RYAN: By now, I would imagine anyone who watches the news or does not live in a cave realizes that the Writer's Guild of America has been striking since the beginning of last month. Having just been part of a teacher's strike myself, I can attest first hand that nobody WANTS to be out on the picket lines but these writers are determined to get fair compensation for their talents, and who can possibly argue with that? As much as I (and many others) often gripe about storylines or contrived plots that I see from time to time on my favorite shows, there is no way I could do the job that these talented writers do. Who of us could? So, I lend my support to their quest for what is fair (even though it means I'll be "24"-less come January!). With those sentiments aside, I'm very nervous for what possibly awaits us once the current writing staff's scripts have been depleted. Rumor has it that Gary Tomlin, former Executive Producer of OLTL, will play a central role in writing for the show while the WGA remains on strike working out contract disputes. As much as I was a fan of Tomlin (and thought his firing came much too prematurely), I am nervous to have any other writer mess with the brilliant job Ron Carlivati has done with turning this show around in such a short period of time. I am scared that serious damage could be done to the course of action that is currently being shown on screen. Granted, the show is not perfect---far from it---and there are some glaring problems that make me want to scream at the television set (I'll get to those momentarily), but any tinkering with the show at such a critical point during its improvement phase could be seriously detrimental. I'm scared for what might happen.
DENISE: The burning question is whether or not striking writers are in communication with their writing team at any given point in time. If that's the case, it stands to reason that Carlivati's agenda would be tendered to whoever temporarily assumes the reins. So while Ron may not be penning scripts, it's possible the essence of his ideas is contained within them. All we can do is cross our fingers and have faith that when the strike is resolved, these writers will have earned what they richly deserve in terms of compensation. I must say though, last week was really a "mixed bag" on OLTL in terms of viewing. While we were once again treated to some powerful emotion and what I thought were well-rounded episodes, I couldn't help but notice some glaring omissions and blunders that competed with the entertainment value of the show. For instance, I was shocked when Viki suddenly resurfaced in Llanview with no transition from TX whatsoever. Honestly, it was a very anti-climactic reentry and an even further shortsighted finale to her exit from the Bonjour Café. What made things even more disappointing is that watching Charlie grapple with remaining sober and reflecting upon his feelings for Viki was very intense, so to move from that to her suddenly pulling up stakes in TX and landing on her doorstep was just plain bizarre. I'm also trying to determine what happened between the timeframe when Charlie and Michael were nursing hangovers to when they both ended up down in Paris in what seemed like a nanosecond. Incidentally, I want to welcome Chris Stack to OLTL. He has some very big shoes to fill, and it'll be interesting to see how he cements himself within the cast and role as time progresses. I also have some issues with what is happening behind the scenes at Asa's mansion, and I'm curious to get your thoughts on how you feel about the "climate" in Nora's new home, now that everyone has made the trek back from Texas.
RYAN: I thought I had missed an episode when one minute Viki is in the diner and the next minute she's back at Llanfair! Considering the careful emphasis and integration that Carlivati has given to the Texas scene, I'm truly shocked by this glaring blunder. But, back to Asa's mansion. Here's something that really has me peeved, and it all revolves around Renee. First, I am doing cartwheels (well, not literally) that Patricia Elliott is being featured more prominently; however, haven't we been down this road with Renee's character before? Didn't she learn her lesson about trusting others so completely after Max impersonated being her and Asa's son all those years ago? Her heart was left with an enormous gaping hole, and one can't help but think that she would have to toughen up and learn a lesson from that experience. But here she sits again, trusting a total stranger who just happens to apparently have a physical resemblance to Asa from his youth. She invites this stranger to move into her home (honestly, who actually does something like that?), and then revels in the news that Jared is supposedly Asa's long-lost son! Not only does she revel in the news, but she shouts, "I knew it! I knew it!" from the rooftops, as this makes her look even more foolish since viewers know this is yet another scam to which she's falling prey. Sure, one could argue that Renee is grief-stricken and a bit too fragile to make clear-headed judgments, but I say that this is sloppy characterization of a smart woman who has already learned from similar past mistakes. I think this particular problem can be easily fixed, but I want it to be fixed at the hands of Carlivati, and not someone else who may not share his overall vision.
