Y&R: Nikki Newman’s Great Strength

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

Melody Thomas Scott

One of the great things about daytime soap opera is how strong the women characters generally are.  They have to be that way to survive the problems continually thrown at them in their everyday lives. At the same time, they must be vulnerable to the vagaries of romance. The head may know best, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

One of daytime’s strongest women characters is also one of its historically most vulnerable. She is Nikki Newman, as played with such phenomenal depth and power for the last thirty years by Melody Thomas Scott on The Young and the Restless.  For the last six months Nikki has been fighting a situation that has shaken her to her very core:  She found out the baby she gave up to adoption as a young teenager is in fact the new man in town, Dylan McAvoy (Steve Burton). How, she wonders, can she earn his filial devotion?

The baby was conceived under very shady circumstances.  As a young girl, Nikki joined a cult led by a very influential, shifty and pushy man named Ian Ward.  Ward seduced the young girl and Nikki carried the baby to term, giving it up for good with the assistance of some local nuns.

One of the first things Nikki did after she revealed herself to the grown Dylan as his mother was to make sure that he knew that Ian, the rat, is his biological father.  Dylan researched Ian and found out he was still up to his old tricks, living as a shady youth counselor named John Darwin.  Darwin came to Genoa City and has since haunted the lives both of Nikki and Dylan.

Ian’s unwanted attention has been particularly frightful for Nikki, especially when he breaks the security of the Newman estate and shows up in Nikki’s living room.   But what’s really tested Nikki is Ian’s plot to similarly influence and seduce her young granddaughter Summer, who is the daughter of Nikki’s other son Nick Newman.

As played so beautifully by Scott, Nikki is able to be strong despite her fear. Even though she was frightened, she stood up to Ian, telling him she is not afraid of him.  He requested a $5 million payoff to leave town, and Nikki showed up with a fraction of the amount.  Then she scared him away from Summer, demonstrating her great strength as a character and a leading lady.

One of the great highlights of this plot has been the performance of Ray Wise, a soap opera veteran and perhaps best known for the role of Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks.  His Ian Ward is just the right shades of charming and smarmy and has had wonderful scenes with both Scott and Hunter King, who plays Summer.

Now that Ward has been exposed as a scoundrel, will he turn up dead?  And will it be Nikki — or someone else — who kills him? 

The Young and the Restless’ Big Baby Reveal: Well Worth Waiting For

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

The Young and the Restless may be the best soap when it comes to dragging out its storylines.  Because this week, it was more than worth than nine month wait when it was explosively revealed to Dylan MacAvoy  that Chelsea’s newborn baby Connor isn’t really his, but the child of Chelsea’s ex-husband Adam Newman.  As you know, baby Connor is experiencing signs of retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease Adam himself inherited from his blind mother. 

Steve Burton’s Dylan: The baby he loves so much isn’t really his

In addition to the suspense, what made the storyline high point worth waiting for was the performances.  As Chelsea the lifelong con woman, Melissa Claire Egan always sustains a nice element of hysteria, and that worked well in the revelation scenes.  But it was Steve Burton as Dylan who stole the show with Dylan’s tearful and very sensitive reaction to the news, as his character loves what he believed to be his baby very much.   Dylan had even married Chelsea and made a whole new life with her believing he had fathered Connor.   He even bought Genoa City’s coffee house Crimson Lights to support the family.

As evidenced here, Burton has improved greatly as an actor since the days when he played Jason Quartermaine Morgan on General Hospital.  As Dylan, he has found layers in his character, who has always been a guy almost too good to be true since his introduction last year.  Now Burton has many opportunities to add more shades of gray to Dylan, a hero in the war in Afghanistan. This will be challenging if the spoilers are correct – they say he’ll go against character type by kidnapping baby Connor from his mother.

Of course, Michael Muhney who plays Adam was great as always in the scenes in which Adam  found out that baby Connor is his son.  Now in what will become a continuing storyline situation, he has threatened to take Connor away from the baby’s mother.  Muhney is so terrific at being mean, this is a storyline worth looking forward to.

And what do you think of the spoilers/rumors that Dylan is really the long lost son Nikki gave birth to as a teen and gave away?  The ages here don’t really match up — Steven Burton is too old to be Melody Thomas Scott’s son.  But as Dylan has no relatives as is in Genoa City, this would tie him into the main Newman family, making him Nick and Victoria’s brother and Victor’s stepson.

