In soap operas, character is everything. It's the cardinal rule of writing good daytime dramas. If you write good characterization, all else will fall into place. That is why Claire Labine is widely regarded as one of the all-time best writers for daytime dramas. Granted her time on OLTL was filled with some inconsistency, but I blame that on those in charge not giving her enough time to find her niche. This week in Llanview, two characters are going through dramatic transformations, one for the good and one for the bad.
First, let's get the bad news out of the way. If Blair becomes any less likeable, she will become the female version of Spencer Truman. Maybe that's why she's romantically involved with him! At any rate, Blair had once been a woman keenly aware of what was happening around her, someone who had a firm hold on her family, and who could tangle with the toughest of villains. That Blair has been replaced by someone who is foolishly naïve, extremely isolated by the truth, and ridiculously under the impression that her children will make it through the loss of a father. I never could get over how Blair could so quickly lose faith in Todd, a man she has stayed loyal to through worse situations than this. Even though I believe she showed signs of doubt (in terms of whether or not she really is completely over Todd) when she viewed Todd's DVD confession that "she was his entire life," she still went right back to taking every word that Spencer feeds her as gospel. I wonder how someone who has so many life experiences as Blair does can not develop a radar for detecting "phony bologney" (for lack of a stronger and inappropriate word!). Despite the fact that EVERYONE (Todd, Evangeline, Dorian, etc.) keeps telling her that Spencer is up to no good, Blair refuses to see that a man she has only known for a year can not be capable of anything heinous, yet the man she has loved for over a decade can be capable of murdering an infant! Despite the hell that Blair and Todd endured from Margaret over the last two years, she still cannot accept that this could be just another rouse or another game! I'm very disappointed that Blair is becoming a character I'm losing interest in and finding unappealing.
On the other hand, John McBain has stepped up to be a force of nature I've never seen before! I love Michael Easton's work, but John McBain was never a character who connected with me. Sure, he's on screen EVERY SINGLE DAY, but his character was always written in such a one-note fashion. There was hardly any emotional depth given to John, and even through his unsuccessful relationships with Evangeline and Natalie, he never really managed to make himself a fully-dimensional character. But boy, what a difference a juicy bit of information has done for him! Revealing that Paige is responsible for his father's death sent John into a tailspin and forced him into a tirade the likes of which I've never seen from the character! The fiery passion, hate, and anger in his face came through with how he spit out accusations at Paige and Spencer. Years worth of emotion came out in just an episode or two, and I'm excited to watch this character for the first time since he's really come to Llanview! I want to see John figure out the truth and deal with the ramifications of what really happened to his dad. Struggling with paternal issues for most of his adult life as a result of his father's death, John is finally starting to realize that the loss of his father was part of a much bigger scenario. Perhaps uncovering these secrets that point to the truth will allow John to unload some of his demons and become someone who is able to love again and show more emotion.
1. I loved, loved, LOVED the final scenes of the week involving Tess/Jess's intense preparations for delivering her baby. There were so many different aspects of this story going on that I found myself thinking that THIS is what good writing is all about! First, there was the on-going question of paternity. Whose child really is this? We've been so caught up in Tess and Nash's love affair that it's sometimes easy to forget that Antonio is still part of the equation (at least for now). So to have that brought back to the forefront of the action and to include both of them in the delivery room when Tess is ready to "push" was a good idea. Secondly, just as important as the question of paternity is the question of maternity. Who is the MOTHER? This was one of the first questions that the pregnancy evoked nine months ago, and it was smart of head writerDena Higley to have the characters mention this again. Third, the tender "pep talk" by Viki was so perfect! It was brilliant to have Viki talk to Tess and remind her that Jess is just as important and deserves the opportunity to help Tess with this delivery, but that doesn't mean that integration is going to happen TODAY. Tess even relented for a moment and allowed Jess to come out just for a minute so that Viki could assure Jessica that Tess has done a great job taking care of the baby and that she is missed. And that quickly, Tess came back and fought with Jessica just enough until Jessica calmed Tess's fears and told her she would allow Tess to give birth to the baby, but she'd like to help her. Having the two work TOGETHER to bring the child into the world instead of apart is probably the initial signs of the integration that will ultimately happen.
2. Just as a great triangle between father/son/former wife (a.k.a. Duke/Kelly/Kevin) is starting to get really interesting, I'm disappointed that one of the three won't make it out alive of the tornado (I won't spoil who that person is if you don't already know). I always found it odd that Heather Tom's character was so vital in the baby-switching story several years ago-a story that encompassed not only OLTL but also AMC. After that was resolved, Kelly pretty much vanished from the canvas. I never understood why a show would underutilize an Emmy-award-winning actress like Heather Tom. But this recent storyline involving her desire to have a child with infertile fiancée/former husband Kevin has really been interesting and engaging. And when the feelings of Duke are thrown into the situation as he pursues the woman his father also loves, the story becomes even more complicated and complex. I have been astounded by Dan Gauthier's recent scenes as Kevin as he struggles with alcohol abuse and his feelings of insecurity over not providing Kelly with a child of their own. His anger, his hurt, and his frustrations come through in the way he lashes out at his son through violence and the way he agonizes with Kelly over whether or not they should even get married. I love the story and I love the performances. I am interested in what direction the story will take after the tornado, but I'll hold my reservations about that until it occurs.
