Yeah, look, let's face it -- there's only so many Halloween-themed titles out there. It's a dry market. I didn't exactly swing for the fences on that one, I'm not gonna front. I'm afraid my titling faculties have failed me as I'm staring down like eighty scary movies I have to watch tonight. If it's any consolation, I seriously considered letting the front page teaser be a cheesy reworking of the lyrics to "Thriller," but I didn't think Dan Kroll would let me get away with not referencing this week's events instead and simply writing, "You hear the door slam, and realize there's nowhere left to run...cause this is Two Scoops! Two Scoops Time!!" No, I didn't think that would fly. That being said, I do think I have a creepy little column here for you, just in time for All Hallows' Eve, full of sugar shock, shivers and giggles, and yes, more "Thriller." Possibly too much "Thriller." As a film geek, and a horror freak on top of that, Halloween's probably my favorite holiday, and so as this is a special occasion, I felt I owed y'all, my loyal public, more than just business as usual. You've come to my doorstep for satisfaction this spooky weekend, and like any creepy neighbor, I've decided to offer you up some candy, plus scary movie suggestions to correspond to all our current One Life to Live storylines. As it happens, this week in Llanview was full of some major tricks, and some wonderful treats. You see, the cliched title worked out! So let's get to it. After all, as the song says, it's close to midnight (not really), and something evil's lurking in the dark...my deadline!
The Haunting of Warwick Academy
So, Danielle Rayburn. So far, the character seems to be a decent addition to the teen scene despite her absurd case of soap opera rapid-aging -- chronologically, Danielle should be two years younger than our boy Jack. I'll get deeper into Danielle's parental issues when we discuss Todd and Téa, but for now I'll say that Kelley Missal appears to be a capable young actress who has a nice interplay with Eddie Alderson's Matthew. She's instantly much more natural and spontaneous than Shenell Edmonds as Destiny, and she bears a fair resemblance to both Florencia Lozano and Roger Howarth. I was glad Danielle was neither an overly obnoxious rebel nor an overly prim or promiscuous teen queen, two stereotypes which daytime has officially worn out -- she's simply a person with issues, just like Matthew. I also liked seeing ex-ATWTer Daniel Manche (he played JJ Snyder) as Matthew's roommate Tom. It's just too bad he's been relegated to a very minor role; OLTL needs more talented actors like him playing core-related children. All in all, the three kids worked very well together, and it wasn't nearly as awkward as the early days of Starr, Langston, Markko and Cole, a foursome which was initially forced down the audience's throat in the most artificial way possible before the actors became more relaxed and comfortable, and the characters caught up to overplotted writing.
The kids are alright, but their parents sure aren't. Case in point: Bo and Nora, whose impromptu Gestapo reign over London continues unabated. What were they expecting when they went to visit Matthew, a ticker tape parade and a Hallmark special? "He hates us!" Nora cries -- well, of course he does! His legs are weakening while you deny him access to a phone and the authorities, and rip him away from everything and everyone he knows. I realize that Bo and Nora are fearful, irrational, worried parents, but I've about reached my limit with their self-pitying lunacy. Thank God they started making out when they did, because I can drop almost anything for a surprising round of Bo and Nora kissage. Despite my anger at the characters, I just melted when they started going at it like the horny People Of A Certain Age they are. Before yesterday's show, I don't think Bo has called Nora "Red" in ten years! Finally, Bo and Nora seem poised to talk through their deep, thorny issues with one another, and then get down to the hot senior loving. Clint Schmint, Nora! Don't you know Bo can thrill you more than any ghost would ever dare try? That said, happy for you crazy kids and all, but if I was Kevin (COME BACK KEVIN!) I would have been pissed at them. They tore that living room apart like a Gwar concert. I loved when Bo kept stepping on glass as he spoke.
Now then, let's get down to the business of the holiday:
Suggested candy for this storyline English taffy. What else?
Suggested films: Dario Argento's Italian classic Suspiria, about another spooky private academy across the pond; look out for the Headmistress, Matthew! And this summer's creepy Orphan, featuring a wayward young girl who can give Danielle a run for her money.
