Jeanne Cooper: An Appreciation

 

Jeanne Cooper

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

This week daytime television lost a great icon and a great lady:  Jeanne Cooper, who played Mrs. Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless for more than forty years, passed away on Tuesday at 84.

There was no character like Mrs. Chancellor.  She was brought on six months into the show’s run in 1973 to be the spoiler in the romance of the nubile Jill Foster and the handsome older man, Phillip. Good news for fans, but bad news for the lovers: Mrs. Chancellor was a formidable woman who didn’t want to let her husband go.

Tough as she was, in the capable hands of an outstanding actress like Ms. Cooper, Mrs. Chancellor was no ogre. We were shown all sides to this very flawed human being.  She always wanted to take a drink, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that unquenchable thirst. She never wanted to be left alone, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that awful loneliness, too.   She wanted to be loved by all who were closed to her: husband Phillip, son Brock (who called her “Duchess)” and best friend Nikki, to whom she always acted the role of loving mother.

But woe to those who drew her scorn!  Enemies Katherine and Jill became legendary for their constant fighting.  Ms. Cooper was good in scenes with Brenda Dickson who originated the role of Jill, but absolutely great with Jess Walton, who became a legend unto herself as the equally tempestuous and vulnerable Jill.

Jeanne Cooper’s great achievement in soap acting was to keep the character interesting and challenging for four decades. From first broadcast to last in every scene in which she appeared, Katherine was the one we watched.  She definitely was one of the most understandably human characters in the history of daytime.

Off screen, Ms. Cooper was constantly human, too.  In her autobiography Not Young, Still Restless (It Books) published last year, she admitted her own tendencies to alcoholism and detailed her many affairs.  Yet, she wrote most convincingly that her best and most cherished role was mother — she had three children (including L.A. Law’s Corbin Bernsen) and six grandchildren.

Jeanne Cooper and Mrs. Chancellor will be much missed.  The Young and the Restless has planned a special episode in their honor for May 28.  We wouldn’t miss it.

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.

General Hospital: How to Keep the Magic Going

By Ed Martin 

I understand the 50th anniversary excitement on General Hospital will continue for most of the rest of this year, even if certain aspects of it are beginning to die down. The fun and excitement that has permeated Port Charles of late still seems like some kind of miracle after at least 15 years of turgid mob drama and virulent disrespect for the show’s loyal audience. As a veteran viewer of 35 years I couldn’t

Like millions of other viewers the returns of so many legacy characters, the countless references to so many plot points dating back over 30 years and the utter absence of mob action has me over the moon. But …

be happier with much of what I have seen in recent weeks, when the vibe of the show has actually come close to the power it had circa 1978-1985, the years when GH enjoyed its highest ratings and widest profit margins. 

Like millions of other viewers the returns of so many legacy characters, the countless references to so many plot points dating back over 30 years and the utter absence of mob action has me over the moon. That can’t last forever, but I would like to at least remain afloat even after this nostalgic trip runs its course, as it inevitably must. So here are a few unsolicited suggestions for how that might happen.

I would like to never again see Helena or Stavros Cassadine. Thirty years of the fabled Cassadine Curse has been enough. This story is played. It’s time to move on to something new. This was never intended to be an arc that would span so many decades. 

I would like to see Emily Quartermaine return from the dead, and I would like Natalia Livingston to continue portraying her, even on a limited basis. Was I the only one who noticed how Spirit Emily lit up the Quartermaine living room during Monica and Tracy’s relish-induced fever dream (or whatever the heck that was)? 

I would love to see the Rick Webber mess of 2002 cleaned up. There must be a way to rewrite bad soap stories from years past – after all, dozens of soap scribes over the years have had no difficulty rewriting good soap history, even when viewers haven’t wanted them to do so! I don’t mind at all if this means bringing Rick back from the dead, as well. Remember, when Spirit Rick appeared to Monica and Tracy he said something about the past not being what it seemed. And it was a joy to see Chris Robinson again. That stupid story about Rick’s secret affair with a nurse forever stained Rick and Scotty, and it played fast and loose with the classic Lesley-Rick-Monica romantic triangle that did as much for the show during its best years as any Luke and Laura adventure. The clean up could involve Rick and Lesley’s adopted son Mike Webber, whom I don’t remember being mentioned during the 50th anniversary hoopla, and maybe a guest appearance by Rick’s other ex, Ginny Blake Webber (if the awesome Judith Chapman can get a few days off from The Young and the Restless). The possibilities for this storyline are endless. The urgent need for a Rick fix is profound. 

