Merry Christmas, Thinking Fans!

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

Merry Christmas from Nigel

Merry Christmas from Nigel

There I was this week watching The Bold and the Beautiful and scratching my head.  How many interrupted weddings can Hope and Liam have?  After all, Steffy broke up the first wedding with news she was pregnant, and here she was back with the news for Liam that after her miscarriage, she was no longer infertile.  Pre-ceremony, Hope saw Steffy and Liam together talking privately, freaked out and ran away with Wyatt (for whom I am rooting because he’s so charming ) to Hawaii.  But will Liam and Hope ever get together and marry?

It’s something I ponder every week along with questions such as, will General Hospital’s  Patrick and Robin get back together now that she has returned from the dead, or will the plot will complicated by the fact that Sabrina might be pregnant? On The Young and Restless, will I grow to like the mother Nikki and reclaimed biological son Dylan even though they have no chemistry and are two of the flakiest characters ever showcased on a soap opera?

But there’s one question I’m not pondering this week.  Do I want you, my beloved readers, to have a merry and a happy Christmas?  Of course I do and I send you holiday hugs and kisses along with the best wishes of my hubby/editor Moose and our sweet dog Nigel.  We’re ensconced in our country home with our tree, decorations and many good things to eat and we’re celebrating.  There’s nothing we like better than the fact that we can celebrate the holidays along with our own dear Thinking Fans.

So from our family to yours, have the merriest of Christmases!

Love,

 Marlena, Moose and Nigel

The Young and the Restless’ Record-Breaking Stunt

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

Yet again … is it right or wrong for a soap to kill off a child?  I led a column with this perennial question several weeks ago when Delia Abbott was killed on The Young and the Restless, reiterating my longstanding opposition to what I regard as a creepy plot device that exploits the worst nightmare of mothers everywhere, many of whom historically form the backbone of soap viewership.

Billy Miller: His Billy carries a crushing burden of guilt

But that’s just me, and as it turns out lots of viewers disagree. There was a tremendous response to the column:  a spike of several thousand hits above the norm here at Marlena De Lacroix:  Soaps for the Thinking Fan, plus almost a hundred letters, breaking at about half pro and half con.  Y&R earned the biggest prize of all: close to a record five million viewers for this most controversial storyline of the year.

It’s hard to argue with such success, so I’ll concede this much: if Y&R had to do this story, at least they did a fine job of it. The writing, acting and production all were first rate. The death of Delia touched almost every character on the canvas. As the grieving mother Chloe, Elizabeth Hendrickson brought tears to the eyes. The grief of the father, Billy (Billy Miller) was made worse by his knowledge that, just prior to the accident,  he had left the child in the car when he went into a store to get some ice cream.  Any parent could relate to his crushing feelings of guilt, expressed so movingly in his later scenes with his hysterical mother Jill (Jess Walton).

The death of Delia brought the leading Abbott family together. Jack and his sisters Ashley (Eileen Davidson) and Tracy (Beth Maitland) came to town. Ashley brought muffins for a scene Y&R watchers have grown to love as tradition:  the Abbott family breakfast.  Jack (Peter Berman) was shown to be the new head of the family, a fact that was remarked upon by Jack’s dead father John (Jerry Douglas), who appeared only to Jack.  The warmth of the family gathering went a long way to assuage the pain of Delia’s death, although the pain will never go away.

And there’s more. Also shown in a great deal of pain was Adam Newman (Michael Muhney), the man who apparently (and up until now secretly) ran over Delia.  He kept this knowledge to himself, even after parts of Delia’s eyes were successfully transplanted to Adam’s newborn, almost blind son, per Chloe and Billy’s permission. Adam hasn’t even been able to enjoy the success of this operation.  All along he has been debating confessing his guilt. This week he may even do so.

