General Hospital: When the Veterans Come Marching Home

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

The late Jim Reilly used to say that writing a soap was like baking a cake.  You mix in various ingredients, maybe a little bit more or less of some, bake it, and then, voila,  there’s the show, rich and delicious. The main ingredient mixed into GH this past year has been veterans.  With the 50th anniversary coming up April 1, veterans are becoming more than the flavor of the month — they are almost the entire show.  In addition to all the characters we have “mixed in” already, coming soon are Kin Shriner (Scotty), Rachel Ames (Audrey), possibly John Stamos (Blackie) and the beloved Jackie Zeman (Bobbie.) [Read more...]

General Hospital, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless: 15 Questions

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

1.    Wasn’t Caleb tasting the dead correction officer’s blood at the end of General Hospital’s Friday episode one of the grossest soap moments ever?  So that’s Caleb?  What’s the big deal, anyway?

Return of the vampire
Michael Easton as Caleb Morley

2.    Am I the only one who thinks that Steve Burton has done fine so far on The Young and the Restless? I like the Nick/Avery/Mac triangle as long as they don’t overdo it.

3.   Have you noticed that the uniform for Nick’s new nightclub Underground is a black T-shirt? Bartender Mac has to wear one. Is that a wink at Jason’s black T-shirt that Burton perpetually wore on GH?

4.    So Nikki is really going to have an incurable disease on Y&R?  Like they’d ever kill off Melody Thomas Scott!

5.    Am I the only one who thinks Steffy’s face [Read more...]

Is General Hospital’s Vampire Story Too Much? Do The Bold and the Beautiful’s Taylor and Eric Deserve a Little Romance? Is Days of Our Lives Tops?

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

General Hospital:  So what do you think of GH’s vampire story that features characters from that soap canceled a decade ago, Port Charles?  Because it’s not over yet, I’m not going to conclusively  judge the storyline that already involves one murder (Allison Barrington’s)  and has “mad”  Lucy as seeing John McBain and Sam McCall Morgan really being vampires Caleb and Livvie, the characters Michael Easton and Kelly Monaco  played on Port Charles. I surmise the story is a means to an as yet unspecified end, providing suspenseful sweeps month mystery and excitement and introduction of a new character, Rafe (played by Jimmy Deshler), the teenage son of murdered Allison. He seems to be a future love interest for Molly. [Read more...]

Moose Says: General Hospital Can Snare … the Soon-to-be-Prized Old Guy Demographic?

Marlena says: Soap fans everywhere are cautiously optimistic that, against all odds, there’s been a hopeful turn in the heretofore bleak fortunes of soap opera. Ratings are strong and even improving for the four network soaps that survived the death watch of the past few years, and Prospect Park is said to be moving full steam ahead to bring two of the casualties back from the dead.

Is it too soon to rejoice? Skeptic that I am, I’m not ready to shoot off fireworks at my country retreat just yet. But I’ve has detected one tiny, tiny bit of anecdotal evidence that audience-building may, indeed, be possible: My recently retired husband Moose, long impervious to the many charms of soap opera that have inundated him daily for so many years, has been espied of late … actually watching General Hospital.

At the risk of frightening him away, I asked him to share with Thinking Fans, whose analytical powers are legendary, after all, what it is about GH that has finally captured his attention. He agreed. Listen and learn, GH producers. Or, at least, have a chuckle or two.

By Moose Goodfellow a.k.a. Old Ed, husband of Connie

I have joined the ranks of the Instantly Irrelevant, filling those weeks between Social Security direct deposits with such typical Old Guy activities as having morning coffee with Al Roker on the Weather Channel, getting haircuts, hauling [Read more...]

Isn’t Downton Abbey Just Like Daytime Soaps? Consider the Similarities …

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

Name me a daytime soap fan who doesn’t watch and probably love Downton Abbey. Even though a lot happened this busy soap week (Genie’s coming back, Prospect Park made a deal with the Writers Guild) what everyone’s talking about is the megahit Masterpiece Theater miniseries. Downton’s third season premiered last Sunday on PBS.

I love Downton Abbey now too, but I briefly gave it up in frustration during season two.  The similarities between it and daytime soap opera became too much for moi. Hey, haven’t I seen these plots many  times  on daytime?  When paralyzed war vet Matthew suddenly stood up in his wheel chair, I couldn’t stop thinking of paralyzed Josh doing the same thing on Guiding Light.  A pair of lovers, Matthew and Lady Mary, overcome wrenching obstacles to finally get engaged and married!  Haven’t we seen similar couples break up and make up like that a million times on soaps?  Isn’t obstinate argumentative Mary just like [Read more...]

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!

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?

Merry Christmas, Baby, from Marlena!

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

Michelle Stafford

The Young and the Restless: I’m always looking for improvements under the new regime at The Young and the Restless.  One of the show’s former problems was loading heroines with too many problems, and I think the current writers have done a nice job these last few weeks in giving Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) a bit of rest.  In other words, instead of being called upon to carry on as the ever screaming, jealous wife, adulteress and murder suspect, she’s allowed us to be reminded of the kind of person she really is.

