The Bold and the Beautiful Reaches a Pinnacle of Soapy Goodness!

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

Every soap generation has its touchstone moment. It usually happens when a plot turn is so soapy good it earns your allegiance to its characters for decades.  Mine occurred on Another World in the 70s when Alice (Jacqueline Courtney), engaged to Steve (George Reinholt), found out her sister-in-law Rachel (Robin Strasser) was pregnant with Steve’s baby.  Oh, the magnificent melodramatic pain and heartbreak of it all!

Hasty horndogs Brooke and Bill

For younger soap viewers, such a touchstone moment may have occurred this week on The Bold and the Beautiful.  At Brooke’s birthday party, Taylor interrupted all the testimonials to Brooke’s virtue by blurting out the truth — that Brooke had slept with her brother-in-law Bill, getting pregnant.  At the time, wife Katie had taken off her wedding ring and lay unconscious in the hospital. Did horndogs Brooke and Bill have to hop into bed so fast? Quelle horreur!

These revelation scenes were so fantastic because they were almost a year in coming, and the actors really milked the episodes of emotions for all they were worth.  Exhibiting the talent and passion that brought Heather Tom three Best Actress Emmys, Katie wept piteously and became entirely bitter.  The excellent Katharine Kelly Lang as the cringewowrthy Brooke also cried, overwhelmed by the shame the character had truly earned. Most interestingly, Don Diamont as the ever arrogant Bill went on the defensive, saying Katie had driven him to sleep wIth Brooke by constantly throwing them together.  How could Katie – or any other woman — care for this incredible nasty bastard ever again? Playing the villainy it for all it was worth, Diamont was the perfect slime.  

Such great soap moments can only come together though the seamless work of cast, writers, producers and crew. The headwriter here was Bradley Bell, and Bell is also the show’s executive producer.   Individual episodes during the week were written by Adam Dusevoir and the great Patrick Mulcahey, an Emmy-winning veteran of Santa Barbara and General Hospital.

It was just another great week of well-acted, nicely written and hard-hitting drama on B&B — not to be forgotten, perhaps, by a new generation of viewers. And it’s not even sweeps month!

Appreciating Three Wise Decisions – In Soap Land, No Less

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

Soap critics never miss a chance to bash all they dislike.  But credit should always be given where credit is due. So this week, Marlena would like to give kudos to three significant decisions:

1.  OWN, the Oprah network, picked up the first 40 episodes of All My Children and One Life to Live from Prospect Park. These are the pioneering episodes produced for online viewing in a bold experiment to aimed at giving the iconic soaps a rebirth. Now they’ll be broadcast again on Oprah’s cable network starting July 15th.  Hooray!  Now, we the technologically unadvanced have a chance to watch these shows on regular TV! As explained by Roger Friedman in Show Biz 411, here , Oprah, an astute businesswoman decided to pick up the two shows after the megasuccess of Tyler Perry’s original soap The Haves and Have Nots, which more than doubled her network’s viewership.  Kudos to OWN for realizing the power of soaps, in an era when so many still proclaim them to be dying.

2.  CBS, number one in viewership and Emmy wins, is demonstrating that it still knows the power of Friday cliffhangers.  So many soaps stopped doing them years ago in favor of spreading out story high points during the week.   But this week The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful had socko Friday endings which guarantee the return of viewers on Monday:

On Y&R, Phyllis and Kyle  kissed, as Phyllis tried to break up the romance of Summer and the biological brother she doesn’t know she has. This kiss (and maybe more) has huge ramifications, potentially breaking up Phyllis and father Jack and Summer and Kyle’s budding romance, too.  Is this Michelle Stafford’s exit storyline? 

Hunter Tylo

Meanwhile, over on B&B:  Also leaving her show is Hunter Tylo whose Taylor lowered the bomb on Brooke Friday encouraging her to tell her secret to all the guests at her birthday party. Brooke secretly slept with her brother-in-law Bill, becoming pregnant. Katie never knew — until now. Wow!  The ramifications here are huge inasmuch as this is the soap’s central story.

I’m coming back to watch both Y&R and B&B on Monday.  Are you?

3.  General Hospital paired brilliant actors Roger Howarth and Maura West as “romantic” partners Franco and Ava.  So what if this pairing is a put-on, one to wrest the ownership of ELQ and the Quartermaine fortune from the Quartermaines? The pairing of the two most talented and charismatic actors in the soap business is absolutely divine soap watching for us GH fans.  Hope these a deux scenes go on depuis longtemps.

