For the Week of August 20, 2007
Tying Asa's death into the show's 10,000th episode was a stroke of genius. Allowing the characters to take a walk down memory lane was a nostalgic treat for long-time fans of the show.
RYAN: I never thought the day would come when I'd be writing about saying a final goodbye to the legend in Llanview known as Asa Buchanan, but here we are! Tying his death (and everyone's goodbyes) into the show's 10,000th episode was a stroke of genius though. Allowing the characters (and ultimately the viewers) to take a walk down memory lane, not only remembering Asa but also reminiscing about old times in general, was a nostalgic treat for long-time fans of the show. I thought so much was done so well, but I also have some pretty serious gripes about how this was handled.
My first "beef" is that news of Asa's death coupled with the funeral and the service seemed to occur at a warp speed! Seriously! The first ten minutes of the show when Asa was discovered in his bed occurred on a separate day from the rest of the show. We started the hour with Nigel telling Renee and Nora about Asa's passing, and we ended the hour with the news traveling through Llanview, family returning from London, friends returning from Argentina and other parts unknown, the service happening off-screen, the funeral being shown via a music montage, and a reception occurring at Asa's mansion! All of this within a one-hour episode.
I'm sorry, but I remember when Megan Gordon died in 1992. The show devoted an entire week to her death, with friends and family sitting by her bedside, saying their final goodbyes to her, and remembering old times together (with wonderful, vintage flashbacks being used). It was a touching, final tribute to this beloved heroine. It allowed viewers to say goodbye to her, as well, an aspect that seems completely missing from Asa's death. What did you think about that, Denise?
DENISE: Ryan, I completely agree. I began watching OLTL three decades ago, and moments like these always prove sobering and melancholy. The reality of losing Phil Carey stung for months, and though we knew Asa's death was imminent, I thought this feisty cowboy would somehow emerge unscathed from yet another faux funeral. As a result of his death being hurried, I genuinely felt robbed of sharing in the characters' grief. While I didn't require days of sobbing and lamenting, I disliked how the camera immediately cut away to another scene after each group of persons was informed of Asa's fate. As a result, I felt as though I never had the opportunity to embrace characters' reaction for more than fleeting seconds, and this truly unnerved me.
For instance, I wanted to see Renee run the full gamut of emotions when Nigel informed her -- from fear to denial to rage to pain -- and have this cycle of events continue on with each group of characters. Asa is perhaps the most legendary patriarch in all of daytime television, and yet he died, was eulogized, and was buried in under thirty minutes. I'm sorry, but that's just unacceptable! I honestly was confused for the first fifteen or so minutes of that episode, because I couldn't process the accelerated passage of time. Perhaps some of this has to do with the fact that my viewing capacity was "dumbed down" under Higley, and after watching the same storylines drone on for nearly three years, it's difficult to make the sudden adjustment as a viewer to a flurry of activity.
As much as I was delighted to see the return of some familiar faces, I was thrown for a loop when they all converged at once because of the harried pace of things. Asa's death and memorial should've spanned the first four days of last week, with Friday's 10,000th episode serving as the crowning finale that pulled everything together. I simply felt as though someone was playing Beat the Clock to get to the anniversary episode, and that, I'm afraid, detracted from giving Phil (and Asa's character) a proper send-off.
RYAN: What I don't understand is the urgency of making this a two-day only affair. Why couldn't the news of Asa's death start on a Monday and carry through the week? It would have enabled us to really absorb each character's reaction to the death and to anticipate the funeral/service later in the week. I don't think that any other stories necessarily had to be affected as a result of doing this earlier. For example, the whole Tommy drama would not have had to just stop mid-stream. John, Michael, Marcie, Rex, Adriana -- none of the "big players" in this story really knew Asa, so while they could have received the news of Asa's passing, the drama of John's torment over what to do with the news of Tommy's identity could have continued.
