Sunday Reflections 18: Fiery Doings on The Young and the Restless … General Hospital’s Friday Cliffhanger Was Thrilling, Classic Soap Opera

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

The Young and the Restless:  As the weeks go by, Y&R’s plots are changing radically under its new headwriter, Josh Griffith.  Here are some thoughts on the latest story twists:

 As I wrote in Sunday Reflections 15, there are plenty of presto chango plot revisions that a) make your head spin, and b)creatively launch new stories, GloWorm  has burned down, torched by an associate of Adam’s, giving Gloria and Jeffrey  $7 million insurance money to play with.  Jack has had a quickie back operation to ease his pain (and lead to pill addiction?)  In a November sweeps month plot, Victoria has just been kidnapped by an ex-con named Eddie G.  He’s the gambling buddy of Billy’s, played by Coleman from General Hospital (in other words, actor Blake Gibbons, a weird choice because the non-contract thesp is still playing the bartender on GH.)

Joshua Morrow as Nick Newman

But by far, the biggest change is in the character of Nick Newman, a schlemiel I never thought much about even though he was born on the show decades ago. He’s been the ping pong husband of either Sharon or Phyllis, continually stomped on by both of them and his father, The Great Victor Newman. Headwriter Griffith has chosen to suddenly make Nick grow up overnight and become a real man — rejecting Victor’s command to reclaim Newman in order to have more time to take care of his kids (in a terrific scene), divorce Phyllis once and for all, and get involved in a mature, idyllic romance with Avery (after their unfortunate one night stand earlier), the smartest, most contemporary women on the show.  I like the new Mr. Newman at last, or at least notice him now.

And the smartest choice by far is having Adam come back into Sharon’s orbit now that he’s protecting her from being charged as an arsonist. (He just, however [Read more...]

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...]

A Shout Out to Hollywood Heights

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

Although I am decades older than the target audience, I enjoyed the first four episodes of the new Hollywood Heights.  It’s the new teen soap on Nick at Nite, created, written, produced and acted by several daytime veterans.  What I really admire about this show is that it has good soap bones.

Hollywood Heights is a multi-generation show based on relationships, not on the shock and schlock plots we are so used to in daytime.  The kids and their parents actually seem to care about and even love one another, as daytime characters did in days of old.  Brittany Underwood (ex-Langston, One Life to Live) stars as high school senior and young aspiring songwriter Loren, who, along with her close friend Melissa (Ashley Holliday), really digs rock star Eddie Duran (Cody Longo), a very cute nice guy who comes to town to do a concert, and later sponsors a song-writing contest.  We meet Loren’s mom, Nora (Jama Williamson), Melissa’s family and Cody’s girlfriend, bad girl Chloe (Melissa Ordway) as they prepare for the big event.  The hour long daily show has [Read more...]