For the Week of October 10, 2011
Last week was the week of Todd and Blair. As Blair played Florence Nightingale to her ex at Viki's cabin, they rekindled the old home fires, complete with a flurry of flashbacks.
Confession time: When I was a kid watching the show in the early-mid '90s, I hated Blair. Hated her. She came between Max, Luna, and Little Al, who I loved one and all, and she had big hair, and she would sometimes run people over "by accident" (yeah, right), and I just couldn't stand her. Couldn't stand her! And meanwhile, Todd's tortured love connection with holy roller Rebecca Lewis was playing out across town, and I couldn't get enough of that couple. Yet for some reason, when both Blair and Todd sidled up to the bar at Rodi's one fateful day in 1994, I was suddenly very much intrigued by them. Oh, I was still mad at Blair for what she had done to Max and Luna, and I still hoped Rebecca would stop being quite so crazy and give Todd a real shot -- but Todd and Blair had it right then and there. At the bar, mocking the love songs, ankle bracelet fully functional. It worked for me. The characters clicked instantly, and I remained a devout fan of the couple for a long, long time.
I wasn't sure I'd ever see Todd and Blair again after Todd "died" and came back -- I knew by then that sometimes soaps just let things die -- but when OLTL went back there with the advent of the 2000s, I fell for the couple all over again. Then I became disgusted with the writing, stories like the baby Jack fiasco. Then came the recast and a whole other can of worms down the road, like the rapemance and so forth. It's been a long, crazy ride, and I honestly never expected to be here as a viewer with this couple again.
In the guise of Victor Jr., Todd and Blair had been utterly destroyed for me, less by his marriage to Téa than by his treatment of Starr and Hope and most of all, his "romance" with the amnesiac Marty. As longtime readers will know, that single act obliterated Todd Manning for me, and I was no longer interested in his romances with anyone, or indeed his future. I never thought I'd have a Todd I could believe in again. I certainly never believe I'd believe in Todd and Blair together again. But here we are.
I could hurl all the platitudes at you guys but I'm sure you've heard them all ad nauseum amongst your own circles by now: Last week was the week of Todd and Blair, and I loved it. As Blair played Florence Nightingale to her ex at Viki's cabin, they rekindled the old home fires, complete with a flurry of flashbacks. Rodi's! Nat King Cole (how could she forget?)! That bench! Baby Starr! And of course, the golden balloons. So many "supercouples" are beyond played out, but this one still has the magic for me, not only because absence has made the heart grow distinctly fonder, but because this time, Roger Howarth has come to the table fully engaged as Todd.
The character has changed, evolved, grown due to his imprisonment; he's not simply the cartoon he often descended into in his last stint on the show, and this investment from the performers has made an old love story young again. You can feel the passion and heartache in his performances as he struggles to reconcile with his family, the vulnerability and pain as he faced down Irene, and the love he still cherishes with Blair as he locked eyes with her at the end of Friday and teased her about their "fairy tale" not being over. When he says he always believed in some fairy tales, I totally bought it -- even if their love is the only one he truly believes. And it meant a lot to me to hear him continue to acknowledge the gravity of what he did to their son, and what it meant to Blair as the worst sin he'd committed upon her and their family.
Todd and Blair were all but Frenching by Friday and I'm excited about their potential reunion -- and grateful that the writers remembered to let Blair remember to call Dr. Dorian, who is sorely missed -- but that was hardly all Todd and Llanview proper got up to this week. Todd also capped Mommie Dearest, putting Irene down for good, or so we think. Barbara Rhoades was actually at her hammy, sneering best in her last week among the living as Evil Irene; she was clearly having fun, and so was I. It's such an outrageous storyline -- with helpful shih tzus and high-tech pipe bombs that Bo has to toss into the lake -- but what brought things home this week were the performances, the dedication of the cast to the high-octane action storyline they were telling, from Howarth and DePaiva on down to everyone else in this umbrella tale. I especially loved Todd defying the specter of his father and reaching for something true and real in his actual life, as opposed to his demons: Blair, the cure for what ailed him, at the other end of the phone.
Again, as silly as the Irene story got this week, character was what won the day; playing the beats not only of Todd's inner demons and of Todd and Blair's reconnection, but also of Jessica's turmoil over the paternity results, and particularly Tina's reconnection with Cord and Viki. I loved that Tina got to call out Viki on her ridiculous double standards regarding Victor and Todd versus Tina's own actions in 2008, which were largely motivated by her fear of Carlo Hesser harming Sarah. I was glad Viki agreed to let bygones be bygones -- her relationship with Tina, and the whole nexus of Tina's character and her story, was what drove so much of this story in the '80s and early '90s. Tina Lord belongs in Llanview, as does Andrea Evans, and I'm so glad she appears here to stay for a while.