What didn’t work for me was having Avery, Dylan’s ex,  be late to her own cancelled wedding to Nick so she could listen to Dylan’s anguish at finding out the baby isn’t his.  What real life bride would be late to her own wedding?   As we’ve said in the past, Avery is also too good to be true, and this time she was tripped up by her own good nature.  Will Avery and Dylan wind up getting back together?  Will Avery ever marry Nick?  The baby reveal certainly has launched many good future storylines for Y&R.     

General Hospital, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless: 15 Questions

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

1.    Wasn’t Caleb tasting the dead correction officer’s blood at the end of General Hospital’s Friday episode one of the grossest soap moments ever?  So that’s Caleb?  What’s the big deal, anyway?

Return of the vampire
Michael Easton as Caleb Morley

2.    Am I the only one who thinks that Steve Burton has done fine so far on The Young and the Restless? I like the Nick/Avery/Mac triangle as long as they don’t overdo it.

3.   Have you noticed that the uniform for Nick’s new nightclub Underground is a black T-shirt? Bartender Mac has to wear one. Is that a wink at Jason’s black T-shirt that Burton perpetually wore on GH?

4.    So Nikki is really going to have an incurable disease on Y&R?  Like they’d ever kill off Melody Thomas Scott!

5.    Am I the only one who thinks Steffy’s face [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 20: General Hospital’s Farewell to Edward Quartermaine … The Pleasures and Pains of Soap Reruns

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

General Hospital:  Wasn’t the death of Edward Quartermaine nicely handled?  As visiting grandson Ned said in a toast:  “There will never be another Edward Quartermaine.” This  was also a tribute to the late John Ingle, the great actor who long played the role (originated by David Lewis.)  Perhaps the saddest scene soap history-wise was the agonized exclamation of Tracy at the family crypt: “There was always the four of us, including Edward, Lila, and Alan, and now there’s only me.”  All in all., a fond farewell  to daytime’s most feisty family, iconic  because they were perhaps just a bit like yours and definitely just like mine: endearing but dysfunctional and  fighting all the time.

The late, great John Ingle

GH, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the  Restless: As if to soften the blow, SoapNet gave us five rerun episodes of the Quartermaines on the family’s traditional pizza-eating holiday,  Thanksgiving, known to them as “Quartermainia.”’  Also giving us old episodes the day after Thanksgiving was Days of Our Lives (Susan’s Elvis themed wedding) and The Young and the Restless (Nikki and Victor’s second wedding.)

Don’t you just love watching soap reruns? Most of all, there’s the joy of seeing “friends,” characters you spent years with, some long forgotten and now delightfully rediscovered. I’m an especially soft touch for characters who had heart, like GH’s Laura and Tony Jones. But last week Marlena really enjoyed seeing her historic favorites, the humorous supporting characters like Reginald the footman on GH (whatever happened to him?),  Alice the wrestler/maid and  Foster and Annabelle, the Q dogs. They added spice to the famous Quartermaine family’s comic brew.

Perhaps the most fun of watching reruns is to see characters and actors in their younger form.  Weren’t younger Vanessa Marcil and Ingo Rademacher just gorgeous [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 4: The Young and the Restless’ Jeanne Cooper Book Reviewed; General Hospital

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

The Young and the Restless:  Like gossip on old movies and TV and the soap opera world? Like to laugh?  Wanna get all the inside whispered into your ear by a great soap opera icon?  Then get yourself a copy of Not Young, Still Restless (HarperCollins) the very frank and entertaining autobiography of 83-year-old Jeanne Cooper, who has starred as Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless since 1973.

Cooper, who was brought up in a modest household in Taft, California, fell in love with theater and became a Hollywood contract player (and later television freelancer) during the 50s, all before she came to Y&R.  She appeared in such movies as The Girl From Wyoming with Maureen O’ Hara (who initially tried to push younger actress Cooper into the background) and Let No Man Be My Epitaph (where she became friends with Shelley Winters.)   For more than  two decades she was a most prolific guest star on primetime shows (from Wagon Train and Perry Mason to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Bracken’s World) getting to really know such stars as Barbara Stanwyck, Raymond Burr and her dear longtime friend, Barbara Hale.

