The drama is what counts
For the Week of May 24, 2004
Daytime soap operas have always been best when they focused on the kind of drama that evokes feelings and empathy.
Daytime television has always been about the drama. Even amid silly plots like serial killers, underground cities, people miraculously rising from the dead, and time travel, daytime soap operas have always been best when they focused on the kind of drama that evokes feelings and empathy. Some of the best moments in OLTL history have been about the stories that showcase such drama: Luna's violent death in Angel Square, Marty's gang rape and the trial that followed, Megan's death from lupus, and most recently Al's death from a liver disease. When written well, such stories sometimes place our favorite characters in peril or sometimes just have them suffer or face complex situations that make for can't miss television. Well, folks, we are in the middle of one of those can't-miss television moments with Viki's heart transplant storyline.
Head Writer Michael Malone is at his very best when he writes stories with these far-reaching ramifications. Let's face it, his serial killer storyline was a flop, and there hasn't been more than one or two stories since he has returned that I can say I was excited about watching. When he wrote for the show previously, I can remember that he was responsible for introducing the characters of Luna and Nora. He wrote the storyline about the AIDS quilt/homophobia story involving Andrew and young Billy, he told the touching story of Megan's fight with lupus which ultimately took her life from her beloved Jake, he penned the powerfully strong tale about Marty's gang rape which was orchestrated by Todd Manning---a tale that still affects characters today, and he introduced viewers to the many faces of Victoria Lord when her countless alters surfaced after the revelation that her father had sexually abused her at a young age. These are all stories that didn't just last a week, a month, or a sweeps period; they were stories that encompassed a large portion of the cast and lasted for months upon months. What stories can you say you'll remember five, six, ten years down the road when recalling Malone's second tenure at OLTL? Maybe you'll remember Al's death, even though that came and left in the blink of an eye. But, Viki's heart transplant story might be the first great tale of Malone's second coming.
It really is amazing what drama can do to make a show instantly "watchable." On Monday and Tuesday, I was bored to tears as those shows focused on stories and characters I really don't care much about at the moment. Honestly, I can barely remember a single significant event that happened on either of those two days. I vaguely remember Kevin and Jessica talking about their mother and her heart condition, and I remember Natalie talking to Paul. Whoop-dee-do! But on Wednesday, the show took a turn for the better when Viki quietly put her head on the sofa to rest and had a dream that lasted for the rest of the episode. As she walked throughout Llanfair, she heard Ben's voice telling her to follow her heart and figure out the clues. She faced her father again (who was sent packing by her devoted brother Todd). She saw her lifeless body in a coffin and talked to Clint and her children. She woke up and realized she did not want to die and would fight whatever prognosis her doctors gave to her. Before her dream, she was willing to live her final days peacefully and just give in to death when her body deemed it time. However, after her dream, Viki apparently had an epiphany; she wanted to live! She wanted to watch her children continue to live and see her brother finally try to make peace with his life. Moreover, our heroine of this show was willing to stay on earth with her true love, Ben. But by the end of the episode, it appeared Viki was going to face that battle even sooner than she expected as she suffered a major coronary.
Seeing Viki's family surround her bedside and show their support as they hope and pray for a heart donor is what makes these episodes especially strong. The importance of family is crucial to this show, and bringing back Joe and Clint to the existing family members already in Llanview is a testament to the support Malone places on family and history for OLTL. I applaud the fact that the writers would bring back Clint again to be at his ex-wife's bedside during such a grave and dire situation. Though they may be divorced, nobody can argue the history and the experiences the two of them have shared together. They even traveled over time together to find their love again. Not having Clint there would ruin the credibility of this story, but seeing him with Jessica, Joe, Kevin, and Natalie reinforces the significance of the storyline. Even seeing Asa, who normally puts on a façade of being gruff and ornery, show his concern for his daughter in law further cements the fact that this is a story which reaches out to touch so many people on the canvas.
There's little doubt, I imagine, that people are not aware by now of where this story is headed. I won't come right out and say it, but let's just say that Viki will be receiving the heart of someone near and dear to her. My feelings on this aspect of the story have been mixed, because a week or two ago, I was asked by a reader of this column if I had heard this rumor about Viki's heart donor. At the time, I had heard rumblings about it, but I dismissed them because I thought it was such an easy cop-out for Viki and her situation. Besides, I wrote, we ABC viewers have been there and done that. General Hospital did it best when Maxie received her new heart from her young cousin BJ, who was unexpectedly killed in a school bus accident. All My Children later (and unsuccessfully) tried to mimic GH's critically favored story with its own involving Laura's heart transplant from Gillian when she was accidentally shot by someone looking for GH's Anna Devane. I guess now it's OLTL's turn to try this story and see what results it will get. My bet is somewhere in between. The GH story worked because it was shocking, it was emotionally draining, and it was flawlessly written and acted. The Emmy awards that were bestowed to the show that year prove as much. The AMC story did not work because it was a second-rate carbon copy of a perfect story. Further, the characters involved weren't entirely beloved. Gillian was definitely a fan favorite, but Laura was a pesky, annoying brat. OLTL is on the right track focusing on Viki and a recipient that the viewers love. The tragedy involved in one person living while the other one dies is drama at its finest. The actors involved in OLTL's tale are certainly top-notch and worthy of the challenge, and Malone has already proven he can be a writer who knows how to deliver when the right story comes along. Now just might be the turning of the tide we restless viewers have been waiting for!
I've been waiting for that one story, that big one, that would allow the entire cast to rally together and produce must-see episodes that don't just end when the sweeps period does but continues into weeks and months. I have a feeling Viki's story isn't going to be just about the heart transplant itself and the aftermath of dealing with the loss of the heart donor, but it's going to continue focusing on the bond between Viki and adversary Dorian. This blossoming friendship has been one of the highlights of the story for me. Seeing the two of these women finally come together and show caring and compassion for the other is a rare treat. They do have so much history together, and that history has turned into them recognizing the fact that they probably know one another better than anyone else. Here's hoping Viki's transplant story will go down as one of the most remembered stories in OLTL's rich history!
Enjoy your week,
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