The Young and the Restless: Can Nikki Resist Falling Off the Wagon Again?

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

Melody Thomas Scott: Will Nikki stay sober?

The vodka martini stands alone at the bar waiting to be sipped.  The well-dressed older blonde woman stands next to it, looking hard at the beguiling beverage. Her face tells us she’s fighting the fight every recovering alcoholic fights countless times. She wins  this round, walking away, leaving the martini untouched.

But how much longer can The Young and the Restless’  Nikki Newman resist the siren song of alcohol? The classic Alcoholics Anonymous slogan “One Day at a Time” could have been written for her. A lifelong alcoholic, she is always vulnerable to drink, and falls off the wagon when the pressure is strong enough.

Lately, the pressure has been very strong — the public revelation that she mothered Dylan McAvoy as a young girl when she was a member of a cult led by Ian Ward. Although she was having an affair with Ian, her baby turned out to be fathered by her friend Paul Williams.  Ian even sued Nikki for emotional distress for passing off  Dylan as his son.  Although the case was dismissed, the trauma sent Nikki to an AA meeting, where she told her story to sympathetic ears. Ian swore that getting Nikki back on the sauce would be his revenge.

As portrayed with tenderness and torment by Melody Thomas Scott, Nikki’s great vulnerability to the temptation to drink under pressure has made her a very popular character over the last 30 years.  Will Nikki’s  inner strength be great enough to carry her over the hurdles of temptation that keep on coming? 

It’s an ongoing question that will get a powerful challenge in the upcoming fall season. A new cast member will be joining Y&R. She is primetime star Meredith Baxter, who will play Nikki’s “drinking buddy” Maureen for a few months. Is Maureen also the mother of Kelly and Stich? Can Nikki survive a major dose of this alcohol-soaked “friendship”?

General Hospital’s Chemistry Tests

You never know when two actors are going to hit it off.  General Hospital has been experimenting with several interesting pairs lately.

Lisa LoCicero and Wally Kurth are being paired as Olivia and Ned to quite the charming effect.  Recently after some drinks they watched TV in a hotel room, where Ned had to warn Olivia against a very bad joke — drunk-dialing an animal shelter to inquire about an adoption. Happily, when she sobered up she was mortified that she’d done something stupid.

Another attention-getting couple is Michelle Stafford and Roger Howarth, who have been given a few funny and charming scenes lately in which the unlikely couple Nina Clay and Franco build a friendship.   Both Stafford and Howarth are noted for playing bad characters and their pairing is an interesting face off.  Of course Franco’s girlfriend Carly doesn’t like it.

Most enjoyable, too, are Maura West as Ava  and Tony Geary as Luke, seen skyping Carly’s bid for the job of evil drug-dealing Luke’s underboss. What a treat it is to watch two soap superstars at work and play. Or perhaps I should say, work they make look like play!

Character Actors Add Much Needed Character To Soaps

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

Bergen Williams as truth-telling Alice Gunderson on General Hospital

Soap stories, most of which are about romance and love triangles, do tend to get repetitive.  Adding variety and spice to this formula are character roles, which do a lot to make soaps more interesting.  These characters often provide comic relief and serve as “talk tos” for the main characters.

Colorful and amusing character parts have enriched soaps since the beginning.

On Another World in the 70s, Anne Meacham as Iris’s assistant Louise Goddard always drew laughs when she talked to plants about  the show’s tangled plots, “confiding” in the greenery in a deep, soothing voice. In the 80s, Brent Collins on AW  was memorable as Felicia Gallant’s wise-cracking sidekick.  (A versatile actor, he also played the evil, unfunny Mr. Big on As the World Turns.)  At the same time on Days of Our Lives,  Arleen Sorkin and  John DeLancie served as comic foils to leads Marlena and Roman – Arleen as the ditzy blond  Calliope and John as the stuffed shirt Eugene.  Meanwhile, on All My Children, the country-fried Opal (Dorothy Lyman, Jill  Larson) was the talk-to for Erica, and was so popular she became a main character.

