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 Two Scoops: January 7, 2008 columns
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Erika Slezak
Best and worst of 2007
For the Week of January 7, 2008
Part two of a special two-part look back at the events of the past year in Llanview.
THE BEST OF 2007:

1. The Redefining of Viki.

There is no mistaking the fact that Viki has not been a central figure on OLTL for a number of years. Whether that is former Head Writer Dena Higley's fault or someone with even more authority at ABC than her (i.e. Brian Frons), it doesn't really matter because Fall of 2007 marked the return of Viki Davidson to the forefront. Remember the days when every Sweeps period revolved around a "Viki-centric" story? Whether it was Viki/Niki or grieving over Megan's death or traveling to Eterna or becoming Mayor of Llanview, Erika Slezak always delivered the goods and made everyone CARE about Viki and her myriad problems/conflicts. So it with great enthusiasm that I now tune in and see Viki in a situation we've never seen before---serving coffee at a café in Texas! After yet another confrontation with arch-rival Dorian, Viki abruptly left Llanview to rediscover herself and to determine what the course of the rest of her life would be. The best part about Viki's redefinition is that she has made new friends and she has found love in a place she never expected to find it! Considering that Viki is one of the core characters in Llanview's history, it is so refreshing and exciting to see her take her rightful place in the spotlight once again.

2. Diversity on OLTL.

Never before have I been so thrilled to see so many characters on a screen throughout any given week! In the Dena Higley era of writing, she only featured "her favorites" (and those favorites were VERY obvious). Anyone else whom she wasn't fond of didn't get a crumb from which to feed. It was that simple. In the Ron "I bow at your feet" Carlivati era, he has spread that wealth of stories around to the whole cast. We still see Jess and Nash, Cristian, John, Natalie, Todd, and Blair---but the entire focus of the show no longer revolves around them. Instead, several key stories are created to infuse rich characterization and to promote diversity among the cast. Before, I rarely saw Viki or Nigel or Marcie, but now these characters are FEATURED players! I see so much nonsense on the message boards about "diversity" equating to "racial equality," and how OLTL is lacking in this area. Well, I've been there and done that with that conversation, and it's just a ludicrous and outrageous claim to make. Sure, certain characters have more screen time now than others, but that is how it will always be no matter who assumes the reigns as Head Writer. However, OLTL is now a show that I can turn on and watch a diverse cast immersed in numerous different stories. Before, if I didn't like a couple of key "favorites" of Dena Higley, there might be entire episodes I would fast forward. Now, I still have characters who don't "do it" for me, but in fast forwarding through those scenes, it is just a small fraction of any given episode. OLTL is like a buffet---so many great characters and stories to pick from (and sometimes I don't know where to start!), but if I don't feel like choosing one of them, I simply move on to the next. His focus on the core families that make up OLTL's rich history is a testament to this writer's commitment to allowing OLTL to recapture the glory of its yesteryear. Bravo!

3. Langston Becomes a Cramer.

Isn't it funny how just the right combination of characters can instantly make one of them stand out and come to life in a way that was never seen before? Take Langston, Starr's best friend and side-kick, who was the true definition of a wallflower for many months. As Starr battled her own demons and struggled in her relationship with Cole, Langston was the sounding board. She didn't have a story of her own, and she was a quiet, reserved young girl with seemingly little purpose at Llanview High. That all changed when viewers discovered that her parents were dead and Langston was living at home by herself for the last year! The moment Robin Strasser entered the scene and lovingly welcomed Langston into her Cramer clan, Langston burst with charisma and "watchability." This story is special because it not only gives the talented and beautiful Brittany Underwood a chance to show viewers that she is a wonderful actress but it also softens Dorian's character. We're so used to seeing Dorian complain and bicker with Viki or yell at Blair about something Todd did (or didn't do), but it is rare to see Dorian act in a genuinely compassionate manner as she's done with Langston. I believe that she will mold Langston to be the Cramer daughter that Adriana and Cassie never were, and the two of them will be a force to behold in 2008.

