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

General Hospital at 50: They’ve Only Just Begun …

Marlena says:  It’s a special time at General Hospital.  The 50th anniversary is coming up April 1 and it’s been just about a year since headwriter Ron Carlivati and executive producer executive producer Frank Valentini took over a dying show and made it must-watch TV.  Marlena’s dear friend and veteran journalist Ed Martin, who first started watching GH in the glory days of the early 80s, expresses the feelings of many avid fans at the current state of the show in this column, reprinted from his regular gig at TV Worth Watching. Ed’s been a guest columnist here many times, and I’m so happy to share his latest GH thoughts with you.

By Ed Martin

April will mark the 50th anniversary of ABC’s General Hospital. I’ll be marking my 35th anniversary as a steady GH viewer just a couple of months after that. One year ago, I was almost certain that neither anniversary would come to pass, what with the show in a death spiral after more than ten years of dreadful mob-based stories that had gutted virtually everything [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...]

Young and Restless’ Missing Links and One Live To Live (Apparently) Rises From the Ashes

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

I’ve basically cheered on most of the changes made in The Young and the Restless these past three months.  Characters like Nick, Phyllis and even Sharon have been fixed by giving them more clarity and strength. The new sets, like Avery’s living room/kitchen and Nick’s bar, are awesome.  Ditto the new music and lighting. Happily the dialogue has improved, too. A much needed housecleaning broomed out a half dozen characters that won’t be missed. Under its new leadership, Y&R has had one classy facelift.

Peter Bergman
Tour de force as struggling pill-popper

The only problem I see is that I have trouble getting through many episodes. Where’s the excitement?  The improvements are nice, but I’m still waiting for a story that really interests me. The only plot that’makes me want to tune in every day is Jack’s pill problem.  Much of the credit goes to Peter Bergman for his tour de force performance.  But the secret of the plot’s success is that it has moved very fast. In less than three months, Jack has moved from addiction, to self-directed rehab, to recovery.  The sprightlier storytelling fits in with what I wrote about in my last column:  we’re in the Internet age, and up until now the only other soap that has really stepped up the storyline pace is General Hospital.

This was not an easy change for Y&R to make – it’s always been slow-moving.  Asking Y&R to move fast is like asking a fish to walk. I’m tired of [Read more...]

Prospect Park to Start Production Next Month — of High Quality Soaps?

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

On Monday, Prospect Park officially declared that they are starting up production on the revived One Life to Live and All My Children next month, to be presented on line.  Hooray, if it goes as planned!  What kind of soaps will these shows be?  Early reports indicate some of the actors have been confirmed as signed on (Debbi Morgan, Vincent Irizarry and Jerry ver Dorn), with more expected in the next week or so.  The writers have not been announced yet.  So how do we now predict what we’re going to see on-screen?

Well, in August 2011, when PP originally got involved with OLTL and AMC,  Marlena did predict that the new shows would be quality ones, as evidenced by Prospect Park’s track record.   Marlena’s a big fan of Royal Pains, the classy soap-like drama they already produce for the USA Network. The series, focusing on the personal and professional lives of a concierge doctor and his extended family in The Hamptons, began as a summer show, became a hit, and has lasted four seasons. Have you seen it? If you have, I’m guessing you might agree with me that Prospect Park is committed to serious, high quality material.  Here’s a link to the column I wrote a year and a half ago.  Let me know what you think.

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!

Paul Rauch, R.I.P.

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

Paul Rauch, surely the greatest executive producer in daytime soap history, died today in Manhattan at 79 following an illness.  

Paul Rauch
Nobody did soaps better

Marlena had the honor of covering and knowing Paul from 1980 onward, during which he was executive producer of Another World, Texas, One Life to Live, Santa Barbara. Guiding Light and The Young and the Restless. He generously taught me so much about soaps during our many interviews.  In the industry, Rauch was known as intimidating, but I found him to be a tremendously charismatic and complicated man who was great creative leader and a premier innovator in the art of soaps. No one knew soap production better than Paul.  He was always moving with the soap times. I always maintained he was a genius — which he loved.  Rest in peace, Mr. Rauch.

He is survived by his wife, concert pianist/playwright Israela Margalit, two children, two stepchildren and three granddaughters.

When Paul became executive producer of his last soap, Y&R, in 2008 (the job lasted until 2011). Marlena wrote this column about having known him over the years:

                                                                                                    

PAUL RAUCH FOR REAL!

September 19, 2008

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

Paul Rauch. That name may send you screaming from the room if you ever worked for him unsuccessfully, if you judge a man in totality by his bad soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light) or if you are a typical internet poster who relies on rumors, innuendo and chapters of tell-all memoirs.

But now that Rauch is back as co-executive producer of The Young and the Restless (at the age of 74, after recovering from a heart attack) I’d like to offer some first person testimony. And I can do it freely and ethically because I am a journalist, and don’t have to work for him.  I knew and interviewed Rauch regularly from 1980-2001.

I’ve always maintained that, despite his stormy temperament and the people he is said to have hurt, Paul is a genius.

I knew him when he was in New York executive-producing Another World, Texas, One Life to Live and Guiding Light.  Like everyone, I had terrible, terrible times with him (I have stories — let’s just say no one could intimidate a young girl reporter better than Paul) but then again I had incredibly engaging and enlightening conversations with him over the years, too.

Ironically, it is the same young students of soap opera out there cursing at him on the net who would probably die to have to chance to have an audience with him.  Every time I interviewed Paul, I learned more in 20 minutes about the fine art of making soap opera than I ever could any other way. A serious art collector (it always cracked me up that Paul had a print of Edward  Hopper’s classic painting “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” in his office at Guiding Light), he has an incredible eye for the visual composition and texture of the image on screen.  Between that and his up-to-the-second technical knowledge, his explanations of such things as his lighting ideas, why he photographed scenes in radical new ways, and his innovative location shooting techniques, made you appreciate what he was after in a fresh way. Or he could make you understand why soaps are now casting models with perfectly beautiful faces by explaining why the technicalities of cable competition (which was new in the late 90s) called for such a (to me, awful) thing.

And he has amazing taste in actors.  Before you scream “Kim Zimmer” at me, this is the man who gave great actors like Ray Liotta (he grew up on Another World) their show-biz starts.  I used to see him all the time at the New York theater in the 80s scouting talent.  He recognized and relished using superb leading actors like Vicky Wyndham (AW), Beverlee McKinsey (AW and Texas) and Erika Slezak (One Life To Live).

He’s produced soaps for 40 years (two Emmys), moving with the times from style to style.  There were the classic, almost Shakespearean quality of AW (which was soap opera nirvana for the Thinking Fan); the campy, high budget days of OLTL, and even the very early days of GL (before he and those boobs Brown and Esensten poisoned us with the clone story).

Because he moves with the times and is a genuine Thinking Producer, Paul is a great choice for Y&R.  Among other things, the show needs a definitive post-Bill Bell style, since it’s been drifting all over the place since Bill’s death. Y&R is his kind of show: it is rich in dramatic texture and has many sophisticated characters (the Abbots, the Newmans) that are tastefully wealthy.  Although I haven’t seen Paul in years, I’m sure he still approaches his work with all the intensity and meticulous attention a show like Y&R badly needs to stay on top in these troubled, troubled soap times.

Welcome back, Paul!

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...]