Happy 24th Anniversary, Marlena!

By  Connie Passalacqua Hayman

This week marks the 24th anniversary of the debut of my alter ego, Marlena De Lacroix. My first column with that byline under the standing headline Critical Condition debuted in the second issue of Soap Opera Weekly the last week of November 1989.  Weekly was an immediate success and Marlena became very popular very quickly.

A lot of people have asked me why I used the named Marlena De Lacroix.  Marlena is a play on my middle name and Lacroix phonetically comes from the last part of my last name.  At the time I was freelancing for an ABC magazine called Episodes and the editor there thought there would be less of a conflict of interest if I used a nom de plume at Weekly. Marlena’s real identity was never a secret –everyone knew it was me.

Although I have used the name continuously, the column has appeared at different times.  It appeared from 1989-2001  in Soap Opera Weekly, and debuted on the web in 2006 at Jack Myers Media Village. Here at marlenadelacroix.com, it has been running since 2007.

Marlena’s mission from the get-go was and is to report on and criticize soaps with intelligence and respect.  The readers – you, my cherished Thinking Fans – always have been veteran soap viewers with a vast knowledge both of soap history and how soaps are put together.  You  know the role of the writers, the producers and the actors.  You know what has worked well in the past and are expert at analyzing why soaps are working or if they are not.

Which brings me to my favorite part of being Marlena:  I love doing critical analysis; but what really pleases me is receiving your reaction to my opinions.  I love reading your analyses of all of the soaps.  Keep on sending your thoughts on what I write and your reactions to what you see on your daytime soaps  every day.

Thanks for your loyalty and support. Here’s to another 24 years!

General Hospital: Jam-Packed November Sweeps

William deVry: His Derek Wells is really dead mob boss Julian Jerome (ABC photo)

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

It’s traditional for a soap presents its strongest stories during sweeps, and this November hasn’t been a disappointment on General Hospital. Au contraire, the month isn’t over yet. To paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy 30 days.”

The opening of the Jerome art gallery, with its hilarious “BLT” painting  supposedly by Franco, was the site of the denouement of two longtime plots. It was a messy confluence, but got a lot done story-wise. In one, Sonny revealed that Derek Wells (William deVry) is really dead mob  boss Julian Jerome, the brother of Ava and the co-owner of the art gallery.   In the other, Sonny wanted to kill Julian for ripping off a shipment but during the sequence decided that he couldn’t because Julian is needed for future leukemia transplant  treatments for Danny.  The reveal was a bit underwhelming as deVry played it way too cool, and there were really no consequences for the Julian character.  At least, Sam found out who her biological  father was.

There’s more: The gallery was also the backdrop for the revelation that Franco isn’t Jason’s twin brother after all but the natural child of Heather Webber and Scotty Baldwin.  This new “fact” didn’t exactly make sense because Franco would have been conceived when both mother and father were on the soap canvas in the early 80s, but we never saw them get together.  Also the ages didn’t match.  Roger Howarth, who plays Franco is 45, Robin Mattson is 57 and Kin Shriner is 60. Even so, this parentage would explain Franco’s strange and colorful personality.

And more: The courtroom was the backdrop for the resolution of the Baby Connie custody hearing.  Lulu and Dante wanted to keep their daughter, who really biologically belongs to Maxie and Spinelli.  In a unique twist, custody of the child was awarded to Spinelli, with Maxie banned from seeing the infant for six months. The scene in which Lulu and Dante had to hand Connie over to Spinelli was just heartbreaking.

We’re not finished yet: The big news was that Robin was alive after all, having spent the last two months on screen lurking about behind the scenes — first, inventing a cure for Luke on Cassadine Island and second,  wandering around Port Charles having near run-ins with her “surviving” husband Patrick and his fiancé Sabrina. At one point, Sabrina’s ex Carlos even discovered Robin as alive.

And finally: On Friday, Robin had a face to face reunion with her father Robert, in a back room in the church where Patrick is about to marry Sabrina. The reveal to Patrick that Robin is still alive should take place this week, probably during the wedding ceremony.  It should be explosive, just another exciting story event.

A bumpy 30 days indeed! 

