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!

The 2014 Daytime Emmys: A Pleasant Evening Online

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

Amelia Heinle, Best Supporting Actress

This year’s Daytime Emmys – for the first time, streamed live  online but not televised — they turned out to be relatively painless.  Without commercials, the show flowed nicely, and was capably produced. Hostess Kathy Griffin was funny and full of salt and vinegar as always. The absence of television cameras did not discourage the celebrities and glitterati of the daytime world from showing up, including everyone from legendary  game show host Monty Hall to plenty of nominees plus Best Show presenter Donna Mills, who entered to the theme from Knots Landing.

The big winner was The Young and the Restless, which won for Best Show.   A win for Best Writing (picked up by Shelly Altman) set the tone for Y&R’s winning night. Amelia Heinle (Victoria) won for Best Supporting Actress.  Billy Miller, who had the storyline of the year with his character Billy’s daughter’s death in an automobile accident, won Best Actor.  Hunter King (who plays Summer) won for starring in a storyline which centered on the identity of her biological father.  A most pleasant win was for Special Episode in which the late Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine for decades, was honored posthumously. Executive  Producer Jill Farren Phelps gave a very gracious acceptance speech. She attempted to give another for Y&R ’s win as Best Show, but was interrupted by Griffin, who was hurriedly trying to close the webcast.

It was a very good year, too, for Days of Our Lives which won Best Younger Actor for Chandler Massey (ex-Will) and Best Supporting Actor for Eric Martsolf (Brady). Martsolf heartily thanked co-star Eileen Davidson, who won for Best Actress.  She kiddingly thanked frequent winner and fellow nominee  Heather Tom (Katie, The Bold and the Beautiful) for “sharing” the award.  Davidson finally got the award she deserves for creating the iconic daytime character Kristen DiMera.

There were echoes of cancelled soaps: One Life to Live won Best Direction. Venice, an online soap, won for Best Limited Series soap. The statuette was picked up by one of its stars, an emotional Crystal Chappell.

The Red Carpet Show was thorough, interviewing everyone from soap stars to soap bloggers, but marred somewhat by the flat jokes of inexperienced nonsoap hostesses.

But all in all, the Daytime Emmys 2014, the first to be streamed online, weren’t bad at all.   As a matter of fact, they deserved to be televised.  

Sunday Reflections 15: Presto Chango — How the New Production and Writing Regime Reshaped Y&R in Only One Week

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

If you are a soap opera watcher who loves the soap opera behind the soap opera (as I think most Thinking Fans are), this was a tremendous week for watching The Young and the Restless.  The show’s new head writer Josh  Griffith and new new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps  made the fastest changes I’ve ever seen in Week One of a new regime.  The thing is: do you admire how efficient they were at making storyline fixes? Or as a fan who watches soaps just for the on-screen entertainment, were you confused or a bit annoyed by the sudden radical changes? To wit: 

– In the presto chango department, the instant dismissal — in one episode — of the long anticipated trial of Phyllis for attempting to run over The Bug and Paul 20 years ago by a new judge (the old one had suddenly taken sick) was the craftiest (in a good way) soap opera writing [Read more…]

Sunday Reflections 12: Young and Restless’ Blah 10,000th Episode … General Hospital’s Sabrina and Her Fantasies, and Connie and Her Body Shot

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

The Young and the Restless: So, what did you think of Y&R’s 10,000th episode, aired Thursday?  This was the one in which a “dead” character came back for his own funeral. In this case, it was Victor Newman, in what seemed to be his 438th resurrection.   (It was actually his third).  Well, in the episode’s defense, it did feature the entire cast, including characters like Esther, Traci and Danny, albeit in overcrowded group scenes.  The relief at seeing Victor alive (in a $10,000 suit, after months of grimy togs) along with such Newman family characters as Victor’s daughter Abby was kind of sweet.    And Victor and Nikki had an episode-ending reunion love scene, a rarity in the history of soaps:  a scene where a couple actually ends up happy.

Victor and Nikki, together again
Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott

This celebratory episode was a treat for viewers who have never seen a soap before, but longtimers who had seen it all before were probably left feeling blasé.  For some, it may even have bordered on soap self-parody, as was accurately predicted by former Marlena contributor Patrick Erwin in a letter last week.  The over-arching problem with the episode was that it was pedestrian soap opera.  And a Y&R special shouldn’t be that un-special after 10,000 episodes!  The episode was also emblematic of the last two years or so of the inexplicably top-rated Y&R, which may be summed up with one word:  blah.  Both the show and the special episode were produced and co-written by the recently fired Maria Arena Bell. [Read more…]

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…]

Sunday Reflections 3: The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives

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

The Young and the Restless: Finally a soap does what I’ve long advocated for this era of desperation:  perform a radical life-saving change to save itself.  Y&R has sent in then Marines in the form of new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and new headwriter Josh Griffith. And Marlena says Semper Fi!  Fresh from their triumphs on Hollywood Heights and Phelps’ latest Emmy for Outstanding Show (General Hospital), these two soap vets certainly have just the skills and genuine talent needed to pull Y&R out of its deep pit of, as we French say, ennui.