I guess I just look at a character like Cord, who was essentially squandered in his brief visit to Llanview for no real reason other than the producers wanted this wrapped up in two days. But, why bring these great characters from the past back only to misuse them? Cord had just one or two scenes with his daughter, a half of a scene with Max (his former arch-rival/friend), and maybe a millisecond of a scene with his father Clint. What a waste of a great opportunity and a great actor in John Loprieno!
DENISE: Exactly! I also think Loprieno was wasted here, and it seemed as though his return was more about propping Sarah and less about paying his respects to Asa. You raise an excellent point about Cord and Max; these two men nearly killed one another over Tina, and while Asa's funeral wasn't the place to rehash old feuds, the writers missed a wonderful opportunity to revisit some great history between the two. On the flipside, I thought the exchanges between Max and Blair were plentiful -- almost to the point of excess. Wouldn't it have been poignant to see some touching exchanges between Renee and Max over the course of a few days?
Why didn't more of the town pay its respects to the Buchanans? Where was Rex, Roxy, or Starr? Why didn't Talia and Antonio put in an appearance to offer support to Bo? This is an event that could've woven in the entire town and should've played out all week. Personally, I think the Buchanan Enterprises Fundraiser should have consumed Monday's entire episode, and served as the precursor to Asa's death/funeral before finally culminating in Friday's episode. As far as I'm concerned, all of the storylines that are currently running (which Higley initiated) should have been placed on hold that week. We haven't seen any major movement in these stories for months, so placing things on hold for another week certainly wouldn't make a difference. The time would've been better spent devoting the week to Phil and Asa's send-off, its impact on the characters, and a celebration of the show's anniversary.
I was also disappointed that TPTB didn't unveil a new montage for the 10,000th episode as well. It's time to lose that dizzying opening, and Friday's milestone would've been the day to do so. (Note to ABC: Now would be a perfect time to resurrect Peabo Bryson's lyrics and do a retro-inspired opening as a tribute to longtime fans). We've spent our time thus far discussing the writing and production aspects, but I want to turn to the actors for a moment. How wonderful was it to see this immensely gifted cast come together and merge all of their talents to make magic -- especially in terms of the vets? This cast always impresses and puts forth its very best, but I have to tell you -- I was completely blown away by the caliber of acting last week.
RYAN: Robert S. Woods was the standout by leaps and bounds! But like you said, Asa's death really wasn't scripted as a grieving ordeal, so we didn't get to see the actors strut their talents. Woods was phenomenal as the son who believed his father wasn't proud of him. We rarely have the chance to see Bo become emotional, so this breakdown's impact was even more significant with keeping that in mind. But you're right, the acting across the board was fantastic, and you might be surprised by the scenes I enjoyed the most -- those involving Kevin, Joey, Natalie, and Jessica. How refreshing to see these four Buchanan kids using this occasion (albeit a somber one) to celebrate life rather than mourn it.
Nathan Fillion blew-me-away! I don't care what amount of money this show has to pony up to bring him back (even if for just a month or so, like they do with Tuc Watkins), but he absolutely invigorated those scenes. Particularly, seeing him and Dan Gauthier together, I totally would buy that these two had acted together for years on the show as brothers, despite the fact that this was their first opportunity to share scenes together. I loved that we were reminded Natalie was really the only blood relative to Asa who was sitting there and that she didn't grow up with them to remember so many of the memories they discussed. It made me smile to see that the Buchanans will live on despite the death of this great patriarch.
DENISE: Woods was absolutely magnificent! It's been years since he's had this kind of material to work with, and I was enthralled watching him take Bo's character through all the conflicting emotions. This was also the first time that I actually embraced Bo and Clint as siblings since Jerry verDorn came on board, because their characters had more interaction last week than they had prior to that point. All of the vets were phenomenal (as always), and Eddie Alderson continues to "wow" me. I would definitely beg, borrow,
and steal to get Fillion and Gauthier back on the canvas -- without a doubt!
