The Young and the Restless: Marlena says, “You, Sir, Are No Irwin Allen!”

Jess Walton’s Jill has survived the Y&R plane crash

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

It’s way too early to judge the work of The Young and the Restless’ new executive producer Charles Pratt Jr. We’re familiar with his resume (head writer/executive/producer of All My Children, General Hospital, Santa Barbara and Sunset Beach, primetime producer of Melrose Place et al.) But he’s only been on the Y&R  job seven weeks. Even so, there are some early hints: This past week, the controversial Pratt launched four sweeps month stunt plots simultaneously in a snow storm!  Before we discuss them, however, let’s review Y&R’s week-old disaster plot action:

Plane Crash:  A plane flies to Chicago with a secretly blind Neil, his wife Hilary, his son Devon, Jill, Colin, Cane and Lily on board.  Neil announces to all that he is  not blind anymore and he knows Hilary and Devon are in love and having an affair because he secretly witnessed them sleeping together while they  thought Neil was blind. Neil has something undisclosed in his briefcase. Suddenly, the plane crashes and all survive on the ground unharmed except for Hilary, who is severely injured and comatose.  She periodically wakes up.  Devon goes off to find help.  Neal vanishes.

Building Collapse:  At the Undergound, Victor finds out Nikki is drinking again and confronts her.  The building the Underground is in collapses with Victor, Jack, Nikki, Phyllis, Avery, Joe, Nick and Sage trapped inside. In the rubble, all are unharmed except Jack who is severely injured and comatose but who periodically wakes up.  Victor rescues Jack with CPR. Nikki, Phyllis and Avery escape while help arrives.   Victor and Jack are trapped in the basement. A semi-comatose Jack, who has secretly known Victor’s dead son Adam is alive, utters the word “Adam” and Victor knows something crucial is up.

I Know What You Did Last Summer: On Valentine’s Day Abby inexplicably invites Kevin, the young marrieds Summer and Austin along with Mariah, Courtney, Noah and Fen to a cabin in the woods.  Fen secretly spikes the punch. Everyone collapses and then wakes up.  Austin falls out of the armoire, presumably dead.  All are accused, but especially Summer. Abby is suddenly disclosed kissing Austin the night before while Mariah confronts her. Outside, Austin’s body vanishes. The youths convene to discuss what to tell the police. Will they get their story straight? Did Austin fake his own death? Ho hum!

The Towering Inferno:  A fire suddenly breaks out at Lakeview Towers in lovers Chelsea and Billy’s apartment. Chelsea and all believe Chelsea’s late husband  Adam is dead, but the audience knows Adam is alive and secretly masquerading as Gabe. Sage and Adam/Gabe live next store to Billy and Chelsea  but  are absent when the fire starts.   Chelsea escapes with Katie and Johnny. Billy remains in the burning apartment with Connor. Billy is periodically comatose but wakes up.  Adam/Gabe arrives and rescues Connor  but leaves his enemy Billy in the smoke.  Later he returns and rescues Billy.  When last seen, Adam and Billy are escaping the burning building.

Oy vey!  Can you say overkill? The four disaster plots are achingly piled on.  Every daytime soap headwriter interweaves character storylines and hypes them in some shocking manner for sweeps month, but this is way too much of a fun thing.  A great role model for Pratt would be the late, great headwriter Jim Reilly (Days of Our Lives), a master creative genius at stunts, who was always original and never dreamed of doing his vastly entertaining and oft- hilarious sweeps stunt plots more than  one at a time.

Worse I’m incredibly annoyed that Pratt is copying his 2008-9 All My Children debut.  On that show, after his debut under the umbrella of a stunt tornado story, Pratt set the world’s soap stunt record with six, count’em six, starring such characters as Kendall, Bianca and Zach. Pratt’s entire AMC stint was much despised. .

