They Make My Day

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

Who are your current favorite soap characters – the ones who make your day as soon as you see they will be in an episode of your favorite daytime drama? Here are my current faves:

Jessica Collins

* Avery Clark (played by Jessica Collins), The Young and the Restless. She’s the only soap character I can think of that I ever wanted as a personal friend.  She’s mature, intelligent and compassionate.  In other words, a great soap heroine.  Everything’s gone fine with her for a while, but will her heart be broken before her scheduled walk down the aisle with Nick Newman?

* Dr. Liesl Obrecht (played by Kathleen Gati), General Hospital. There are many different kinds of villains on daytime: nasty, snide, self-deluded, pathologically dishonest and even downright vicious.  But very few  are sheer fun. The Machiavellian Dr. Obrecht is one. Unburdened by any moral compass, she happily employs any means to her end. Plus she’s in on several of GH ’s big plot secrets such as who is the father of her daughter Britt’s child. This is a great performance by the spirited Gati.

* Maya Avant (played by Karla Mosley), The Bold and the Beautiful. Whether she’s kissing her “true love” Rick or making out with Carter, I root for Maya.  Perhaps it’s her big brown doe eyes, which seem to be a window to her soul.  Mosley is very pretty and looked downright beautiful in this week’s Forrester fashion show.

 * Bill Spencer (played by Don Diamont), B&B.   No, I don’t really like him, but I love to hate this adulterous cheater. His macho attitude and silver jewelry are so over the top they make him laughable. Here’s a guy whose ego always walks ten feet in front of him,  guaranteeing trouble for all the ladies on the show.

 Which soap characters make your day in these dog days of summer?  

 

General Hospital’s Entertaining Throughline: Kiki Isn’t a Quartermaine

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

For a soap that is frequently troubled and all over the place,General Hospital had a very entertaining week. That’s because it had a very definite throughline — the revelation to many that Kiki isn’t a Quartermaine – aimed at a Friday cliffhanger destination. Michael’s brother Morgan was set to marry her, but Michael, knowing that Kiki isn’t his biological  Quartermaine cousin, burst in at the last second to break up the wedding.

Kristen Alderson’s Kiki: Not a Q

Some adroitly complicated plotting got us to that point. Kiki’s lack of Q DNA has been something of an open secret for some time. The audience has long known the truth.  The only person who now really doesn’t know is Kiki herself, who carries on under the delusion that she has a Q family vote in who gets control of ELQ, Tracy or A.J. (Earlier she voted with A.J. who emerged victorious in the struggle.) Kiki’s mother Ava spilled the beans to Morgan, who then redoubled his efforts to get Kiki away from Michael.

So if Kiki isn’t a bona fide Q, what is her true lineage? It turns out her biological father is the normally chilly, Spock-like Silas, from whom this news elicits actual human emotions. Live long and prosper,  Michael Easton, a.k.a. John the cop and Caleb the vampire. You are the Leonard Nimoy of soaps.

The bombshell news that Kiki isn’t a real Q burst via the Port Charles Press, whose editor Connie found Kiki’s birth certificate after Tracy let her break into Ava and Franco’s room in the Q mansion. Going forward, this dramatic piece of investigative journalism may in some way lead to Connie’s exit from the show, or indeed from this earth. Kelly Sullivan, the spunky actress who plays her is due to leave the show, and fan speculation is that Connie will be murdered.

Who done it, or more accurately, who’s gonna do it?  It could be Kiki herself.  Ava was seen physically threatening the life of Silas should he go near his biological daughter, so violence toward Connie for exposing her long held secret is a possibility.   A.J. almost strangled Connie while confronting her that she had published the secret that led to him losing ELQ.  Sonny himself is mad at Connie for exposing the secret, since Michael and Kiki would stop thinking of themselves and being related and that would somehow ruin Morgan’s chance to marry Kiki.

The show had several great scenes this week. Sonny pistol whipping a hysterical A.J., when  he found A.J. threatening to strangle Connie was exciting.  A scene in which Tracy and Elizabeth debated A.J’s past failures was particularly well acted by Jane Elliot and Rebecca Herbst. Also well-turned by Michael Easton and Maura West  was a scene in which  Ava physically threatened Silas with a scissor to his  back should he make contact with his new daughter.