It's funny you bring up the issue of sibling interaction and the scenes involving Kevin, Joey, Natalie, and Jessica. We're constantly talking about how OLTL lost the family dynamic and the importance of restoring it on the canvas, but I have to tell you- - those scenes really annoyed me! Perhaps it was due to the fact that I'm so disgusted with Jessica's character that I simply want to slap some sense into her, but I found those interactions distracting for some reason.
Again, I think it goes back to the harried pace of things because I was unable to make the sudden shift in emotion from one scene to another. When a family mourns the loss of a loved one, there is both grief and celebration, and people reminisce and bond over their favorite memories. So while the interactions shared by the Buchanan kids were well scripted, they came across as filler to me. I felt the same way about the Cord/Sarah and Max/Blair interactions, so it had to be a pacing issue.
RYAN: Okay, first, I totally agree with you about verDorn and Woods. Although I thought verDorn filled the shoes of Clint Buchanan perfectly since day one, I did think to myself several times during their confrontation in the stable that I really have come to accept verDorn as a permanent replacement for Clint Ritchie. They both were just stellar. Now, back to those "filler" scenes, as you referred to them. While I agree with you wholeheartedly that they were completely rushed, I viewed them more as nods to the history of the show (since this was the 10,000th episode).
For example, with Max and Blair, the kiss they had was startling, but it sure did remind me of the passion and the sparks that they shared together. These two were quite the schemers back in the day, and who knows what Max has been doing while he has been away from Llanview in Argentina. But placing the secret of David Vickers' true parentage in Max's lap reminds fans that Max is still Max. What will he really do with that information? I think his true essence was honored in these brief scenes, so while I know full well that Blair won't take Max up on his offer to move to Argentina, I really liked seeing them interact because they had major story years ago.
As for the kids (well, they really aren't kids), I think those scenes were for the purpose once again of remembering the past. Look at how much time was spent recalling Dorian and Joey's affair (which made sense, since Fillion was the actor involved in that storyline)! Not only did they laugh about it, but they also reminded us about the relationships that each of them shares with one another. They joked and teased one another, and they also showed us that the Buchanan legacy will go on. It was so nice to see Natalie really be a part of that clan despite the fact that she wasn't part of the family for her entire childhood. The scenes were lighthearted and fun, and Fillion/Gauthier absolutely stole the show!
DENISE: Isn't it incredible how two different people can watch the same show and end up with totally different reactions? I do appreciate "nods" to the past, because we've been starved for any semblance of history on this show. That said, all we've received for years are "nods," and maybe that's part of why I walked away from these interactions feeling indifferent or shortchanged. It takes a lot more than a fleeting gesture here and there to impress me, especially when you're bringing together characters that share colorful history; or, as in the case of the Buchanan clan, when we've had multiple actors in the roles of Kevin, Joey, and Jessica who are suddenly converging for the first time. I do think the scenes between Fillion/Gauthier and Strasser/Fillion were standout highlights of those interactions.
So it's interesting, because what you perceived as lighthearted and fun, I perceived as detracting from potential drama that could've been pulled by showcasing more of characters' individual reaction to Asa's passing. Now, on to the 10,000th episode -- which, in my opinion, more than compensated for most of what the previous day lacked. I thought this eppy was positively a work of art. Everything was top-notch -- the writing, directing, editing, acting -- all of it. As a stand-alone episode, this was utterly fabulous. There were some scenes that truly stood out for me.
First, I loved how this eppy reestablished Viki as the show's foundational character. The conversations between Viki and Dorian in the wine cellar and progression to Viki watching her children laugh and dance (those scenes I did enjoy!) before leaving Llanview, culminating in the purchase of a plane ticket for herself to places unknown just oozed with symbolism. It's as though what began with Viki ended with Viki, and she had come full-circle just as OLTL in 10,000 days of life. That was brilliantly planned and executed.
