The Young and the Restless: Marlena says, “You, Sir, Are No Irwin Allen!”

Jess Walton’s Jill has survived the Y&R plane crash

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

It’s way too early to judge the work of The Young and the Restless’ new executive producer Charles Pratt Jr. We’re familiar with his resume (head writer/executive/producer of All My Children, General Hospital, Santa Barbara and Sunset Beach, primetime producer of Melrose Place et al.) But he’s only been on the Y&R  job seven weeks. Even so, there are some early hints: This past week, the controversial Pratt launched four sweeps month stunt plots simultaneously in a snow storm!  Before we discuss them, however, let’s review Y&R’s week-old disaster plot action:

Plane Crash:  A plane flies to Chicago with a secretly blind Neil, his wife Hilary, his son Devon, Jill, Colin, Cane and Lily on board.  Neil announces to all that he is  not blind anymore and he knows Hilary and Devon are in love and having an affair because he secretly witnessed them sleeping together while they  thought Neil was blind. Neil has something undisclosed in his briefcase. Suddenly, the plane crashes and all survive on the ground unharmed except for Hilary, who is severely injured and comatose.  She periodically wakes up.  Devon goes off to find help.  Neal vanishes.

Building Collapse:  At the Undergound, Victor finds out Nikki is drinking again and confronts her.  The building the Underground is in collapses with Victor, Jack, Nikki, Phyllis, Avery, Joe, Nick and Sage trapped inside. In the rubble, all are unharmed except Jack who is severely injured and comatose but who periodically wakes up.  Victor rescues Jack with CPR. Nikki, Phyllis and Avery escape while help arrives.   Victor and Jack are trapped in the basement. A semi-comatose Jack, who has secretly known Victor’s dead son Adam is alive, utters the word “Adam” and Victor knows something crucial is up.

I Know What You Did Last Summer: On Valentine’s Day Abby inexplicably invites Kevin, the young marrieds Summer and Austin along with Mariah, Courtney, Noah and Fen to a cabin in the woods.  Fen secretly spikes the punch. Everyone collapses and then wakes up.  Austin falls out of the armoire, presumably dead.  All are accused, but especially Summer. Abby is suddenly disclosed kissing Austin the night before while Mariah confronts her. Outside, Austin’s body vanishes. The youths convene to discuss what to tell the police. Will they get their story straight? Did Austin fake his own death? Ho hum!

The Towering Inferno:  A fire suddenly breaks out at Lakeview Towers in lovers Chelsea and Billy’s apartment. Chelsea and all believe Chelsea’s late husband  Adam is dead, but the audience knows Adam is alive and secretly masquerading as Gabe. Sage and Adam/Gabe live next store to Billy and Chelsea  but  are absent when the fire starts.   Chelsea escapes with Katie and Johnny. Billy remains in the burning apartment with Connor. Billy is periodically comatose but wakes up.  Adam/Gabe arrives and rescues Connor  but leaves his enemy Billy in the smoke.  Later he returns and rescues Billy.  When last seen, Adam and Billy are escaping the burning building.

Oy vey!  Can you say overkill? The four disaster plots are achingly piled on.  Every daytime soap headwriter interweaves character storylines and hypes them in some shocking manner for sweeps month, but this is way too much of a fun thing.  A great role model for Pratt would be the late, great headwriter Jim Reilly (Days of Our Lives), a master creative genius at stunts, who was always original and never dreamed of doing his vastly entertaining and oft- hilarious sweeps stunt plots more than  one at a time.

Worse I’m incredibly annoyed that Pratt is copying his 2008-9 All My Children debut.  On that show, after his debut under the umbrella of a stunt tornado story, Pratt set the world’s soap stunt record with six, count’em six, starring such characters as Kendall, Bianca and Zach. Pratt’s entire AMC stint was much despised. .