4. Woman (and Killer) of the Year.

Honestly, when Spencer Truman was murdered, I cracked open a bottle of wine and toasted whoever was responsible for finally putting me out of my misery! So, I didn't care if Paige, Rex, Todd, or some orderly stabbed that screen-hog to death. And, frankly, I didn't care if Dena Higley EVER resolved it. All I knew is that Spencer Truman was out of my life for good. But when Ron Carlivati came on board and swiftly resolved this story by…gasp!…making my beloved Catherine Hickland's character the cold-blooded killer, I felt a rush of excitement. Specifically, Carlivati's timing in connecting the long-awaited reveal with Lindsay's Woman of the Year award ceremony was genius. Lindsay's character has languished on the backburner ever since the death of her daughter, Jen. And even though she has since acted as a surrogate mother to Marcie McBain and grandmamma to little Tommy, Lindsay never had a real story to call her own…until this point. The transformation of Lindsay Rappaport has been slow but steady. Furthermore, there has not been a resounding or overwhelmingly positive reception from die-hard fans who still cannot forgive Lindsay for her past crimes against Nora, but the redemption sure made sense to me. So when Nora was forced to present her arch-nemesis with this prestigious award (oh, the sweet irony!) and then Lindsay was later arrested on the spot for Spencer's murder, OLTL was immediately on the up-swing. This story is not only one of my "best" ones for 2007 because it gave Catherine Hickland the opportunity to strut her stuff by giving some of the best acting scenes of her career (I personally cannot wait to see her give her Emmy acceptance speech!), but it also connected Spencer's story to that of Baby Tommy and his true parentage---a story that still continues. Carlivati knows how to weave characters into each other's stories, and that is the reason this story worked so well. And the best part? Lindsay's role in the murder still isn't resolved, which means there's more to this than meets the eye! I, for one, am excited for the ride.

5. Roxy Falls in Love

Ilene Kristen's quirky character has sat idly on the backburner for so long, I was starting to give up hope that she would ever regain a position on the show. But to my surprise (!), Roxy has formed an unlikely relationship with Miles, someone who I had practically written off as being an "expendible" character. But this duo has proven that all a good writer has to do is find two actors with some amazing chemistry, test them out, and see what happens. In this case, the on-screen presence that Kristen and David Chisum surprised many (including me), and I think that Miles might be the man to soften Roxy and make her a force in Llanview once again. I'm also thrilled that Chisum and Kristen have found a niche in Llanview all their own. It's well-deserved!

6. The Saga of Baby Tommy

Every soap needs a great "umbrella story," one that encompasses the entire cast in one way or another, and this is that story. What makes it one of the "best" is that it has high-stakes drama that forces viewers to take sides. And have viewers taken sides! Wow! From what I've seen, viewers either totally sympathize with Marcie and her plight or they want to see her pay for kidnapping Todd's son. I, for one, see that there is so much middle ground actually being covered that it makes it tough for me to totally put my support with Marcie (because I can see that Todd has a right to know his child) or totally put my support with Todd (because I know that Marcie has loved this child and treated him as her own for such a long time that there is an element of "unfairness" to her as well). When a writer can present both sides to a story with so many moral and ethical dilemmas, he is doing a great job. Few stories on soaps these days extend for more than a few weeks (or months), at best. But this story has been one in the making for a couple of YEARS now. And the longer the story goes on, the more invested viewers become with "choosing their side." Ultimately, there cannot be a happy ending to this story, and that is the tragedy that I know is coming, but a story filled with so much emotion for so many characters is one I will support in a heartbeat (and isn't this much better than the Summer of Santi? Good grief!)

7. David and Alex Tie the Knot

Was there anything funnier this past year than the hilarity of watching David and Alex scheme one another for money that neither one of them actually had? Tuc Watkins is comedy personified, and Tonja Walker is a breath of fresh air---put the two of them together, and you've got a comedy that is funnier than most primetime sitcoms. Alex as a sex-deprived junkie, and David as a "do-gooder" trying to live up to Viki's expectations of him as a responsible citizen made for just the right comedic balance to the show's serious drama. One of the best moments of this was when the two characters were standing at the altar thinking in their minds why they were really going forward with the ceremony. I haven't laughed this hard (out loud) in a long time. Sending Alex away with Nigel's inheritance and watching David gleefully take his $1.00 lottery ticket winnings in a quest to do something great with it were both excellent ways to send both characters off of the canvas. I particularly like how the audience was duped into assuming that David scratched a huge windfall from the lottery ticket. Instead, we realized that in David's eyes, this winning (whether large or small) was only big or small in the eyes of the beholder. David turned a new leaf here by looking at $1.00 and thinking in his mind that this could be his true ticket to wealth depending on how he chose to spend that money. I can't wait to see what $1.00 will buy him on his next visit back to Llanview.



