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’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.
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 lots of new young people anyway, and it will be interesting if any new faces come from Phelps’ old shows, as is this veteran executive producer’s legendary want.
The Young and the Restless and General Hospital: Are daytime soap operas sleeping with the enemy when they feature reality shows in their plots? First we had the mercifully aborted Mob Princess on General Hospital (starring Kristina Corinthos) and last week we had the hilarious satire Restless Style on Y&R (the TV version of the magazine) hosted by a divinely snarky Billy Abbott (Billy Miller) who was reminded me of Access Hollywood ’s Billy Bush, complete with the real life host’s oily smile. Restless Style was pure tabloid sleaze with Abby revealing her father Victor’s marriage to the much younger Sharon and Billy going for the jugular aiming to reveal magazine editorial employee Phyllis’ long held hit and run secrets. I loved the snide “Restless Style” almost as much as I truly detest reality shows. What do you think?
General Hospital: Five days later I am still wiping away the tears after a SoapNet Gold Medal Moments rebroadcast of the highly emotional 1994 episode in which we watched B.J.’s heart (she had died in a school bus accident) being transplanted into her cousin Maxie’s chest, saving her life. What soap magnificence! Everyone from mothers Bobbie and Maxie to Laura and Lucy — who heard the news from afar — was crying throughout this beautifully directed episode. Dr. Tony Jones, B.J.’s father, played by the amazingly subtle Brad Maule, witnessed the entire operation in the operating room and held his daughter’s hand as her heart stop beating. Sob! Hail GH era headwriter Claire Labine and executive producer Wendy Riche, and the cast and crew once again. What pure emotional truth was shown here — the gist of great soap opera. This was soap the way it was and ought to be!
Vintage One Life to Live: — So sad to hear this week of the death of Al Freeman Jr. who played Ed Hall on One Life to Livefrom 1972-85. What a magnificent actor he was, bringing power, dignity and great depth to the police captain character who married Carla (Ellen Holly) and was the adoptive father to Josh (played by a very, very young Laurence Fishburne).
Freeman had such a distinguished career — starring in the landmark TV movie My Sweet Charlie with Patty Duke in 1970, the mini-series Roots, performing on Broadway in various productions, and eventually teaching and chairing the theatre department at Howard University. And of course, he was the first African-American to win the Emmy for Outstanding Actor. He was 78.
Marlena De Lacroix: As of last February, “moi” has been a soap journalist for 32 years (minus a few for grad school). If you have any questions about soaps past and present, please send them to me in the “Comments” section. I’ll answer the questions and perhaps use them to springboard more midweek columns. Merci beaucoup, darlings.