RYAN: TV Guide's soap columnist Michael Logan just named OLTL 2007's "Best Show," and I couldn't agree more! Granted, even former AMC scribe Megan McTavish could make Dena Higley's writing look like Shakespeare, but Ron Carlivati has masterfully woven familiar faces with new ones in such a way that it does not feel forced or contrived. His forte is the "umbrella story" under which many characters are affected by one particular plotline. By doing this, he permits for more interaction among the entire cast and allows the "big story" to break off into smaller stories; furthermore, he invents possibilities for fresh faces to emerge. For sure, 2007 has seen a lot of new faces, and I thought as the year comes to a close, it would be fun to rate the success of the new faces we've seen. I thought I'd first tackle Jared Banks (oops, excuse me, "Buchanan!") and his father Charlie. What I love about this father/son duo is that Jared was introduced to viewers long before Charlie was a blip in anyone's minds. He was established as a scoundrel who was mysteriously obsessed with Asa Buchanan and his fortune. But when he started to fall for Natalie, his purpose in Llanview started to become cloudy, at best. Sure we've been down this road before with the con artist who wants to pretend to be a new Buchanan offspring, but I like that Jared still has backstory that must still be revealed. Is there more we have yet to learn about why he stayed in jail for so long? I'm sure the reason we have been given isn't the real one. What about the exploration of Charlie and Jared's lives together from when Jared was a child? There surely is rich story to mine there. And the complication of Jared falling for his "niece" Natalie has vast repercussions! Have I been wowed by this character? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but I do see the long-term potential that he serves in the leading-man category (especially if he is eventually paired with Melissa Archer, with whom he has amazing chemistry). Carlivati and Co. must be careful not to overplay him or shove him down our throats like a certain Truman who is no longer with us, but I've been wiling to see how Jared's manipulations play out. NEWBIE GRADE: B. As for his father, Charlie, I have been just giddy watching the rich characterization of this new romantic lead for Erika Slezak. Seemingly just another ordinary Joe having breakfast at the Bon-Jour Café, Charlie seemed ordinary---too ordinary---for our Viki. But as more and more layers were peeled off, Charlie's complex characterization was revealed. A man plagued by alcoholism and rejected by his son (Jared), Charlie is a man in pain. There is more here than meets the eye, and Viki is just the woman who can act as Charlie's salvation. I love that Carlivati has not isolated Charlie in Paris, Texas; Charlie has already been to Llanview, and Viki doesn't even know it! He has met Dorian and her Cramer women, he has been to Asa's mansion and met Nigel, and he has established relationships with people in both Paris and in Llanview. THIS is how a character should be introduced to the canvas! THIS is how you write a multi-layered character who has the capability to rise to popularity among fans! THIS is how you give Viki a new partner with whom she can begin a new life! Charlie has been one of the most successful new characters introduced to the show in a very long time, and I'm excited at the years of story awaiting him. NEWBIE GRADE: A.
DENISE: First of all, kudos to Carlivati and his cast and crew, because TV GUIDE just reinforced what you and I have been spouting for months. Not only has OLTL improved by leaps and bounds since he assumed the reins as Head Writer, but he has created a sense of renewed hope for a show that celebrates its 40th anniversary in '08. What a wonderful way to commemorate a landmark milestone! I must say that Charlie's character won my heart from day one. I attribute this equally to solid writing and Brian Kerwin's strong performances. I recall saying just after Charlie's first appearance on the canvas that he was going to make a wonderful love interest for Viki, and the proof is in the pudding. What I especially like about Charlie is his down-to-earth nature, understated sense of humor, and humbling vulnerability. Each of us is flawed and has demons to battle, and Charlie's greatest demon resides in a bottle. His battle with alcohol provides a dimension of vulnerability for the character that doesn't translate into weakness and balances with a strong constitution and affinity for truth. I don't view the character as yet another fallen soul that Viki will need to "fix", but rather one who has joined her on a long overdue journey of self-discovery and introspection. NEWBIE GRADE: A. Jared Banks (or Buchanan, or whatever he's calling himself this week) has impressed me much less. After holding high hopes for the character, I find myself fast-forwarding every scene in which he appears. While I haven't completely written the character off, there's little about his back story that Carlivati could pen that would compel to want to learn any more about him. I simply haven't been stirred by the estrangement between father and son with the exception of how Charlie's character has been impacted. I believe connecting two newbies together (as in the case of Charlie and Jared) and creating that strained relationship is much less effective than, let's say, connecting a new character to one who is already established on the canvas. This is why I was truly hoping that Nash would've emerged as Charlie's biological son. Most viewers are highly invested in Nash, and his connection to Jessica and Viki would've created much more storyline potential. I'm willing to give Jared's character a bit more time before I render a final judgment, but only out of respect for Carlivati. As it stands right now, I find Jared brash, annoying, insincere, one-dimensional, and yet another predator who has sucked the brains out of Natalie's head and knocked her better judgment down a few pegs. Worse still, the fact that he has thus far been able to pull the wool over Renee's eyes - not to mention that he has made Bo, Nora and Clint appear foolish and powerless - enables me to view him as disposable. NEWBIE GRADE: C.