The Bold and the Beautiful: Three Into Two Won’t Go

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

The Bold and the Beautiful is just past its 25th birthday and carries on doing  what it does best:   love triangles.  The show’s  theme might as well be, Three Into Two Won’t Go, which was the title  of an English movie I remember from 1969. Apart from the nifty title, it was a fairly pretentious Swinging Sixties exercise about a middle-aged man (Rod Steiger) who falls for a young woman hitchhiker (Judy Geeson), who proceeds to become a boarder in his and his wife’s (Claire Bloom) home. Soaps really do some things better from time to time, even without such a heavyweight cast.

Darin Brooks

Consider first the triangle that has all but consumed the show — Steffy-Liam-Hope. It’s finally at an end, though perhaps only temporarily if Jacqueline MacInnes Wood hasn’t really left the show for good, and is instead just on a long hiatus.  Wood did spectacular work on her way out as Steffy learned she  could never have children and left for Paris without appraising Liam of that fact.  Before  exiting, she “gave” Liam to Hope. But the ever  besotted Hope has just  met a new man, Wyatt, played by cute Emmy winner  Darin Brooks, who used to play Max on Days of Our Lives. So one good triangle smoothly should replace another. And it’s about time Hope stopped being so hung up on Liam, who did her wrong with Steffy numerous times.

Karla Mosely

Another promising new triangle is now arising, to be known henceforth as Maya-Rick-Caroline. Caroline wants to marry Rick, but now he only has eyes for Maya, an ex-con.  Lindsay Godfrey is immeasurably better now that her character has turned into a bad girl. But the show has a made a major find in sparkling Karla Mosley as Maya.  She plays strength and independence well, something unusual for a B&B heroine. As Rick, Jacob Young, an old soap pro, has the chops to play a very effective leading man to both women who are vying for his embrace.

But the best triangle on the show is Brooke-Bill-Katie.  Don Diamont, who plays Bill, and Katherine Kelly Lang, who plays Brooke, are an electric pairing with great sexual magnetism. Their attraction is forbidden and lurid Bill, who  is married to Brooke’s sister Katie, played by Heather Tom, who just won her third Daytime Emmy in the role. Brooke just dodged  a bullet: turns out she was not pregnant after all following a one night stand with Bill.  But that doesn’t mean this love triangle is over.  Au contraire.  On B&B love triangles have a habit of going on forever and with such a worthy cast, here’s hoping this one will, too. too. 

A Negative Vote on This Year’s Daytime Emmys

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

Last year I praised HLN’s first production of the Daytime Emmys because it was straightforward and lean.  This year’s show was exactly the opposite — overlong (almost three hours) and full of things that just shouldn’t have been included.  Boring!

Doug Davidson and his well-deserved and long overdue Best Actor award (Photo by Richard ShotwellInvision/AP)

How about that couch?  I’m talking about the one on which winners were interviewed by such “journalists” as Giada Di Laurantiis and Sheryl Underwood.  At least some of the winners — Best Actor Doug Davidson and Best Supporting Actress Julie Marie Berman, for instance — handled themselves well and with grace in the awkward situation.  There was just too much stuff stuffed into the show — like two Lifetime Achievement awards (Monty Hall and Bob Stewart) and presentation of three generic Best Song performances by co-host Robin Meade (who is at least a pretty woman with a nice voice).  Nancy Lee Grahn’s brief comedy bits filmed outdoors were not very good..

The whole problem with the show is that in content it aimed to be a major network presentation, but missed because of poor and cheap production.  It makes us remember and appreciate what a good job Dick Clark Productions did with the show over the years.  The hosts — Sam Champion, A.J. Hammer and Meade — were just meh, and scattershot appearances by them did nothing to keep the whole production feeling cohesive.  All in all, the 40th annual Daytime Emmys was a production not befitting of its own lofty aims or of the hard work done on daytime television by so many creative people over the year.

The winners in most of the acting categories, on the other hand, were well chosen.  Finally, Davidson deservedly won his Best Actor statuette after 35 years in the show in a very emotional storyline on The Young and the Restless (Paul shot his would-be murderer son Ricky.)   The Bold and the Beautiful’s Heather Tom always excels, particularly in her storyline in which Katie suffered a near-psychotic breakdown after the birth of her son.  And General Hospital’s Julie Marie Berman’s win as Best Supporting Actress was a good parting gift from the show.

