A “Bah Humbug” Christmas … Plus, The Borg is Back!

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

Oh how I miss soap Christmases the way they used to be. Today, all soaps have been scrubbed of religion. This year only two of the four soaps — Days of Our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful — continued with at least some of the traditions that made the holiday a really special time to watch daytime drama.  

The Horton Ornaments

On the soaps of old (actually, not even so old), every soap gathered its central families together at a family party.  On cue, a leading cast member broke the fourth wall at the end of the holiday show to wish the cherished viewers: “From our family to your family … Merry Christmas.”  Thus viewers felt particularly bonded with their other “family” — their soap family.Plus, I really missed those Christmas traditions particular to each soap! Remember all those years Dr. Steve Hardy told the Christmas story to all the kids at the hospital on General Hospital? When Mike Bauer sang Christmas carols in the Bauer living room on Guiding Light?  When all the characters of Passions, religious or not, turned out for one of Jim Reilly’s crazy midnight Christmas Eve masses?

Well, it was mostly “Bah Humbug” to Christmas on half of our surviving soaps in 2012 – a most peculiar choice, given the medium’s on-going race to stay in business. Instead of a gathering together en famille on Christmas week The Young and the Restless, Jack’s son Kyle and business associates Phyllis and Neil staged an intervention for pill-popping Jack. Peter Bergman brilliantly fired all rockets in these scenes in which obstinate Jack managed to give in to no one.    On General Hospital on Christmas Eve, surrogate mother Maxie had cramps and found out that she was indeed pregnant with Dante and Lulu’s baby.  Please oh please, tell me this wasn’t supposed to be symbolic of another Christmas pregnancy.

Thankfully, Days and B&B celebrated Christmas the old fashion way. Days offered warm family gathering, and as they do every year, rolled out the Horton family ornaments engraved with character names. B&B assembled the Forresters in a lovely tribute to the recently deceased Stephanie, as Eric (the talented John McCook) beautifully played the piano. And indeed B&B honored the old soap tradition as executive producer Bradley Bell broke the fourth wall to wish the audience a good holiday at the end of the Christmas episode. It made me feel extra good.   Happy holidays right back to everyone at B&B from Marlena!

The Young and the Restless:  On an up note, however, how unexpected is it that mega-popular Steve Burton (formerly Jason on GH) is joining Y&R?  He’ll certainly bring many of his fans with him.  I think the kind of role that’s written for him (as yet undisclosed) should have a lot to do with the actor’s success.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if his new character is on the right side of the law, unlike his unrepentant hitman Jason (nicknamed “The Borg” by the audience) on GH?

Marlena’s Best of the Best, 2012

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

It’s the end of 2012, time for best and worst lists.  Because soaps are in such danger and I’ve already recorded most of the worsts in the weekly column I’m choosing only to do the bests here.  And Marlena being Marlena sometimes I have multiple choices in each category.

Best Actress:  The Bold and the Beautiful’s Susan Flannery. Can there any other?  Her work in the month leading up to Stephanie’s death was just so human and full of intelligence, two full career-long defining traits of arguably daytime’s best ever actress.

Doug Davidson

Best Actor:  Doug Davidson, The Young and the Restless.  Tragedy usually becomes soap performers, but it’s still difficult for some actors to pull off crying scenes believably and effectively.  Y&R‘s Doug Davidson was just grand as the drowning-in-guilt Paul, who shot and killed his own son, when Ricky was about to commit murder.   Davidson was just so realistic as a father in this ultimate pain, especially when he was unjustly arrested for Ricky’s murder.

Best Supporting Actresses:  Too many to choose just one. B&B ’s Katherine Kerry Lang should get the Emmy she deserves this year as Brooke for that character’s loving support of Stephanie on her deathbed … Kelly Sullivan has just been terrifically entertaining and often hilarious as Crazy Connie on General Hospital. (She also plays Connie’s alter, fashion editor Kate.) …  Will’s coming out scenes on Days of Our Lives wouldn’t have been half as effective if not for the understanding and support of his grandmother Marlena. Deidre Hall, as ever, is brilliant as a character who represents the ultimate in womanly love and acceptance … Robin Mattson was just deliciously evil as always when her crazy, cunning Heather returned to GH, bringing with her a swath of misdeeds, including a role in the switch of Tea and Sam’s babies.

