Don't you just hate it when you've devoted two or more hours to a movie or spent days and days reading a book and you reach the end of it and think about all of the holes in the story? You think back to the blatant spots where you notice gaps or you feel as though the plot hasn't properly been thought out in its entirety. I'm starting to feel that way as I'm watching OLTL. There are countless inconsistencies in stories and, even worse, moments when the action is literally cut off for a matter of days (or longer). Is it sloppy, lazy writing or is it well-crafted and intentional? My hunch is the former. As I take some time to examine some of these loose ends that are floating about Llanview, I want to remind you that this past weekend was the annual OLTL Fan Club Luncheon in New York City. I had the opportunity to attend the event for the first time this year (in addition to Catherine Hickland's event, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," which occurred later that night), and I'll give you a summary of those at the end of the column.
1. I joked about this with NoraDiva1, who attended all of the events this weekend with me, as well as with Hillary B. Smith and Catherine Hickland themselves when I spoke to them at both events, but where do you suppose Lindsay pushed Nora in her wheelchair after Lindsay confronted R.J. and Nora about a potential romance being held behind her back? If you recall, R.J. offered to take his good friend Nora back home, and Lindsay insisted that SHE be the one who take Nora home so that any further romantic overtures be avoided. But what happened after that? Talk about a missed opportunity! Could you imagine any subsequent scenes during which Lindsay and Nora continued to squabble over R.J.? Nora, a recovering stroke victim who is still managing to speak clearly, arguing with her arch-rival over yet another man whom Lindsay perceives that Nora is "scouting out"? I can see those two bantering in these scenes in my mind; unfortunately, that is where this conversation between the two characters will take place since Dena Higley fails to have a clear grasp of the show's history, specifically with these two characters whose rivalry was once defined in the soap press as this generation's "Dorian and Viki" It's such a shame, because the opportunities are ripe to include Lindsay, R.J., and Nora in more scenes, and Higley is just not realizing the potential that she has with these fabulous actors. Apparently even Catherine Hickland envisioned the storyline possibility of Lindsay acting as Nora's nursemaid while she is recovering from her stroke…could you IMAGINE the hijinks and the cattiness that would unfold from that situation?! It's a fantastic idea, and with the proper writing, a Lindsay/Nora rivalry would be a refreshing and welcome change to some of what viewers are currently seeing.
2. Another scene that was abruptly cut without any follow up for several days involved Marcie and Lindsay's confrontation with Tommy's bar-hopping foster parents. One day, I'm fast forwarding (as I find happening more and more, unfortunately) through scenes except for the ones involving Marcie's spying on the beer-drinking, whiskey-sipping lushes who lack the common sense to bring an infant into a smoke-filled bar (!!), and I'm riveted by Kathy Brier's performance as she demands the couple remain in the bar while she calls Child Protective Services in order to have someone investigate the situation immediately. As Marcie is on the telephone insisting that she speak to a representative right that moment, the episode concludes. "ARGH!!" I let out as I realize I have to wait until the next day to find out whatever happened with these unfit foster parents. Imagine my surprise when TWO entire episodes pass without any mention of the story. Talk about loose ends not being tied up! Why didn't that scene pick right up where it left off the day before? Seeing how that situation was handled at the bar would have amounted to at least a good 5-6 follow-up scenes. It would have given Catherine Hickland and Kathy Brier even more airtime, and it would have showed us even further the strength that Marcie has and the depths she is willing to go to keep this baby herself. A stronger head writer would have seen the value in following up on a situation like this; in Higley's case, it's just another example of apathy and laziness.