Will Adam Newman ever be happy?   Here’s a question that has haunted the character ever since he came to town as the son of Victor and the blind and deceased Hope several years ago.   First he loved and lost Sharon (Sharon Case). Then he loved and lost his wife Chelsea (Melissa Claire Egan).   Now he may go to jail for a decade and miss his son’s growing up years. Adam Newman’s life is perpetually a tragedy. Not as great as the death of Delia, but certainly a story that is ongoing for the recent run of Y&R.  The soulful Michael Muhney has his work cut out for him. Happily for the viewers, he seems to be up to the challenge.    

An Excruciating Episode of The Young and the Restless

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

Is it right or wrong for a daytime soap opera to kill off a baby or a child?  After all, a large part of the viewing audience is young mothers, and they could find such a sequence unbearable to watch.  After watching little Delia Abbott get hit by a car on Friday’s episode of The Young and the  Restless, I’d likely vote it’s wrong to do such a storyline.

Sophie Pollono as Delia Abbott

Killing off a child provides harrowing drama. But the problem with Friday’s episode was that it was so harrowing, it was thoroughly overwrought and over played. Everything was calculated to make the viewer feel pain.

Billy Abbott (Billy Miller) did what a parent should not do: he left his daughter Delia in the car when he went into a store to buy ice cream.  She opened the door and chased her dog down the road when he hopped out.  Then Adam (or perhaps it was Nikki, who was also out driving that night) came barreling down the road and hit her.

It took almost an entire episode for the ambulance to arrive, during which Billy, alone with his comatose daughter, ruminated over his mistake.  These scenes were unbearable.  Even worse were scenes in which we saw what Billy will likely miss — fantasy scenes of his daughter’s forthcoming (if she is still alive) graduation, wedding, childbirth and grown years in which Billy and daughter operated his restaurant as “Delia and Dad.”

In these treacly scenes (in which Dad kept saying “I love you” over and over) Delia was played by a series of older actresses . Miller soldiered on as an older and older Billy, although the actor was minimally aged.  Each scene was engineered to evoke a tear. I’m sure many viewers couldn’t take the extreme melodrama of a tragically missed future and tuned out.

Meanwhile, Delia’s mother Chloe was shown at the movies, innocently making out with her ex-husband Kevin. On Monday, presumably Delia will die from her injuries.

This is not the first time a baby or a child was killed on a soap opera, but it’s certainly the most extreme. In the 1950s Lisa’s son Chucky was killed on As the World Turns when he was hit by a car.

In the most famous example of a child being killed, little Laura, daughter of Brooke and Tom, was hit by a drunken driver on All My Children.  This storyline at least was done with the cooperation of the real Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and was a critical hit.  It said something powerful about drunk drivers.

But Delia’s accident and impending death so far has been pointless.  All it did was create some excitement on a show that for so long has lacked much.  That is if you could bear watching Friday’s episode.  I breathed a huge sigh of real relief as soon as it was over. 

Barely on the Fringe of Believability

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

On soaps, romance comes in many permutations, some exhilarating and some, shall we say, less so.  Far out on the latter end of the spectrum is the romance that seems to be on the horizon on The Bold and Beautiful. I’d place it solidly in the category of “Ew!”

We got our first clue this week when jewelry company head Quinn kissed Forrester CEO Eric for not cancelling her contract with the company.  The kiss of gratitude was clearly meant to be romantic. But he’s decades older than she is, and the big smooch came off as gross and most unbelievable. The second clue came the next day when Eric kissed her back, and it was like Grandpa lip-locking his granddaughter.  Are we ready for this May-December pairing? Pas moi!

Keeping It Real

It’s a soap’s obligation to present situations that feel absolutely real to the viewer.  This week two  soaps came up with storyline turns that, to put it mildly, felt very contrived.   Do these diseases really have such immediate and radical consequences?   

 – On General Hospital, Sonny, a manic-depressive, went off his meds. In real life, such meds take a while to wear off it not taken. But Sonny, still grieving for his lately deceased love Connie, immediately lost it and danced up a storm at Kiki and Morgan’s wedding reception. Further, he blurted out that he had  kept from “cousin”  Michael his knowledge that Morgan knew that Kiki wasn’t a Quartermaine before he married her. A little quick to blame the outburst on the meds. Even so, I loved the crazed  manic gleam in Maurice Benard’s eyes during this party sequence.

