Best and worst of 2007
For the Week of December 31, 2007
Part one of a two-part look back at the events of the past year in Llanview.
Before I delve into my picks for this year's "Best and Worst" of 2007, I wish to thank all of you for the overwhelming kindness, support and feedback you've provided since I first joined the SOC family as a "Two Scoops" columnist. I am amazed at the passage of time and remain incredulous that a year has lapsed since I first began co-writing with Ryan. I have also been bestowed the incredible opportunity to forge wonderful relationships with many of you upon first joining the SOC board back in December of 2005, and these ties have only strengthened as I made my foray into the "Two Scoops" arena. This particular column truly represents the "Best and Worst" on many levels, because it shall be my last as a weekly columnist. Unfortunately, life has interrupted (which happens sometimes), and other obligations now require my attention and must take precedence. It is a very bittersweet and melancholy way to end the year, both for me on a personal level and because of what OLTL has achieved these past few months. I want to extend a very heartfelt thanks to Dan for granting me the opportunity to write for him, and for his kindness and support throughout the year. I also cannot express enough gratitude to Ryan, because co-writing with him has proven to be an incredible learning experience...and one that was effortless and joyous. Rest assured that you will continue to see me on the boards, popping in from time to time to make my voice heard and sharing some laughs with you about current Llanview happenings. I deeply believe that OLTL is on a road to wellness and will enjoy a prosperous New Year filled with hope and promise. Again, I wish to thank each of you for your support during my tenure with "Two Scoops", and I will forever remain grateful for your generosity. So on that note, here are my picks for the "Best and Worst" of 2007 for OLTL.
THE BEST OF 2007:
1. Birth of a Head Writer.
I recall very few instances throughout the years when the announcement of a new Head Writer brought a sense of excitement and renewed hope to me on a personal level. Perhaps my thirty-plus years as an ABC viewer has made me wary each time we endure a changing of the guard, because sometimes, the devil you know is truly better than the one you don't. In fact, the last time I recall holding any significant appreciation or respect for OLTL's writing team was during the Griffith and Malone era, which continues to represent one of the most significant time periods in OLTL history. Yet from the moment ABC announced Ron Carlivati as Dena Higley's successor, I held nothing but anticipation, joy and enthusiasm...even before the cast publicly praised his skills and talents and prior to all the media buzz that accompanied his appointment as Head Writer. Carlivati began his foray into soap writing in '96 as a writers' assistant for OLTL, before working his way through the ranks, eventually progressing to breakdown writer and Co-Head Writer before assuming the top slot. What impresses me as much as his dedication to the show from a professional standpoint is his dedication to OLTL from a personal standpoint, as he has been a diehard viewer for some thirty years. I maintain that it takes a soap fan to understand the inner workings of a fan's mind, and his writing reflects as much. His material is character-driven, his dialogue is rich, and his understanding of the characters and respect for show history is impressive. He has also demonstrated the ability to take sub-standard material (i.e. the baby Tommy storyline) and make it count for something significant. He has placed the "life" back into "One Life to Live" and shown respect for his cast, crew and viewers in numerous ways, most prominently by acknowledging his veteran actors and penning rich material that honors their extensive talents. I believe Carlivati's tenure will prove to be one of the most memorable in OLTL's history, and while he certainly has his work cut out for him, there is no one I'd rather see at the helm - and in my opinion, no one is more deserving of this position.
2. Asa's Farewell and a Milestone Achievement.
There is simply no easy way to bid farewell to a patriarch. Nothing ever takes the sting out of losing a beloved cast member, and a "one size fits all" conclusion to decades of story and memories does not exist. Yet as much as I was saddened by the departure of Phil Carey, and as deeply as my heart ached as Llanview residents and diehard viewers bid adieu to Asa, I believe his send-off was characterized by honesty, integrity and wit. Tying his farewell into OLTL's 10,000th episode was a brilliant concept, because just as in life, death and birth are part of the same cycle...and Llanview is no exception to that rule. As Llanview mourned the passing of its patriarch and celebrated his life, this event marked a historic milestone as OLTL celebrated 10,000 episodes. While Llanview lost its colorful patriarch, it regained its matriarch as Viki was repositioned as the show's foundational character. What began with Viki now ended with Viki as viewers watched her depart Llaniview for parts unknown. As one chapter closed, another commenced...and that is what happens in life. Asa's passing brought a return of familiar faces, created powerful interactions, and redefined characters and their relationships with one another. The 10,000th episode was a work of art in and of itself, from top-rate writing, direction, acting and editing, and stands as one of the best episodes in OLTL history. Yet what the episode signified and how it tied in the cycle of life for every character on the canvas emerged as the icing on the cake. As Asa's final wishes slowly manifested themselves in weeks to come, it only reinforced that just as in life, he would continue to have the last laugh. So while nothing could ease the pain of his loss, viewers took solace in the fact that Asa's presence would never fade and instead served as a catalyst to the show's rebirth.
