It was a tragic day for me today as I bid a sad farewell to my status as a General Hospital recapper, a job that I've held for several years now. As I reflected on how much I will miss GH (the recapping, not the show, which I will keep watching), I couldn't help but compare the framework and devices that GH uses to tell a story to the ones that The Young and Restless, which I continue to recap one day a week, uses.
I was pondering it because so many of you, including my friend Bessie, who are 30-plus-year fans have been so forthright in expressing your disgust with the current pacing and direction of Y&R. Despite being a "glass half full" kind of gal, when I view Y&R from an objective recapper's point of view, I can't help but agree.
It's been more than a year since we were promised changes, but I am not seeing anything significant. It seems to me that every time Y&R takes a step forward, it takes two steps back. In my opinion, Y&R would have done better if it had copied GH's storytelling techniques to bolster the show, rather than retaining its own archaic methods and lazily trying to capitalize on the popularity of established actors from other shows.
Case in point: on GH, a new character and a murder mystery were introduced shortly after the music box mystery began on Y&R. Four months later, the GH mystery was solved, and two completely unexpected plot twists were introduced that were clever variations on common soap situations. A story wrapped up; we fans got a surprise we hadn't predicted months in advance, and it provided a smooth transition and setup for another story. The unknown actor who carried the story proved to be a very good choice.
On Y&R, the music box mystery, which began before the GH mystery, has been dragging on for so long that my initial enthusiasm has waned. I wanted to like the story, but the storytelling has been so disjointed that it has been hard to follow. Even for a recapper, this is off-putting. As a fan, it is barely acceptable. I still like Colin and Jill together, and I was genuinely glad to hear Bad Boy-o Scorpio admit that he had fallen for Jill, but the pacing is fingernails-on-chalkboard annoying.
I just hope that Jill heard Colin admit his feelings for her and that she doesn't go into a hateful Jill tizzy, which is the soap standard. I would much rather see Jill reassured of Colin's love and use her sharp tongue to help Colin resolve his difficulties successfully.
So please, Y&R, solve the music box puzzle already and give these two some other stories -- meddling grandparents maybe. The writers are supposed to be a brain trust, but as far as I'm concerned, they are a brain bust. The fans that write in have far more imaginative ideas for stories and couple pairings than the predictable drivel that Y&R is offering us at the moment.
Hopefully, Y&R will not sink as low as Passions did. It was pitiful at the end. Not only did Passions show the same two people in the same place over and over again, the actors repeated almost the same exact dialogue, scene after scene. The show barely moved forward at all during its last year.
At GH's low point, they had a lot of two character repeat argument scenes also, but at least the dialogue was different every time. Event though the show moved slowly, it was bearable because some of it was still witty and funny. If Y&R puts two actors in a room and keeps repeating the dialogue, then we'd all better run like rats on a sinking ship! Okay, I'm finished ranting about that, but I swear I'm just standing on the same soapbox as the fans that have been writing to me during the last two weeks!
Another one-step-forward-two-steps-back technique that Y&R should retire is the fake-out misdirect, because we are wise to it. Here's an example. They got us riled up, trying to make us think that Lauren was pregnant, and then teased us about who on the show was really pregnant. That would be terrific if they didn't treat us like morons and tell us the answer before we had time to ask the question. As soon as Victoria threw up in the park, my pal, Bessie, immediately wrote that Victoria would be pregnant.
I agree with her because Y&R is stodgy and unimaginative, so it stands to reason that they would fall back on the tried and true soap opera axiom, which states that a woman who has tried desperately and unsuccessfully to get pregnant by her husband will be impregnated by the first man she sleeps with outside her marriage, regardless of whether or not she used protection.
Now, if Y&R puts a twist on this and makes it Billy's baby, that might be more interesting, especially since the writers seem to be subtly altering Billy's personality. Hmm, maybe he took a bigger knock on the noggin than we thought, or maybe while he was wandering around after the accident, he got an electrical shock that caused big changes in him like that ECT caused in Sharon.
The Sharon saga took at least one step forward when some of the details about the Cassie look-alike were revealed to Sharon and Nick, but it was two steps back when we, the audience, did not find out anything that we didn't already know. For me, it just fizzled. I'm tired of waiting to find out, did-she-or-didn't-she change the paternity test, and who is the Cassie clone really?
Opinions are mixed about Sharon. Some of you want her tarred, feathered, and run out of town. That seems a little harsh, since no matter how heinous Sharon's crimes, she has been mentally ill, and in real life, we've probably all forgiven someone who has done something to us that seemed equally despicable at the time.
I hang on to the possibility that Sharon did not change the paternity test, or if she did, Nick will still forgive her, because the ECT has reset Sharon to that sweet girl that Nick married, the loving wife who frolicked with mother-in-law Nikki at those Newman summer pool parties. She was Nikki and Victor's beloved daughter-in-law until Cassie's death changed everything.