– On The Young and the Restless, Dylan, a victim of PTSD, kidnaped baby Connor when he found out that Adam is the biological  father of “his” son with Chelsea.  It was terribly out of character for Dylan to do this, and who knew that the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome could be so overwhelming and drastic? Again, solid acting came to the rescue. Kudos to Steve Burton.

Utility Player

In baseball they call a player who can play several positions well a utility player.  Well, this year’s newest and  most valuable soap utility  player may be William deVry, who now plays Derek Wells/Julian Jerome on GH.  He’s equally adept as a criminal (who this week committed murder), a businessman, a concerned father and grandfather and a romantic love interest for Nancy Grahn‘s Alexis, even though he is a decade younger than she is.  Canadian actor deVry is no stranger, of course. He proved his great value and talent on soaps in the past, playing Bianca’s rapist Michael Cambias on  All My Children and suicide victim Storm Logan on B&B.

Llanview Memories

I’d like to strongly endorse hard-working author Jeff Giles’ “Llanview in the Afternoon:  An Oral History of One Life to Live,” available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book form.   It’s nostalgia heaven for  longtime viewers of the show, like moi, as stars and backstagers tell in their own words the story of the many decades the soap was on ABC.  What I really liked was the story is told not only by its big stars like Erika Slezak (Viki) and Bob Woods (Bo), but also like long-ago favorites like MarilynChris (Wanda) and Julie Montgomery (Samantha.)  Cheers! 

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: This Storyline Should End

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

When has a storyline go on too long?  This is a question normally leftonly to headwriters who must figure out if an audience is still interested in the outcome of a story. Right now on General Hospital, one storyline that has gone on too long is the secret biological parentage of Maxie’s baby girl, which she supposed bore as a surrogate baby for Dante and Lulu.  The baby has been born, yet Maxie still has not confessed the truth. (Although, at least, Spinelli  does finally know he is the baby’s biological father.)

Maxie (Kristen Storms) is still keeping her secret

This secrecy makes Maxie seem cruel and heartless. Dante and Lulu are being hurt. They now have full possession of “their” little girl (as yet unnamed).  How much longer can this go on?  Viewers don’t know who to root for.  And the situation doesn’t seem to have any resolution that will seem satisfactory. The story and the situation are just too painful for the audience and every character involved.  It’s been almost a year since this storyline kicked off. Get the truth of the baby’s parentage out already! 

Wyatt Who?

One of the notable additions to a soap opera this year has been Emmy winner Darin Brooks, who has joined The Bold and the Beautiful as Wyatt Spencer.  Brooks, who starred as Max Brady on Days of Our Lives, is a very good actor and very charismatic.  Yet, the character of Wyatt has remained very undefined.  Is he a good guy or a bad guy?  On the one hand, he has defended Katie and urged his father Bill not to desert her or their baby as Bill deserted his mother Quinn when Wyatt was a baby.  On the other hand, he has taken every opportunity to try and seduce his half-brother Liam’s fiancé Hope.    Although the character seems likable right now, it’s really hard for the audience to get a fix on who he is exactly. We hope it’s a problem the writers of B&B have the real Wyatt stand up soon..

A Less Than Grand Finale

Seldom has a soap character had a better send off than the late Katherine Chancellor. (Jeanne Cooper, who played her, died this spring).  The two day memorial service on The Young and the Restless last week had it all — a beautiful outdoor setting, and guest characters from the past cast like Danny, Nina and Amber.   Yet the capstone of the service —  the sudden wedding of Paul Williams and Christine — was in very bad taste and detracted from the solemn grandeur of the observance. Happily, both occasions were presided over by Father Todd Williams, nicely played by Cooper’s real life son Corbin Bernsen. Until now, we didn’t even know Paul had a brother.

