The Young and the Restless: Marlena says, “You, Sir, Are No Irwin Allen!”

Jess Walton’s Jill has survived the Y&R plane crash

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

It’s way too early to judge the work of The Young and the Restless’ new executive producer Charles Pratt Jr. We’re familiar with his resume (head writer/executive/producer of All My Children, General Hospital, Santa Barbara and Sunset Beach, primetime producer of Melrose Place et al.) But he’s only been on the Y&R  job seven weeks. Even so, there are some early hints: This past week, the controversial Pratt launched four sweeps month stunt plots simultaneously in a snow storm!  Before we discuss them, however, let’s review Y&R’s week-old disaster plot action:

Plane Crash:  A plane flies to Chicago with a secretly blind Neil, his wife Hilary, his son Devon, Jill, Colin, Cane and Lily on board.  Neil announces to all that he is  not blind anymore and he knows Hilary and Devon are in love and having an affair because he secretly witnessed them sleeping together while they  thought Neil was blind. Neil has something undisclosed in his briefcase. Suddenly, the plane crashes and all survive on the ground unharmed except for Hilary, who is severely injured and comatose.  She periodically wakes up.  Devon goes off to find help.  Neal vanishes.

Building Collapse:  At the Undergound, Victor finds out Nikki is drinking again and confronts her.  The building the Underground is in collapses with Victor, Jack, Nikki, Phyllis, Avery, Joe, Nick and Sage trapped inside. In the rubble, all are unharmed except Jack who is severely injured and comatose but who periodically wakes up.  Victor rescues Jack with CPR. Nikki, Phyllis and Avery escape while help arrives.   Victor and Jack are trapped in the basement. A semi-comatose Jack, who has secretly known Victor’s dead son Adam is alive, utters the word “Adam” and Victor knows something crucial is up.

I Know What You Did Last Summer: On Valentine’s Day Abby inexplicably invites Kevin, the young marrieds Summer and Austin along with Mariah, Courtney, Noah and Fen to a cabin in the woods.  Fen secretly spikes the punch. Everyone collapses and then wakes up.  Austin falls out of the armoire, presumably dead.  All are accused, but especially Summer. Abby is suddenly disclosed kissing Austin the night before while Mariah confronts her. Outside, Austin’s body vanishes. The youths convene to discuss what to tell the police. Will they get their story straight? Did Austin fake his own death? Ho hum!

The Towering Inferno:  A fire suddenly breaks out at Lakeview Towers in lovers Chelsea and Billy’s apartment. Chelsea and all believe Chelsea’s late husband  Adam is dead, but the audience knows Adam is alive and secretly masquerading as Gabe. Sage and Adam/Gabe live next store to Billy and Chelsea  but  are absent when the fire starts.   Chelsea escapes with Katie and Johnny. Billy remains in the burning apartment with Connor. Billy is periodically comatose but wakes up.  Adam/Gabe arrives and rescues Connor  but leaves his enemy Billy in the smoke.  Later he returns and rescues Billy.  When last seen, Adam and Billy are escaping the burning building.

Oy vey!  Can you say overkill? The four disaster plots are achingly piled on.  Every daytime soap headwriter interweaves character storylines and hypes them in some shocking manner for sweeps month, but this is way too much of a fun thing.  A great role model for Pratt would be the late, great headwriter Jim Reilly (Days of Our Lives), a master creative genius at stunts, who was always original and never dreamed of doing his vastly entertaining and oft- hilarious sweeps stunt plots more than  one at a time.

Worse I’m incredibly annoyed that Pratt is copying his 2008-9 All My Children debut.  On that show, after his debut under the umbrella of a stunt tornado story, Pratt set the world’s soap stunt record with six, count’em six, starring such characters as Kendall, Bianca and Zach. Pratt’s entire AMC stint was much despised. .

Clearly Pratt’s muse for all of this is the late Irwin Allen, creator such 1970s classics as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, all of them unabashedly cheesy, over-the-top movie fun. His name identifies the disaster movie genre embraced by so many imitators then and since. But even Allen, who pioneered the burning set and the rock and roll camera to simulate thunderous explosions and building collapse, confined his story-telling to one disaster at a time. His formula called for intersecting human dramas of marriages saved and parents and children reconciled played out against the disaster du jour, in a world saved ultimately by heroic first responders and the selfless sacrifice of military personnel who die trying to save people.

Sentimental, exciting, romantic, heart-warming and even a bit tear-jerky. Pratt provides dollops of all these elements, and evidently the stew is tasty to some viewers – he did well in the coveted 18-34 ratings category two weeks ago.