The Bold and the Beautiful Scores a Ratings High

 

Crossing and double crossing (from left : Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang), Bill (Don Diamont) and Katie (Heather Tom)

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

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, judging the parade of men through her life, distinguishes between regular rats and super rats. She could have been talking about The Bold and the Beautiful’s odious Bill Spencer. In the past two weeks, he’s clearly earned a promotion from regular to super rat status.

Headwriter Bradley Bell and his team achieved this through a dizzingly swift sequence of crosses and double crosses that seem more akin to a twisty spy novel than a soap opera. Such is the demand for speed in modern television storytelling.

The payoff has been a much deserved ratings spike for the show, its best numbers in years.

Since Bill came down from the mountain chastened by his scary fall and buoyed by his new resolve to change his ways toward Katie, the loving wife he had wronged by having a hot affair with her sister Brooke, everything changed and changed again and then changed some more on B&B.

As the week ended, we were hoping that a betrayed Katie did not take him back. But she did, and without hesitation. Almost immediately, the two slept together. Of course we knew that Bill had seen a practical side to his spiritual cleansing. Promptly post coitus, Bill talked Katie into signing back to him the CEO seat of Spencer Publications and custody of their baby son Will. Again without missing a beat, she complied.

We’d barely gotten past our gasp at this slick maneuver when Bill pulled a double cross!  With the ink not yet dry on the agreement, he hastened to the side of the heart-broken Brooke and turned on the full force of his lounge lizard charm. He doesn’t want Katie back at all, he claimed, and only went back to her as a ruse to get all the goodies. It’s you, Brooke, that I want, he insisted.

We hadn’t finished gagging when Brooke showed uncommon backbone, went immediately to Katie to reveal Bill’s chicanery, and then fiercely told Bill to his face:“No one treats the Logan sisters this way!” 

Sisters together, one for all and all for one, right? Well, not exactly. While Katie wept over being blindsided by Bill, Brooke pulled a double cross of her own. She secretly destroyed the signed legal transfer papers  and replaced them in an empty legal envelope with leaves she had collected in Aspen, the site of Bill’s supposed epiphany and the scene of their last romantic rendezvous.

So, now what? Will Bill dump Katie again when he knows he no longer has control of the company? Is this Brooke’s plan to get him back? Can there ever be romance again between Bill and either Katie or Brooke? Or is Bill truly the most irresistible super rat of all time? 

We’ll leave that for Bell and company to figure out.  They know what they’re doing. According to a show press release, the Bill/Brooke/Katie adventure has carried the show to its highest ratings since 2007.   That’s about equivalent to 3.5 million viewers as this new soap season started, which is a lot of viewers in a soap opera  medium that is still struggling to stay alive.

The only question now is how Bell will keep us watching the Bill/Brooke/Katie triangle.  Okay, we’ll admit that, twisty spy novel or soap opera, we’re really intrigued … and will keep on watching!  

The Bold and the Beautiful: Bill’s Balderdash

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

It may be the strangest game changer in soap history.  While The Bold and the Beautiful’s Bill Spencer was climbing to a mountain top in Aspen, he slipped and fell. Not that far, thanks to his safety line. But far enough, he said, to frighten him into an epiphany.

Don Diamont: His Bill has a high altitude epiphany

According to Bill, he saw his whole life flash before his eyes.  He realized that leaving his wife Katie for her sister Brooke was wrong, wrong, wrong. This week, to make things right, he broke up with his supposed great love, Brooke, and attempted to return to a stunned Katie.

Did Bill’s mountaintop revelation prove that he may he may indeed have a conscience?  Balderdash!  We don’t believe Bill ever had a conscience in the first place, or else he never would have left his beloved wife for her sister.  The truth is that Bill misses the power he had when he was the head of Spencer Publishing, a position he lost to Katie. At the same time, Bill misses his baby son, Will, who has remained with Katie.

Predictably, Brooke took the break-up badly. “All the men who tell me they love me leave me,” cried Brooke, who has an engagement ring stashed away in a drawer to “prove”  Bill’s love.  Indeed, many men in B&B history have loved and left Brooke.  What she might not recognize is that she doesn’t know the difference between love and sexual attraction.