All week there was a real sense of suspense. Would Kiki and Morgan ultimately marry?  Will Connie really be done in, and by whom?   We’ll have to all tune in to GH next week to find  the answers to these ongoing  questions and more. Thankfully for the continued success of GH, we’re looking forward to it.

General Hospital: The Emergence of Ava Jerome, One Intriguing Woman

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

They showed her from her legs up, clad in a drop dead red halter dress.  This week on General Hospital, Ava Jerome was revealed to be the sister of the new power broker in town — Derek Wells. As played by soap veteran William deVry, Derek has a shady past: he really is one of GH’s old mob chiefs.  He was revealed to be the once thought dead Julian Jerome. His “little sister” Ava  has  been in town for a while, gathering power little by little.

Maura West

This reveal was so captivating because it was so well planned. For the past few months, GH has been slowly building up the new central character Ava, as played by daytime superstar Maura West (who became famous playing the wily Carly Tenney on As the World Turns and later the murdered Diane Jenkins on The Young and the Restless.)  Making Ava a central powerful character is a stellar choice by GH because daytime talent doesn’t get any better than West, a very accomplished actress and an expert at playing femme fatales and strong women on soaps.

When Ava came to town, she was a New York art dealer and the mother of Kiki Jerome (played by Kristen Alderson.)  At first Ava was shown to be a conniver, trying to get Kiki to vote her portion of the ELQ stocks with Tracy. Later, Ava was revealed to be the ex of Franco, who was presumably Kiki’s father. (It has since been shown that Silas Clay, another of Ava’s ex’s, is secretly Kiki’s biological father.)

But the GH audience was shown that Ava is much more than all this.  On the one hand she is seen trying to form an alliance with Franco against Tracy, while on the other she is the woman who tried to shoot him, hitting Olivia instead.  Her responsibility for this crime has never been exposed, at least so far. Ava  has been revealed to be an active member of the Jerome crime family, and the spotlight on West as a central GH character is shining even more brightly.

Quite deftly, GH has developed Ava into a very complex character, full of contradictions and mysterious as yet unanswered questions. She’s has become a very intriguing  woman indeed – and much more fun than a conventional heroine.

So, Thinking Fans, what do you think of the Ava as a powerhouse GH character? Are you rooting for or against Ava?  What do you think of West in the role? Discutez, s’il vous plait.

On the Bridge: A Most Confusing General Hospital Dream Sequence

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

It’s a soap’s absolute responsibility to be clear about what’s going on.  Last week General Hospital presented a mess of a dream sequence about two possible Francos that was so confusing, I couldn’t figure out what supposed to be real and what was not. I’ve rarely been so bewildered in many decades of watching soaps.

Pistol-packing Sam (Kelly Monaco) faces off with delusional Franco (Roger Howarth)

The sequence occurred on a bridge in Port Charles. That much is certain. The rest … well, not so much. Here’s what we were shown:

Franco, who thought he was Jason, had just kidnapped terminally ill (with leukemia) baby Daniel from the hospital. The baby’s mother, Sam, had tried to prevent the kidnapping, producing a gun and firing it at Franco. Evidently she missed, and somehow wound up unconscious on the floor. Meanwhile, Franco had escaped with the child. He took up a position at the railing of the bridge, properly wild-eyed and crazy-acting, and holding the baby as it to drop him over the side.

By this time, we viewers were beside ourselves with fear for the baby’s life. Amid all this alarm, Elizabeth appeared in her hospital uniform.  She stared in horrified disbelief, and then we saw what she was staring at: not one, but TWO Francos, one ostensibly Jason, and the other the real Franco — or was he? There ensued a debate between the two (courageously acted by Roger Howarth) about what to do with the baby. Franco won, but instead of deep-sixing the infant, he ordered Jason to shoot Elizabeth. Jason inexplicably complied, then helpfully took possession of the child as Franco dumped Elizabeth’s lifeless body over the side of the bridge.

Quelle horreur! But not to worry. Cut quickly to Elizabeth, very much alive and carrying out her duties at the front desk of the hospital.  Presumably, some or all of what had just transpired was intended as a dream sequence. But whose dream? And how much of it? Was the baby really kidnapped? What was up with the two Francos? Was the person who was claiming to be Jason the real Jason, who had ostensibly been killed off when Steve Burton left the show last year?   Was the real Jason still alive? If so, this would be a key fact in the ongoing GH narrative. Nous avons été très confus. To put it mildly.

