For the Week of September 10, 2007
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Characterization is the key to a good soap opera. Stunts and story-driven plots are only temporary ploys to lure viewers to the screen for a short series of episodes.
RYAN: Characterization is the key to a good soap opera. I have been saying that for years in this column. Stunts and story-driven plots are great ratings-boosts, but they are only temporary ploys to lure viewers to the screen for one or a short series of episodes. But using characters to drive story and writing stories that evoke feelings and emotions for characters is what will keep viewers coming back day after day. This is how I felt in the later part of last week as I watched some key developments happen in the Baby Tommy storyline. The scenes between Michael and John were so strong as John had to tell his brother that Todd now knew that Tommy is his biological son and that they only had a limited amount of time to tell Marcie.
The moments between Dorian and Lindsay were heartwarming as Dorian reached out in genuine friendship to Lindsay. And the confrontations between Todd and Lindsay were out of this world! They were filled with so much tension that a chainsaw couldn't break through it! The best part about all of these moments is that they were all created by characterization---the true personality of these people is what elevated the scenes to riveting instead of ho-hum. I just don't even know where to start! What was your favorite moment, Denise?
DENISE: Ryan, I'll take character-driven storylines vs. plot-driven stunts any day of the week. As you said, these maneuvers may temporarily boost ratings, but their effect is fleeting and viewers' interest quickly wanes once the "punch" is delivered. While it feels as though OLTL is still in a holding pattern as Carlivati strives to turn the show around, last week definitely generated some strong, emotional interactions. First I'll say what I didn't like. I don't understand why Miles is still on the canvas. Natalie's character is finally coming into her own, and he serves no purpose with Jared's recent introduction and now that Todd knows his son is alive.
Nash and Jessica bore me to tears, and enduring Rex and Adriana continues to equate with watching paint dry. I've grown weary of hearing Todd and Blair snipe and bicker, and I'm desperately hoping the truth will finally set them free of one another. I also had a tough time buying that Sarah didn't know a chardonnay from "La Boulaie", and Cris fits into the nightclub scene about as well as he succeeded at boxing. Finally, I didn't enjoy watching Bo speak to Nora in a sarcastic and patronizing manner, and he is so far from deserving her affections at present that he might as well be living in Pine Valley.
Now on to what I enjoyed. Nathaniel Marston's performances were definitely a highlight, as we watched the McBain brothers unify to face the repercussions of their actions. I'm also thrilled to watch Marcie get her "fight" back, and while I know some fans feel the character has come across as abrasive, perhaps it's because we've seen her in "victim mode" for far too long. It was also refreshing to see Roxy sober, and I really enjoyed the scenes with Clint and Nora (and still don't understand why the show hasn't capitalized on the chemistry between Smith and verDorn).
The funniest line of the week came when Nora responded to Dorian's concern over Lindsay by saying, "Well, then she should stop killing people." Hysterical! Seeing Nora in lawyer mode? Priceless. I also enjoyed the scenes between Dorian (who is consistent if nothing else) and Lindsay, as well as the Lindsay/Todd interactions. Those were seriously intense! Honestly, my money is on Lindsay in this "celebrity deathmatch." I'm ready for Lindsay's claws to emerge and watch this tough-as-nails vixen fight for her life!
RYAN: Weren't those scenes between Trevor St. John and Catherine Hickland absolutely mind-blowing? She threatens his relationship with Jack. Boom! He retaliates and threatens to harm Will in Los Angeles. Pow! I think fans across the board were ecstatic to see these two flawed characters go at it in a "deathmatch" (as you called it). Speaking of Todd, I also love that the writers are making the custody issue very complicated. Obviously, my heart goes out to Marcie, who is a true innocent in all of this, but I also feel empathy for Todd (despite his flaws) who truly wants to know who his child is. He didn't deserve to have Spencer kidnap the child and give him to another family. But the complexity and character-driven focus is what makes this riveting. I love it!
One last thing -- I got to thinking this week about some interesting parallels between the actors on OLTL and their characters. I can't tell you how much I really enjoyed the scenes in the jail between Dorian and Lindsay when Ms. Lord came to try to give Lindsay the "Woman of the Year" award, which was left behind at the ceremony when John arrested her. Despite the accusations against her, Lindsay did deserve the award -- all of the community service projects she helped with in Jen's honor were really quite admirable. That got me thinking about Catherine Hickland, who portrays Lindsay. What interesting parallels between the two women!
Like Lindsay, Catherine Hickland does so much for different charities. Animal Haven in New York City has benefited from her generosity and fundraising efforts, and most recently the Hamad Family (also from NYC) was the focus of her August fundraising dinner. But for over a decade, Hickland has been helping the West End Intergenerational Residence raise money for their residents who at one time had been homeless. It's remarkable to see such stark parallels, and I know that Hickland/Lindsay isn't the only example of a daytime actor (or a character) who gives back to his/her community.
