One day last week, I came home from a long day of teaching in very humid weather (with no air conditioning!) and sat down with dinner to watch OLTL from the day. When I stopped it and began watching, I quickly jerked up because I thought I had recorded another show. Strangers were on the screen---a lot of them! And then I saw Antonio and quickly realized that I was watching the "new" OLTL. The "new" show I'm talking about is the one with the ever-increasing Santi population that has infested the town and taken over 75% of the screen time. I miss my old friends like Viki, Bo, Nora, Lindsay, among countless others. Llanview, I barely recognize ya anymore!
Several years ago, I remember reading an article and hearing rumors that head writers received an additional stipend or bump in pay for the creation of new characters under his/her reign. One article in the magazines addressed this issue and dismissed it as untrue; however, I am starting to wonder. With the creation of an entirely new family (the Santis) and other newbies like Marcie's brother and father, not to mention those kids in the Love Shack, I just wonder if Michael Malone isn't thumbing through a few additional greenbacks! Surely, a writer of his caliber with a background in daytime drama knows one of the cardinal rules of soap writing is NOT to put new characters in scenes with one another nor to thrust them into a major storyline of their own. I am awed by how prominent the production and writing staff at OLTL has allowed this Santi mess to be in the scheme of stories.
I will be the first to admit that I was anxiously awaiting a new villain to make his/her way to Llanview. With the departure of Mitch Lawrence and the watered-down version of Todd Manning we are left with, there is a distinct lack of evil pervading Llanview (unless you want to consider Paul's devious scheme with the baby-switching). At any rate, I thought that the "late" Manuel Santi would make the perfect replacement for Carlo Hesser, one of OLTL's best villains ever! Sadly, the hope for one Santi turned into an entire family of them and the imminent revelation that Antonio is also one of them and not the Vega that we had always thought him to be. Now, my anticipation for a villain has turned to disgust that this new clan has populated the town and once again led to a rewrite in the show's history.
Speaking of rewriting history, I am especially sickened by this latest twist in Llanview history because the Vega family has been one of the very few minority families the show has right now (or has had in recent years, especially with the departure of Hank Gannon). When Agnes Nixon created this soap opera over thirty years ago, it was based on the premise of a "melting pot" occurring in Llanview. We obviously see what kind of "melting pot" we are left with today! So to dismantle one of the few sturdy minority families (especially with Christian making a comeback this fall) is disconcerting! Do the writers really think that by making Antonio a Santi instead of a Vega that we will suddenly start to care about this story or the new people brought on to advance it? I wanted to see ONE Santi, and ONE Santi only---the "deceased" Manuel Santi. Instead, we got every other person he had any contact with it seems! Pleeease!!
I miss my old friends. I miss the old Kelly--not this new pill-addicted, whiny creature Heather Tom does a good job portraying. I miss the undisputed star of the show, Viki Davidson, in a storyline that is more substantive than the brief two-week heart transplant story that we barely got to sink our teeth into. I miss more Al and Marcie and Bo and Nora and even more interactions with Duke and his Buchanan family. Incidentally, I think Matt Metzger is doing a fine job in his new role as Duke. Other than the fact that I remember when Kevin and LeAnn had their fling and ultimately discovered that LeAnn was pregnant with Duke only a short time ago, I can live with the fact that Duke is a young adult. At least this "new" character is part of an existing family and is someone we've known about through conversations.
Despite the convergence of the Santi clan on Llanview, I am enjoying seeing more of Asa these days. The struggle over the mansion that he is having with Todd and Blair is intriguing me for several reasons. First, because Asa is given some much-needed screen time. I can recall back during Jill Farren Phelps's reign when Asa was on screen nearly every day in major, major storylines. Phil Carey threatened to walk away from the show when his contract was up because he was over-worked, and part of the conditions for his staying was to have his storyline cut from what it was. For a long time after that, we barely saw Asa. Now, he's back! Sadly, rumors persist that Carey is looking to retire soon (hopefully, this is just talk and will not happen!). The second reason I enjoy this storyline is because we are getting to see Todd and Blair act and behave in the way they were meant to---as a team! They are plotting together, scheming together, and not lying to one another. Their strength as a couple lies not just in the love that they are capable for showing to one another but also in working well together as a team to accomplish a goal.
Malone and company need to be very careful, because they are treaded on thin ice. They risk alienated many, many long-term fans by focusing too much of the show on strangers we don't know and could care less about. The best drama will come not in introducing new dangerous foes but in writing tales for the people we DO care about and have seen on our television sets for years. Sometimes I think the people in charge forget that we viewers invest one hour a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year watching their shows and these characters. They become our "friends," familiar faces we look forward to seeing, especially when we have bad days. When those "friends" are taken away from us, how do they think we'll react?
I also wanted to thank those readers who have been emailing me your thoughts and ideas about the show. With the start of a new school year, I have been incredibly swamped with those first-of-the-year activities that always accompany a new group of students. So, although I have read each and every one of your messages, I apologize for not being as diligent as I normally am about responding to them. I anticipate that will all change very soon once I settle back into a regular routine. However, I do enjoy all of your comments!
Enjoy the week,