And we weren’t finished. Before the episode ended, the presumed dream sequence resumed. Franco decided to jump off the side of the bridge, his last vile directive urging Jason to dump Danny over the side also.  This was truly scary!  Finally, just as Jason was about to commit this dastardly deed, Carly appeared.  Slowly but surely, Carly talked Franco (calling him” Jason”) out of killing the baby and talked him down from the bridge.

What was the explanation for this muddled exercise?  GH’s creative team actually offered one. Seems Franco had a brain tumor, and thought he was Jason. The dream was his, in which he appeared as both Jason and himself. Later in the week, Patrick operated on him for this tumor.  As the week ended, we assume the operation was successful. Better yet, it had just been discovered Franco is a match for Danny’s bone marrow, thus saving him from leukemia.

At last, a happy ending for the saga of Franco and some semblance of clarity. Maybe. Can we be sure, given the week of clumsy storytelling we had just endured? If only the writers of General Hospital had made clear all along what was really happening during this dream (or was it reality) sequence, maybe the viewers would be happier, too.    

Why General Hospital Is So Unsatisfying to Watch Right Now

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

We had hope, didn’t we, in those heady days when General Hospital, the leading survivor among network daytime soaps, seemed to be in the ascendancy again. Alas, the good times have faded. These days, watching GH is a very frustrating experience.   Many of the storylines are unsatisfying. The characters don’t make much sense and the stories lack motivation and have holes in them. 

Roger Howarth’s Franco, dancing as fast as he can

The show still seems to still be struggling to come to terms with its three character switches, if that is fully possible.  As Franco, Roger Howarth (formerly Todd) is dancing as fast as he can, but still can’t seem to escape the character’s unseemly and criminal past, no matter how much the show “factually” absolves him of his sins — responsibility for Michael’s rape, Sam’s non-rape, etc.  Kristen Alderson (formerly Starr) is still terrible as Kiki, her eyes bulging and mouth always agape as she engages in her forbidden romance with biological cousin Michael.  As Silas, Michael Easton seems too cold as a cancer doctor, and does not even exhibit his trademark sex chemistry (from when he played John) with Kelly Monaco, who still plays Sam.

At least they have tried to cross Silas into a new story.  He seems to have a romantic past with Ava, as played by Maura West, the show’s revelation as an actress. West carries on as well as can be expected, considering that her fairly new character is so quickly saddled with the shooting of Olivia.  How can she get away with it and still be on the canvas?

Forever pregnant? Dr. Britt (Kelly Thiebaud) and Maxie (Kristen Storms)

The show has crossed Nicholas into a story with Britt, who is still – in what may be soap opera’s longest gestation period — pregnant with Patrick’s baby.   For some reason not well explained or even likely, Britt and Nicholas seem interested in each other.   Meanwhile, Patrick (supposedly the father of Britt’s baby) and Sabrina continue their romance, which lacks any kind of authentic sexual spark and is thus hard to believe.  

And speaking of endless pregnancies, what about Maxie, who is carrying her own baby, secretly fathered by Spinelli. She is the surrogate mother to what she is passing off as Lulu and Dante’s daughter, although many fans think Britt’s baby is really their transplanted embryo.  Got that?  We’re really in trouble when whole scenarios dreamed up by fans as well as the writers are equally unappealing.

Even worse, there are signs that GH may be retreating into the world of Bob Guza, with all its bad taste and silly violence! How else to explain Don Sonny ordering a compliant Shawn to beat Franco to a bloody pulp? It was uncalled for and gross.  And can’t the “creative” team do better than the creepy gay lab tech Brad trying to blackmail the straight Michael into sleeping with him to silence his knowledge that Kiki and Michael are romantically involved?

Listen up, GH! We were so happy when you seemed to leave all that shallow sleaze in the rear view mirror. Turn back at your peril.

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.

A Negative Vote on This Year’s Daytime Emmys

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

Last year I praised HLN’s first production of the Daytime Emmys because it was straightforward and lean.  This year’s show was exactly the opposite — overlong (almost three hours) and full of things that just shouldn’t have been included.  Boring!