A Proper Farewell for Connie?

Speaking of send-offs … Last week we stated that the unfortunately murdered Connie Falconeri had not even been given a funeral on GH.  This week, spoilers say she will get one, though a few very pertinent mourners will not be attending.  Stay tuned!

They Make My Day

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

Who are your current favorite soap characters – the ones who make your day as soon as you see they will be in an episode of your favorite daytime drama? Here are my current faves:

Jessica Collins

* Avery Clark (played by Jessica Collins), The Young and the Restless. She’s the only soap character I can think of that I ever wanted as a personal friend.  She’s mature, intelligent and compassionate.  In other words, a great soap heroine.  Everything’s gone fine with her for a while, but will her heart be broken before her scheduled walk down the aisle with Nick Newman?

* Dr. Liesl Obrecht (played by Kathleen Gati), General Hospital. There are many different kinds of villains on daytime: nasty, snide, self-deluded, pathologically dishonest and even downright vicious.  But very few  are sheer fun. The Machiavellian Dr. Obrecht is one. Unburdened by any moral compass, she happily employs any means to her end. Plus she’s in on several of GH ’s big plot secrets such as who is the father of her daughter Britt’s child. This is a great performance by the spirited Gati.

* Maya Avant (played by Karla Mosley), The Bold and the Beautiful. Whether she’s kissing her “true love” Rick or making out with Carter, I root for Maya.  Perhaps it’s her big brown doe eyes, which seem to be a window to her soul.  Mosley is very pretty and looked downright beautiful in this week’s Forrester fashion show.

 * Bill Spencer (played by Don Diamont), B&B.   No, I don’t really like him, but I love to hate this adulterous cheater. His macho attitude and silver jewelry are so over the top they make him laughable. Here’s a guy whose ego always walks ten feet in front of him,  guaranteeing trouble for all the ladies on the show.

 Which soap characters make your day in these dog days of summer?  

 

General Hospital: The Emergence of Ava Jerome, One Intriguing Woman

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

They showed her from her legs up, clad in a drop dead red halter dress.  This week on General Hospital, Ava Jerome was revealed to be the sister of the new power broker in town — Derek Wells. As played by soap veteran William deVry, Derek has a shady past: he really is one of GH’s old mob chiefs.  He was revealed to be the once thought dead Julian Jerome. His “little sister” Ava  has  been in town for a while, gathering power little by little.

Maura West

This reveal was so captivating because it was so well planned. For the past few months, GH has been slowly building up the new central character Ava, as played by daytime superstar Maura West (who became famous playing the wily Carly Tenney on As the World Turns and later the murdered Diane Jenkins on The Young and the Restless.)  Making Ava a central powerful character is a stellar choice by GH because daytime talent doesn’t get any better than West, a very accomplished actress and an expert at playing femme fatales and strong women on soaps.

When Ava came to town, she was a New York art dealer and the mother of Kiki Jerome (played by Kristen Alderson.)  At first Ava was shown to be a conniver, trying to get Kiki to vote her portion of the ELQ stocks with Tracy. Later, Ava was revealed to be the ex of Franco, who was presumably Kiki’s father. (It has since been shown that Silas Clay, another of Ava’s ex’s, is secretly Kiki’s biological father.)

But the GH audience was shown that Ava is much more than all this.  On the one hand she is seen trying to form an alliance with Franco against Tracy, while on the other she is the woman who tried to shoot him, hitting Olivia instead.  Her responsibility for this crime has never been exposed, at least so far. Ava  has been revealed to be an active member of the Jerome crime family, and the spotlight on West as a central GH character is shining even more brightly.

Quite deftly, GH has developed Ava into a very complex character, full of contradictions and mysterious as yet unanswered questions. She’s has become a very intriguing  woman indeed – and much more fun than a conventional heroine.

So, Thinking Fans, what do you think of the Ava as a powerhouse GH character? Are you rooting for or against Ava?  What do you think of West in the role? Discutez, s’il vous plait.

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.

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.