3. Then we come to dear ol' Rex and Paige. Okay, I don't know what stone anyone else has been living under, but if it isn't clear to anyone else that Rex is going to be the missing son that Paige has "rediscovered," then the writing situation on the show is even worse than I thought. First of all (and this is going to require you to connect the dots with me, folks), Paige has not shared any meaningful screen time with any of the three candidates (Rex, Nash, and Hugh), but Nash and Hugh are even less in Paige's "world" than Rex is. Rex is the only person connected to Paige, through Paige's boyfriend Bo, and the only one whose identity would have some sort of meaningful implication. Assuming that Spencer turns out to be a Buchanan (see below for that loose end that has never been tied up), that would make Rex half-Buchanan, and thus, he'd be related to Bo. We all know that Rex and Bo share a special connection, and Rex fills the void that Bo's deceased son Drew once held; therefore, seeing Rex being unveiled as the "missing" son is the only plausible explanation. My point, though, is why isn't this being addressed? The identity of the son was discovered by Paige months upon months ago, and viewers haven't been teased even a bit by who this person could be. Why is this loose end not being tied up for us? I can understand if Higley has a "grand plan" (although I highly doubt it!) and wants to savor that moment for some point down the road, but if that is the case, a good writer will continue to tease the audience and make the viewers anticipate the reveal even more. By just forgetting to mention it for months just makes everyone apathetic to the entire storyline. Who knows? Maybe Higley doesn't even know herself who she wants the son to be! It honestly wouldn't surprise me, but this lazy writing is completely unacceptable. It isn't fair to the cast, and it isn't fair to the fans who have put in years and years watching this show through a lot of ups and a great many downs.
4. Now, moving on to Spencer…good lord, where to even begin?! First, I get that Blair is now trying to get the goods on Spencer, and she's inching closer and closer to peril that she may not be able to wiggle out of by herself (enter: Todd!), but must this nonsense continue? Phil Carey's sickness surely threw a curveball to the story that was in the works involving Spencer's vendetta and his real reason for coming to Llanview (it somehow involved that picture he planted in Asa's cabin during the big blizzard). But surely, a good head writer would be able to dodge those curveballs and forge ahead with a story no matter what the obstacles might be. To just "forget" the story and pretend that the advancements that were made in it just no longer exist is, quite frankly, an insult to viewers! Phil Carey's absence on screen is an absolute detriment to the story; I completely agree with that. However, get a plan together and figure out how the story can progress without Asa's presence on screen. All it takes is a little creativity here---this is soap opera writing, not rocket science! Using a little imagination and a lot of intelligent thinking, the storyline could have continued, and we wouldn't have been subjected to the barrage of donkey dung that we've been shoveled. It's time to tie up this loose end now or never. Judging from the conversations and the reactions of the crowd I was among this weekend, fans' patience is running thin when it comes to Mr. Spencer Truman. They won't tolerate much more when it comes to this guy.
5. Another loose end---does John even know that Evangeline can see again? Why hasn't he been to see her? Visiting her in the hospital doesn't mean he LOVES her---it just means that he cares enough to stop by and say hi. Do the writers know that exes can still have friendships (i.e. Hank and Nora, Bo and Nora, Clint and Viki)?
6. Oh, and here's another one...good ol' boy Mikey wins the contract role on OLTL over a week ago. The hype is incredible as "The View" is even preempted that week to devote a full hour to recapping the SOAPNET series "I Wanna Be a Soapstar" and encouraging fans to watch the finale of it when the winner is revealed and actually starts appearing on OLTL the next day. So, Mikey wins, and he appears as Ted that Friday---and then what? We don't see the character for the rest of the next week! Anyone who watched the series knows that Mikey doesn't have the best acting background, but throwing him in scenes with pros like Melissa Archer will certainly help him grow. I can understand the reluctance of a writer or a producer to make his character another Santi/Reston, someone who is rammed down our throats in record time, but to exclude him from the show for such long periods of time will not give him the acting experience nor will it allow him to foster his relationship with his fans in order to make his stint on the show a successful one. Waiting a full week before having him reappear (at a crowded party, no less) isn't using the actor the way the series on SOAPNET intended.