The Cord and Tina near-miss was lovely, too -- John Loprieno will always make my knees weak even with a bit of distinguished gray in his curly locks. He perfectly found that balance between mature exasperation and distinct love and affection. I'm glad they're finally giving this supercouple their due (along with perhaps Viki and Clint?) as the show prepares to leave ABC, and hopefully reuniting them for good. I think Tina could be played a bit less silly and a bit more serious, but I also think they've begun doing that by having her face down Viki and get to know Téa. While Andrea Evans is fabulous with comedy and has been an utter delight so far, she's also a legitimate dramatic actress with chops who can use them -- I believe she is perfectly capable of melding her iconic take on the bubbly heiress with the somewhat matured, socially conscious Tina that Karen Witter played so wonderfully in the Linda Gottlieb era.
The other main focus this week was Jessica grappling with her conscience after learning the truth about Liam's paternity. While I think Jess's character needs a long rest at this point -- and to get the hell away from Robert Ford! -- I do like the note the writers played here, by having her not only grudgingly forgive Natalie (which she should have done a while ago) but also keep the secret for Brody's sake. The problem is these past several weeks, and Jessica's choice here, have all been obvious entry points to reuniting Jessica and Brody, but OLTL clearly doesn't want to do it; they'd rather throw him under the bus and keep trying to make Plastic Bobby happen. Ugh. I do like this new wrinkle because it's based in organic character conflicts as opposed to more "rapemances" with Bobby or people just being completely and utterly stupid or unable to express their feelings. We'll see where it goes.
And then there were the sheer, ridiculous comic moments of the week: Number one, Jack is running the Sun. Jack. Running a major metropolitan newspaper I wouldn't leave Jack in charge of a Speak & Spell or an Etch-A-Sketch. What fresh hell is this? Seriously, how does that even happen? He's in high school! He cannot possibly be inheriting editorial control! What the fronk, America? What the fronk? He's not even bright enough not to out himself as a liar to Starr at the police station -- didn't you just love the "d'oh!" look on his face as he realized he had just told his sister how he had fabricated his eyewitness testimony? What a little weasel. I hope Blair locks him overnight in a cabana full of skunk oil and nothing but Rebecca Black on the stereo.
Another shocker moment: The Banner! Viki was actually seen at the Banner! The Banner was seen! I don't think it's been onscreen since 2003, and then only very briefly. This is insane! Now the show really must be leaving Brian Frons's radar! What next, another appearance from Addie? Larry Wolek? Kish? Surprise me, OLTL! I was delighted that they actually made up a set for the Banner again -- I wish they'd bring it back into play for major story. Why not?
Of course, the true gonzo moment of the week crown has to go to the intense scenes between Baby Liam Lovett-McBain and Princess David Vickers. The dog and the baby appeared to be voiced by Andrea Evans and a fairly goofy Michael Easton, respectively, and they had words. Oh, yes. A great many words. I don't even know what to say here. I liked it? I laughed? I rolled my eyes? I clucked my tongue? I enjoyed it anyway? It was ridiculously silly but adorable. Whatever. Anything to make a John story bearable for me. I'll take it. Thanks, OLTL, for never ceasing to amaze me.
And now, a few side notes: With AMC off our airwaves, I wanted to call attention to its former timeslot competitor, Days of our Lives, which for my money may be the best soap on the air today. It's undergone a dramatic creative renaissance in the last couple weeks under the stewardship of its new head writers, and has refocused on timely social issues, families, romance, and community. It's mixing old school storytelling with modern concerns, and I find it to be the perfect lead-in to the slightly more outre OLTL today -- though nothing could replace Pine Valley, of course. Give it a shot, you might like it.
Finally, I wanted to pay my respects to one of OLTL's founding core cast members, the great Doris Belack, who passed away last week. Doris played Anna Wolek Craig, Larry Wolek's no-nonsense sister, for the show's first nine years on the show, a working woman from the wrong side of the tracks who won the love of Llanview Hospital Chief of Staff Jim Craig and forged a relationship with his troubled daughter Cathy. Doris' commanding, down-to-earth presence as everybody's tough-love mom or grandma resonated not only on daytime but in endless memorable character turns on stage and screen. She was a staple as a city judge on the Law & Order franchise, and even essayed a voice role in the last installment of the Grand Theft Auto video game series. We've had characters like Renee, Roxy, Carlotta, etc. since, but Anna was a true original. She is remembered. Rest in peace, Doris Belack, and I'll see you all in two weeks.
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