Character Actors Add Much Needed Character To Soaps

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

Bergen Williams as truth-telling Alice Gunderson on General Hospital

Soap stories, most of which are about romance and love triangles, do tend to get repetitive.  Adding variety and spice to this formula are character roles, which do a lot to make soaps more interesting.  These characters often provide comic relief and serve as “talk tos” for the main characters.

Colorful and amusing character parts have enriched soaps since the beginning.

On Another World in the 70s, Anne Meacham as Iris’s assistant Louise Goddard always drew laughs when she talked to plants about  the show’s tangled plots, “confiding” in the greenery in a deep, soothing voice. In the 80s, Brent Collins on AW  was memorable as Felicia Gallant’s wise-cracking sidekick.  (A versatile actor, he also played the evil, unfunny Mr. Big on As the World Turns.)  At the same time on Days of Our Lives,  Arleen Sorkin and  John DeLancie served as comic foils to leads Marlena and Roman – Arleen as the ditzy blond  Calliope and John as the stuffed shirt Eugene.  Meanwhile, on All My Children, the country-fried Opal (Dorothy Lyman, Jill  Larson) was the talk-to for Erica, and was so popular she became a main character.

Now more than ever, today’s meager menu of four soaps needs to be made tastier by the addition of the adroit services of stellar character actors:

All the goings-on at The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations are comically commented on by Pam (Ally Mills) and her boyfriend Charlie (Dick Christie), turning the office staff into an irreverent Greek chorus. Often they “get” what’s happening before the main characters do. Pam, you may recall, was first to catch on to how crazy Quinn is.

A fine example of comic acting was on display just this month as Ilene Kristen guested on General Hospital as her old  Ryan’s Hope character Delia Reid Ryan, her patented kookiness undiminished by the passing years,  Delia, in a real stroke of writing brilliance, was revealed to be the mother of  Ava (Maura West).  Like mother like daughter — both are conniving  and mocking. This time Delia came to stay with pregnant Ava and her baby daddy Sonny and wound up busting into Sonny’s safe before she was escorted out of town by Sean.

Another comic character that is much beloved by the GH audience is Alice Gunderson (Bergen Williams), the truth-telling wrestler and former Quartermaine maid who is now a real thorn in the side of Tracy.  Alice is on to the fact that Tracy is trying to secretly take over ELQ, the family business.  Recently Alice proved she really does have a heart by having a heart attack, and now needs a heart transplant to save her life.

Speaking of thorns, a shining example of tour de force character acting is now being offered by Ray Wise, whose seductive con man Ian Ward is now a thorn in the sides of many Genoa City residents on The Young and the Restless.   Right now, he’s suing Nikki for emotional disturbance (!) because she lied and told him he was Dylan’s biological father. In this storyline, Wise has been particularly well paired with Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) and Eric Braeden, who plays Nikki’s exasperated and combative  husband Victor.

 These are some of my faves. Who are yours?

Daytime’s Most Famous “Love to Hate” Characters

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

Eric Braeden as Victor Newman: Still Machiavellian after all these years

For any soap opera, a “love to hate” character is money in the bank.  Fascinated by their endless power to manipulate other characters and instigate interesting plots, these diabolical characters are adored by audiences who avidly follow all that they do. 

“Love to hate” characters dot soap opera history and frequently have long lives.  One of the first “love to hate” females was Lisa on As the World Turns, played by Eileen Fulton. Lisa drove her husband Bob and other ATWT characters crazy for decades.  On Another World, the original Rachel, played by Robin Strasser, was a “love to hate” character who evolved into a heroine, subsequently played by Victoria Wyndham. Stasser went on to play another and more famous “love to hate” character, Dorian Lord, on One Life to Live for decades.  Another iconic “love to hate” character, All My Children’s Erica Kane, made famous by Susan Lucci, quickly became the heroine of her show and was beloved for four decades as she stirred up trouble for generations of characters in Pine Valley.

