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Robin Strasser
Love in the time of Billy Warlock
by Michael For the week of August 30, 2010
Viki and Dorian are the heart of One Life to Live, a supercouple neither Starr and Cole nor Starr and James nor the pitiful Langston and Ford pairings could ever hope to touch.
He is the ultimate rite of passage for a daytime drama, a sprightly magic man whose very whispered name, like "Voldemort," ushers in a quantum shift to a whole new era. When his footfalls echo in the corridors of a studio and his silhouette of a sensible height paints the walls, a soap opera knows it has indeed, at long last, finally arrived. Legend tells us that he has appeared on every sudser known to man except perhaps Strange Paradise and Portia Faces Life. He possesses the devil-may-care charm of a young Charlie Sheen. He is the son of a famed Hollywood stuntman (who once played Michael Myers in the "Halloween" films -- the ones with Jamie Lee Curtis, thank you very much -- and drove Herbie the Love Bug to glory), and he spent years fighting sharks, the merciless elements, and David Hasselhoff's singing career.


His sheer televisual output is so immense that his pixelated image is known to distant travelers from far across the stars as our first human emissary to alien life forms. Yes, Two Scoops readers, soapcentral.com browsers, if you have watched a soap for longer than a week and a half, you know of whom I speak, and even now are surely nodding in understanding and devout appreciation. He is the man, the myth, the "Young Men's"-size shopper -- he is Billy Warlock, daytime royalty. And this week he came to Llanview, and with him, just as the prehistoric cave myths foretold, came a time of great change. Join me, won't you, as we take the changes in graceful stride, only this week in a delicious round of Two Scoops. Mmmm, Warlock.


With Warlock comes great upheaval, and indeed, many of our favorite Llanviewites faced shocking reversals of fortune this week. Take Téa -- she died! Or so Greg told Todd and Dani, but did she really "for serious," as the kids say? If you buy that, I have some beautiful beachfront property on the moon to sell you. I've seen this "popular leading actor DEAD!" hoax from ABC Daytime before and I didn't buy it with Todd either, sorry, y'all. I'm thinking Greg has hidden the despondent Mrs. Manning away in a dumbwaiter somewhere and is feeding her Slim Jims, Gatorade, Children's Tylenol, and a sTéady diet of Brian McKnight.


I've begun to think that is the extent of his medical expertise. You know what I think Téa's got at this point? Ragweed pollen allergy. That's all. I go blind when the pollen count goes up too, Téa! I mistake people for Roger Howarth, who we will discuss again shortly! That doesn't mean you have a brain tumor, it just means you have head congestion! This is what you get for trusting the doctor who told his mom that a bullet in the brain was just like the splinter in his foot from sixth grade! You ask me, Téa's fine, she's going to be back in three weeks with recharged electrolytes and muscles like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.


Téa's dubious "death" and imprisonment in creepy-sounding "St. Kitts" of course brings us to the larger, headache we're all suffering from, namely the Bennett Thompson/Elijah Clarke umbrella storyline. Also this week, Bennett/Eli/Pazuzu whisked Blair off to sunny Tahiti where, surprise, the phones don't work and no one will ever come to help you in my suddenly short brother's clapboard cottage in the middle of absolutely nowhere anyone has ever been; but it's all good, Blair, let's get married! Put on this ugly Ewok wreath that Carrie Fisher wore in Return of the Jedi, we'll get Wicket and Chief Logray to start the Ewoks' traditional "Yub Nub" victory song, we'll get Frenchie here to officiate over the wedding ceremony, and we'll be well on our way to my killing you, er, loving you forever! Thank God she hesitated just a little, because The Warlock was really bringing the creepy, and the whole thing in that house had a real "snuff film" vibe going on.


Don't get me wrong, okay; I love The Warlock. He is soap incarnate, a lovely man by all accounts, and apparently ageless. But first of all, I don't know what the makeup department did to his poor hair because it looked like another one of Eli's victims -- like, it used to be a skunk who knew his real name and it had used up the sixteen chances he also gave to Ford and Hannah. "Keep your mouth shut, Ford! You saw what I did to Pepe Le Pew! I'm serious this time! For real!"


Also, I'm sorry, but Billy Warlock is not Michael Lowry. He's just not. He's a great actor, but he doesn't have that same earthy, improvisational edge Lowry gave the Ross character; insTéad, OLTL seemed to be asking Billy to channel a slightly sleazier, slimier, two-dimensional version of the worst writing GH ever gave to Warlock's A.J. Quartermaine. It felt strange and wrong, even if he did have fine chemistry opposite both Matt Walton and Kassie DePaiva. But this is not the right role for The Warlock to grace OLTL in, and his awkward recast only adds to the slapped-together feel of this story.