DENISE: I want to jump back to the baby Tommy custody issue for a moment, because I completely agree with your analysis. I really enjoy watching Trevor St. John and Michael Easton work together, and Todd bursting into the courtroom to conclude last week reaffirmed that "Cliffhanger Friday" is alive and well! Carlivati could've taken the easy way out here by revealing Paige to be Spencer's killer. Instead, he boldly chose a complex path by plucking Lindsay's character out of the background and positioning her smack in the middle of things.
I have a hunch that Lindsay's connection to Spencer involves much more than Todd, Michael, and Marcie. Did they perhaps forge an unholy alliance at one point in time? They certainly had their fare share of enemies in common, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Lindsay's trial will turn out to be as explosive and unpredictable as the character herself, and perhaps also provide answers to some burning questions that have plagued viewers for quite some time! I suppose that now would be a perfect time to unveil our surprise to SOC readers. All who tuned in to OLTL last week saw the t-shirt Roxy brought to Marcie that bore the slogan, "FREE LINDSAY."
Ryan and I were inspired after watching that episode to join in the fun, so here is what we've done. We created an online cyber shop to honor what will undoubtedly serve as a revival of the infamous Lindsay/Nora feud. Viewers can choose whether to "FREE LINDSAY" or "FRY LINDSAY" by selecting from custom apparel and other related merchandise. As these items were created with whimsy in mind, and to celebrate both characters and rev up the rivalry as Lindsay's trial approaches, they indeed serve a very important purpose. All of the proceeds from this merchandise will be donated in honor of Catherine Hickland and Hillary B. Smith to the NYC-based West End Intergenerational Residence. This is a wonderful way to share in the fun of what's happening onscreen and embrace the giving spirit as we slowly transition towards the holiday season. So please visit the cyber shop at your convenience: www.cafepress.com/lindsay_vs_nora.
RYAN: I hope people enjoy the "FREE/FRY LINDSAY" items! We thought it would be so much fun and tie into the celebration of community service that so many of the actors promote. Ya know, with my loyalty leaning towards Marcie yet still able to show sympathy towards Todd, I have conflicting opinions about Michael. I'm not sure how I feel about the web of lies and deceit that he created in keeping the truth about Tommy from his wife! Across the SOC message board, he's being lambasted for his part in this tragedy, and I agree. But once again, Ron Carlivati has created multi-layers to this story to avoid making it a "black and white" tale.
Michael's lies were purely built off of the love that he felt for his wife and newly adopted son. Knowing that Marcie will never ever have a child of her own, he knew that maintaining custody of Tommy was really their only chance at parenting. But does that justify his actions? Does his love for his wife and child realistically entitle him to accuse his brother John of not protecting the same secret with as much vehement passion as he does? Why would Michael expect John to feel this situation with such urgency like he does? Sure, Michael is his brother and Tommy is his nephew, but John's integrity and reputation are on the line as well. It's a tough moral quandary to be involuntarily placed in, so the levels of characterization that are created in John and Michael's confrontations, for example, are so rich and layered that it makes this heart-wrenching story even more character-driven. All I know is that I can't wait to see how the courtroom reacts to Todd's revelation of the truth this week!
DENISE: You raise an excellent point about how Carlivati has created layers to this story and how viewers are anguishing over whose corner to choose as a result. Again, this exemplifies how Carlivati has taken Higley's material and made a deliberate, conscious effort to make these past two-and-a-half years count for something and provide viewer payoffs. Isn't it refreshing to actually anticipate and brainstorm over what may or may not happen, versus resolving oneself to the fact that nothing substantive will transpire? I also feel torn over the custody issue, but possess little empathy for Michael at this point. He made a mockery of his marriage, placed John in a horrible position, and conspired with Rex and Adriana to shield Marcie from the truth. While his intentions may have initially seemed honorable (especially in light of Marcie's inability to bear children), it doesn't justify making a fool of his wife or allowing another man to think his child was deceased, thereby perpetuating a horrible charade for months.
What I had a very difficult time with last week was gauging Todd's reaction. It'll be interesting as events unfold this week, but I'm noticing many inconsistencies with how Todd's character is being penned. One minute he's remorseful; the next, he's spewing venom and bellowing from his jail cell (all of which is legitimate). While unpredictability and volatility are "vintage" Todd, I do believe inconsistency issues exist with his dialogue that affect how the character comes across. This needs to be resolved because I'm having great difficulty comprehending the character's motivations and behavior as a result. The standout highlight of last week definitely consists of the umbrella effect this story now has upon the residents of Llanview. So while the truth of Tommy's parentage was finally revealed, I felt the real shining moments came as we watched plot-driven stunts shift to character-building interactions…and what a wonderful change of pace.
Have a wonderful week!
Ryan and Denise
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