Llanview is desperately in need of a makeover---stat! Looking at the ratings every week, I am always shaking my head, partly from disappointment and partly from disgust. I KNOW the show is capable of greatness; I've witnessed those shining moments myself. I vividly recall times I couldn't wait to rush home to watch a certain episode or see how a particularly dramatic moment would resolve itself. But there haven't been those moments with OLTL in a long, long time. The show keeps slinking lower and lower in the ratings, and that alarms me. I think it's about time to re-evaluate what can be done to make OLTL a show that evokes excitement, unpredictability, and passion.
1. Keep Todd and Evangeline strictly friends. I know, I know. Todd and Blair have been there-done that. Trevor St. John and Renee Goldsberry light up the screen with their chemistry. But hear me out with this rationale. As Todd pointed out last week to Evangeline, he has never really had a friend, or at least a true friend. He has never had the ability to sit down with another person over a few beers and talk through his problems. Further, he's never really had anyone point out his flaws and his shortcomings in the context of helping him to solve his own problems. Evangeline is that person Todd needs in life. Not every single female (outside of his own family) in Todd's life HAS to be someone with whom he may have a potential love affair. I don't argue that Goldsberry and St. John play off of one another especially well or that their characters' relationship has some intriguing possibilities. Nonetheless, I believe that maintaining the characters' status as friends will allow for some longevity in their friendship. I find it more appealing to watch them remain friends while they both fight the electricity that pulls them together. Allow them to flirt. Allow them to have those special, close moments that each of them may not share with their significant others. Allow them to keep the tight bond with one another that nobody else can understand. But most of all, allow them to remain strictly friends. Todd needs the support (and the guidance) of a loyal friend who will stick by him no matter what, just as Viki does with her brother. There is no sense in ruining a great pairing on the show by rushing into yet ANOTHER love quadrangle with Todd/Evangleline/Blair/Cristian. By doing something out of the ordinary, it will open up to many more storyline possibilities.
2. Instead of focusing on the pairing of Todd and Evageline and the havoc that would cause with Cris and Blair, put the Viki/Clint/Dorian triangle front and center! What a great way to utilize three veteran actors and actresses. Viki and Dorian are at their best when they are battling one another or are at each other's throats, so how much fun would it be to watch them duke it out over Clint's affections? It's long overdue for Erika Slezak to be given a more prominent storyline, and the fact that she's been without a love interest for so long makes this story even more critical to tell. The history that could be explored is significant; Clint knows that Dorian is capable of treacherous and duplicitous acts, but he still finds her appealing all of these years later. Viki, on the other hand, is the mother of his child (Natalie), so he shares a lifetime of memories with her. Let's see the divas put their best "A-game" together and find out who turns up victorious! What a great way to use ignored characters and show a romantic triangle that doesn't involve the younger set.
3. As much as I think Paul Satterfield is an amazing actor, the show needs to cut its losses with the character of Spencer. I truly enjoyed the scenes this week when Spencer FINALLY was arrested for a myriad of crimes (loved hearing them all read to him in the police station!). It was even better to see the look on his face when he realized that HE had been duped by Blair all of these months and that she was responsible for his being behind bars. His sneaky and slimy acts for the past year have really been too much to bear, and his arrogance is overwhelming. To have him now find out that the woman he stole from Todd is really out to see him found guilty of these crimes was utterly priceless. So let's have his trial, watch him get his comeuppance, cheer that he's thrown in prison, and call it a day. This character has NO redeeming qualities whatsoever, and I can't imagine how the writing team would ever believe for one single second that this is a character worth keeping around when that same team doesn't see the value in keeping Kevin Buchanan on the canvas! Spencer has done a lot in Llanview, and perhaps the one bright side (if there really can ever be one) of Phil Carey's absence on screen is that we were saved from the indignation of having to stomach another "long lost" Buchanan in the form of Spencer Slimeball.
4. This whole Tess/Jess business needs to come to a definitive end. I have always been partial to Tess, just because she is such an interesting person to watch, so when Tess was pushed away and Jess took control of her personality, I did a lot of fast-forwarding in her scenes. I've never been a Jessica and Antonio fan simply because I find their relationship dull (when it comes to drama on the TV screen), and even when Nash and Jessica shared tender moments together, I never really paid much attention to them because I preferred Tess. So to watch their integration scenes this week was intriguing. I wanted to know if Jess was finally going to muster the courage to face her demons and allow what happened to her to determine her future sanity. Seeing the way Tess and Jess bonded, as Jessica recognized and thanked Tess for shielding her from the horror of her molestation, made me hope that a little bit of both characters can emerge in one integrated person. Of course we know that Jessica SHOULD emerge as the victor in this battle of personalities, but Tess is, after all, a creation of Dena Higley's so I'm sure that factors in to why Higley has been so reluctant to end this tale eons ago! Nonetheless, I would love to see Jessica obtain a backbone. I really want to see some of Tess's mannerisms, cockiness, and confidence bust out in Jessica. Oh, and I also hope that Tess's feelings for Nash remain behind for Jessica to deal with as well.
