I'm sure we've all experienced having neighbors come and go in our lives. Just right now, I have a "Sale Pending" sign on a house directly across the street from where I live, and I know that new faces will soon grace the neighborhood. Well, Llanview has quickly come to know some new residents, and while some have given the show a breath of fresh air (Nash, Layla), others have left me high and dry (Spencer, Hugh). Summer is all about trying to lure in the new younger viewers with stories that are fast-paced and full of romance or intrigue; it's not about shoving new faces down our throats in stories that have little significance. Soaps have been in existence for decades upon decades, yet soap writers still never learn the lesson that too much of a good thing all at one time will never garner the desired results.
Take, for instance, Spencer. Regardless of how I feel about the character, he is played brilliantly by Paul Satterfield, a real pro in the world of daytime. I respect the actor tremendously from his "General Hospital" days, and I was excited at the prospect of his returning to ABC on OLTL as David's conniving brother. When he first showed up to help little Jack with his medical emergency a couple of months ago, I was lured in by his commanding acting presence on screen. However, not any fault on Satterfield's part, the character quickly became too involved in too many stories EVERY DAY. We barely know about him other than he is David's brother, he's a doctor, and he's harboring a secret with Paige (they were once married and more...). I just don't know why a character that the writers and producers are clearly invested in would be written so hard and so fast as to be alienated by the viewers in such a short time. He's involved with David and Dorian, he's still maneuvering his way into Blair's life, and he's got his scope on Kelly. Too many coals in the fire if you ask me! We should be getting to know the character slowly and in one (or maybe two) stories before we just throw him full throttle into every story on the canvas! I'm intrigued by his relationship with David, and I'm even more interested in Dorian's reaction to him; however, I'm not keen on his coming between Todd and Blair unnecessarily, and I'm not a fan of him jumping right into a relationship with Kelly. The character has got years of potential, especially in the hands of such a talented actor, but the writers risk to make Spencer Truman loathed and hated as much as Margaret before the stroke of 2006!
While I'm considering the newbies who are not working right now, I must also consider Hugh, definitely as new as they come. His first run-in with a drunk Marcie, who threw up all over his shoes, certainly doesn't make a memorable "first encounter." I can see the writing on the wall that this guy is going to be a contender for Marcie's affections against Michael who has also been spending so much time with Natalie. I feel by adding another new person that nobody has any invested interested in, the writers are too non-committal with any of the existing relationships. If we viewers are supposed to come along for the ride through the ups-and-downs (i.e. Evangeline and John's break up amid the Evangeline/John/Natalie triangle), then we have to be assured that the writers have a plan to bring some closure to these relationships. We have to be assured that they have actually thought this through. I somehow get the feeling that the writers are just throwing a bunch of people into a bag, like M&M's per se, and seeing what they pull out and happen to like. Maybe it will be Natalie and Michael, but maybe it will be John and Layla. Maybe they'll find that Evangeline and Antonio make a better match than let's say Hugh and John...oops! That combination wouldn't work now would it? You get my point. How can these random connections be given to us in a way that we BELIEVE them when we aren't sure the writers have a clue as to what is going to work and what isn't? I know that Evangeline and John's status as a couple only came about as an accident; their chemistry on screen after that one night together resulted in such a strong fan reaction that the writers had themselves a super couple and didn't even plan it! Then, they had the added bonus of adding Natalie to the mix, a character who had always been planned to be the romantic interest for John once Cristian was presumed dead. Now that Cris is returning in September, what happens to the triangle? What happens to any potential hook-up with Michael? I just don't see the plan forming here, and with the addition of this new Hugh person, I just am befuddled. I think the writers should be focusing more on what they have rather on bringing in unnecessary new blood.
