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.

When All Soaps Are In Lockstep, Is Improvement Possible?

By Marlena De Lacroix

What’s a soap critic to do?  There are only six soaps.  I have a long memory and remember the very early 90s, when Bill Bell originated the homeless storyline with Stephanie, which way proceeded the current one.  Ken Corday is an enemy of free speech; he sought to destroy the critical arm of Soap Opera Weekly years ago. But alas.  The great and ultra creative Jim Reilly is dead and cursed now by Ken and followers.   All that is long ago and distant — to some and those who were not in the daytime world long ago in the first place.

The root of criticism in daytime is executive change.  You call for an executive change when you see a bad soap, a soap that is marked by cronyism, a soap that doesn’t  move, or centers too long on one character or is marked by favoritism or sexism or inside politics.  Yet, all the current headwriters and producers at daytime, as if in a time warp, seem locked into place.  We have Ken, enemy of the First Amendment at Days of Our Lives.  Fronsie eternal at ABC.  All the Bells and the bravura Rauch at Y&RJill and Bob at General Hospital.  They all seem to be [Read more...]

Marlena’s Summer Plans

sunflowerBy Marlena De Lacroix

Bonjour, everyone!  I’m sorry I haven’t posted in many weeks.  As you know, my mother passed away.  It happened amid the frenzy of the end of spring semester, at the end of a long academic year.  I need the summer to recharge, so I’m going on relaxed summer mode until the Daytime Emmys at the end of August.

However, there will be new material here.  I will post as often as I can, and there will be posts by other contributors.  I am thrilled to introduce a new regular, Matthew Weaver, who will debut soon. Matthew does something rarely done well:  soap satire.  His work is very sophisticated and entirely original, and it always makes me LOL.  You may have read his wonderful creative faux press releases and casting notices on Soap Zone, where [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with One Life to Live’s Kathy Brier

Thinking Fans salute Ms. Brier: John says, “It’s sort of depressing thinking how daytime has actually gone downhill in the time since Kathy Brier came on to OLTL, when at the time she was a breath of fresh air in a medium that was already pretty moribund” … while Jake says, “Brier’s acting chops stand out on a show that is showcasing some really questionable performances these days” … and more. See Comments below.

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By Damon L. Jacobs

Kathy Brier’s fiery portrayal of Marcie McBain on One Life to Live has had a profound impact on me personally, as well as on millions of soap viewers.  Unfortunately, news of her firing from the show came days after this interview took place on Soapnet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise.” Kathy BrierThe ABC publicist has declined to make Ms. Brier available for follow-up comment about the contents of this interview, pending the conclusion of her storyline. 

So we’re left to wonder: Did she know she was leaving?  Some have speculated she did, but I leave it to you the Thinking Fan to decide for yourself. Please read on to learn how she has dealt with weight issues, Nathaniel Marston’s absence, and what profession she truly wants to enter. (HINT: The answer thrilled the Soap Shrink!) 

D:  Marcie started off as a three day part?
K:  Yes, three days.

D:  My first memory of Marcie was in the diner, after Joey Buchanan rebuffed her, and she went straight for the sundae.
K:  Oh yes.  I made that up. I added that, it was not in there. [Read more...]

Depressions and Soaps Don’t Mix

Thinking Fans Comment Update: renee argues, “Soaps have tackled so many great social issues and done them well, but those in charge of soaps today are suspect and will not handle the topic (of  joblessness) with respect” … DSO816 hopefully suggests, “I believe the dramas currently on air can craft timely stories of some characters’ layoffs, but it would have to be balanced, and believable” … while Steve charges, “If they really cared about focusing on the economy, they would try to go back to the escapism that viewers really want to see” … and more. See Comments below.

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monopolyBy Marlena De Lacroix

After I got out of grad school three years ago, I spent the most miserable year of my life looking for a job. Through fifteen interviews (the teaching job I was looking for was very specific), endlessly rewritten resumes and countless rejections, there was only one thing that kept me sane: soap operas.

When I was aching and depressed about my job search, at least I knew I could sit down every day and escape into my favorite shows.  Even though at the time they were not so great (Higley was writing One Life To Live, B&E All My Children and LML The Young and the Restless), the soaps were gthere every day to make me feel safe, to give me something concrete to look forward to.

The last thing I want to see on a soap is moi!   And certainly not me looking for a job or me even knowing there’s a cold cruel depression outside of my warm, warm afternoon TV set.

The far away antics of my fave characters — Dorian, Viki, Big Steph, Ric Lansing, snappy Jack and crazy Gloria — kept me occupied, and, for a while, kept my mind off my troubles. The LAST thing I wanted to see on these shows was anyone who was emulating my life looking for a job.

Now a website called Media Channel quotes Craig Tomashoff, TV Guide’s executive editor, reporting that soaps will be the first [Read more...]

Asa, Ace of Characters: Phil Carey Remembered

phil carey 

Thinking Fans pay their respects to Mr. Carey: Dale says, “There’s a big hole in Llanview these days named Asa Buchanan. His presence is still very much felt, but it’s never going to be the same” … and Steve recalls, “What made Asa so real was that he truly did love his family, even if he showed that love in the wrong way” … while James adds, “I hope Phil and Bucky are up in Heaven having a good ol’ time” … and more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Any executive  producer of today’s desperate-for-ratings soaps would pay a ransom in gold and maybe sell his/her soul, too, for an actor like Phil Carey.  An actor who, on his debut, instantly grabs the viewer’s attention; is immediately  talked about everywhere by all soap fans; is charismatic, funny and charming, and has both sex appeal and a real  edge. 

