General Hospital: Can This Show Be Saved?

By Ed Martin

Watching General Hospital these last two weeks, as the energetic efforts of One Life to Live veterans Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati to save the show from almost certain doom begin to play out, it occurs to me that my time as a fan of this once-formidable serial has come full circle. I began watching GH in 1978, shortly after 

I’d like to see the new regime make moves as bold as those the late Gloria Monty made way back in the Seventies since, again, there is nothing to lose. The best suggestion here would be to eliminate the characters whose storylines have brought the show to its knees.

fearless executive producer Gloria Monty had been brought on board to save the show from seemingly certain cancellation. In fact, as legend has it, [Read more...]

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...]

Wrong is Right

By Marlena De Lacroix

I have to say I almost choked when I heard that Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati were re-signed to One Life to Live.  Isn’t this show dead last in the ratings and going even further south?  Aren’t they the duo that made Dorian a Valley of the Dolls shrew, had Todd sleep with Marty his prior rape victim, exiled the only gay couple given a major sex scene?  It just blows my mind that these two have been rewarded with another two years of the show.  At least someone thinks there are two years of the show left.

I guess we should all heave a sigh of relief that these guys, these sexist, misogynistic  executives haven’t pulled an anti-feminine stunt in the last six months.  Can the mysterious presence of ghost headwriter Jeanne Passanante have had some influence here?  Of course, sticking up for Passanante, who gave away [Read more...]

Why Today’s One Life To Live Reminds Me of the Glory Days of Guiding Light

One Life to Live

By Patrick Erwin

I’ve been writing about soaps for a while, but  I am a relatively new daily fan of One Life To Live. Yes, as Marlena has observed, some of us soap viewers are boarding the OLTL lifeboat, and I, for one, have bought my ticket!

Guiding Light logoI watched OLTL a bit here and there (especially during the first Malone years), but I  am really drawn to the quality of the show now. What could I possibly say about OLTL that has not been said before — about the writing, the characters, the pacing? Nothing, that’s what. So instead of trying to recap OLTL, I decided I’d try to tell you why I’m loving OLTL so much … by talking about Guiding Light.

Huh, you say? Work with me here.

With apologies to The Golden Girls‘ Sophia Petrillo, I say: picture it — Springfield, 1990. The show was slated for some major changes. Pam Long was running into network interference, and she and GL parted ways. At the same time, several of GL‘s biggest stars were [Read more...]

Is One Life to Live Daytime’s Lifeboat? And a Word About Addie …

By Marlena De Lacroix

Have you boarded the One Life to Live lifeboat yet?  Judging from the letters I’ve received in the last three weeks from readers like Esther, Cherry, Marilyn and DSO, even the most discerning and stubborn of Marlena’s Thinking Fans seem to be boarding.  They’re in hope it’s the one show that can keep their long-term love of soaps afloat in a sea of rapidly sinking – and stinking — shows.   So we’ll have lots to say here on the experience of watching OLTL, which Marlena herself has watched faithfully since 1970.  Our own Patrick Erwin, a first time viewer, will weigh in with his observations later this week. He’ll compare other soaps he’s watched with OLTL.

And BTW, there’s an inside joke here.  Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 movie classic Lifeboat stars Tallulah  Bankhead, Hume Cronyn, William Bendix and a wonderful character named [Read more...]

Marlena to One Life to Live: “I Hate Todd”

Tervor St. JohnBy Marlena De Lacroix

I never liked the character of Todd Manning on One Life to Live.  I never understood him.   After he was introduced in 1992 as one of three gang rapists of college coed Marty Saybrooke, the character skyrocketed to become one of most popular characters on OLTL, if not all of soaps, and has stayed that way until today.

Why? Why have millions of soap viewers been obsessed — enamored — with this convicted rapist for the last 16 years (with hiatuses, as when the character left town and returned)?  Why has the show devoted years of storyline time to and all but made a hero out of … a criminal?

Perhaps now, the mystery of Todd will be fully unraveled.  After years of endless storylines meant to redeem him (which I will recount below), OLTL looks [Read more...]

The “New” Guiding Light: Give It a Chance

By Patrick ErwinRobert Newman

Guiding Light has gotten an awful lot of ink lately — not over storylines or any actor or actress, but because of some substantial changes in the way the show is made and produced. Many mainstream press outlets have reported on these changes — giving them another opportunity to poke fun at the soap genre – or try to administer last rites.Beth

A lot of fans have bombarded Internet message boards with their intensely negative reaction over these plans, and considering the track record for GL (and, frankly, all the shows) over the last few years, it’s understandable that they’d be wary of this new innovation. “Innovation” in this genre often seems like a synonym for “fixing something that isn’t broken.”