Now more than ever, today’s meager menu of four soaps needs to be made tastier by the addition of the adroit services of stellar character actors:

All the goings-on at The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations are comically commented on by Pam (Ally Mills) and her boyfriend Charlie (Dick Christie), turning the office staff into an irreverent Greek chorus. Often they “get” what’s happening before the main characters do. Pam, you may recall, was first to catch on to how crazy Quinn is.

A fine example of comic acting was on display just this month as Ilene Kristen guested on General Hospital as her old  Ryan’s Hope character Delia Reid Ryan, her patented kookiness undiminished by the passing years,  Delia, in a real stroke of writing brilliance, was revealed to be the mother of  Ava (Maura West).  Like mother like daughter — both are conniving  and mocking. This time Delia came to stay with pregnant Ava and her baby daddy Sonny and wound up busting into Sonny’s safe before she was escorted out of town by Sean.

Another comic character that is much beloved by the GH audience is Alice Gunderson (Bergen Williams), the truth-telling wrestler and former Quartermaine maid who is now a real thorn in the side of Tracy.  Alice is on to the fact that Tracy is trying to secretly take over ELQ, the family business.  Recently Alice proved she really does have a heart by having a heart attack, and now needs a heart transplant to save her life.

Speaking of thorns, a shining example of tour de force character acting is now being offered by Ray Wise, whose seductive con man Ian Ward is now a thorn in the sides of many Genoa City residents on The Young and the Restless.   Right now, he’s suing Nikki for emotional disturbance (!) because she lied and told him he was Dylan’s biological father. In this storyline, Wise has been particularly well paired with Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) and Eric Braeden, who plays Nikki’s exasperated and combative  husband Victor.

 These are some of my faves. Who are yours?

The Ho-Hum, Overly Violent Carly Kidnapping Denouement

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

Laura Wright’s Carly: Of course she was rescued!

We’ve already said that General Hospital’s Heather-kidnapping-Carly plot was a big ho-hum. Heather tried to blame it on Franco, her son, who had previously tried to kill Heather, his mother. No surprise, the accusation went nowhere and the outcome was predictable: Carly, a central GH character, just had to be rescued. And what of Heather getting loose from the asylum? So what else is new? No institution has succeeded in keeping her locked up for the past thirty years.

Sorry to report that the denouement of the story in which Franco found Carly in the Wyndemere catacombs was every bit a disappointment, despite its excessive violence – calculated, perhaps, to cover the lackluster story in fake blood. First, Franco was shot escaping prison, and then shot again by his mom, a wound not grievous enough to prevent him from stabbing her in the leg.

The rescue of wounded Franco and the trussed up Carly was finally accomplished by Anna and Nathan.  Franco and Carly  were seen declaring their love for one another.  How sweet. We can’t tell you how happy we are that two of the most unsavory characters in all of soap operas have finally found romantic nirvana with one another.

Three Couples and One Friendship to Watch in 2014

Romance is, after all, the soul of soap opera. So, if Franco and Carly don’t : warm your heart, here are three pairings that just might :

Ridge and Katie (Thorsten Kaye and Heather Tom) on The Bold and the Beautiful. These two characters, played by uncommonly terrific actors,  are in love but haven’t declared it yet.  You know that because they have had a recent romp in the park and suddenly Ridge and Katie have developed a mutual interest in poetry. Now they can read to each other, a particular treat when it’s Kaye’s turn, given his English accent and dulcet tones.

Ava and Morgan (Maura West and  Bryan Craig ) on General Hospital.  Who would have thought that a lurid affair between a 19 year old and an older woman could turn into GH’s deepest, most meaningful love story?  Chemistry and very good acting have lifted this pairing from something superficial to something sublime.

Julian and Alexis (William deVry and Nancy Lee Grahn) also on GH. Who would have thought that an almost renewed  affair between grandparents would be indescribably sexy? After all, this pair conceived Sam over three decades ago.  DeVry and Grahn have great chemistry despite what looks to be an age difference of about a decade.

