Marlena’s Summer In Review (Part 1)

beagleBy Marlena De Lacroix

What a summer, and it’s not over yet!

Moose and I deeply mourn the loss of my mother, who passed away in April.  This very week we adopted an exquisite beaglePeter Bartlett puppy I’ve named Nigel.  As in Mr. Bartholomew Smythe, the One Life to Live character, played so capably by Peter Bartlett, who has given me so much laughter and joy over the years.  I also watched a lot of soaps this summer, but uncharacteristically (the first time in 30 years) I didn’t feel like writing about them.

I watched the last remnants of my old favorite soap, All My Children, dissolve in front of my eyes. It was once the most idiosyncratic and indivudual of soaps because Agnes Nixon wrote with genuine wisdom, wit and heart that always brought me

Conditions on soaps have to get better when the summer is over! The Emmys, the end of GL, the big 20th anniversary of my old mag, Soap Opera Weekly, are coming up and I’m sure there will be lots of hype and hoopla.

joy. Charles Pratt is writing generically bad soap as if it were Love of Life, Somerset, Sunset Beach, or any other long-cancelled soap.  So how [Read more...]

Ten More Marlena Summer Questions

Thinking Fans’ summer thoughts on this, that and the other: Esther is happy Holly is making an appearance on Guiding Light, and wishes Monti Sharp would come back, too … Steve finds, “The acting from the new younger set on General Hospital is good, but I’m horrified by the misogyny and thug worship in their stories” … while Roger Newcomb is “actually excited about the Daytime Emmys. The producer this year is a lifelong fan of soaps and has produced some pretty classy award shows in the past” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

1.  Isn’t it interesting that both Gigi and Stacy on One Life to Live wore as low as you can go cleavage during their catfight this week?  I mean, those puppies were popping out!  Isn’t it interesting that Brian FronsBrian Frons dogcurrent photo on his Facebook page is that of a big dog sitting in the driver’s seat of a car? (I’m not kidding. Check it out!)

2.  Now that Mary Jane‘s stuffed cat (a.k.a. Kitty) has turned out to be the surprise star of the summer on The Young and the Restless, why hasn’t CBS begun marketing souvenir versions yet? Let me tell ya, city gal Marlena just loves taxidermy …

3.  Hey Bradley Bell, headwriter of The Bold and the Beautiful! Marlena knows what you are doing!  Aren’t you copying your father’s two most successful stories of the 80s at the same time?  That’s the (then wonderful, now nauseating) Brooke-Ridge-Taylor love story and the establishment of a “comic” second family (Jackie M and [Read more...]

Marlena’s Midsummer Night’s Questions

Thinking Fans’ summer thoughts on Destiny et al.:  JTG says Shenell Edmonds’ Destiny is no stereotype. “It’s obvious OLTL’s writers are positioning Destiny as Matthew’s first girlfriend. Most of the time, the stereotypical ’mammy’ character is either sexless or oversexed. That is not the case with Destiny” … while Mike Goldberg confides Destiny has made him a believer again. “I haven’t been interested in teen romance in years” … and more, on many topics. See Comments below.

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sunBy Marlena De Lacroix

Bonjour everyone!  I’ve been taking it easy this summer, staying cool in the pool with my new pooch (see above).  Yet I’m still watching soaps and have a bunch of questions I’d like to ask.  As always, I welcome your comments!

1.  Why hasn’t anyone in the soap press asked major actor John Rubinstein — a Best Actor Tony winner for Children of a Lesser God in 1980 and a million other TV roles, plus being the son of the late piano genius Artur Rubinstein — why he’s playing a minor little part on The Young and the Restless?  His Dr. Taylor is the crooked [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with All My Children’s Melissa Claire Egan

By Damon L. Jacobs

When I interviewed Melissa Claire Egan (Annie Novak Lavery on All My Children) on SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise,” all I kept thinking was, “courage.”  This young woman has the courage to reach inside herself and expose the deepest parts of her soul every dayMelissa Claire Egan in front of her audience and in front of her peers.  She was even brave enough to stand up to the Soap Shrink and my issues with the portrayal of the psychiatric profession on her show!  Please read on to learn how she brings curiosity, depth, and humor to the role we’ve all come to love.

