I've always been a fan of ABC "Synergy," as they like to call it. The idea that fictional soap characters from Llanview, Pine Valley, or Port Charles can visit one another and participate in storylines from each of the three ABC shows has always intrigued me. That is why I relished moments like Linda Dano's character of Rae showing up on all three shows, starting in Llanview, in search for her daughter (who ultimately turned out to be Skye, originally from Pine Valley but also a Llanview schemer for a while). Or what about when Anna from "General Hospital" turned up alive and well after a decade in "All My Children's" Pine Valley? Or best yet, when the infamous baby-swap story took place between AMC and OLTL involving Kelly Cramer and Babe Chandler? These stories usually are high-stakes and provide big payoffs because so much time must be put into prepping, organizing, coordinating, and executing such precise storylines. But I got to thinking this week---with so much medical drama unfolding, between Evangeline's coma to Jessica's illness, wouldn't it be great to imagine the possibilities of what would happen if these medical issues were handled by doctors on another ABC show? The possibilities would be endless!
First, let's take the issue of Evangeline's coma. I've previously written about how unoriginal and repetitive it is for a character to be placed in a "storyline coma," especially under the regime of the SAME headwriter! I'm sorry, but Dena Higley's recent quote that "I'm always the last to know about actors' contract stuff" just doesn't cut it for me. In fact, that is an unacceptable thing to say as the person who is responsible for creating story for the show. If she is telling the truth, then I think someone at ABC better pay attention and start communicating more with its headwriter! For someone like Higley to go on record as implying she only finds out at the last minute is completely irresponsible. I realize that many actor contracts can (and do) go down to the wire and are often signed at the eleventh hour; however, I would anticipate that when story is being outlined for several months in advance, the head writerwould MAKE IT her duty to stay abreast on every minute of an actor's contract, especially when that actor is driving front-burner story. A coma is such an easy way to write a character out, and it's a cheat and a slap in the face to the viewers who rally behind the character and the actress. Especially when the backlash was universal a year before during the botched recovery story for Nora after Hillary B. Smith extended her contract, one would think that Higley had learned her lesson. Guess not!
But I digress! Let's get back to Evangeline's condition itself. At the very least, Higley could have found another medical malady with which to inflict Evangeline. How about during her involvement with the arsonist her heart was damaged? Dr. Monica Quartermaine from Port Charles is called in as one of the country's top heart specialists and has to come up with a reason why Evangeline can't stay in Llanview and needs treatment at another facility ASAP. Could Llanview's own doctors do that? Naturally. But how great would it be to start using the top-notch caliber characters from the arsonal of ABC daytime? Just sticking Evangeline into a coma and shipping her off somewhere could be done to anyone. But this is just minor compared to what really could be done with ABC synergy. Jessica's illness is a completely different story!
First, I must get this out of the way. It's been troubling and distracting to me, and I just need to get this off my chest. I realize that OLTL's production department is trying to do a pretty realistic job of making us see just how sick Jessica is from her failing liver. I know that the pigment of her skin is supposed to change colors giving it a yellowish hue. However, to say that it was jarring to me one day when I tuned in and saw Jessica look almost orange is an understatement. I applaud the show for not going the glamorous route for Bree Williamson and making her look deathly sick; they've done the trick. But in the process, I have to admit, I have just been…well, distracted. That's all I seem to focus on, and I'm sure that isn't the intent. Bravo for the line when Roxy showed up offering to be tested for a compatable liver (like anyone would want a liver from her, with all of the drinking she has done in her past!) and she remarked, "Jessica, boy, do you know you look yellow?" I know it wasn't meant to be funny (and I didn't take it that way), but I was just thankful that it was included because it was EXACTLY what I had been thinking to myself for days!