So it makes perfect soap opera plot sense to me that imposter Cassie will eventually bond into a family with Nick, Sharon, Noah, and Faith. They will find out that fake Cassie is a twin born to Sharon that Sharon was never told about. That will seamlessly reset the clock and whisk them all back to the family unit of 20 years ago and effectively erase Cassie's death and its consequences. If that happens, I'll be very glad, along with a lot of other fans who think that Nick and Sharon are, have always been, and will always be, the hottest couple on Y&R.
Really though, I don't care how the story finally ends; I just want it to end. I want the truth to emerge about Summer's paternity so that this story is resolved once and for all. Summer needs someone to date so that she can double with Noah and Courtney. Right now, there is no one her age in town that's not a relation. I suppose that would be a good argument for going off to college in another town like Fen did. I wonder how long before Fen is back with his law degree? Probably a lot sooner than Abby gets to meet Mariah.
It is definitely two steps back for Tyler and Abby, whose initial chemistry failed to spark. The sizzle has turned to fizzle since the writers embarked on this inane Mariah, the psycho ex-girlfriend, story, which has already lasted longer than the above-referenced resolved GH story, and we still don't have a clue about what's going on. Y&R has dangled that tattooed arm in front of us and has had Tyler sneaking off to meet Mariah, while Abby remains oblivious, for so long that we no longer care. In fact the, sooner that the lot of them pack up and leave town, the happier most of us will be, if the letters I get are any indication.
I'm finding that I like the character of Kelly, as Cady McClain is now playing it, but I also really loved Cynthia Watros' interpretation. I think as fans, we finally got a win-win, because Peter Bergman's Jack has had great chemistry with both actresses. But again, as one who looks at the genre objectively, I fear that Y&R is once more headed down the safe, mundane, predictable path instead of doing something more spectacular.
For weeks, we've been teased with pictures and memories of Phyllis, and now, suddenly, Jack had become very enamored of Kelly. I don't think that this is wrong. Jack is not married to Phyllis, and though I have no doubt that he loves her, the fact remains that if this were real life, Jack would have to face the unwelcome possibility that Phyllis' chances of recovery are diminishing rapidly as each day passes, so I think that it is normal for Jack to find himself beginning to move on. Holding on to the past is very difficult to do without giving up life completely, and Jack is just not that kind of person.
Jack has a zest for life and loves his family, so it is natural for him to be drawn to Kelly, who has many Phyllis-like qualities. I would expect that if the show does not intend to recast Phyllis, they would still need a character to represent the qualities that Phyllis possesses and who exhibits the same strength of purpose and will. McClain is more than capable of playing that role. She could play Phyllis as easily as she has slipped into the role of Kelly.
I don't think that there are any immediate plans to recast Phyllis because there is no casting call rumor circulating. I think the return of Phyllis is a tease at this point. I believe that in typical soap fashion, Summer will discourage, and maybe even try to sabotage, the relationship as Jack and Kelly grow closer. Eventually, she will accept Kelly as her new stepmom. Then, if Phyllis is recast, she will return, wreak havoc, and reveal Summer's true paternity. Hopefully it will be some time before the year 2525.
Ick and double ick on Neil and Hilary. Neil is too old to be that needy. I admit that the acting's not bad, but there is a whole lot more natural attraction between Hilary and Devon. I know that Neil will once again be a loser in love, and this is a setup for a father-son competition, but it's old soap hat, and it just makes me lose respect for Neil. I know that a lot of you feel the same way.
I don't know why Y&R keeps shooting itself in the foot. Sparks flew between Hilary and Devon last December. Instead of exploiting that and drawing us in, they sent Devon off with blah, boring, venal Esmerelda and are now putting Hilary into an unpalatable relationship with Neil. Five months after Devon and Hilary sparked, they are further apart than ever, so that relationship is a one step forward, two steps back non-starter. We're not fooled. We're not impressed. We're watching; we're just disappointed.
I do believe that the powers that be, from top management down, think that we are gullible, brainless idiots, and that is why we are treated with such disdain. When I looked at Sony's mega media empire, I realized that Y&R is such a small part of it that I'm not even sure if Sony cares enough about the show to give a second thought about axing it if they could make more money by doing so. I hate to sound so negative, but I'm having a really difficult time understanding how a show that has been on top for 25 years can sink so far so fast and remain so pedestrian for so long! Oh my, I'm ranting again. I feel like the Rush Limbaugh of soaps!
