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?

All My Children and One Life to Live: A Triumphant Return!

 

Welcome back, One Life to Live

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

I’d like to congratulate Prospect Park and all the writers, crew, actors and producers involved for sensational online premieres of All My Children and One Life to Live.  Both came across as first class, with the sets, costumes and especially the actors looking just wonderful.  Here are soap episodes built not only to last, but to be an enduring success!

It was so thrilling to see Viki, Clint, Dorian, Brooke, Adam and Opal again. It’s incredible how many memories and emotions the actors who play these roles bring with them.  And although I had a bit of trouble distinguishing some of the teenagers on AMC from one another, it was great to see the young people of soaps again. OLTL, with its hot new club Shelter, in particular makes the most of the sex appeal of its younger generation by featuring them in dancing sequences.  It’s great to see such favorites as Cutter,  Blair, Destiny and Matthew again.   Melissa Archer’s Natalie is seen several times in her underwear. But this is cable, where sex sells.   There’s also a soupcon of profanity. But they want to make soaps au courant and I guess this is another obvious way to do it.

But what’s really encouraging about the new episodes of OLTL and AMC is that both of these premieres present soap opera in its classic form.  From the moment Petey drives into Llanview in his hot sports car to the conclusion of OLTL when Victor is shockingly seen alive in a hoody, we get soap straight up with all the conventions we love so much.  It was great to see Adam proposing to Brooke and Clint holding Viki’s hand — which had his ring on it.  It was even fun to watch “cougar” Blair try and pick up a young guy.-

I greatly appreciated the reunion between Blair and Todd.  All they had to do was look at one another.  But what I liked best were my two favorite older couples, Dorian and David and Bo and Nora.  Decades of romantic love stories involving these two come back to me by just looking at them.  And they’re all still together! What will happen?  We’ll just have to “tune” into our computers to find out!

Cliffhangers, young lovers, old friends and new storylines — you can’t ask for anything more. Cheers again to Prospect Park — and I’ll be watching!

So now it’s your turn, Cher Thinking Fans. What do you think of the new All My Children and One Life to Live?

And welcome, too, All My Children

 

General Hospital at 50: They’ve Only Just Begun …

Marlena says:  It’s a special time at General Hospital.  The 50th anniversary is coming up April 1 and it’s been just about a year since headwriter Ron Carlivati and executive producer executive producer Frank Valentini took over a dying show and made it must-watch TV.  Marlena’s dear friend and veteran journalist Ed Martin, who first started watching GH in the glory days of the early 80s, expresses the feelings of many avid fans at the current state of the show in this column, reprinted from his regular gig at TV Worth Watching. Ed’s been a guest columnist here many times, and I’m so happy to share his latest GH thoughts with you.

By Ed Martin

April will mark the 50th anniversary of ABC’s General Hospital. I’ll be marking my 35th anniversary as a steady GH viewer just a couple of months after that. One year ago, I was almost certain that neither anniversary would come to pass, what with the show in a death spiral after more than ten years of dreadful mob-based stories that had gutted virtually everything [Read more...]

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...]

Moose Says: General Hospital Can Snare … the Soon-to-be-Prized Old Guy Demographic?

Marlena says: Soap fans everywhere are cautiously optimistic that, against all odds, there’s been a hopeful turn in the heretofore bleak fortunes of soap opera. Ratings are strong and even improving for the four network soaps that survived the death watch of the past few years, and Prospect Park is said to be moving full steam ahead to bring two of the casualties back from the dead.

Is it too soon to rejoice? Skeptic that I am, I’m not ready to shoot off fireworks at my country retreat just yet. But I’ve has detected one tiny, tiny bit of anecdotal evidence that audience-building may, indeed, be possible: My recently retired husband Moose, long impervious to the many charms of soap opera that have inundated him daily for so many years, has been espied of late … actually watching General Hospital.

At the risk of frightening him away, I asked him to share with Thinking Fans, whose analytical powers are legendary, after all, what it is about GH that has finally captured his attention. He agreed. Listen and learn, GH producers. Or, at least, have a chuckle or two.

By Moose Goodfellow a.k.a. Old Ed, husband of Connie

I have joined the ranks of the Instantly Irrelevant, filling those weeks between Social Security direct deposits with such typical Old Guy activities as having morning coffee with Al Roker on the Weather Channel, getting haircuts, hauling [Read more...]

Young and Restless’ Missing Links and One Live To Live (Apparently) Rises From the Ashes

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

I’ve basically cheered on most of the changes made in The Young and the Restless these past three months.  Characters like Nick, Phyllis and even Sharon have been fixed by giving them more clarity and strength. The new sets, like Avery’s living room/kitchen and Nick’s bar, are awesome.  Ditto the new music and lighting. Happily the dialogue has improved, too. A much needed housecleaning broomed out a half dozen characters that won’t be missed. Under its new leadership, Y&R has had one classy facelift.

Peter Bergman
Tour de force as struggling pill-popper

The only problem I see is that I have trouble getting through many episodes. Where’s the excitement?  The improvements are nice, but I’m still waiting for a story that really interests me. The only plot that’makes me want to tune in every day is Jack’s pill problem.  Much of the credit goes to Peter Bergman for his tour de force performance.  But the secret of the plot’s success is that it has moved very fast. In less than three months, Jack has moved from addiction, to self-directed rehab, to recovery.  The sprightlier storytelling fits in with what I wrote about in my last column:  we’re in the Internet age, and up until now the only other soap that has really stepped up the storyline pace is General Hospital.

This was not an easy change for Y&R to make – it’s always been slow-moving.  Asking Y&R to move fast is like asking a fish to walk. I’m tired of [Read more...]