And in the friendship department, keep an eye on Chloe and Chelsea (Elizabeth Hendrickson and Melissa Claire Egan) on The Young and the Restless. These two are best friends and are always refreshing to watch because of the great degree of honesty between them.  Chloe was right when Adam turned out to be a louse, running over and killing Delia.  What Chelsea didn’t count on was that Chloe was so jealous of her motherhood of Connor she’d wind up kidnapping him, as she did on Friday.

Four More Who Make My Day

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

Even when the plots of our soap operas drag or are otherwise unsatisfying, there are always actors who make our day.  I named some of my favorites here a while back. Now, here are some more, all on General Hospital:

Anders Hove: GH’s own bad grandpa (ABC Photo)

Anders Hove plays Faison, a classic villain who has been in and out of Port Charles going back to 1990.   He’s Danish and with his long hair and wrinkles is perhaps the most bedraggled looking character on all of daytime TV.  His visits usually have to do with his obsession with lady love Anna Devane and with his favorite diabolical undertaking, kidnapping.  This time he’s in town after revealing to Anna that her daughter Robin (who his bossy wife Dr. Obrecht abducted a year and a half ago) is still alive.

Hove’s latest visit is so much fun because we’re getting to see the domestic side of the Great Dane.  He’s continually in conflict with Dr. O, his quarrelsome spouse from hell (the outstanding Kathleen Gatti). The two fight like the old married couple that they are. This time he’s also fighting with evil daughter Britt (does the apple fall far from the tree?), who has introduced him to his “grandson” Ben, who is not biologically Britt’s son.  It’s hilarious to see this villain kiss his “baby.”  We hope Faison sticks around, even if at the moment he should still be in jail for impersonating Duke Lavery.

Finola Hughes

Finola Hughes is always a treat since her spy/police chief character Anna Devane  came to town in the 80s.  She is what soap women rarely are: career oriented and mature but still vulnerable and brimming with emotion.   Now she’s obsessed with finding her daughter Robin, who has thought dead for some time but is still alive.

The most interesting recent Hughes moment came with her impersonation of the vile Dr. O, who wore a mask impersonating Anna. She was an actress pretending to be a character pretending to be her character. Tricky stuff, and Hughes made it a jolly tour de force, complete Dr. O’s signature hauteur. Elsewhere, she played herself with equal charm in some marvelous scenes with Hove.

Bryan Craig. We’ve been very rough on Craig who plays Carly and Sonny’s son Morgan.  As Kiki’s husband, he was very weak.  However, since Morgan has hooked up with older woman Ava Jerome (the outstanding Maura West), Craig’s performances have gotten better. Perhaps working with the accomplished West buoyed him. Now he’s a lot more forceful.   Going forward, it should be interesting now that he’s discovered Ava’s brother Derek is really his father’s enemy, mob boss Julian Jerome.

Ilene Kristen. Here’s a big soap surprise. It seems that GH is incorporating the old soap Ryan’s Hope and Kristen’s character Delia Reid Ryan into its own storylines. Sam and Silas will go to the Upper West Side bar to find out if Delia is really the mother of Ava Jerome.  We can hardly wait to see Kristen (formerly Roxy on One Life to Live), who is always kooky and funny,  in her two appearances scheduled for  this week.

General Hospital: Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson

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

Last week we condemned an Eric and Quinn romance on The Bold and the Beautiful because of the thirty- plus-years age difference.  But this week I’m going to be a tremendous hypocrite and give a compliment to the fact that forty-something Ava slept with 19 year old Morgan on General Hospital this week.  It was good soap opera because it was entirely unexpected.

Maura West, GH’s Mrs. Robinson: “Jesus loves you more than you will know (wo, wo, wo)”

As you may recall, Ava jumped into bed with Morgan after being dejected that the man she loves – Silas, the biological father of her daughter Kiki — doesn’t care for her and is instead interested in Sam.  But what really kicked off the liaison was when Sonny blurted out that he knew that Morgan knew Kiki wasn’t related to Michael before he married her. It effectively broke up the marriage of Morgan and Kiki, finally sending Kiki into Michael’s arms. 

