Is Bold and Beautiful Best Soap?

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

Kimberly Matula: Her Hope stands on her own these days.

With only four daytime soaps left, it seems fruitless to name a Best Soap. It’s all a matter of personal preference anyway.  If you like your soaps slow and full of character, you like The Young and the Restless.  If you like your plots fast and full of surprises, General Hospital  is the soap for you.  Days of Our Lives is traditional soap, full of great twists and turns.

But there is one soap now that is undoubtedly the most consistently excellent — that’s The Bold and the Beautiful.  Ever since Rick settled down with Caroline, there hasn’t been a bum storyline.  Sure, the show is only a half hour and it features only two main storylines.  But both are quite good and full of suspense and interest.

B&B is very fortunate that their “young” storyline works.  Step-brothers Liam and Wyatt’s contest for the love of young Hope (Kimberly Matula) is one that seems to change every single day.  Liam is a bit full of himself and Wyatt is full of charm.  But Hope is remarkably mature, and is making a great show of the fact that she can stand on her own these days.  After all, she has a great career as head of the “Hope for the Future” line at Forrester Fashions.   All three characters in this triangle are strong and attractive.   Hope can most likely keep on bouncing between Liam and Wyatt in a storyline without end. And most likely she will!

The Brooke-Bill-Katie triangle has been a real winner for the show since it was established last year.  Forbidden (now ex) lovers Brooke and Bill are very sexy together and of course Katie (Brooke’s sister and Bill’s wife) suffers better than anyone on daytime television.  But it’s the latest addition to the triangle, Brooke’s long absentee husband Ridge, which promises great excitement in the new year.

We’ve already noted that Thorsten Kaye is terrific in the role of Ridge.  What was unexpected was how much potential his genuine acting ability has added to the show and the storyline he is in.  He’s brought out a new tenderness in Katherine Kelly Lang’s Brooke, and is just brilliant with multiple Emmy winner Heather Tom’s Katie.  It’s just been inferred in the storyline that Ridge may be interested in Katie.  What a complex, complicated, not to mention superbly-acted four-way (Brooke-Bill-Katie-Ridge) story that is going to make!

             So, what’s your pick for best of the four. Is it B&B or another? 

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! 

Merry Christmas, Thinking Fans!

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

Merry Christmas from Nigel

Merry Christmas from Nigel

There I was this week watching The Bold and the Beautiful and scratching my head.  How many interrupted weddings can Hope and Liam have?  After all, Steffy broke up the first wedding with news she was pregnant, and here she was back with the news for Liam that after her miscarriage, she was no longer infertile.  Pre-ceremony, Hope saw Steffy and Liam together talking privately, freaked out and ran away with Wyatt (for whom I am rooting because he’s so charming ) to Hawaii.  But will Liam and Hope ever get together and marry?

It’s something I ponder every week along with questions such as, will General Hospital’s  Patrick and Robin get back together now that she has returned from the dead, or will the plot will complicated by the fact that Sabrina might be pregnant? On The Young and Restless, will I grow to like the mother Nikki and reclaimed biological son Dylan even though they have no chemistry and are two of the flakiest characters ever showcased on a soap opera?

But there’s one question I’m not pondering this week.  Do I want you, my beloved readers, to have a merry and a happy Christmas?  Of course I do and I send you holiday hugs and kisses along with the best wishes of my hubby/editor Moose and our sweet dog Nigel.  We’re ensconced in our country home with our tree, decorations and many good things to eat and we’re celebrating.  There’s nothing we like better than the fact that we can celebrate the holidays along with our own dear Thinking Fans.

So from our family to yours, have the merriest of Christmases!

Love,

 Marlena, Moose and Nigel

General Hospital: Surprise! A Soap Full of Great Surprises!

Sean Kanan’s A.J. Quartrmaine: The jury said “Not guilty.”

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

One of the great strengths of the soap opera form is the element of surprise.  Since we have long lived in a world of spoilers, surprises are few and far between today’s soaps.  Thus we rejoice that General Hospital of late has managed to steer around the obligatory spoilers and give us genuine surprises. Doubtless this has contributed to the great ratings high the show’s been riding these days.  Soap producers, watch and learn.

For example, it was most unexpected that A.J. Quartermaine (Sean Kanan) be declared not guilty of the murder of Connie Falconeri last week by a jury.  After all he was caught almost red-handed: his fingerprints were on the gun, Connie had scribbled “A.J” near her body in her own blood, and cameras had placed him at the entrance to the office where the murder took place.  But … surprise! … the jury didn’t think there was enough evidence to convict him.  As a practical matter, A.J. was probably declared not guilty so that Kanan — one of the great strengths of the show — didn’t have to be written off.  The trial took a long time to come to fruition, and during the few months an incarcerated  A.J. and Kanan were regrettably not even shown on screen. GH needs him back.