Second, the stuff with Bo/Nora/Matt just gave me chills. Here we saw a father and son connect on a deeper level and mourn the passing of a loved one who represented the first generation of Buchanans; and for the first time in years, we were reminded how deep Bo and Nora's love ran. Nora immediately responded to Bo's pain, and Hillary B. Smith was sheer perfection. You simply ached for Nora's character as she wrestled with feelings of angst and helplessness in terms of how to comfort her ex-husband. I also sensed Nora was completely overwhelmed by her emotion for Bo, and this resonated throughout the eppy and especially during the intense interactions with Lindsay. The subtle gesture of covering Matt and Bo with a blanket and then stroking Bo's hair and face was such a tender moment.
Finally, I thought the scene where Clint raised a glass of toast to Asa, then placed the glass of bourbon next to his photo was so poignant. It was at that very moment where the torch was passed from one Buchanan patriarch to the next, and when Clint was at his lowest moment, that Dorian emerged to offer comfort and solace. These moments were more than "nods." They stopped the clock, took me back in time, and rocked me to the very core. They shall remain etched in my heart forever -- and reinforce the power that symbolism and history lend to storytelling. I'm also normally not a fan of musical montages, but the ending beautifully tied everything together in what I felt was a stunning piece of art.
RYAN: I agree with pretty much all of those highlights that you recognize, although the Viki/Dorian bit being trapped together yet again, was, as Viki pointed out, "getting tiresome." I'm just glad that the writers didn't drag this on beyond a handful of scenes because I didn't find it particularly enjoyable, except as another recognition that these two rivals have been at the epicenter of OLTL for 30-plus years! And I reconciled myself to liking the scenes only because Dorian made the tongue-in-cheek comment to Viki that she "only has One Life to Live..." That was cute.
But on to other things I also liked. I really liked Lindsay/Nora bickering in the living room of Asa's mansion over Bo just as Alex walks in and says, "Are you two still arguing over Bo? Some things never change!" Isn't that the truth! Again, another nod that while years and years can pass, events can lead characters full-circle. Loved it! I also really thought it was clever that the secret of David's parentage was left in the hands of Max, as I've already mentioned, and Alex, always looking for a way to get a quick Buchanan dollar!
To me, having these two armed with powerful information like this was an effective way to utilize these two historical characters. Now, the possibilities are endless. Why not bring Tonja Walker back for a short stint as Alex as she tried to weasel her way back into the Buchanan fold? Or convince James DePaiva to return (even temporarily) as Max Holden and throw a crinkle into the newfound Blair/Todd reconciliation? I love that the writers left the door wide open for a couple of these returns. But why no Alex/Asa flashback? Their wedding, filmed in Central Park, was truly one of the most unforgettable weddings in OLTL's history! It was a shame to waste such a wonderful opportunity to re-air Alex-as-Cleopatra-as-bride!
DENISE: It's funny, because I just can't get enough of Dorian and Viki trapped in close quarters. Their character rivalry is arguably the most renowned in all of daytime television, and it's like watching Erika don a red wig and slip into Niki Smith: it's been done a hundred times before, but each time I take away something new, and it never disappoints. You raise an excellent point about the lack of Alex/Asa flashbacks, and there are new viewers who only know Alex Olanov by reputation and were deprived of those moments the first time around. I was actually surprised that we didn't see an exchange between Roxy and Max -- who, might I add, were a dynamite pairing that writers squandered when they foolishly let Jimmy DePaiva walk.
I'd have liked the use of more flashbacks integrated into these episodes -- especially from Renee's and Nigel's perspectives. I also think the show put zero effort into showcasing Asa and Renee's tumultuous, yet enduring, love story. Renee and Nigel knew Asa better than anyone else, and their reactions should perhaps have been given the most attention. Patricia Elliott and Peter Bartlett are two immensely talented, grossly underused actors -- and here's hoping Asa's death blazes a trail of change for their characters. I also can't help but wonder what would've happened if David's "reveal" as a Buchanan occurred just prior to Asa's death, or even when Phil Carey was still on the canvas. Imagine the conflict David would have wrestled with as a result!
