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 11: Mucho Macho Man on Bold and Beautiful … Victor Lives Again on Young and Restless … Mourning a Great Actor from General Hospital

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

The Bold and the Beautiful: I’m not going to apologize or use nice words.   My favorite character on B&B is “Dollar” Bill Spencer because he has balls, something almost all the men on this show in its 25-year history have lacked.  Unlike the romantic ping pong balls that have been Ridge and Bill’s son Liam (the biggest wuss of all) Bill has strength and is aggressive.  He’s a manipulator.   Lately, he’s been taking his poor excuse for a son (who spends all his time on earth bouncing between Steffy and  Hope) and trying to make him into a man.  Sure, it’s been weird — he’s forced Liam eat steak and smoke cigars.  But at least someone’s been trying to make Liam strong enough to choose between his two young women and determine his own fate.  Will Bill succeed?  In real life he probably would, but since the ratings are so high for the interminable young triangle, Bill will probably be force-feeding  spinach to Liam in perpetuity.

Don Diamont

With his silver jewelry, sexual swagger and often bared chest, you’d think Bill was a soap joke.   But Don Diamont, who started soap life as Liz’s (Glorina Loring) boytoy on Days of Our Lives three decades ago, makes Bill’s ever-aggressive nervous energy seem quite real.  Let’s face it — soaps are still a women’s medium, (go ahead and write me) and uber strong masculine men are few and far between.  Think usually liberated Marlena is being a bit backward here?  No — forceful people (men and women) make the world go round.   And the soap world too!

The last man of this strength on B&B  was Bill’s father, Bill Spencer Sr., as played  by James Storm at the beginning of the show.   He was the only figure in the show’s history to match la Stephanie in the cojones department. (They were friends.)   It puzzles me, however, how Katie, one of the most intelligent women in soaps, stays married to [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: General Hospital, Bold and Beautiful and Marlena’s Radio Days

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

General Hospital:  Heather! Heather! Heather! That’s practically all the GH audience is seeing this summer.  Last month I praised multi-soap veteran actress Robin Mattson to the sky, placing her very much toward the top of the Soap Villains Hall of Fame (which I made up.)

Now it’s time to praise another GH actress, Lisa LoCicero, who plays Olivia Falconeri. 

But let’s first go back to LoCicero’s daytime debut in 1995, when Marlena was a newspaper columnist. I liked to interview only the best of young actors, and get them early on in their soap tenure. So shortly after LoCicero joined Loving as Jocelyn Roberts Brown (she later graduated to The City in the same role.)  I requested an interview with her because I thought she was so [Read more...]

B&B: Does One Show-Eating Storyline Work?

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

Bradley Bell has been trying a bold soap experiment the last three quarters of a year on The Bold and Beautiful, featuring one storyline, the Hope-Liam-Steffy triangle, almost to the exclusion of most others.  And he’s been succeeding — the ratings are still comparatively healthy. So I ask B&B viewers: are you smothered by this storyline?

I’ve always said you can watch this story with the sound turned off, the soap “types” are so obvious. There’s the blond heroine, Hope (Kim Matula); the dark (and sexy) villainess, Steffy (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), and the boy, er, I mean man they
both love — LiamScott Clifton(Scott Clifton).  Does anyone ever remember a soap character who has been more of a wuss?  (Write in, darlings.)  It’s too bad, because while  Clifton delivers nicely here, he’s an excellent actor who is capable of so much more.

Of course Liam has to be a wuss to swing back and forth between the two women so easily.  But Bell has also done some nice things with this story — the recent beautiful Italian remote, and Steffy’s  scenes full of hot vibes with Liam’s scheming, villainous father (and future lover?)  Bill Spencer. Jr.  (Don Diamont).  Veteran B&B viewers, do you [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...]

Ten Happy Halloween Questions

By Marlena De Lacroix

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

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

Halloween Marlena

MARLENA AND NIGEL’S HALLOWEEN POOCH PARADE

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

The Downward Soap Spiral Accelerates

By Marlena De Lacroix

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

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

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

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

Marlena’s “Only the Bests” List 2008

New Year'sEve clip art

Thinking Fans’ picks and pans for 2008: Cherry Ames pans Todd/Marty as “the foulest story ever” … DSO816 picks the Angie/Jesse reunion … while Marlene agrees GHNS2 set the bar higher for all soaps … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Last year I decided I will no longer do “Best” and “Worst” lists for soaps.  After all, there have been so many “worsts” this year (real life deaths, superstar firings, General Hospital limosex and other tasteless storylines, wasted returns of some soap veterans), why would I want to re-inflict the pain on you?

 So, darlings, here are my “bests.”

General Hospial Night Shift 2 — As I wrote last fall,”If they could bottle this show, they could save soap opera.”  This 2008 soap dared to remember that soap opera is supposed to be about love, compassion, close friendships and the importance [Read more...]