Best Supporting ActorGeneral Hospital ‘s Jason Thompson was every bit as good in crying scenes as Y&R’s Davidson, as Patrick so heartbreakingly mourned the death of his wife, Dr. Robin. The exquisite sensitivity the character showed in his grief was totally unexpected.

Best Couple:  Anna and “Duke”/Faison on GH.  In the 80s they were a supercouple — Finola Hughes and Ian Buchanan had amazing chemistry, and their great acting skills beautifully complimented one other.  And they stayed a dazzling duo when both returned this year to GH and played out the twisty and shocking Faison-is-the-fake Duke story.  The actors also did just as great work apart:  Hughes as Robin’s grieving mother on GH and Buchanan as the scheming meanie Ian on Days, who also wildly grieved when his love Madson died in his arms.  Buchanan is this soap year’s prince of melodrama.

Best Show: General Hospital, for making the comeback of the year.  A year ago, the smart money bet this show would be cancelled. But executive producer Frank Valenti and headwriter Ron Carlivati turned the tide splendidly, transforming GH into such a highly entertaining show that fans don’t want to miss even one day!  May GH’s rising ratings portend a new era of success for dayime soaps!

Cher readers, do write in and tell me your personal bests for 2012.

Also, listen to Connie/Marlena chat about soap bests and the biggest soap news events of 2012 with soapcentral.com’s Daniel J. Kroll on http://www.voiceamerica.com/Show/1661.

Sunday Reflections 20: General Hospital’s Farewell to Edward Quartermaine … The Pleasures and Pains of Soap Reruns

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

General Hospital:  Wasn’t the death of Edward Quartermaine nicely handled?  As visiting grandson Ned said in a toast:  “There will never be another Edward Quartermaine.” This  was also a tribute to the late John Ingle, the great actor who long played the role (originated by David Lewis.)  Perhaps the saddest scene soap history-wise was the agonized exclamation of Tracy at the family crypt: “There was always the four of us, including Edward, Lila, and Alan, and now there’s only me.”  All in all., a fond farewell  to daytime’s most feisty family, iconic  because they were perhaps just a bit like yours and definitely just like mine: endearing but dysfunctional and  fighting all the time.

The late, great John Ingle

GH, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the  Restless: As if to soften the blow, SoapNet gave us five rerun episodes of the Quartermaines on the family’s traditional pizza-eating holiday,  Thanksgiving, known to them as “Quartermainia.”’  Also giving us old episodes the day after Thanksgiving was Days of Our Lives (Susan’s Elvis themed wedding) and The Young and the Restless (Nikki and Victor’s second wedding.)

Don’t you just love watching soap reruns? Most of all, there’s the joy of seeing “friends,” characters you spent years with, some long forgotten and now delightfully rediscovered. I’m an especially soft touch for characters who had heart, like GH’s Laura and Tony Jones. But last week Marlena really enjoyed seeing her historic favorites, the humorous supporting characters like Reginald the footman on GH (whatever happened to him?),  Alice the wrestler/maid and  Foster and Annabelle, the Q dogs. They added spice to the famous Quartermaine family’s comic brew.

Perhaps the most fun of watching reruns is to see characters and actors in their younger form.  Weren’t younger Vanessa Marcil and Ingo Rademacher just gorgeous [Read more...]

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 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 7: Central Actors’ Leave-takings on Days of Our Lives, Bold & Beautiful and General Hospital; Headlocks and Diction on B&B and GH; One Strange Interview from B&B

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

Peter Reckell
Is there time to recast?

Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital:  When I used to work on newspapers it was journalistic thinking that a list of three of anything — three sightings of groovy over-the-knee boots on the subway, three Hollywood divorces, three murders in a Queens neighborhood — signal the birth a new trend.  Now, with the leave-takings of three leading men – Peter Reckell (Bo) from Days of Our Lives and Ronn Moss (Ridge) from The Bold and the Beautiful (both because of reduced salaries), and the rumored departure of Steve Burton from General Hospital (do you believe it will actually happen?) — we practically have another new daytime trend. And central, long-term veteran actors abandoning our sinking shows has become a really serious problem.  I guess this is a sign of the soap times, as the daytime drama medium implodes all the more.

Can headwriters successfully handle the exits of the centerpiece actors of their shows? Or will the loss of these leading men leave too big a hole in their shows and cause ratings slides? Can recasts of such important central characters work? In the past, replacements in roles that were defined by the very long-term actors who played them were hard to adjust to initially.  But the new [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 6: Cheese-tastic Days of Our Lives; Great Production on General Hospital; Marlena Recommends

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

Days of Our Lives: “What’s that you’re watching, Marlena? That old movie Earthquake (1974)?” My husband Moose was looking at the TV screen where battered and bloodied people were climbing out of the wreckage of a ballroom that had experienced a terrific explosion.

Kate (Lauren Koslow) hears baddie Ian (Ian Buchanan) declare his love for the dead Madison (Sarah Joy Brown)

“No, it’s not quite as cheese-tastic,” I answered. “It’s Days of Our Lives.”  Actually, I thought Days this week did an entertainingly good job of digging itself out of the wreckage of the stunt explosion that had occurred just prior to its two-week Olympic hiatus. The characters reacted so pseudo-realistically! Madison was found dead, a cut on her head (!) and a pregnant Nicole moaned and groaned, being pinned under some wreckage.  Abby broke down and cried like the real little girl she is when father Jack died after saving her from a  27-floor elevator plunge, and I almost shed a tear for him, as no one over the years could ever be immune to Matthew Ashford’s great charm as the character.But nothing could touch the cheese-tastic (and you know Marlena, I say that very lovingly) baddie Ian declaring his love to the corpse of Madison.  How I will always love Ian Buchanan, even in this thankless, one-note role!  The accent! That face!  That very strong and powerful, larger than life quality he shows when sputtering sheer evil!  Later he and Lauren Koslow chewed up the scenery until it fell down soap style in a long fight scene where Kate accused the newly aggrieved Ian of breaking up her marriage through their affair. In the scene’s/episode’s cliffhanger, Ian melodramatically blurted out: “I killed Stefano!” Speaking of divine cheese, next week Stefano is back from the dead for the umpteenth time.  Oh how truly great Joe Mascolo has been in the role for decades! [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 3: The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives

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

The Young and the Restless: Finally a soap does what I’ve long advocated for this era of desperation:  perform a radical life-saving change to save itself.  Y&R has sent in then Marines in the form of new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and new headwriter Josh Griffith. And Marlena says Semper Fi!  Fresh from their triumphs on Hollywood Heights and Phelps’ latest Emmy for Outstanding Show (General Hospital), these two soap vets certainly have just the skills and genuine talent needed to pull Y&R out of its deep pit of, as we French say, ennui.

And already the fans have started flinging tomatoes at the choice of Phelps, who we all took to task for her cooperation with Guza on GH and other foul acts on One Life to Live.  Forgive and forget, Marlena says, because darlings, this is war!  With 30 plus years of continuous executive producing service to five soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live, GH) Phelps certainly has the octane needed to quickly change Y&R.  Similar negative things were predicted when the much skilled and experienced Paul Rauch (whose track record  fans did not love) first came to produce Y&R  a few years ago, and look at what an effective job he did. 

