*Some Adult Language
THE BIGGEST SIN
The latest ratings show GENERAL HOSPITAL behind ONE LIFE TO LIVE for a good reason. It’s called overrunning a once-great soap with nothing but newbies. And expecting one veteran to carry the entire show.
“Sonny, there is so much about me that you don’t know.” –Reese
“I don’t care why you came. I just thought that you and me would’ve been reason enough to stay.” -Sonny
Usually, I’ll know within two days of the following week what my topic will be for channeling. Hell, sometimes I’ve got something waiting in the wings as I’m proofing. But lately?
I’d rather read columns by other soap fans, and have – marveling at one person’s ability to use a vast vocabulary for the same repetitious story ideas and characters, another’s encyclopedia of knowledge on the history and current events, using recaps as a backdrop with which to critique improvements.
This week’s channeling set out to understand why GENERAL HOSPITAL writers chose to, yet again, throw newcomers at Sonny, then give the leftovers – without a continuity editor – window dressing, specifically surrounding the sudden reveal that Reese is (brace yourselves) Charlotte Caroline and Carly is her high school best friend, Carly who appropriated Reese’s real name and fought with Reese before a car accident ended the rest.
In reading last week’s spoilers, even I lost my place several times between the Caroline, Charlotte and Carly revisionist back story before realizing, these women were played by complete GH newcomers, who’d taken over the roles within months, the teen versions in flashbacks, within days. So, why should I care about this latest incident?
I really don’t. And yet, I find myself caring much more about another newcomer filling a veteran’s shoes in the story of Maxie and B.J.’s Heart, revisited.
Kirsten Storms (ex-Belle, DAYS OF OUR LIVES) took over for Robyn Richards just a month ago over fan furor. Nobody understood why THE POWERS THAT BE [TPTB] would do this for the second time; throw away a perfectly decent young actress who embodied Maxie from the beginning of the 1994/95, Emmy-award-winning “B.J.’s Heart” story right before a possible Emmy-award-winning revisit. Or why TPTB could not be bothered to make any effort (the same kind of effort afforded Tyler Christopher/Nikolas in allowing him time off to film Steven Spielberg’s mini-series, Into The West, Tony Geary/Luke his fifty million vacation breaks throughout the year, Maurice Benard/Sonny his lucrative contract that somehow translates into commandeering almost all of the running stories on-screen) to keep the original Felicia in Kristina Wagner, when all she wanted was a financial reason to stick around for a more full-time haul this summer (she’d already signed up for college courses in her pursuit of an education degree).
I’d about given up all hope for this soap opera, much less any interest in this revisited storyline, out of loyalty to Ms. Richards, Ms. Wagner and to the GH that used to regularly tug at my heartstrings. After experiencing what the writers did to the original breast cancer story of Monica’s with the previous year’s revisit centering around another GH newcomer, Natalia Livingston (Emily), and how they made it all about her cheating on Zander with Nikolas, instead of community and family support, I really didn’t need more of the same.
Amazingly, hypocritically, I fell for the recast and the recast story hook, line and sinker, hard. I love the new Maxie, Kirsten Storms immediately took over without even trying. She blended in, with the easygoing, compassionate and sensitive Maxie old-time fans like us knew, from her first appearance, without making it about her. She made me laugh with surprise when she handled her heart condition lightly, going so far as to joke with a hysterical Georgie “Laugh? How dare I?,” almost as if she didn’t want the audience to even hear the quip. Storms’ connection to another GH newcomer, Ignacio Serricchio (Diego), was instantaneous, charming and quietly affecting, causing me to wonder why and how he has been wasted with the intense but iconoclastic Brook Lynn.
The graduation scenes of June 9, Diego’s idea, had me in tears, through Nu Maxie’s tear-filled eyes. Somehow, some way – be it the extremely likeable, fragile inner beauty of Ms. Storms, the writers treating this re-introduction with kid gloves, or a combination of both – I care about this girl, her family and friends. And most amazingly, I don’t care about the bullshit that preceded this happening anymore.