D:  It is such an honor to speak to you!  A few months back, I wrote a column about Annie and what she has been going through over this past year.  As a performer, what is it like for you to portray someone who is severely mentally ill?
M:  It’s been humbling, it’s been exciting, it’s been challenging.  As an actor it’s your ideal.  It’s your dream to be able play something that is difficult or out there.  Luckily the writers did a good job.  They didn’t just suddenly make Annie go crazy.  The way they did it they showed her loss — Ryan leaving her, Ryan falling in love with his ex-wife, Annie miscarrying.  They showed her transition into this craziness, which was helpful for me.  She slowly got worse and worse.  She felt threatened by Greenlee and she felt many things until it

“I’ve learned to believe in myself as an actor.  For any soap it’s such a hard job.  My boyfriend will come home and say, ‘We did six pages today,’ and I’ll say, ‘WE DID FORTY!’ With soaps it’s really easy to be bad, but really hard to be good.”

came into full chaos where she’s stabbing people and showing up delusional and thinking a party is her wedding day.  It’s been great to read a script and say, “How am I going to do this?”  When I read that script with the wedding day dress I said, “Oh no — this can either be ridiculous and laughable or you can watch and say ‘Shoot, she’s messed up, I feel bad for her.’”  A lot of the fan response has been [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with The Young and the Restless’ Elizabeth Hendrickson

By Damon L. Jacobs 

Combine the beauty of Jennifer Garner and the comic timing of Debra Messing and what do you get?  The hysterically entertaining and insightful Elizabeth Hendrickson!  Elizabeth HendricksonDuring SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise,” we talked about her experiences and life lessons learned from mistakes on All My Children and her current run on The Young and the Restless.

D:  What part of yourself are you bringing to Chloe in Y&R these days?
E:  Humor.  I’d say 98% of her humor comes from me.  When I was on All My Children I got really bored with myself.  I came into this job (as Chloe) as literally a blank canvas.  They had absolutely no idea.  They had seen me in something on stage and brought me in to read and they just created this character for me.  So I knew from being on AMC that  when I started Maggie, I didn’t really take control . I didn’t realize that whatever you bring, they use.  Like if you start to eye roll all the time you’ll see “Maggie eye rolls.”  That’s how I found they would write my character, and I didn’t take advantage of that.  So when I came on as Chloe I said, “The world is my oyster.  I’m going to [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with All My Children’s Bobbie Eakes

Thinking Bobans (Bobbie fans) on Ms. Eakes: Says renee, “I’ve become a Boban because of her insightfulness” … and DSO816, “She’s an unheralded and spirited actress” … and Dana Webb, “She is so down to earth and balanced” … and more. See Comments below.  

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By Damon L. Jacobs

Before meeting Bobbie Eakes on SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise,” I knew she had talent, I knew she had beauty, I knew she had an amazing singing voice.  Bobbie EakesWhat I didn’t know was how much humor, intelligence, and self-awareness had contributed to her portrayal of Krystal on All My Children.  In our talk at sea, she she shared life lessons, reflections on a 20-year career in soaps, and why Krystal’s recent behavior makes perfect sense.

D:  So Krystal has had a very hard past year losing her daughter Babe.  How have you approached this as an actress?
B:  Well, at the point she lost Babe I really had not lost anyone that close to me.  But since then I have.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law died within ten days of each other, that was after Babe died.  We were really close to them … I was really close to them.  Loss of a close family member can be so devastating.  I don’t have any children.  So, as an actor you just have to imagine what that would be like to lose a daughter.  People say having a child is the most amazing experience and if you lose a child it’s the worst thing in the world.  So I go on what people tell me.  You put yourself in a state where you imagine what it’s like to go through that.

D:  It seemed like Krystal was trying to numb herself out with pills so she wouldn’t have to go through that.  
B:  Well, that wasn’t her intention, but David Hayward came along and [Read more...]

Depressions and Soaps Don’t Mix

Thinking Fans Comment Update: renee argues, “Soaps have tackled so many great social issues and done them well, but those in charge of soaps today are suspect and will not handle the topic (of  joblessness) with respect” … DSO816 hopefully suggests, “I believe the dramas currently on air can craft timely stories of some characters’ layoffs, but it would have to be balanced, and believable” … while Steve charges, “If they really cared about focusing on the economy, they would try to go back to the escapism that viewers really want to see” … and more. See Comments below.

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monopolyBy Marlena De Lacroix

After I got out of grad school three years ago, I spent the most miserable year of my life looking for a job. Through fifteen interviews (the teaching job I was looking for was very specific), endlessly rewritten resumes and countless rejections, there was only one thing that kept me sane: soap operas.

When I was aching and depressed about my job search, at least I knew I could sit down every day and escape into my favorite shows.  Even though at the time they were not so great (Higley was writing One Life To Live, B&E All My Children and LML The Young and the Restless), the soaps were gthere every day to make me feel safe, to give me something concrete to look forward to.