Tony Geary

General Hospital: Marlena is still swooning over the GH scene this week in which Luke and Anna were privately reunited in the hospital after Luke’s taking a bullet for Anna and his long abduction by cray-cray Heather. No crying, screaming or carrying on, it was just a conversation between two mature people revealing their deep romantic feelings for each other without words.  The script said that Anna was questioning Luke about his long abduction by Heather, and later telling him that the arrested Heather said Robin was alive. Yet, bravura Tony Geary and Finola Hughes played the scenes’ subtext — two very adult people (yes!) in love — so quietly and with so much subtlety, the scene was a thing of beauty. Luke spoke slowly and clearly, and in a low voice, while Anna listened, receiving his unspoken love with just a touch of a tear in her eye.   What creativity and worlds of experience these two actors bring to their work!  Whoever thought we could see such adult emotion portrayed so realistically on a soap opera?

This was a wonderful couple of days this week, for we who (try to) watch GH without spoilers. The previous day, insane Heather (surprise!) appeared in the doorway of the cabin in which she held Luke, shooting Luke after Anna (yay girl!) had punched her out and [Read more...]

Introducing “Sunday Reflections”: General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives

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

Sunday is a great time to reflect on what’s happened during the week on soaps. So Marlena happily presents the first of a feature called “Sunday Reflections.

General Hospital: Leave it to this regime at GH to bring in a GQ mobster, Joe Scully Jr., as played by the mighty fine looking Richard Steinmetz (ex-Santa Barbara, Sunset Beach) He’s no Paulie Walnuts or Bobby “Bacalla” from The Sopranos.  I dig Joe’s artfully clipped hair. But what I really like about Joe is that he’s definitely a Brooklyn “des,” “dems” and “does” guy withoutrichart steinmetxhaving to say the actual words “des,” “dems” and “does.” Joe’s is a master liar who usually got away with everything in the past (sound familiar?)  I can hardly wait to see the super melodramatic prison reunion this week between Joe and Kate, the woman he raped long ago. This rape produced a son, obviously Trey, played by slick looker Erik Valdez, an actor I don’t especially like. So that makes a show with how many rapists? Todd, Joe, Luke. And how many murderers walking around? Sonny, Jason, Heather, Johnny. That’s exactly double the number of such criminals GH had under Guza. Sopranos creator David Chase could hardly dreamed up this line-up, no?  Ladies and gents, please no letters on the good looks of Maurice Benard and Steve Burton. I already know.

The Young and the Restless: When a friend tweeted two weeks ago “I can’t believe that I’d be so glad to see Christine again,” I just laughed. Now I agree. Lauralee Bell is demonstrating a wonderful maturity and great passion as she now plays a lawyer who is out to prosecute Phyllis for her long ago hit and run involving herself and Paul on their almost wedding day. Speaking [Read more...]

The Mega-successful, Classy World of Bill Bell

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

When I was a girl soap reporter, I called him “Mr. Bell” during interviews because of Bill Bell’s exalted status in the soap industry.  And Bill Bell (1927-2005) would just laugh and go ahead to speak about Bill Bellwhat one always talked to him about: the work.  He was the only person I ever interviewed who hardly ever promoted himself personally.  And he was in show business!   Bell, a true gentleman, preferred to have his work speak for itself.

So I’m glad there’s a new biography that both examines Bell’s personal life story and takes a comprehensive look at his always top-rated soaps. The book, published by Sourcebooks, is titled The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell, Creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful and written by veteran soap journalist Michael Maloney and Lee Phillip Bell, Bell’s wife, who also co-created both soaps.

Bill Bell had a wonderful life, told in this book with same kind of class that helped make him such a remarkable person in life and in television history.

There was never a day in his 40-plus years in the soaps when Bell’s writing wasn’t excellent and his soaps engrossing and entertainingly and intelligently done.. He, his soaps, his family and his organization were  always all about class — and success.  And on top of all this, he was a genuinely nice man.

Bill Bell really was the prototypical American success story of a man who started humbly and worked his way to the top.  He came from a Midwest middle class family, served stateside during World War II, and [Read more...]