DENISE: I echo your sentiments exactly. While I'm thrilled that Patricia Elliott is again being utilized, I DO NOT like how Renee's character is being written. She rose above a very sordid and agonizing past, and to see her painted as the grieving widow who's lost all sense of good judgment is infuriating. Quite honestly, I dislike Jared more with each passing episode. While I thought the scenes between him and Charlie were intense, I can't find any redeeming attributes within Jared at this point that compel me to want to learn more about his character. And precisely when did Bo start taking "stupid pills"? Is his character EVER going to recover from years of being dumbed-down? The fact that either he or Nora would be comfortable with having Jared live under the same roof as Matthew and spend time with their son is ludicrous. I can see where Nora is in a difficult position because Renee is smitten with Jared, so if she ousts Jared from the mansion, she runs the risk of adding to Renee's grief and alienating her friend entirely. That aside, the fact that someone who is perpetuating an illicit agenda would even want to reside in the same home as Llanview's DA - who also happens to be the Police Commissioner's ex-wife - is absolutely ridiculous. Another huge blunder transpired last week which I found incredibly disappointing. I cannot believe that we didn't see Nora and Matthew celebrate the commencement of Hanukkah, which is tradition for their characters each December. Perhaps this will be acknowledged in future episodes, but it doesn't excuse the show's failure to address the significance of this holiday tradition to these characters last week. Nora is daytime's longest-running, Jewish character, and no writing regime since Griffith and Malone cares to recognize that her faith is integral to her essence of being. In fact, I was shocked to learn that Viki was still running the Banner when Todd last phoned her, because we haven't seen her behind a desk and churning out the evening edition in years. These are the types of lapses and omissions that simply compete with good writing. What else challenges solid writing? Contrived character exits, for one thing...and that is precisely how I felt about Marty's send-off.
RYAN: My verdict is still out on Jared. While I agree that right now he's being written too one-dimensional (and completely unlikable), I have to believe that there is a bigger picture yet to be revealed. I believe that Charlie's involvement is somehow designed to soften Jared in some ways. But how can an alcoholic father, albeit uninvolved in his son's life as a child, ever stand by idly while his son feigns to be the child of someone else? THAT I cannot understand. But moving on to Marty Saybrooke's big "send off"---you hit the nail on the head that it is too contrived. Here's what I hated about the way the character was written off: weeks BEFORE this big explosion, the Internet went berserk with news that OLTL is holding out on the original Marty, Susan Haskell, to return to the role that made her famous. So, how anti-climatic is it for me to know that the character is coming back and to watch these scenes involving her "death?" These whole "the-body-was-not-found" stories are becoming a tired cliché, and I think that soap writers in general rely on this device far too often. Granted, it is difficult to find a valid reason why Marty would leave Llanview for an extended period of time without her son (because Brandon Buddy would, of course, remain on the show as Cole), but why not sit down and work some creative solution out instead of relying on the ol' "we'll make her APPEAR dead for a while" plot contrivance. It's so annoying! I usually fast forward right through these types of scenes, because I can't get caught up in the emotion that the characters who THINK she is dead feel. It's not worth my time to watch these characters believe time and time again that someone is dead when there isn't a body and when they constantly live in a town where people who "die" aren't always dead. For someone who has time on his/her hands, I'd love to know how many times in the last 20 years, someone like Viki grieved for someone who turned out to really be alive. My initial gut reaction tells me the answer is at least a dozen people, but I bet I'd be actually flabbergasted by the actual number----and yet despite this, she STILL blindly accepts that a friend or a relative is dead every time she hears it on the news or from a third party. Granted, this is a fictional world where reality often has to be suspended, but I would love for a character to just say one time, "Well, I've been through this game before, and until I see the body myself, I won't believe she's dead." I would just LOVE to hear that one time! But all of these trivial issues are just that---minor tweaks that need to be made in order to make this show in a top form that it hasn't been for a very long time.
DENISE: If Marty's "death" yields some interesting storylines and significantly impacts enough characters, then I might be more forgiving about how contrived her exit from the canvas was staged. You and I are on the same page here; I mean, how many times can you grieve for a character that isn't dead? No one ever really dies on soaps (and those that TPTB attempt to kill simply refuse to die), so it's difficult for me to generate a great deal of emotion when a character meets one's fateful end with even the most stellar writing and acting. I'm all for suspending reality, but I don't enjoy being insulted…and the lack of creativity and effort that was placed into Marty's exit did just that. A few highlights emerged from this, however. First, Brandon Buddy was given some compelling material and really did a fine job as Cole reacted to the loss of his mother. Second, I was pleased that Todd responded the way he did and really enjoyed the interactions between him and Blair that followed. Third, emotion between Dorian and Nora was kicked up another notch, and you could simply cut the tension between them with a knife! What I can't determine is why in the world everybody suddenly feels badly for Miles - as though he's the grieving spouse who Marty loved with all her being. Are you kidding me?! This is the obsessed, pathetic freak who blackmailed Marty into marriage and yet suddenly, he's to be pitied and consoled? Give me a break - and why is he even still on the canvas? Perhaps Roxy can breathe new life into him, or maybe Mitch Laurence is the "mystery villain" rumored to return for February Sweeps - and if this is the case, Miles' character may have a bit more mileage left in him. I'm willing to extend an ounce more patience to Miles, but only if we get Roscoe Born out of the deal and if Roxy's character is reinvigorated and "de-caricaturized" in the process. Meanwhile, I'll continue to enjoy watching Moe and Noelle argue about who made the best pie, because quite frankly, life at the Bonjour Café still rivals much of what is transpiring back in Llanview. Sometimes, less is truly more.
Have a wonderful week!
Ryan and Denise