But for moi, a soap must have some grounding in real life to be believable, and these unoriginal plots don’t make it. Pratt throws in everything including the kitchen sink, much of it disconnected and out of the blue. For example, this week, apropos of nothing, Police assistant Kevin in the cabin plot revealed he is also a short story writer who has written a story with a murder scenario that is similar to Austin’s death.   What?

Even worse is the fact that these multiple disaster plots are being produced by Jill Farren Phelps, who has done swell sweeps plots on six soaps. (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live, General Hospital and Y&R ).  Her 35 year soap career is a soap phenomenon!   While some dislike her, I’ve always admired Phelps, if not all her plots. It is she who hired Pratt for Y&R after working with him on GH.  Phelps often has exquisite taste in her hires. Time will tell if this is one of those times.

Beside Phelps, what also redeems poorly written plots like these is the high quality of the actors and the production crew. Y&R has always had some of the best!   The sets, particularly the plane crash and building collapse, are wonderfully Irwin Allen-esque.  But the disaster plots are not at all organic to past or present Y&R, as created and headwritten by the late Bill Bell, who would NEVER do stunt plots, though some have been tried since he stepped down from the show in 1998.

Overall plot-saving kudos have to go to the actors, most of whom are longtime Y&R veterans and soap superstars like Peter Bergman, Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott who play Jack, Victor and Nikki in the building collapse plot.  I’d also like to single out Kristoff St. John who is always great as Neil, but has been dynamite here and in his entire blind, wife Hilary unfaithful to Neil with his son Devon, plot.  The work of longtime vets like these and Tristan Rogers (Colin) and Jill (Jess Walton) in the plane crash plot, or Joshua  Morrow (Nick) and Gina Tognoni (Phyllis) also in the building collapse plot, or Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) in the Towering Inferno plot, make Pratt’s stale disaster stunt plots more  palatable.

And so this week the building collapse and plane crash aftermath go on.  Will I be watching?  Yes, I can’t take my eyes off Pratt’s own four-ring circus of disaster stunt plots. They are that bad,  By the end of his entire Y&R stint, will I have to ask if has there ever been a daytime headwriter who is as creatively impoverished as Pratt?   Hope not for all our sakes!

General Hospital: The Ginormous Furor over Fluke

Is it Luke or Fluke? (Photo: michaelfairmansoaps.com)

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

In many, many years, there hasn’t been a soap controversy of the magnitude of the furor over the year-old  “Fluke” storyline on General Hospital. While some love  it (I gave it a rave in two prior columns,  but more on that later) many really hate it.  Just look at all the negative remarks about the story on Facebook, on soap site message boards, and in the responses to my last two GH columns. (They are “Divine Soaps Plots Make GH Must See TV, Parts 1 and 2,” which ran respectively here on February 1st  and 5th.)

Viewers are sounding off that the Fluke storyline is too cartoonish, has many inconsistencies, doesn’t grow from who Luke really is., has gone on way too long, isn’t our beloved GH and on and on and on, a million other complaints. Everyone is talking about the Fluke storyline.  I even spent a full two hours last week over brunch discussing the Fluke story with my always brilliantly spoken GH fan friend  pjs, who has watched GH since its inception in 1963. The waiter gave us a really quizzical look!

As for me, I’m a bit embarrassed. Marlena believes it is her job as a critic to criticize soaps that are not character-oriented, have inconsistencies, and have characters that act out of character.  Despite its problems, I loved the story because of the continuing suspense and Tony Geary’s bravura acting.
Because of those strong elements, I was and still am entertained by the Fluke story, and have been able to forgive all the story’s transgressions.  But for how much longer will I be so charmed?

For the first time this week, I felt  tired, no longer  having the patience to  wait for the reveal of who Fluke really is when Luke, behind bars for the setting up the boat explosion (that didn’t happen) declared he was the real Luke Spencer. (Fingerprints were found – supposedly — confirming this.)

Plus, I am really confused. How could the  Luke Spencer  I’ve watched since 1980 do so many  awful  criminal things,  among them trying  to  control people (like Jake and Ava) into killing other people, committing  actual  murder himself? And endangering the lives of people the real Luke loves (his closest relatives Bobbie, Lulu and Tracy, not to mention all the other innocent passengers) by having Jake plant the bomb in the boat?  Does Luke have DID, a gimmick story most famously used on One Life to Live with the character of Victoria Lord in the 90s?  (She exhibited six personalities including that of Viki and Niki, her “split personalities”  who were periodically seen earlier on OLTL over the years.) Or, besides DID — if he has it — is there another explanation for who “Luke” really, really is?