And right off the bat, Cooper tells you who she slept with in those glory days — David Janssen and Robert Taylor (!) were just two. Very quickly you see that the strong woman who survived and thrived in the difficult word of Hollywood had tremendous vulnerabilities, revealed through her running painful description of her love/ hate relationship with her husband, agent and producer Harry Bernsen.  He was a handsome, cheating money moocher, and she eventually divorced him. But their three children (actor Corbin, Collin and Caren) became and remain the lights of her life. What a proud, deeply loving mother she appears to be!  (She now has eight grandchildren in a tight knit family.)

Cooper confesses that The Young and the Restless saved her life.  After her bout with alcoholism, Bill Bell personally sent her to rehab.  Cooper delightfully details all the leading names of the actors and backstagers she’s known through [Read more...]

The Young and the Restless: When a Good Cliffhanger is Far From Enough

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

I just finished watching Friday’s episode of The Young and the Restless.  Paul discovered  Ricky holding  Eden in his bathroom, his son’s bloody knife held firmly to her throat.  She had  passed out due to hitting her head on the bathtub. When Ricky wouldn’t drop the knife, a shocked  P.I. Paul tearfully aimed his gun at his son, as Ricky

Y&R has been rudderless and boring since Paul Rauch left as co-executive producer. It’s been stuck with an uncreative writing team that should have been sent packing long ago.   Does the perpetual number one soap really have to be so bad, especially now that the death of soaps is in the air?

confessed also to the recent murder of Daisy. Rotten Ricky carried on that Paul was never there for him when he was growing up.  The episode ended as a conflicted-to- the-core Paul was ready to fire.

Pretty good suspense and not bad for a Friday cliffhanger, no? Will the guilt-ridden perpetual good guy Paul really shoot his own son?

But, I know already Paul is going to blow Ricky away, as a cautionary shot to his shoulder accidentally sends Ricky tumbling out the window to his death. You see, last night I read the detailed spoiler for this [Read more...]

The Daytime Emmys: Happy At Last

newFor another view of the Daytime Emmys, read the post following this one by Marlena’s longtime friend and colleague Ed Martin.  A veteran TV industry journalist and analyst, Ed is a columnist for JackMyers.com.

By Marlena De Lacroix

From out of a dying soap industry, from out of a cable network I never watch, last night arrived the most unexpected shock of my decades-long soap watching/journalism life: a Daytime Emmys that was pretty good.  Who know that after most of us gave up the fight and moved on to other lives that daytime would finally get what we (the actors, the press, and hopefully the fans) had fought for forever: a Daytime Emmys that wasn’t condescending to daytime soaps!

Hooray!  No soaps-are-stupid jokes!  It’s taken the always awkward Daytime Emmys since 1974 — the year they were first broadcast by themselves – not to make fun of what they’re celebrating.  Even though this year’s ceremony was on 

Best of all, without the traditional sneering and disrespect for soaps, many moments of actual warmth emerged.  It’s called professional showmanship with heart, and the producers of the Emmys this year have it! Yes, yes — emotion — that’s what daytime soaps are all about.  And used to be about. 

such a small scale, it grew large because it finally treated soaps with dignity. They are not, as most people in the world think, and we soap fans know in our hearts – a punch line!

Unlike in past years, the host wasn’t sleazy or smarmy (like Bob Barker) or totally miscast (as Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott unintentionally were [Read more...]

More Emmy Noms 2008: How ‘bout a Little Self-Respect?

By Patrick Erwin

Basketball may have its March Madness, but the soap world has its own spring madness ritual — the Daytime Emmy nominations. The discussions about this year’s nominations have come fast and furious since they were announced yesterday. Marlena gave her take on the whole process, and I had a few thoughts of my own I thought I’d like to share.

Most Confusing Nomination: The three younger actress nominations for The Young and the Restless. Look, I know everyone has their own favorites, and their own likes and dislikes. And as far as these performers go (Vail Bloom, Emily O’Brien, Tammin Sursok), I have nothing against any of them per se. But even the most ardent Y&R fan has to admit all three of these performers played characters who were unpopular with viewers, and have been in very unpopular storylines. For all three to be rewarded with a nomination defies logic.

The “Guiding Light Survival Raft” Nominations: All of the acting nominations for Days of our Lives. Like GL, Days has been the subject of cancellation rumors [Read more...]