RYAN: Tell me how you REALLY feel about Jared, Denise! If only poor Renee could see through Jared's deception as you do. Nonetheless, moving on to my favorite new dining establishment, the Bon-Jour Café, no fewer than four new characters were introduced to us this year: Moe, Gigi, Shane, and Noelle. Quite frankly, I couldn't be happier with these fine additions to the cast. If you would have asked me almost 24 years ago when I started watching these shows if I would have enjoyed seeing four new characters introduced to the show at one time, my answer would have been an emphatic and resounding NO! However, these endearing characters feel like old friends whom I haven't seen in ages. While some are more engaging and interesting than others, I have fallen in love with each of them for different reasons. First, is the beloved chef with a heart of gold, Moe. Sure, he's cranky and a little impatient at times, but doesn't he remind you of Wanda Woleck from years gone past? Wanda wasn't quite as cantankerous as Moe can be, but her affinity for food and for people is what made her so adored. What I like about Moe is that he, like so many of the other new characters, has not been isolated in his Texas kitchen only to interact with his waitresses. Instead, he's shared scenes with favorites David and Dorian. Don't ask me how he will make his way to Llanview, but I can already picture him accepting a job to work at the Palace Hotel Restaurant, the only position that would make him leave his post at the Cafe. He is someone who aspires to great "chef-dom," and if Dorian puts in a good word for him to Renee, I can see that as the reason why Moe would move to Llanview. Seeing him interact with everyone in Llanview and watching him speak his mind would be highly entertaining. Do I see him more than some much-needed comic relief? Not really, but Moe has the potential to be a coveted supporting character. NEWBIE GRADE: B+. Similarly, Noelle is wonderful supporting player who hasn't had much of an opportunity to show viewers what she is all about. She is affable and pleasant and a great friend to Viki and Gigi, someone who can be a reliable sounding board to those with problems, but she has not totally convinced me that she can be successfully transplanted to Llanview. What makes Noelle special is that she doesn't overwhelm the scenes of which she is a part. Instead, she complements them, and that is what a true supporting player does. With a character like Noelle, one who is slowly integrated into the cast, Carlivati affords himself an opportunity to create a wonderful backstory for her dependent upon those she seems to interact well with on the cast. He hasn't committed himself yet to Noelle's past, and that is a wise move on his part. NEWBIE GRADE: B-.
DENISE: You know me, Ry - never one to hold back! On that note, I instantaneously and completely fell in love with Mel (er, I mean Moe!) and his crew at the Bon-Jour Café. His character is full of quirkiness, color and humor, and when he bellows at his employees, viewers know that a huge heart exists underneath his harsh exterior and that he's all bark and no bite. There's something about life at the Bon-Jour Café that brings me back to the Wanda Wolek era, and longtime viewers remember how at one point, everything revolved around who walked in Wanda's door. I think Moe's character possesses "Wanda potential" as a Llanview fixture, is a true scene-stealer, and has been instrumental in the success of the Paris, TX storyline. NEWBIE GRADE: A. Noelle has certainly been the weaker of the Paris, TX characters, but exudes innocence, honesty and modesty...and as a result, has encouraged me to want to learn more about who Noelle is and what makes her tick. She possesses equal parts fire and demureness, and the fact that Noelle has been a background player and hasn't been shoved down my throat is all the more refreshing. NEWBIE GRADE: B. You may recall that I was very skeptical of Gigi's character from the get go. I was vaguely familiar with Farah Fath but knew she would bring a huge fan following to OLTL's canvas, though I really wasn't sure if reality would live up to all the hype when all was said and done. This is one of the few instances where I have been pleasantly surprised by my reaction and growing fondness for Gigi's character. She is a total spitfire and a character that is layered, complex and dynamic. Fath has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to hold her own in scenes with such powerhouse actors as Slezak and Brier, and Gigi's character is strong in her own right, and has dominated the majority of scenes in which she has been featured. I believe tying her to Rex was a brilliant move, and will only serve to cement her character on the canvas and reinvigorate an established one that has been floundering for quite some time. NEWBIE GRADE: A. I've also been pleasantly surprised by my reaction to Shane's character. I normally have very strong feelings about characters in that age group, because they either stand out in a big way...or they come across as annoying props. Shane impresses me. In many ways, he's a boy who's typical for his age, but is living with challenges and fighting obstacles that most of his peers are not, and this is what grabs my attention. Shane will definitely become integral to the canvas presuming he is Rex's son, and may enjoy a long future in Llanview if Carlivati plays his cards right. NEWBIE GRADE: C.