I also care what happens to the Qs, the Spencers, Skye – although her schoolgirl trifling has my head in a spin cycle, Coleman, Jax, Elizabeth, Nikolas, Alexis and Ric. Of these characters, only a few are enjoying a charmed, true to life outside the mob.
Alice narrating “what’s going on around here” to a befuddled, increasingly disgusted Edward as the participants stand (in Coleman’s case, sitting oh so casually) around acting cynical, amused and thoroughly engaged also on June 9 is what GH should be about.
Not Sonny forgetting his parental responsibility in attending to Michael’s therapy, so he can boink Reese, then field a mysterious allusion to her dark, checkered, mysterious past.
At first I thought the problem in this case was TPTB focusing all their energy on newcomer Reese and new recast Carly, coming up with a hare-brained incident – their shared past – just to coerce the audience into liking them better (which failed several times with Sam). Then I thought deeper, past the pretty faces, fashion accessories and excuses to put Sonny in compromising sexually explicit positions.
Sonny. This is all a giant blowjob to him.
TPTB are so confident and so desperate and so stupid that, IMHO, they’re willing to bet the livelihood of cast and crew on one veteran actor, Maurice Benard. They’ve decided to put all their important incidents in his script, confident that the man – who’s not above assuming the acting mentor position – can deliver each and every time, working miracles by engaging inexperienced soap actresses (Kari Wuhrer) and quickie soap recasts (Jennifer Bransford, who, like Tamara Braun, shines without incidents with Ted King’s Lorenzo).
It’s insta-popularity and acceptance by association, and it’s a big fat ugly failure with me.
Maybe the reason I took so well to Nu Maxie’s heart over Nu Carly and Nu Reese’s flings with Sonny is because:
1. I’m sick of Sonny. He doesn’t do anything anymore. Just a lot of self-pitying talk, back to the mob-enforced action. He wears track suits and chains, mumbling about owning up, then continues sticking his fertile cock where it doesn’t belong. He isn’t even involved in what could be a really moving story about his son Michael seeking therapy (they blew that incident with another one, where Alan orchestrates through the therapist the return of Michael to the fold, against Sonny), possibly the father doing the same.
2. Nu Maxie’s story is supported ably, wonderfully and fully by more than one or two members of her clique. She has her family, her friends and maybe a future suitor in the offbeat Diego, who has finally been able to break loose from the lobotomized confines of soap dude (take a tip from him, Kari). Furthermore, this story doesn’t feel like an incident, but a genuine attempt at capturing what it’s like to face a life and death situation, based on history, actual medical facts, and feeling, as well as doing so in a tight-knit, caring community.
3. Kirsten Storms breathes as Nu Maxie, whereas, somehow, Kari Wuhrer and Jennifer Bransford are often held back from creatively breathing new life into their new and recast roles. Putting a hungry young actress like Storms with a bunch of mostly other hungry young actors and actresses – as opposed to a seasoned, overworked vet – couldn’t hurt.
4. Maxie’s heart story looks like it’s going somewhere, toward a satisfying conclusion and spin off into a chance for me to get to know this girl better as she falls in love and helps her sister out. Whereas, anything in Sonny’s death camp seems destined for the recycle heap.
If you disbelieve me about the obvious differences, just take the simple act of making sense. Maxie’s story does that better too. I mean, how can a little girl named Jodie slip past Sonny’s bodyguards and reinforced security system into Michael’s bedroom, when, not so long ago, Michael had been kidnapped along with his brother and sister by Faith’s goons, forcing Sonny to beef up his bodyguard count and security system in the first place? And yet, every now and then, anybody can simply waltz right in, from John Durant and Ric to Reese and Carly, now this Jodie stranger.
Jodie can do this because the writers don’t give a shit about the details when it comes to Sonny. They probably figure, it’s Sonny, he’s our number one money making machine, TPTB’s media darling, single-handedly keeping this show afloat. Details don’t matter.
Well, they do.