3. Weren't the Emmy Awards this past weekend just wonderfully produced? I think ABC did a fantastic job at providing a show that truly presented daytime television in a respectful and glorious manner. The production was classy, and it moved fairly quickly. The Rick Springfield concert at the beginning was energizing and a good introduction to the evening, the hosts Tom Bergeron and Kelly Monaco worked especially well together, and the clips/tributes paid to the actors were long-overdue in this annual telecast. What I especially loved was the singing of selected Broadway tunes by Kathy Brier and Renee Goldsberry. Brier always belts out the tunes and blows me away, but Goldsberry's choice of song from "The Color Purple" musical currently on Broadway was absolutely mind-blowing. What a phenomenal, amazing vocalist! Wow. Often when daytime performers are asked to sing at events like the Emmy's, I cringe because they are fine singers, but not great ones. Goldsberry and Brier, on the other hand, are rarities, and I salute them for their talents. Great job!
4. You know, I don't often write about this couple, and that is because they typically don't stand out, but this week in particular I found myself drawn in to their world. Michael and Marcie's wedding is quickly approaching, and I'm happy that these two characters are finally tying the knot. I admit that I was a devoted Marcie and Al fan, and even though Al died and his portrayer Nathaniel Marston stayed on as another character, I never really found the chemistry or connection there with Marcie and Michael-isn't that strange? At any rate, with the news Michael received this week about Paige's involvement in his father's death, I became invested in seeing how he was dealing with the fallout. Here are the weeks leading up to his wedding to Marcie, and he's dropped with the bombshell that his Chief of Staff and mentor at the hospital was responsible for essentially killing his father many years ago. While Michael's brother was certainly less than supportive, Marcie on the other hand was very supportive of her fiancé and tried to let him work through his feelings. I really enjoyed watching that.
1. Okay, so I'm gaping at how brilliant Michael Easton is this week as he unleashes years worth of Emmy-worthy moments of acting into just a handful of episodes, and then I'm holding in chuckles as I see just how his counterpart in the scene is faltering. John McBain vs. Paige Miller. Score one for John! I must state yet AGAIN that the writers need to decide what they are doing with this character, because she has gone through such a series of transformations that I don't know who the real Paige Miller really is, and quite frankly, I don't think she has enough confidence or even a backbone to stand up to the likes of Spencer, John, Bo, or really anyone else. If Nora Buchanan's character is being replaced by the likes of Paige Miller, the producers are making a tragic mistake, one that they will regret. Paige isn't a heroine; she isn't a character that viewers are relating to or even rooting for. Honestly, she is viewed as the obstacle between Bo and Nora's reunion, something that had been promised to viewers by the writing team during the Daniel-is-a-serial-killer reveal. It's time to realize that six more recasts won't salvage this character. She was D.O.A. from the start.
2. How many of you remember when little Starr first hit the screen? My gosh, she was probably a little older than Jack is right now, but that girl had spunk. She was written as a true Manning, a girl with the gusto of her mother and the take-no-prisoners demeanor of her father. There was never a doubt that she was Todd and Blair's offspring. Jack, on the other hand, needs some definition. Granted, he is still just a tyke, but Starr was as well when she first started to become important to storylines. I just view Jack as a normal, average little guy, someone unaffected by all of the craziness going on around him. While that may be viewed as generally a positive thing, we're in Llanview here, gang! This kid is just as much a product of dysfunction as Starr, so the writers should be giving little Jack a personality. Just something to consider.
3. Robin Strasser is a phenomenal actress, and Dorian is a character who has endless storyline opportunities, so why is she being wasted as a middle-aged middle-schooler flaunting a cufflink in Viki's face and insinuating that Clint spent the night with her? Viki's reaction was brilliant as she called out Dorian as a pathetic drama queen who just wants to instigate her rival. I wonder if Dorian is really, truly interested in Clint romantically or if he is just a distraction for her from David as well as a method to inflict more pain on her adversary in Viki? If I really saw Dorian fall for Clint just as Viki was starting to rely on him, then I would love the triangle, but using him as the impetus for yet another petty squabble between the two divas is not the way I'd choose to see the story go.
Thoughts on Nora:
I'm still quite disappointed at the manner in which Nora's awakening is being written. It's probably been close to a month since Nora opened her eyes, and we have yet to see any substantial storyline being written for her. What is the point of extending Hillary B. Smith's contract when she is just being waved in front of our faces once or twice every two weeks like a taunt? It's a slap in the face to this extraordinary actress and to the viewers who have stuck by Nora through her ups and downs for the better part of 14 years.
This week is Hillary's luncheon in New York City. For those of you who are planning to be in attendance, I'm sure that you are in for a treat. The restaurant is intimate and cozy, and I'm sure that you will love the chance to mingle with Smith and let her know how supportive you are of her. I look forward to meeting so many of you there. And those of you who cannot attend, I'll be sure to give you all the details next week in my column.
Enjoy your week,