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!

Sunday Reflections 19: General Hospital’s Faison and the Tale of the Two Dukes — Preposterous, but a Real Soaps Sweeps Thrill Ride

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

Wasn’t this week’s General Hospital just awesome November sweeps entertainment?  I mean, it wasn’t Doug Marland-esque deep meaningful soap opera but it still was drama that was super exciting, full of shock, suspense and surprise, arising deep out of the soap’s history.  With the return of Faison and Robert, added to the already present Anna and ‘Duke,” GH was again rocking as it did in the show’s golden era.

Anders Hove as Cesar Faison
Evil redux!

Monday’s episode was just sublime when fake Duke whipped off his mask and revealed himself to be … a very, very threatening looking man named Cesar Faison. I missed the Faison years, but still just screamed at the sight of this obviously crazy man.  (They’d never cast anyone who looked like this in daytime these days — unless he whipped off his shirt and had terrific pecs!)  By the end of the episode, however, I saw why actor Anders Hove had been so celebrated in the soap world: he is so great at being just vicious!  His scenes with Robin were just terrifying.  (“Child, I always thought you were too smart for your own good.”)

Also revealed at the end of this episode — thank goodness — was that the real Duke wasn’t dead, just tied to a bed, and that Ian Buchanan will be staying on GH.  A day later, enter Tristan Rogers’ Scorpio to solve the mystery of the two Dukes.  For the rest [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…]

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 Kardashians: A Soap

By Connie Passalacqua Hayman

aka Marlena De Lacroix

Soap starved, I have become obsessed with the Kardashians.  Every day, I can’t wait to see what’s happening with the three sisters whose IQs combined don’t top mine.  But never mind that. Their lives are filled with romance, glamour, strum and drang, not to mention heavy make-up:  things soaps once brought me on a daily basis.  Some days I’m convinced their mother Kris is going to peel off her face, revealing the woman who plays her — Linda Dano!

The Kardashians (E! Television Network, repeated endlessly throughout the week as Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Kim and Kourtney Take New York) have close family ties — a staple of soaps, with [Read more…]

How Prospect Park Can Save Soaps

By Connie Passalacqua Hayman

aka Marlena De Lacroix

In the effort to salve our wounds this summer, the canceled All My Children and One Life to Live sacrificed an essential element of soap opera: believability.  All these people back from the dead simultaneously!  Dixie!  Leo!  Zack!  How are we supposed to buy any kind of reality behind it? On OLTL, the back-from-the-dead tale of the two Todds was explained away by the back-from-the-dead Irene Manning in a backstory so convoluted and fantastical, it might as well have come from the Passions playbook.  I didn’t believe any of it.

As I watched, I was [Read more…]

Au Revoir, All My Children and One Life to Live

By Marlena De Lacroix

Last week I had a nightmare that All My Children and One Life to Live were canceled.  And then the bad dream came true.

But before we wallow in our own  grief, let’s take a moment to remember all the jobs that are being lost — and all the acting careers that are now ending.  So many people out of work!  They are the true victims of ABCamc logo Daytime, the reality shows, and our genre that is now collapsing.  The rest of us will just have to knit.

It’s hard to imagine a life without the daytime icons that have filled the histories of All My Children and One Life to Live.  I’ve lived my life with Erica and Viki, and now I’ll never know if they find forever husbands — or lasting happiness.  People like Tad and Blair and Dorian and Bo have been almost lifelong friends and it’s hard to think what life will be like without them.  

Somehow I can’t see myself making lifelong friends with Mario Batali or Tim Gunn.  Imagine, [Read more…]

Winter Thoughts and a Book Review

By Marlena De Lacroix

Bonjour,  everyone.  Still watching.  I’ve particularly enjoyed One Life to Live‘s sweeps, with the downfall of Clint, and his acid confrontations with that bitch Aubrey.  Pine Valley seems to be emptying out and you have to ask yourself how long Alicia Minshew can carry the show on her boney shoulders.  I’m rooting for Sonny and Brenda  — how many brides and grooms can boast that they’ve both killed people?

As you know, the fare is so limited these days, the snowy afternoon ends much earlier than it used to. So what’s a girl to do?

How about browsing through a good new book on soap opera.  Whether you are a fan or a soap scholar, you’ll enjoy [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…]

All My Children: Daytime’s Brigadoon, But What Happens Next? Part 2

AMC logoBy Marlena De Lacroix

In Part 1 of this column, I used that great 1947 Broadway musical in which a mythical ancient town full of joy and real human goodness reappears and vanishes once a decade as a metaphor for the brief return of Lorraine Broderick as headwriter of All My Children.

Ms. Broderick’s self-chosen short-lived return represented a short sojourn back into a soap opera world that now exists only in memory:   What we’ve seen again in the past three months is the real All My Children – the intelligent, warm, character

My kudos go to ALL the actors of the AMC company who again got to showcase their real skills because they were given great writing.

rich soap we loved since Agnes Nixon created it in 1970 and which existed in that glorious form until 1996.  Sadly, Broderick’s new stint as writer has already ended, but she leaves AMC in [Read more…]