I’m Ba-a-ack – Not Quite from the Dead, but Almost!

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

Sorry for the prolonged absence of late. I’ll spare you the gruesome details of a medical issue that finally kept the entire gastroenterology department of a major New York City hospital in high gear for one long day. I’m on the road to recovery now, thanks to a team of superb doctors, one guardian angel nurse and one magnificent husband, and happy to be back at the keyboard.

Through it all, I continued to watch soaps, of course.  All of you would have done the same, n’est pas?  We can’t let a little pain in the gut stand between us and our shows, now can we? So let’s play a little catch up:

The Young and the Restless.  I am not surprised that Nick and Sharon are not married yet. If they did succeed, there wouldn’t be much of a soap opera would there?  After all, they’ve been breaking up and making up for twenty years! …  Gina Tognoni has made an auspicious debut as Phyllis.  Many of her scenes have little dialogue, yet Tognoni can express a variety of fearful ad particularly bewildered expressions well. …  I have no doubt Victoria will deliver her baby soon; I don’t know how she can go on not knowing who the biological  father is (Billy her ex, or maybe Stitch, in my view her one true love). … Because Niki isn’t as strong as she thinks she is, she’s fallen off the wagon occasionally.  … I particularly like Meredith Baxter as her friend Maureen. She has a certain vivaciousness and intelligence that adds a lot to Y&R.  I think it has been particularly wise that they have made her the mother to Stitch and Kelly.

The Bold and the Beautiful carries on with the most consistent storylines on soaps.  It was finally revealed — much to my surprise – that Hope’s true love is Liam, although she can’t have him because she’s married to Wyatt, by whom she is already pregnant by him.  Liam to me has always been very spoiled and full of himself.  I’ve much preferred Wyatt’s boyish charm.  Wyatt’s biggest problem is his mother Quinn. To me, Rena Sofer is the most charming performer on soaps right now as Quinn has a bit of the devil in her and will never change. … Speaking of never changing, do you think Brooke and Bill will ever get married? They come near Liam and Hope for number of weddings that almost happened but never really did.

General Hospital really disappoints me.  The show seems to write for characters it cares about and leaves many others idle and undeveloped. …  Nina is way overdone, although I think Michelle Stafford is definitely giving an Emmy-winning performance. … Sonny and Carly continue to cheat behind Franco’s back, making him seem like a total fool.  … Although I like Billy Miller, I’m not crazy that Jason is back. He never paid for anything he did on the show, ever. … I like the romance between Maxie and Nathan. Kirsten Storms is adorable and Ryan Peavey is by far the most attractive male on the show. …  All in all, G&H off its game is interfering with my convalescence. It’s always been the stellar attraction of my afternoon, and I want it to be so again.

By the way, illness makes one reflect a lot more than one would otherwise. So lately I’ve been thinking about how much it means to me that I’ve spent nearly twenty-five years as Marlena De Lacroix. First, I’d like to thank all off you out there for your loyalty and steady and always thoughtful correspondence.   I’ve gotten to know so many of you well over the years.

 As the twenty-fifth anniversary of Marlena is coming up at the end of November I have a special request of all of you.  Help me think of a special way to celebrate!   Send me your ideas and wishes and we’ll come up with a remarkable way to mark the anniversary. Meanwhile, I’ll try to feel better and I hope you’ll be thinking and praying for me as I think about you. 

General Hospital: The Antics of the Fiercely Driven Nina Clay

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

Michelle Stafford: Her Nina has scores aplenty to settle (photo from michaelfairmansoaps.com)

For the last year, General Hospital has certainly been a place for strong women.  The free-wheeling and combative Carly Jacks (Laura Wright), who will take no lip from the bullying Sonny, is a longtime resident. She’s been joined of late by shoot-from-the-hip Ava Jerome (Maura West), who came to town and took no prisoners.

Even stronger is the town’s newest resident, the vengeful shrew Nina Clay (played by soap superstar Michelle Stafford, who originated the role of Phyllis Summers Newman on The Young and the Restless.)

The roots of her relentless quest for comeuppance run deep. Twenty years ago, she was carrying her husband Silas’ baby when she discovered that he was cheating on her with Ava.  Nina’s mother forced a miscarriage by tricking her into taking a big dose of antidepressants, putting Nina into a coma that lasted 20 years.  After waking up this year, her hunger for revenge has been insatiable. She demands nothing less than the return of everything that was hers, and tin the process exact justice on everyone who comes into her path.