We can’t remember a case of the Mrs. Robinson syndrome happening on a soap before.  Mrs. Robinson, of course, was the older woman who slept with college grad Benjamin in The Graduate. Having Ava sleep with Morgan was a very daring step for a soap.

The scenes made for some good drama. GH being a soap, the liaison didn’t stay a secret for long.  Hotel owner Carly let herself into Ava’s hotel room with a pass key and was livid when she found her son in bed with the older woman. (Never mind that Carly would probably do a similar thing if it fit her agenda.)  But what really was entertaining was when Michael and Kiki later discovered Ava in bed with Morgan. “I hit the sheets with your mother,” jeered spiteful Morganl, who almost danced with glee at the opportunity to get back at his emotionally unfaithful wife.  Kiki’s eyes bulged with anger.

The sequence’s content also strengthened the acting of two of the cast’s weaker actors,  Bryan Craig, who plays Morgan, and Kristen Alderson, who plays Kiki.  Neither have been very convincing in their roles.  Yet Craig played Morgan’s obnoxiousness and immaturity quite well here.

The situation also proved overall that Ava is turning out to be the most valuable player in GH’s cast.   Sleeping with her daughter’s husband is only the latest “accomplishment” of this character who defines the word unpredictable.  As you may recall, she has lied repeatedly, she shot Olivia, she withheld her knowledge of the identity of Kiki’s father from Kiki, Michael and Franco, and she may even have shot Connie.  (The initials “A.J,” as in Ava Jerome, was found written in blood next to Connie’s body). It helps that Ava is played by Maura West who is hands down this year’s best new actress in a role.  We can’t wait to see what Ava, er, Mrs. Robinson will do next. 

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Lyrics from “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel

General Hospital’s Entertaining Throughline: Kiki Isn’t a Quartermaine

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

For a soap that is frequently troubled and all over the place,General Hospital had a very entertaining week. That’s because it had a very definite throughline — the revelation to many that Kiki isn’t a Quartermaine – aimed at a Friday cliffhanger destination. Michael’s brother Morgan was set to marry her, but Michael, knowing that Kiki isn’t his biological  Quartermaine cousin, burst in at the last second to break up the wedding.

Kristen Alderson’s Kiki: Not a Q

Some adroitly complicated plotting got us to that point. Kiki’s lack of Q DNA has been something of an open secret for some time. The audience has long known the truth.  The only person who now really doesn’t know is Kiki herself, who carries on under the delusion that she has a Q family vote in who gets control of ELQ, Tracy or A.J. (Earlier she voted with A.J. who emerged victorious in the struggle.) Kiki’s mother Ava spilled the beans to Morgan, who then redoubled his efforts to get Kiki away from Michael.

So if Kiki isn’t a bona fide Q, what is her true lineage? It turns out her biological father is the normally chilly, Spock-like Silas, from whom this news elicits actual human emotions. Live long and prosper,  Michael Easton, a.k.a. John the cop and Caleb the vampire. You are the Leonard Nimoy of soaps.

The bombshell news that Kiki isn’t a real Q burst via the Port Charles Press, whose editor Connie found Kiki’s birth certificate after Tracy let her break into Ava and Franco’s room in the Q mansion. Going forward, this dramatic piece of investigative journalism may in some way lead to Connie’s exit from the show, or indeed from this earth. Kelly Sullivan, the spunky actress who plays her is due to leave the show, and fan speculation is that Connie will be murdered.

Who done it, or more accurately, who’s gonna do it?  It could be Kiki herself.  Ava was seen physically threatening the life of Silas should he go near his biological daughter, so violence toward Connie for exposing her long held secret is a possibility.   A.J. almost strangled Connie while confronting her that she had published the secret that led to him losing ELQ.  Sonny himself is mad at Connie for exposing the secret, since Michael and Kiki would stop thinking of themselves and being related and that would somehow ruin Morgan’s chance to marry Kiki.