One very interesting side aspect of the major stories this week, though, was the emergence of the new Price family characters on the canvas (I will have to assume until told otherwise that they are indeed related to Sheila and Ben Price, who were involved with Hank and Rachel Gannon in the 1990s). We've just recently been told that geeky Romeo Darren and handsome Detective Theo Price are brothers, and the writing rather clunkily -- but reasonably -- established a very important nuance that makes the Prices that much more potentially interesting on the future canvas. As Darren told Destiny, his well-to-do family is made up of white-collar professionals -- all but Theo, who is seen as the "rebel" for joining the police force for an unrewarding paycheck. Darren loves the finer things and doesn't understand his big brother's choices. At the other end of the spectrum, Destiny comes from a blue-collar family of people who spent their lives in service to others; I believe it was said last year that Greg was the first member of the Evans clan to graduate from college, and look what's become of him.


I applaud this kind of nuanced representation for characters of color more than I can say. I said it before back when the show still had Daphnee Duplaix as Rachel along with "Kish," Nick, and Amelia, but I think it's so very important for soaps, especially OLTL, to illustrate different social worlds within a single cultural or ethnic group. Too often today's soaps simply show one or two characters of another race or orientation -- a couple black people, a couple Latino, a couple gay guys -- and leave their cultural and social background at that vague, stereotyped outline. When Rachel and "Kish" were still on the program, we had an interesting differentiation; Rachel was a very different woman from, say, Layla, and though both women were black, they did not exclusively interact, or in fact interact at all -- each of their lives and social and professional choices were that unique and different.


What's more, we had different types of gay and lesbian people, with different goals and ideologies. This kind of "internal diversity" is almost unheard of in terms of minority representation in daytime, and so I am thrilled to see OLTL at least attempting to show two different types of Africa-American character with the Evanses and Prices. I dearly miss both Rachel and "Kish," and think Rachel would be well-used on the show now more than ever with Matthew's recent behavior and Greg's skullduggery -- imagine if her breakup with Greg had played out against the backdrop of this Téa storyline, and she had befriended Theo Price? -- but I will give OLTL props where it's due. It's not perfect, but it's a start, and I hope to see a lot more of Darren, Destiny, and Theo, as well as hopefully some Gannons and other characters of color who have a history within the show.


As for other things I have to give props for this week, two words: Robin Strasser. Wait, three more: and Erika Slezak. What more need I say? Viki and Dorian are the heart of OLTL, a supercouple neither Starr and Cole nor Starr and James nor the pitiful Langston and Ford pairings could ever hope to touch, and the dynamic duo of divas killed it this week. Strasser gave perhaps her best performance in several years on Wednesday, alone in the cabana with Viki after the spectacular failure of her "non-wedding" to David, moving from anger to acceptance to apathy and finally, a glimmer of hope. The wonderful bond between Dorian and Langston, so rarely written for anymore, was also nicely glimpsed this week when Langston struggled to help her mother fix her hair and makeup before facing the world.


And what a neat -- and appropriate -- use of history when Viki referenced her heartbreak over the Clint and Lindsay union back in 1998. I was assuming the show had blocked that out. I was so glad the writers didn't leave it at Dorian irrationally blaming Viki for everything; too often this is a crutch the show relies upon in favor of writing a more intelligent relationship for these two women, who are so much closer to each other than they would ever admit to either their spouses or themselves. Viki and Dorian are symbiotic, two halves of the same person, ego and id, ideal and trauma. It is time for their relationship to evolve again, and perhaps Viki's aid to Dorian in her time of need can contribute to that. What harrowing, heartbreaking, riveting scenes. Brava. And good job, show.


And then there's poor David. Yes, I'm weary of Tuc Watkins' comings and goings, and I felt much of this story was rushed, but I do love David always and feel there is certainly a real place for him on the show if ever Watkins or the show committed to doing more. I was pleased to see the return of "the dark Clint," taking revenge on David for both the loss of Kim and for David's insinuation into the Buchanan clan. Jerry ver Dorn plays this more regal, domineering side of the character pitch-perfectly, and I hope it continues to be emphasized -- Clint is truly Asa's heir to the throne. I hope David escapes, too, or at least that Dorian learns that he didn't abandon her yet again. And I sincerely hope that the writers have a better plan for Dorian's David-less future than "Dorian takes her anger out on Viki and everyone else, Chapter 138." A good love triangle could really suit Robin Strasser. Where is Ray Montez's phone number, anyway? Or Joey's?


Then we had the teens, Starr, James, Langston and FoZZZZZZZZZZZzzzZZZZZzzz.... I'm sorry, where was I? Last thing I remember, James and Cole were having a text message war, and then Cole claimed James had hacked his Twitter account and told people he was fired! Where does reality end and soap begin? My brain melts a little more every moment these kids are onscreen, and Jason Tam isn't even around anymore to do bizarre interpretive dance routines in conveniently tight and small tops like he did during Starr-Crossed Lovers. Yes, Starr and James are cute, yes, Brittany Underwood is talented and even David Gregory isn't a bad actor, but this material is dreck and scarcely watchable. Move it along, please. The kids bore me. And yes, that includes Hannah and Cole.


