Young and Restless’ Missing Links and One Live To Live (Apparently) Rises From the Ashes

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

I’ve basically cheered on most of the changes made in The Young and the Restless these past three months.  Characters like Nick, Phyllis and even Sharon have been fixed by giving them more clarity and strength. The new sets, like Avery’s living room/kitchen and Nick’s bar, are awesome.  Ditto the new music and lighting. Happily the dialogue has improved, too. A much needed housecleaning broomed out a half dozen characters that won’t be missed. Under its new leadership, Y&R has had one classy facelift.

Peter Bergman
Tour de force as struggling pill-popper

The only problem I see is that I have trouble getting through many episodes. Where’s the excitement?  The improvements are nice, but I’m still waiting for a story that really interests me. The only plot that’makes me want to tune in every day is Jack’s pill problem.  Much of the credit goes to Peter Bergman for his tour de force performance.  But the secret of the plot’s success is that it has moved very fast. In less than three months, Jack has moved from addiction, to self-directed rehab, to recovery.  The sprightlier storytelling fits in with what I wrote about in my last column:  we’re in the Internet age, and up until now the only other soap that has really stepped up the storyline pace is General Hospital.

This was not an easy change for Y&R to make – it’s always been slow-moving.  Asking Y&R to move fast is like asking a fish to walk. I’m tired of [Read more...]

On Soaps, We Believe What We Choose to Believe

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

General Hospital: Soaps or biology — which do you choose to believe?

On General Hospital this week, surrogate mother Maxie had a miscarriage (of the week-old embryo that is Dante and Lulu’s child) and barely noticed it. The same evening, New Year’s Eve, a drunk and apparently rejected Spinelli was waiting on the hospital rooftop for a midnight reunion with his intended Ellie. In an homage to Love Affair, both versions, and An Affair to Remember, Ellie was in a car accident en route and never made it. But Maxie showed up instead, straight from the hospital, and she and Spinelli had sex.  It’s a soap, so it’s obvious Maxie will again be pregnant, and will try, through many months of whining and dithering, to pass off her and Spinelli’s child as Dante and Lulu’s.

Kristen Storms as Maxie
Headed for the roof and a big case of ick

This is the first time in 23 years Marlena wishes she had an ob/gyn in the old rolodex.  Is it really possible for a woman to have a miscarriage without blood or cramps and barely even know it? Is getting pregnant again so soon after a miscarriage barely even possible?  What woman would want to have sex the same night she had a miscarriage?

Well, as a person with female parts, I biologically don’t believe the whole scenario.  But as an experienced soap watcher I know a big important plot twist when I see it coming.  That’s the problem with being a soap watcher — you’ve got to believe what headwriters want you to believe, whether you know it’s illogical or not. It’s basically your choice.

After much thinking, however, I must ultimately chose to go along with the Maxi/Spinelli “reconception”  because otherwise, GH has been a pretty spectacular soap to watch and I want to continue watching, lest I miss the latest turns in the fascinating Duke/Anna  plot. But I don’t like being asked to accept this unlikely medical hi-jinx. It makes me feel like a fool.   Headwriters shouldn’t make viewers feel that way to continue watching.  I’m sure no matter what you feel about this plot twist, you’d agree that Maxie and Spinelli having sex the same night as her miscarriage was certainly a big case of ick.

All My Children and One Life to Live: Agnes Nixon has just given her confirmation and  blessing to the new cable/on-line versions of the shows she founded. The producers are said to be Prospect Park (remember them?), back from the dead to take another run at bringing soaps to the internet. But will PP really make a go of it this time?

Back from the dead?

Well, actors are being contacted to rejoin the show, so goes the buzz. So let’s play a game. Which key actors from each soap do you think Prospect Park must absolutely choose to make the transition to these new shows believable?  Send me your lists.  For me, a bare minimum at All My Children would be Susan Lucci and Michael Knight. On One Life to Live, you can’t go without Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser and Bob Woods. Kassie DePaiva and Jerry ver Dorn would be nice, too. Then there’s the problem of the key OLTL actors who have already transferred to GH: Roger Howarth and Michael Easton.  Do you think they should they leave GH and return to their old show?

So think carefully, Thinking Fans, and start compiling your essential casting lists for the new AMC and OLTL.  We are, after all, soap opera fans. We want to believe!

Paul Rauch, R.I.P.

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

Paul Rauch, surely the greatest executive producer in daytime soap history, died today in Manhattan at 79 following an illness.  