So it was that great ladies who ran ABC Daytime back in 1979 (Jackie Smith, Jozie Emmerich) knew exactly what they were doing when they cast veteran movie and primetime actor Carey in the role of Asa Buchanan on One Life to Live. One of the

We longtime One Life To Live fans almost don’t need the old tapes.  We can practically see Phil Carey’s scenes in our minds.

first things they had fifty-something Asa do was parachute from an airplane into the birthday party of his barely twenty-something new beloved, Samanatha Vernon. How’s that for a grand entrance?

Asa was bigger than life and a Big Bad Daddy when he arrived in Llanview from Texas to live with his sons, Bo and Clint.   The easy thing to think was [Read more...]

Clint Ritchie and The Buchanan Years Remembered

Clint Ritchie

Thinking Fans salute Mr. Ritchie: Steve misses “the easy chemistry between Erika Slezak and Clint Ritchie” … Dale says he “brought a fresh masculine sensibility to Llanview when the town was filled with bluebloods” … and more. See Comments below.

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By  Marlena De Lacroix

How sad it is for One Life to Live viewers that Clint Ritchie passed away this week at age 70.  

When his eponymous character Clint Buchanan galloped in from the west to take over The Llaniew Banner newspaper and later the heart of its owner, the show’s main heroine, the widow Viki Riley, he really became part of the fabric of the show and remained so for the next twenty years.

The foundation of his character was a throwback to old movie heroes like John Wayne and James Stewart — a truly good man you can depend on.  A quiet hero,  a true American.   Clint was the strong shoulders a troubled woman like Viki needed to lean on sometimes to be able to pick up the pieces of her shattered life (most notably her DID, which exploded in the

At the end of the 90s, the actor who was not happy with the modern misunderstanding and direction of his hero character quit OLTL and rode off into the sunset.

mid-80s and in the early 90s).  I always admired that the character Clint adopted her sons and always treated them as if they were his own.  And I actually bought him as a newspaper editor — a member of the rare breed of men (and women) I’ve known in real life who are [Read more...]

Soap January: Bombs Away!

Deidre and Drake

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Steve‘s take on AMC’s “January stunts” is “I don’t know if I can think of a more blatant example of the type of heartless sickness that has wounded soaps” … and S. Woods adds: “The crud on offer from these soaps is giving tastelessness a bad name” … while Twb6y optimistically doesn’t believe John and Marlena are really gone for good … and more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Each year, I have January off from school and I snooze, do some quiet reading and graze the minimally eventful pre-sweeps soaps.  Not this year.  Too often I’d see something on a soap that would surprise me, shock me or even out and out disgust me. I’d scream! I’d yell!  Every other day!

What is going on in this soap January?  I have a feeling the approaching end of the genre may have to do with the frantic state of all the soap activity on and off screen this month.  Every soap wants to save itself. Every soap is desperately doing whatever it can to hold on to viewers.  Hence, many soaps may be acting more out of panic and fright than thinking calmly and rationally.  For, how else can you explain the following January soap bombs?

Deidre Hall  and Drake Hogestyn get fired and leave Days of Our Lives for good. Does anyone remember the soap parody film Soapdish from 1992?  In it a soap headwriter played by Whoopi Goldberg is asked to bring back a dead character she

No, no,  not even the freezing winds of January could  render my longtime beloved soap operas … so disgustingly crass!  

had previously decapitated.  “How can I bring him back?” she says, “He doesn’t have a head! How can I give lines to a body running around without a head?” Kinda sums up the absurdity of Ken Corday getting rid of [Read more...]

An Open Letter to Anne Sweeney, Co-chair, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC Television Group

Dear Ms. Sweeney:

I am writing to strongly protest the current Todd and Marty storyline on One Life to Live. It’s in effect the long delayed second chapter of a story that began in 1993, when Todd was the leader of three college students who gang raped Marty. The two chapters couldn’t be more shockingly different in intent.Todd and Marty 

The 1993 chapter, though brutal,  was told with intelligence and sensitivity, shedding light on the humanity and compassion gained through this tragic crime. It deservedly won numerous Daytime Emmys. The current chapter — in which an “amnesiac” Marty was kept in captivity again by Todd for five months,  fell in “love” with him and begged him to have sex with her (which he did) — lacks any such redeeming insight. Instead, it is simply revolting.

Starting with the hackneyed soap opera device of amnesia, the current writing team seeks to exploit the audience rather than enlighten it. The current story extends ancient rape myths (“I raped her because she wanted it”).  The story’s aim is far from social issue education. Rather, it is the  [Read more...]

One Life To Live’s “Tarty” Controversy: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Thinking Fans Comment Update:  Melanie isn’t buying the “poor Todd” routine … Jenn misses the days when “soaps relied on love and chemistry” … and more. See Comments below.

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My friend, television journalist Ed Martin called me last week to congratulate me on my Todd and Marty: Way Beyond Merely Disgusting column, noting the amazing number of responses (53 and counting). It inspired Ed to write his own response in his own column on JackMyers.com. I’m encouraging all TFs to read it because, for his television business site, Ed brilliantly and with great clarity analyzes the choice to air the controversial Todd and Marty story as a deliberate network programming move.Todd Marty

Ed recognizes that the story offends women viewers and emphasizes the folly of the network in airing it, considering that the majority of One Life to Live‘s audience is women. That’s an awful lot of viewers to risk losing!  He also scoops Marlena on another piece of OLTL misogny: the frequent close-ups of Jessica’s dead baby in another story aired at the same time. Ed writes:  ”I don’t believe women want to see dead babies in their entertainment. Not ever.”

Ed has his opinions as a longtime viewer of OLTL, and this is where we differ.   Despite the offenses he clearly sees, he still likes — no — loves the melodrama of the story and calls it great soap opera  But Ed insists [Read more...]