The last thing I want to see on a soap is moi!   And certainly not me looking for a job or me even knowing there’s a cold cruel depression outside of my warm, warm afternoon TV set.

The far away antics of my fave characters — Dorian, Viki, Big Steph, Ric Lansing, snappy Jack and crazy Gloria — kept me occupied, and, for a while, kept my mind off my troubles. The LAST thing I wanted to see on these shows was anyone who was emulating my life looking for a job.

Now a website called Media Channel quotes Craig Tomashoff, TV Guide’s executive editor, reporting that soaps will be the first [Read more...]

Our Soap Shrink Wonders: Why So Many Bloody Brides?

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Jason laments, “I think the problem with soaps these days is they try to distance themselves from what they should be centered upon, which is love and romance, and turn to violence” … while Deep Dish,  favoring balance, suggests, “I think there’s room enough on soaps for both the traditional romantic weddings as well as the bloody bride interruptus ones” … and more.  See Comments below. 

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BrideBy Damon L. Jacobs

Savvy daytime fans know the value and vindication of the classic soap wedding.  But more and more this great tradition is being replaced with a trend that promotes gore and carnage:  The iconic bloody white wedding dress.

I, for one, fail to see the benefit or payoff for covering our heroines in blood.  It certainly can’t.t be for shock value, since anyone old enough to remember Sissy Spacek in Carrie is no longer surprised by the contrast of innocence and red liquids.  In my opinion, this trend is one of many ways the current shows are sending a message of defiance into the faces of long-term viewers, as this once sacred and uplifting wedding episode is now frequently mired in violence and bloodshed.

And yet I can’t help but wonder how others perceive it.  It used to be that viewers would get to witness a couple spending several years coming together, making up, breaking up, then [Read more...]

Soap February: Blame Executive Malfeasance!

Thinking Fans Comment Update: BL avers, “I have to say the line (on AMC) about how lesbians don’t kiss men was perfect, because why would they?” … Carl posits, “GL has been so much about nasty thugs over the past few years, Phillip’s return is a way to bring a more heroic character back into the spotlight” … while Melanie warns that GH “is on Maxie Overload and needs to quit before there’s a serious Maxie backlash (hello Sonny!)”  … and more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Fans usually blame headwriters when soaps are bad.  But ultimately, the real blame lies with daytime network executives who have the final power of approval over what we see on our screens.  Last month, judging by the very questionable, sometimes downright All My Childrenillogical and nonprofessional quality of the drama I saw on screen, I’d venture to say that these daytime execs (and their publicity and marketing minions) are very sloppy, asleep at the wheel, or just don’t care at all what they put on screen everyday.

She who gets smooched on All My Children

Why present a heavily publicized lesbian wedding if the whole plot leading up to it is going to greatly anger lesbian viewers?  In an earlier column on All My Children‘s headwriter Charles Pratt, I naively got excited over the acting possibilities of a Bianca-Reese-Zack love triangle. I received dozens of letters from female fans who said they didn’t want either gay character to get involved with a man.  D’Oh!  Of course they don’t!

So why did AMC, which knew this already (as proven by having Bianca angrily tell Reese when Bianca broke up the one day marriage that [Read more...]

Ask Marlena: Whatever Happened to the Marlena Awards?

cowardly lionBy Marlena De Lacroix

Hi everyone! I’m ecstatic to be snowed under with the many, many Ask Marlena questions submitted by all of you in the past week.  They are all intelligent and thoughtful and I am so flattered to hear from so many Thinking Fans I’ve gotten to know over the past year. I’m starting with just one great question today, and will try and answer many more in the days ahead. Plus, the letters have given me ideas for new features (see below). Feel free to submit more questions as soap events warrant.

Hey Marlena, I’ve been a fan of yours ever since the very first Critical Condition column in Soap Opera Weekly and I have a (hopefully) great question for the new column.  The month of March used to always mean two things to me:  the (blessed) return of warm weather, and the annual Marlena Awards.  Thankfully, the sun still shines, but questions like “Who was the best stand-alone actor of the year?” and “But who will win the always coveted Marlena Marlena?!” have sadly gone unanswered for years now.  So, my question for you is:  Whither the Marlenas?

Love always,
Brandon (your #1 fan!)

Thanks for remembering, Brandon, dearest darling.  I invented the Marlena Awards because I was so frustrated in the mid-late 90s by how out of the touch the Emmys were with the kind of soap opera [Read more...]