Clearly Pratt’s muse for all of this is the late Irwin Allen, creator such 1970s classics as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, all of them unabashedly cheesy, over-the-top movie fun. His name identifies the disaster movie genre embraced by so many imitators then and since. But even Allen, who pioneered the burning set and the rock and roll camera to simulate thunderous explosions and building collapse, confined his story-telling to one disaster at a time. His formula called for intersecting human dramas of marriages saved and parents and children reconciled played out against the disaster du jour, in a world saved ultimately by heroic first responders and the selfless sacrifice of military personnel who die trying to save people.

Sentimental, exciting, romantic, heart-warming and even a bit tear-jerky. Pratt provides dollops of all these elements, and evidently the stew is tasty to some viewers – he did well in the coveted 18-34 ratings category two weeks ago.

But for moi, a soap must have some grounding in real life to be believable, and these unoriginal plots don’t make it. Pratt throws in everything including the kitchen sink, much of it disconnected and out of the blue. For example, this week, apropos of nothing, Police assistant Kevin in the cabin plot revealed he is also a short story writer who has written a story with a murder scenario that is similar to Austin’s death.   What?

Even worse is the fact that these multiple disaster plots are being produced by Jill Farren Phelps, who has done swell sweeps plots on six soaps. (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live, General Hospital and Y&R ).  Her 35 year soap career is a soap phenomenon!   While some dislike her, I’ve always admired Phelps, if not all her plots. It is she who hired Pratt for Y&R after working with him on GH.  Phelps often has exquisite taste in her hires. Time will tell if this is one of those times.

Beside Phelps, what also redeems poorly written plots like these is the high quality of the actors and the production crew. Y&R has always had some of the best!   The sets, particularly the plane crash and building collapse, are wonderfully Irwin Allen-esque.  But the disaster plots are not at all organic to past or present Y&R, as created and headwritten by the late Bill Bell, who would NEVER do stunt plots, though some have been tried since he stepped down from the show in 1998.

Overall plot-saving kudos have to go to the actors, most of whom are longtime Y&R veterans and soap superstars like Peter Bergman, Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott who play Jack, Victor and Nikki in the building collapse plot.  I’d also like to single out Kristoff St. John who is always great as Neil, but has been dynamite here and in his entire blind, wife Hilary unfaithful to Neil with his son Devon, plot.  The work of longtime vets like these and Tristan Rogers (Colin) and Jill (Jess Walton) in the plane crash plot, or Joshua  Morrow (Nick) and Gina Tognoni (Phyllis) also in the building collapse plot, or Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) in the Towering Inferno plot, make Pratt’s stale disaster stunt plots more  palatable.

And so this week the building collapse and plane crash aftermath go on.  Will I be watching?  Yes, I can’t take my eyes off Pratt’s own four-ring circus of disaster stunt plots. They are that bad,  By the end of his entire Y&R stint, will I have to ask if has there ever been a daytime headwriter who is as creatively impoverished as Pratt?   Hope not for all our sakes!

Many Questions As a New Headwriter Comes to The Young and the Restless

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

Christian LeBlanc, too good to waste

The Young and the Restless is getting a new headwriter. He is veteran Chuck Pratt, who wrote for Santa Barbara, General Hospital, and All My Children, amassing an uneven record with enough successes to give Y&R fans hope for improvement of their show. Anything is likely to be better than what has been happening on Y&R.  To put it mildly, the show hasn’t been very entertaining lately because so many storylines have left viewers scratching their heads. I count four ill-conceived tangles in the plot department that desperately need to be fixed.

Whose idea was it to stage a gigantic weeks-long catfight between Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) and Kelly (Cady McClain) over Jack (Peter Bergman)?   As you know, Kelly was living with Jack when Phyllis came out of her year-long hospital stay in a coma in France, came back to Genoa City and  promptly reclaimed her man.  Since then Phyllis has done all sorts of crazy things to torture and trick Kelly, including slapping her and luring her into a hotel room ambush while Jack, that wimp, stood passively by. It’s just a garden variety clichéd exercise in two women clawing at each other over a man – a storyline is so sexist it’s offensive to any thinking woman.