She’s not particularly man-crazy at the moment but showing some independence in the wake of the disappearance of her lover Ronan. Her new work at Newman shows her to be the intelligent and top professional woman she used to be. Her great compassion and support for pill-addict boss/ex-husband/good friend Jack has brought out her natural humanity.  Continuing to reach out to her wayward daughter Summer with great love, she’s let us see what a great and determined mother she is. I even notice she stopped wearing her usually slutty clothes.  Altogether, Phyllis is less of a headache, again a smart, convivial gal you’d like to actually know.

Although I don’t like Y&R‘s teen cyberbullying story, it certainly makes much  better use of fireball Emmy winners Christian LeBlanc and Tracey E. Bregman, whose marriage as Fen’s parents Michael and Lauren has been too happy for too long. Giving happy couples problems certainly worked with Adam and Chelsea, and certainly gives better acting opportunities to super actors Michael Mulney and Melissa Claire Egan.

I’m not a big fan of crabby Abby Newman, but I’m glad Marcy Rylan, who plays her so engagingly, is rejoining the show. The young character’s obnoxiousness is a spark the show surely needs.

But what I’m most excited about is the imminent arrival of Mark Pinter as politician Marcus Wheeler.  Pinter, of course, was brilliant as the Shakespearean villain Grant Harrison on Another World.   He’s the kind of powerful actor who can make waves for those corporate sharks Jack and Victor, played by the formidable actors Peter Bergman and Eric Braeden. Uh oh …do you think they’ll get Marcus mixed up with … Phyllis?

General Hospital:  I really like Felix (Marc Samuel), the new character on GH.  Felix is very, very, very smart.  Didn’t he make student nurse Sabrina do weeks of extra bedpan duty in exchange for an introduction to his cosmetics boss Lucy Coe? Of course it turned out Felix had never met Lucy, but Felix can talk himself into anything. GH is a show that needs humor, and Felix and his funny remarks certainly brighten scenes.  Anyone who calls that bitch Britt “Dr. Miss Thing” is certainly okay by Marlena!

By the way, Marlena, Moose and Nigel wish you all a Merry Christmas.  Getting read by you and receiving your wonderful comments are year-round Christmas presents for moi. Joyeux  Noel!  Buon Natale!

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 22: Bad Plots on Young and Restless and General Hospital Draw Marlena’s Ire!

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

The Young and the Restless:  There’s a lot of squawking on the net that, compared to General Hospital, Y&R  is slow, not that entertaining and a bit hard to watch.  I agree somewhat, but counsel patience: the new writing and production regime has been in place less than two months. They have a lot to repair. They’ve barely had enough time to review the entire show. Even so, I do have a few comments on two new storylines.

Hunter King as Summer

I really don’t like the cyber-bullying story in which extra mean kids Summer and Fen are torturing Jamie, a kid who is so fragile he  looks like he’s having a nervous breakdown.  I know it’s a well-intentioned story, but it’s kind of the issue du jour and has been done many times elsewhere in practically all media, most recently on daytime on One Life to Live with that miserable Jack Manning as the bully. The story has a dimension of realism inasmuch as Y&R’s kids come from parents with checkered pasts themselves, such as Summer’s psycho slut mother Phyllis and Fen’s father, former bad boy Michael.  For years we watched these elder characters mess up their lives as their younger selves. Now they’re grown up and trying to project authority as parents when they haven’t yet healed themselves. The result for the viewer is a succession of messy scenes of intergenerational yelling and rancor, so far not leading anywhere. Classic soap opera it’s not.

Max Erich as Fen

I don’t watch soap operas to see endless scenes of parents fighting with kids. Blech!  I had enough of that as a teenager myself, plus there’s no romance there (at least not yet!).  It’s obvious that the writers have some experience with real teenagers — Summer and Fen are realistic terrors.  When Fen sulks and stalks away from the dinner table and his frustrated  parents Michael and  Lauren — well, honey, Marlena played that same role herself a million times as a less than adorable teen.  However authentic, again, this kind of misery is not what I watch soap operas for.  Whatever happened to the days when kids (like Beth and Phillip on Guiding Light) spent their teenage years discovering the joy and mysteries of love? I’m sorry, but there’s no reason to sit through agonizing shouting matches with rotten kids like these — unless they are your own.

I’m also very disappointed in the excuse they’ve suddenly given to Sharon for all her dastardly acts against the Newmans in a former writing regime.  She’s been diagnosed as a manic-depressive, which is balderdash.  A bipolar disease is one that is life-long and very serious, not some handy alternative for writers who are in desperate need of a device to redeem a character. She can’t come down with the disease overnight!  Burning down a house (as Sharon did the Newman ranch) is psychotic, not manic.  Y&R is doing the audience a real disservice by using this widespread and harrowing disease as a handy plot device, even if being bipolar seems to be the illness du jour in drama and real life these days.

General Hospital: What a surprise to see a bomb of a story take place at the end of GH’s successful sweeps.  This is the one in which Sky, Carly and Todd rushed to Llanview to stop Blair’s wedding to Tomas, who they contend is really Alcazar. (Both roles were coincidentally played by the same actor, Ted King:  Tomas on One Life to Live and Alcazar on GH.)  But soon after the threesome arrived and before the hyped up confrontation, Tomas skipped town, meaning King didn’t appear at all.  So the whole effort — and story — was futile.  Why bother to do the story at all when you are not even going to include Alacazar/Tomas/King in the scenes? Was King unavailable?  I did not laugh when the CIA agent who arrived at Blair’s house to deliver the news that Tomas suddenly had to leave on assignment identified himself as “Theodore King.”