Another great surprise registered in the shock arena.  Last week Franco (Roger Howarth)  was shown stabbing his own newly discovered mother Heather (Robin Mattson) to “death’ with a shank. Heather had shown up at Carly’s hotel with the shank supposedly to do her son’s lover in.  Franco was shown burying his own mother in a freshly dug grave.  But not so fast! Does anyone ever really die on a soap opera? Soon we saw a hand reaching out from the grave!  Also surprisingly Franco confessed to the murder to therapist Kevin the next day; but Kevin brushed it off as self-defense.  How long will it be until Heather is shown alive again?  How long will it be until Franco discovers he’s not guilty of murdering his own mother?

The surprises kept coming. Another great one was the upcoming write-out of Spinelli and Ellie (Bradford Anderson and Emily Wilson). As you know, Spinelli was given custody of his and Maxie’s baby Connie.  Well, just last week Ellie was offered a lab job in Portland. Maxie didn’t object to the couple taking the baby that far away because she declared she couldn’t stand being so close to her baby in Port Charles and not being able to see her.   So this week Ellie and Spinelli and Connie will leave Port Charles.

It’s a shock and a shame to see Bradford Anderson go.   He has added so much to the show over the last seven years in which he has played the lovable nerd Spinelli.  From his own special language to his immense tenderness, sweetness and great doses of humanity, Anderson’s Spinelli is a one of a kind soap character.  I, for one, will miss greatly miss the pleasure of his company.

But is Spinelli really going for good?  This is, after all, soap opera …

General Hospital Reaches a Storyline and Ratings High

 

” …let them speak now or forever hold their peace …”

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

Last week General Hospital reached a very admirable ratings high, scoring 3.3 million viewers, its highest numbers since 2007. The timing for this benchmark is something the show had long been leading up to: the revelation to Dr.  Patrick Drake that his wife Dr.  Robin is still alive.  Of course, this being soap opera, that revelation came right in the middle of Patrick’s wedding ceremony to Nurse Sabrina.

A key to this ratings spike was the fact that Patrick and Robin (“Scrubs”) have long been fan favorites.  After all, Robin has been on the show since she was six years old.  But the real secret behind the ratings high was that GH did everything it could to prolong the reveal of Robin’s survival.

They gave Robin more than two whole months in town before her existence was exposed to her widower.  During that time Robin had to formulate a miracle cure for Jerry Jacks, the same cure she had found for Luke’s plutonium poisoning.  Along the way there were many near run-ins between Patrick and Robin.  At Halloween, Robin wore a costume to disguise herself at the hospital.  In fact, Sabrina’s ex,   Carlos, actually ran into Robin in the lab.  He recognized her from a picture in Patrick’s house.  When Carlos tried to warn Patrick Robin was still alive, Patrick didn’t believe him.  Ava also tried to convince Patrick of the fact that Robin was alive, but he didn’t believe her either.

GH upped the ante by slowing down time as Patrick and Sabrina’s wedding approached.  Sabrina took forever to choose her wedding gown and finally got her mother’s gown from her visiting cousin Juan.   The day of the wedding, Robin came to the church and watched the ceremony from the doorway. The show let almost the entire ceremony (and an entire episode)  go by until Emma saw Robin standing, fully alive, in the back of the church.  

Dragging out the revelation to Patrick and Sabrina that Robin was still alive created a lot of anticipation for the audience.  It also deepened the pain of the situation.  After all, there were no villains here Robin was taken from her family innocently, and Sabrina fell in love with the man she knew as a widower.  Losing Patrick would be a true tragedy for Sabrina, even though the reunion was a pure thrill for Scrubs fans.

The dragged out drama was rewarding in that it afforded opportunities for some great acting. The moment that Patrick saw Robin, actor Jason Thompson  captured perfectly the pain his character was feeling, down to his very soul. Likewise, actress Kimberly McCullough projected both the joy in Robin’s reunion with her husband and the character’s ambivalence about breaking up Patrick and Sabrina.  And actress Teresa Castillo did a masterful job of showing Sabrina’s great pain at seeing all her dreams come unraveled.

 All in all, this was one of GH’s finest hours. It was soap opera at its best and well worth waiting for.

Happy 24th Anniversary, Marlena!

By  Connie Passalacqua Hayman

This week marks the 24th anniversary of the debut of my alter ego, Marlena De Lacroix. My first column with that byline under the standing headline Critical Condition debuted in the second issue of Soap Opera Weekly the last week of November 1989.  Weekly was an immediate success and Marlena became very popular very quickly.