Then there’s the yucky storyline in which Devon (Bryton James) is romancing his blind father Neil’s wife Hilary (Mishael Morgan), and has had sex more than once with her. All the while, Devon is  telling his father stories of a made-up girlfriend.  Neil (Kristoff St. John) was blinded by electrocution while renovating the house he bought to surprise Hilary. But Devon and Hilary’s deception may be undone: lately, Neal is seeing beams of light and is beginning to doubt his son’s accounts of the pretend squeeze. Whose twisted idea was this, anyway? This storyline can only end badly, perhaps in tragedy.

Then there’s Michael, who got a diagnosis of prostate cancer and withheld the knowledge of it for weeks from his wife Lauren, confiding only in his brother Kevin.  What kind of man does this?  Christian LeBlanc plays this sensitive soul masterfully and is wasted on this kind of folly. Michael is very much in love with and close to Lauren (Tracy Bregman). But having him keep this secret from her is jarringly out of character.   I guess you have to give Y&R points for doing a prostate cancer storyline (which I can’t recall ever being done on daytime before).  But how will this storyline end?  Will Michael die because the cancer has spread because of his failure to take action?  Yikes!  Many times Emmy nominated Leblanc is too valuable to Y&R to lose him.

Then there’s perennially alcoholic Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) who is proud of the fact that she hasn’t had a drink since Thanksgiving.  So, why, why, why does she keep a bottle of liquor and a glass permanently on display in the Newman living room?  All she does is endlessly stare at it. No real recovering alcoholic would do this. Of course, husband Victor (Eric Braeden) is obnoxious enough to drive any woman to drink, but Nikki has put up with him through all these years and through many marriages. Just for the heck of it,  (“It’s business’) Victor has seized control of the district which houses Nikki’s son Dylan’s (Steve Burton) coffee house Crimson Lights and wants to tear it down.   Nikki is furious at him. But will she leave Victor once again? Will she again succumb to the bottle’s lure? What do you think?

We’re rooting for you, Chuck. Get this once reliable vehicle out of the mud and on the road again. 

 

Heavenly November Sweeps Performances on The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital

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

It’s been quite an eventful November sweeps so far.  Stories built over the course of a year or more usually reach their apexes if not their conclusions  over sweeps months (February, May, November) and writers plot their most dramatic action to stretch over these months.   This November’s star plots on The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital varied in quality but mostly  offered actors who pulled out all the stops and gave their best, sometimes Emmy-worthy performances during the month. Let’s partake of the feast:

The Young and the Restless — This was finally the month that Sharon’s long held secret – that she had switched the DNA results and Summer was really Nick’s biological daughter, not Jack’s as all had believed for the last year — was disclosed.  It was Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) who forced Sharon (Sharon Case) to disclose her lie on the very staircase where Phyllis had taken a fall, resulting in a coma that lasted a year. Tognoni (once Kelly on One Life to Live) was particularly forceful here, full of rage and tears, all aimed at Sharon.  Also giving a fine and very affecting  performance was Peter Bergman, whose Jack tearfully and shockingly found out that Summer wasn’t his natural daughter after all.

The Bold and the Beautiful — This is the month Eric picked his successor as CEO of Forrester Fashions.  His first choice was his son Ridge — until model Maya disclosed at a board meeting that Ridge had been kissing his sister-in-law and design collaborator, Caroline, who is Rick’s wife on the sly.  Jacob Young gave a particularly sympathetic and believable performance full of great depth as the betrayed Rick, as did Linsey Godfrey as the shattered Caroline.  Thorsten Kaye showed what a bastard normally good guy sly Ridge could be by brushing off responsibility for his amorous action.  Rick was finally chosen CEO.