Her first order of business was to separate Silas from his current love, private investigator Sam Morgan.  She did this by drugging Silas and having Sam see him making out with her on a couch in their apartment.  Later she managed to sleep with Silas.  All along, Sam has felt Nina is somehow misleading Silas and she’s right. Nina has been faking the paralysis that supposedly has relegated her to a wheelchair.  Only her loyal nurse Rosalie knows it is all a fake.

At the same time, Nina has worked at getting involved with other Port Charles residents.  She befriended art therapist Franco on her visits to General Hospital for physical therapy, all the better to tell Franco she overheard Carly and Sonny discussing a kiss he had bestowed on her.  Of course, Carly later cheated on Franco with Sonny but got away with it.

Nina is among the most determined characters ever to appear on soap opera.  What an agenda she has! She says she doesn’t know the meaning of the word “can’t.” Right now, she’s maintaining a list of people she’d like to harm or get back at.  On that list is the pregnant Ava (whose baby she would eventually like to kidnap) and also Ava and Silas’s daughter Kiki.  Recently, Nina made Rosalie vow that she would wrest Michael, Kiki’s fiancé away from Kiki.

Will Nina Clay get all she wants?  Most likely.

Stafford plays her with a fierce determination that veers close to but never crosses into the realm of camp.  As Nina, Stafford is a cinch for another Emmy, an award she has already won for playing Phyllis on Y&R.   All we have to do is sit back and enjoy the antics of Nina Clay, the strongest woman in Port Charles and perhaps all of daytime soap opera history.

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!

Daytime’s Most Famous “Love to Hate” Characters

By Marlena Delacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Eric Braeden as Victor Newman: Still Machiavellian after all these years

For any soap opera, a “love to hate” character is money in the bank.  Fascinated by their endless power to manipulate other characters and instigate interesting plots, these diabolical characters are adored by audiences who avidly follow all that they do. 

“Love to hate” characters dot soap opera history and frequently have long lives.  One of the first “love to hate” females was Lisa on As the World Turns, played by Eileen Fulton. Lisa drove her husband Bob and other ATWT characters crazy for decades.  On Another World, the original Rachel, played by Robin Strasser, was a “love to hate” character who evolved into a heroine, subsequently played by Victoria Wyndham. Stasser went on to play another and more famous “love to hate” character, Dorian Lord, on One Life to Live for decades.  Another iconic “love to hate” character, All My Children’s Erica Kane, made famous by Susan Lucci, quickly became the heroine of her show and was beloved for four decades as she stirred up trouble for generations of characters in Pine Valley.

“Love to hate” characters are usually played by women, but there have been some notable exceptions.  On AMC, James Mitchell’s Palmer Cortlandt caused trouble for his daughter Nina for years.   On TheYoung and the Restless, Eric Braeden’s conniving Victor Newman has been the catalyst of many twisted plots for 30 years. And he’s still going strong,mastermindinglots of problems for his children Adam, Nick and Victoria, and causing his wife Nikki to leave him over and over again. (They recently reconciled after Nikki forgave him for hiring a Cassie lookalike to frighten Sharon. But does anyone believe Victor is properly repentant and will change his Machiavellian ways? )

Right now, there are two “love to hate” characters on soaps who are relatively new and fascinating:

Spunky Quinn Fuller (Rena Sofer) came to The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations as a jewelry designer along with her illegitimate son Wyatt.  Since arriving Quinn will do anything to help Wyatt win over the love of Hope Logan, including threatening and torturing Wyatt’s brother Liam, who is also in love with Hope.  This week Quinn even threatened to kill both Wyatt and Hope.  Quinn is so delicious as a “love to hate” character, she’s sure to be with us for a long time.

And on General Hospital, Nina Clay, as played  by Michelle Stafford (who originated and played another “love to hate” character Phyllis Summers Newman on The Young and Restless) has turned out to be a real terror since she came to Port Charles to bust up the romance of her husband Silas and Sam Morgan.  She has even resorted to faking paralysis to get her husband to feel sorry for her and stay with her. In interviews, Stafford has stated that Nina is a sociopath – great news for connoisseurs of “love to hate” characters.   She certainly has a long future ahead as a troublemaker on GH.

So, do you have a favorite baddie, past or present? Please share.

This Week in Soaps: A Terrible Tragedy and a Stunning Debut

Katherine Kelly Lang and Don Diamont on location in Dubai

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

The Bold and the Beautiful just finished two weeks of exciting drama centered around the soap’s on-location trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for Brooke and Bill’s aborted wedding.  The sequences featured great scenery and exciting action footage.