A lot of people have asked me why I used the named Marlena De Lacroix.  Marlena is a play on my middle name and Lacroix phonetically comes from the last part of my last name.  At the time I was freelancing for an ABC magazine called Episodes and the editor there thought there would be less of a conflict of interest if I used a nom de plume at Weekly. Marlena’s real identity was never a secret –everyone knew it was me.

Although I have used the name continuously, the column has appeared at different times.  It appeared from 1989-2001  in Soap Opera Weekly, and debuted on the web in 2006 at Jack Myers Media Village. Here at marlenadelacroix.com, it has been running since 2007.

Marlena’s mission from the get-go was and is to report on and criticize soaps with intelligence and respect.  The readers – you, my cherished Thinking Fans – always have been veteran soap viewers with a vast knowledge both of soap history and how soaps are put together.  You  know the role of the writers, the producers and the actors.  You know what has worked well in the past and are expert at analyzing why soaps are working or if they are not.

Which brings me to my favorite part of being Marlena:  I love doing critical analysis; but what really pleases me is receiving your reaction to my opinions.  I love reading your analyses of all of the soaps.  Keep on sending your thoughts on what I write and your reactions to what you see on your daytime soaps  every day.

Thanks for your loyalty and support. Here’s to another 24 years!

General Hospital: Jam-Packed November Sweeps

William deVry: His Derek Wells is really dead mob boss Julian Jerome (ABC photo)

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

It’s traditional for a soap presents its strongest stories during sweeps, and this November hasn’t been a disappointment on General Hospital. Au contraire, the month isn’t over yet. To paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy 30 days.”

The opening of the Jerome art gallery, with its hilarious “BLT” painting  supposedly by Franco, was the site of the denouement of two longtime plots. It was a messy confluence, but got a lot done story-wise. In one, Sonny revealed that Derek Wells (William deVry) is really dead mob  boss Julian Jerome, the brother of Ava and the co-owner of the art gallery.   In the other, Sonny wanted to kill Julian for ripping off a shipment but during the sequence decided that he couldn’t because Julian is needed for future leukemia transplant  treatments for Danny.  The reveal was a bit underwhelming as deVry played it way too cool, and there were really no consequences for the Julian character.  At least, Sam found out who her biological  father was.

There’s more: The gallery was also the backdrop for the revelation that Franco isn’t Jason’s twin brother after all but the natural child of Heather Webber and Scotty Baldwin.  This new “fact” didn’t exactly make sense because Franco would have been conceived when both mother and father were on the soap canvas in the early 80s, but we never saw them get together.  Also the ages didn’t match.  Roger Howarth, who plays Franco is 45, Robin Mattson is 57 and Kin Shriner is 60. Even so, this parentage would explain Franco’s strange and colorful personality.

And more: The courtroom was the backdrop for the resolution of the Baby Connie custody hearing.  Lulu and Dante wanted to keep their daughter, who really biologically belongs to Maxie and Spinelli.  In a unique twist, custody of the child was awarded to Spinelli, with Maxie banned from seeing the infant for six months. The scene in which Lulu and Dante had to hand Connie over to Spinelli was just heartbreaking.

We’re not finished yet: The big news was that Robin was alive after all, having spent the last two months on screen lurking about behind the scenes — first, inventing a cure for Luke on Cassadine Island and second,  wandering around Port Charles having near run-ins with her “surviving” husband Patrick and his fiancé Sabrina. At one point, Sabrina’s ex Carlos even discovered Robin as alive.

And finally: On Friday, Robin had a face to face reunion with her father Robert, in a back room in the church where Patrick is about to marry Sabrina. The reveal to Patrick that Robin is still alive should take place this week, probably during the wedding ceremony.  It should be explosive, just another exciting story event.

A bumpy 30 days indeed! 

The Bold and the Beautiful Scores a Ratings High

 

Crossing and double crossing (from left : Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang), Bill (Don Diamont) and Katie (Heather Tom)

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

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, judging the parade of men through her life, distinguishes between regular rats and super rats. She could have been talking about The Bold and the Beautiful’s odious Bill Spencer. In the past two weeks, he’s clearly earned a promotion from regular to super rat status.

Headwriter Bradley Bell and his team achieved this through a dizzingly swift sequence of crosses and double crosses that seem more akin to a twisty spy novel than a soap opera. Such is the demand for speed in modern television storytelling.

The payoff has been a much deserved ratings spike for the show, its best numbers in years.