General Hospital GH took us through several weeks when secrets were disclosed all over the place.   Roger Howarth was just delicious as Franco exposed his bride Carly mid-wedding ceremony as a cheat and a liar.  Carly had covered up the fact that Sonny killed his adopted son’s natural father A.J.  Laura Wright was extremely harrowing as the betrayed Carly, as was the even more betrayed and shocked Michael.  Chad Duell has been giving the performance of his GH career in this plot denouement   Also very good has been the always dependable  Robin Mattson, whose escaped criminal mental patient  Heather got mixed up in the almost wedding and held several characters including  Jordan and Sean hostage.  But best of all was long time acting couple Finola Hughes and Ian Buchanan, as police chief Anna had to arrest her lover Duke for covering up Sonny’s presence at A.J.’s murder.  These two actors always shine together, but were particularly effective and heavenly here.

And November sweeps isn’t even half over yet.

I’m Ba-a-ack – Not Quite from the Dead, but Almost!

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

Sorry for the prolonged absence of late. I’ll spare you the gruesome details of a medical issue that finally kept the entire gastroenterology department of a major New York City hospital in high gear for one long day. I’m on the road to recovery now, thanks to a team of superb doctors, one guardian angel nurse and one magnificent husband, and happy to be back at the keyboard.

Through it all, I continued to watch soaps, of course.  All of you would have done the same, n’est pas?  We can’t let a little pain in the gut stand between us and our shows, now can we? So let’s play a little catch up:

The Young and the Restless.  I am not surprised that Nick and Sharon are not married yet. If they did succeed, there wouldn’t be much of a soap opera would there?  After all, they’ve been breaking up and making up for twenty years! …  Gina Tognoni has made an auspicious debut as Phyllis.  Many of her scenes have little dialogue, yet Tognoni can express a variety of fearful ad particularly bewildered expressions well. …  I have no doubt Victoria will deliver her baby soon; I don’t know how she can go on not knowing who the biological  father is (Billy her ex, or maybe Stitch, in my view her one true love). … Because Niki isn’t as strong as she thinks she is, she’s fallen off the wagon occasionally.  … I particularly like Meredith Baxter as her friend Maureen. She has a certain vivaciousness and intelligence that adds a lot to Y&R.  I think it has been particularly wise that they have made her the mother to Stitch and Kelly.

The Bold and the Beautiful carries on with the most consistent storylines on soaps.  It was finally revealed — much to my surprise – that Hope’s true love is Liam, although she can’t have him because she’s married to Wyatt, by whom she is already pregnant by him.  Liam to me has always been very spoiled and full of himself.  I’ve much preferred Wyatt’s boyish charm.  Wyatt’s biggest problem is his mother Quinn. To me, Rena Sofer is the most charming performer on soaps right now as Quinn has a bit of the devil in her and will never change. … Speaking of never changing, do you think Brooke and Bill will ever get married? They come near Liam and Hope for number of weddings that almost happened but never really did.

General Hospital really disappoints me.  The show seems to write for characters it cares about and leaves many others idle and undeveloped. …  Nina is way overdone, although I think Michelle Stafford is definitely giving an Emmy-winning performance. … Sonny and Carly continue to cheat behind Franco’s back, making him seem like a total fool.  … Although I like Billy Miller, I’m not crazy that Jason is back. He never paid for anything he did on the show, ever. … I like the romance between Maxie and Nathan. Kirsten Storms is adorable and Ryan Peavey is by far the most attractive male on the show. …  All in all, G&H off its game is interfering with my convalescence. It’s always been the stellar attraction of my afternoon, and I want it to be so again.

By the way, illness makes one reflect a lot more than one would otherwise. So lately I’ve been thinking about how much it means to me that I’ve spent nearly twenty-five years as Marlena De Lacroix. First, I’d like to thank all off you out there for your loyalty and steady and always thoughtful correspondence.   I’ve gotten to know so many of you well over the years.

 As the twenty-fifth anniversary of Marlena is coming up at the end of November I have a special request of all of you.  Help me think of a special way to celebrate!   Send me your ideas and wishes and we’ll come up with a remarkable way to mark the anniversary. Meanwhile, I’ll try to feel better and I hope you’ll be thinking and praying for me as I think about you. 