Clearly Pratt’s muse for all of this is the late Irwin Allen, creator such 1970s classics as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, all of them unabashedly cheesy, over-the-top movie fun. His name identifies the disaster movie genre embraced by so many imitators then and since. But even Allen, who pioneered the burning set and the rock and roll camera to simulate thunderous explosions and building collapse, confined his story-telling to one disaster at a time. His formula called for intersecting human dramas of marriages saved and parents and children reconciled played out against the disaster du jour, in a world saved ultimately by heroic first responders and the selfless sacrifice of military personnel who die trying to save people.

Sentimental, exciting, romantic, heart-warming and even a bit tear-jerky. Pratt provides dollops of all these elements, and evidently the stew is tasty to some viewers – he did well in the coveted 18-34 ratings category two weeks ago.

But for moi, a soap must have some grounding in real life to be believable, and these unoriginal plots don’t make it. Pratt throws in everything including the kitchen sink, much of it disconnected and out of the blue. For example, this week, apropos of nothing, Police assistant Kevin in the cabin plot revealed he is also a short story writer who has written a story with a murder scenario that is similar to Austin’s death.   What?

Even worse is the fact that these multiple disaster plots are being produced by Jill Farren Phelps, who has done swell sweeps plots on six soaps. (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live, General Hospital and Y&R ).  Her 35 year soap career is a soap phenomenon!   While some dislike her, I’ve always admired Phelps, if not all her plots. It is she who hired Pratt for Y&R after working with him on GH.  Phelps often has exquisite taste in her hires. Time will tell if this is one of those times.

Beside Phelps, what also redeems poorly written plots like these is the high quality of the actors and the production crew. Y&R has always had some of the best!   The sets, particularly the plane crash and building collapse, are wonderfully Irwin Allen-esque.  But the disaster plots are not at all organic to past or present Y&R, as created and headwritten by the late Bill Bell, who would NEVER do stunt plots, though some have been tried since he stepped down from the show in 1998.

Overall plot-saving kudos have to go to the actors, most of whom are longtime Y&R veterans and soap superstars like Peter Bergman, Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott who play Jack, Victor and Nikki in the building collapse plot.  I’d also like to single out Kristoff St. John who is always great as Neil, but has been dynamite here and in his entire blind, wife Hilary unfaithful to Neil with his son Devon, plot.  The work of longtime vets like these and Tristan Rogers (Colin) and Jill (Jess Walton) in the plane crash plot, or Joshua  Morrow (Nick) and Gina Tognoni (Phyllis) also in the building collapse plot, or Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) in the Towering Inferno plot, make Pratt’s stale disaster stunt plots more  palatable.

And so this week the building collapse and plane crash aftermath go on.  Will I be watching?  Yes, I can’t take my eyes off Pratt’s own four-ring circus of disaster stunt plots. They are that bad,  By the end of his entire Y&R stint, will I have to ask if has there ever been a daytime headwriter who is as creatively impoverished as Pratt?   Hope not for all our sakes!

Many Questions As a New Headwriter Comes to The Young and the Restless

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

Christian LeBlanc, too good to waste

The Young and the Restless is getting a new headwriter. He is veteran Chuck Pratt, who wrote for Santa Barbara, General Hospital, and All My Children, amassing an uneven record with enough successes to give Y&R fans hope for improvement of their show. Anything is likely to be better than what has been happening on Y&R.  To put it mildly, the show hasn’t been very entertaining lately because so many storylines have left viewers scratching their heads. I count four ill-conceived tangles in the plot department that desperately need to be fixed.

Whose idea was it to stage a gigantic weeks-long catfight between Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) and Kelly (Cady McClain) over Jack (Peter Bergman)?   As you know, Kelly was living with Jack when Phyllis came out of her year-long hospital stay in a coma in France, came back to Genoa City and  promptly reclaimed her man.  Since then Phyllis has done all sorts of crazy things to torture and trick Kelly, including slapping her and luring her into a hotel room ambush while Jack, that wimp, stood passively by. It’s just a garden variety clichéd exercise in two women clawing at each other over a man – a storyline is so sexist it’s offensive to any thinking woman.

