All Hail Friday Cliffhangers!

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

One of the most important and unique of all daytime soap opera conventions is the Friday cliffhanger.   On Friday, at the end of a week’s worth of episodes, either a secret is exposed or something significant happens which creates big suspense, compelling the audience to want to tune in to the show on Monday.  This past Friday, our shows sprung some masterful cliffhangers, propelling viewers to tune in this Monday, which after all is the beginning of February sweeps.

On The Young and the Restless, it was disclosed to Michael that Carmine is still alive, while at the very same time Michael’s son Fen was about to be sentenced on a plea deal for his murder. The Baldwins’ interaction with Carmine, who started it all by having an affair with Lauren, has lasted the last two good years on the show.  Now if Carmine isn’t dead, and Michael and Fen aren’t suspects in his “murder” any longer, what kind of storyline, if any at all, will the Baldwins have?

On The Bold and the Beautiful, looking for a way to keep Brooke away from Ridge, Brooke’s former lover Bill stumbled across some pictures on the internet revealing what exactly Ridge was doing during his year in Paris.  The pictures, which he presented to Brooke, showed Ridge hugging another man while the two grasped a rainbow flag.  Ridge, gay?  Well, that’s a stunner. Kudos to the writers for contriving such apparently unimpeachable evidence of this shocking secret. Could it be a mistake? After all, during more than  twenty-five years on the show, Ridge has always been presented as the most heterosexual of men.  Well, you never know …

On General Hospital, Kiki visited her “grandmother” Heather at the Miscavage Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Only the catatonic blond she saw from the back turned out to be Luke, who had disappeared after confronting the real Heather, who had kidnapped Carly in the Quartermaine stables.  Tracy had just reported Luke missing at the police station. This is quite a shocker and not the most logical of cliffhangers. However, did Heather get Luke into that state and transport him to the insane asylum?   We’ll just have to tune in Monday to see.

The biggest of all Friday cliffhangers, up to which Y&R has been building the last year, might have been ruined by some advance casting news.  As you know Adam and Billy drove off the road after Adam admitted at last to being the hit and run driver who killed Delia. On Friday, Paul and Nick discovered the wrecked car.  Seems one of the car’s occupants –who? — had escaped before the car blew up into a fireball at the end of Friday’s show.

Soap news followers know that Michael Muhney, who plays  Adam, is leaving the show, as is Billy Miller, who plays Billy.  Billy has been recast with actor David Tom, who has played the role in the past. So is Billy is to be the survivor of the wreck ?  What happens to Adam?  Y&R viewers will just have to tune in Monday, and many days after that to find the answer to Adam’s disappearance.

The Young and the Restless: Still the One

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

For the last month or so, The Young and the Restless has been carrying promotional spots celebrating the soap’s 25th anniversary as number one in the ratings.  It is quite an achievement. How did Y&R do it? By being consistently different from other soaps, particularly in its very idiosyncratic story structure.

The pace of the storylines on Y&R is much slower than on any other soaps. It takes forever for things to happen, and especially for secrets to be revealed.  For example, it’s been many months since Sharon lied to Nick, telling him that Summer is not the biological daughter, Jack is.  Too, Chelsea lied to Dylan for her entire pregnancy plus a few months more that the baby was his.  Connor was really fathered by Adam.  And talk about a long time — the oft-interrupted romance between former spouses Nick and Sharon is well into its second decade.

The  idiosyncratic structure of Y&R probably makes this soap very difficult to write. Many of the characters have been around for decades, and their personalities are hard to change to meet story specifications.   For example, how could Victor ever not be a suspicious bastard, never believing what people tell him and causing trouble for others.

Another problem for the writing team is that a lot of characters seem to have a certain fate. For example, neither Adam nor Jack will ever be winners.  Right now Adam seems to be headed to certain imprisonment should the fact that he ran over Delia be exposed. And Jack is a perpetual loser in love.  His latest love, Phyllis, is in a seemingly irreversible coma.

Also challenging the writers is the number of backstage events that must be accommodated for the show to run its course.  For example, last week TMZ revealed that Michael Muhney was accused of sexual harassment and fired.  Thus, Adam must be written off the show, at least for a while until the role is recast.

Further complicating things is the number of departures from the show this year. Billy Miller (Billy) is leaving the show after disagreement over his future contracts, and the role has been recast with David Tom, who used to play the role. Of course, last year Jeanne Cooper (Mrs. Chancellor) died and Michelle Stafford voluntarily left the show, leaving their characters to be written out.

Yet, Y&R continues to succeed, overcoming all roadblocks and remaining number one. Here’s to another twenty years on top! 