“Love to hate” characters are usually played by women, but there have been some notable exceptions.  On AMC, James Mitchell’s Palmer Cortlandt caused trouble for his daughter Nina for years.   On TheYoung and the Restless, Eric Braeden’s conniving Victor Newman has been the catalyst of many twisted plots for 30 years. And he’s still going strong,mastermindinglots of problems for his children Adam, Nick and Victoria, and causing his wife Nikki to leave him over and over again. (They recently reconciled after Nikki forgave him for hiring a Cassie lookalike to frighten Sharon. But does anyone believe Victor is properly repentant and will change his Machiavellian ways? )

Right now, there are two “love to hate” characters on soaps who are relatively new and fascinating:

Spunky Quinn Fuller (Rena Sofer) came to The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations as a jewelry designer along with her illegitimate son Wyatt.  Since arriving Quinn will do anything to help Wyatt win over the love of Hope Logan, including threatening and torturing Wyatt’s brother Liam, who is also in love with Hope.  This week Quinn even threatened to kill both Wyatt and Hope.  Quinn is so delicious as a “love to hate” character, she’s sure to be with us for a long time.

And on General Hospital, Nina Clay, as played  by Michelle Stafford (who originated and played another “love to hate” character Phyllis Summers Newman on The Young and Restless) has turned out to be a real terror since she came to Port Charles to bust up the romance of her husband Silas and Sam Morgan.  She has even resorted to faking paralysis to get her husband to feel sorry for her and stay with her. In interviews, Stafford has stated that Nina is a sociopath – great news for connoisseurs of “love to hate” characters.   She certainly has a long future ahead as a troublemaker on GH.

So, do you have a favorite baddie, past or present? Please share.

Should Children and Babies Be Killed off on Soap Operas?

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

Jason Thompson and Teresa Castillo as grieving parents

Back in the day … way back, actually … it was unheard of to kill off children, especially babies, on soaps. The traditional audience was, after all, stay at home moms who watched or listened to their soaps while rolling out pie crust or ironing the family laundry.

Today, the taboo has long since been abandoned, though such storylines are still distasteful to many viewers. Thus the dilemma lingers. Though this high stakes plotting has engendered much good drama, some of it award-winning, it’s done at the cost of making at least part of the audience queasy.     

This rule was first broken in the early 60s, when As the World Turns killed off Chucky, Lisa’s son, in a car accident. Others followed. In the late 80s, Laura, Brooke’s daughter, was similarly killed in a very affecting storyline All My Children. Just this year, young Delia also was killed in a car accident on The Young and the Restless, bringing about many nominations for the show in next week’s Daytime Emmys.

The controversy sharpened this month when General Hospital chose for a premature baby, Patrick and Sabrina’s son Gabriel Drake Santiago, to die at the age of barely six months.  The baby was born prematurely after Sabrina and Patrick were run off the road by a bad driver, who this week was revealed to be young Rafe. Sam, a private investigator, is currently investigating to find out who caused the accident.

The storyline has been given lots of time by GH.  Sabrina and Patrick were seen tending to their baby in the ICU for over a month.  The baby’s death led to many dramatic moments, such as when grieving mother Sabrina developed temporary amnesia, not even remembering the death of the baby, and planning her “wedding” to Patrick  (which had taken place seven months prior) the day of the funeral.   The baby’s real funeral is scheduled to take place this week.

Storylines like these, controversial or not, certainly bring out the best in the actors involved.  Jason Thompson, who is always excellent as Patrick, was so good he frequently upstaged Teresa Castillo as Sabrina – quite a feat since she, too, was in top form.  Also excellent in this storyline has been Marc Samuel who plays Teresa’s best friend and moral support Felix.

Yes, yes, I know times have changed. Graphic violence, grisly death and raw treatment of life’s calamities in general, once confined largely to pulp fiction and film noir, now are standard fare on television drama. I get it. Even so, when children are involved … count me among the queasy.

