarium

So when it was revealed almost at the end of the episode that it was Duke Lavery who was lurking at the sanitarium … wowee!  I actually screamed!  And clapped! Finally, a soap keeping a plot twist secret! Before the advent of spoilers, which reared their ugly heads in the late 70s, wanting to know what is going to happen next is why soap viewers tuned in to soaps, and why they kept tuning in.  And spoilers have been one of the main culprits that have ruined the crucial soap element of suspense. And in so doing, almost killed off daytime drama as a medium, too.

So congratulations to Mr. Valentini for somehow sealing the leaks that let the secrets filter up to the magazines and the Internet.   And Mr. Carlivati and company did a masterful job on the writing of the episode, during which the citizens of Port Charles also found out [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 7: Central Actors’ Leave-takings on Days of Our Lives, Bold & Beautiful and General Hospital; Headlocks and Diction on B&B and GH; One Strange Interview from B&B

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

Peter Reckell
Is there time to recast?

Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital:  When I used to work on newspapers it was journalistic thinking that a list of three of anything — three sightings of groovy over-the-knee boots on the subway, three Hollywood divorces, three murders in a Queens neighborhood — signal the birth a new trend.  Now, with the leave-takings of three leading men – Peter Reckell (Bo) from Days of Our Lives and Ronn Moss (Ridge) from The Bold and the Beautiful (both because of reduced salaries), and the rumored departure of Steve Burton from General Hospital (do you believe it will actually happen?) — we practically have another new daytime trend. And central, long-term veteran actors abandoning our sinking shows has become a really serious problem.  I guess this is a sign of the soap times, as the daytime drama medium implodes all the more.

Can headwriters successfully handle the exits of the centerpiece actors of their shows? Or will the loss of these leading men leave too big a hole in their shows and cause ratings slides? Can recasts of such important central characters work? In the past, replacements in roles that were defined by the very long-term actors who played them were hard to adjust to initially.  But the new [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 6: Cheese-tastic Days of Our Lives; Great Production on General Hospital; Marlena Recommends

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

Days of Our Lives: “What’s that you’re watching, Marlena? That old movie Earthquake (1974)?” My husband Moose was looking at the TV screen where battered and bloodied people were climbing out of the wreckage of a ballroom that had experienced a terrific explosion.

Kate (Lauren Koslow) hears baddie Ian (Ian Buchanan) declare his love for the dead Madison (Sarah Joy Brown)

“No, it’s not quite as cheese-tastic,” I answered. “It’s Days of Our Lives.”  Actually, I thought Days this week did an entertainingly good job of digging itself out of the wreckage of the stunt explosion that had occurred just prior to its two-week Olympic hiatus. The characters reacted so pseudo-realistically! Madison was found dead, a cut on her head (!) and a pregnant Nicole moaned and groaned, being pinned under some wreckage.  Abby broke down and cried like the real little girl she is when father Jack died after saving her from a  27-floor elevator plunge, and I almost shed a tear for him, as no one over the years could ever be immune to Matthew Ashford’s great charm as the character.But nothing could touch the cheese-tastic (and you know Marlena, I say that very lovingly) baddie Ian declaring his love to the corpse of Madison.  How I will always love Ian Buchanan, even in this thankless, one-note role!  The accent! That face!  That very strong and powerful, larger than life quality he shows when sputtering sheer evil!  Later he and Lauren Koslow chewed up the scenery until it fell down soap style in a long fight scene where Kate accused the newly aggrieved Ian of breaking up her marriage through their affair. In the scene’s/episode’s cliffhanger, Ian melodramatically blurted out: “I killed Stefano!” Speaking of divine cheese, next week Stefano is back from the dead for the umpteenth time.  Oh how truly great Joe Mascolo has been in the role for decades! [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 5: The Young and the Restless, The Revamp; Reality Shows on Y&R and General Hospital; Gold Medal GH

By Marlena Delacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

The Young and the Restless:  The hardest job in the soap world is being done right now by new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and headwriter Josh Griffith as they revamp Y&R and are rumored to be paring down its expensive cast.  Marlena has always believed it’s not a critic’s job to tell producers what to do; it’s our job to react to it.  Yet, I can’t resist making some observations on the Y&R they are examining right now.