With this much said, let me add that I am loving the addition of Layla, Evangeline's sister. She is spunky and a little spit-fire. In the case of Layla, I can clearly see that the writers intend to push her in Antonio's direction, which is a good choice. I haven't been a fan of Antonio's for a long, long time, and his being paired with Jessica was a huge blunder. The two of them lacked any sort of chemistry, and while the history of their characters added to some believability in why they were romantically involved, I just never bought into the romance from the performances of the actors. Neither one of them made me think they were the real deal. Now, Antonio's scenes with Layla are another story! I actually have stopped using the fast-forward button in all of their scenes together. For the first time, I have fun watching Antonio in a scene; I am a believer now that he's enjoying himself with Layla and that she is bringing a spark to the character that hasn't been there for a while. I've always felt that Antonio enjoyed being Jessica's "hero," her "savior," her "rock." But with Layla, Antonio doesn't need to be any of those things; she's a feisty, independent woman who more resembles Jess's alter ego Tess rather than Jessica herself. Antonio is allowed to be "Just Antonio" with her, and I like that. Further, it's nice to see Evangeline's family start to grow; she is a great character whose opportunities for storyline should continue to grow outside the realm of the John/Natalie triangle. She is the type of character whose relationship with a man should complement her professional career and life, not hinder it.
That leaves the final "newbie" on my list: Nash. I have rarely been as enthusiastic about a character as I am with this one. As I've said before, Tess is really emerging as the more engaging, fun, flirty, and FUN character (over Jess) for me. Bree Williamson has taken this opportunity and has just run away with it. The life that she infuses into Tess makes her a breath of fresh air for me, and with the introduction of Nash, we have even seen splinters of her more vulnerable side. In talking to Nash about her "dead sister, Jessica," Tess was really speaking the truth: in her mind, Jessica is dead and gone. Yet, she was remorseful that she missed Jessica and almost needed her; when she confessed this and hugged Nash, I believed her! There were no conniving looks as she hugged him, no devious smiles to indicate she tricked him---just a genuine confession. Further, I don't think Tess has really been involved physically with someone she has truly liked, which is why she's holding back with Nash. She is shocked to see that someone like him has taken such a keen interest in someone like her-a little rough around the edges and definitely a little off-putting, but we can see in her face the signs that she is falling as hard for Nash as he is for her.
The introductory scenes at the beach party were just fantastic! It didn't hurt that the surroundings added some great eye-candy to jump start this romance. I think that by seeing the two meet and just hit it off without knowing too much about the other person, we have the makings of what sometimes really happens in reality (okay, I'm not talking about most people having a split personality or a party in the Hamptons or spending the night at some strangers house for several days), but what I'm saying is that sometimes people just fall for someone they hardly know and can't explain why it is. I don't mind that these two characters are excluded from the rest of the cast for now; in fact, I prefer it that way. I like that these two are able to get to know one another in a way that is separate from all of the other happenings in Llanview. Tess isn't stressed out about Nash finding out who she is (and by the way, that girl is clever! Check out how she totally got Nash off the subject when he overheard the financial "Gatekeeper" calling Tess, "Jessica."), and she isn't worried about Jessica re-emerging.
Most importantly, the chemistry between these two actors is undeniable! I vaguely remember Forbes March from his "All My Children" days, but not enough to register a blip on the radar when I saw him again. Maybe I've been watching too much of the judges' comments on "I Wanna Be a Soapstar," but those judges are right (which is why they are the judges, right?)...the chemistry between co-stars makes or breaks a pairing. Here is a case where the lust just oozes out of each of them. Williamson and Forbes generate excitement and energy; they force you to watch their scenes and be drawn in to their world. Williamson, in particular, really seems to have found her niche in the role of Tess. Her eyebrow raises, her snickers, her laughs, her shrugging of the shoulders, her toss of the hair: all of these are things I've noticed that come so natural to the character of Tess, but they aren't things a less-talented actress would choose to include in her performance. As much as Jessica is such an important role on OLTL, I just can't help myself from wanting more of Tess and less of Jess! And the addition of her "boyfriend" Nash is the icing on the cake!
Okay, it's forum time discussion time, gang! Once again, I'm going to ask you to consider the function of the new characters on OLTL currently. Feel free to discuss the other characters I haven't mentioned in the column in addition to those discussed here. Which ones work, which ones don't? Which ones would you send off to the soap opera abyss? Also, just for fun, if you had the opportunity to re-write the direction of any one (or more) of the new characters currently on OLTL, how would you re-direct their stories so that they played a little better? Happy discussing! I'll be popping in, as usual, to throw in my thoughts as well. Click here to visit our message board and share your thoughts!
Enjoy your week,