So what do you think?  Is it okay to kill off babies and children on soap operas, or are these storylines just too hard to take?  Drop me a line.

Daytime Emmy Hostess Announced

The hostess of next week’s Daytime Emmys will be Kathy Griffin.  She’s fast and funny should certainly keep the proceedings moving and most entertaining. Indeed, Ms. Griffin is such a draw, she may help the ceremony recoup a good portion of the audience it is certain to lose by moving from television to internet broadcast. I’ll be watching on www.daytimeemmys.org next Saturday, June 21 at 8PM EST. 

Ridge Forrester: Master of B&B’s Universe

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

Thorsten Kaye, the new Ridge

Every soap opera needs a leading man.   But perhaps because Ridge Forrester seems to have been at the center of most plots since The Bold and the Beautiful debuted more than 25 years ago, he seems more like a Master of the Universe than just a plain leading man.

Born handsome and rich, the son of Eric and Stephanie Forrester (Massimo Marone, an old lover of Stephanie’s, is Ridge’s biological father)  Ridge has always had everything he wanted.  His father Eric is head of Forrester Creations, a leading couture house, and he himself is the fashion house’s leading designer.

Ridge’s problem has always been women.  Is it just because he is so attractive?  It seems that he’s always involved with two women at a time, whether it’s Valley Girl Brooke and the late Caroline Spencer (his late first wife) or Brooke and Taylor, another wife of his. Taylor, a beautiful psychiatrist, seemed to at least understand Ridge.  His attraction to Brooke, to whom he has been married three times, seems more physical, and the two certainly have had quite the tumultuous romance over the years.

Ridge was played by Ronn Moss from the role’s inception to 2012, when Moss suddenly left.  Ridge and Brooke broke up over the thinnest of pretexts (Ridge found a text message from Brooke’s former lover Deacon) and Ridge went to live in Paris. During that year, Stephanie suffered from cancer, and later died of the disease.  Ridge, a huge momma’s boy, didn’t even return for his mother’s funeral.

When Ridge did return at the end of last year, he was played by Englishman Thorsten Kaye, a fan favorite from his days on One Life to Live and All My Children. Kaye is of course a very different kind of actor from Moss, who seemed to own the role. Kaye’s Ridge is more introspective, but with his own Continental style delivers a Ridge who is just as much the self-absorbed, immature jerk he’s always been. And as always, Kaye is a treat to watch.  

Thus when the new Ridge returned, he seemed to be the perfect man, suddenly very soft and tender, especially sympathetic toward Brooke’s sister Katie.  Katie’s husband Bill had fallen in love with and run off with Brooke.  Bill and Ridge hate one another. Ridge seemed to be Katie’s knight in shining armor and the two made off together, even after Ridge initially almost married Brooke.  Right now, the two are having an idyllic romance and indeed Kaye and Heather Tom, who plays Katie, are probably the best acted couple in soapdom.

So it was a brilliant stroke when B&B shattered the image of the new perfect Ridge and had him make some moves at Forrester Creations that showed how arrogant and spoiled he could be.  He tried to have photographer Oliver fired and brother Rick ousted from his position as president of the company.  Both moves failed.

Eric offered him the presidency of the company should he and Katie break up.  But arrogant and wanting his way as always, Ridge refused.  Will Ridge Forrester be able to keep his new love Katie, and continue to have it all as B&B’s Master of the Universe?     

Happy New Year: Looking Ahead to 2014

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

Thorsten Kaye: Will he still amaze in 2014?

The new year starts Wednesday, and I have many questions about what’s going to happen on our favorite shows next year. See if you might speculate on the answers, or pose some questions of your own:

1.  How is The Young and the Restless going to fill the terrible holes left by the departures of super talented Billy Miller (Billy) and Michael Muhney (Adam)?   Surely both roles will be recast.