Sigh. Oh, man. Okay. I'm not sure what else I can say here about Téa, since I think I called it last column. She's kept Danielle from Todd and Ross because she apparently decided that if Todd was going to reject her for Blair, then her romantic disappointment meant she had license to play God with all their lives. So Ross is ripped away from Danielle, Todd is in the dark while Téa plays house with Todd and his kids and calls them her real, only, true family -- and Danielle rots away in London, miserable, confused, and alone, without any answers or any explanations. I think that's totally cruel and unacceptable behavior on Téa's part, yet in character and fitting given her own controlling, manipulative ways. For all her protestations of hating his abuse, she's almost as brilliant an operator as Todd -- perhaps she's even smarter. And that's the way most people like her, I think; as the saying goes, 'mad, bad, and dangerous to know.' When the character works, you can love her, or love to hate her, but, thanks to Florencia Lozano, you can also always understand what makes Téa tick, the neuroses from her childhood, the crazy way her mind sometimes works in the pursuit of genuine goals that have become somehow twisted and deformed based on her dysfunction. This is a description you can also apply to Todd and even to Blair.
But what OLTL doesn't seem to understand is this is a quadrangle where no one is clean, no one is "good," there are simply various shades of black and grey. Yet somehow the writers seem to be stripping Téa of her complexity and darkness, hoping to pin all this on Blair and Ross -- Blair is making the foolish decision to game this thing out and hide the truth about "Dani" just like Téa, while Ross won't take no for an answer and slugs poor Elijah. Suddenly, we get lots of overwrought scenes with Téa hinting to Rachel (sadly relegated here to the soap cliche role of "Black Friend," but the real Rachel would never cheerlead Téa reuniting with Todd) that Ross is "abusive," yet basically admitting he had never touched her, even as she clobbers him with pottery and snarls that he can never see "his" child again. They write that scene, then decide they need Ross to be the big bad wolf? Is this indecision or creative schizophrenia? Ross has been put through the wringer by Téa, emotionally and physically, yet that's supposed to be ignored because the show wants us to think he has turned into Hitty McFace overnight, even though they're clearly not actually committed to that twist since they have Téa deny that he's hit her and only say "he has a bad temper" she has seen once or twice in their marriage, plus they're continuing his flirtation with Blair. They'd rather have people suspect Ross could someday, somehow be an abusive spouse, even though he hasn't assaulted Téa or any other woman, just to try and give Téa more meager 'cover' for her cruel actions. And I won't get started on the fact that trying to make Ross into Ike Turner-by-way-of-Phish-concert (what is with that hemp bracelet? Is that a Kabbalah string?) and turning him into "the lesser man" is thoroughly unbelievable when the alternative is Todd -- a man who has battered women more than once, Téa included.
This kind of flirting with disaster and weak attempt at audience manipulation are a big part of why the adult portion of this storyline does not work for me. OLTL doesn't seem to want to commit to anybody's point of view, not even Téa's (she is alternately either vicious and determined one day, or weepy and helpless the next) and simply keeps doubling down on Blair and Ross to try and excuse Téa and Todd. They pile on the evil deeds then turn around and expect us to forget about both Téa's original choices and the way they demonize the others. Then they write even more brutal, scheming scenes for Téa, and the cycle begins again. Poor Trevor St. John has absolutely nothing to do but play the clueless male Ingénue, a role that does not even remotely fit Todd, which is probably why he seemed so thrilled with those "costume contest" scenes late in the week, a fun setpiece which was cute and funny but sadly, totally out of step with the Todd of 2009, who raped Marty and threw Starr down a flight of stairs just a year ago. It felt like something that would have been lovely for Todd and Blair two years ago -- today, it just seemed like a snapshot of the past, thrown at us to try to appease people who remember all too well how Todd destroyed himself and became something unrecognizable. Bottom line, this is lazy, diffused storytelling which is wrecking all the characters involved, especially Téa and Blair, who both come off cruel, pathetic and desperate depending on which day you tune in. OLTL is better than this -- it proves it in virtually every other story on the show.
Suggested candy: Marzipan or Snickers -- I hate the saccharine sweetness of the former, and the latter...does it really merit explanation? Like Téa, sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes, you don't. Oh crap, I think that was Almond Joy.
