Raise a glass of toast to the soap gods everyone, because last week granted hope that we are finally turning a page and beginning an uphill climb. Before I delve into an analysis of the recent chain of events and its impact on the canvas, I wish to bring you a very special message from Robert Montano. Robert put forth a stellar effort by stepping into Kamar de los Reyes' shoes, assuming the role of Antonio, and doing an incredible job with the character at a very crucial time. The board was recently brimming with adulation for him as a result, with one thread in particular reaching nearly one hundred posts. Robert and I have since communicated and he asked that I personally convey his deepest gratitude to everyone for their warm thoughts and well-wishes. He indeed read every single post you put forth and was moved beyond words by your immense generosity and support.
Robert was also brimming with praise for OLTL's entire cast, all of whom welcomed him with open arms and made his brief tenure with the show an unforgettable and incredible experience. Robert is an absolute gem - as modest, kind and sincere as he is talented - and is truly a magnificent person. How wonderful would it be to have someone of his caliber on the ABC Daytime canvas? As I reflect upon his performances as Antonio, I cannot help but think he would've been a perfect fit for Tico Santi. In fact, I might've actually grown fond of that storyline with him at the crux of it. Please write the network if you enjoyed Robert's performances and express as much to those in charge. Though I cannot personally speak for Robert's career aspirations, I would relish the opportunity to see him return to the daytime canvas in another role.
Now onto the news of the century! After two and a half punishing years, the time has finally come to bid Dena Higley adieu. I truly jumped for joy when ABC broke the news and announced that Ron Carlivati would be assuming the reigns as Head Writer. I have been forthright in previous columns about my viewpoint of Higley's writing, which I maintain is uninspiring, agenda-driven and sloppy. The few golden moments (i.e. Tess and Nash, Todd's execution) simply do not overshadow and outweigh the mass character annihilation OLTL has endured during her tenure. I also maintain that no one has suffered more than our veteran actors, who were banished to the back-burner, demoted to props, used as cloning templates for new creations, and minimized onscreen for the entire world to see.
This was painfully glaring as I watched last week's episodes and witnessed these powerhouse talents turn lemons into lemonade. They subsequently prevented me from fast-forwarding through most of the show, which included Nash's new career as a transplant surgeon, John's bomb-diffusing capabilities and Marty growing dimmer by the minute. Maybe it was the knowledge that Higley received her pink slip, or as a dear friend of mine often jokes, perhaps the moon is in asparagus and the bread is rising. As I watched the absolute silliness that played out on my screen, I realized OLTL has truly hit rock bottom. So while I tend to remain cautiously optimistic whenever the network changes Head Writers, I genuinely believe this move marks the dawn of a new day for OLTL.
The decision to oust Higley signifies that someone of import finally acknowledges that all is not well in Llanview. My hunch is that ABC was forced to make this change because of huge levels of discontent among actors and viewers. If you examine OLTL's place in the ratings' race, while its numbers are lukewarm they are still competitive with the majority of other soaps and would not, in and of themselves, necessitate Higley's firing. Add that ABC Daytime still leads key demo groups (though its soaps are down by thousands from this year to last year), and I still maintain this would not have been enough to require Higley's dismissal. Vegas odds say that persistent fan outcry, coupled with dissatisfaction among the actors, finally pushed things over the edge. If I were a betting woman, I would place money on Erika Slezak as the key catalyst for change.
Erika's gusty manifest of truth as articulated within her March 2007 fan club newsletter is what most likely clinched this decision. When the show's longest-running cast member speaks out, people listen. I also believe she paved a pathway of dialogue for other actors, as has been reflected via recent media interviews with members of the cast, both past and present. Further, the fact that ABC replaced Higley with Ron Carlivati - a man who is a competent scribe, remains vested in the show and shares a history with the actors and their characters - speaks volumes. I would be incredibly skeptical of Higley's firing if the network procured someone obscure it had been "grooming" for months or yet a failed scribe from another daytime drama whose work was unimpressive. I am therefore embracing this change with the greatest level of optimism and anticipation, because I genuinely believe that Carlivati has the capability to turn this show around.
We need a visionary scribe who is granted the creative freedom to write at his very best, and not be dictated to or micro-managed by a higher level of authority. Ron Carlivati possesses the skills, knowledge and creativity to redeem this show, and we need to ensure that he is given the opportunity to do so. In other words, we need to fight for Carlivati just as we are fighting for OLTL and its actors. The best way in which to do so is by reaching out to the Disney-ABC hierarchy and making your voices heard. Please email me if you need updated contact information and I will gladly provide that for you. Why not also drop Carlivati a line and offer words of congratulations? I am betting he was not exempt from the overflow of Higley hate mail, and this is a ripe opportunity to say something positive to a man that holds the future of OLTL in his hands. Now is also the time to place those dream storylines into writing for the thousandth time, because we may actually see some of them transition from pen to screen and unfold right before our very eyes.
I recently re-read Ryan's first column of the New Year, which he entitled "2007 - The Year of the Fans." I truly believe he possessed either a strong premonition or a vision from above, because I indeed concur that this will prove to be our year. Perhaps it will include a reunion for beloved couples, a return of some familiar faces, and a restoration of integrity and continuity. We actually have bonafide possibilities before us for the first time in nearly three years, and that alone is something to celebrate. I'm hoping the first order of business following Carlivati's promotion consists of purging all extraneous characters. Carlivati has been with the show long enough to know which characters work, which have possibilities, and which have passed their expiration date. Time is truly of the essence here. ABC is notorious for its circus-sized casts and OLTL's canvas is so clogged at present that it's dizzying.
I also hope Carlivati reestablishes the family dynamic on OLTL's canvas. We have discussed this at length on the board for some time, and the viewing majority is simply starved for familial interplay and effective weaving of generations of characters. Most glaring is the eradication of the Lord family from the canvas, as Viki's character has been all but stripped of her heritage. The Buchanan clan has grown to mass proportion in its place, with new, long-lost relatives emerging on a regular basis. Add the plethora of characters which remain isolated and completely disconnected from the mainstream, and to say this canvas needs an overhaul is a gross understatement. Again, I believe Carlivati is the man for the job. Renewing the family dynamic can be easily accomplished within a reasonable timeframe, and would quickly restore a desperately needed sense of balance to the canvas.
I genuinely believe we have reached a turning point with Carlivati's newfound appointment. As a seasoned viewer, I am well aware this is the first in a series of events that must transpire in order to restore OLTL to its heyday. Yet this is a major step and the greatest sign of hope that we are beginning an uphill climb after an incessant and progressive downward spiral. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by backing Carlivati and the horse he rode in on. So now is the time to get creative, make some noise, and continue fighting for our show and its actors. As fans we hold more power than we often give ourselves credit for, and I am confident we played a huge role in this latest stream of events. AMC just received a new Head Writing team, and rumors persist that executive-level changes may be in store for GH as well. This suggests that someone of import acknowledges the deficits within the network's daytime sphere - and that is definitely something to cheer.
Have a wonderful week!