Doug Davidson and his well-deserved and long overdue Best Actor award (Photo by Richard ShotwellInvision/AP)

How about that couch?  I’m talking about the one on which winners were interviewed by such “journalists” as Giada Di Laurantiis and Sheryl Underwood.  At least some of the winners — Best Actor Doug Davidson and Best Supporting Actress Julie Marie Berman, for instance — handled themselves well and with grace in the awkward situation.  There was just too much stuff stuffed into the show — like two Lifetime Achievement awards (Monty Hall and Bob Stewart) and presentation of three generic Best Song performances by co-host Robin Meade (who is at least a pretty woman with a nice voice).  Nancy Lee Grahn’s brief comedy bits filmed outdoors were not very good..

The whole problem with the show is that in content it aimed to be a major network presentation, but missed because of poor and cheap production.  It makes us remember and appreciate what a good job Dick Clark Productions did with the show over the years.  The hosts — Sam Champion, A.J. Hammer and Meade — were just meh, and scattershot appearances by them did nothing to keep the whole production feeling cohesive.  All in all, the 40th annual Daytime Emmys was a production not befitting of its own lofty aims or of the hard work done on daytime television by so many creative people over the year.

The winners in most of the acting categories, on the other hand, were well chosen.  Finally, Davidson deservedly won his Best Actor statuette after 35 years in the show in a very emotional storyline on The Young and the Restless (Paul shot his would-be murderer son Ricky.)   The Bold and the Beautiful’s Heather Tom always excels, particularly in her storyline in which Katie suffered a near-psychotic breakdown after the birth of her son.  And General Hospital’s Julie Marie Berman’s win as Best Supporting Actress was a good parting gift from the show.

Speaking of GH, wasn’t the show shortchanged in a year when the big awards (Best Show, Best Writing, Best Direction) went to B&B. Not that B&B had a bad year (it was very good, especially with the scenes leading up to Stephanie’s death), but GH literally had its finest years in decades, an everyday must-see show which corrected the mistakes made by the horribly crime-centric longtime headwriter Bob Guza.  Except for an underserved award for Best Young Actress to Kristen Alderson (while she was still playing Starr Manning), GH deserved many more awards and  rewards this year.

On Days of Our Lives, Chandler Massey was rewarded for a very nice job with Best Younger Actor. Then the show went on to score the evening’s the real upset – Days won as Best Soap.  As bitterly noted by executive producer Ken Corday in his acceptance speech, this was the first time in 38 years the show had won the ultimate award.

So, Thinking Fans, did Days deserve it?

Franco: Make or Break for General Hospital?

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

Maura West

So let’s take a survey.  How many Thinking Fans think Roger Howarth’s great charm as an actor can overcome the unbelievable maneuvers that have been made to bring back evil Franco as a viable everyday character?  Erasing Franco’s responsibility for the  rapes of Sam and Michael has taken quite a bit of tap dancing by headwriter Ron Carlivati, and I find the moves bizarre to say the least. I guess they had to give Howarth a character with some bad boy flavor, but Franco? Tell me what you think of this decision and whether or not you think it will make or break General Hospital’s current ratings. They’ve taken quite the risk here, je pense.

Emme Rylan

An additional thought from moi:  the very strong additions of Emme Rylan (new Lulu) and Maura West (Ava Jerome) just might also be enough to counterbalance any kind of ratings or popularity hit the show may take because of the Franco fiasco.  Que pensez-vous?

The Bold and the Beautiful:  Seductive Brooke Strikes Out

I’ve watched Brooke Logan flit around as a practicing sex addict on The Bold and the Beautiful for more than twenty-five years now.   But she’s never have been as pathetic as she was this week when she used all her seductive moves to get Eric to leave  Taylor and “father”  her unborn baby (who was really conceived with brother-in law Bill Spencer?).  Eric resisted her moves!  He’s usually so easily seduced  and Brooke is usually such a successful seductress.  By this point Eric should really be looking into senior housing. But Katherine Kelly Lang’s Brooke will probably never get too old to pull her patented seduction act.   How truly refreshing it was to see Eric say no  – at least for now — to the usually irresistible Brooke.

The Young and the Restless:  A Classy Tribute for a Classy Lady

What a classy and truly meaningful episode-long tribute The Young and the Restless did for the late Jeanne Cooper this week.   In forty years of soap watching, I can’t remember this amount of time being allotted to a departed actor in this way.   It was so sweet to have the entire cast share their memories of Cooper with the audience.  I could have done without their tales of Cooper’s habit of pinching all the young male character’s body parts, though. But I guess it’s nice to know that that even a lady full of class could be naughty once and a while.

