Welcome to the Two Scoops auditions, Soap Central fans. In our first sample, Michael has offered up a column for your enjoyment.
And our second sample column this week comes from Lesette. You will find it immediately following Michael's column below.
Maybe it's me, but that's gotta be a heck of a way for any new writing team to have to come in to a television show: "A psychopath is holding the heroine at gunpoint on a high balcony in a windy night, and…GO!" Yes, dears, we've been lucky so far but that dread hour is finally upon us; according to the opening credits, the week of February 17th was the first week that the infamous "scabs" (oh, sorry, I mean "financial-core writers") wrote for One Life to Live during the Writer's Strike of 2007-2008. We are now left in the capable (or if not capable, at least lighthearted) hands of former Executive Producer-turned-staff writer Gary Tomlin, along with a few stalwart, concerned members of Ron Carlivati's writing team, to steer the show through this turbulence…well, them, and possibly also a few part-time bartenders or janitors. From now until at least April or May, to paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve, "fasten your seatbelts" -- it's going to be at least a somewhat bumpy night. Month. Months. Whatever. Anyway, here's my take on this week.
Whether or not you saw it coming for the character, Jared's death-defying rescue of Jessica and plunge over the balcony with Alison nipping at his heels was the height of drama. Jessica did little more than shake her blonde tresses, looking and acting for all the world like a 21st Century Tina Lord, and Charlie stepped in to do the real heavy lifting. It was a testament to Brian Kerwin's tremendous talent that he somehow managed to give an emotional tearjerker of a speech while simultaneously trying to save a man from certain death. Meanwhile, Alison's snide jabs as she clung to Jared as the "dead weight" ("oh, do you mean me?") were priceless. Ever since her first fateful return in 2001 there has always been a sense of deathless, "lost in time" evil to Alison Perkins, even in her funniest moments, so isn't it appropriate that she would defy time, and justice, and yes, Jessica, once more to get the last word? No prison can hold her, and sheer forces of nature cannot stop her hatred, and so Alison had to go splat. And she's still not dead! Like Han Solo at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, she's just chilling out for a while, possibly until they write the rest of the story after the strike. I have a couple ideas on what Alison's secret(s) really are, but I'm savin' 'em up.
Dorian, of course, couldn't be bothered with her co-conspirators' brushes with death. She was busy running around the deserted Ball giving a comic timing acting class, courtesy of Robin Strasser. Virtually every move Dorian made, every action she took, every mincing step or leading question, was pure comedy. Whether she was working her way up to bribing the security personnel for the Palace's surveillance tapes, or primly trying to keep Roxy from bogarting all the secrets in the "Get It Off Your Chest" boxes, Dorian was on point all week long. When she laid down the law with Jared and Charlie to stop them from spilling the beans about their true heritage, you saw the character's strengths in full flight. When written right, Dorian is not the cartoon villain or stereotypical witch she is often mistaken for by lazy scribes, but rather a grand diva and master manipulator. Dorian is best when you can't totally guess her motives or plans, and unlike with past so-called "umbrella stories" like that of supervillains Spencer Truman or Mitch Laurence, Dorian is the one in control here, running the show, and she won't let any mere man forget it. You go, girl!
This being the first week of "financial core" writers, I didn't expect anything terribly groundbreaking or innovative, especially from Gary Tomlin, the man who brought us Todd's "Mexican mariachi band" hallucinations during the infamous "dead baby lie" of 2002. Color me shocked, then, when we got to see Todd and Blair…having an adult discussion. Talking about the changes and permutations in their new relationship. How it's developed and changed over the years. How he's changed. How Todd can no longer be the same bloodthirsty wild man who would go after Lee Ramsey with both barrels, and possibly a machete or plastic explosives. And why? Because he has his family, his children, and while he loves them, Todd still, after all this time, feels unworthy of love…and feels that he is a liability to them as long as Ramsey is gunning for him. As a longtime viewer, I understand as well as anyone else many fans' fatigue with Todd and Blair and their endless on-again off-again relationship. I've felt it myself many, many times. However, what Ron Carlivati and his writing team have done in six months is nothing short of a miracle to me. I find Todd and Blair today to be relatable, behaving in character, and rootable for the first time in a long time. All it took was a little less airtime, a little less uncharacteristic romantic hyperbole (Todd and Blair are not Bo and Hope Brady), and a lot more simple honesty from the writers as well as from the characters, about who they were, where they've been, and what they feel about each other and about themselves. In the last few years, Todd has lounged in the numb warmth of self-pity and cried over the ridiculous situations he's found himself in, but he's rarely looked inward at his true worst enemy: Himself. Ron Carlivati's writing team, both before and after the strike began, as well as pitch-perfect performances from the actors, have brought back not only Todd's soul but the Mannings' classic rapport, and both were on full display this week as Todd and Blair hashed out the issues that Ramsey's promotion raised, and resolved to face them together. Hopefully, none of their solutions will involve Kassie DePaiva singing country western music.