And speaking of Lesley, where the heck was Denise Alexander during the show’s 50th anniversary celebration? We know Lesley is off at Nikolas’ home in Lake Como, taking care of little Spencer, but what the heck is that all about? Is Alexander ailing? Why wouldn’t (or couldn’t) she come home for a day or two? We need to see Lesley and Laura together again. Theirs is the most memorable mother-daughter relationship in the history of daytime drama. 

I would like to see Brenda Barrett leave Port Charles once and for all. Like all things Cassadine, her perpetually pointless storylines are played out. I’ll always have fond memories of Sonny and Brenda and their fabulous mess of a relationship, but that story is long over. 

And speaking of Sonny, what to do with him now that it is abundantly clear that nobody wants GH to return to stories of mob-related madness and murder? Can he go legit? Can he simply leave town? Would that be so bad? (Seriously, does anyone miss hit-man Jason?) After what we’ve seen on GH during the last few months, a mob story would be as welcome as more vampire nonsense. 

There. I said it! That bizarre turn into faux-vampire melodrama two months ago was an epic fail in every way: story, acting, direction, production values, etc. Happily, GH is so strong these days that it sustained what could have been a fatal blow. Remember, such ill-advised supernatural stuff was the very thing that killed the long-forgotten GH spin-off Port Charles ten years ago! Why damage GH and so grievously compromise the Lucy Coe character just to satisfy the six people who were watching PC during its death throes? I don’t ever want to hear the name Caleb Morley again, though that isn’t going to be easy with young Rafe around. 

And speaking of Rafe, I’d like to see him come between Molly and TJ in a fun summertime storyline filled with over the top teeny-something drama, the likes of which GH hasn’t winningly served up since the Laura-Scotty-Bobbie story way back in Seventies (when Bobbie was a royal rhymes-with-witch). 

And speaking of Bobbie, wasn’t it great to have her back in town? Can we have Jacklyn Zeman back as various storylines involving Bobbie’s daughter, brother, grand-children and other relatives might dictate? And can we please get periodic updates on her renewed friendship and professional relationship with Dr. Noah Drake out in Seattle? (Wasn’t that the nicest surprise to come out of all that 50th anniversary excitement?) 

I’d like to see new love interests for Tracy and Monica. When I think of Tracy with Luke or with Joe Scully Jr., and of Monica with Alan, it seems that the show is missing out on something special without love stories for the two of them. Wouldn’t it be great if a hot younger man fell for Tracy? I mean really fell for her, without any ulterior motives? Jane Elliot (who really ought to be nominated for an Emmy this year) would hit that one out of the park. 

Meantime, how about a sex life or love life for poor Felix? There must be another gay man somewhere in Port Charles. If not, he should hurry over to Salem, where he can take his pick. 

I’d like for there to be something new for Duke to do. I’m still not sure why GH went to such great lengths to bring him back from the dead … not when there are so many other deceased characters whose returns would really charge up the show and clear away the dark clouds that have hovered over it since they died. And yes, I’m talking about Alan Quartermaine, Emily Quartermaine, Rick Webber and Georgie Jones. 

And speaking of Georgie, surely there is some way to bring her back from the great beyond? She’d be a great source of support for the perpetually perplexed Maxie, and she would be a welcome addition to the story of Mac and Felicia, currently the show’s most delightful romance (and one that must continue). 

I’d like to see Robert return to Port Charles, perhaps with Holly, absent any memories of Robin being alive or Luke lying to him about Ethan’s parentage. Perhaps he could work with Kevin Collins at trying to remember what he saw in that Swiss clinic and finally figure out that his daughter isn’t dead. Then he, Anna and anyone else who cares to could once and for all get down to the business of rescuing Robin. At this point I don’t think it would hurt to recast the character – after all, three actresses have portrayed Carly, the female lead of the show. The story of Robin’s disappearance simply isn’t interesting enough to drag out on an indefinite basis. And I can’t imagine why Jerry Jacks would bother doing it. 

