General Hospital: Where is the Love?

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

“Where is the love?”  This is a famous soap world quote from the late beloved headwriter Doug Marland (As the World Turns, etc.) spoken when he used to look at other soaps and find anything but.   This question can now be most fairly asked of General Hospital, once a good soap opera but now nothing more than a bunch of plot manipulations, double crosses and characters with anything else but love on their minds.

Take Franco and Carly, who supposedly “love”  one another.  When minister Lucy asked Franco during the wedding ceremony if he’d take Carly as his wife, he said, “Definitely not.  She’s a lying, cheating whore.”  Franco picked that “romantic”’ moment to disclose that he knows Carly has been cheating all along with her ex-husband Sonny.  Before the ceremony, Carly had accused Franco of hiding the truth that he tapped into her computer while Nicholas was secretly hiding out at their house.

Then there’s Sonny, who supposedly loves Carly.  Who he really loves is himself, and his whole motivation these days has been plotting to keep secret (and not get arrested for) the fact that he killed A.J. Quartermaine for killing his fiancé Connie (Ava really did it).  He has done everything he could to keep the truth from his son Michael (A.J’s biological son.)  He has also plotted to kill Franco who knows he murdered A.J.   Sonny was going to try to frame Heather for the murder of Franco.  But Heather overpowered hitman Sean when she kidnapped and tied up his lady love Jordon.

Will Sonny beat the law this time?  We bet not, as police chief Anna is finally on to the fact that Sonny killed A.J.  We bet he’ll be arrested soon.

Sonny also plotted to kill an expectant Ava as soon as she delivers the baby that is either his or his son Morgan’s.  In a related plot that is anything but a celebration of love, psychotic Nina Clay is now holding Ava hostage and has just injected her with both a paralytic drug and a drug which induces labor.  Nina, in cahoots with her mother Madeline, plans to take Ava’s baby once it is delivered and keep it as her own.   This is to get back at Ava for her long-ago affair with Nina’s husband Silas   There has rarely been a soap opera character who is less full of love as a motive than crazy Nina.

Speaking of, to get Dr. Silas’ current attention away from her, Nina had Madeline seize Danny’s  medical records and change them to look like his leukemia has returned.  What an ugly moment for GH, and especially for poor Danny’s mother Sam!   Silas is finally onto Nina and is now searching for her, as she is holding mother- to-be Ava hostage and injecting her with all kinds of drugs.

General Hospital, where is the love indeed?

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?

Daytime’s Most Famous “Love to Hate” Characters

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

Eric Braeden as Victor Newman: Still Machiavellian after all these years

For any soap opera, a “love to hate” character is money in the bank.  Fascinated by their endless power to manipulate other characters and instigate interesting plots, these diabolical characters are adored by audiences who avidly follow all that they do. 

“Love to hate” characters dot soap opera history and frequently have long lives.  One of the first “love to hate” females was Lisa on As the World Turns, played by Eileen Fulton. Lisa drove her husband Bob and other ATWT characters crazy for decades.  On Another World, the original Rachel, played by Robin Strasser, was a “love to hate” character who evolved into a heroine, subsequently played by Victoria Wyndham. Stasser went on to play another and more famous “love to hate” character, Dorian Lord, on One Life to Live for decades.  Another iconic “love to hate” character, All My Children’s Erica Kane, made famous by Susan Lucci, quickly became the heroine of her show and was beloved for four decades as she stirred up trouble for generations of characters in Pine Valley.

“Love to hate” characters are usually played by women, but there have been some notable exceptions.  On AMC, James Mitchell’s Palmer Cortlandt caused trouble for his daughter Nina for years.   On TheYoung and the Restless, Eric Braeden’s conniving Victor Newman has been the catalyst of many twisted plots for 30 years. And he’s still going strong,mastermindinglots of problems for his children Adam, Nick and Victoria, and causing his wife Nikki to leave him over and over again. (They recently reconciled after Nikki forgave him for hiring a Cassie lookalike to frighten Sharon. But does anyone believe Victor is properly repentant and will change his Machiavellian ways? )

Right now, there are two “love to hate” characters on soaps who are relatively new and fascinating:

Spunky Quinn Fuller (Rena Sofer) came to The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations as a jewelry designer along with her illegitimate son Wyatt.  Since arriving Quinn will do anything to help Wyatt win over the love of Hope Logan, including threatening and torturing Wyatt’s brother Liam, who is also in love with Hope.  This week Quinn even threatened to kill both Wyatt and Hope.  Quinn is so delicious as a “love to hate” character, she’s sure to be with us for a long time.

And on General Hospital, Nina Clay, as played  by Michelle Stafford (who originated and played another “love to hate” character Phyllis Summers Newman on The Young and Restless) has turned out to be a real terror since she came to Port Charles to bust up the romance of her husband Silas and Sam Morgan.  She has even resorted to faking paralysis to get her husband to feel sorry for her and stay with her. In interviews, Stafford has stated that Nina is a sociopath – great news for connoisseurs of “love to hate” characters.   She certainly has a long future ahead as a troublemaker on GH.