Suggested films: Antichrist with Willem Dafoe, currently playing in theatres, in which a husband and wife tear each other apart in literally the worst possible way within the depths of a haunted forest. Take an air sickness bag; this film makes Saw look like Johnny at the Fair. Make your own choice as to which couple in our quad fits this description. Alternative choice: The Blair Witch Project. Come on, I had to.
The Bride Of Dorian
Amelia isn't as brilliant a planner as she thinks she is; you just know those anti-gay protesters got mileage for years out of the big gay wedding being scheduled for Halloween of all days. But poor Dorian! She even reused the old Spencer-crashed wedding dress. That killed me. Robin Strasser can do so much with a single, devastated look; she knows that character inside and out, knows why Dorian is her own worst enemy when it comes to her heart. I'm of two minds. I applaud Dorian for sticking by the gay and lesbian lobby and taking the plunge, but that doesn't change the fact that she's sacrificing happiness for political aspirations, even when Amelia gave her a clear out and even offered to help her arrange "extracurricular activity" with David. David, to his credit, got sick of Dorian's mealymouthed excuses and jetted off to London with Destiny, his new wingman (wingwoman? wing-girl?), ready to rescue his little brother. And good for him. Yet I still want to see D&D get the kind of happy ending other couples in this storyline seem bound for, however temporary that may be given Tuc Watkins' availability. So much crap has gotten in their way -- pride, rage, money, fear -- and both David and Dorian deserve a little bliss.
To his credit, Oliver doesn't seem to be letting anything stop him anymore. His speech to the protesters was courageous and heartfelt, even if it was really turned up to eleven in the soap melodrama department. I let the staginess of the moment slide, since I can attest to the fact that it takes chutzpah to turn and face prejudice like that, no matter how tough and determined you are -- as someone whose boyfriend once tried to slip him the tongue in front of another police cordon of anti-gay demonstrators, for all my pride I was really more focused on ducking bricks and the occasional errant gunshot at that particular moment. Scott Evans obviously believed every single word he was saying, and I understood exactly where Fish was coming from. I'm not sure which note the show should take, though, myself. Oliver's outburst was one of anger and defiance, love in the face of hate, but what was he really saying except flipping the protesters off and coming to grips with himself? Or is that all that was necessary? I'm honestly not sure.
OLTL has done more gay-friendly storylines than most soaps, and most of those were steeped in language of benevolent tolerance, educating the public, meeting people halfway and bringing them across. But the world is different than it was in 1992; since then, we've had Matthew Shepard and Proposition 8. In a harsher, more cynical social clmate, maybe a rebellious show of force is what is needed from daytime's gay storylines, most of which remain weak and afraid of public backlash (paging "Otalia" and "Nuke"). I still wish, however, that they'd been able to show characters like perhaps the Riveras at the event, delineating the difference between people like mean old Mrs. Burns and someone like Ernesto or Aurelia, people with different beliefs who are more nuanced, willing to try to understand. Because no one in Angel Square was a freak, no one was a "perv on parade," and while Oliver's anger is valid, no bigot was going to walk away from what he said with a changed heart. Oliver didn't owe them that, though, nor would I, and maybe OLTL doesn't owe anyone that anymore, either -- it's worked very hard in earlier stories to be accommodating and gentle with its audience, but it's 2009 and gay and lesbian teenagers are still getting beaten to death. What I do know is that all quibbling aside, I am very, very proud of my show for having such passion and taking such a strong stand. There is no other daytime drama with this kind of commitment to groundbreaking social stories, and that's as it should be with Agnes Nixon's first born. I hope she's watching somewhere out there. Well, she's probably just counting her money. BTW, Kyle would have to be totally insane to marry ol' Nick with the Bette Davis eyes now -- just staring, staaaarrrring at him with those big ol' heat lamps, expecting the poor doctor to still get married to his three-minute-old tuchus while Oliver is right. there. laying it on the line. Nick, you crazy. Get out the way. Go get yourself a Big Gulp.