Happy New Year: Looking Ahead to 2014

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

Thorsten Kaye: Will he still amaze in 2014?

The new year starts Wednesday, and I have many questions about what’s going to happen on our favorite shows next year. See if you might speculate on the answers, or pose some questions of your own:

1.  How is The Young and the Restless going to fill the terrible holes left by the departures of super talented Billy Miller (Billy) and Michael Muhney (Adam)?   Surely both roles will be recast.

2.  How are General Hospital ’s Patrick and Robin going to react to Sabrina being pregnant with Patrick’s child?  Quite the sticky situation.

3.  When will The Bold and the Beautiful’s Quinn and Donna have the down and dirty catfight they have been leading up to for months?  Both seem to want Eric’s love enough to draw blood to get it.

4.  On Y&R, will Jill ever find out the significance of the music box Katherine left her?

5.  On GH, will A.J. ever find out that he’s clear of Connie’s murder?  And did Ava really do it?

6.  On B&B, will Thorsten Kaye be able to sustain the tremendous acting success he’s already scored on his first few weeks of B&B? My guess, no surprise, is a resounding “Yes!”

7.  Will Spinelli ever come back to GH? Maybe he could return from Portlandia flush with New Age inspiration and open a boutique coffee bar/microbrewery to compete with Kelly’s?

8.  On Y&R, will Dylan ever accept Nikki as his mother? How long will it be until Nikki conquers her biological son’s heart?

9. On B&B, wouldn’t it be neat if Hope rejected both Liam and Wyatt and found herself a new love this year?

10. Sadly, in 2013 we witnessed the faltering of soap opera’s first great digital experiment. All My Children and One Life to Live are gone again, at least for now. Will 2014 bring us any new soaps? As ever; we won’t give up hope.

Moose, Nigel and I join together in wishing you a Happy New Year! 

The Young and the Restless’ Record-Breaking Stunt

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

Yet again … is it right or wrong for a soap to kill off a child?  I led a column with this perennial question several weeks ago when Delia Abbott was killed on The Young and the Restless, reiterating my longstanding opposition to what I regard as a creepy plot device that exploits the worst nightmare of mothers everywhere, many of whom historically form the backbone of soap viewership.

Billy Miller: His Billy carries a crushing burden of guilt

But that’s just me, and as it turns out lots of viewers disagree. There was a tremendous response to the column:  a spike of several thousand hits above the norm here at Marlena De Lacroix:  Soaps for the Thinking Fan, plus almost a hundred letters, breaking at about half pro and half con.  Y&R earned the biggest prize of all: close to a record five million viewers for this most controversial storyline of the year.

It’s hard to argue with such success, so I’ll concede this much: if Y&R had to do this story, at least they did a fine job of it. The writing, acting and production all were first rate. The death of Delia touched almost every character on the canvas. As the grieving mother Chloe, Elizabeth Hendrickson brought tears to the eyes. The grief of the father, Billy (Billy Miller) was made worse by his knowledge that, just prior to the accident,  he had left the child in the car when he went into a store to get some ice cream.  Any parent could relate to his crushing feelings of guilt, expressed so movingly in his later scenes with his hysterical mother Jill (Jess Walton).

The death of Delia brought the leading Abbott family together. Jack and his sisters Ashley (Eileen Davidson) and Tracy (Beth Maitland) came to town. Ashley brought muffins for a scene Y&R watchers have grown to love as tradition:  the Abbott family breakfast.  Jack (Peter Berman) was shown to be the new head of the family, a fact that was remarked upon by Jack’s dead father John (Jerry Douglas), who appeared only to Jack.  The warmth of the family gathering went a long way to assuage the pain of Delia’s death, although the pain will never go away.

And there’s more. Also shown in a great deal of pain was Adam Newman (Michael Muhney), the man who apparently (and up until now secretly) ran over Delia.  He kept this knowledge to himself, even after parts of Delia’s eyes were successfully transplanted to Adam’s newborn, almost blind son, per Chloe and Billy’s permission. Adam hasn’t even been able to enjoy the success of this operation.  All along he has been debating confessing his guilt. This week he may even do so.

Will Adam Newman ever be happy?   Here’s a question that has haunted the character ever since he came to town as the son of Victor and the blind and deceased Hope several years ago.   First he loved and lost Sharon (Sharon Case). Then he loved and lost his wife Chelsea (Melissa Claire Egan).   Now he may go to jail for a decade and miss his son’s growing up years. Adam Newman’s life is perpetually a tragedy. Not as great as the death of Delia, but certainly a story that is ongoing for the recent run of Y&R.  The soulful Michael Muhney has his work cut out for him. Happily for the viewers, he seems to be up to the challenge.    

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. 

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...]