Soaps Need Comic Relief Now More Than Ever

As I write this, I am feeling very gloomy. NBC’s Days of Our Lives — a soap I have watched since I was a teenager — has left network television and moved to Peacock, a streaming service. Of course, I and, I trust, all the show’s fans will follow it. And I’m hoping that Days will be just as engaging, maybe even more so, than it was at its old address. But who knows what the future will bring?

Jackee Harry as Paulina

One pleasure we can count on is a laugh or three from the supremely hilarious Jackee Harry as Paulina Price. She’s always so entertaining, and if I’m having a bad day — all too common in this uncertain time — she is always there for me. Remember her as Lily Mason on Another World, or on the prime-time series 227 and Sister, Sister?

Which brings me to my bigger point: a plea for more chuckles. Right now, dear readers, outside of Paulina and General Hospital’s Damian Spinelli, there aren’t many characters who give us smiles (and a break from the heaviness of this era’s daytime drama).

Marlena loves to laugh! To the powers that be on soap operas: Please bring us more comic relief — and the welcome breather that comes with it!

Story lines going back to the dawn of soap time have been full of Sturm and Drang and sweeping tsuris. But the best shows have been routinely brightened by the comic talents of gifted performers who are put there specifically for that purpose.

Classic among them is GH’s aforementioned computer nerd Spinelli, played to charming, idiosyncratic perfection by Bradford Anderson. A witty and sweet techno whiz, he never fails to leave viewers feeling good.

Soap history is full of other examples of memorable comic characters.

What would The Young and the Restless be without the lightness brought to us by the maid Esther Valentine (played by Kate Linder). Esther was a servant to the late Katherine Chancellor (“Mrs. C” to Esther), played by Jeanne Cooper. The bravura Cooper, sadly, passed away in 2013, as did her character. Cooper, herself, memorably provided some light moments on Y&R. At one point, she played Katherine’s double, a hilarious waitress named Marge.  Today’s Y&R, unfortunately, gives us few laughs.

Many other comic performers have played the domestic employees of main (mostly rich) characters. The late Gretchen Oehler was a hoot as Vivien Garrow, Iris Cory’s maid on both Another World and Texas. On Edge of Night, the late David Froman’s Gunther Wagner was the manservant of Sky Whitney (played by the late Larkin Malloy.) Froman was an innovative genius, whether he was ballet dancing with Jody Travis (played by Lori Loughlin) or just comically mugging for the camera. And, of course, there was Asa Buchanan’s (played by the late Philip Carey) butler Nigel Bartholomew-Smythe (played by Peter Bartlett), after whom Marlena (that’s moi) named her beloved beagle boy Nigel when she got him 13 years ago.

Bradford Anderson as Damian Spinelli

Some comic characters will never be forgotten. Creator-headwriter Agnes Nixon hit paydirt on All My Children with Opal Gardner (Jenny’s mom), who was played by Dorothy Lyman. And, of course, Agnes’s dear friend, the one and only Carol Burnett, came to Pine Valley as Verla Grubbs, the long lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (played by Louis Edmonds). On Days, John De Lancie’s Eugene Bradford was exceptionally witty, as was Eugene’s girlfriend, Calliope Jones (played by the very creative Arleen Sorkin).

Many noted dramatic actors have displayed memorable comic sides. The supreme Phoebe Wallingford (played by the late incredible Ruth Warrick) and her husband Langley were a daily treat for fervent AMC fans. Justin Deas, who played Buzz Cooper on Guiding Light (and who was on other soaps, too), punctuated his serious business with welcome comic touches. And, course, Andrea Evans, who played Tina Lord Roberts on One Life to Live, gave us an entertaining comic slant every time her character appeared.

The Bold and the Beautiful has its own comic relief in the person of security guard Charlie Webber (played by Dick Christie), who has a sweet lady love, Pam Douglas (played by Alley Mills).

I think NBC did try to prepare us for Days’ transfer from the network to Peacock last week (Head writer Ron Carlivati is so clever!) by having the character of Leo Stark (played by Greg Rikaart, who also plays Kevin Fisher on Y&R) spend time in drag, sporting a blond wig. I wonder if he got the idea from Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot.

So the new Days is now on Peacock, and Marlena has to play with her remote. What a hassle! All I can say is, Jackee Harry’s Paulina had better be on!

 

Comments

  1. David Johnson says:

    THIS WAS A GREAT COLUMN, MA CHER MARLENA. IT NEEDED TO BE WRITTEN. AND YOU WERE JUST THE GAL TO DO IT. YOU INDEED HAVE ALWAYS HAD A FUN WAY WITH A TURN OF A PHRASE. WE ALL APPRECIATE THAT ABOUT YOU. PLUS THANKS VERY MUCH FOR REMINDING US OF THE INCREDIBLY GIFTED AND FUN CHARACTERS ON THE SOAPS OF YORE!! 🙂

    • Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a Connie Passalacqua Hayman says:

      Mon Davide—Thanks again for your continued support of Ms. Malena! Toujours l’amour!

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