General Hospital: The Antics of the Fiercely Driven Nina Clay

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

Michelle Stafford: Her Nina has scores aplenty to settle (photo from michaelfairmansoaps.com)

For the last year, General Hospital has certainly been a place for strong women.  The free-wheeling and combative Carly Jacks (Laura Wright), who will take no lip from the bullying Sonny, is a longtime resident. She’s been joined of late by shoot-from-the-hip Ava Jerome (Maura West), who came to town and took no prisoners.

Even stronger is the town’s newest resident, the vengeful shrew Nina Clay (played by soap superstar Michelle Stafford, who originated the role of Phyllis Summers Newman on The Young and the Restless.)

The roots of her relentless quest for comeuppance run deep. Twenty years ago, she was carrying her husband Silas’ baby when she discovered that he was cheating on her with Ava.  Nina’s mother forced a miscarriage by tricking her into taking a big dose of antidepressants, putting Nina into a coma that lasted 20 years.  After waking up this year, her hunger for revenge has been insatiable. She demands nothing less than the return of everything that was hers, and tin the process exact justice on everyone who comes into her path.

Her first order of business was to separate Silas from his current love, private investigator Sam Morgan.  She did this by drugging Silas and having Sam see him making out with her on a couch in their apartment.  Later she managed to sleep with Silas.  All along, Sam has felt Nina is somehow misleading Silas and she’s right. Nina has been faking the paralysis that supposedly has relegated her to a wheelchair.  Only her loyal nurse Rosalie knows it is all a fake.

At the same time, Nina has worked at getting involved with other Port Charles residents.  She befriended art therapist Franco on her visits to General Hospital for physical therapy, all the better to tell Franco she overheard Carly and Sonny discussing a kiss he had bestowed on her.  Of course, Carly later cheated on Franco with Sonny but got away with it.

Nina is among the most determined characters ever to appear on soap opera.  What an agenda she has! She says she doesn’t know the meaning of the word “can’t.” Right now, she’s maintaining a list of people she’d like to harm or get back at.  On that list is the pregnant Ava (whose baby she would eventually like to kidnap) and also Ava and Silas’s daughter Kiki.  Recently, Nina made Rosalie vow that she would wrest Michael, Kiki’s fiancé away from Kiki.

Will Nina Clay get all she wants?  Most likely.

Stafford plays her with a fierce determination that veers close to but never crosses into the realm of camp.  As Nina, Stafford is a cinch for another Emmy, an award she has already won for playing Phyllis on Y&R.   All we have to do is sit back and enjoy the antics of Nina Clay, the strongest woman in Port Charles and perhaps all of daytime soap opera history.

The Young and the Restless: And They Call the Double Mariah

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

Camryn Grimes: Mariah, or the ghost of Cassie?

Bringing back an actor who played a character now dead can be tricky.  The options are to bring the character back from the dead or create a double, commonly in the person of a long lost twin.

On The Young and the Restless, the dead character of Cassie, the daughter of Nick and Sharon, has been “resurrected” over the last year as Mariah, who this month, among several awkward plot twists,  has been revealed to be Cassie’s twin.  (Both Cassie and Mariah have been played by Camryn Grimes).

Mariah first came to town hired by Victor to impersonate the late Cassie and thus spook Sharon, and to get her to disclose her long buried secret that Summer is really Nick’s daughter, not Jack’s.  In an unintended consequence, Sharon went into a motherly swoon over her dead daughter’s doppelganger and adopted her to be her own, taking her home to live with her and Nick.

Mariah repaid Sharon’s affection by betraying her. In a very icky twist, Mariah developed a crush on Nick and one afternoon came down the stairs in lingerie, expecting him but finding Sharon instead. The disillusioned Sharon threw Mariah out, but too late!  Nick had just found out through some investigative work that Mariah was indeed Cassie’s twin, born to 16-year-old Sharon while she was unconscious.  Mariah was brought up by an unloving baby nurse named Helen Copeland and her father figure, cult leader Ian Ward.

