On Soaps, We Believe What We Choose to Believe

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

General Hospital: Soaps or biology — which do you choose to believe?

On General Hospital this week, surrogate mother Maxie had a miscarriage (of the week-old embryo that is Dante and Lulu’s child) and barely noticed it. The same evening, New Year’s Eve, a drunk and apparently rejected Spinelli was waiting on the hospital rooftop for a midnight reunion with his intended Ellie. In an homage to Love Affair, both versions, and An Affair to Remember, Ellie was in a car accident en route and never made it. But Maxie showed up instead, straight from the hospital, and she and Spinelli had sex.  It’s a soap, so it’s obvious Maxie will again be pregnant, and will try, through many months of whining and dithering, to pass off her and Spinelli’s child as Dante and Lulu’s.

Kristen Storms as Maxie
Headed for the roof and a big case of ick

This is the first time in 23 years Marlena wishes she had an ob/gyn in the old rolodex.  Is it really possible for a woman to have a miscarriage without blood or cramps and barely even know it? Is getting pregnant again so soon after a miscarriage barely even possible?  What woman would want to have sex the same night she had a miscarriage?

Well, as a person with female parts, I biologically don’t believe the whole scenario.  But as an experienced soap watcher I know a big important plot twist when I see it coming.  That’s the problem with being a soap watcher — you’ve got to believe what headwriters want you to believe, whether you know it’s illogical or not. It’s basically your choice.

After much thinking, however, I must ultimately chose to go along with the Maxi/Spinelli “reconception”  because otherwise, GH has been a pretty spectacular soap to watch and I want to continue watching, lest I miss the latest turns in the fascinating Duke/Anna  plot. But I don’t like being asked to accept this unlikely medical hi-jinx. It makes me feel like a fool.   Headwriters shouldn’t make viewers feel that way to continue watching.  I’m sure no matter what you feel about this plot twist, you’d agree that Maxie and Spinelli having sex the same night as her miscarriage was certainly a big case of ick.

All My Children and One Life to Live: Agnes Nixon has just given her confirmation and  blessing to the new cable/on-line versions of the shows she founded. The producers are said to be Prospect Park (remember them?), back from the dead to take another run at bringing soaps to the internet. But will PP really make a go of it this time?

Back from the dead?

Well, actors are being contacted to rejoin the show, so goes the buzz. So let’s play a game. Which key actors from each soap do you think Prospect Park must absolutely choose to make the transition to these new shows believable?  Send me your lists.  For me, a bare minimum at All My Children would be Susan Lucci and Michael Knight. On One Life to Live, you can’t go without Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser and Bob Woods. Kassie DePaiva and Jerry ver Dorn would be nice, too. Then there’s the problem of the key OLTL actors who have already transferred to GH: Roger Howarth and Michael Easton.  Do you think they should they leave GH and return to their old show?

So think carefully, Thinking Fans, and start compiling your essential casting lists for the new AMC and OLTL.  We are, after all, soap opera fans. We want to believe!

Sunday Reflections 17: Hurricane Sandy Made for Spotty Soaps … General Hospital, Don’t Jump the Shark

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

What a week!  At the height of Hurricane Sandy, the lights went out in our Manhattan apartent and stayed that way for five days.  Pas d’eau! Pas de toilettes! Quelle horreur! Thank goodness that on Day Two, Moose, Nigel and I fled to our country hide-away and by Day Three the lights (and warmth!) finally reappeared there. We hope other Thinking Fans in the New York-New Jersey area also found sanctuary and comfort. And our hearts go out to the thousands who are still suffering, and particularly to those who lost loved ones.

General Hospital: As if losing light, food, water, warmth and toilets wasn’t bad enough. Minutes after the power went out, I exclaimed to Moose, “But how am I going to see A.J. now?” This typically Marlena-esque alarm left Moose at a loss for words. Nigel, sensing a crisis, looked worried. With any luck, power would be delivered to the country home’s cable system in time!

On the Friday tag of the show just before the blackout, the supposedly dead Quartermaine brother had made his first (re)appearance in mother Monica’s living room.  So exciting!  I really wanted to see what Sean Kanan, who played A.J. from 1993-1997, would do with the role now.

As it turned out we didn’t make it in time. But a very dear Thinking Fan tipped me off to the next three episodes of GH on YouTube.  Kanan turns out to be a major, major (re)addition to GH, with great leading man prospects.  I thought his performances were very striking, warm and realistic.   Once a major screw-up (as we were reminded by many people on the canvas who had formerly known him), A.J. has grown. Now the light of a father’s true love truly shown through during his Halloween confrontation with his son Michael.  The re-introductory sequences gave Chad Duell and that wonderful old pro Leslie Charleson (Monica) a real chance to shine.  I can’t wait to see Carly have the freak-out of her lifetime on Monday.

A word to the GH writers, though: please don’t jump the shark.  That’s what All My Children did in its final months, when the creative team brought too many characters back from [Read more...]

How Prospect Park Can Save Soaps

By Connie Passalacqua Hayman

aka Marlena De Lacroix

In the effort to salve our wounds this summer, the canceled All My Children and One Life to Live sacrificed an essential element of soap opera: believability.  All these people back from the dead simultaneously!  Dixie!  Leo!  Zack!  How are we supposed to buy any kind of reality behind it? On OLTL, the back-from-the-dead tale of the two Todds was explained away by the back-from-the-dead Irene Manning in a backstory so convoluted and fantastical, it might as well have come from the Passions playbook.  I didn’t believe any of it.

As I watched, I was [Read more...]

Au Revoir, All My Children and One Life to Live

By Marlena De Lacroix

Last week I had a nightmare that All My Children and One Life to Live were canceled.  And then the bad dream came true.

