DENISE: Before I dive into the current events on OLTL, I want to thank Dawn for filling in as Ryan is away on business (and hopefully squeezing in some fun along the way!). What a whirlwind week in Llanview! First of all, Todd was sentenced, freed and swore vengeance on the McBains and pledged to get his son back. Meanwhile, Michael and Marcie shared their fears and devastation and began plotting to fight Todd for Tommy. Blair remained on the outside looking in as Todd vehemently rebuffed her affections and assistance. Bo was forced to place John on suspension with the LPD for his role in the Tommy debacle. Nora vowed to defend justice and hold all who suppressed the truth accountable. A past connection came to light involving Jessica and Jared, as this mystery man continues to peak Natalie's interest. Crucial questions arose about Langston's well-being as Dorian confided her concerns to Clint about Starr's best friend. Finally, John and Marty grew closer as she annulled her marriage to Miles, much to his dismay. I'd say more transpired on OLTL last week than in three years' time, and in case the intensified pace wasn't a bold enough indicator, Higley's name has finally been removed from the opening credits and Carlivati is now flying solo. So as we watched the truth unfold and as consequences begin to manifest themselves, I still find myself torn over the baby Tommy custody issue. Ron Carlivati continues to create complex layers to this story and tug at viewers' heartstrings as he weaves every major character into its fabric in some manner. Dawn, what was your reaction as you watched events unfold and as the truth came to light?
DAWN: It's a pleasure to fill in for Ryan and I hope he is having a wonderful trip! The show has been so much more engaging the past few weeks. The issue about Tommy is a tough one for sure. Usually on this show, I feel strongly about what is happening in one way or the other. This time, however, I can empathize for both sides! Marcie and Michael have bonded with Tommy for years and have provided a safe home. Marcie had no idea her child was actually Todd's child, and her world has been torn apart. Todd has finally found his son after all of this time and after nearly dying. This has all of the makings for great drama! It was a classic "soapy" moment when Todd burst into the courtroom and demanded his son. Everyone was suddenly forced to take a side, and chaos ensued! I like how all of the key players were in the courtroom at one time and that we got to see everyone's reaction. I also liked how unexpected people's reactions were expressed. I have to say that I was surprised to see Roxy there and contributing in such a meaningful way! She went to bat for Michael and Marcie and was coherent when telling the judge that Tommy should remain with them! It seems that Ron Carlivati knows that there is more to her than playing the town drunk, and now she is a part of this storyline in a surprising way! I also liked how Nora stood up for Todd's rights. She and Todd despise each other, yet she is determined to reunite him with his son. Initially, she wasn't at the emotional core of this story, but with the history regarding Matthew's paternity, she understands what Todd is going through. Nora is back in fighting form, and she quickly took charge of that situation in the courtroom. It's about time! Hillary B. Smith truly shined all week, and it is wonderful that Nora finally has a firm place on the show! Another interesting thing is I am not usually so invested in Todd's actions, but I could feel his frustration, anguish, anger and sadness in that courtroom and in his jail cell. He doesn't care what happens to his relationship with Blair or anyone else. He just wants his son back, while Marcie is determined to keep Tommy at all costs. The stakes are high, the emotion is intense, and I honestly don't know where any of this headed! Isn't it refreshing that there is actually suspense on this show again?
DENISE: Dawn, it's completely invigorating! First off, I'm convinced that a great deal of what's airing has been shot out of sequence, which is often necessary as the torch is passed from one Head Writer to another. While continuity issues are nothing new for OLTL, they were previously driven by apathetic writing and poor attention to detail, which is no longer the case. So I'm more than willing to overlook the fact that it's nighttime in John's office while it's daytime in Bo's, or that an actor's hairstyle is "de-pouffed" from one scene to another, because the writing is so strong and I'm confident these issues will resolve themselves with time. Once again, we enjoyed a week of strong, emotional character interactions. The scenes between Blair and Todd were intense and consistent. I've relegated myself to accept the fact that these two will always be connected because of Starr and Jack, and that their unholy alliance (which Dorian was more than happy to analyze!) will forever find them in a push-pull entanglement which borders on perversion. Kathy Brier and Nathaniel Marston both put forth stellar performances last week! I was truly riveted as I watched Michael and Marcie examine their options, anguish over Todd's rightful move for a DNA request, and weigh offers of help from Roxy and Rex. I am thrilled that Nora has her "fight" back, because I nearly forgot she was a lawyer...until now. The character was back-burnered for so long and all but stripped of her connection to the legal realm, and as you pointed out, watching Nora reclaim her place in the courtroom as events unfold has been fabulous - especially in light of her history with Todd. Here's something else that truly impressed me. I am so delighted that Carlivati is weaving Langston into Dorian's life. This is exactly what a good Head Writer should do. New characters should be paired with established ones for the purpose of cultivating rich back story and perpetuating the family dynamic. If this isn't done, the end result positions a bunch of newbies in one corner facing off against veterans in another, and all end up vying for airtime in a frenzied manner that damages the show and frustrates viewers. Thus far, Carlivati has penned classic soap fare, and my respect for him gets elevated to another level with each passing week. I also believe we are due for many twists and turns in the custody issue before it's finally resolved. This truly has evolved from a fizzling plot point to a rich storyline that continues to weave major characters together in such an exciting way!