THE WORST OF 2007:

1. Prom Night: The Musical

Whoever at ABC thought that devoting several episodes to a high school musical filled with numbers sung by actors with marginal singing talent was a good idea must have been suffering from a severe hangover! I mean, seriously, I was cringing for those poor actors and actresses who were forced to belt out songs that probably made them so utterly uncomfortable. This whole production probably sounded great on paper, but in execution, it was a complete flop! For special episodes like this, the only person who ever successfully pulled them off was Gary Tomlin, who helmed "Trading Places" and "Babes Behind Bars" during his tenure as Executive Producer. But this fiasco was D.O.A. from the moment it hit screen. Kathy Brier, who has a luminous voice, is the only person who came close to salvaging this high school disaster, but even she couldn't keep this clunker from sinking. I know that "High School Musical" and "High School Musical 2" are wildly successful and popular with the youth, but when I tuned into the second film when it premiered on cable television, I was horrified at how corny, trivial, and cheesy the whole thing was. If that franchise was the impetus for OLTL's version of high school musicals, shame on the person who was responsible for greenlighting this. The money spent on producing these episodes could have been spent trying to lure back Andrea Evans as Tina or keeping Renee Goldsberry as Evangeline.

2. Miles Blackmails Marty

This was a recipe for disaster from the moment the two characters shared a scene. First is the fact that Christina Chambers (a gorgeous, beautiful actress completely miscast for this part) was never accepted as Marty Saybrooke. Next is this new guy somehow related to Mitch Lawrence but connected to Spencer Truman, who most viewers abhorred. Unaccepted recast role + unaccepted new role = one of Ryan's "worst picks" for 2007! I think one of the biggest problems about this story is that Miles was never fully understood by viewers. Was he a good guy/villain/somewhere in between? His motives and his presence were felt with trepidation and uncertainty, so when he suddenly turned into a weird blackmailer who was essentially holding the secret of Marty's possible connection to Spencer's murder over head in exchange for marriage (and then some…)…it was just EWWWWW! I did enjoy watching the confrontational moments between Cole and Miles, but the entire premise was so ludicrous that it made complete sense for Cole, John, and the rest of Llanview to scratch their heads and utter "Huh?" when they found out the news about the sudden marriage between these two strangers. Talk about a contrived story!

3. The Snoozefest of Rex and Adriana

Even when Dorian paid a stalker to terrorize her daughter so that it might break these two lovebirds apart, there was not enough drama or suspense to make me root for these two. John Paul Lavoissier is a funny, engaging actor, but his talents are squandered in a storyline with Adriana, who never gelled with viewers the way different writers probably hoped. This is not to say that Melissa Gallo Fumero is an incapable actress, because she's not (and her recent Bitchslapping session with Kassie DePaiva's character is evidence of that), but the character is one that never generated steam. It was a lackluster role from the beginning, and regardless of what actress played the role, it never appeared to me to be one that would skyrocket (it also appears Sarah Roberts may be another role that suffers from the same situation). As a result, Rex has been paired with a stone wall--the adventure and spontaneity that Rex thrives on is not being met in his storyline (and I use that word loosely) with Adriana. Rumor has it that Adriana will depart Llanview in 2008, and while I wish the best for Gallo-Fumero, I certainly can't say that I'm disappointed to see Adriana exit the canvas. It's time to see Rex become a powerful young force on the show now!

4. Renee Takes Stupid Pills!

Poor Patricia Elliot! That woman must cringe when she reads her scripts and sees what a brainless twit Renee has become. For a woman who manages a prestigious hotel/restaurant and probably deals with all sorts of schemers and moochers, she sure can't pull it together to see what is staring right at her in her own house (well, Nora's house, but why quibble…)! Renee is one of the kindest, most generous women in Llanview. She has been through hell and back, and after the debacle of surrogate son Max Holden trying to pass himself off as her and Asa's real son a number of years ago, I thought that she would have learned her lesson. But fast-forward, and here is the woman once again stock piling the stupid pills and inviting complete strangers to live with her based on a supposed "resemblance" to her deceased husband. I mean, are you KIDDING ME?! I would expect this from someone like Natalie, but not a smart, experienced woman like Renee. I think that what bothers me the most is knowing that I have to sit through the fall-out that will eventually result from this. To know that I will have to see Renee be humiliated and embarrassed again because of her too-trusting-for-Llanview personality is something that I can definitely do without. The only way to salvage any self-respect for the character is to allow HER to come to the eventual realization that Jared is not the true Buchanan heir instead of being told from someone much smarter and intuitive.