Paul Rauch
Nobody did soaps better

Marlena had the honor of covering and knowing Paul from 1980 onward, during which he was executive producer of Another World, Texas, One Life to Live, Santa Barbara. Guiding Light and The Young and the Restless. He generously taught me so much about soaps during our many interviews.  In the industry, Rauch was known as intimidating, but I found him to be a tremendously charismatic and complicated man who was great creative leader and a premier innovator in the art of soaps. No one knew soap production better than Paul.  He was always moving with the soap times. I always maintained he was a genius — which he loved.  Rest in peace, Mr. Rauch.

He is survived by his wife, concert pianist/playwright Israela Margalit, two children, two stepchildren and three granddaughters.

When Paul became executive producer of his last soap, Y&R, in 2008 (the job lasted until 2011). Marlena wrote this column about having known him over the years:

                                                                                                    

PAUL RAUCH FOR REAL!

September 19, 2008

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

Paul Rauch. That name may send you screaming from the room if you ever worked for him unsuccessfully, if you judge a man in totality by his bad soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light) or if you are a typical internet poster who relies on rumors, innuendo and chapters of tell-all memoirs.

But now that Rauch is back as co-executive producer of The Young and the Restless (at the age of 74, after recovering from a heart attack) I’d like to offer some first person testimony. And I can do it freely and ethically because I am a journalist, and don’t have to work for him.  I knew and interviewed Rauch regularly from 1980-2001.

I’ve always maintained that, despite his stormy temperament and the people he is said to have hurt, Paul is a genius.

I knew him when he was in New York executive-producing Another World, Texas, One Life to Live and Guiding Light.  Like everyone, I had terrible, terrible times with him (I have stories — let’s just say no one could intimidate a young girl reporter better than Paul) but then again I had incredibly engaging and enlightening conversations with him over the years, too.

Ironically, it is the same young students of soap opera out there cursing at him on the net who would probably die to have to chance to have an audience with him.  Every time I interviewed Paul, I learned more in 20 minutes about the fine art of making soap opera than I ever could any other way. A serious art collector (it always cracked me up that Paul had a print of Edward  Hopper’s classic painting “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” in his office at Guiding Light), he has an incredible eye for the visual composition and texture of the image on screen.  Between that and his up-to-the-second technical knowledge, his explanations of such things as his lighting ideas, why he photographed scenes in radical new ways, and his innovative location shooting techniques, made you appreciate what he was after in a fresh way. Or he could make you understand why soaps are now casting models with perfectly beautiful faces by explaining why the technicalities of cable competition (which was new in the late 90s) called for such a (to me, awful) thing.

And he has amazing taste in actors.  Before you scream “Kim Zimmer” at me, this is the man who gave great actors like Ray Liotta (he grew up on Another World) their show-biz starts.  I used to see him all the time at the New York theater in the 80s scouting talent.  He recognized and relished using superb leading actors like Vicky Wyndham (AW), Beverlee McKinsey (AW and Texas) and Erika Slezak (One Life To Live).

He’s produced soaps for 40 years (two Emmys), moving with the times from style to style.  There were the classic, almost Shakespearean quality of AW (which was soap opera nirvana for the Thinking Fan); the campy, high budget days of OLTL, and even the very early days of GL (before he and those boobs Brown and Esensten poisoned us with the clone story).

Because he moves with the times and is a genuine Thinking Producer, Paul is a great choice for Y&R.  Among other things, the show needs a definitive post-Bill Bell style, since it’s been drifting all over the place since Bill’s death. Y&R is his kind of show: it is rich in dramatic texture and has many sophisticated characters (the Abbots, the Newmans) that are tastefully wealthy.  Although I haven’t seen Paul in years, I’m sure he still approaches his work with all the intensity and meticulous attention a show like Y&R badly needs to stay on top in these troubled, troubled soap times.

Welcome back, Paul!

Daytime Emmys 2012: Respect Was Surprisingly Shown

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

Today I’m going to use a word I’ve never used in a decade of viewing the Daytime Emmys (but nearly always used when I attended the 22 years previously).  I actually “enjoyed” Saturday night’s Daytime Emmys on HLN.Don’t freak out — there are “excepts” which I’ll get into later.  You see, Marlena is a great admirer of the traditional award show format on TV.

“Marlena,” Moose exclaimed during the show, “this show really knows how to play to its own community, like the Tonys (and theater).  And you’d never even know that soaps were dying!”  He didn’t even seem to mind forgoing the competing Yankee-Mets baseball game, clicking over only during commercials.

Yup, the Daytime Emmys 2012, were very up.  No more tacky Las Vegas promotion, as in the last two years. The show felt like it was aimed at me, a soap viewer, despite the myriad of other categories (game, talk shows, etc.), Plus, it was done with — gasp — actual respect for [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...]

One Life To Live Ups the Stakes, But Does It Dare Fire Superstar Slezak?