So, do you have a favorite baddie, past or present? Please share.

Should Children and Babies Be Killed off on Soap Operas?

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

Jason Thompson and Teresa Castillo as grieving parents

Back in the day … way back, actually … it was unheard of to kill off children, especially babies, on soaps. The traditional audience was, after all, stay at home moms who watched or listened to their soaps while rolling out pie crust or ironing the family laundry.

Today, the taboo has long since been abandoned, though such storylines are still distasteful to many viewers. Thus the dilemma lingers. Though this high stakes plotting has engendered much good drama, some of it award-winning, it’s done at the cost of making at least part of the audience queasy.     

This rule was first broken in the early 60s, when As the World Turns killed off Chucky, Lisa’s son, in a car accident. Others followed. In the late 80s, Laura, Brooke’s daughter, was similarly killed in a very affecting storyline All My Children. Just this year, young Delia also was killed in a car accident on The Young and the Restless, bringing about many nominations for the show in next week’s Daytime Emmys.

The controversy sharpened this month when General Hospital chose for a premature baby, Patrick and Sabrina’s son Gabriel Drake Santiago, to die at the age of barely six months.  The baby was born prematurely after Sabrina and Patrick were run off the road by a bad driver, who this week was revealed to be young Rafe. Sam, a private investigator, is currently investigating to find out who caused the accident.

The storyline has been given lots of time by GH.  Sabrina and Patrick were seen tending to their baby in the ICU for over a month.  The baby’s death led to many dramatic moments, such as when grieving mother Sabrina developed temporary amnesia, not even remembering the death of the baby, and planning her “wedding” to Patrick  (which had taken place seven months prior) the day of the funeral.   The baby’s real funeral is scheduled to take place this week.

Storylines like these, controversial or not, certainly bring out the best in the actors involved.  Jason Thompson, who is always excellent as Patrick, was so good he frequently upstaged Teresa Castillo as Sabrina – quite a feat since she, too, was in top form.  Also excellent in this storyline has been Marc Samuel who plays Teresa’s best friend and moral support Felix.

Yes, yes, I know times have changed. Graphic violence, grisly death and raw treatment of life’s calamities in general, once confined largely to pulp fiction and film noir, now are standard fare on television drama. I get it. Even so, when children are involved … count me among the queasy.

So what do you think?  Is it okay to kill off babies and children on soap operas, or are these storylines just too hard to take?  Drop me a line.

Daytime Emmy Hostess Announced

The hostess of next week’s Daytime Emmys will be Kathy Griffin.  She’s fast and funny should certainly keep the proceedings moving and most entertaining. Indeed, Ms. Griffin is such a draw, she may help the ceremony recoup a good portion of the audience it is certain to lose by moving from television to internet broadcast. I’ll be watching on www.daytimeemmys.org next Saturday, June 21 at 8PM EST. 

An Excruciating Episode of The Young and the Restless

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

Is it right or wrong for a daytime soap opera to kill off a baby or a child?  After all, a large part of the viewing audience is young mothers, and they could find such a sequence unbearable to watch.  After watching little Delia Abbott get hit by a car on Friday’s episode of The Young and the  Restless, I’d likely vote it’s wrong to do such a storyline.

Sophie Pollono as Delia Abbott

Killing off a child provides harrowing drama. But the problem with Friday’s episode was that it was so harrowing, it was thoroughly overwrought and over played. Everything was calculated to make the viewer feel pain.

Billy Abbott (Billy Miller) did what a parent should not do: he left his daughter Delia in the car when he went into a store to buy ice cream.  She opened the door and chased her dog down the road when he hopped out.  Then Adam (or perhaps it was Nikki, who was also out driving that night) came barreling down the road and hit her.

It took almost an entire episode for the ambulance to arrive, during which Billy, alone with his comatose daughter, ruminated over his mistake.  These scenes were unbearable.  Even worse were scenes in which we saw what Billy will likely miss — fantasy scenes of his daughter’s forthcoming (if she is still alive) graduation, wedding, childbirth and grown years in which Billy and daughter operated his restaurant as “Delia and Dad.”

In these treacly scenes (in which Dad kept saying “I love you” over and over) Delia was played by a series of older actresses . Miller soldiered on as an older and older Billy, although the actor was minimally aged.  Each scene was engineered to evoke a tear. I’m sure many viewers couldn’t take the extreme melodrama of a tragically missed future and tuned out.

Meanwhile, Delia’s mother Chloe was shown at the movies, innocently making out with her ex-husband Kevin. On Monday, presumably Delia will die from her injuries.

This is not the first time a baby or a child was killed on a soap opera, but it’s certainly the most extreme. In the 1950s Lisa’s son Chucky was killed on As the World Turns when he was hit by a car.