The show had several great scenes this week. Sonny pistol whipping a hysterical A.J., when  he found A.J. threatening to strangle Connie was exciting.  A scene in which Tracy and Elizabeth debated A.J’s past failures was particularly well acted by Jane Elliot and Rebecca Herbst. Also well-turned by Michael Easton and Maura West  was a scene in which  Ava physically threatened Silas with a scissor to his  back should he make contact with his new daughter.

All week there was a real sense of suspense. Would Kiki and Morgan ultimately marry?  Will Connie really be done in, and by whom?   We’ll have to all tune in to GH next week to find  the answers to these ongoing  questions and more. Thankfully for the continued success of GH, we’re looking forward to it.

General Hospital: The Emergence of Ava Jerome, One Intriguing Woman

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

They showed her from her legs up, clad in a drop dead red halter dress.  This week on General Hospital, Ava Jerome was revealed to be the sister of the new power broker in town — Derek Wells. As played by soap veteran William deVry, Derek has a shady past: he really is one of GH’s old mob chiefs.  He was revealed to be the once thought dead Julian Jerome. His “little sister” Ava  has  been in town for a while, gathering power little by little.

Maura West

This reveal was so captivating because it was so well planned. For the past few months, GH has been slowly building up the new central character Ava, as played by daytime superstar Maura West (who became famous playing the wily Carly Tenney on As the World Turns and later the murdered Diane Jenkins on The Young and the Restless.)  Making Ava a central powerful character is a stellar choice by GH because daytime talent doesn’t get any better than West, a very accomplished actress and an expert at playing femme fatales and strong women on soaps.

When Ava came to town, she was a New York art dealer and the mother of Kiki Jerome (played by Kristen Alderson.)  At first Ava was shown to be a conniver, trying to get Kiki to vote her portion of the ELQ stocks with Tracy. Later, Ava was revealed to be the ex of Franco, who was presumably Kiki’s father. (It has since been shown that Silas Clay, another of Ava’s ex’s, is secretly Kiki’s biological father.)

But the GH audience was shown that Ava is much more than all this.  On the one hand she is seen trying to form an alliance with Franco against Tracy, while on the other she is the woman who tried to shoot him, hitting Olivia instead.  Her responsibility for this crime has never been exposed, at least so far. Ava  has been revealed to be an active member of the Jerome crime family, and the spotlight on West as a central GH character is shining even more brightly.

Quite deftly, GH has developed Ava into a very complex character, full of contradictions and mysterious as yet unanswered questions. She’s has become a very intriguing  woman indeed – and much more fun than a conventional heroine.

So, Thinking Fans, what do you think of the Ava as a powerhouse GH character? Are you rooting for or against Ava?  What do you think of West in the role? Discutez, s’il vous plait.

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.

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.

What’s a Daytime Emmy Year Without Complaining? Or Even Watching?

For a full report on the Viva Las Vegas Daytime Emmys, read the post following this one by Marlena’s friend, TV columnist Ed Martin.  But first …

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daytime emmyBy Marlena De Lacroix

Due to a car malfunction, Moose, Nigel and I had to stay away an extra day this past Sunday, (delightfully) stranded in a cabin without a TV.  (I made a fabulous salt-free dinner of Thai noodles with chicken and scallions from scratch.)

And so let it be recorded in anno domani 2010 that  moi,  Marlena De Lacroix, missed the Daytime Emmys.  Marlena, who has never missed watching or attending the daytime awards in thirty years.  Marlena, who first went to the Emmys in 1980 in the old Waldorf Astoria, and flipped when I saw that year winners, Another World‘s Doug Watson and One Life to Live‘s Judith Light, live and in the flesh?  Wow!  What an amazing moment in my career that was.    

You don’t care that I missed watching the 2010 Emmys?  Then why, when I got home, did I find 312 messages on my computer complaining about the Emmys, asking me what I felt, from friends, Romans and [Read more...]