7. But here's the one though that really gets me worked up---in the most recent issue of Soaps In Depth, ABC Daytime President Brian Frons is quoted in an interview (in response to the question: "What about bringing some "legacy" characters back to OLTL) as saying, "...We're certainly open to it on OLTL. Remember, one of the first things I did was get Robin Strasser back on the show." Let me get this right….Frons wants to bring "legacy" characters back to OLTL in order to attract long-time viewers who may have tuned (which is a summary of other parts of this same interview)? Puhhleese! This is the second biggest load of donkey dung (see above for the biggest) I've ever heard! OLTL right this moment sits with a host of "legacy" characters---Nora, Viki, Dorian (who, admittedly, is getting a story of her own---but stalking her own daughter? What idiot dreamed up that scenario?)---even Lindsay and, to an extent, Roxie---are all characters who have been part of the canvas for quite some time. Yet all of them are underused, underappreciated, and undervalued. Why aren't we being treated with an Emmy-award quality storyline showcasing Nora's recovery? Erika Slezak received a similar story years ago and won an Emmy as a result. Why isn't Viki involved in any storyline of her own? At this rate, she's less than a supporting player. She's essentially the prop to everyone else's storylines. This actress has won the most Emmy's of any other actress on daytime, and she has been relegated to an "under-five" actor. And what about Dorian? Highlighting her in a romance with Clint is a start (despite my misgivings about the two characters "hooking up," even though the two actors share marvelous chemistry), but she is the backbone of the Cramer dynasty, and her own storyline should already be in place. Then there's Roxy. Our dear, sweet Roxy. Talk about letting a talented actress slip right through one's fingers! Illene Kristen is among the most respected actresses in the daytime community, and her character on OLTL went from a recurring, couple-of-days status to full-contract in no time at all. Why was that…couldn't have been because the actress made the role so unique in the landscape of Llanview! It couldn't have been because Roxy brought the comic relief that the show so richly demanded. It couldn't have been because the performances were so right-on-the money! So why push the character into the abyss of Eterna? I can remember a time when "Roxy-isms" were a permanent part of message boards and people were writing in catching all of the grammatical slips the character was making. Surely those viewers, young and old, are still out there wanting for the character to return. There are just so many loose ends with that character to tie up (including connecting her more closely to the Rex/Paige story), so I don't know what the excuse is. Her appearance on Friday's episode during which she sat with Rex in the police station and recanting his concern over Adriana and Dorian's role in her disappearance was a promising start, but I have a feeling that appearance is the one crumb we're fed every couple of weeks.
The bottom line is that I could overlook a lot of these loose ends if the writing were solid, if it were brilliant, and if it were engaging. But when sloppiness pervades one's writing style, I hope the show doesn't expect to get ratings much higher than the Household ratings of a 2.3 or a 2.4, which is what the show has been receiving lately. Those dismal numbers are surely reflective of SOMETHING-so why doesn't someone (i.e. Mr. Frons) see this and do some tying up of some loose ends himself!
OLTL Fan Club Luncheon Highlights
Let me first start by saying that I've never been to one of these large-scale events before. I'm sure that it is a monumental task to organize, so I applaud Carol Dickson, who runs the fan clubs for both OLTL and AMC, for being able to pull something like this off on an annual basis. It affords both the fans and the actors to mingle together and also permits the fans to express their adoration towards their favorite actors. The way the afternoon was set up was such: there was a two-hour registration period during which you could visit tables with pictures, CD's, and other memorabilia from actors' fan clubs or from the show and purchase items or even enter raffles for items. Following the registration and a one-hour lunch, the actors are introduced and engage in an impromptu question-and-answer period with the audience. The rest of the afternoon is spent visiting the lines of the actors for photos, autographs, and some conversation. It was a fast-paced afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun all of the actors seemed to be having. The actors who appeared were those who portray the following characters: Clint, Dorian, Nora, Lindsay, Paige, Ted, Evangeline, Layla, Kevin, Kelly, Carlotta, Marcie, Michael, Starr, Matthew, Todd, Blair, Cristian, Roxy, Rex, Natalie, Jess/Tess, Nash. I hope that I didn't miss anyone, because it was a great turnout!