Speaking of GH, wasn’t the show shortchanged in a year when the big awards (Best Show, Best Writing, Best Direction) went to B&B. Not that B&B had a bad year (it was very good, especially with the scenes leading up to Stephanie’s death), but GH literally had its finest years in decades, an everyday must-see show which corrected the mistakes made by the horribly crime-centric longtime headwriter Bob Guza.  Except for an underserved award for Best Young Actress to Kristen Alderson (while she was still playing Starr Manning), GH deserved many more awards and  rewards this year.

On Days of Our Lives, Chandler Massey was rewarded for a very nice job with Best Younger Actor. Then the show went on to score the evening’s the real upset – Days won as Best Soap.  As bitterly noted by executive producer Ken Corday in his acceptance speech, this was the first time in 38 years the show had won the ultimate award.

So, Thinking Fans, did Days deserve it?

Daytime Emmys next — stay tuned

It’s time again for the Daytime Emmys. Do you care? Soap opera loyalist that I am, I still do. I’ll be watching the broadcast Sunday night, June 16, at 8 on the HLN Network. I’ll bet many Thinking Fans will, too. So let’s meet back here on Monday to discuss the winners, the losers, and the whole show. — MARLENA  

The Young and the Restless: Time and Patience Needed

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

I’m on school vacation and have plenty of time on my hands.  So I’ve been watching a lot of The Young and the Restless.  It’s pretty good soap, if time and patience are your strengths as a soap viewer.

Y&R, as is its custom, is much slower than other soaps.  A storyline — take Jack and Phyllis’ romance, for example — can take twenty years to resolve.  Right now, it’s about to be exposed whether Phyllis’ daughter Summer is Jack’s or Nick’s biologically. A single new romance like as Nick and Avery’s can take an entire year to develop.  They’re finally formally engaged as of this week!  Any one storyline can go through dozens of ups and downs.

Tracey E. Bregman and Christian LeBlanc

The current best example is Lauren and Michael’s long marriage and the rough seas it has been going through since Lauren had a hot affair with Carmine.   It took forever for Michael to find out about the affair and now he seems to be moving in and out of his and Lauren’s home with regularity.  Actually this storyline is a good showcase for daytime’s best current couple, Tracey E.  Bregman and Chrtistian LeBlanc, durable and always engaging actors both. We watched both performers grow up on soaps and we’re still tuned in.  Will Lauren and Michael stay together? I bet this storyline has years to go, and that Bregman and LeBlanc will continue to carry it forward.

Others that have gone on seemingly forever aren’t so palatable.  I’m tired of Kevin and Chloe debating Kevin’s criminal tendencies.  Chelsea’s sole reason for being seems to be getting pregnant. As you know, she’s currently carrying ex-husband Adam’s baby and passing it off as Dylan’s.

As you also know, the star du jour of the show is General Hospital émigré Steve Burton who plays Dylan, or as I call him Dumb Dylan.  He seems like a pretty intelligent guy, yet he persists in believing Chelsea’s big lie.  It doesn’t make much sense since he’s otherwise insightful and perceptive. Writer alert: this isn’t Burton’s fault.

Despite its perpetual status as the top rated show, Y&R is certainly facing big challenges right now.  On top of Jeanne Cooper’s recent death, Michelle Stafford is about to leave the show.  Can any one soap afford to lose two of its longtime superstars in such a short period of time? Ratings will tell.

So how goes your early summer, Thinking Fans? Do you have the patience to watch Y&R?     

Daytime Emmy Chump Change

On June 16th, this year’s Daytime Emmys will be broadcast on HLN.   Released this week were the names of the hosts — Sam Champion, Good Morning America’s co-host, and HLN hosts A. J. Hammer and Robin Meade. But … if an awards show’s prestige is measured in part by the star power of its celebrity hosts, couldn’t we have bigger names than these? We know there are only four daytime soaps left (and two on-line) but certainly the year’s big awards ceremony deserves be headlined by hosts with more juice. What do you think? 

Franco: Make or Break for General Hospital?