3. A Beauty Awakens.
While Nora's awakening wasn't laden with a romantic kiss or a storybook ending, she, just like her fairy-tale counterpart, lay at the mercy of Disney. Backstage happenings superceded all onscreen drama when Hillary B. Smith's fans watched in horror as her onscreen alter ego was shoved on the back-burner in 2005...which just so happened to coincide with the expiration of her current contract. Viewers then breathed a sigh of relief when Smith granted the network a one-year extension, which required they "put up or shut up" in terms of her character. While Smith was hardly seen or heard during that one year extension, fans jumped for joy when the announcement broke that a four-year deal was reached between the actor and ABC, after much negotiation. Yet fans' enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment, as Nora lie comatose for the first few months of Smith's new contract term. Things continued to look bleak even after Nora awakened, though viewers were treated to Smith's technical expertise on occasion as she utilized her real life experience with facial paralysis and wove that into Nora's physical recovery. Critics and fans alike voiced exasperation as Smith was squandered, yet renewed hope finally emerged as a change in Head Writers transpired. While Nora remains far from front-burner, somehow, and in some way, viewers never stopped believing that she would endure. Just like Smith, Nora is a fighter...and fans of both actor and character never stopped battling on her behalf. Llanview regained its legal eagle, Nora has begun a journey of rebirth and self-discovery, and viewers learned that their actions continue to make a difference.
4. Europe Meets Texas.
The Paris, TX storyline has represented a true breakout storyline for OLTL. Years lapsed when characters wandered aimlessly, being joined only by some contrived plot-driven event that had a fleeting impact on the canvas. The only storyline I can recall in recent years which provided as much of an umbrella effect and wove together as many characters as Paris, TX is that of the "Train Wreck" from 2000. Asa's passing and Viki's departure served as a catalyst to this phenomenal storyline, which is redefining characters, connecting past with present, and paving the way for unlimited offshoots of story in '08. I've been so engrossed with the goings-on at the Bon-Jour Café that I've hardly missed Llanview at all. If you can't bring Mohammed to the mountain, then bring the mountain to Mohammed....and that's exactly what Carlivati did by weaving the bulk of his characters into this storyline. He also created a mix of colorful new characters who won fans' hearts from the onset. Yet Carlivati has deliberately kept these characters in a supporting capacity and enabled them to shine without detracting from "Viki's new adventure." This story singlehandedly thrust Erika Slezak into the forefront and repositioned Viki as the show's nucleus. Viki has embarked on a path of introspection, and viewers are sharing in her journey every step of the way. She is redefining her purpose in life, rediscovering love and her sense of self worth, and has ceased living for her children or blaming herself for their shortcomings. Equally significant has been watching Carlivati take Higley's material (i.e. the baby Tommy fiasco) and make it count for something substantive. This storyline possesses just the right blend of drama, humor, suspense and fantasy and is classic "soapy" material at its best. Viewers feel they are being entertained for the first time in years, and this storyline has signified a true rebirth for OLTL.
THE WORST OF 2007:
1. OPP and Anything Tate.
What saddens me most about this failure of a storyline is that it truly held great potential. Longtime viewers remember Carla Gray, one of Agnes Nixon's first African-American characters who assumed a Caucasian identity in order to blend into Llanview's WASP community. The OPP storyline held a great deal of promise, because it could've been utilized as a vehicle to reestablish cultural, ethnic and religious diversity on the canvas, which comprises Nixon's vision and is integral to OLTL's history. This would've been a prime opportunity to explore the racial prejudice which Evangeline faced as a young girl, and that which likely fueled an interest in legal defense as a career path. The OPP saga could've also repositioned R.J.'s character as a force to be reckoned with on the canvas, and his absence from the story when Nora and Matthew nearly succumbed to the arsonist was glaring and highly disappointing. This story represents the antithesis of the Paris, TX storyline, because it failed to weave major characters together in any meaningful manner; nor did it create significant offshoots of story at the time and was devoid of any suspense, drama or excitement. Worse still, it disintegrated into a plot point that centered on Adriana, which is a character that the majority of viewers never warmed up to or became vested in, and the entire saga came across as a disingenuous attempt to create an "umbrella" effect merely to pacify viewers and critics and save a sinking Head Writer.