2.  How are General Hospital ’s Patrick and Robin going to react to Sabrina being pregnant with Patrick’s child?  Quite the sticky situation.

3.  When will The Bold and the Beautiful’s Quinn and Donna have the down and dirty catfight they have been leading up to for months?  Both seem to want Eric’s love enough to draw blood to get it.

4.  On Y&R, will Jill ever find out the significance of the music box Katherine left her?

5.  On GH, will A.J. ever find out that he’s clear of Connie’s murder?  And did Ava really do it?

6.  On B&B, will Thorsten Kaye be able to sustain the tremendous acting success he’s already scored on his first few weeks of B&B? My guess, no surprise, is a resounding “Yes!”

7.  Will Spinelli ever come back to GH? Maybe he could return from Portlandia flush with New Age inspiration and open a boutique coffee bar/microbrewery to compete with Kelly’s?

8.  On Y&R, will Dylan ever accept Nikki as his mother? How long will it be until Nikki conquers her biological son’s heart?

9. On B&B, wouldn’t it be neat if Hope rejected both Liam and Wyatt and found herself a new love this year?

10. Sadly, in 2013 we witnessed the faltering of soap opera’s first great digital experiment. All My Children and One Life to Live are gone again, at least for now. Will 2014 bring us any new soaps? As ever; we won’t give up hope.

Moose, Nigel and I join together in wishing you a Happy New Year! 

The Bold and the Beautiful’s Most Excellent Recast

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

Cheers to The Bold and the Beautiful for the most exciting soap recast of this or any other year: Soap superstar Thorsten Kaye has been signed to played Ridge Forrester, the show’s lead character, who was played from the show’s 1987 debut until last year by Ronn Moss.  Kaye, of course, played Patrick Thornhart on One Life to Live and Zack Slater on All My Children, and was last seen in primetime as Anjelica Huston’s shady but adorable boyfriend Nick on Smash

Thorsten Kaye: How will he change Ridge?

This bold recasting coup is so fascinating because Kaye and Moss are so different as actors. Both have the leading man’s requisite virility and good looks. But whereas Moss, with his legendary chiseled cheekbones, could have stepped off the cover of a romance novel, Kaye’s unshaven ruggedness is less generically handsome but much more down to earth.

Moss played Ridge, son of the Forrester dynasty of clothing designers, as a spoiled, mildly pompous rich kid.  He was always under the thumb of his domineering mother Stephanie, played by Susan Flannery, who has retired from the show.

Kaye, a classically trained theater actor, has a lot more range than the somewhat flat Moss. Kaye can play romantic, he can play tender, he can play tough and he has fabulous diction (as demonstrated by his Patrick’s many renditions of the poem “Brown Penny” on OLTL.)   He really is the quintessential soap leading man.

How will Kaye change Ridge? We hope the character will become more assertive, more nuanced and as a result more interesting.  The Ridge who has been residing in Paris for the last year will come back to find a changed scene in his hometown of Los Angeles. Ridge’s ex-wife Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang) has become secretly engaged to Bill Spencer (Don Diamont), a married man and a significant force in his own right. We can hardly witness the inevitable clash between macho Diamont, all bedecked in his trademark bling, and the fiery Kaye.

Speaking of male roles on B&B

I have reached my limit and am fed up with that ultimate wuss Liam Spencer, as played by Scott Clifton.   Although he spends his life huffing and puffing and sanctimoniously trying to hang on to his now ex-fiancée Hope Logan (Kim Matula), at heart he really can’t commit to her.  Why else would he send a love montage email to his ex-wife Steffy?   He’s already left Hope at the altar and has kept her hanging on for years.  Now, Liam’s half-brother Wyatt (Darin Brooks) has fallen in love with Hope and has done everything to sweep her off her feet.  We can’t help rooting for Wyatt as Liam has become unbearable.  Wyatt at least has a clear allegiance to Hope, the only woman in his life.  No matter how much the now unattractive Liam  whines and carries on, he has no natural right to Hope’s love and affection