Moving on, soap opera logic dictates that Ian is behind the funding of Avery's cooking show, since he was lurking at Crimson Lights and listening in as she and Dylan received and discussed the news. He also made a phone call just before Avery received hers. At least Ray Wise is a bright spot. He may be a villain, but he's a fresh face who can act. But again, instead of giving us a surprise later, we heard Ian tell Leslie that he is sterile, and we quickly surmised the now obvious: that Paul is Dylan's father.
What could have remained a mystery is out in the open and the only tease is how long before Avery and Dylan quit assuming that Ian is lying and figure out what Ian is hinting at. How long will we have to wait for Dylan, Paul, and Avery to find out what we already know and will forget before that threesome ever figures out the truth?
I'm still torn about Bonaventure. It would be perfect revenge if Adam were the one that Colin has been calling. The guy that Colin met today could be whoever is helping Adam hide out. This is another story that could use some attention and more fleshing out. Clearly, someone is after Victor and used Cane to help. Tell us something we don't know instead of repeating what we already do know. Make it interesting instead of boring us to death. Oops! Ranting again.
Lots of satisfaction out there now as we, -- yes, even the Victor fans -- gleefully anticipate Victor's comeuppance now that his connection to fake Cassie has been uncovered. Nick was in high dungeon, and never was a tongue-lashing delivered with more relish or was it more deserved. Knowingly tormenting Sharon in the same way that Victor had watched Ashley suffer might never be forgiven in real life, but in soap life, I suspect, that down the soap road, Victor will find his way back to the bosom of his family.
In the meantime, I think that hell will rain down on Victor as Nick predicted, so enjoy the censure as long as it lasts because I have no doubt that a defensive, unrepentant Victor is going to have a very bumpy ride before he can slouch off and lick his wounds. I can't imagine ever treating anyone the way that Victor treated Sharon. I've often said that I was Victor in a dress, and to a certain degree it is true, but I'm more like the younger Victor, seen in that flashback scene, who, out of love, built a house for Nick and his blushing bride, Sharon.
Victor was loving and generous then, and everything that I would want to be. Nick loved Victor and told him so. Since last week, I've thought about that scene often, and I wondered what had caused that great dichotomy in character between the Victor of 20 years ago and the Victor of today. What happened? Did Victor really change into a mean, insufferable control freak, or have the writers subtly assassinated his character over time? Personally, I want the nicer Victor back. He had grit, but he wasn't hateful. Maybe Victor would benefit from ECT, or maybe the person writing his dialogue should have the treatment.
So this is the part where I say, "It's only a soap," and sigh, but it's more than that to me. Not only do I love analyzing the genre, but also I adore being surprised by it, and believe me, surprising me is not that easy. As a kid, I always found my Christmas presents then I carefully unwrapped and rewrapped them. That way I was rarely surprised by a gift, though I pretended to be. This was particularly helpful in practicing gracious acceptance for presents that I would never wear or use. Every once in a while, my folks would slip one by me, and that was always the best present I got. So come on, Y&R, slip one over!
Fans are bemoaning the loss of another favorite as we prepare to say goodbye to Chloe. Most of us think the actress is great, even though we thought that the character had a lot of nerve to claim to be the injured party when Chelsea refused to let Chloe see Connor. Chloe has also treated Kevin pretty badly, but we're still going to miss her offbeat spunk and Hendrickson's terrific acting.
May sweeps are starting soon, so this is a perfect time for Y&R to tie up loose ends, finish a whole bunch of boring stories, and launch some new ones, hopefully packed with surprises and a few twists on familiar themes. If the status quo doesn't change, then I respectfully suggest that Sony wipe the slate clean, bring in some hip, young people who understand the history and can write characters, cast actors that have charisma and appeal, and most importantly, know how to use modern storytelling techniques that will take the show into the future and beyond.
As I read this over, I can see that this is one of those columns where I've been "personal." I'm not apologizing, because I know that many of you enjoy my take on things, but I'm always a little sorry when I know that I won't please everyone.
In that vein, I have one last personal comment on my final day as a GH recapper. I was a bit disappointed that GH followed the traditional soap opera custom, which dictates that soap opera babies are always born early and can be delivered anywhere except in a hospital, e.g., Sam delivered in a motel room, Carly in a remote cabin, Chelsea in a loft, Phyllis in an elevator, and Teá by the side of the road. Today, Sabrina also gave birth by the side of the road. Suddenly, the phrase, "Deliver the baby by the side of the road," "Deliver the baby by the side of the road," started roaring staccato-like in my brain.
I realized that the "by the side of the road" part was a repeating refrain from a performance art piece that I had admired many years ago for its cadence and symbolism. It was the work of seriously talented saxophonist and spoken word artist, Gene Avery. He is still performing at Luna's Café in Sacramento, CA. If you ever get to the area, look for him there on Thursday nights. Ah, if only the words of the Y&R scribes could boast as much meaning, fluidity, and staying power as those of Mr. Avery.