I’ve read on message boards and heard rumors that the Fluke story is yet to continue in the next few months with Luke’s past played out, explaining the roots of his possible DID. The reliable ABC Soaps in Depth magazine reported today that  two  actors are being cast to play young Luke and Bobbie and shared that the show is looking for an actress in her late 60s who has  had a hard life. Will she be cast as    Patricia Spencer, the sister  who Bobbie  and Luke talked about only once many years ago in GH history prior to the Fluke story and has never been seen before?   Was Patricia in her younger years involved in the cause of Luke’s possible DID?

So, chers lecteurs, where is this Fluke/Luke story going?  Only those in the GH inner sanctum know for sure.  Although I have a few regrets, I’ll still be watching the story as it progresses because, despite everyone’s complaints,  I am still intrigued by it  Are you?  Will you keep watching?         

The Bold and the Beautiful: Inconsistencies and Smokin’ Seduction

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

Heather Tom: award-winning weeping

Storyline inconsistencies bother soap viewers who want their storylines to be thoroughly believable and linear (not to mention being true to a soap’s actual history).  We’ve seen plenty of them in the unfinished (as of this writing) Fluke story on General Hospital. Now I’d like to complain about one on The Bold and the Beautiful.

This week we saw divorced spouses Bill and Katie get re-engaged with Bill giving her a gigantic ring and a pledge of his forever love.  When the hell was their courtship?  When last seen Bill was madly in love with Katie’s sister Brooke, for whom he had left Katie.  Bill and Brooke would have been married if Ridge had not stolen Brooke away from the beach side ceremony in Dubai.   Bill continued his pursuit of Brooke, but Brooke told Bill to go back to Katie when Brooke left for Italy and ended up being gone many months.  During that time Katie broke up with Ridge for basically little reason.  So when did Bill fall out of his mad love for Brooke and fall in love with Katie again?  And when did Katie fall in love again with Bill?  We never saw any of this.

And isn’t Katie absolutely crazy to want to remarry her rotten ex-husband?  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know Bill wants to reunite his family with their son, Will.   As I said, Bill originally left Katie for her own sister Brooke and that was disgraceful. Hasn’t Katie grown up at all since the break-up and when did she forgive Bill?  Despite Bill and Katie’s inexplicable current happiness, I’m sure trouble is ahead because 1) Brooke is back in town now, although she’s given Katie and Bill’s engagement her blessing, and 2) multiple Emmy winner Heather Tom as Katie is so good at her trademark crying scenes.  Why Katie would want to wear Bill’s big old gaudy engagement ring is a mystery to me.  Will they really remarry?

Hot Stuff

Speaking of B&B, did you see the really, really smoking hot seduction scene in which Ridge, suddenly a painter, painted an almost nude Caroline, who posed backless in a sheet in Ridge’s modest new apartment?  Wowsa!   They kissed at the end of the episode and Monday I guess we will learn whether that kiss led to them making love.

Young Caroline and older man Ridge are together despite Steffy and Brooke’s rabid objections.  And Brooke told Deacon she plans to steal her multiple ex-husband Ridge away from Caroline. I don’t think so. Ridge is too much in love with Caroline.

Yes, this Ridge and Caroline romance might be a bit unpalatable because of the older man-younger woman thing and that Ridge was once married to Caroline’s aunt Caroline, for whom she is named.  But the always sexy as hell Thorsten Kaye and the very beautiful Linsey Godfrey have undeniable chemistry.

By the way, we’d like to wish Ms. Godfrey, who was seriously injured when a car ran into her on a sidewalk in L.A. last week, a speedy recovery.   

Divine Suspense Plots on General Hospital, Currently Must See TV — Part 2

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

Maurice Benard

I’ve said some negative things about General Hospital headwriter Ron Carlivati (particularly when he was writing One Life to Live) but in the last few months he has proven he knows well how to write soap opera.   As discussed last week in my rave over the “Fluke” storyline, he knows how to interweave plots and has been a master of creating suspense.  Let’s examine how Carlivati  has used or is using the element of suspense in other plots.

Sonny, Julian, Ava and Franco were all in jail: Sonny for the murder of A.J., Ava for the murder of Connie, Julian hiding out in jail from Fluke falsely confessing to the murder of Anthony Zaccara, and  Franco for the kidnapping of Avery, Ava’s newborn baby. Would they break out?  They did and got into a car accident.  Will they live or die?  Fluke sent Carlos and Johnny to kill them. Will they succeed?  Johnny didn’t succeed in shooting Sonny and shot and got shot by Julian.  Will Johnny survive his gun shot?   Johnny was injured and wandered off.  Where was he going?  And will he return to the show?