Appreciating Three Wise Decisions – In Soap Land, No Less

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

Soap critics never miss a chance to bash all they dislike.  But credit should always be given where credit is due. So this week, Marlena would like to give kudos to three significant decisions:

1.  OWN, the Oprah network, picked up the first 40 episodes of All My Children and One Life to Live from Prospect Park. These are the pioneering episodes produced for online viewing in a bold experiment to aimed at giving the iconic soaps a rebirth. Now they’ll be broadcast again on Oprah’s cable network starting July 15th.  Hooray!  Now, we the technologically unadvanced have a chance to watch these shows on regular TV! As explained by Roger Friedman in Show Biz 411, here , Oprah, an astute businesswoman decided to pick up the two shows after the megasuccess of Tyler Perry’s original soap The Haves and Have Nots, which more than doubled her network’s viewership.  Kudos to OWN for realizing the power of soaps, in an era when so many still proclaim them to be dying.

2.  CBS, number one in viewership and Emmy wins, is demonstrating that it still knows the power of Friday cliffhangers.  So many soaps stopped doing them years ago in favor of spreading out story high points during the week.   But this week The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful had socko Friday endings which guarantee the return of viewers on Monday:

On Y&R, Phyllis and Kyle  kissed, as Phyllis tried to break up the romance of Summer and the biological brother she doesn’t know she has. This kiss (and maybe more) has huge ramifications, potentially breaking up Phyllis and father Jack and Summer and Kyle’s budding romance, too.  Is this Michelle Stafford’s exit storyline? 

Hunter Tylo

Meanwhile, over on B&B:  Also leaving her show is Hunter Tylo whose Taylor lowered the bomb on Brooke Friday encouraging her to tell her secret to all the guests at her birthday party. Brooke secretly slept with her brother-in-law Bill, becoming pregnant. Katie never knew — until now. Wow!  The ramifications here are huge inasmuch as this is the soap’s central story.

I’m coming back to watch both Y&R and B&B on Monday.  Are you?

3.  General Hospital paired brilliant actors Roger Howarth and Maura West as “romantic” partners Franco and Ava.  So what if this pairing is a put-on, one to wrest the ownership of ELQ and the Quartermaine fortune from the Quartermaines? The pairing of the two most talented and charismatic actors in the soap business is absolutely divine soap watching for us GH fans.  Hope these a deux scenes go on depuis longtemps.

General Hospital Has Identity and Condiment Problems

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

The core of watching soap operas is to believe.  Unfortunately, General Hospital viewers had to put that value behind them this week when the show introduced new characters played by oh-so-familiar faces, all with new hair-dos to signify their new personae.  Michael Easton, who played John, is now playing Steven Clay’s brother Silas, who wears a pony tail.  With her hair naturally brunette, Kristin Alderson, who played Starr, is now playing Kiki. Superstar Roger Howarth, formerly known as the infamous Todd, now looks like a chic European supermodel in his dyed blond do, thus equipping him to play an oily character whose nefarious intentions are yet to be shared with the audience.

The GH producers had little choice but to recast the actors, when Prospect Park (the producers of the on-line All My Children and One Life to Live) prohibited them from using the actors as their former OLTL characters. I’m sure it was a hard choice.  They’re betting the loyalty of their audience on it. Will they lose viewers? Probably. Because belief is so fundamental to enjoying soap operas, I think GH will be on the losing end here.

The tricky situation won’t be as bad if the actors can manage to create new characters to go along with their new looks. This is a tall order – all three are strongly identified with their former screen selves. But they’re going to give it a go:  Easton – stuck as he is with his long face, dark gaze and trademark deep voice – is nonetheless trying to be someone new as Silas, the doctor brother of the dead serial killer Clay.  Howarth has used his new look to create someone who is very threatening and, at the same time, very intriguing. His name has yet to be revealed to the audience. Only Kristin Alderson appears not to be working very hard to make her Kiki substantially different from her Starr. Making the situation more confusing is the fact that Kiki is the poker playing girlfriend of Morgan. She used to be the girlfriend of his brother Michael, who at this point, must be very, very confused.