Lastly, I wonder if we really need Michael Easton, Roger Howarth and Kristen Alderson back on the canvas as three new characters. There are already too many doubles in play: Sam and Lizzie, McBain and Morley, Tomas and Lorenzo. Can we really be expected to accept three more? I still can’t believe Prospect Park is being so churlish about ownership rights to the characters of John McBain, Todd Manning and Starr Manning. Why not let them briefly appear on the revived One Life to Live and then head back to GH? If the new OLTL can’t survive without these three characters then chances are it’s doomed. If I’m being honest, GH doesn’t really need any of them, but if they have to return to Port Charles I would rather they be themselves.

_____________________________

Ed Martin writes regularly for MediaPost.com, MediaBizBloggers.com, TV Worth Watching and the Huffington Post. He’s been the programming and entertainment editor for several JackMyers Report publications since 2000, including The Myers Programming Report, The Jack Myers Entertainment Report and, at present, Ed Martin’s TV Buzz and TiVoWorthy TV on JackMyers.com. Follow Ed Martin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PlanetEd.

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…]

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…]

A “Bah Humbug” Christmas … Plus, The Borg is Back!

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

Oh how I miss soap Christmases the way they used to be. Today, all soaps have been scrubbed of religion. This year only two of the four soaps — Days of Our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful — continued with at least some of the traditions that made the holiday a really special time to watch daytime drama.  

The Horton Ornaments

On the soaps of old (actually, not even so old), every soap gathered its central families together at a family party.  On cue, a leading cast member broke the fourth wall at the end of the holiday show to wish the cherished viewers: “From our family to your family … Merry Christmas.”  Thus viewers felt particularly bonded with their other “family” — their soap family.Plus, I really missed those Christmas traditions particular to each soap! Remember all those years Dr. Steve Hardy told the Christmas story to all the kids at the hospital on General Hospital? When Mike Bauer sang Christmas carols in the Bauer living room on Guiding Light?  When all the characters of Passions, religious or not, turned out for one of Jim Reilly’s crazy midnight Christmas Eve masses?

Well, it was mostly “Bah Humbug” to Christmas on half of our surviving soaps in 2012 – a most peculiar choice, given the medium’s on-going race to stay in business. Instead of a gathering together en famille on Christmas week The Young and the Restless, Jack’s son Kyle and business associates Phyllis and Neil staged an intervention for pill-popping Jack. Peter Bergman brilliantly fired all rockets in these scenes in which obstinate Jack managed to give in to no one.    On General Hospital on Christmas Eve, surrogate mother Maxie had cramps and found out that she was indeed pregnant with Dante and Lulu’s baby.  Please oh please, tell me this wasn’t supposed to be symbolic of another Christmas pregnancy.

Thankfully, Days and B&B celebrated Christmas the old fashion way. Days offered warm family gathering, and as they do every year, rolled out the Horton family ornaments engraved with character names. B&B assembled the Forresters in a lovely tribute to the recently deceased Stephanie, as Eric (the talented John McCook) beautifully played the piano. And indeed B&B honored the old soap tradition as executive producer Bradley Bell broke the fourth wall to wish the audience a good holiday at the end of the Christmas episode. It made me feel extra good.   Happy holidays right back to everyone at B&B from Marlena!

The Young and the Restless:  On an up note, however, how unexpected is it that mega-popular Steve Burton (formerly Jason on GH) is joining Y&R?  He’ll certainly bring many of his fans with him.  I think the kind of role that’s written for him (as yet undisclosed) should have a lot to do with the actor’s success.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if his new character is on the right side of the law, unlike his unrepentant hitman Jason (nicknamed “The Borg” by the audience) on GH?

Merry Christmas, Baby, from Marlena!

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

Michelle Stafford

The Young and the Restless: I’m always looking for improvements under the new regime at The Young and the Restless.  One of the show’s former problems was loading heroines with too many problems, and I think the current writers have done a nice job these last few weeks in giving Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) a bit of rest.  In other words, instead of being called upon to carry on as the ever screaming, jealous wife, adulteress and murder suspect, she’s allowed us to be reminded of the kind of person she really is.

