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 5: The Young and the Restless, The Revamp; Reality Shows on Y&R and General Hospital; Gold Medal GH

By Marlena Delacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

The Young and the Restless:  The hardest job in the soap world is being done right now by new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and headwriter Josh Griffith as they revamp Y&R and are rumored to be paring down its expensive cast.  Marlena has always believed it’s not a critic’s job to tell producers what to do; it’s our job to react to it.  Yet, I can’t resist making some observations on the Y&R they are examining right now.

How the hell are Phelps and Griffith going to get rid of any veterans, when the greatest strength of Y&R is its plethora of actors who have been on for decades? Firing any will be an amputation, with the fans just screaming bloody murder even after just one pink slip. Look at how wrenching it was to lose Eileen Davidson as Ashley, who departed Y&R just last week for Days of Our Lives!  Almost all the older vets have proven their worth by improving the awful stories of Ms. Arena Bell and company though their great acting abilities. Examples: 

Peter Bergman

Michelle Stafford

Peter Bergman’s Jack conquering paralysis and his joke of a marriage to Melody Thomas Scott’s  Nikki; Michelle Stafford in the on-going travails of Phyllis; Doug Davidson, bravura as Paul in the father kills son Ricky story, and on and on. For whom will the bell toll?

Caution: cutting or deemphasizing the vets on Y&R would likely kill the show, as it will cause longtime viewers — its core audience — to flee.  Plus, any of these actors can be maintained or saved by improved writing for their characters.

Doug Davidson

Most likely cuts will come from the shorter-termed vets from other shows, like the Genie Francis (totally miscast as scheming Genevieve) and those who have run out of story, like Stephen Nichols (Tucker).  Please don’t cut Debbi Morgan (Harmony) and Darnell Williams (Sarge)!  Each has more than carried over their momentous acting skills from All My Children to Y&R and I’ll cry if they get the sack.

The most effective move would be to punch up or recast most of the young cast, who range from nothing more than ordinary to dreadful.  I have never been a fan of (recent Emmy winner!) Christel Khalil (Lily) and Daniel Goddard (Cane).  Lily and Cane are insipid and I don’t care to see any more about Cane’s past. The relative newbies such as Blake Hood (who plays the newly adult Kyle) and Jessica Heap (who plays Eden) don’t do much for me.  I have a feeling the show will be bringing in [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 4: The Young and the Restless’ Jeanne Cooper Book Reviewed; General Hospital

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

The Young and the Restless:  Like gossip on old movies and TV and the soap opera world? Like to laugh?  Wanna get all the inside whispered into your ear by a great soap opera icon?  Then get yourself a copy of Not Young, Still Restless (HarperCollins) the very frank and entertaining autobiography of 83-year-old Jeanne Cooper, who has starred as Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless since 1973.

Cooper, who was brought up in a modest household in Taft, California, fell in love with theater and became a Hollywood contract player (and later television freelancer) during the 50s, all before she came to Y&R.  She appeared in such movies as The Girl From Wyoming with Maureen O’ Hara (who initially tried to push younger actress Cooper into the background) and Let No Man Be My Epitaph (where she became friends with Shelley Winters.)   For more than  two decades she was a most prolific guest star on primetime shows (from Wagon Train and Perry Mason to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Bracken’s World) getting to really know such stars as Barbara Stanwyck, Raymond Burr and her dear longtime friend, Barbara Hale.

And right off the bat, Cooper tells you who she slept with in those glory days — David Janssen and Robert Taylor (!) were just two. Very quickly you see that the strong woman who survived and thrived in the difficult word of Hollywood had tremendous vulnerabilities, revealed through her running painful description of her love/ hate relationship with her husband, agent and producer Harry Bernsen.  He was a handsome, cheating money moocher, and she eventually divorced him. But their three children (actor Corbin, Collin and Caren) became and remain the lights of her life. What a proud, deeply loving mother she appears to be!  (She now has eight grandchildren in a tight knit family.)

Cooper confesses that The Young and the Restless saved her life.  After her bout with alcoholism, Bill Bell personally sent her to rehab.  Cooper delightfully details all the leading names of the actors and backstagers she’s known through [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 3: The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives

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

The Young and the Restless: Finally a soap does what I’ve long advocated for this era of desperation:  perform a radical life-saving change to save itself.  Y&R has sent in then Marines in the form of new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and new headwriter Josh Griffith. And Marlena says Semper Fi!  Fresh from their triumphs on Hollywood Heights and Phelps’ latest Emmy for Outstanding Show (General Hospital), these two soap vets certainly have just the skills and genuine talent needed to pull Y&R out of its deep pit of, as we French say, ennui.

And already the fans have started flinging tomatoes at the choice of Phelps, who we all took to task for her cooperation with Guza on GH and other foul acts on One Life to Live.  Forgive and forget, Marlena says, because darlings, this is war!  With 30 plus years of continuous executive producing service to five soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live, GH) Phelps certainly has the octane needed to quickly change Y&R.  Similar negative things were predicted when the much skilled and experienced Paul Rauch (whose track record  fans did not love) first came to produce Y&R  a few years ago, and look at what an effective job he did. 