On The Chew: Mario Batali, Jane Ellliot and Michael Symon

However, GH did have a choice in doing a long sequence which promoted its ABC time slot on The Chew.  A. J. Quartermaine (the superbly charming Sean Kanan) pitted his Pickle-Lila formula vs. his aunt’s Tracy’s Pickle-Eddie in a condiment taste-off on air.  What followed was embarrassing mugging by The Chew cast (especially by chef Mario Batali) and even more hopeless overacting by the usually marvelous Jane Elliot, who plays Tracy. As you know the samples were poisoned (most probably by Roger Howarth’s new character) and Liz and Batali wound up in the hospital.

The whole sequence was too broad and over the top and reeked of the desperation of its own network-sponsored cross-promotion.   The story might have worked if so many episodes hadn’t been devoted to it.  In the end, we still don’t know which Pickle-Lila formula is actually better, and the ownership of ELQ is still in question.   Does Tracy own it or does A.J?  We can be reasonably sure we won’t find out any time soon. How much longer can we be expected to relish this interminable relish business?

All My Children and One Life to Live: A Triumphant Return!

 

Welcome back, One Life to Live

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

I’d like to congratulate Prospect Park and all the writers, crew, actors and producers involved for sensational online premieres of All My Children and One Life to Live.  Both came across as first class, with the sets, costumes and especially the actors looking just wonderful.  Here are soap episodes built not only to last, but to be an enduring success!

It was so thrilling to see Viki, Clint, Dorian, Brooke, Adam and Opal again. It’s incredible how many memories and emotions the actors who play these roles bring with them.  And although I had a bit of trouble distinguishing some of the teenagers on AMC from one another, it was great to see the young people of soaps again. OLTL, with its hot new club Shelter, in particular makes the most of the sex appeal of its younger generation by featuring them in dancing sequences.  It’s great to see such favorites as Cutter,  Blair, Destiny and Matthew again.   Melissa Archer’s Natalie is seen several times in her underwear. But this is cable, where sex sells.   There’s also a soupcon of profanity. But they want to make soaps au courant and I guess this is another obvious way to do it.

But what’s really encouraging about the new episodes of OLTL and AMC is that both of these premieres present soap opera in its classic form.  From the moment Petey drives into Llanview in his hot sports car to the conclusion of OLTL when Victor is shockingly seen alive in a hoody, we get soap straight up with all the conventions we love so much.  It was great to see Adam proposing to Brooke and Clint holding Viki’s hand — which had his ring on it.  It was even fun to watch “cougar” Blair try and pick up a young guy.-

I greatly appreciated the reunion between Blair and Todd.  All they had to do was look at one another.  But what I liked best were my two favorite older couples, Dorian and David and Bo and Nora.  Decades of romantic love stories involving these two come back to me by just looking at them.  And they’re all still together! What will happen?  We’ll just have to “tune” into our computers to find out!

Cliffhangers, young lovers, old friends and new storylines — you can’t ask for anything more. Cheers again to Prospect Park — and I’ll be watching!

So now it’s your turn, Cher Thinking Fans. What do you think of the new All My Children and One Life to Live?

And welcome, too, All My Children

 

Will a new era begin on Monday?

Monday’s the big day for the premieres of All My Children and One Life to Live on hulu.com.  As a fan of both for over 40 years, I can’t tell you how excited I am.  I’ll watch the new shows and report back that same night how I feel about them. I know all of you, my dear Thinking Fans, will be bursting with opinions, too.  And I can’t wait to hear them.  So let’s all meet back here Monday evening and start the conversation! – Love,  Marlena