She’s not particularly man-crazy at the moment but showing some independence in the wake of the disappearance of her lover Ronan. Her new work at Newman shows her to be the intelligent and top professional woman she used to be. Her great compassion and support for pill-addict boss/ex-husband/good friend Jack has brought out her natural humanity.  Continuing to reach out to her wayward daughter Summer with great love, she’s let us see what a great and determined mother she is. I even notice she stopped wearing her usually slutty clothes.  Altogether, Phyllis is less of a headache, again a smart, convivial gal you’d like to actually know.

Although I don’t like Y&R‘s teen cyberbullying story, it certainly makes much  better use of fireball Emmy winners Christian LeBlanc and Tracey E. Bregman, whose marriage as Fen’s parents Michael and Lauren has been too happy for too long. Giving happy couples problems certainly worked with Adam and Chelsea, and certainly gives better acting opportunities to super actors Michael Mulney and Melissa Claire Egan.

I’m not a big fan of crabby Abby Newman, but I’m glad Marcy Rylan, who plays her so engagingly, is rejoining the show. The young character’s obnoxiousness is a spark the show surely needs.

But what I’m most excited about is the imminent arrival of Mark Pinter as politician Marcus Wheeler.  Pinter, of course, was brilliant as the Shakespearean villain Grant Harrison on Another World.   He’s the kind of powerful actor who can make waves for those corporate sharks Jack and Victor, played by the formidable actors Peter Bergman and Eric Braeden. Uh oh …do you think they’ll get Marcus mixed up with … Phyllis?

General Hospital:  I really like Felix (Marc Samuel), the new character on GH.  Felix is very, very, very smart.  Didn’t he make student nurse Sabrina do weeks of extra bedpan duty in exchange for an introduction to his cosmetics boss Lucy Coe? Of course it turned out Felix had never met Lucy, but Felix can talk himself into anything. GH is a show that needs humor, and Felix and his funny remarks certainly brighten scenes.  Anyone who calls that bitch Britt “Dr. Miss Thing” is certainly okay by Marlena!

By the way, Marlena, Moose and Nigel wish you all a Merry Christmas.  Getting read by you and receiving your wonderful comments are year-round Christmas presents for moi. Joyeux  Noel!  Buon Natale!

Marlena’s Best of the Best, 2012

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

It’s the end of 2012, time for best and worst lists.  Because soaps are in such danger and I’ve already recorded most of the worsts in the weekly column I’m choosing only to do the bests here.  And Marlena being Marlena sometimes I have multiple choices in each category.

Best Actress:  The Bold and the Beautiful’s Susan Flannery. Can there any other?  Her work in the month leading up to Stephanie’s death was just so human and full of intelligence, two full career-long defining traits of arguably daytime’s best ever actress.

Doug Davidson

Best Actor:  Doug Davidson, The Young and the Restless.  Tragedy usually becomes soap performers, but it’s still difficult for some actors to pull off crying scenes believably and effectively.  Y&R‘s Doug Davidson was just grand as the drowning-in-guilt Paul, who shot and killed his own son, when Ricky was about to commit murder.   Davidson was just so realistic as a father in this ultimate pain, especially when he was unjustly arrested for Ricky’s murder.

Best Supporting Actresses:  Too many to choose just one. B&B ’s Katherine Kerry Lang should get the Emmy she deserves this year as Brooke for that character’s loving support of Stephanie on her deathbed … Kelly Sullivan has just been terrifically entertaining and often hilarious as Crazy Connie on General Hospital. (She also plays Connie’s alter, fashion editor Kate.) …  Will’s coming out scenes on Days of Our Lives wouldn’t have been half as effective if not for the understanding and support of his grandmother Marlena. Deidre Hall, as ever, is brilliant as a character who represents the ultimate in womanly love and acceptance … Robin Mattson was just deliciously evil as always when her crazy, cunning Heather returned to GH, bringing with her a swath of misdeeds, including a role in the switch of Tea and Sam’s babies.

Best Supporting ActorGeneral Hospital ‘s Jason Thompson was every bit as good in crying scenes as Y&R’s Davidson, as Patrick so heartbreakingly mourned the death of his wife, Dr. Robin. The exquisite sensitivity the character showed in his grief was totally unexpected.