In Bill she met her equal; he doesn’t understand the difference, either. Strangely. Bill and Brooke, a most scandalous couple, became incredibly popular on B&B.   The actors, Katherine Kelly Lang and Don Diamant have dynamite chemistry. With all the fervor of a sweeping romance novel, Bill chased  Brooke  to Rome to claim her and brought her home in triumph, whereupon the two started living together.

That didn’t last long, did it?  In the interim, Katie grew stronger, running the company and taking care of Will.  She did not have a nervous breakdown.  Even so, Bill and Brooke treated her like a mental case, blaming her problems, including postpartum depression, for her “pushing” her husband and sister-in-law together.   The audience didn’t know who to root for Bill to be with — Brooke or Katie.   This continued for some months.

Knowing the difference between right and wrong , we always rooted for wife Katie.  Now, we await whether or not she will take Bill back.  We certainly hope not.   And as to that moutaintop revelation — maybe it was inevitable after all.   Without fickle Bill changing his mind, B&B  would have no on-going  story to tell.

Who do you think Bill will be with from now on?  Does he deserve his legal wife Katie, and all that goes with her? Is the newly spurned “fiancé” Brooke better off without him? Will Bill’s balderdash finally be exposed?    

The Young and the Restless’ Record-Breaking Stunt

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

Yet again … is it right or wrong for a soap to kill off a child?  I led a column with this perennial question several weeks ago when Delia Abbott was killed on The Young and the Restless, reiterating my longstanding opposition to what I regard as a creepy plot device that exploits the worst nightmare of mothers everywhere, many of whom historically form the backbone of soap viewership.

Billy Miller: His Billy carries a crushing burden of guilt

But that’s just me, and as it turns out lots of viewers disagree. There was a tremendous response to the column:  a spike of several thousand hits above the norm here at Marlena De Lacroix:  Soaps for the Thinking Fan, plus almost a hundred letters, breaking at about half pro and half con.  Y&R earned the biggest prize of all: close to a record five million viewers for this most controversial storyline of the year.

It’s hard to argue with such success, so I’ll concede this much: if Y&R had to do this story, at least they did a fine job of it. The writing, acting and production all were first rate. The death of Delia touched almost every character on the canvas. As the grieving mother Chloe, Elizabeth Hendrickson brought tears to the eyes. The grief of the father, Billy (Billy Miller) was made worse by his knowledge that, just prior to the accident,  he had left the child in the car when he went into a store to get some ice cream.  Any parent could relate to his crushing feelings of guilt, expressed so movingly in his later scenes with his hysterical mother Jill (Jess Walton).

The death of Delia brought the leading Abbott family together. Jack and his sisters Ashley (Eileen Davidson) and Tracy (Beth Maitland) came to town. Ashley brought muffins for a scene Y&R watchers have grown to love as tradition:  the Abbott family breakfast.  Jack (Peter Berman) was shown to be the new head of the family, a fact that was remarked upon by Jack’s dead father John (Jerry Douglas), who appeared only to Jack.  The warmth of the family gathering went a long way to assuage the pain of Delia’s death, although the pain will never go away.

And there’s more. Also shown in a great deal of pain was Adam Newman (Michael Muhney), the man who apparently (and up until now secretly) ran over Delia.  He kept this knowledge to himself, even after parts of Delia’s eyes were successfully transplanted to Adam’s newborn, almost blind son, per Chloe and Billy’s permission. Adam hasn’t even been able to enjoy the success of this operation.  All along he has been debating confessing his guilt. This week he may even do so.

Will Adam Newman ever be happy?   Here’s a question that has haunted the character ever since he came to town as the son of Victor and the blind and deceased Hope several years ago.   First he loved and lost Sharon (Sharon Case). Then he loved and lost his wife Chelsea (Melissa Claire Egan).   Now he may go to jail for a decade and miss his son’s growing up years. Adam Newman’s life is perpetually a tragedy. Not as great as the death of Delia, but certainly a story that is ongoing for the recent run of Y&R.  The soulful Michael Muhney has his work cut out for him. Happily for the viewers, he seems to be up to the challenge.