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 Two Scoops: July 18, 2011 columns
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Roger Howarth
Happy birthday
For the Week of July 18, 2011
Given the budget of a new online-only platform, One Life to Live's canvas and focus is sure to change dramatically. What will be left of One Live, and Llanview, as we know it?
Okay, wow. I guess the old daytime promo chestnut is true: "Miss a week, miss a lot." I take a week off, and One Life to Live comes back from the dead -- on the Internet. Really? Really?!

Don't get me wrong: I am stunned and thrilled by this news. I always suspected that eventually ABC would revive its daytime brands in a new medium. I did not expect it would happen quite this fast, but hey, whateva. I'm not going to rehash all the online color commentary you've surely absorbed in the last two weeks; you guys know the basics. Given the budget of a new online-only platform, both OLTL and All My Children's canvases and focuses are sure to change dramatically.


What will be left of One Live, and Llanview, as we know it? And what do we want it to look like? I'll return to that topic at the end of the column, but we've got more than one Phoenix rising from the ashes this month. Roger Howarth's "TM"/Scarface/"Real" Todd/et cetera is back in town, and as OLTL hit its 43rd anniversary, he got suited up as New York's favorite superhero to take his vengeance right back to Casa Manning/Todd's House o' Repeat Offenders. Porn, plots, water sports, and Spider-Man -- this week had it all. So where do you want to start?


Improbable Anagram, Limited

I'm sorry, "Origami Cogs" sounds fake as hell. Is it just me? I mean, I get it, anagram, but it's just clunky. I'd see through it. And while I like the idea of Rex going all Yung Klint (sic) on Todd's ass, I'm having a hard time believing John-Paul Lavoisier's performance. He basically put on a suit but continued emoting in a wildly over-the-top fashion, which is where he gets in trouble for me.

When Rex began on the show as a schemer, he didn't have these character tics. No one saw through his bland, quiet, calculating façade for months, and even when his interests became clear, he remained snarky and controlled for several years, becoming a fan favorite through his clashes with people like Marcie and Joey. It's when Lavoisier oversold stuff that I felt Rex became tiresome, and so the lack of control in his performance has already begun to make Junior Tycoon Rex a little silly to me. I do like the idea of him out-Clinting Clint and acclimating to the Buchanan world, but simply aiming at Blair or Téa is silly and short-sighted, as is his lapsing into histrionics. Of course Bo is already haranguing Rex about the error of his ways, but I rather prefer Echo serving as the Iago at his shoulder, preaching a gospel of careful vengeance. That's a role Kim Zimmer can excel at on the show, as opposed to her current juvenile shenanigans (more on those in a bit).


Spins A Web, Any Size, Catches Thieves Just Like Flies

...Look out! Here comes the Spider-Mann(ing)! Ah, good times. You gotta admit, "TM" (yeah, right) wore Peter Parker's tights well, even if he had to pummel one of New York's valiant under-five dayplayers to do it. Think before you strike next time, "Real Todd" -- now that poor guy's gonna have to go back to working at one of the few Borders left in this city! Roger Howarth was on a rampage this week, actually -- before Spidey, he clobbered NuJack, who can't even do "unconscious" very well. Oh, sure, he keeps getting all these weird still images beamed to his brain, and Agent Baker tried to psych him out over the phone, but we all know where this is going with Trevor St. John on his way out, though I personally would've liked to see him continue as, perhaps, Todd's scheming fraternal twin brother or something.

I'm not thrilled that Supercop John is, as always, the one figuring this out despite his having no history whatsoever with the original Todd, but at least Natalie is on the case, too, and events appear to be coming to a head. I honestly look forward to Téa facing down the fraud of her marriage to the sociopath she fought for and won after the rapemance -- I like her character in all her craven, conflicted glory, and this ugly ending to things seems fitting to what this Todd has become and what Téa has chosen with him. That's not to say Blair was any less the fool over the last eight years, because she was fooled as well; she wanted this Todd, she married him again and again and chased after him herself, even after the rapemance. However this shakes out, it's going to be great drama for all four leads to play, and I do think Trevor St. John is playing this strange mystery man to the hilt. He seems liberated by this murky limbo state his character is in.

"TM" said he didn't care about Sam when he was lurking at the Minute Man Motel, but I'm not sure I buy that; Todd has always had an affinity for children, and I suspect the show may eventually use Sam as a catalyst to draw Howarth's Todd and Blair back together, which would be a nice grace note, given how Jack was born. Unfortunately, he's not getting off on the right foot here; I always thought it was stupid when Todd would take off with one of the kids, and it was never for any concrete reason other than "Todd's mad." Hopefully he's got something more definite in mind here in terms of how to trap the other Todd.

Who is Trevor St. John's Todd? Walker "Flynn" Laurence? There was a body at the bottom of the penthouse's elevator shaft in late 2003, and Flynn was never terribly good at portraying "Todd." But who does that leave? I haven't a clue, but I am looking forward to the two Todds coming face to face -- and while St. John's Todd may (or may not) be the more cunning, conniving manipulator, there's an old-school brute force to Howarth's Todd that should play well off St. John's more slithery character. Bring it.


He's Just Not That Into Your Core Personality

You know, you've got to have testicles of titanium to saunter over to a lady's house and tell her you wish she would have (yet another) mental breakdown and revert to a psychotic alternate personality. It requires a certain amount of self-possession and a heaping helping of solid-gold douchebaggery. But hark! Our man on the scene, Robert Ford, is that douchebag. It makes some of the iffy portions of the Nash and Tess story look like Joe Riley and Viki in their elegant heyday. It is beyond radioactive, beyond sewage, beyond perhaps even the rapemance. It's that awful, and I have no idea why anyone thinks anything about this man or his lust for his rape victim and his open longing for her alter is charming or romantic. It turns my stomach just watching it.