How the hell are Phelps and Griffith going to get rid of any veterans, when the greatest strength of Y&R is its plethora of actors who have been on for decades? Firing any will be an amputation, with the fans just screaming bloody murder even after just one pink slip. Look at how wrenching it was to lose Eileen Davidson as Ashley, who departed Y&R just last week for Days of Our Lives!  Almost all the older vets have proven their worth by improving the awful stories of Ms. Arena Bell and company though their great acting abilities. Examples: 

Peter Bergman

Michelle Stafford

Peter Bergman’s Jack conquering paralysis and his joke of a marriage to Melody Thomas Scott’s  Nikki; Michelle Stafford in the on-going travails of Phyllis; Doug Davidson, bravura as Paul in the father kills son Ricky story, and on and on. For whom will the bell toll?

Caution: cutting or deemphasizing the vets on Y&R would likely kill the show, as it will cause longtime viewers — its core audience — to flee.  Plus, any of these actors can be maintained or saved by improved writing for their characters.

Doug Davidson

Most likely cuts will come from the shorter-termed vets from other shows, like the Genie Francis (totally miscast as scheming Genevieve) and those who have run out of story, like Stephen Nichols (Tucker).  Please don’t cut Debbi Morgan (Harmony) and Darnell Williams (Sarge)!  Each has more than carried over their momentous acting skills from All My Children to Y&R and I’ll cry if they get the sack.

The most effective move would be to punch up or recast most of the young cast, who range from nothing more than ordinary to dreadful.  I have never been a fan of (recent Emmy winner!) Christel Khalil (Lily) and Daniel Goddard (Cane).  Lily and Cane are insipid and I don’t care to see any more about Cane’s past. The relative newbies such as Blake Hood (who plays the newly adult Kyle) and Jessica Heap (who plays Eden) don’t do much for me.  I have a feeling the show will be bringing in [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 4: The Young and the Restless’ Jeanne Cooper Book Reviewed; General Hospital

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

The Young and the Restless:  Like gossip on old movies and TV and the soap opera world? Like to laugh?  Wanna get all the inside whispered into your ear by a great soap opera icon?  Then get yourself a copy of Not Young, Still Restless (HarperCollins) the very frank and entertaining autobiography of 83-year-old Jeanne Cooper, who has starred as Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless since 1973.

Cooper, who was brought up in a modest household in Taft, California, fell in love with theater and became a Hollywood contract player (and later television freelancer) during the 50s, all before she came to Y&R.  She appeared in such movies as The Girl From Wyoming with Maureen O’ Hara (who initially tried to push younger actress Cooper into the background) and Let No Man Be My Epitaph (where she became friends with Shelley Winters.)   For more than  two decades she was a most prolific guest star on primetime shows (from Wagon Train and Perry Mason to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Bracken’s World) getting to really know such stars as Barbara Stanwyck, Raymond Burr and her dear longtime friend, Barbara Hale.

And right off the bat, Cooper tells you who she slept with in those glory days — David Janssen and Robert Taylor (!) were just two. Very quickly you see that the strong woman who survived and thrived in the difficult word of Hollywood had tremendous vulnerabilities, revealed through her running painful description of her love/ hate relationship with her husband, agent and producer Harry Bernsen.  He was a handsome, cheating money moocher, and she eventually divorced him. But their three children (actor Corbin, Collin and Caren) became and remain the lights of her life. What a proud, deeply loving mother she appears to be!  (She now has eight grandchildren in a tight knit family.)

Cooper confesses that The Young and the Restless saved her life.  After her bout with alcoholism, Bill Bell personally sent her to rehab.  Cooper delightfully details all the leading names of the actors and backstagers she’s known through [Read more...]