Isn’t Downton Abbey Just Like Daytime Soaps? Consider the Similarities …

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

Name me a daytime soap fan who doesn’t watch and probably love Downton Abbey. Even though a lot happened this busy soap week (Genie’s coming back, Prospect Park made a deal with the Writers Guild) what everyone’s talking about is the megahit Masterpiece Theater miniseries. Downton’s third season premiered last Sunday on PBS.

I love Downton Abbey now too, but I briefly gave it up in frustration during season two.  The similarities between it and daytime soap opera became too much for moi. Hey, haven’t I seen these plots many  times  on daytime?  When paralyzed war vet Matthew suddenly stood up in his wheel chair, I couldn’t stop thinking of paralyzed Josh doing the same thing on Guiding Light.  A pair of lovers, Matthew and Lady Mary, overcome wrenching obstacles to finally get engaged and married!  Haven’t we seen similar couples break up and make up like that a million times on soaps?  Isn’t obstinate argumentative Mary just like [Read more...]

Prospect Park to Start Production Next Month — of High Quality Soaps?

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

On Monday, Prospect Park officially declared that they are starting up production on the revived One Life to Live and All My Children next month, to be presented on line.  Hooray, if it goes as planned!  What kind of soaps will these shows be?  Early reports indicate some of the actors have been confirmed as signed on (Debbi Morgan, Vincent Irizarry and Jerry ver Dorn), with more expected in the next week or so.  The writers have not been announced yet.  So how do we now predict what we’re going to see on-screen?

Well, in August 2011, when PP originally got involved with OLTL and AMC,  Marlena did predict that the new shows would be quality ones, as evidenced by Prospect Park’s track record.   Marlena’s a big fan of Royal Pains, the classy soap-like drama they already produce for the USA Network. The series, focusing on the personal and professional lives of a concierge doctor and his extended family in The Hamptons, began as a summer show, became a hit, and has lasted four seasons. Have you seen it? If you have, I’m guessing you might agree with me that Prospect Park is committed to serious, high quality material.  Here’s a link to the column I wrote a year and a half ago.  Let me know what you think.

On Soaps, We Believe What We Choose to Believe

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

General Hospital: Soaps or biology — which do you choose to believe?

On General Hospital this week, surrogate mother Maxie had a miscarriage (of the week-old embryo that is Dante and Lulu’s child) and barely noticed it. The same evening, New Year’s Eve, a drunk and apparently rejected Spinelli was waiting on the hospital rooftop for a midnight reunion with his intended Ellie. In an homage to Love Affair, both versions, and An Affair to Remember, Ellie was in a car accident en route and never made it. But Maxie showed up instead, straight from the hospital, and she and Spinelli had sex.  It’s a soap, so it’s obvious Maxie will again be pregnant, and will try, through many months of whining and dithering, to pass off her and Spinelli’s child as Dante and Lulu’s.

Kristen Storms as Maxie
Headed for the roof and a big case of ick

This is the first time in 23 years Marlena wishes she had an ob/gyn in the old rolodex.  Is it really possible for a woman to have a miscarriage without blood or cramps and barely even know it? Is getting pregnant again so soon after a miscarriage barely even possible?  What woman would want to have sex the same night she had a miscarriage?

Well, as a person with female parts, I biologically don’t believe the whole scenario.  But as an experienced soap watcher I know a big important plot twist when I see it coming.  That’s the problem with being a soap watcher — you’ve got to believe what headwriters want you to believe, whether you know it’s illogical or not. It’s basically your choice.

After much thinking, however, I must ultimately chose to go along with the Maxi/Spinelli “reconception”  because otherwise, GH has been a pretty spectacular soap to watch and I want to continue watching, lest I miss the latest turns in the fascinating Duke/Anna  plot. But I don’t like being asked to accept this unlikely medical hi-jinx. It makes me feel like a fool.   Headwriters shouldn’t make viewers feel that way to continue watching.  I’m sure no matter what you feel about this plot twist, you’d agree that Maxie and Spinelli having sex the same night as her miscarriage was certainly a big case of ick.

All My Children and One Life to Live: Agnes Nixon has just given her confirmation and  blessing to the new cable/on-line versions of the shows she founded. The producers are said to be Prospect Park (remember them?), back from the dead to take another run at bringing soaps to the internet. But will PP really make a go of it this time?

Back from the dead?

Well, actors are being contacted to rejoin the show, so goes the buzz. So let’s play a game. Which key actors from each soap do you think Prospect Park must absolutely choose to make the transition to these new shows believable?  Send me your lists.  For me, a bare minimum at All My Children would be Susan Lucci and Michael Knight. On One Life to Live, you can’t go without Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser and Bob Woods. Kassie DePaiva and Jerry ver Dorn would be nice, too. Then there’s the problem of the key OLTL actors who have already transferred to GH: Roger Howarth and Michael Easton.  Do you think they should they leave GH and return to their old show?

So think carefully, Thinking Fans, and start compiling your essential casting lists for the new AMC and OLTL.  We are, after all, soap opera fans. We want to believe!

How Prospect Park Can Save Soaps

By Connie Passalacqua Hayman

aka Marlena De Lacroix

In the effort to salve our wounds this summer, the canceled All My Children and One Life to Live sacrificed an essential element of soap opera: believability.  All these people back from the dead simultaneously!  Dixie!  Leo!  Zack!  How are we supposed to buy any kind of reality behind it? On OLTL, the back-from-the-dead tale of the two Todds was explained away by the back-from-the-dead Irene Manning in a backstory so convoluted and fantastical, it might as well have come from the Passions playbook.  I didn’t believe any of it.

As I watched, I was [Read more...]