As you know, Bill planned a memorable elopement for himself and Brooke to the Middle East.  Unfortunately, Quinn sent a photo of herself and Bill in bed to Ridge, and Ridge immediately  jumped on a plane to the glitzy emirates to stop the wedding.

The wedding ceremony held on the beach, and was as beautiful as could be in this stunning setting.  But Ridge arrived, halted the ceremony and absconded with the bride, dragging her off to a waiting helicopter.  Then Ridge, shocked to observe that the helicopter was being piloted by one of Bill’s men, Justin, actually fell out of the flying chopper! It was a spectacular fall and as of now it’s unclear whether Ridge survived.

It’s also unclear whether or not Thorsten Kaye did his own stunt work in this sequence. (As a longtime fan of Thorsten’s, I’d like to think so.)

In any event, Kaye’s new Ridge is too strong a character for the show to lose, though chances are Kaye just won’t be seen on screen for a few weeks.  This is a shame since his performances have become one of the great highlights of B&B over the last few months.  We have a feeling he’ll be back.

A Promising Debut on General Hospital

Also spectacular this week was the debut of Michelle Stafford on General Hospital as Nina Clay, Silas’ wife, who had been in a coma for twenty years.  She showed up all full of sweetness and clinginess at little Danny’s birthday party. Only the day before, Silas and Sam had declared their love for each other.   Stafford of course  played the show-stopping role of Phyllis Summers Newman  on The Young and the Restless for fourteen years.   Her strong performances in her first GH scenes show great promise for a Nina-Silas-Sam triangle, which should make quite a strong story for a long time to come.

Daytime Emmy Broadcast

The Daytime Emmys, which for the first time in decades will not be shown on television, will be streamed live at www.daytimeemmys.net on June 22nd at 8PM EST. This should be an interesting show and we’ll be watching!

The Young and the Restless: Still the One

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

For the last month or so, The Young and the Restless has been carrying promotional spots celebrating the soap’s 25th anniversary as number one in the ratings.  It is quite an achievement. How did Y&R do it? By being consistently different from other soaps, particularly in its very idiosyncratic story structure.

The pace of the storylines on Y&R is much slower than on any other soaps. It takes forever for things to happen, and especially for secrets to be revealed.  For example, it’s been many months since Sharon lied to Nick, telling him that Summer is not the biological daughter, Jack is.  Too, Chelsea lied to Dylan for her entire pregnancy plus a few months more that the baby was his.  Connor was really fathered by Adam.  And talk about a long time — the oft-interrupted romance between former spouses Nick and Sharon is well into its second decade.

The  idiosyncratic structure of Y&R probably makes this soap very difficult to write. Many of the characters have been around for decades, and their personalities are hard to change to meet story specifications.   For example, how could Victor ever not be a suspicious bastard, never believing what people tell him and causing trouble for others.

Another problem for the writing team is that a lot of characters seem to have a certain fate. For example, neither Adam nor Jack will ever be winners.  Right now Adam seems to be headed to certain imprisonment should the fact that he ran over Delia be exposed. And Jack is a perpetual loser in love.  His latest love, Phyllis, is in a seemingly irreversible coma.

Also challenging the writers is the number of backstage events that must be accommodated for the show to run its course.  For example, last week TMZ revealed that Michael Muhney was accused of sexual harassment and fired.  Thus, Adam must be written off the show, at least for a while until the role is recast.

Further complicating things is the number of departures from the show this year. Billy Miller (Billy) is leaving the show after disagreement over his future contracts, and the role has been recast with David Tom, who used to play the role. Of course, last year Jeanne Cooper (Mrs. Chancellor) died and Michelle Stafford voluntarily left the show, leaving their characters to be written out.

Yet, Y&R continues to succeed, overcoming all roadblocks and remaining number one. Here’s to another twenty years on top! 

The Young and the Restless’ Monster Plot Twist

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

Soap plot twists are usually small and un-undoable. This week, The Young and the Restless let lose a monster that is neither.

Sharon Case: Her Sharon is sweet but sneaky.

As you know, most of the show over the last couple of months has revolved around the fact that Nick (Joshua Morrow)  found out from a paternity test that he is not Summer’s biological father. He thought Jack was.    This week, Sharon (Sharon Case) disclosed to her dead daughter Cassie that she changed the tests and that Nick  is Summer’s father after all.

That sneaky deed might seem out of character for Sharon, who on the surface is sweet and good.  But underneath she is insecure and lonely.  She longs for the life she used to have with first love and husband  Nick, before Cassie died and he deserted her for Phyllis.  She has also proven to be unstable in the past, having set fire to the Newman ranch last year.