That minute issue aside, I think this story has played out much better than I had originally expected when I first heard about it and started to see it air. The acting, in my opinion, is what has set the bar for this story. I was very, VERY worried at first when I learned that the character of Antonio would have to be temporarily replaced at a critical time in his character's storyline, but when replacement Robert Montano arrived, he didn't have time to settle in; he jumped out of the gate with an explosion! Not only did he have to deal with the news of Jessica's illness but he also had to deal with the news that she was no longer in love with him! The anger, the confusion, the frustration, the hurt, the betrayal---all of these emotions (and more) were so articulately conveyed by Montano that it proved to be one of the most seamless transitions to a role I can remember in recent memory. It's tough to see a popular character suddenly recast during a pivotal period in story, but this was a great one, and the OLTL casting department deserves a huge round of applause! But Montano wasn't the only actor to raise the bar; Williamson herself has been unbelievable. This actress has the arduous task of not just playing deathly ill but also evoking sympathy after dumping her husband for another man. She doesn't miss a beat! And the gut-wrenching scenes during which Williamson taped goodbye messages for her daughter (although I thought it would have been better to write letters considering her sickly appearance and the likelihood that it was only further upset Bree once she would watch the tapes---but that's just me) and then faced her mother were unbelievable! As Viki, Erika Slezak does some of her best work as the grieving mother. Remember the death bed vigil she made for her daughter Megan? This current turn of events reminds me of that time when Slezak was willing to give one of her kidneys to save Megan's life from lupus. Even though she was successful in that organ donation back then, the same can't be said today due to her recent heart condition and cancer recovery. And to leave out Jerry Ver Dorn as Jessica's tormented father, Clint, wouldn't be right either. All of the actors involved in this story deserver a round of applause!
But here is where Higley dropped the ball in the story…making Antonio the liver donor match. From a short-term romantic triangle perspective, I suppose this is the only choice to make, but that is where Higley fails as a head writer. Digging deeper into OLTL's rich history, one possibility would have been to make Dorian the match. Consider these possibilities: Dorian was responsible for Jessica's miscarriage a number of years ago when she accidentally hit her with her car. To have Dorian undergo a risky surgery and donate part of her liver to save Jessica would test Dorian's selflessness as well as test the relationship between her and Jessica's father, Clint. If successful in her donation, imagine how strained Viki and Dorian's future encounters would be. I mean, these two were never the best of friends by any means, but having to always keep in the back of her mind that Dorian saved her daughter's life might prevent Viki from saying what is truly on her mind. It would test Viki's willingness to forgive and it would add another layer to the romantic entanglement between Dorian/Clint/Viki. Although to everyone else, it would appear that Dorian is acting magnanimously, she would be thinking to herself that there would be no way Clint could ever break up with the woman who saved his daughter's life. Would this be keeping in the character of Dorian? You betcha!
And suppose Viki were actually the only match? Paige insists that no doctor in his/her right mind would ever allow Viki to go through with this elective surgery, not given her previous medical conditions. But I say call Robin Scorpio and Patrick & Noah Drake from "General Hospital!" These three know what it takes to take medical chances. Robin, in particular, was responsible for helping to bring Laura Spencer out of a supposedly irreversible psychological condition (much like a "contract coma"). If anyone is willing to see the potential good in a surgery that seems dangerous, it's Robin. And Patrick and Noah Drake are two of Port Charles's leading surgeons. If anyone could ensure that Viki would come out of her surgery successfully, it would be either one of the Drakes. I say, call Port Charles!
There are a few other tidbits I'd like to discuss this week, not related to any medical illnesses!
1. How weird is Miles? I mean, this guy is just S-T-R-A-N-G-E! Blackmailing Marty with her private therapy session during which she thinks she remembers killing Spencer (by the way, who cares about that anymore, although I'm glad th writers are finally addressing it) in exchange for becoming romantically involved with him is just bizarre.
2. I continue to like the relationship between John and Cole. It's interesting to see John take on this paternal/mentor role; it's a side of him we've not seen before, and it adds an interesting side to his character.
3. Always a pleasure to see Tuc Watkins return as David. Seeing Dorian try to convince him to be tested in order to save Jessica's life was priceless!
Denise touched on this last week, but I wanted to reinforce it to all of you great readers this week as well. For well over a year, I think most of you are aware (especially those on the SOC Message Board) that there has been a rather large campaign entitled CHERI designed to help rally support for OLTL's veteran actresses: Catherine Hickland, Hillary B. Smith, Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser, and Ilene Kristen. This was Denise's brainchild well over a year ago, and I have watched it grow to be something absolutely astonishing! The level of commitment by those who have participated in even the smallest way is reflected by the way ABC has changed its mind regarding actresses like Smith and Hickland, who were essentially headed to storyline abyss (and, quite franky, out the door!). But by writing to not only the ABC executives but also the Disney Board of Directors and the show's sponsors, this campaign has made people notice. There still remains a lot of work to do, as many of you will notice from the lack of any major storyline for any of those women, but if you are someone who loves the characters, appreciates the actresses, values veteran actors on your daytime shows (whether or not those veterans are any of these women), then I encourage you to check out the official website for this campaign: www.cheriwomen.org. I think you will be inspired to speak out on behalf of your favorite actors and keep OLTL, in particular, thriving in regards to its history.
Enjoy your week,