Oh, I almost forget: Cristian and Layla. Awwww!!! You guys! What are you doing? "Thriller" says now is the time for you to cuddle close together! Just get to it already! Evangeline my foot! Actually, Layla's issues regarding her sister were very down to earth and realistic, and Tika Sumpter got me right in the heart. I just had one problem with that subplot, which was the scene where Cristian claimed responsibility for the failure of all his relationships like he's some cad. That's bull. Yes, Cristian did Sarah wrong, and made a bad mistake with Vanessa, but prior to that he treated Jessica, Natalie and Evangeline like queens. They left him. Cris is not some huge player who Layla should watch out for. By my recollection, up until Sarah he'd always remained true to the women he was with; they generally would betray the poor hunk first. Yes, even Jessica. Will Rappaport, people. Give Cris a little respect, y'all. I know he's not the star of the show, but he's not going to rape you in his ultra-modern home in the woods while you have amnesia, and as far as I'm concerned that's a major point in his favor.
Suggested candy: Skittles -- taste the rainbow!
Suggested films: Are you kidding me? It has to be Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? The gay classic.
Who's that on the other end of the line? A man who sounds nothing whatsoever like Nash! Oh. Em. Gee! Jessica tries to scream, but terror takes the sound before she makes it! Things are getting hectic in this year's big Halloween story, which is why I couldn't understand why the heck it wasn't featured front and center on Friday's show -- everything is coming together, and if you're like me, you've got a pretty good guess who's behind all this. (Hint for the cheap seats: It's all in the family.) It's creepy as all get out, and very well constructed, even if it all seems to be leading to tragedy for poor Jared and Natalie; I just melted at their fantasy reunion at the Lakeside Inn. (BTW, did anyone else catch that -- "Lakeside Inn," "Waterside Hotel"...never mind, it's a Mitch thing, maybe I'm imagining it.) I don't believe Jared killed anyone, and I do believe Stalker X is behind all his troubles. Even John seems to be starting to get the picture, despite his latest "Girl In Danger" fantasy. Marty's out of the starring role in his mind and Natalie's back in, which doesn't bode well -- did you spot the subliminal bit with her taking the matchbook from her hand, only for her to turn it over and show him her wedding ring? Busted. Don't even play, John's subconscious, I know what you're after! Fantasy Natalie still had heat with John, but I just can't bring myself to care; like the real Natalie, all I want is for her to find Jared and be happy with her husband again. John will never be happy with anyone -- like Al Pacino in Heat, all he is is what he's going after. I think even Marty's beginning to understand that. Poor no-story-having Marty, watchin' YouTube of her old storylines. Hey, Andrew's back in town -- get up on it, girl!
Our mystery villain (ahem) sure has all his ducks in a row, doesn't he? He even got Brody's sister Nadine to slip Officer Lovett a mickey and hold him prisoner in Michigan -- I'm refraining from any further Michigan jokes at this point out of consideration for any local readers. And now Rex and Natalie are heading to Napa, along with Jessica, where obviously nothing good awaits anyone. Will anyone save them from the beast about to strike? (Okay, that's enough "Thriller.") It's a classic slasher movie setup, which brings us to your Halloween sweets and cinema pairings for this storyline...
Suggested candy: A candy apple with a razor blade in it -- watch your tongue!
Suggested films: The very first slasher movie, complete with creepy phantom caller -- the one, the only, the original Black Christmas, starring Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder. Alternate choice: The Haunting, where, just like Jessica, Julie Harris can't seem to shake those restless dead.