5. Todd and Blair Get Married Part 23!

Can I tell you how completely OVER this couple I am? Good lord, if I have to endure the on-again/off-again or I-trust-you/no-I-don't status of this couple one more time, I may really throw a chair through my 65-inch television screen! I really might do it (and then it will take Best Buy another 3 months to fix it, but that's another rant for another time…)! At one time during my OLTL viewing experience, I was a huge supporter of this couple. I felt that their long history with one another coupled with the devotion that they have towards their children for the most part cancelled out any juvenile tendencies that each of them showed towards the other in their love life. But all of that started to change beginning with Margaret Cochrin, continuing through Spencer Truman, and ending with Evangeline Williamson. I just have had it with the monotony of this "power-couple." For a split second, I had a brief glimmer of hope when Todd's character was inching towards a romantic relationship with good friend Evangeline. Although I still to this day am not sure I would have been invested in a full-fledged romantic relationship between the two, I was at least riveted to the television set because of the dynamic rapport that these two actors had with one another. I always felt (and still do) that Todd needs a best friend, someone with whom he can confide in and share his innermost thoughts to---someone besides his sister or his wife! There are times when someone just needs that one person completely unrelated to him or her to talk to and to get a clear, objective opinion from, and Evangeline was that person for Todd for a while. But with her disappearance from the canvas, Todd was conveniently paired with his ex-wife once again. All I can say is: BORING!



My Final Thoughts:

Five and a half years ago, I began writing for Soap Central and through analyzing the characters and the crazy plots, I started to fall in love with this daytime genre all over again. I have given almost 25 years of my life to watching beloved characters plummet over waterfalls in Argentina, travel back in time to the Wild West, discover underground cities, come back from the dead (sometimes more than once!), go to Heaven, and even administer mind-altering drugs. Especially during the last five years, I have had a tumultuous ride as I experienced the highs and lows of this soap under the penmanship of various writers. I have campaigned (hard) for certain actors to be given the screentime that is due to them, and I have both praised and criticized the show when it was deserved. Although I may not have always written what was popular among the masses watching the show, I always wrote what I honestly felt at the time my fingers pecked away at the computer keys. As an English and Journalism teacher, I discovered that being able to write in this venue was a creative outlet for me, and I have forged some wonderful relationships with many individuals as a result of my writing Two Scoops. What began as an individual column entitled "Only in Llanview" eventually merged to a "Roundtable Discussion" that allowed me to share my thoughts and opinions about the show with other writers (Denise and Dawn, specifically) in a relaxed, conversational manner that really made me look forward to the end of the week when I could talk about what I loved and hated about Llanview. Most importantly, the feedback from you, the readers, was what I really valued. Although I may not have always had an opportunity to answer every single email I would receive, be assured that I read with rapt attention every message that was sent to me (the good, the bad, AND the ugly!). Thank you for sharing your own views and opinions with me and for being fans of the show. At a time when viewership among all daytime dramas is dwindling, it is important that WE save the genre from extinction by supporting it in every way possible. No daytime drama will ever be perfect, nor will it ever appeal to everyone; nonetheless, if we want to ensure that OLTL reaches not only its 40th Anniversary next year but its 50th Anniversary, we must rally together and support the actors, writers, directors, and producers of this beloved serial. Criticize what you do not like or enjoy, but be equally effusive in praising what you DO enjoy. And most importantly, tune in and watch the show. Watch what you enjoy and skip what you don't, that's always been my philosophy, but we must stick together to save a genre that I'm fearful of losing in the future. Thank you all for your support during my writing tenure, and--who knows?---perhaps I'll be back from time to time to fill in during a pinch.

Have a happy and healthy 2008!

Most Sincerely,

Ryan


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.



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