THE GREATEST EDGE
So, ONE LIFE TO LIVE outranked GENERAL HOSPITAL in the prized female 18-49
demo during a crucial May Sweeps week. Why’s that? Why, simply, a blessed
return to the characters and their human interactions.
fair in love
fate's a chance
As I noted in this week’s cubbyhole[s ic], I didn’t pay any attention, other than to gloat along with Natalie, when Evangeline broke off her … whatever the fuck it was, mommy/daddy trip? … with John in the June 10th episode.
That is, until Evangeline opened up her mouth and sang Stevie Wonder’s tender but tough ballad, “All In Love Is Fair,” in a flashback. Then I bawled like a baby, especially the part, “at least I got to play.” Speak to my failed past relationships, baby!
With a few boring segments – believe it or not, Asa’s return ain’t doing it for me, and I’m just watching for the sweat to bead on Carlos’ upper lip – ONE LIFE TO LIVE speaks to me, and countless others, judging by the ratings jump, with a boost to its life of the party characters and what they are (as well as we all) concerned about: finding and keeping love alive, defending and fighting for our loved ones, and bonding through laughter, tears and shared experiences.
Instead of putting cartoon characters through one incident after another, only for the incidents to be forgotten mid-way through or positioned to glorify one or two of the lead males in the cast, OLTL writers take care to keep their characters human, and their incidents spare, only to forward and develop relationships, flesh out introspection to a higher level. For the most part.
It’s mostly about relationships. And we can all relate to those.
I could certainly empathize with the frustration and loneliness of two lost souls meeting at the wrong time, one terribly damaged but unfailingly kind, the other helpless but to put a lie to her vow of independence. The break-up scene between Evangeline and John aggravated me in a sense that, as much as she annoys with her self-serving, loaded conversation stoppers – while breaking up with him, she kept leading him on with pleas to prove her wrong – she still engaged me, in hindsight. I’ve been Evangeline on so many occasions it’s not even funny. I’ve known more than one John McBain in my lifetime; ladies, the men in your lives must say the words first, unprompted, or it never works.
I’ve never been a Natalie, a fiery red-haired siren, able to evoke such impassioned lust and longing in not one but two virile, complex men, torn between her and their established significant others. But maybe that is why I wanted so much to identify with her, to side with her, over a deep-seated need in me for that happy ending when the tortured man does rediscover his courage and takes that leap of faith with the inspiration of the woman of his dreams.
They should have Evangeline sing her heart out more. I saw more in her flashback performance (missed during a road trip, December through February) – the strength, power, deep understanding of angst she never shows upfront that Michael sees could literally save John from the abyss – than in all of her excessive oratory.
What they’re doing with David and Spencer is nothing short of offbeat. This entire show and all its cast of character actors are nothing short of offbeat. It’s what often leaves OLTL low in the ratings and online buzz, and what often raises OLTL to (unappreciated by critics) cult status amongst its loyal fan base. Paul Satterfield (Spencer) commented about the offbeat characteristic of the show and its people, saying that he fit right in. The actors are serious about their craft, but goofy and not likely to take much of the show biz stuff seriously, he explained, just like him.
Instead of the usual cloak and dagger, brotherly reunion – think GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Robert Scorpio decking Mac at first sight, then extrapolating as to the initial misunderstanding – David appears for the first time almost malevolent, sinister, in his fearsome regard for Spencer, and Spencer appears slightly apathetic, a twinge bemused, toying with his younger brother, roles clearly reversed. That is, until David pushes too far, and Spencer pulls a one-finger move destined to be fatal with the push of barely a half-inch into the neck.
Here, we have a charming, brilliant surgeon capable of lethal injection within a split second, a commendable tactic used by Satterfield, which speaks to this actor’s adaptable ability to reach deeply beyond words on a page of a bare-bones synopsis of his new character and create in him an immediate, memorable force.
Pairing him up with the quixotic, equally adaptable David will surely lead to a revelatory force to be reckoned with, as fans have longed to learn more about this former carnie’s background.
Therein lies the basic difference between these two ABC Daytime shows: THE POWERS THAT BE on OLTL give the fans what they want, eventually, while TPTB on GH give the fans what they think they want.
The difference results in one soap’s ratings’ spike, and another’s cancellation rumors (due to intentional indifference and incompetence).
I know which one I’d prefer to watch.