RYAN:Of all the new characters we have talked about, Gigi is by leaps and bounds the most riveting, scene-stealing, and powerful. Here is an instance for which Fath auditioned for the role of Sarah (side note: she dodged a huge bullet by not taking that role!) but was so impressive that Gigi was created just for her. So despite the fact that Fath would have a multi-month break from acting until the role was ready to start airing, the wait was definitely worth it! Gigi is being written in such a way that we have sympathy, compassion, and affection for the character. She is Viki's confidante, and she has taken an active role in helping Marcie evade capture. Imagine the outrage and the wrath she will face from Todd and Blair once they discover she lied to them when they questioned her at the Café about their son's whereabouts! Furthermore, as you mentioned, connecting her to Rex is a stroke of genius! What better way to reinvigorate Rex's character from the abyss of boredom than by connecting him to Gigi and, in all likelihood, Shane. This is a character who is developing ties to so many different characters that she will definitely be the one to watch in 2008! NEWBIE GRADE: A+. The last character I'd like to pay particular attention to is Langston, played by young superstar Brittany Underwood. While Langston is probably past the point of being "new," I'd like to include her on this list because Langston is only just now becoming a prominent figure on the show. As Starr's best friend, she spent the better part of 2007 listening to Starr's relationship woes and being the ol' faithful sidekick. But once viewers discovered that Langston's parents were dead and quickly watched as Dorian became her foster mother, this became a character who suddenly had purpose and made me perk up and watch! As Dorian's "daughter," Langston is everything Adriana is not. Underwood has the acting chops to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Robin Strasser, and I'll bet that once the dust settles and the honeymoon period is over, these two will squabble and bicker like true Cramer women. Underwood is a catch, and OLTL is lucky to have her among the cast. NEWBIE GRADE: A. And now, with those observations out of the way, I suppose I will break the news to everyone that Denise and I have decided that our Two Scoops tenure will be coming to an end. I know, I know, very melancholy news to deliver the week of Christmas, but we are not gone…yet. Each of us will be presenting you with our Best/Worst list of 2007 in the next two weeks, and it is there that we will individually and properly say goodbye. However, I have really enjoyed writing with you, Denise, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the "Roundtable Discussions" this past year! It's been wonderful writing with someone who shares the same enthusiasm about the show as I do.
DENISE: I concur with everything you said about Langston, Ryan. I was impressed with Brittany Underwood from the moment she stepped foot onto OLTL's canvas, but it wasn't until Carlivati began writing that she was rescued from the high school teen scene and given a purpose and direction. Underwood truly blew me away when we watched Langston grapple with the death of her parents and turn to Dorian for comfort, and she makes a fine addition to the Cramer family. She is feisty, vibrant and genuine...and possesses much of that infamous Cramer "fight" which enables her to blend into the clan with ease. The fact that she is Starr's best friend only ups the ante in terms of offshoots of story, so I am highly anticipating what the New Year holds in store for Langston's character. NEWBIE GRADE: A. Ryan, words cannot express my gratitude that we've had an opportunity to share our passion for OLTL in this venue. I am truly humbled and honored to have written with you throughout the year, and the pleasure has been all mine. While it certainly is a bittersweet way to cap 2007, I am confident that future columnists will carry on the legacy which you've worked very hard to establish for nearly six years. I am simply grateful to have shared in this experience with you, and we've created many fond, lasting memories through our joint writing adventures.
We hope that everyone has a very special holiday season and that you and your family are safe and well! Be sure to read our "Best and Worst" lists coming up during the next two weeks.
Ryan and Denise