I don't have a problem with a stronger, tougher Jessica, at all. But this angle is being worked for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong ways. To begin with, I think a lot of what Brody, Natalie, and Viki are saying to her is common sense. The show repeatedly said Jessica "let" her alters out, and while that may be an unfair representation of real-life DID, it's what the show went with, and she never took true responsibility for it. Instead of working to re-define Jessica as a whole person with a new attitude, they're going with a shallow angle: Natalie stole her man, and she's mad! Time to hang out with fellow "bad boy" Ford!

I can't think of a worse way to re-conceptualize this character than going forward with a pairing with Robert Ford, and if it continues, they'd do well to write Jessica out entirely in the new online "OLTL 2.0." Tough Jessica is interesting. This tough Jessica is a nut, and I can't watch her new love story and retain the last shreds of my sanity. At this rate, I'll be gibbering mad by November and will begin penning my Two Scoops columns in my own blood. And no one wants that, least of all Dan Kroll. Uploading would become difficult.

At the other end of this messy equation, Brody's begun his treacherous slalom down the many busy public transit lanes of Llanview as he heads right under the bus. In a just world, Brody would still be considered a hero, and Ford would be scum to root against, and all I can say about this nonsense with John, Natalie, and Brody is that I welcome our new online overlords. Any drastic change in this story is a good change. Save Brody!


Sex After 50, Starring Nate Salinger

It takes crud like this porn subplot and the Ford storyline to remind me that Jean Passanante, whose last job was as part of ATWT's lamentable final years, is still co-writing this show. While Ron Carlivati has his share of horrible instincts, no one knows how to come up with something both stomach-churningly grotesque and full of mediocre nothing characters like La Passanante. I have no concept of what the audience is for this business with Nate, Deanna, and scurvy horndog Austin Peck in a skanky motel room, but the sooner it's over with and geriatric Nate is shipped off to Senior Jail, the better.

I did love poor pregnant Des listening in and getting That Look on her face as she heard Deanna coo about the secrets of the Minute Man. And while I suspect Dani may not open that door on Monday and find out about Nate and Deanna just yet, I do love that Bo and Nora are back on the case like the cops they are. That's what I want to see, a supercouple taking that waxed basketball-playing oldster down. Eat grim justice, Nate. I hate you and your creepy eyes.


The Elegant Farce

Okay, I love David and Dorian, but this is just dumb. It's not amusing to watch Dorian want to gun her new husband down -- when they're finally married -- for the better part of a full week. And while I'm thrilled with how Viki and Dorian simultaneously figured out Echo's game, it just seems like last year's summer veteran follies: lightweight and ultimately beneath them. No way would Dorian end this at a silly water hose fight with the countess; she'd make her pay. I realize we only have Tuc Watkins for pre-taped blocks, but this is a waste of all these actors' talents. Can't we get something a little smarter on the table for these folks?


...And The Rest (a.k.a. Baz and Starr and James and stuff

I'll admit that Baz's music isn't the worst drum-and-bass I've ever heard, but it ain't too great, either, nor is he exactly an inspiring actor. I'm not sure where the show plans to go with these two equally bland and boring men for Starr, but it almost -- almost! -- makes me miss stupid old Cole. And he sure was stupid, and boring. But Baz and James somehow have even less personality, which is a shame, since Baz could be an interesting character. Unfortunately, the cancellation has rendered his and Tomas's backstory little more than a side note, and the writing they're getting simply isn't very good. It's like the show is still going through the motions with Starr's character, even as she begins to put the pieces together about the two Todds -- she could be so much more on this show, do so much more, but they continue to sideline her in the blandest, most generic "teen heroine" storylines possible. I think Kristen Alderson's capable of so much more.

As much as I critique some of the lesser lights in Llanview these days, I am loving the general direction of the Todd mega-story, and again I have to say I can't wait for the two Todds to face off and for everyone to learn the truth, especially Viki. Burn that picture, Viki! I think OLTL's got a ways to go and a lot of dead weight to drop before the "end," but now we know we have a new beginning coming our way.

Speaking of that new beginning, this brings me back to our initial topic, and a question for my faithful readers. There's no doubt that OLTL is going to be severely scaled down budget-wise, whether it shoots in Los Angeles or continues in New York. There have been all sorts of rumors, and rumblings that the Prospect Park online platform may attempt to keep to a daily or weekly schedule or an hour show; I have my doubts, and I think it might not be bad for OLTL to cut down to thirty minutes like the classic Irna Phillips or Agnes Nixon (or Bill Bell) soaps of the '70s to focus on character content, or to take off some days of the week in the way the still-successful foreign soaps do.

My question to you is this, and I'll offer up my ideas in a future Two Scoops: What do you want to see "OLTL 2.0" become? What, if anything, do you want to see change? If you had to cut ten to fifteen people, who would go? Who would come back? If you could keep three to five veteran actors, of if you had to cut the contract cast to, say, ten to twelve people, who would they be? How would you refocus the show? What couples might leave us for good? It's a whole new life to live in Llanview coming to us in 2012; I want to hear what you think the future should look like. Until next time, I love you all, I'm proud to see the genre is moving into the 21st century, and despite some current foibles, I'm always proud of One Life to Live. Happy 43rd, sweetheart. See you in two.

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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