Carlos was sent to shoot Ava and shot her in the arm.    She fell off a bridge but lost her grip, at first hanging on a handrail but fell when Sonny tried to save her.   Will she be found?  Will she live or die?  Also, is Maura West, the best actress on the show (and arguably one of the best in daytime history, having played Carly on As the World Turns) coming back or leaving the show, as rumored?  I hope she stays because her performances are always excellent and Ava is a fascinating character.

Nathan and Michael stopped a bomb planted  in a party on the Haunted Star  by Jake on Fluke’s order just in time before it went off.   An escaped Sonny grabbed the bomb from Michael and dove into the water and it went off.  Is Sonny alive and will he be found?   Will this act of heroism exonerate him for his murder and will he stay out of jail?   There’s not much to GH   when major star Maurice Benard’s master criminal Sonny is yet again behind bars!

Amnesiac  Jake, who is really Jason but dosen’t know it, realized he is under the mind control of Helena Cassidine, who forced him to hold Sam hostage, but failed in trying to murder her and planted  the bomb on the Haunted Star.  Would he remember doing all this?  He did remember  Sam stealing a Chinese figurine Jason had given her which was found on Jason’s body.  Will Jake get his full memory back and realize he is Jason?  Will Sam figure out Jake is Jason, and what will this do to her?  How will this affect her new romance with Patrick?

Franco, who had a gun, also escaped the car crash but headed over to Shadybrook mental institution  where his mother Heather was about to inject Franco’s friend and lady love Nina with a syringe full of LSD.  Can Franco stop Heather and rescue Nina?  He did, but for some reason injected himself with the LSD.  Will Franco survive his LSD trip?  Franco and Nina kissed.   Will they have a big romance?

Questions, questions, questions!  Finding the answers compels moi to keep tuning in for fun, and not just duty. GH has certainly been divine when it comes to suspense lately!  

General Hospital’s Divine Suspense Plots Are Must See TV — Part 1

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

Tony Geary

I screamed at the end of General Hospital on Friday!  There, sitting in the old Spencer house basement in the same chair in which “Fluke” had tied the real Luke, was a figure with a dead skeletal face — just like dead  Mrs. Bates, Norman’s mom  in the classic movie Psycho! This was just another shock in a series of fantastic interwoven plots presented lately on GH. Quel suspense! GH is now Must See TV every day.

Most of the plots are driven by Fluke (as in “fake” Luke, played by Tony Geary) the Luke lookalike who kidnapped the real Luke a year ago, put him in the Miscavage mental institution and then when last seen in the basement held hostage in the old Spencer house.   Fluke, the biggest badass in recent soap history, came to town impersonating Luke and launched a campaign of murder and mayhem.  He’s nasty!  He’s a liar!  He’s dangerous to the max!

In his latest scheme, Fluke planted  two ticking time bombs, one on tied up Luke  in the Spencer basement  and the other on the Haunted Star, where all of the real Luke’s loved ones have been invited   to a big party.  Among the attendees are the real  Luke’s daughter Lulu, his wife Tracy and his sister Bobbie.  Other townspeople on the boat include Julian Jerome’s son Lucas and Sonny’s son Michael, both objects of Fluke’s murderous grudges.

Tick, tick, tick … will the bombs go off?   We MUST tune in Monday and every day after that to find out!

Fluke, the double of Luke, of course is the phenomenon created by Geary and headwriter Ron Carlivati when Geary had to take six months off last year for a back operation.  He’s been the best, scariest villain!   Geary is so excellent in the double role of Fluke  and Luke, he’s guaranteed his eighth Emmy for Best Actor this year. In fact,   Geary hasn’t been this good since the early days of Luke and Laura in the late 70s and early 80s.

What is also shocking about this whole year long  Fluke plot and General Hospital in general is that none of the advance plot information has been given away in advance. In other words, there have been NO spoilers!  I can’t remember the last time that happened in the soap world.   So everyone is left guessing!  Who is Fluke?  Is he really the “late”  Bill Eckert, Luke’s lookalike cousin, whose grave was found empty last week when dug up by Shawn, or  an alternate personality of Luke’s if indeed he has DID (multiple personality syndrome), or someone else, possibly some character in the cast who has had plastic surgery to look just like Luke?  .  Why is Fluke so friendly and in criminal cahoots with Helena Cassidine (Constance Towers), Luke Spencer’s decades long enemy? And what part does Patricia, a never before mentioned or seen sister of Luke and Bobbie’s, have to do with this? We’re always left guessing.

The suspense on General Hospital these days is divine. And there’s more, in plots involving characters like  Sonny, Ava, Julian, Franco  Heather, Nina, Jake and Sam. We’ll discuss them in Part 2  later this week.