Then there’s the yucky storyline in which Devon (Bryton James) is romancing his blind father Neil’s wife Hilary (Mishael Morgan), and has had sex more than once with her. All the while, Devon is  telling his father stories of a made-up girlfriend.  Neil (Kristoff St. John) was blinded by electrocution while renovating the house he bought to surprise Hilary. But Devon and Hilary’s deception may be undone: lately, Neal is seeing beams of light and is beginning to doubt his son’s accounts of the pretend squeeze. Whose twisted idea was this, anyway? This storyline can only end badly, perhaps in tragedy.

Then there’s Michael, who got a diagnosis of prostate cancer and withheld the knowledge of it for weeks from his wife Lauren, confiding only in his brother Kevin.  What kind of man does this?  Christian LeBlanc plays this sensitive soul masterfully and is wasted on this kind of folly. Michael is very much in love with and close to Lauren (Tracy Bregman). But having him keep this secret from her is jarringly out of character.   I guess you have to give Y&R points for doing a prostate cancer storyline (which I can’t recall ever being done on daytime before).  But how will this storyline end?  Will Michael die because the cancer has spread because of his failure to take action?  Yikes!  Many times Emmy nominated Leblanc is too valuable to Y&R to lose him.

Then there’s perennially alcoholic Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) who is proud of the fact that she hasn’t had a drink since Thanksgiving.  So, why, why, why does she keep a bottle of liquor and a glass permanently on display in the Newman living room?  All she does is endlessly stare at it. No real recovering alcoholic would do this. Of course, husband Victor (Eric Braeden) is obnoxious enough to drive any woman to drink, but Nikki has put up with him through all these years and through many marriages. Just for the heck of it,  (“It’s business’) Victor has seized control of the district which houses Nikki’s son Dylan’s (Steve Burton) coffee house Crimson Lights and wants to tear it down.   Nikki is furious at him. But will she leave Victor once again? Will she again succumb to the bottle’s lure? What do you think?

We’re rooting for you, Chuck. Get this once reliable vehicle out of the mud and on the road again. 

 

Heavenly November Sweeps Performances on The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital

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

It’s been quite an eventful November sweeps so far.  Stories built over the course of a year or more usually reach their apexes if not their conclusions  over sweeps months (February, May, November) and writers plot their most dramatic action to stretch over these months.   This November’s star plots on The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital varied in quality but mostly  offered actors who pulled out all the stops and gave their best, sometimes Emmy-worthy performances during the month. Let’s partake of the feast:

The Young and the Restless — This was finally the month that Sharon’s long held secret – that she had switched the DNA results and Summer was really Nick’s biological daughter, not Jack’s as all had believed for the last year — was disclosed.  It was Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) who forced Sharon (Sharon Case) to disclose her lie on the very staircase where Phyllis had taken a fall, resulting in a coma that lasted a year. Tognoni (once Kelly on One Life to Live) was particularly forceful here, full of rage and tears, all aimed at Sharon.  Also giving a fine and very affecting  performance was Peter Bergman, whose Jack tearfully and shockingly found out that Summer wasn’t his natural daughter after all.

The Bold and the Beautiful — This is the month Eric picked his successor as CEO of Forrester Fashions.  His first choice was his son Ridge — until model Maya disclosed at a board meeting that Ridge had been kissing his sister-in-law and design collaborator, Caroline, who is Rick’s wife on the sly.  Jacob Young gave a particularly sympathetic and believable performance full of great depth as the betrayed Rick, as did Linsey Godfrey as the shattered Caroline.  Thorsten Kaye showed what a bastard normally good guy sly Ridge could be by brushing off responsibility for his amorous action.  Rick was finally chosen CEO.