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

Maura West

So let’s take a survey.  How many Thinking Fans think Roger Howarth’s great charm as an actor can overcome the unbelievable maneuvers that have been made to bring back evil Franco as a viable everyday character?  Erasing Franco’s responsibility for the  rapes of Sam and Michael has taken quite a bit of tap dancing by headwriter Ron Carlivati, and I find the moves bizarre to say the least. I guess they had to give Howarth a character with some bad boy flavor, but Franco? Tell me what you think of this decision and whether or not you think it will make or break General Hospital’s current ratings. They’ve taken quite the risk here, je pense.

Emme Rylan

An additional thought from moi:  the very strong additions of Emme Rylan (new Lulu) and Maura West (Ava Jerome) just might also be enough to counterbalance any kind of ratings or popularity hit the show may take because of the Franco fiasco.  Que pensez-vous?

The Bold and the Beautiful:  Seductive Brooke Strikes Out

I’ve watched Brooke Logan flit around as a practicing sex addict on The Bold and the Beautiful for more than twenty-five years now.   But she’s never have been as pathetic as she was this week when she used all her seductive moves to get Eric to leave  Taylor and “father”  her unborn baby (who was really conceived with brother-in law Bill Spencer?).  Eric resisted her moves!  He’s usually so easily seduced  and Brooke is usually such a successful seductress.  By this point Eric should really be looking into senior housing. But Katherine Kelly Lang’s Brooke will probably never get too old to pull her patented seduction act.   How truly refreshing it was to see Eric say no  – at least for now — to the usually irresistible Brooke.

The Young and the Restless:  A Classy Tribute for a Classy Lady

What a classy and truly meaningful episode-long tribute The Young and the Restless did for the late Jeanne Cooper this week.   In forty years of soap watching, I can’t remember this amount of time being allotted to a departed actor in this way.   It was so sweet to have the entire cast share their memories of Cooper with the audience.  I could have done without their tales of Cooper’s habit of pinching all the young male character’s body parts, though. But I guess it’s nice to know that that even a lady full of class could be naughty once and a while.

Port Charles is Frustration City

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

As noted last week and confirmed by the passionate reaction in the letters section, there seems to be massive dissatisfaction with General Hospital right now.   And it’s not only the appearance of three new characters with too-familiar faces (played by Kristin Alderson, Michael Easton and Roger Howarth).  The show is frustrating to watch, with too many stories that need quick resolutions or some casting corrections.   I have some ideas on how these stories might be improved.

Roger Howarth, now a blond and annoying mysterioso

1. Identify the mystery character played by Roger Howarth ASAP. The guessing game as to who this sinister blond is has gone on about two weeks too long. Is he Jason?  Is he Franco?  Is he a triplet we’ve never heard of? Is this the return of The Talented Mr. Ripley? The guessing game has gone on about two weeks too long, and it’s more confusing and thus annoying by the day.   We’ve seen him happily meet harmoniously with baddie Heather and let himself in with a key to good girl Sam’s apartment.  Franco, Sam’s rapist, is a ruined character. Would the show really waste a star actor like Howarth on another version of Jason, a character is so identified with the actor Steve Burton (who is now on The Young and the Restless)? Here’s hoping the producers have more imagination.  The beginning of his party on the Haunted Star this week will be a much needed big reveal

2. Who is the father of Britt’s baby?  Tell us, immediately!   Britt’s condition was revealed just about the time Patrick finally revealed his feelings for Sabrina, something we had waited for almost three-quarters of a year.  An instant baby “fathered” by Patrick is too pat a relationship spoiler. Or could Britt really be carrying Dante and Lulu’s baby?  The story is too frustrating to go one for six more long months. Reveal the identity of the baby’s father right away! Please!

3. Review and think about fine tuning the young casting.  Mark Teschner is probably the best casting agent in the soap business, but his choices of late have been disappointing. Jimmy Deshler, who plays Rafe, appears to be incapable of more than scowling, and Bryan Craig, who plays the very central character Morgan (son of Carly and Sonny), seems to be a limited actor beyond his nicely developing young pecs.  Neither seems up to the challenge of carrying a story. GH should bring in stronger young actors now, as summertime is always the season when young soap stories are highlighted.  

Your turn, Thinking Fans. Any suggestions for getting GH back on track? 

General Hospital Has Identity and Condiment Problems

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

The core of watching soap operas is to believe.  Unfortunately, General Hospital viewers had to put that value behind them this week when the show introduced new characters played by oh-so-familiar faces, all with new hair-dos to signify their new personae.  Michael Easton, who played John, is now playing Steven Clay’s brother Silas, who wears a pony tail.  With her hair naturally brunette, Kristin Alderson, who played Starr, is now playing Kiki. Superstar Roger Howarth, formerly known as the infamous Todd, now looks like a chic European supermodel in his dyed blond do, thus equipping him to play an oily character whose nefarious intentions are yet to be shared with the audience.