2. The Destruction of Bo Buchanan.
Does anyone recall when Llanview's top cop was an independent thinker and capable of making a rational decision? It has truly been painful to watch Clint's younger brother unravel, because I no longer recognize the character who stands before me. And no, I'm not referring to the sincere compassion and olive branch of friendship that he's extended to Lindsay as of late. Bo is simply not likable anymore, and with the exception of his fathering capabilities and newfound empathy for Lindsay, I can no longer find any redeeming attributes within him. Perhaps it's the fact that he treats his ex-wife like garbage, and holds Nora to higher standards than anyone else in life. Maybe it's the fact that he enters relationships with women, such as Paige, who are weak, spineless and deceitful. Perhaps it's the fact that he often chastises members of his police force for committing the same actions he does, in order to save face and keep his relatives out of jail. Or maybe it's because he simply didn't feel like making the trek to Texas for the reading of his father's will, which I found inexcusable. The bottom line is that Bo's heart has hardened to a degree where he comes across as one-dimensional, cocky and devoid of any growth or consistency. This is truly a shame, because I've always held a soft spot in my heart for Llanview's Police Commissioner. In my opinion, he needs a character makeover and attitude adjustment pronto...because I'm about to write him off for good.
3. Contrived Exits.
There's something about a character lapsing into a coma or watching a car plunge off a cliff that takes years off my life. As a seasoned soap viewer, I understand writers are limited in terms of plausible character exits. That aside, we fell victim to two of daytime's worst character departures in '07: Evangeline lapsing into a coma and Marty (allegedly) being incinerated. Renee Elise Goldsberry deserved a much better send-off than she received, and at the very least, was entitled to one that honored what she brought to the network, the unwavering effort she put forth in her role, and one that respected her fans. So when Evangeline lapsed into a coma after the arsonist struck Cris' loft, I simply cringed. What made matters worse is that viewers had just endured this nonsense with Nora's character, and Goldsberry's departure was further exacerbated by Trevor St. John's tenuous status with OLTL. This was a lazy, cheap and malicious way to pen Evangeline's exit, and the only comfort I received was knowing that Goldsberry had received an Emmy nomination for the stellar effort she put forth during her tenure with the show. Further, do any of you truly believe that Marty died in the van fire? Perhaps if cyberspace weren't flooded with rumors of Susan Haskell's return, I might have objected a bit less to how Marty exited the canvas. While most viewers maintain that Christina Chambers was miscast, Marty's character bears great historical significance and certainly the show could've placed more effort into penning a better exit. Quite frankly, this was also very disrespectful to Chambers, who placed everything she had into the role and fought a continuous losing battle with critics and fans. ABC needs to take a cue from rival soaps and learn a lesson or two about character exits, because the lack of creativity OLTL typically places into departures has enraged fan bases and further strained its relations with viewers.
4. Trilogy of Terror.
If I am ever forced to endure another round of the Nash/Jessica/Antonio debacle, I may find myself admitted to St. Anne's for psychiatric evaluation. This is the love triangle that simply refused to die, and I've yet to regain interest in either Nash's or Jessica's characters since this nightmare commenced. Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water, we were forced to endure more mind-numbing drivel with Jessica's illness. If anything positive emerged from this storyline, it is that Antonio's character has finally broken free of an ill-fated union, and his budding relationship with Talia promises to be "one to watch" for 2008. I also developed newfound respect for Antonio as a result of Jessica's ill treatment of him, and I've found myself rooting for him against all odds. Another unfortunate aspect of this mess consists of the fact that Forbes March is grossly under-utilized. Nash's character still possesses no back story, and he has disintegrated into an appendage of Jessica and no longer packs the "oomph" that he did when he first hit the canvas. Worse still, I'm uncertain if Jessica's character will ever rebound from this fiasco of a storyline...and the recent mention of Tess' name is enough to make me shudder.
Happy New Year, Everyone! I raise a glass of toast to you and your families, and I wish all of you a very safe, healthy and prosperous 2008.
Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of soapcentral.com or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen, what has happened, and to take a look at the logistics of it all. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same view point.