Since Bill came down from the mountain chastened by his scary fall and buoyed by his new resolve to change his ways toward Katie, the loving wife he had wronged by having a hot affair with her sister Brooke, everything changed and changed again and then changed some more on B&B.

As the week ended, we were hoping that a betrayed Katie did not take him back. But she did, and without hesitation. Almost immediately, the two slept together. Of course we knew that Bill had seen a practical side to his spiritual cleansing. Promptly post coitus, Bill talked Katie into signing back to him the CEO seat of Spencer Publications and custody of their baby son Will. Again without missing a beat, she complied.

We’d barely gotten past our gasp at this slick maneuver when Bill pulled a double cross!  With the ink not yet dry on the agreement, he hastened to the side of the heart-broken Brooke and turned on the full force of his lounge lizard charm. He doesn’t want Katie back at all, he claimed, and only went back to her as a ruse to get all the goodies. It’s you, Brooke, that I want, he insisted.

We hadn’t finished gagging when Brooke showed uncommon backbone, went immediately to Katie to reveal Bill’s chicanery, and then fiercely told Bill to his face:“No one treats the Logan sisters this way!” 

Sisters together, one for all and all for one, right? Well, not exactly. While Katie wept over being blindsided by Bill, Brooke pulled a double cross of her own. She secretly destroyed the signed legal transfer papers  and replaced them in an empty legal envelope with leaves she had collected in Aspen, the site of Bill’s supposed epiphany and the scene of their last romantic rendezvous.

So, now what? Will Bill dump Katie again when he knows he no longer has control of the company? Is this Brooke’s plan to get him back? Can there ever be romance again between Bill and either Katie or Brooke? Or is Bill truly the most irresistible super rat of all time? 

We’ll leave that for Bell and company to figure out.  They know what they’re doing. According to a show press release, the Bill/Brooke/Katie adventure has carried the show to its highest ratings since 2007.   That’s about equivalent to 3.5 million viewers as this new soap season started, which is a lot of viewers in a soap opera  medium that is still struggling to stay alive.

The only question now is how Bell will keep us watching the Bill/Brooke/Katie triangle.  Okay, we’ll admit that, twisty spy novel or soap opera, we’re really intrigued … and will keep on watching!  

The Bold and the Beautiful: Bill’s Balderdash

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

It may be the strangest game changer in soap history.  While The Bold and the Beautiful’s Bill Spencer was climbing to a mountain top in Aspen, he slipped and fell. Not that far, thanks to his safety line. But far enough, he said, to frighten him into an epiphany.

Don Diamont: His Bill has a high altitude epiphany

According to Bill, he saw his whole life flash before his eyes.  He realized that leaving his wife Katie for her sister Brooke was wrong, wrong, wrong. This week, to make things right, he broke up with his supposed great love, Brooke, and attempted to return to a stunned Katie.

Did Bill’s mountaintop revelation prove that he may he may indeed have a conscience?  Balderdash!  We don’t believe Bill ever had a conscience in the first place, or else he never would have left his beloved wife for her sister.  The truth is that Bill misses the power he had when he was the head of Spencer Publishing, a position he lost to Katie. At the same time, Bill misses his baby son, Will, who has remained with Katie.

Predictably, Brooke took the break-up badly. “All the men who tell me they love me leave me,” cried Brooke, who has an engagement ring stashed away in a drawer to “prove”  Bill’s love.  Indeed, many men in B&B history have loved and left Brooke.  What she might not recognize is that she doesn’t know the difference between love and sexual attraction.

In Bill she met her equal; he doesn’t understand the difference, either. Strangely. Bill and Brooke, a most scandalous couple, became incredibly popular on B&B.   The actors, Katherine Kelly Lang and Don Diamant have dynamite chemistry. With all the fervor of a sweeping romance novel, Bill chased  Brooke  to Rome to claim her and brought her home in triumph, whereupon the two started living together.

That didn’t last long, did it?  In the interim, Katie grew stronger, running the company and taking care of Will.  She did not have a nervous breakdown.  Even so, Bill and Brooke treated her like a mental case, blaming her problems, including postpartum depression, for her “pushing” her husband and sister-in-law together.   The audience didn’t know who to root for Bill to be with — Brooke or Katie.   This continued for some months.

Knowing the difference between right and wrong , we always rooted for wife Katie.  Now, we await whether or not she will take Bill back.  We certainly hope not.   And as to that moutaintop revelation — maybe it was inevitable after all.   Without fickle Bill changing his mind, B&B  would have no on-going  story to tell.

Who do you think Bill will be with from now on?  Does he deserve his legal wife Katie, and all that goes with her? Is the newly spurned “fiancé” Brooke better off without him? Will Bill’s balderdash finally be exposed?