Sunday Reflections 16: Divine and Not So Divine Moments from The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital and Days of Our Lives

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

For Marlena, this week wasn’t about the shows or the storylines.  It was about individual moments, some divine, some not so…

Divine:  Nikki and Victor’s long embrace, promising each other to rebuild among the ruins of the Newman ranch, all set to The Young and Restless theme (Nadia’s Theme). I love this traditional soaps move, playing a crucial plot moment for their lead characters or couple against the theme music of the show.  It is such a mood moment, in this case such a romantic and a greatly grounding one for two characters who have endured so much together and always come through.  A very nice touch by the show’s new production regime.

Divine:  Every moment in the consecutive episodes in which Stephanie told her loved ones (Brooke, Thorne, etc.) she was going to die, by giving them a [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 15: Presto Chango — How the New Production and Writing Regime Reshaped Y&R in Only One Week

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

If you are a soap opera watcher who loves the soap opera behind the soap opera (as I think most Thinking Fans are), this was a tremendous week for watching The Young and the Restless.  The show’s new head writer Josh  Griffith and new new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps  made the fastest changes I’ve ever seen in Week One of a new regime.  The thing is: do you admire how efficient they were at making storyline fixes? Or as a fan who watches soaps just for the on-screen entertainment, were you confused or a bit annoyed by the sudden radical changes? To wit: 

– In the presto chango department, the instant dismissal — in one episode – of the long anticipated trial of Phyllis for attempting to run over The Bug and Paul 20 years ago by a new judge (the old one had suddenly taken sick) was the craftiest (in a good way) soap opera writing [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 14: General Hospital’s Non-Stop Storyline Excitement … Bold and Beautiful — Sobbing for the Forthcoming Death of Stephanie

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

General Hospital:  “No one ever dies in this town,” exclaimed Luke and Tracy together as they talked about the wounded and missing Joe Scully Jr. on Friday’s episode. Don’t you just adore when soaps make fun of themselves?  Because back from the dead has certainly been endemic lately on GH. Last week, one of the most thrilling back from the dead story scene reveals I have ever seen  was when  Duke Lavery (Ian Buchanan) presented himself to disbelieving wife Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) as being alive after a 23-year absence.

Anna (Finola Hughes) and Duke (Ian Buchanan)
Still electric after all these years

His declarations of continuing love for her (complete with flashbacks) were  the most romantic and intense scenes of the soap year so far.  You know (see Soap Reflections 6) that I am just a marshmallow for the ever handsome, divinely British accented Buchanan. And Hughes should win an Emmy for her portrayal of silent disbelief slowly turning to a burgeoning sense of joy the character felt reuniting with her long lost husband. Didn’t you just love the welling of tears in Anna’s eyes, the moment she realized he really was Duke and the two a rushed into each other’s arms in a reunion embrace?  That’s good writing, electric chemistry (still strong after 23 long years) and great acting!

Robin Mattson as Heather
Crazed evil supreme

Again, as in the last week, the writers of GH proved how expert they are at weaving great storylines together in single episodes. The week also featured Jason finally telling Sam that her baby son was alive and concluded when the two found kidnapper Heather clutching their baby son in her arms on the hospital rooftop. Spine-tingling!  No one plays “crazy pants” better than veteran actress Robin Mattson.  Too bad the previews of Monday’s episode gave away that Heather does jump off the roof (sans baby, I’m guessing).  Why should a show usually so careful about disclosing its storyline secrets permit such a big boo-boo?   Marlena just loves suspense that is unspoiled.

So GH has really been great hot soap opera these last two months, hasn’t it?   From the September day the show changed time slots, headwriter Ron Carlivati has been expertly writing [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 13: General Hospital and Young and the Restless — When Entertainment Value and Hot Sex, Respectively, Defy Logic

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

General HospitalConfluence, according to the dictionary, means when three things meet at a certain point (rivers, for example).   And that’s exactly what happened on General Hospital early this week – confluence in Tuesday and Wednesday’s episodes when three great storylines in which one couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. This was stunning because, although soaps usually run three major storylines simultaneously, ordinarily only one is great and two you are tempted to fast forward through.