Speaking of Lee Ramsey, how about that? There's a new sheriff in town, and he likes to take potshots at women and children. But it's amazing what a promotion and a new haircut can do, because suddenly I find myself really enjoying Hunt Block's previously thankless role as the cold federal fish. Ramsey becoming Commissioner brings to mind memories of the early Herb Callison coming to power, or psychotic Alex Olanov becoming Mayor of Llanview, both excellent examples for the writers to draw from. I consider Commissioner Lee Ramsey to be a master stroke of plotting. With Ramsey in place at the LPD, cleaning out Bo's desk, even (gasp!) threatening to take down Bo's picture of the deceased NYPD officer in the corridor, the sometimes-sanctimonious good and decent of Llanview no longer have what Ramsey called "my huggable predecessor" to count on anymore. Nor can Antonio ("I shot my ex-wife's stepfather in the head") or John ("I keep wrongfully convicted Death Row prisoners' wives warm for them") depend on his endless indulgence. "I'm not Uncle Cop," he warned Natalie and Jessica, and he meant it. Like Todd said, with Ramsey in control, everything about Llanview changes. And I'm loving it. Convict me, Hunt Block! I deserve it!
Starr's junior bitch meltdown ended in a flameout when she discovered the truth about her surprise party. And look! It's another unlikely celebrity guest! Now, I love Mary J. Blige, but I always think it's incongruous when soap operas have wonderful performers of color on their shows bringing down the house like she did, and then the crowds are packed with mostly lily-white Anglo-Saxon faces. Ms. Mary is supposedly a longtime fan of One Life to Live, which is why she's appeared twice now in two years; don't we owe her, as a devoted fan, more African-American representation on the show? Don't we owe our own multi-cultural audience that too? No, not Vincent, God forbid, and I'd prefer anyone but the Williamsons personally, but whatever happened to R.J.? Rachel? The Halls? I'll even take a Price or a Nichols! Kerry Nichols can do another Gulf War rap! If there's one big complaint I have about OLTL in 2008, and I have relatively few, it's about the lack of diversity, and that stood out like a sore (Caucasian) thumb at Starr's party. Get on it, Frank Valentini! Chop chop! Fire Michael Easton if you have to, I don't mind!
The saving grace of this storyline is the consistently uneasy, tottering relationship between BFF "sisters" Starr and Langston, as Starr slowly rouses from the milquetoast romantic stupor Dena Higley left her character in, and begins to blossom anew as the young she-wolf she was destined to be. The writing for Starr now is genius, and organically realistic: Starr wants to be good and kind, to be Cole's high school sweetheart, but her truest nature, her Manning and Cramer genes, rebel against blind acceptance of the facts at face value, and refuse to accept anything but getting what she wants in any given situation. Langston, who had to fight to survive, knows better, and even dimwit Cole, having suffered the loss of his mother, knows that in life you don't always get what you want. Together, these three may have averted one disaster, but they are clearly still set on a collision course. My advice to Langston: Avoid the Reptile Round-Up.
I like Sarah. I really do. And I think Cristian's an okay guy. Boring, yes, made of cardboard, yes, but a sweet man. And I think they're sweet together, if pretty boring, and that their romance has been carefully executed and gently written. But for God's sake: Who on Earth leaves spilled ice cream and cake on hardwood floors in the apartment you share with other people?! Are they toddlers?! Are they five years old?! What was that?! Do you think you get away with anything when you're in flagrante delicto? For once, I sympathized with Layla and Vincent. If I was her, I would've marched into Sarah's room, woken the two horndogs up, and made them lick it all up with their tongues. I ain't havin' that.