And already the fans have started flinging tomatoes at the choice of Phelps, who we all took to task for her cooperation with Guza on GH and other foul acts on One Life to Live.  Forgive and forget, Marlena says, because darlings, this is war!  With 30 plus years of continuous executive producing service to five soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live, GH) Phelps certainly has the octane needed to quickly change Y&R.  Similar negative things were predicted when the much skilled and experienced Paul Rauch (whose track record  fans did not love) first came to produce Y&R  a few years ago, and look at what an effective job he did. 

Tony Geary

General Hospital: Marlena is still swooning over the GH scene this week in which Luke and Anna were privately reunited in the hospital after Luke’s taking a bullet for Anna and his long abduction by cray-cray Heather. No crying, screaming or carrying on, it was just a conversation between two mature people revealing their deep romantic feelings for each other without words.  The script said that Anna was questioning Luke about his long abduction by Heather, and later telling him that the arrested Heather said Robin was alive. Yet, bravura Tony Geary and Finola Hughes played the scenes’ subtext — two very adult people (yes!) in love — so quietly and with so much subtlety, the scene was a thing of beauty. Luke spoke slowly and clearly, and in a low voice, while Anna listened, receiving his unspoken love with just a touch of a tear in her eye.   What creativity and worlds of experience these two actors bring to their work!  Whoever thought we could see such adult emotion portrayed so realistically on a soap opera?

This was a wonderful couple of days this week, for we who (try to) watch GH without spoilers. The previous day, insane Heather (surprise!) appeared in the doorway of the cabin in which she held Luke, shooting Luke after Anna (yay girl!) had punched her out and [Read more…]

General Hospital Update: Is it Still on Life Support?

By Ed Martin 

I’m not sure what to make of the big surprise on “General Hospital” this week – but then again, I haven’t known what to make of GH in a very long time (years, actually). Robin Scorpio is alive – and looking very tanned and rested, I might add, even if she is being held hostage in something resembling a hospital room.

Seeing Robin in that bed at the end of Monday’s episode was the first time GH has really “wowed” me since that unforgettable moment in May 1980 when Edward Quartermaine sprang back to life after faking a heart attack and shocked his

Even though I haven’t cared for many of executive producer Frank Valentini and headwriter Ron Carlivati’s storytelling choices, it has been a sweet treat to see so many fondly remembered characters from General Hospital’s past return to its canvas.

daughter Tracy (and millions of viewers, as well) after she had refused to give him his medication because he wouldn’t change his will. Ah, sweet memories …

The Robin reveal was all the more impressive because it hadn’t been leaked. I didn’t think it was possible to keep anything from [Read more…]

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Guiding Light: From 1992, Marlena’s Analysis of GL at its Peak

blogtalkradioDon’t miss Marlena’s farewell to Guiding Light on blogtalkradio’s Brandon’s Buzz at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 or later on the network’s archive.

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 By Marlena De Lacroix

In March 1992, Guiding Light reached the apex of soap quality, that perfect blend of excellence in writing, acting and production.   I thought it had everything going for it to  reach #1 in the ratings.  Here’s my column from Soap Opera Weekly, March 2, 1992,   Volume 3, Issue 9, in which I analyzed this blueprint for building a perfect soap.  A framed copy of this column hung over the desk of GL’s then executive producer Jill Farren Phelps for the duration of her stay there.

Intelligence, integrity, heart — GL had all three. It was a soap that not only deserved to rise to the top of the ratings, but should have stayed there forever. What a tragedy we are losing America’s oldest and historically beloved soap on Friday.   Farewell, Guiding Light.  You were glorious!

Here’s my column as it appeared originally. If you can [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.

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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…]

Say What? The 2008 Emmys Had No Class

By Marlena De Lacroix

The star of the 2008 Emmys was a body part your mother blushingly called your “backside.”  Stars couldn’t stop talking about derrieres, and wound up acting a lot like them.

“Oh, oh, I love your butt,  what a cute little butt, I’d take that cute little butt,” All My Children’s Rebecca Budig (Greenlee) squealed as she checked out Bryan Datillo’s on the SoapNet Emmy PreShow, which Budig was co-hosting with Ricky Paull Goldin (Jake, AMC).Tyra Banks

And then there was Tyra Banks’ acceptance speech for Best Talk Show:  “When you have a dream, there are going to be many people that tell you that you cannot do it, that you are not good enough. And I want you to tell them to kiss your dimply, fat, juicy, booty-licious, skinny, jiggly, saggy, fat ass.”

Marlena isn’t ordinarily a prude about language.  But these are the Daytime Emmys, the once a year gathering that is supposed to salute excellence and reward the very hard work talented people do in daytime drama every day.   Generations of producers, performers and journalists have fought to make sure the Daytime Emmys remain respectful both to the soap world, and intelligently inviting to the outside world, where soaps are  [Read more…]