The show had already been terribly shaken up when Nick revealed he is not Summer’s father.  This revelation elicited some great acting, particularly from Peter Bergman, who played instant father Jack, and Michelle Stafford, who plays Summer’s mother, Phyllis.  Hunter Hailey King as Summer had many excellent tear-drenched scenes when she found out about her paternity, and those with Bergman’s Jack  were particularly moving.

Michelle Stafford: Leaving a big hole to fill.

It also broke up Summer’s romance with sudden brother Kyle, who is Jack’s son. Harley Sawyer, whose acting has not impressed in the past, rose to the occasion in these melodramatic circumstances. His scenes with the stressed-out Summer were surprisingly good.

And of course, these plot twists will lead to even bigger plot twists.  On Friday, we saw Phyllis overhearing Sharon’s confession to Cassie about switching paternity tests.  That incident promises to lead to violence and we know Stafford is leaving the show.  The departure of the dynamic veteran Emmy-winning  Stafford will leave a big hole to fill.  But the show’s imaginative writers, who invented all these unexpected paternity switches, have demonstrated that they are up to the challenge.

In the beleaguered world of soap opera these days, it’s nice to have a little hope.

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? 

The 40th Annual Daytime Emmy Nominations: Some Killer Choices!

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

What do you think of the 40th Annual Daytime Emmy nominees?  The list is long and illustrative given the fact that there are only four soaps.  Several categories are full of names that are most deserving. It would be very hard to cast a decisive vote should one have the opportunity.

Katherine Kelly Lang

Consider the lead actor category:  You’ve got an actor who created a real splash in General Hospital this year, Jason Thompson, who was brilliant as his Patrick Drake mourned the death of his wife Robin.  Then you’ve got the always dependable actors in the category — Peter Bergman (Jack, The Young and the Restless), Doug Davidson (Paul, Y&R) and Michael Muhney (Adam, Y&R).  Although Muhney is a great personal favorite of mine, I don’t know who did the superior job of all these outstanding actors.

Then there’s lead actress:  Who can beat Susan Flannery, who played Stephanie’s march to death so memorably on The Bold and the Beautiful? Or Heather Tom, who played Katie’s post-partum depression, also on B&B? Also excellent as was Days of Our Lives’ Peggy McCay who played Caroline’s Alzheimer’s suffering so skillfully.  Formidable, too, is Y&R’s always dependable Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), who also shone in that category.  Again, who to vote for?

For Best Supporting Actress, I’d definitely cast my vote for first time nominee (it’s about time) Katherine Kelly Lang of B&B, who played Stephanie’s best friend Brooke so beautifully and soulfully through Stephanie’s fabulously written final story. Here is an actress who has grown incredibly since her debut on the show 25 years ago, and definitely deserves recognition, not just for this year but for her long body of work.

And what about Best Show?  Can anyone beat GH, which had one of the best years in its history?  On the other hand, it’s hard to top B&B, with its brilliantly produced stories of Katie’s post-partum depression and the death of Stephanie.

Talk about killer choices. With only four surviving soaps contributing nominees, the work the voters had to choose from is all exciting and memorable. No matter who wins, the quality of all the nominees argues persuasively for the future of network soaps. Here’s hoping TPTB are paying attention.

This year’s Emmy Award ceremonies will be broadcast June 16 on HLN.

The Young and the Restless: Three Goods and a Brilliant

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

The last time I wrote about The Young and the Restless (Y&R’s Missing Links, January 14) I confessed I wasn’t terribly excited about watching the show, save for one storyline which held my interest:  Jack’s pill addiction   Over the last two months, the show has been playing several storylines that are so intriguing   I really do want to tune in.   On the whole, Y&R is on the upswing, principally because of its much improved writing: three storylines that earn “goods” and one additional feature that is absolutely “brilliant.”

Steve Burton

1. Those pesky on-line Steve Burton haters aside, I think Y&R has done a very nice job of introducing General Hospital’s former superstar as Dylan McAvoy, war veteran and a very, very nice guy.  Burton, who is surprisingly good in this role, seems to have chemistry with all the ladies — Avery (Dylan’s ex), Sharon and Chelsea. Did you see the scene this week in which Dylan, in grief over his father’s death, took off his shirt and jumped into bed with near stranger Chelsea (who is pregnant with Adam’ baby)?  OMG, that chest!!  Marlena is not [Read more...]