DAWN: I wholeheartedly agree about Langston. Instead of watching the incessant "Mean Girls" story we were subjected to earlier in the summer, Langston is becoming connected to major characters. I felt like the "teen scene" was an entirely different show because the teens were so isolated from everyone else. Now, Langston and Starr are interacting with characters we actually know, and it makes a world of difference. I have noticed this theme across the canvas. Several characters are being used in the custody storyline, which makes it so much more interesting. While I am not ready for a Blair and Todd redux, their scenes were very emotional and showed us exactly how much they've been through. I am most impressed wit how they discussed their own history, especially on Friday's show. History has been a forgotten concept for far too long on this show, so I am thrilled to see the new head writer using it! Also, while I am still not sure what to think of Jared, I am glad that his storyline with "Tessica" is progressing. I was sure Jared and Nash would work together for months before Jessica would even find out that Jared was in Llanview. I am relieved that this storyline is developing at a faster pace than I expected. While I feel that Tess' antics off screen have been used enough for story ideas, I will give this one a chance. What are your impressions of Jared so far?
DENISE: Everyone who reads this column regularly knows how I've felt about the influx of newbies on OLTL's canvas these past few years. If it were up to me, I would purge the canvas of all extraneous characters and place a moratorium on new ones for an indefinite period of time. That said, I like what I see in terms of Jared and am willing to give his character every opportunity to win me over. Herein lies the problem. Tess and Nash sizzled, but Jessica and Nash simply fizzle. Nash came onto the canvas as a bad boy and meshed well with Tess' reckless, highly-charged demeanor. The whole dynamic shifted when "Tessica" faded and Jessica reemerged, and these two bore me beyond belief. So I now view Jared as Llanview's resident "bad boy", and I'm honestly uncertain how this will impact the viability of Nash's character as time progresses. I'm also unsure how I feel about Jared being the "man in the middle" between Natalie and Jessica. I'd rather watch Natalie continue maturing as a character and see where her involvement with Jared leads. I'm definitely gearing up for things to intensify between Antonio and Talia, and Carlivati is playing his cards right by building this pairing very slowly and weaving in subtle complexities along the way. Another character I am really attempting to extend patience to is Marty. Christina Chambers is doing everything humanly possible to make this character work, and while Susan Haskell owns this role, I find myself wanting to fight for Chambers because she came onto the show during a horrible time and was the victim of such poor writing. I'm also ecstatic that we're seeing more of Roxy lately - and also that she's being woven into the custody issue in an interesting manner. I'm desperately hoping that Carlivati gives Ilene Kristen some compelling material to sink her teeth into. We saw shades of character depth emerge when she pled Michael and Marcie's case in the courtroom, and then offered to do battle with them against Todd. Higley turned Roxy's character into a caricature and while I always appreciate her comedic relief, Ilene is a powerhouse talent and is just brilliant executing heavy drama. So as Llanview's residents continue to have their lives unravel and the fallout intensifies, I remain thrilled that OLTL maintains its uphill climb and compels me to want to watch. This is the first time in years that I've given my fast-forward button a rest, and honestly, I cannot ask for more at this point.
DAWN: I agree about not wanting any new characters for a while. I think Paige's existence made me want to reject any new characters on sight. There are so many interesting characters that are already in Llanview and it never makes sense to me when they are pushed into the background so new, unimportant characters can be the focus. Jared could make Jessica and Nash more interesting, and I hope he does, just as long as Natalie doesn't end up being Jared's victim in the end. Talia is a great example of a new character I was actually happy to see. Her character adds diversity to the cast, and she wasn't forced on us every single day for months. She and Antonio have an interesting connection, and I hope the writers decide to explore that and that they aren't just teasing us! I agree with you about Christina Chambers. I feel the same way about her as I did about Alex Neil. She is a victim of bad writing and bad timing. I think she is a good actress, and I hope the writers give Marty a better storyline. Watching Marty get blackmailed by Miles was cringe-worthy, and it did nothing to help the character's popularity or place on the canvas. She has been the victim too many times, so I hope her character goes in a different direction if she is to stay on the show. It's interesting, though, because I find all of the characters to be more compelling since Ron Carlivati took over. He is making a great effort to connect the characters and to give us reasons to care about all of them. I almost feel like it's too good to be true! This show has a long way to go, but if these "umbrella" storylines such as the one surrounding Tommy keep being written, I know I want to want to miss a single episode! Things are finally looking up and keeping me engaged as a viewer. I think we are finally getting our show back! It was a pleasure discussing this with you, Denise! Thank you for letting me do this, and I hope we can do it again soon!
Thank YOU, Dawn! It was my pleasure - and you can count on it.
Have a wonderful week!
Denise and Dawn