In case you haven't heard the latest bit of insanity coming from OLTL, Ilene Kristen, who deliciously plays Roxy, will be released from her contract when it expires. Although the show insists she hasn't technically been "fired," I think they are just playing semantics with us. Here is yet ANOTHER example of how misguided the show's execs are. My original plan in this week's column was to accentuate the positive and focus it around Evangeline (which I will save for a future time), but my ire has been fueled by this late breaking news!
I'm apparently not the only one incensed by this latest madness. I received more mail this week from disgruntled OLTL viewers reacting to last week's column than I have probably all summer. It is not shocking for me to realize there are so many unhappy Llanview fans out there PATIENTLY waiting for the signs of the show's recovery, but it is amazing to realize how passionate folks are about the show's increasing decline. This week, I've decided to let the fans speak out! They can say it a whole lot better than I can!
In anticipation of this column, I asked some of my readers what their reactions were to Ilene Kristen's contract status change. Nearly everyone voiced some sort of disappointment, mostly over the loss of a character that was never fully developed yet had enormous potential. Christine wrote, "If I had my way for a Fan Episode, it would be a flashback of Roxy from childhood to see how she ended up with Natalie...she is the best character, simply because she is so flawed." How true is this? We now know the circumstances behind the Jessica/Natalie twin switch and how Roxy became Nat's mother, but what about Roxy's own past? We were briefly treated to scenes with Roxy's own mother, and it sure did look like the apple didn't fall far from the tree; however, how did Roxy become the messed up, yet lovable hair stylist we grew to love and laugh at? That is where the writers stumbled. Creating Roxy's past and making it fit into the Llanview canvas would have made this character a viable one that would have had a long shelf life on the show. By writing her off, it is a waste of one of the few light-hearted parts of the show. As Nicole pointed out, "Although I think the character of Roxy is a bit over the top, I'd miss those malapropisms." I think we all would!
Nicole and Christine weren't the only ones bothered by the news of Roxy's possible departure from Llanview permanently. Jeremy really put the news into perspective, "My reaction to the news of Ilene Kristen's dismissal is 'Oh well, at least she can move to a show that will use her instead of keeping her quiet for the last year and half.' Other than Kristen, it's evident that the only people who ever understood Roxy were her creators, Broderick and Whitesell. Roxy Balsom Holden was a fabulous character that had TONS of storyline possibilities! She was a boozer who lived off chocolate and was probably addicted to FRATERNITY ROW [OLTL's soap-within-a-soap from the early 90's]! She had a lot of character for a show whose current list of players all talked the same, acted the same, and basically, could have played each other's parts and no one would have known the difference. But it just seemed to me that Malone and Griffith had no idea what to do with the characters they did not create! So, instead of doing some homework with already existing characters to have more story, kill off Gabrielle, Sam, Keri, Liz, Mitch, Al and then get rid of Max and Troy. And while they are at it, why not relegate characters that have a history to the back burner? Viki, Renee, Asa, Bo, Nora, Lindsay. Oh, and just for good measure, let's bring on characters that NO ONE cares about such as Daniel, Riley, Michael, Shannon, Eve, Tico, Sonia, Paul." Jeremy's comments are, of course, quite indicative of what most others wrote to me about. The problem we have isn't all about Kristen's dismissal, but rather it is about who is making the decisions. Who is deciding if Roxy is a character worth keeping around? Who decides if we have had enough baby switching? Who decides that most of us are sick to death of Todd and Blair's dance of deceit?
A Head Writer, I am sure, gets the brunt of our anger and frustration when a show is not doing well (and usually, the HW is the first to get his/her walking papers!). But, is Michael Malone really the one to blame? I wonder. Jeremy and I have already had this discussion. I posed the speculation that somebody else surely must be pulling the strings in terms of storyline approval other than Malone, who is an acclaimed novelist with years of experience. In one of our discussions, Jeremy wrote, "I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and picked up one of Malone's novels and skimmed through it. I thought to myself, 'All this rich dialogue and we are reduced to seeing campy characters and mindless babble on our soap?'" That is exactly my point as well. A novelist with a number of books to his credit, Malone is trained at creating character development and using dialogue to advance story. So why are we seeing something completely opposite to that on screen? Is it our Executive Producer, is it Brian Frons, or is it someone even higher than that? I say let the man do his job the way he wants to do it. Rumor is that the baby switch crossover story was the brainchild of Frons (I don't know if this is true or not), but we all see how well THAT story is going over. Fans want this story to wrap up tomorrow, yet I fear that it is going to be on screen until at least 2005. As I said once before, Malone's stories were sensational during his first stint in Llanview, so how can a marvelous writer with a Daytime Emmy to prove it be back in the same position producing garbage? The answer? I don't think he is solely responsible for the mess currently called OLTL.
The bottom line is that the fans are roaring to be heard. Write the show and tell them how unhappy you are with the state of things. Give them some storyline suggestions (Lord knows they need them!). Believe me, if we just complain to one another, we are fighting a futile battle. But a well-written short letter that coherently expresses your frustrations and disappointments can do the trick. How pleasant would it be for me to write about the good things in Llanview week after week instead of venting about the myriad of missteps the show makes every week. It literally seems for every step forward the show makes, it takes five backwards. And incidentally, making the show a clone of General Hospital's mob stories with the introduction of the Santi family is not a great idea. Originality is what will make all of us excited once again!
As for Ilene Kristen, I think the show has made a giant mistake, and allowing this Emmy-nominated actress to fall through their fingers is one of those five steps back I referred to earlier. Roxy has left quite an impression on many viewers, and her comical antics, her destruction of the English language, and her unusual affair with Nigel are going to be sorely missed. But as Jeremy pointed out in his email, it is time that Kristen look for another show that will utilize her vast talents and appreciate her. I promise, folks, I will treat everyone to a more upbeat and refreshingly positive column next time! Until then, get out those pens and paper and start writing!
One Life to Live c/o Executive Producer (or Head Writer) ABC-TV 77 West 66th Street New York, NY 10023
Enjoy the week,