Port Charles is Frustration City

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

As noted last week and confirmed by the passionate reaction in the letters section, there seems to be massive dissatisfaction with General Hospital right now.   And it’s not only the appearance of three new characters with too-familiar faces (played by Kristin Alderson, Michael Easton and Roger Howarth).  The show is frustrating to watch, with too many stories that need quick resolutions or some casting corrections.   I have some ideas on how these stories might be improved.

Roger Howarth, now a blond and annoying mysterioso

1. Identify the mystery character played by Roger Howarth ASAP. The guessing game as to who this sinister blond is has gone on about two weeks too long. Is he Jason?  Is he Franco?  Is he a triplet we’ve never heard of? Is this the return of The Talented Mr. Ripley? The guessing game has gone on about two weeks too long, and it’s more confusing and thus annoying by the day.   We’ve seen him happily meet harmoniously with baddie Heather and let himself in with a key to good girl Sam’s apartment.  Franco, Sam’s rapist, is a ruined character. Would the show really waste a star actor like Howarth on another version of Jason, a character is so identified with the actor Steve Burton (who is now on The Young and the Restless)? Here’s hoping the producers have more imagination.  The beginning of his party on the Haunted Star this week will be a much needed big reveal

2. Who is the father of Britt’s baby?  Tell us, immediately!   Britt’s condition was revealed just about the time Patrick finally revealed his feelings for Sabrina, something we had waited for almost three-quarters of a year.  An instant baby “fathered” by Patrick is too pat a relationship spoiler. Or could Britt really be carrying Dante and Lulu’s baby?  The story is too frustrating to go one for six more long months. Reveal the identity of the baby’s father right away! Please!

3. Review and think about fine tuning the young casting.  Mark Teschner is probably the best casting agent in the soap business, but his choices of late have been disappointing. Jimmy Deshler, who plays Rafe, appears to be incapable of more than scowling, and Bryan Craig, who plays the very central character Morgan (son of Carly and Sonny), seems to be a limited actor beyond his nicely developing young pecs.  Neither seems up to the challenge of carrying a story. GH should bring in stronger young actors now, as summertime is always the season when young soap stories are highlighted.  

Your turn, Thinking Fans. Any suggestions for getting GH back on track? 

The 40th Annual Daytime Emmy Nominations: Some Killer Choices!

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

What do you think of the 40th Annual Daytime Emmy nominees?  The list is long and illustrative given the fact that there are only four soaps.  Several categories are full of names that are most deserving. It would be very hard to cast a decisive vote should one have the opportunity.

Katherine Kelly Lang

Consider the lead actor category:  You’ve got an actor who created a real splash in General Hospital this year, Jason Thompson, who was brilliant as his Patrick Drake mourned the death of his wife Robin.  Then you’ve got the always dependable actors in the category — Peter Bergman (Jack, The Young and the Restless), Doug Davidson (Paul, Y&R) and Michael Muhney (Adam, Y&R).  Although Muhney is a great personal favorite of mine, I don’t know who did the superior job of all these outstanding actors.

Then there’s lead actress:  Who can beat Susan Flannery, who played Stephanie’s march to death so memorably on The Bold and the Beautiful? Or Heather Tom, who played Katie’s post-partum depression, also on B&B? Also excellent as was Days of Our Lives’ Peggy McCay who played Caroline’s Alzheimer’s suffering so skillfully.  Formidable, too, is Y&R’s always dependable Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), who also shone in that category.  Again, who to vote for?

For Best Supporting Actress, I’d definitely cast my vote for first time nominee (it’s about time) Katherine Kelly Lang of B&B, who played Stephanie’s best friend Brooke so beautifully and soulfully through Stephanie’s fabulously written final story. Here is an actress who has grown incredibly since her debut on the show 25 years ago, and definitely deserves recognition, not just for this year but for her long body of work.

And what about Best Show?  Can anyone beat GH, which had one of the best years in its history?  On the other hand, it’s hard to top B&B, with its brilliantly produced stories of Katie’s post-partum depression and the death of Stephanie.

Talk about killer choices. With only four surviving soaps contributing nominees, the work the voters had to choose from is all exciting and memorable. No matter who wins, the quality of all the nominees argues persuasively for the future of network soaps. Here’s hoping TPTB are paying attention.

This year’s Emmy Award ceremonies will be broadcast June 16 on HLN.