Back in up a bit, when Victor hired Mariah, she was still in the clutches of the evil Ian and Helen. Ian had been out to get possession of Mariah and her grandmother Nikki since he seduced Nikki as a young cult follower.  So last week he kidnapped Mariah, and in another icky twist dressed her in a wedding gown, got her drunk and married her.  An inebriated Mariah even signed wedding papers.  Meanwhile Nick and Sharon found Mariah in Ian’s storage unit.  When last seen, Ian was headed to Nikki’s to either harm her or pick up a pay-off.

This tangled plot has been suspenseful if only to answer the question of why Mariah has Cassie’s face.  As the creepy Ian ward, Ray Wise has managed to be both conciliatory and creepy. And as always Sharon and Nick have had something big to fret over.

Will Mariah escaped all this unscathed and will she be able to be successfully reunited with her natural parents?  Will Sharon’s secret be exposed?   Can this storyline get any more complicated? My guess is, of course it can.

Charm, Romance or Not

Very rarely does a couple come forward who are truly charming whether they are romantically involved or not.  On The Bold and the Beautiful, not romantically involved but charmingly up to no good are Quinn Fuller (Rena Sofer) and Deacon Sharpe (Sean Kanan). Their scheme is to pul apart the engaged couple Bill and Brooke, who each wants for their own.

The actors, Sofer and Kanan are quite good together and are incidentally both veterans of General Hospital where Sofer played Lois and Kanan played A.J. Quartermaine. Carrying on admirably on B&B, their chemistry is true and they are always entertaining.

Oh No, Not Again! On General Hospital, Sonny and Carly Redux

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

Carly and Sonny: The heart wants what the heart wants, with pepperoni and extra cheese

Soaps rarely go backward.  So it was a big surprise this week on General Hospital when resident baddies Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) and Carly Jacks (Laura Wright) slept together again. Carly’s love Franco was stuck for the night in a hospital elevator with Nina when Sonny showed up at Carly’s house with a pizza — and so much more.

Carly and Sonny’s history stretches back nearly twenty years. They have been married to each other four times and have two sons — Michael (whose biological father is the late A.J. Quatermaine, but was raised by Sonny) and Morgan. In between marriages and other periods of togetherness, both Carly and Sonny have been involved with others.

Sonny went with Connie Falconeri before she was murdered and was last seen with her cousin Olivia, before the two amicably broke up just last week.

Meanwhile, Carly has been involved with Franco, who had a long sociopathic past all his own before he was operated on recently for a brain tumor, which suddenly transformed him into a benign art therapist at the hospital. Sonny’s irresistible late night pizza delivery notwithstanding, Carly still claims to love Franco, who came home from being stuck in the elevator and almost found Sonny in bed with Carly. But through a series of improbably lucky circumstances  Carly got away with it. But still …

Is there an ulterior motive in this sudden Sonny-Carly rematch?  After all, Franco knows the secret that Sonny murdered A.J. and if Franco turns him in, Sonny could go to jail. This being a soap with Sonny a central character, taking him out of the action for a long time seems highly unlikely.

But in the interim, the latest Carly-Sonny rematch is underway. Is this good news or bad? What do you think?  

Too-sweet Young Love on The Young and the Restless

The most sickeningly sweet new couple daytime are the newly married Summer Newman (Hunter King)  and Austin Travers (Matthew Atkinson). I simply can’t stand their fake billing and cooing and endless making eyes at each other.

Summer met Austin when he was a cameraman on Summer’s Aunt Avery’s cooking show.  At the time Austin was planning to kidnap and kill Avery, an attorney who had gotten Austin’s mother’s killer off a previous jail stint.  Austin and Summer fell in love, but not before Austin mistakenly shot Paul the police captain in the kidnapping attempt.

Serious business, kidnapping and attempted murder. But never fear, young lovers. The generous Paul agreed to a plea deal in which Austin doesn’t have to go to jail for his evil deeds. Not in any real court, of course, but this is soap opera. We get it. Our problem is, now we’re stuck with this cloying couple, probably for the duration. Ick!