I also thought it was fabulous how Alex reestablished the history of animosity between Lindsay and Nora. Those Lindsay/Nora interactions were priceless, because they were low-key, yet intense, as though each was trying to maintain her dignity while seething quietly with disdain for the other. I'm not sure if you caught the camera work as Nora and Lindsay first came together, but it was brilliant. Each woman rushed to the center of the room, and the camera met them head-on -- seriously intense stuff! That's what happens when Hickland and Smith connect onscreen, just as in the case of Slezak and Strasser. OLTL did an excellent job of showcasing two generations of daytime's greatest rivalries with these characters, and it was done in a way that enhanced the drama surrounding Asa's death by pulling in some rich history and setting the stage for future conflict.
RYAN: Although I nit-pick at a number of things these two episodes brought to the table, in all, I must say I was really quite satisfied. It felt like "home" for two days, and it harkened back to the good ol' days of OLTL. Seeing all of these important characters together in a couple of episodes was like going to a buffet and taking a little of this and a little of that but not enjoying one thing fully until you are satisfied. We got a little bit of Joey, a bit more of Max, even less of Cord, a tease of Alex, and a chunk of Kevin. But we unfortunately didn't get to enjoy any one of them for very long.
I suppose that would be my biggest suggestion (had I been asked!) about how to improve this tribute to both Asa and OLTL: Don't limit yourself to just two days. Adding a third or even a fourth day to this really would have been a satisfying way to reintroduce once-integral members of the OLTL canvas while also recalling the impact that Asa made to the show and to Llanview's history by supplying even more fitting montages of Asa and the rest of the characters. What I walked away with from this week was a feeling of hope -- this is what the show used to be and this is what the show can become again! I hope that the ratings for these two episodes spike in order to prove to ABC that a show doesn't have to have young newbies be the focus of a show in order to be successful. I just hope the fallout of Asa's death drives stories from this point forward.
DENISE: I couldn't agree more, Ryan -- and this is probably a good time to remind SOC readers that our goal isn't to find fault via these commentaries, but to provide as comprehensive an analysis of events as possible. If we merely regurgitate what we see onscreen, we aren't providing an honest commentary but are instead spoon-feeding recaps. I agree on all counts in terms of what last week brought to the table. We were treated to some amazing moments that will undoubtedly serve as benchmarks in the show's legacy. You hit the nail on the head pertaining to how last week was steeped in a sense of renewed hope.
One Life To Live felt more like "home" last Thursday and Friday than it has in years. If TPTB allow Carlivati to pen his best material -- sans micro-management -- the ABC daytime drama fans lovingly refer to as the network's "red-headed stepchild" will soon emerge from its Trojan horse. I remain genuinely disappointed that Asa's tribute was cut short, mainly because Phil deserved better, as did the character and the fans. The network has a lot to learn overall in the way of providing fitting tributes for its veterans, and I am hoping those in charge learn something from what surely will be coming in the way of immense feedback, both positive and negative. I believe the network has learned that fans will not allow history to fade unchallenged, nor will we allow these veteran actors to be pushed out the door, for they are the lifeblood of this medium -- and last week reinforced why these individuals are worth their weight in gold.
I'm deeply grateful for all who labored to make OLTL's 10,000th episode a beautiful journey of remembrance and celebration. I also want to remind our readers that we've created a special thread atop the SOC OLTL board to continue the roundtable discussion. Finally, I've been inundated with requests from readers who are seeking information pertaining to the song/artist that was used for OLTL's closing montage on the anniversary episode. I was able to procure that info, so anyone who is interested can email me, and I'll gladly provide that for you.
Congratulations on 10,000 episodes, One Life to Live!
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