General Hospital GH took us through several weeks when secrets were disclosed all over the place.   Roger Howarth was just delicious as Franco exposed his bride Carly mid-wedding ceremony as a cheat and a liar.  Carly had covered up the fact that Sonny killed his adopted son’s natural father A.J.  Laura Wright was extremely harrowing as the betrayed Carly, as was the even more betrayed and shocked Michael.  Chad Duell has been giving the performance of his GH career in this plot denouement   Also very good has been the always dependable  Robin Mattson, whose escaped criminal mental patient  Heather got mixed up in the almost wedding and held several characters including  Jordan and Sean hostage.  But best of all was long time acting couple Finola Hughes and Ian Buchanan, as police chief Anna had to arrest her lover Duke for covering up Sonny’s presence at A.J.’s murder.  These two actors always shine together, but were particularly effective and heavenly here.

And November sweeps isn’t even half over yet.

I’m Ba-a-ack – Not Quite from the Dead, but Almost!

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

Sorry for the prolonged absence of late. I’ll spare you the gruesome details of a medical issue that finally kept the entire gastroenterology department of a major New York City hospital in high gear for one long day. I’m on the road to recovery now, thanks to a team of superb doctors, one guardian angel nurse and one magnificent husband, and happy to be back at the keyboard.

Through it all, I continued to watch soaps, of course.  All of you would have done the same, n’est pas?  We can’t let a little pain in the gut stand between us and our shows, now can we? So let’s play a little catch up:

The Young and the Restless.  I am not surprised that Nick and Sharon are not married yet. If they did succeed, there wouldn’t be much of a soap opera would there?  After all, they’ve been breaking up and making up for twenty years! …  Gina Tognoni has made an auspicious debut as Phyllis.  Many of her scenes have little dialogue, yet Tognoni can express a variety of fearful ad particularly bewildered expressions well. …  I have no doubt Victoria will deliver her baby soon; I don’t know how she can go on not knowing who the biological  father is (Billy her ex, or maybe Stitch, in my view her one true love). … Because Niki isn’t as strong as she thinks she is, she’s fallen off the wagon occasionally.  … I particularly like Meredith Baxter as her friend Maureen. She has a certain vivaciousness and intelligence that adds a lot to Y&R.  I think it has been particularly wise that they have made her the mother to Stitch and Kelly.

The Bold and the Beautiful carries on with the most consistent storylines on soaps.  It was finally revealed — much to my surprise – that Hope’s true love is Liam, although she can’t have him because she’s married to Wyatt, by whom she is already pregnant by him.  Liam to me has always been very spoiled and full of himself.  I’ve much preferred Wyatt’s boyish charm.  Wyatt’s biggest problem is his mother Quinn. To me, Rena Sofer is the most charming performer on soaps right now as Quinn has a bit of the devil in her and will never change. … Speaking of never changing, do you think Brooke and Bill will ever get married? They come near Liam and Hope for number of weddings that almost happened but never really did.

General Hospital really disappoints me.  The show seems to write for characters it cares about and leaves many others idle and undeveloped. …  Nina is way overdone, although I think Michelle Stafford is definitely giving an Emmy-winning performance. … Sonny and Carly continue to cheat behind Franco’s back, making him seem like a total fool.  … Although I like Billy Miller, I’m not crazy that Jason is back. He never paid for anything he did on the show, ever. … I like the romance between Maxie and Nathan. Kirsten Storms is adorable and Ryan Peavey is by far the most attractive male on the show. …  All in all, G&H off its game is interfering with my convalescence. It’s always been the stellar attraction of my afternoon, and I want it to be so again.

By the way, illness makes one reflect a lot more than one would otherwise. So lately I’ve been thinking about how much it means to me that I’ve spent nearly twenty-five years as Marlena De Lacroix. First, I’d like to thank all off you out there for your loyalty and steady and always thoughtful correspondence.   I’ve gotten to know so many of you well over the years.

 As the twenty-fifth anniversary of Marlena is coming up at the end of November I have a special request of all of you.  Help me think of a special way to celebrate!   Send me your ideas and wishes and we’ll come up with a remarkable way to mark the anniversary. Meanwhile, I’ll try to feel better and I hope you’ll be thinking and praying for me as I think about you.