The week started on gunplay and ended on breakfast, breakfast, and more breakfast, and I couldn't be happier for it. Why? Because, as is so increasingly, delightfully common under the reign of Ron Carlivati, we get to see people doing what soaps are really all about: Living life. The Buchanans wake up to the sun differently than the Lords or the Cramers do, and they each relate differently. Their worlds - Cole and Langston's, Clint and Nora's, Viki and Charlie's, Jared and Natalie's, Adriana and Rex's, Gigi and Shane's - all interact differently around their various tables. This simple domesticity, this sense of home, family, and history, has lasted into the dog days of the Writer's Strike, and for that I am extremely grateful. I hope the solid quality continues until we get Carlivati and his full crew back, and I eagerly await more development with Jared and Natalie's forbidden love next week, along with the revelation of exactly what, as Ramsey called it, "the power vacuum in Llanview" after the death of ol' Asa has done to Buchanan Enterprises and the family this time. Not everybody was in the writers' bullpen last week, but it's still a brand new day in Llanview, and you shouldn't miss a minute of it.
In our second sample, Lesette has offered up a column for your enjoyment.
Jared is such a romantic. What better way to win a girl's heart than to save her sister from a raving lunatic? The faux Buchanan told Natalie that he loved her right before he saved Jessica from a gun-wielding Alison Perkins. But no good deed goes unpunished in Llanview as Jared and Alison fell off a balcony at the Palace Hotel. Luckily, his real father Charlie saved him.
As for Alison, she's pretty much a goner. The doctors claim she doesn't have long to live. But on OLTL the trend is to vegetate. Think about it: Victor Lord, Ben Davidson, Evangeline, Nora and the list goes on. This show rarely kills off a character, well, at least not the first time anyway. So for those mourning the death of Marty Saybrooke, keep hope alive.
Once the ordeal was over, Jared and Charlie were hailed as heroes. While Jared is becoming less and less irritating, he's still an opportunistic liar. What's more important, buddy? Is it Nat or the Buchanan riches? But signs of a conscience are starting to peak through. He might have told the truth if it weren't for that meddling Dorian, who told him to keep mum. Dorian has her eye on Charlie (Viki's man). Do you remember when she once accused Viki of not having a life? But Dorian's life seems to revolve around Viki. She's dated Viki's ex-hubbie (Clint) and son (Joey). Their rivalry also extends to matters of real estate (after years of trying to steal Llanfair from Viki, she relents, buys another house and names it Laboule. Technically, Starr is the owner, but that's another story). Memo to Dorian: Viki is Llanview's darling. You're no match for her!
Meanwhile Lindsay and Nora were at it again. Nora was thisclose to finding Lindsay's written confession that she faked insanity to avoid jail time for killing Dr. Evil (a.k.a Spencer Truman). In one of the funniest moments at the "Go Red" ball, Lindsay found the confession and swallowed it. She really is capable of anything. Of course, Ms. Do-Right Nora (and I say that lovingly) was more than a little ticked.
Elsewhere in Llanview, lust was in the air as Sarah and Cristian made love for the first time. They're cute enough, but they don't ooze sexual chemistry. Maybe it was the setting that made me misjudge these two. Traditional soap couples make love in stables, on beaches and hot tubs. Even a well-lit cave is a mood-enhancer. Sarah's room looked as if Ratatouille had ransacked it. After a night of passion, the duo grabbed dessert (in the buff) only to be caught by Vincent and Layla, who were spared the full frontal because Sarah/Cris covered up in $3.99 paper towels.
Talia and Antonio were also trying to hook up, but they were interrupted by Jamie. That Talia is one lucky lady. She gets hunky Antonio and his cutie-pie daughter.
And as usual, Todd was giving Blair grief. Really he was covering up the fact that he's afraid that Psycho Commish Ramsey might hurt his family. Ramsey even left a calling card - a bullet in Todd and Blair's bed. Yes, Todd has every right to be worried. Starr, on the hand, was happy that she was wrong about Langston and Cole. I think her happiness might be short-lived.
Finally, Rex seems to be ecstatic that Charlie is his "father," but the fumbling P.I. doesn't seem to be 100 percent sure. Will a breakfast fork lead him to the truth? But I can't feel sorry for Rex. He and Adriana lied about Sam for more than a year. What goes around comes around.
And just a little about me: One Life To Live is one of my favorite soaps. As a kid in the 1980s, I fell in love with Tina & Cord and Gabrielle & Max. Nothing will ever compare to Viki's first battle royale with Niki Smith. And where else can you find families like the Buchanans, Lords, Cramers and Vegas? I look forward to sharing my two cents about OLTL with you.