Kelly Sullivan
as Connie/Kate

First, Sonny was left agape as Connie confessed she was married to Johnny, right at the beginning of the Sonny-“Kate” wedding ceremony. Second, Liz confessed to Jason she had changed the DNA lab test reports, confirming that Tea’s baby son was biologically really Sam’s. Third, oily Joe held Kristina at gun point, threatening to kill his rival Sonny’s daughter.

What truly exciting soap opera!  And rare, too!  I can’t remember a confluence of great stories in a few episodes like these since Guiding Light’s blackout story in the 90s.  Becky Herbst was Emmy-terrific as Liz. Kelly Sullivan stole the show, as bride Connie called groom Sonny a pig and a bully. (How true!)  GH even had some nice humor, as lab assistant Ellie, attending the wedding with Spinelli, couldn’t be dragged away from combined craziness (everyone was slapping and punching each other) exclaiming, “This is a great first date!” [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 12: Young and Restless’ Blah 10,000th Episode … General Hospital’s Sabrina and Her Fantasies, and Connie and Her Body Shot

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

The Young and the Restless: So, what did you think of Y&R’s 10,000th episode, aired Thursday?  This was the one in which a “dead” character came back for his own funeral. In this case, it was Victor Newman, in what seemed to be his 438th resurrection.   (It was actually his third).  Well, in the episode’s defense, it did feature the entire cast, including characters like Esther, Traci and Danny, albeit in overcrowded group scenes.  The relief at seeing Victor alive (in a $10,000 suit, after months of grimy togs) along with such Newman family characters as Victor’s daughter Abby was kind of sweet.    And Victor and Nikki had an episode-ending reunion love scene, a rarity in the history of soaps:  a scene where a couple actually ends up happy.

Victor and Nikki, together again
Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott

This celebratory episode was a treat for viewers who have never seen a soap before, but longtimers who had seen it all before were probably left feeling blasé.  For some, it may even have bordered on soap self-parody, as was accurately predicted by former Marlena contributor Patrick Erwin in a letter last week.  The over-arching problem with the episode was that it was pedestrian soap opera.  And a Y&R special shouldn’t be that un-special after 10,000 episodes!  The episode was also emblematic of the last two years or so of the inexplicably top-rated Y&R, which may be summed up with one word:  blah.  Both the show and the special episode were produced and co-written by the recently fired Maria Arena Bell. [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 11: Mucho Macho Man on Bold and Beautiful … Victor Lives Again on Young and Restless … Mourning a Great Actor from General Hospital

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

The Bold and the Beautiful: I’m not going to apologize or use nice words.   My favorite character on B&B is “Dollar” Bill Spencer because he has balls, something almost all the men on this show in its 25-year history have lacked.  Unlike the romantic ping pong balls that have been Ridge and Bill’s son Liam (the biggest wuss of all) Bill has strength and is aggressive.  He’s a manipulator.   Lately, he’s been taking his poor excuse for a son (who spends all his time on earth bouncing between Steffy and  Hope) and trying to make him into a man.  Sure, it’s been weird — he’s forced Liam eat steak and smoke cigars.  But at least someone’s been trying to make Liam strong enough to choose between his two young women and determine his own fate.  Will Bill succeed?  In real life he probably would, but since the ratings are so high for the interminable young triangle, Bill will probably be force-feeding  spinach to Liam in perpetuity.

Don Diamont

With his silver jewelry, sexual swagger and often bared chest, you’d think Bill was a soap joke.   But Don Diamont, who started soap life as Liz’s (Glorina Loring) boytoy on Days of Our Lives three decades ago, makes Bill’s ever-aggressive nervous energy seem quite real.  Let’s face it — soaps are still a women’s medium, (go ahead and write me) and uber strong masculine men are few and far between.  Think usually liberated Marlena is being a bit backward here?  No — forceful people (men and women) make the world go round.   And the soap world too!