In the most famous example of a child being killed, little Laura, daughter of Brooke and Tom, was hit by a drunken driver on All My Children.  This storyline at least was done with the cooperation of the real Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and was a critical hit.  It said something powerful about drunk drivers.

But Delia’s accident and impending death so far has been pointless.  All it did was create some excitement on a show that for so long has lacked much.  That is if you could bear watching Friday’s episode.  I breathed a huge sigh of real relief as soon as it was over. 

General Hospital: The Emergence of Ava Jerome, One Intriguing Woman

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

They showed her from her legs up, clad in a drop dead red halter dress.  This week on General Hospital, Ava Jerome was revealed to be the sister of the new power broker in town — Derek Wells. As played by soap veteran William deVry, Derek has a shady past: he really is one of GH’s old mob chiefs.  He was revealed to be the once thought dead Julian Jerome. His “little sister” Ava  has  been in town for a while, gathering power little by little.

Maura West

This reveal was so captivating because it was so well planned. For the past few months, GH has been slowly building up the new central character Ava, as played by daytime superstar Maura West (who became famous playing the wily Carly Tenney on As the World Turns and later the murdered Diane Jenkins on The Young and the Restless.)  Making Ava a central powerful character is a stellar choice by GH because daytime talent doesn’t get any better than West, a very accomplished actress and an expert at playing femme fatales and strong women on soaps.

When Ava came to town, she was a New York art dealer and the mother of Kiki Jerome (played by Kristen Alderson.)  At first Ava was shown to be a conniver, trying to get Kiki to vote her portion of the ELQ stocks with Tracy. Later, Ava was revealed to be the ex of Franco, who was presumably Kiki’s father. (It has since been shown that Silas Clay, another of Ava’s ex’s, is secretly Kiki’s biological father.)

But the GH audience was shown that Ava is much more than all this.  On the one hand she is seen trying to form an alliance with Franco against Tracy, while on the other she is the woman who tried to shoot him, hitting Olivia instead.  Her responsibility for this crime has never been exposed, at least so far. Ava  has been revealed to be an active member of the Jerome crime family, and the spotlight on West as a central GH character is shining even more brightly.

Quite deftly, GH has developed Ava into a very complex character, full of contradictions and mysterious as yet unanswered questions. She’s has become a very intriguing  woman indeed – and much more fun than a conventional heroine.

So, Thinking Fans, what do you think of the Ava as a powerhouse GH character? Are you rooting for or against Ava?  What do you think of West in the role? Discutez, s’il vous plait.

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...]

When All Soaps Are In Lockstep, Is Improvement Possible?

By Marlena De Lacroix

What’s a soap critic to do?  There are only six soaps.  I have a long memory and remember the very early 90s, when Bill Bell originated the homeless storyline with Stephanie, which way proceeded the current one.  Ken Corday is an enemy of free speech; he sought to destroy the critical arm of Soap Opera Weekly years ago. But alas.  The great and ultra creative Jim Reilly is dead and cursed now by Ken and followers.   All that is long ago and distant — to some and those who were not in the daytime world long ago in the first place.

The root of criticism in daytime is executive change.  You call for an executive change when you see a bad soap, a soap that is marked by cronyism, a soap that doesn’t  move, or centers too long on one character or is marked by favoritism or sexism or inside politics.  Yet, all the current headwriters and producers at daytime, as if in a time warp, seem locked into place.  We have Ken, enemy of the First Amendment at Days of Our Lives.  Fronsie eternal at ABC.  All the Bells and the bravura Rauch at Y&RJill and Bob at General Hospital.  They all seem to be [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...]

As the World Turns Stops: Sobs! All Those Afternoons!

ATWT lgo

By Marlena De Lacroix

When I was in high school I was noted for spending my afternoons watching soap operas and eating cole slaw. Decades later, I am sobbing … and I mean real big salty tears … into my slaw as As the World Turns is drawing to a close, heading to 

With the end of As the World Turns, let’s celebrate soaps. Our memories of As the World Turns will never fade, nor will our belief that the strength of the American family will never end.

its final episode Friday, Sept. 17. Last week, I even lay awake worrying about Chris Hughes and whether Reid’s transplanted heart would save his life. I know ATWT‘s life is over.

Sob! All those afternoons … I remember in 1970 when Irna Phillips punished Jane House by having her Elizabeth Stewart fall up the stairs and die because the actress old ATWT 1was appearing nude in the original production of Lenny on Broadway! Who can remember the afternoon when Iva came after Josh when her daughter Lily found out Lily’s father was really her rapist Josh … How come I sob whenever magnificent Kathy Hays as Kim is in a scene advising a younger Oakdaler or hugs Bob over another tragedy (like Nancy’s sudden death last week and the fittingly modest service that didn’t last for weeks). And the always modest but bravura Don Hastings, too. Were you there last week when Chris told Bob he was the finest man he ever knew? Sob! [Read more...]