Tony Geary

General Hospital: Marlena is still swooning over the GH scene this week in which Luke and Anna were privately reunited in the hospital after Luke’s taking a bullet for Anna and his long abduction by cray-cray Heather. No crying, screaming or carrying on, it was just a conversation between two mature people revealing their deep romantic feelings for each other without words.  The script said that Anna was questioning Luke about his long abduction by Heather, and later telling him that the arrested Heather said Robin was alive. Yet, bravura Tony Geary and Finola Hughes played the scenes’ subtext — two very adult people (yes!) in love — so quietly and with so much subtlety, the scene was a thing of beauty. Luke spoke slowly and clearly, and in a low voice, while Anna listened, receiving his unspoken love with just a touch of a tear in her eye.   What creativity and worlds of experience these two actors bring to their work!  Whoever thought we could see such adult emotion portrayed so realistically on a soap opera?

This was a wonderful couple of days this week, for we who (try to) watch GH without spoilers. The previous day, insane Heather (surprise!) appeared in the doorway of the cabin in which she held Luke, shooting Luke after Anna (yay girl!) had punched her out and [Read more...]

Introducing “Sunday Reflections”: General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives

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

Sunday is a great time to reflect on what’s happened during the week on soaps. So Marlena happily presents the first of a feature called “Sunday Reflections.

General Hospital: Leave it to this regime at GH to bring in a GQ mobster, Joe Scully Jr., as played by the mighty fine looking Richard Steinmetz (ex-Santa Barbara, Sunset Beach) He’s no Paulie Walnuts or Bobby “Bacalla” from The Sopranos.  I dig Joe’s artfully clipped hair. But what I really like about Joe is that he’s definitely a Brooklyn “des,” “dems” and “does” guy withoutrichart steinmetxhaving to say the actual words “des,” “dems” and “does.” Joe’s is a master liar who usually got away with everything in the past (sound familiar?)  I can hardly wait to see the super melodramatic prison reunion this week between Joe and Kate, the woman he raped long ago. This rape produced a son, obviously Trey, played by slick looker Erik Valdez, an actor I don’t especially like. So that makes a show with how many rapists? Todd, Joe, Luke. And how many murderers walking around? Sonny, Jason, Heather, Johnny. That’s exactly double the number of such criminals GH had under Guza. Sopranos creator David Chase could hardly dreamed up this line-up, no?  Ladies and gents, please no letters on the good looks of Maurice Benard and Steve Burton. I already know.

The Young and the Restless: When a friend tweeted two weeks ago “I can’t believe that I’d be so glad to see Christine again,” I just laughed. Now I agree. Lauralee Bell is demonstrating a wonderful maturity and great passion as she now plays a lawyer who is out to prosecute Phyllis for her long ago hit and run involving herself and Paul on their almost wedding day. Speaking [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...]

The Young and the Restless: When a Good Cliffhanger is Far From Enough

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

I just finished watching Friday’s episode of The Young and the Restless.  Paul discovered  Ricky holding  Eden in his bathroom, his son’s bloody knife held firmly to her throat.  She had  passed out due to hitting her head on the bathtub. When Ricky wouldn’t drop the knife, a shocked  P.I. Paul tearfully aimed his gun at his son, as Ricky

Y&R has been rudderless and boring since Paul Rauch left as co-executive producer. It’s been stuck with an uncreative writing team that should have been sent packing long ago.   Does the perpetual number one soap really have to be so bad, especially now that the death of soaps is in the air?

confessed also to the recent murder of Daisy. Rotten Ricky carried on that Paul was never there for him when he was growing up.  The episode ended as a conflicted-to- the-core Paul was ready to fire.

Pretty good suspense and not bad for a Friday cliffhanger, no? Will the guilt-ridden perpetual good guy Paul really shoot his own son?

But, I know already Paul is going to blow Ricky away, as a cautionary shot to his shoulder accidentally sends Ricky tumbling out the window to his death. You see, last night I read the detailed spoiler for this [Read more...]

What’s to Watch Now?

By Marlena De Lacroix

As the World Turns was over on Friday and at least two dozen of my old soap pals all called or wrote. But what to watch now? If you are still around to watch afternoons, it’s slim pickings.ATWT Days is way too juvenile even to contemplate. Young and Restless is very competent soap opera. But someone help! We’re left with the ABC Daytime line up. Admiring my dog Nigel sleeping on the couch seems to look like better entertainment after a while.

All My Children is boring. Who ever heard of a soap opera without a villain? What happened to Vincent Irizarry (David, who is now really, truly dead). Did he want too

Goodbye, As the Word Turns. But … One Life to Live is boring … General Hospital is boring … All My Children is boring … So what’s to watch now?

much money? No Adam, no David, and JR does not cut it as a first class villain. I could care less about Rebecca Budig. What puzzles me is that a network that is obsessed with shirtless boys (like the indistinguishable Ford boys on One Life to Live) should foist such a middle age frump as Caleb Cooney (the I’m-so-bored-please-pay-me Michael Nouri) on me. Why, Lord, why? By the time Susan Lucci arrives back in town as [Read more...]

Watching Sadism For Thrills: Soaps Are Not Snuff Films!

drowning

By Marlena De Lacroix

Recently I was asked by a fan why I am not posting much anymore. Here’s why: Today on One Life to Live I watched a woman who had just delivered a baby graphically fall through ice and drown.  Not three months ago I had watched a

Does any TPTB on soaps, so desperate for ratings, actually have any moral sense at all, or even THINK anymore?   Do viewers suddenly crave ”the thrill” of watching women die miserably?

woman on General Hospital get her head bashed in with an axe by a teenager, die and be secretly buried in the woods. Soaps are a lot of things, but [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...]