One of the first things that caught my attention was the excitement of the fans during the question-and-answer period. Quite frankly, if I'm being honest, I was alarmed a few times. It amazed me how many of the people who stood up to speak actually talked to these actors and actresses as the characters they portray. I mean---seriously. I'm not kidding. One woman even stood up and went on an angry rant about Todd and Blair staying together and Evangeline (pointing her finger at Renee Goldsberry)---better not break them up. There were a few times that I actually looked over at my poor friend NoraDiva who was looking at me with the same utter disbelief I had. Nothing significant was revealed-Kathy Brier wished that Marcie and Michael's wedding wouldn't have been a backdrop to the tornado and Hillary B. Smith received a standing ovation by a large part of the crowd for finally getting a story and for standing by the show for another year, but no major scoops or spoilers were revealed. Those actors are trained to keep that information tight to the chest! But other than those few surreal Q&A moments, the main attraction of the afternoon is spending time with the actors.
I had awesome conversations with Catherine Hickland and Hillary B. Smith (but spent more quality time with them later in the evening). Kassie DePaiva is amazing---she was so welcoming and so friendly. Illene Kristen is simply the best. When I meet people like Illene, I'm even more disappointed that their characters are getting the shaft, because they are such good-hearted people who truly love their jobs and the characters they have invested in. One person I was particularly impressed with was Melissa Archer! I had the best conversation with her---not necessarily about the show or her character, but just about "stuff." In fact, we got so carried away in conversation that the security guard had to tap me on the shoulder to tell me it was probably time I take my photo with her and wrap things up. VERY impressed by her! I congratulated Mikey on winning his soap contract, and stopped by Bree Williamson's table. Other than that, I didn't have it in me to stand in yet another line and wait to meet yet another actor. It truly is a lot more exhausting than you might think!
The highlight of the weekend, for me anyway, was Catherine Hickland's charity event that night that benefited the West End Intergenerational Residence. It is a unique mixed-age housing facility that caters to three generations and provides social services as well as educational and child development programs. Fortunately for those who attended, only 30 of us were there to enjoy her company, so there was a great deal of one-on-one attention given. Hillary B. Smith, in fact, came over to my table with NoraDiva and chatted away with us for what probably was a good half hour. Those who read my column regularly know that I am a staunch HBS supporter (note: "My Favorite Nora Moment" will appear next week since I supplanted that this week with the fan club luncheon summary), and I truly believe that the character of Nora is integral to Llanview. So to spend some quality time with Hillary talking about the show, her character, and other non-soap-related topics is just the best. She's one classy lady, and after you talk to her for only a few minutes, you really do feel like you're talking to one of your pals, a good friend. All I will say is that she loves Nora, she loves her friends at OLTL, and she loves her fans. If you want to see more of Nora (or Lindsay or Roxie or Dorian or Viki), you MUST write in. We fans DO make a difference, and our voices are heard. I was told this over and over and over and over again by the actors and actresses I spoke to. The actors themselves are powerless against the lazy writing I've described, and their job is not to write, lest we forget. Their job is to act and to perform the words written for them. If we want to influence those words given to our favorite actors, we must be the ones who take a few minutes out of our days to write an email or to write a letter. At any rate, I wasn't sure what to expect from Cat's event, and I even joked about that with her when I saw her earlier in the day ("Am I going to get make-up tips?!? What did I get myself into??"), but she and Hillary had some wonderfully funny conversations together and then answered some questions that those in attendance wrote down (these were non-show types of questions though, ones that begged for advice). Michael E. Knight even came towards the end of the event. So I take away great conversations with both Cat and Hillary, awesome photos, and a newfound respect for them and what they do. I cannot begin to say enough great things about these two women!
I will be back in two weeks with some new thoughts on Llanview and for the continuation of "My Favorite Nora Moment."
Enjoy your week,