The Young and the Restless: Can Nikki Resist Falling Off the Wagon Again?

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

Melody Thomas Scott: Will Nikki stay sober?

The vodka martini stands alone at the bar waiting to be sipped.  The well-dressed older blonde woman stands next to it, looking hard at the beguiling beverage. Her face tells us she’s fighting the fight every recovering alcoholic fights countless times. She wins  this round, walking away, leaving the martini untouched.

But how much longer can The Young and the Restless’  Nikki Newman resist the siren song of alcohol? The classic Alcoholics Anonymous slogan “One Day at a Time” could have been written for her. A lifelong alcoholic, she is always vulnerable to drink, and falls off the wagon when the pressure is strong enough.

Lately, the pressure has been very strong — the public revelation that she mothered Dylan McAvoy as a young girl when she was a member of a cult led by Ian Ward. Although she was having an affair with Ian, her baby turned out to be fathered by her friend Paul Williams.  Ian even sued Nikki for emotional distress for passing off  Dylan as his son.  Although the case was dismissed, the trauma sent Nikki to an AA meeting, where she told her story to sympathetic ears. Ian swore that getting Nikki back on the sauce would be his revenge.

As portrayed with tenderness and torment by Melody Thomas Scott, Nikki’s great vulnerability to the temptation to drink under pressure has made her a very popular character over the last 30 years.  Will Nikki’s  inner strength be great enough to carry her over the hurdles of temptation that keep on coming? 

It’s an ongoing question that will get a powerful challenge in the upcoming fall season. A new cast member will be joining Y&R. She is primetime star Meredith Baxter, who will play Nikki’s “drinking buddy” Maureen for a few months. Is Maureen also the mother of Kelly and Stich? Can Nikki survive a major dose of this alcohol-soaked “friendship”?

General Hospital’s Chemistry Tests

You never know when two actors are going to hit it off.  General Hospital has been experimenting with several interesting pairs lately.

Lisa LoCicero and Wally Kurth are being paired as Olivia and Ned to quite the charming effect.  Recently after some drinks they watched TV in a hotel room, where Ned had to warn Olivia against a very bad joke — drunk-dialing an animal shelter to inquire about an adoption. Happily, when she sobered up she was mortified that she’d done something stupid.

Another attention-getting couple is Michelle Stafford and Roger Howarth, who have been given a few funny and charming scenes lately in which the unlikely couple Nina Clay and Franco build a friendship.   Both Stafford and Howarth are noted for playing bad characters and their pairing is an interesting face off.  Of course Franco’s girlfriend Carly doesn’t like it.

Most enjoyable, too, are Maura West as Ava  and Tony Geary as Luke, seen skyping Carly’s bid for the job of evil drug-dealing Luke’s underboss. What a treat it is to watch two soap superstars at work and play. Or perhaps I should say, work they make look like play!

Do You Root For or Against Them?

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

Hunter King’s Summer Newman: good intentions, bad choices

Soap roles can conform strictly to type: heroes and heroines we root for and villains and villainesses we root against.  Happily, however, most soap casts are big enough to include characters who do not conform to type. These off-beat characters have personalities drawn in various shades of gray, and as such make their soaps immensely more vivid and engaging.

Here’s a quartet of soap characters who defy who defy clear “good guy” and “bad guy” labels. Do you root for or against them?

Summer Newman, The Young and the Restless (played by Hunter King).  Depending on how you look at her, Summer is either a sweet young heroine or a mixed up young girl who is dumber than a box of rocks.  As the biological daughter of Nick (Jack thinks wrongfully he is her father) she always finds herself in lots of trouble. Last summer she came under the influence of con man Ian. Recently she bailed out and married Austin, a young man who mistakenly shot Chief of Police Paul while trying to kidnap Avery.  She means well, but do good intentions always excuse bad choices? Will Summer be left alone while Austin goes to jail?