The transparent attempts to tie Nate and Ford closer to the show with Inez's job at the police station and Jessica's pregnancy also don't move me. I have absolutely no interest in Jessica bearing a Bobby Jr., and she just looks more clueless and helpless every week this story continues. I can't remember a time when Jessica wasn't either one or the other. Meanwhile, sister Natalie continues to turn into the Wicked Witch of the East. I don't know about you, but even as a diehard Nat fan, I didn't find it endearing to watch her continually snipe at concerned daddy-to-be Brody, jealously guard her secret, and get all pissed about Marty. Was she within her rights to have issues with Marty? Certainly. But that's not why the writers presented Natalie this way.


In a week when both Marty and Kelly cry on John's shoulder, a soap doesn't show Natalie on the sidelines hiding a baby secret and bitching at people unless Natalie is going "under the proverbial bus." This routine pre-dates either Natalie or John on soaps and it is slanted writing. But I've seen this done to Natalie before and it always happens when John is involved, because I think John's character is only about the next woman he can get freaky with and still look like the hero. That next woman would certainly appear to be Kelly, which sounds like a snoozefest to me. I'd pray that Natalie will not be ruined in the process, but I fear the unsympathetic writing for her character is speaking for itself.


By the way, as to Kelly, I know some are thinking she's for Rex based on those sauna scenes. I don't buy it. There's an interesting sibling connection going on there to me, but if it were to turn romantic, it's kind of skeevy, since Rex was once a romantic rival opposite Kelly's most unfortunate bed(er, floor)mate -- Duke Buchanan, her young, late stepson.


And thus was the week that was -- good times, bad times, Billy Warlock times, all to be had, all to be enjoyed or critiqued. But hark! The Time Of Warlock means even greater changes still. I speak of course of several soap-shaking comings and goings, the first being the long-rumored, now-confirmed impending exit of Brandon Buddy as Cole Thornhart. I can't say I'll really miss him. I thought Cole's best story was his rehab struggle last year opposite Rachel and Matthew, but the show didn't utilize his hard work there and move him into new, different storylines, and insTéad the character remained the same static, bland teen hero he's always been to me.


With the advent of James it's anyone's guess how Cole will exit, but I felt it was a mistake to give Starr a child so soon -- the show got a lot of mileage out of the Baby Hope saga, but now they seem to have no clue how to handle writing for young parents other than to ignore the child. And it's a pity that Marty Saybrooke's son was, in my opinion, so forgettable a character as to be immediately outshone by a charming newbie like James, but I blame the writing and portrayal for Cole for that, not Nicholas Robuck or James. I do hope they don't kill Cole off -- I think the character could have real potential someday, with better writing and conception.


Next we've got Kim Zimmer, who's coming back to the show, after decades of dominating CBS as Reva Shayne, to reprise her obscure, bizarre OLTL role as "Echo DiSavoy," photographer/con artist. I'm actually all for it. I wasn't always Reva's biggest fan on GL, but I feel Zimmer is above all a vibrant, volatile, exciting, and totally dedicated actress with a character and grit all her own. I'm not sure Echo should be back on the show permanently, but the promise of a story for the Buchanans, Clint, Viki, and Bo excites me, and though Ron Carlivati's recent record with "history"-based stories is spotty at best (so says Rebecca Lewis), I'm more than willing to give it a shot. I'm dying to see Slezak and Zimmer go head-to-head after all these years.


Finally, there's The R Word. You knew I had to get to it, and when ATWT was cancelled, we all knew it was a distinct possibility -- soapcentral.com is buzzing with the likely rumor that Roger Howarth is in fact returning to OLTL this winter. The question is, if he does return, will he be playing Todd Manning, the role he immortalized, or pulling a Sarah Brown and playing someone new opposite Trevor St. John's recast? I'm of two minds about this, because I have loved both Todds. I feel the character of Todd has been mauled and mangled in the last couple years, and that is largely the fault of the inconsistent, irresponsible, and lazy writing for one of OLTL's former ratings draws. Neither St. John nor Howarth could've made this material work as it was on the page, and I accepted the Todd recast years ago.


I welcomed Trevor St. John in 2003 because I'd felt Howarth had become burnt out and begun "phoning in" his performances; St. John brought an edge and a life back to the character. Yet now I feel he, too, is perhaps worn out. These are both talented actors -- is it the role that burns them out? And if so, who should take it back? Should anyone? Is Todd redeemable after the last couple of years? I felt Sarah Brown playing Claudia Zacchara insTéad of Carly Corinthos on GH was a bad, stupid mistake, but given what's become of Llanview's biggest antihero since the "rapemance," I wonder if the Todd question is more complex. I suppose we'll know soon, assuming this big news is true. Send me your thoughts on the whole Manning mess -- I want to hear your take. But for now I am cautiously very pleased to (allegedly) have Howarth back in Llanview.


For more on the Roger Howarth rumors, be sure to check out soapcentral.com's article, OLTL fans abuzz with talk of Roger Howarth's return


See what I mean? Billy Warlock changes everything! What will we ever do without him when he's gone? I'll see you all in two weeks, and until then, please remember: unlike David Vickers, Michael will always be the Two Scoops columnist who loved you just enough! Goodnight, everybody! Please, try the fish!

Michael


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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