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 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...]

What’s a Daytime Emmy Year Without Complaining? Or Even Watching?

For a full report on the Viva Las Vegas Daytime Emmys, read the post following this one by Marlena’s friend, TV columnist Ed Martin.  But first …

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daytime emmyBy Marlena De Lacroix

Due to a car malfunction, Moose, Nigel and I had to stay away an extra day this past Sunday, (delightfully) stranded in a cabin without a TV.  (I made a fabulous salt-free dinner of Thai noodles with chicken and scallions from scratch.)

And so let it be recorded in anno domani 2010 that  moi,  Marlena De Lacroix, missed the Daytime Emmys.  Marlena, who has never missed watching or attending the daytime awards in thirty years.  Marlena, who first went to the Emmys in 1980 in the old Waldorf Astoria, and flipped when I saw that year winners, Another World‘s Doug Watson and One Life to Live‘s Judith Light, live and in the flesh?  Wow!  What an amazing moment in my career that was.    

You don’t care that I missed watching the 2010 Emmys?  Then why, when I got home, did I find 312 messages on my computer complaining about the Emmys, asking me what I felt, from friends, Romans and [Read more...]

Ten Happy Halloween Questions

By Marlena De Lacroix

1.  Isn’t it most curious that two of the most intelligent women characters in daytime — Dr. Marty Saybrooke on One Life to Live and fashion mogul Jackie M on The Bold and the Beautiful – have gone from brunette to blonde in the last few months?  Fashion, or just another attempt by the networks/shows to “dumb down” smart female characters?  Regardless, Susan Haskell and Lesley Ann-Downe continue to look gorgeous and act with integrity!

2.  The great, the one and only Eric Braeden; my revered and beloved Robin Strasser — am I the only one l who feels used and tired out by … Continued below

Halloween Marlena

MARLENA AND NIGEL’S HALLOWEEN POOCH PARADE

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Continued from above … being drawn into their public contract negotiations?  Sure, they don’t deserve pay cuts!  But can’t they keep the drama and tragedy private?  The press gets [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...]

The Daytime Emmys: Happy At Last

newFor another view of the Daytime Emmys, read the post following this one by Marlena’s longtime friend and colleague Ed Martin.  A veteran TV industry journalist and analyst, Ed is a columnist for JackMyers.com.

By Marlena De Lacroix

From out of a dying soap industry, from out of a cable network I never watch, last night arrived the most unexpected shock of my decades-long soap watching/journalism life: a Daytime Emmys that was pretty good.  Who know that after most of us gave up the fight and moved on to other lives that daytime would finally get what we (the actors, the press, and hopefully the fans) had fought for forever: a Daytime Emmys that wasn’t condescending to daytime soaps!

Hooray!  No soaps-are-stupid jokes!  It’s taken the always awkward Daytime Emmys since 1974 — the year they were first broadcast by themselves – not to make fun of what they’re celebrating.  Even though this year’s ceremony was on 

Best of all, without the traditional sneering and disrespect for soaps, many moments of actual warmth emerged.  It’s called professional showmanship with heart, and the producers of the Emmys this year have it! Yes, yes — emotion — that’s what daytime soaps are all about.  And used to be about. 

such a small scale, it grew large because it finally treated soaps with dignity. They are not, as most people in the world think, and we soap fans know in our hearts – a punch line!

Unlike in past years, the host wasn’t sleazy or smarmy (like Bob Barker) or totally miscast (as Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott unintentionally were [Read more...]

Daytime Emmys 2009: The Beginning of the End?

By Ed Martin 

Watching the 36th annual Daytime Emmy Awards on The CW during the dog days of August confirmed what I already knew: These are dark days indeed for the daypart overall and for soap operas in particular.

It’s not that the telecast was all bad: I actually prefer smaller venues for the Daytime Emmy celebration (the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles for last night’s show, ballrooms at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan during the ceremony’s glory years) and I always enjoy an entertaining opening number at any awards event. (Vanessa Williams‘ reworked-for-daytime rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You was almost as much fun as Neil Patrick Harris‘ surprise closing song at this year’s Tony Awards.) Best of all, in the soap categories the awards were spread over a number of different shows. Only As the World Turns went totally unrewarded during the telecast. (On Saturday it picked up a couple of Creative Arts Emmys, so no soap went home empty handed.)

In fact, I was pleased with most of the winners in the daytime drama categories, from the tie for Outstanding Supporting Actor between the long overdue Vincent Irizarry of All My Children and the very deserving Jeff Branson of Guiding Light to

The biggest disgrace was the rushed tribute to the soon-to-be-terminated Guiding Light, which has already completed production and will have its last telecast in two weeks … The other big bad of the night was the brush-off to The Bold and the Beautiful at night’s end.

the surprise Outstanding Lead Actress win for Susan Haskell of One Life to Live. (Her portrayal of repeat rape victim Marty Saybrooke in the year’s most controversial soap story was consistently riveting.) Even though it would have been [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...]

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...]

Marlena’s “Only the Bests” List 2008

New Year'sEve clip art

Thinking Fans’ picks and pans for 2008: Cherry Ames pans Todd/Marty as “the foulest story ever” … DSO816 picks the Angie/Jesse reunion … while Marlene agrees GHNS2 set the bar higher for all soaps … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Last year I decided I will no longer do “Best” and “Worst” lists for soaps.  After all, there have been so many “worsts” this year (real life deaths, superstar firings, General Hospital limosex and other tasteless storylines, wasted returns of some soap veterans), why would I want to re-inflict the pain on you?

 So, darlings, here are my “bests.”

General Hospial Night Shift 2 — As I wrote last fall,”If they could bottle this show, they could save soap opera.”  This 2008 soap dared to remember that soap opera is supposed to be about love, compassion, close friendships and the importance [Read more...]