Hilary Curtis, Y&R, The Young and the Restless (played by Mishael Morgan).     Hilary originally appeared as a villainess who tried to come between Lily and Cain.  Then, Devon fell in love with her as did his father Neil, who managed to marry her.  Recently newlywed Hilary and Devon were caught by Cain as they were about to make love in the laundry closet.   Now, do you root for or against Hilary?

Maya Avant, The Bold and the Beautiful (played by Karla Mosley).    Is Maya a hero or a villainess?.  She came to town and was engaged to Rick but broke that off and he married Caroline. Meanwhile, she became engaged to Carter.  Recently, she unsuccessfully propositioned Rick in the steam room  and tape recorded Oliver’s confession that he initially was attracted to Aly because of her Forrester name.   Is Maya to be trusted?

Maxie Jones, General Hospital (played by Kirsten Storms).  Maxie was born on the show, and we’re supposed to root for her.  However, it’s hard because she has done many stupid things, like pass off her own biological daughter as Lula and Dante’s.  Recently Maxie has gotten herself all involved with muscle bound Aussie Levi, although she clearly is falling in love with Nathan. Isn’t Maxie making it harder and harder to root for her?

 

Character Actors Add Much Needed Character To Soaps

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

Bergen Williams as truth-telling Alice Gunderson on General Hospital

Soap stories, most of which are about romance and love triangles, do tend to get repetitive.  Adding variety and spice to this formula are character roles, which do a lot to make soaps more interesting.  These characters often provide comic relief and serve as “talk tos” for the main characters.

Colorful and amusing character parts have enriched soaps since the beginning.

On Another World in the 70s, Anne Meacham as Iris’s assistant Louise Goddard always drew laughs when she talked to plants about  the show’s tangled plots, “confiding” in the greenery in a deep, soothing voice. In the 80s, Brent Collins on AW  was memorable as Felicia Gallant’s wise-cracking sidekick.  (A versatile actor, he also played the evil, unfunny Mr. Big on As the World Turns.)  At the same time on Days of Our Lives,  Arleen Sorkin and  John DeLancie served as comic foils to leads Marlena and Roman – Arleen as the ditzy blond  Calliope and John as the stuffed shirt Eugene.  Meanwhile, on All My Children, the country-fried Opal (Dorothy Lyman, Jill  Larson) was the talk-to for Erica, and was so popular she became a main character.

Now more than ever, today’s meager menu of four soaps needs to be made tastier by the addition of the adroit services of stellar character actors:

All the goings-on at The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations are comically commented on by Pam (Ally Mills) and her boyfriend Charlie (Dick Christie), turning the office staff into an irreverent Greek chorus. Often they “get” what’s happening before the main characters do. Pam, you may recall, was first to catch on to how crazy Quinn is.

A fine example of comic acting was on display just this month as Ilene Kristen guested on General Hospital as her old  Ryan’s Hope character Delia Reid Ryan, her patented kookiness undiminished by the passing years,  Delia, in a real stroke of writing brilliance, was revealed to be the mother of  Ava (Maura West).  Like mother like daughter — both are conniving  and mocking. This time Delia came to stay with pregnant Ava and her baby daddy Sonny and wound up busting into Sonny’s safe before she was escorted out of town by Sean.

Another comic character that is much beloved by the GH audience is Alice Gunderson (Bergen Williams), the truth-telling wrestler and former Quartermaine maid who is now a real thorn in the side of Tracy.  Alice is on to the fact that Tracy is trying to secretly take over ELQ, the family business.  Recently Alice proved she really does have a heart by having a heart attack, and now needs a heart transplant to save her life.

Speaking of thorns, a shining example of tour de force character acting is now being offered by Ray Wise, whose seductive con man Ian Ward is now a thorn in the sides of many Genoa City residents on The Young and the Restless.   Right now, he’s suing Nikki for emotional disturbance (!) because she lied and told him he was Dylan’s biological father. In this storyline, Wise has been particularly well paired with Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) and Eric Braeden, who plays Nikki’s exasperated and combative  husband Victor.

 These are some of my faves. Who are yours?