Best Couple:  Anna and “Duke”/Faison on GH.  In the 80s they were a supercouple — Finola Hughes and Ian Buchanan had amazing chemistry, and their great acting skills beautifully complimented one other.  And they stayed a dazzling duo when both returned this year to GH and played out the twisty and shocking Faison-is-the-fake Duke story.  The actors also did just as great work apart:  Hughes as Robin’s grieving mother on GH and Buchanan as the scheming meanie Ian on Days, who also wildly grieved when his love Madson died in his arms.  Buchanan is this soap year’s prince of melodrama.

Best Show: General Hospital, for making the comeback of the year.  A year ago, the smart money bet this show would be cancelled. But executive producer Frank Valenti and headwriter Ron Carlivati turned the tide splendidly, transforming GH into such a highly entertaining show that fans don’t want to miss even one day!  May GH’s rising ratings portend a new era of success for dayime soaps!

Cher readers, do write in and tell me your personal bests for 2012.

Also, listen to Connie/Marlena chat about soap bests and the biggest soap news events of 2012 with soapcentral.com’s Daniel J. Kroll on http://www.voiceamerica.com/Show/1661.

Paul Rauch, R.I.P.

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

Paul Rauch, surely the greatest executive producer in daytime soap history, died today in Manhattan at 79 following an illness.  

Paul Rauch
Nobody did soaps better

Marlena had the honor of covering and knowing Paul from 1980 onward, during which he was executive producer of Another World, Texas, One Life to Live, Santa Barbara. Guiding Light and The Young and the Restless. He generously taught me so much about soaps during our many interviews.  In the industry, Rauch was known as intimidating, but I found him to be a tremendously charismatic and complicated man who was great creative leader and a premier innovator in the art of soaps. No one knew soap production better than Paul.  He was always moving with the soap times. I always maintained he was a genius — which he loved.  Rest in peace, Mr. Rauch.

He is survived by his wife, concert pianist/playwright Israela Margalit, two children, two stepchildren and three granddaughters.

When Paul became executive producer of his last soap, Y&R, in 2008 (the job lasted until 2011). Marlena wrote this column about having known him over the years:

                                                                                                    

PAUL RAUCH FOR REAL!

September 19, 2008

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

Paul Rauch. That name may send you screaming from the room if you ever worked for him unsuccessfully, if you judge a man in totality by his bad soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light) or if you are a typical internet poster who relies on rumors, innuendo and chapters of tell-all memoirs.

But now that Rauch is back as co-executive producer of The Young and the Restless (at the age of 74, after recovering from a heart attack) I’d like to offer some first person testimony. And I can do it freely and ethically because I am a journalist, and don’t have to work for him.  I knew and interviewed Rauch regularly from 1980-2001.

I’ve always maintained that, despite his stormy temperament and the people he is said to have hurt, Paul is a genius.

I knew him when he was in New York executive-producing Another World, Texas, One Life to Live and Guiding Light.  Like everyone, I had terrible, terrible times with him (I have stories — let’s just say no one could intimidate a young girl reporter better than Paul) but then again I had incredibly engaging and enlightening conversations with him over the years, too.

Ironically, it is the same young students of soap opera out there cursing at him on the net who would probably die to have to chance to have an audience with him.  Every time I interviewed Paul, I learned more in 20 minutes about the fine art of making soap opera than I ever could any other way. A serious art collector (it always cracked me up that Paul had a print of Edward  Hopper’s classic painting “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” in his office at Guiding Light), he has an incredible eye for the visual composition and texture of the image on screen.  Between that and his up-to-the-second technical knowledge, his explanations of such things as his lighting ideas, why he photographed scenes in radical new ways, and his innovative location shooting techniques, made you appreciate what he was after in a fresh way. Or he could make you understand why soaps are now casting models with perfectly beautiful faces by explaining why the technicalities of cable competition (which was new in the late 90s) called for such a (to me, awful) thing.

And he has amazing taste in actors.  Before you scream “Kim Zimmer” at me, this is the man who gave great actors like Ray Liotta (he grew up on Another World) their show-biz starts.  I used to see him all the time at the New York theater in the 80s scouting talent.  He recognized and relished using superb leading actors like Vicky Wyndham (AW), Beverlee McKinsey (AW and Texas) and Erika Slezak (One Life To Live).