Erika Slezak

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Cherry Ames declares, “OLTL is so good in some ways, but in other ways it’s just sick and sordid and as bad as reality (global recession, wars, mass killings in Darfur and Sudan, Octo-mom).  I want something more uplifting and positive” … while Beth predicts, “Forcing Erika Slezak from OLTL, in my view, is something that the show would never be able to recover from. There is no heart in this show any more, and I do see the reason is becaue Viki Lord is missing in action” … and more. See Comments below.  

______________________ 

By Marlena De Lacroix

Double jeopardy!  This week One Life to Live makes history by doubling the plot stakes as the lives of two children are seriously imperiled.  After a car crash, young Matthew Buchanan, the son of Bo and Nora,  will be paralyzed from the waist down.  And young Shane, the son of Rex and Gigi,  will be diagnosed with cancer!

The message boards will undoubtedly be full of hosannas from viewers who love the intensity of the drama.  There will be  calls for Emmy nominations all around to honor powerful performances. Dipsy Farah Fath (who plays Shane’s devoted mom) will be declared the new Jodie Foster.

Historical note: In the old days of traditional soap operas, writers like Irna and Agnes and Bill in the 50s and 60s would never do one story like this involving tragedy to a

These days, the only thing that can balance out the strippers, and the blow jobs, and the show’s general lack of class, is the one character who epitomizes class — namely Viki, as played by  Ms. Erika Slezak. 

young child, let alone two at the same time.  Why?  In those days, it was understood that the majority of the audience was young mothers, and one story like this would so upset and [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.

___________________________________________ 

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...]

He’s Back: Paul Rauch for Real!

Y&R

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 20:  Christian in Boston loved Rauch’s OLTL except for the lighting (bring sunglasses!) … James expresses respect … but Cherry Ames lists Rauch’s soap sins, chapter and verse … and more. See Comments below. 

____________________ 

By Marlena De Lacroix

Paul Rauch. That name may send you screaming from the room if you ever worked for him unsuccessfully, if you judge a man in totality by his bad soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light) or if you are a typical internet poster who relies on rumors, innuendo and chapters of  tell-all memoirs.

But now that Rauch is back as co-executive producer of The Young and the Restless (at the age of 74, after recovering from a heart attack) I’d like to offer some first person testimony. And I can do it freely and ethically because I am a journalist, and don’t have to work  for him.  I knew and interviewed Rauch regularly from 1980-2001

I’ve always maintained that despite his stormy temperament and the people he is said to have hurt, Paul is a genius.

when he was in New York executive-producing Another World, TexasOne Life to Live and Guiding Light.  Like everyone, I had terrible, terrible times with him (I have stories — let’s just say [Read more...]

One Life To Live at 40: That’s Entertainment!

OLTL cast

Thinking Fans Comment Update July 18: EricMontreal22 recalls OLTL 1980 … Dale salutes Phil Carey … norn calls Llanview home away from home … and more. See Comments below.

____________ 

By Marlena De Lacroix

Happy 40th birthday, One Life to Live!  I’ve been wracking my brain for weeks, trying to come up with an overall through-line for the four decades this show has been broadcast daily on ABC.  But it’s hard to find one, because, within that span of years, the drama has gone through so many different eras and been presented in so many different styles, by so many writers and producers with individualistic approaches.  So why have I continued watching through it all?  Forty years is  a long time, indeed most of my adult  lifetime!

And then it struck me:  I’ve watched OLTL so long simply because it has always been entertaining, and in so many ways!

I loved the social  relevance and the breakthrough ethnic and racial diversity of the early Agnes Nixon years.  When Carla Gray, who was black and passing for white, confessed all her problems and her pain to [Read more...]

More Emmy Noms 2008: How ‘bout a Little Self-Respect?

By Patrick Erwin

Basketball may have its March Madness, but the soap world has its own spring madness ritual — the Daytime Emmy nominations. The discussions about this year’s nominations have come fast and furious since they were announced yesterday. Marlena gave her take on the whole process, and I had a few thoughts of my own I thought I’d like to share.

Most Confusing Nomination: The three younger actress nominations for The Young and the Restless. Look, I know everyone has their own favorites, and their own likes and dislikes. And as far as these performers go (Vail Bloom, Emily O’Brien, Tammin Sursok), I have nothing against any of them per se. But even the most ardent Y&R fan has to admit all three of these performers played characters who were unpopular with viewers, and have been in very unpopular storylines. For all three to be rewarded with a nomination defies logic.

The “Guiding Light Survival Raft” Nominations: All of the acting nominations for Days of our Lives. Like GL, Days has been the subject of cancellation rumors [Read more...]