The Phantom Of The Rehab Facility
Okay, that one was reaching. Seriously though, how cute and awesome were Schuyler and Gigi this week? Don't get me started. The concert for a fictional rock band? The loud talking and lighter-waving as they nuzzled over a shared iPod? The costume contest? Have his baby already, woman! Rex already beat you to the punch with Stacy, after all. Sky looked perfect in Rex's Batman getup, and Gigi made an awesome Catwoman; I loved seeing the down-to-earth family unit go up against the Mannings from the higher social strata, despite my earlier complaints about the anachronistic characterization of Todd and the family. A while ago, I didn't think there would be any substance to the Sky/Gigi flirtation, but as it happens, I was wrong; I think Sky is the man Rex could be, if he were a little more mature. Sky's been through the wringer and come out the other side -- he's willing to take responsibility for his mistakes, and doesn't want to take shortcuts in love or relationships. He's willing to do the kind of emotional work Rex won't, on every level. When the going got tough for Rex he clung to anger and resentment instead of finding a way to be there for Gigi and Shane properly. Do I still like Rex and Gigi in theory? Yes. But I think Schuyler clearly represents the kind of man Gigi needs. Remember, she raised Shane alone for years, so like Sky, she has a sense of what a real commitment takes for someone other than yourself. The Stacy debacle has proven that Rex doesn't yet understand how to manage that. Gigi is an overworked young woman who spent years as a single mother struggling to make ends meet; she's still doing that at Rodi's while Rex's club seems to be on the verge of disaster every other month. Sky works his butt off and never makes it about feeling sorry for himself, while still finding time to be there for Gigi and Shane physically and emotionally in ways Rex can't or won't. I think that's the real-life foundation for this storyline, I think we see those kind of scenarios every day with people who love one another but can no longer communicate, and so I think the story really works, to say nothing of Scott Clifton and Farah Fath's wonderful, unforced chemistry. Give me more, I say! I'm a Halloween glutton and I can't get enough!
Suggested candy: The one, the only Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Two "forbidden" tastes that go great together!
Suggested films: The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. She's a lovelorn young woman, he's a bookish scientist who occasionally is mistaken for a giant monster. Sure, some people say he's an insect, but Gigi can put up with a little mess; she loves him anyway! Be afraid, Rex! Be very, very afraid!
Good Twin/Evil Twin
And now we come to the Evans family drama. This week, Shaun prepared to hit the town with Rachel ("Here comes the Mack!") even though he still has these giant sanitary napkins on his head. Go on with it, buddy. Unfortunately for him, Pop Evans doesn't share the same views on this love triangle as his wife, leading to a conflict which I can only call Battle Of The Black Premium Cable Stars. In one corner, we have Tonye Patano, former star of Weeds, as Momma Evans, telling Running Man Greg to get his mitts off his brother's lady. In the other, we have Frankie Faison, The Wire's Commissioner Burrell, a character actor who has has been in everything under the sun (even Coming To America!), as Dad, insisting that is time to Let Love Rule! I don't care, I love this goofy cliched story. It's often well-written and well-performed, and Tilford and Duplaix have great chemistry when he isn't hurling furniture or crying, "A brain is not a foot!" BTW, is it me or does Shaun Ringgold look like he's lost a lot of weight? He looked foine when he got suited up for another round of My Doomed Relationship. Seriously, though, I was glad to see that both parents were not dogging poor Greg, who does not need more recrimination at this point lest more hospital equipment be damaged or otherwise thrown. And I think it's a sad commentary on Hollywood today that two supremely talented black performers like Patano and Faison, properly respected on cable, are barely a blip in mainstream television today, to the point that only the soaps seem to recognize their brilliant work, and even then, all they're getting are these talk-to roles for a B-storyline. Who knows, maybe that's all these celebrated actors are available for. I hope that's it, because while I love that OLTL is using them when too few television shows are, it feels a bit like hiring Laurence Olivier to play Carlotta's boyfriend.
Suggested candy: The Hershey Bar. The old standard! Mmm, milk chocolate.
Suggested films: Hellraiser, another heart-rending romantic yarn about a woman torn between two brothers. But in a slight change of pace from our Evans storyline, one of the brothers is a skinless escapee from Hell. To prove her love, the Ingénue in question must beat a bunch of dudes to death with a claw hammer so Bro #2 can feed on them and regain his creamy skin tone. Poor Rachel -- this moral dilemma will tear her soul apart!
So that's it, whippersnappers -- you've got your candy, you've got your movies, now get off my lawn! I've got a motherlode of creepy films to go through myself, and a Greenwich Village Halloween parade to try and crash. If I make it, my costume will be subtle; I'm going as a perpetually single freelance writer with questionable facial hair. Keep your eyes out for me! I love you all, so please have a safe and happy Halloween, but remember, though you fight to stay alive, your body will start to shiver...for no mere mortal can resist the evil of the Thriller. I'll see you in boo -- er, two!