He’s produced soaps for 40 years (two Emmys), moving with the times from style to style.  There were the classic, almost Shakespearean quality of AW (which was soap opera nirvana for the Thinking Fan); the campy, high budget days of OLTL, and even the very early days of GL (before he and those boobs Brown and Esensten poisoned us with the clone story).

Because he moves with the times and is a genuine Thinking Producer, Paul is a great choice for Y&R.  Among other things, the show needs a definitive post-Bill Bell style, since it’s been drifting all over the place since Bill’s death. Y&R is his kind of show: it is rich in dramatic texture and has many sophisticated characters (the Abbots, the Newmans) that are tastefully wealthy.  Although I haven’t seen Paul in years, I’m sure he still approaches his work with all the intensity and meticulous attention a show like Y&R badly needs to stay on top in these troubled, troubled soap times.

Welcome back, Paul!

Sunday Reflections 22: Bad Plots on Young and Restless and General Hospital Draw Marlena’s Ire!

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

The Young and the Restless:  There’s a lot of squawking on the net that, compared to General Hospital, Y&R  is slow, not that entertaining and a bit hard to watch.  I agree somewhat, but counsel patience: the new writing and production regime has been in place less than two months. They have a lot to repair. They’ve barely had enough time to review the entire show. Even so, I do have a few comments on two new storylines.

Hunter King as Summer

I really don’t like the cyber-bullying story in which extra mean kids Summer and Fen are torturing Jamie, a kid who is so fragile he  looks like he’s having a nervous breakdown.  I know it’s a well-intentioned story, but it’s kind of the issue du jour and has been done many times elsewhere in practically all media, most recently on daytime on One Life to Live with that miserable Jack Manning as the bully. The story has a dimension of realism inasmuch as Y&R’s kids come from parents with checkered pasts themselves, such as Summer’s psycho slut mother Phyllis and Fen’s father, former bad boy Michael.  For years we watched these elder characters mess up their lives as their younger selves. Now they’re grown up and trying to project authority as parents when they haven’t yet healed themselves. The result for the viewer is a succession of messy scenes of intergenerational yelling and rancor, so far not leading anywhere. Classic soap opera it’s not.

Max Erich as Fen

I don’t watch soap operas to see endless scenes of parents fighting with kids. Blech!  I had enough of that as a teenager myself, plus there’s no romance there (at least not yet!).  It’s obvious that the writers have some experience with real teenagers — Summer and Fen are realistic terrors.  When Fen sulks and stalks away from the dinner table and his frustrated  parents Michael and  Lauren — well, honey, Marlena played that same role herself a million times as a less than adorable teen.  However authentic, again, this kind of misery is not what I watch soap operas for.  Whatever happened to the days when kids (like Beth and Phillip on Guiding Light) spent their teenage years discovering the joy and mysteries of love? I’m sorry, but there’s no reason to sit through agonizing shouting matches with rotten kids like these — unless they are your own.

I’m also very disappointed in the excuse they’ve suddenly given to Sharon for all her dastardly acts against the Newmans in a former writing regime.  She’s been diagnosed as a manic-depressive, which is balderdash.  A bipolar disease is one that is life-long and very serious, not some handy alternative for writers who are in desperate need of a device to redeem a character. She can’t come down with the disease overnight!  Burning down a house (as Sharon did the Newman ranch) is psychotic, not manic.  Y&R is doing the audience a real disservice by using this widespread and harrowing disease as a handy plot device, even if being bipolar seems to be the illness du jour in drama and real life these days.

General Hospital: What a surprise to see a bomb of a story take place at the end of GH’s successful sweeps.  This is the one in which Sky, Carly and Todd rushed to Llanview to stop Blair’s wedding to Tomas, who they contend is really Alcazar. (Both roles were coincidentally played by the same actor, Ted King:  Tomas on One Life to Live and Alcazar on GH.)  But soon after the threesome arrived and before the hyped up confrontation, Tomas skipped town, meaning King didn’t appear at all.  So the whole effort — and story — was futile.  Why bother to do the story at all when you are not even going to include Alacazar/Tomas/King in the scenes? Was King unavailable?  I did not laugh when the CIA agent who arrived at Blair’s house to deliver the news that Tomas suddenly had to leave on assignment identified himself as “Theodore King.”