But I have to admit, I’m approaching these changes with an open mind. I’m really intrigued by the possibilities. And I’m also being realistic. I mean, let’s be blunt and [Read more...]

One Life To Live: Don’t Anoint It Best Yet, Part 2

By Marlena De Lacroix

As I said in Part 1, an earlier post, the bravura scripts of One Life To Live‘s new head writer Ron Carlivati have made OLTL the soap to watch for thinking soap fans who enjoy sophisticated writing.  Whether it’s because so many of other soaps are abysmal right now, or because we’re all so desperate for a soap to love, some journalists have jumped to deem OLTL the “Best Soap.”  I’ve always made it a practice to watch a soap for a year before conferring such an accolade.  Carlivati has been official headwriter for only three months!

[Read more...]

One Life to Live: Don’t Anoint It Best Yet! (Part 1)

By Marlena De Lacroix 

I have to admit I was very suspicious.  Not more than two weeks after its new head writer Ron Carlivati’s debut, a soap reporter from the northern climes  proclaimed One Life to Live the best soap of the year.  As a veteran soap critic, I’ve always felt you had to watch a soap a couple of months at least before you declare a soap has improved and a watch about a year of it to deem it the “best.”

[Read more...]

One Life to Live Loses Marston Again

By Marlena De Lacroix

One Life to Live has been showered with a lot of good critical notice lately since the more literate and lighthearted scripts of its new headwriter Ron Carlivati started to air last month. There’s much hope that show’s momentum won’t be ruined with the onset of scab scripts to air in a few weeks. These scripts are the mark of the ongoing Writers Strike.

The show is also facing another serious loss: Nathaniel Marston, the actor who has played Dr. Michael McBain for the last few years, has been dismissed by the network. The actor, 32, who has a history of anger management issues, is facing four felony counts after assaulting three people on a New York City street in October. Published reports allege he may have been under the influence of drugs.

Despite his personal problems, Marston was tremendously popular with the audience because he uniquely played a regular guy on OLTL. Most soap heroes these days are wooden and unbelievable because they come to soaps with career histories limited to modeling or rock videos. They look — and act — like mannequins. (Yes, we’re talking about you, Cameron Mathison and Ryan Lavery of All My Children, who’s hiring started and exemplified this “only perfect looks” daytime drama trend in the 90s.) Marston, who has theater and film experience, brought a natural style and sense of realism to all his work.

This quality was already in evidence when he was hired for his first role, teen Eddie Silva on As the World Turns in 1999, and what brought him back after he was killed off from his first OLTL role, Al Holden, in 2001. The audience demanded his return and he was brought back in a completely new role, Michael McBain, by OLTL a year later. This is very rarely done on a soap.

Marston’s Everyman likeability harkens back to a much earlier era on soaps, the 1960s and 1970s, when characters were permitted to look like real people with regular faces, not models. Such lower middle class characters as Sam Lucas on Another World (Jordan Charney) and Vinny Wolek (the late Anthony Ponzini) on OLTL were audience favorites because they were very vulnerable and easy to relate to and root for.

Even though Michael McBain is a doctor and wife Marcy is a schoolteacher (the equally natural Kathy Brier), they are easily the most working class characters on OLTL. (Most characters on soaps are wealthy now.) They are among a few long married couples on the soap and their squabbles are usually realistic. Right now, Marcy is on the run with the couple’s haphazardly adopted son Tommy, who is really the biological son of show menace, Todd. A court has awarded the boy to Todd.

Marston’s believability went a long way to strengthen the characters of others on OLTL. Michael’s very odd brother John (Michael Easton) is a cop whose emotional problems and history prohibit him from forming lasting relationships with women. Scenes with Michael make John a lot more palatable to the audience. In the contest between Michael and Marcie over brutish Todd for the custody of Tommy, audiences naturally root for the McBains because of their likeability.

OLTL quickly recast the role of Michael with an unknown actor, Chris Stack, this week, almost as soon as it let Marston go. Whether or not the character will be instantly likeable is as yet unknown. He begins to air next month.

Still, Marston’s loss is a great one for daytime. Good actors who can play regular, realistic guys are increasingly a rarity in a medium which thinks it can survive solely on a diet of increasingly pretty male faces.

Originally published on www.jackmyers.com.