The GH producers had little choice but to recast the actors, when Prospect Park (the producers of the on-line All My Children and One Life to Live) prohibited them from using the actors as their former OLTL characters. I’m sure it was a hard choice.  They’re betting the loyalty of their audience on it. Will they lose viewers? Probably. Because belief is so fundamental to enjoying soap operas, I think GH will be on the losing end here.

The tricky situation won’t be as bad if the actors can manage to create new characters to go along with their new looks. This is a tall order – all three are strongly identified with their former screen selves. But they’re going to give it a go:  Easton – stuck as he is with his long face, dark gaze and trademark deep voice – is nonetheless trying to be someone new as Silas, the doctor brother of the dead serial killer Clay.  Howarth has used his new look to create someone who is very threatening and, at the same time, very intriguing. His name has yet to be revealed to the audience. Only Kristin Alderson appears not to be working very hard to make her Kiki substantially different from her Starr. Making the situation more confusing is the fact that Kiki is the poker playing girlfriend of Morgan. She used to be the girlfriend of his brother Michael, who at this point, must be very, very confused.

On The Chew: Mario Batali, Jane Ellliot and Michael Symon

However, GH did have a choice in doing a long sequence which promoted its ABC time slot on The Chew.  A. J. Quartermaine (the superbly charming Sean Kanan) pitted his Pickle-Lila formula vs. his aunt’s Tracy’s Pickle-Eddie in a condiment taste-off on air.  What followed was embarrassing mugging by The Chew cast (especially by chef Mario Batali) and even more hopeless overacting by the usually marvelous Jane Elliot, who plays Tracy. As you know the samples were poisoned (most probably by Roger Howarth’s new character) and Liz and Batali wound up in the hospital.

The whole sequence was too broad and over the top and reeked of the desperation of its own network-sponsored cross-promotion.   The story might have worked if so many episodes hadn’t been devoted to it.  In the end, we still don’t know which Pickle-Lila formula is actually better, and the ownership of ELQ is still in question.   Does Tracy own it or does A.J?  We can be reasonably sure we won’t find out any time soon. How much longer can we be expected to relish this interminable relish business?

Jeanne Cooper: An Appreciation

 

Jeanne Cooper

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

This week daytime television lost a great icon and a great lady:  Jeanne Cooper, who played Mrs. Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless for more than forty years, passed away on Tuesday at 84.

There was no character like Mrs. Chancellor.  She was brought on six months into the show’s run in 1973 to be the spoiler in the romance of the nubile Jill Foster and the handsome older man, Phillip. Good news for fans, but bad news for the lovers: Mrs. Chancellor was a formidable woman who didn’t want to let her husband go.

Tough as she was, in the capable hands of an outstanding actress like Ms. Cooper, Mrs. Chancellor was no ogre. We were shown all sides to this very flawed human being.  She always wanted to take a drink, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that unquenchable thirst. She never wanted to be left alone, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that awful loneliness, too.   She wanted to be loved by all who were closed to her: husband Phillip, son Brock (who called her “Duchess)” and best friend Nikki, to whom she always acted the role of loving mother.

But woe to those who drew her scorn!  Enemies Katherine and Jill became legendary for their constant fighting.  Ms. Cooper was good in scenes with Brenda Dickson who originated the role of Jill, but absolutely great with Jess Walton, who became a legend unto herself as the equally tempestuous and vulnerable Jill.

Jeanne Cooper’s great achievement in soap acting was to keep the character interesting and challenging for four decades. From first broadcast to last in every scene in which she appeared, Katherine was the one we watched.  She definitely was one of the most understandably human characters in the history of daytime.

Off screen, Ms. Cooper was constantly human, too.  In her autobiography Not Young, Still Restless (It Books) published last year, she admitted her own tendencies to alcoholism and detailed her many affairs.  Yet, she wrote most convincingly that her best and most cherished role was mother — she had three children (including L.A. Law’s Corbin Bernsen) and six grandchildren.

Jeanne Cooper and Mrs. Chancellor will be much missed.  The Young and the Restless has planned a special episode in their honor for May 28.  We wouldn’t miss it.