But before we wallow in our own  grief, let’s take a moment to remember all the jobs that are being lost — and all the acting careers that are now ending.  So many people out of work!  They are the true victims of ABCamc logo Daytime, the reality shows, and our genre that is now collapsing.  The rest of us will just have to knit.

It’s hard to imagine a life without the daytime icons that have filled the histories of All My Children and One Life to Live.  I’ve lived my life with Erica and Viki, and now I’ll never know if they find forever husbands — or lasting happiness.  People like Tad and Blair and Dorian and Bo have been almost lifelong friends and it’s hard to think what life will be like without them.  

Somehow I can’t see myself making lifelong friends with Mario Batali or Tim Gunn.  Imagine, [Read more...]

What’s to Watch Now?

By Marlena De Lacroix

As the World Turns was over on Friday and at least two dozen of my old soap pals all called or wrote. But what to watch now? If you are still around to watch afternoons, it’s slim pickings.ATWT Days is way too juvenile even to contemplate. Young and Restless is very competent soap opera. But someone help! We’re left with the ABC Daytime line up. Admiring my dog Nigel sleeping on the couch seems to look like better entertainment after a while.

All My Children is boring. Who ever heard of a soap opera without a villain? What happened to Vincent Irizarry (David, who is now really, truly dead). Did he want too

Goodbye, As the Word Turns. But … One Life to Live is boring … General Hospital is boring … All My Children is boring … So what’s to watch now?

much money? No Adam, no David, and JR does not cut it as a first class villain. I could care less about Rebecca Budig. What puzzles me is that a network that is obsessed with shirtless boys (like the indistinguishable Ford boys on One Life to Live) should foist such a middle age frump as Caleb Cooney (the I’m-so-bored-please-pay-me Michael Nouri) on me. Why, Lord, why? By the time Susan Lucci arrives back in town as [Read more...]

All My Children: Daytime’s Brigadoon, But What Happens Next? Part 2

AMC logoBy Marlena De Lacroix

In Part 1 of this column, I used that great 1947 Broadway musical in which a mythical ancient town full of joy and real human goodness reappears and vanishes once a decade as a metaphor for the brief return of Lorraine Broderick as headwriter of All My Children.

Ms. Broderick’s self-chosen short-lived return represented a short sojourn back into a soap opera world that now exists only in memory:   What we’ve seen again in the past three months is the real All My Children – the intelligent, warm, character

My kudos go to ALL the actors of the AMC company who again got to showcase their real skills because they were given great writing.

rich soap we loved since Agnes Nixon created it in 1970 and which existed in that glorious form until 1996.  Sadly, Broderick’s new stint as writer has already ended, but she leaves AMC in [Read more...]

All My Children: Daytime’s Brigadoon (But What Happens Next?) Part 1

AMC1 

By Marlena De Lacroix

When I was a young girl my mother took me to City Center in Manhattan to see a revival of the 1947 Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon.  In it, two American men on a trip to Scotland stumble upon a strange town, the Brigadoon of the title, from a

Can Agnes Nixon, who brought us this revival of Pine Valley as Brigadoon, continue to ward off Fronsie and the callow macho-ness of ABC Daytime’s boys club? What can be done so that THIS Pine Valley lives on every day — not just once every ten years?

past century, which disappears into the mist and reappears only one day every ten years.  It’s a mythical throwback community full of  [Read more...]

Watching Sadism For Thrills: Soaps Are Not Snuff Films!

drowning

By Marlena De Lacroix

Recently I was asked by a fan why I am not posting much anymore. Here’s why: Today on One Life to Live I watched a woman who had just delivered a baby graphically fall through ice and drown.  Not three months ago I had watched a

Does any TPTB on soaps, so desperate for ratings, actually have any moral sense at all, or even THINK anymore?   Do viewers suddenly crave ”the thrill” of watching women die miserably?

woman on General Hospital get her head bashed in with an axe by a teenager, die and be secretly buried in the woods. Soaps are a lot of things, but [Read more...]

Ten Happy Halloween Questions

By Marlena De Lacroix

1.  Isn’t it most curious that two of the most intelligent women characters in daytime — Dr. Marty Saybrooke on One Life to Live and fashion mogul Jackie M on The Bold and the Beautiful – have gone from brunette to blonde in the last few months?  Fashion, or just another attempt by the networks/shows to “dumb down” smart female characters?  Regardless, Susan Haskell and Lesley Ann-Downe continue to look gorgeous and act with integrity!

2.  The great, the one and only Eric Braeden; my revered and beloved Robin Strasser — am I the only one l who feels used and tired out by … Continued below

Halloween Marlena

MARLENA AND NIGEL’S HALLOWEEN POOCH PARADE

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Continued from above … being drawn into their public contract negotiations?  Sure, they don’t deserve pay cuts!  But can’t they keep the drama and tragedy private?  The press gets [Read more...]

The Downward Soap Spiral Accelerates

By Marlena De Lacroix

Bonjour, everyone.  This November will mark 20th anniversary of my becoming Marlena De Lacroix, soap critic. Marlena’s mission has always been to write the truth as I see it, no matter how impolitic.   

But now, for me — I repeat, for me — it’s clear that we’ve reached the end stage of network daytime soap opera, a medium we have watched forever and loved so much.   Perhaps that’s why I find watching soaps and writing criticism so difficult

For years, we’ve watched and believed plots that would be unlikely or even ridiculous if they actually happened. But the secret of great soap opera is that the best and brightest writers knew how to craft and pace storylines so that they were EMOTIONALLY believable.  Not any more.  Not now!

right now.  Fans, posters and columnists are angry and hurt.  A critic can beat soaps with a baseball bat every single week, but what’s the point?  I used to write about soaps because they were fun to write about, sheer joy!  Now, [Read more...]