The last man of this strength on B&B  was Bill’s father, Bill Spencer Sr., as played  by James Storm at the beginning of the show.   He was the only figure in the show’s history to match la Stephanie in the cojones department. (They were friends.)   It puzzles me, however, how Katie, one of the most intelligent women in soaps, stays married to [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 10: Katie Couric’s Talk Show is So-So … GH’s Fast Wrapping Up Remote … Y&R: Why did “Red”’s Hair Suddenly Turn Brown?

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

So what did you think of Katie, Ms. Couric’s new talk show?  I have mixed feelings about it.

Couric herself doesn’t bother me.  Au contraire – we should be proud that daytime television, which marginalizes older women, is spotlighting a 55-year-old.  Katie’s usual intelligence does shine through on the show.  Plus she’s the real deal as a journalist, a terrific interviewer.  She has the professional acumen to ask the difficult questions — on her first show she asked Sheryl Crow if she knew about Lance Armstrong’s drug use while she was dating him. (Crow copped out and said she doesn’t talk to him much anymore.)

Katie Couric

One of the show’s main problems, though, is that so far it hasn’t measured up to the Couric intelligence.   It’s been focused too much on what I call the girly-girl lightweight subjects, like weight and romance.  Wasn’t the interview with shallow Jessica Simpson just a bore?  Who needs yet another recommendation for Weight Watchers, as Simpson went on about her weight loss and even brought on her WW counselor.  Katie gave over an entire show to a feel-good author named B’rene Brown who just burbled on for endless segments about how beneficial it is to make yourself vulnerable to romance and all in life. She was so New Age-ish and so full of hot air that the show just went on interminably.

As I’ve written, a daytime talk show shouldn’t appeal only to women. It should appeal to all people who have brains, as The View does.  Katie herself seems [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 9: On General Hospital,Your Emotions Are Played With as Sam and Jason Ask “What If?” … On The Young and the Restless, Sharon Heads Off to the Sanitarium

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

Ever wonder how your emotions are expertly manipulated by soaps? A great example was Thursday’s very unusual General Hospitalepisode in which Sam and Jason wondered what could have been had they made different decisions in their relationship. It had me screaming at the screen in anger at the beginning, but by its conclusion I was having a good cry.

Jason (Steve Burton) and Sam (Kelly Monaco)
What might have been …

The episode was set in the hospital, as sick Sam and a wounded Jason faced “death,” poisoned by the water almost all Port Charles-ites had drunk which had a fatal element added to it by crazy Jerry Jacks.  Sam was the reflective one, as the show introduced imaginary flashbacks of the story of the birth of her healthy baby boy, who in soap reality had supposedly died shortly after birth. (He was given to Tea instead by Todd.)  What the hell is this, I shouted at the screen, as the scenes labeled “April”  “June” etc. seemed totally out the context of the regular running GH.  The scenes felt very strange to watch. Plus, the flashbacks were obviously new scenes shot just for this episode.  You know they were new because, just returned from a year’s absence, Kirsten Storms was playing [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 8: On General Hospital, Jason as an Empty Vessel? … A Great Week for Older Women … A Most Confusing Friday Episode

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

General Hospital: Last Tuesday came word that Steve Burton is leaving General Hospitalafter 21 years playing Jason (Quartermaine) Morgan.  You’d think I’d be happy because I have always disliked Jason, the hitman who was the central “hero” of the show.  But as Burton leaves I have changing feelings.

Steve Burton
Striving to make a bad guy look good

In the past I’ve called Burton a “limited” actor because, for one thing, he lacked training. But Burton did arguably stand fast all those years, playing a character absurdly written to be some sort of daytime icon:  a murderer who usually saved everyone in town, and was viewed by former headwriter Bob Guza as a living saint.   With his trademark black tee-shirt, bulging muscles and gun frequently in hand, Jason as written by Guza was the ultimate hero as he murdered at least nine people over the years.

Guza gave him what was supposed to be an understandable motive for being an unapologetic killer: his “conscience” screw was loose or missing altogether from his brain, ostensibly having been knocked out years ago when the former good guy/med student was in an automobile crash. And being the mob enforcer for GH’s other anti-hero, the murderer Sonny, his boss and closest friend in one of the most remarkable bromances in daytime history, always gave [Read more...]

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...]