5. Where are the social issues? This show doesn't have ANYTHING that translates into a great social issue story these days. GH is handling lung cancer, drug abuse, bi-polar disorder, HIV and AIDS, and abortion (and that is one show I rarely find myself bored watching), but where is OLTL when it comes to great, great stories that have resonating impacts? Longtime viewers likely remember Megan Gordon's battle with lupus, Billy's battle with homophobia, and Marty's gang rape (which still has lasting impacts to several characters to this day). Other than Jessica's DID storyline (and that is more about the romantic implications of her recovery than it is about the illness itself), what else is the show tackling that makes viewers take notice? Nora's recovery from a stroke had potential. Imagine if Nora faced discrimination at work or mockery from her colleagues in the courtroom because of her slurred speech or her ability to handle a case? This could have been a story that had lasting impacts. Several months ago, I emphasized the need for an umbrella story, one that would have ramifications for almost every person on the canvas. This is what the show needs---forget the tornadoes or any other "sweeps stunts," just provide a good old-fashioned story.
6. Respect the characters who have history with the show and recognize the talent on the cast. I am appalled, just appalled, at the show's decision to axe Dan Gauthier as Kevin Buchanan and allow the multi-talented Heather Tom to slip away as Kelly Cramer. Talk about talent! First, Gauthier more than proved his mettle during the aftermath of the tornado. Having to decide between his son's life and his true love's life was an unbelievable position to be in. Gauthier, though, played every beat perfectly. At the time, I was dismayed that the show would deem it worthy to eliminate a character such as Duke, who is a Buchanan. However, the theory behind that was that Duke's death and the decision to save Kelly's life instead of his sons would allow Kevin material to play from for YEARS. Well, firing Gauthier and eliminating Kevin essentially made that storyline twist absolutely pointless! Now, the canvas has lost an important member of a core family for no reason whatsoever. Heather Tom came on board a few years back to much fanfare and even was at the core of the baby switch storyline told between All My Children and OLTL. She showcased her meaty acting chops and put forth a tour de force performance during that entire plotline. Afterward, though, it was as if she disappeared. Personally, I'd find a storyline involving Kelly's pregnancy to be quite interesting. She thinks the baby belongs to Duke, but it very well could turn out to be Kevin's. This story has months and months of potential in it. To throw it away makes all of the storytelling to this point (including why Spencer drugged Kevin in the first place during the blizzard of '06) sloppy and unresolved.
7. Finally, let the vets do their thing. My good friend NoraDiva1 has initiated a massive undertaking this past year by creating the CHERI initiative. This fan-based effort has united the fans of Catherine Hickland, Hillary B. Smith, Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser, and Ilene Kristen (take the first letter of each of their names and voila!) to making the show and its advertisers aware of the great talent that exists on OLTL and how they are being back-burnered for younger and younger actresses (there is a thread on the message boards with more information about it if you are intrigued). The wealth of talent between these five remarkable ladies is beyond words, and the history that their characters share with the residents of Llanview is enormous. Why would viewers care about Layla or Adriana's stalker (is this storyline OVER yet?!?) when they really want stories involving the people they've grown to admire, laugh with, cry with, and love? It makes little sense to me. So if the writers came to their senses and saw what is sitting right before them, we might have stories involving people we truly care about.
My list could be endless at this point, but this is just a start to get this show back on the right course. We've bashed Higley to death at this point. Brian Frons and the network need to realize that one of two things need to happen from here on out: first, they could fire this unimaginative writer and find someone who will bring a fresh quality to daytime or second, they could go down with the ship by keeping her around but at least throw her a life raft by offering her ways to improve the show (because apparently, she cannot come up with these ideas on her own). It's never too late to save a struggling show, but the time must be soon before the ratings plummet further and cancellation is the only alternative. None of us wants that to happen.
A Favorite Nora Moment: I just saw a picture of this moment recently in a "flashback" column somewhere and that made me think about this more closely. Anytime Lindsay and Nora share screen time together, I'm a happy man. But I recall the one when they were stuck in a bathroom during a fire and had to help one another try to escape. Between the catty and snide remarks and the sudden urgency that this was a life and death situation, the two went through a myriad of emotions. Two sworn enemies fighting over the same man (at that time, it was Bo), they were forced to rely on one another to make it out alive, and fortunately for us, they did. But remembering this scene makes me ache for even more Catherine Hickland and Hillary B. Smith scenes. They are simply the best!
I'll be back again in two weeks with more thoughts on life in Llanview!
Enjoy your week,