CAUTION: My girl, Carol, speaks her mind in a strong, brassy and vibrant fashion. If you are offended by straight talking, adult oriented language (sometimes, there's a "very" in there), please be aware that you may well find it here. Carol shoots from the hip and tells it like it is, pulling no punches and taking no prisoners. That's why I love her & why I hired her. If it's not your bag, let's part still friends and salute our differences in tastes (I'm sort of a strong strawberry flavor...) ~*~Katrina~*~
Ever wonder why villains and vixens lose their almighty power the second they develop a soul of an inkling of humanity? Why can’t they intimidate, threaten, confront and conquer as equally when they’re doing it for the good of a new-found friend or newborn child?
Whenever something bad happens to someone good – and nobody good steps forward to help – I can’t help but wonder about the unfair, often ironic nature of humanity in this life.
There exists heroes, no doubt. But what of the bullies, terrorists, hired killing machines? Why do they seem to almost subconsciously agree to leave each other alone and focus on the poor, defenseless victims? Why don’t they ever, as in Hollywood-ized films, band together for their own selfish interests that somehow coincide with the behind-the-scenes orchestration of a former baddie with good on his mind, like, ridding the world of a truly evil force? Why couldn’t the good guys hire the bad boys to take out, behind law and order, convicted criminals, that AIDS-infested scumbag who went on a sex spree, intent on spreading his fatal disease to unsuspecting women (and their families), the predator lurking in schoolyards waiting for a certain red- or blond-haired six-year-old boy type to prey on for torturing purposes, bin Laden, Kaddafi...
Or in soaps, why can’t AMC’s Reggie make good on his threat to invite his former hoodlums to wreck havoc on the trio of popular, bad chicks’ cars, maybe Danielle could hire a few sistahs to take care of Autumn, Chantal and China on the sly, as the law-abiding grown-ups Jackson and Derek, conveniently look the other way, for just one daytime example... y’know?
Lately, I don’t see much of this perfect vengeance unlimited in my ABC Daytime programming, using bad to combat evil. I’d like to, it would make for better viewing and succeed on several storytelling fronts, not the least of which are creating riveting, time-tested classic tales of good and evil, good triumphing every time in more than goody-two-shoes ways and opening up every opportunity for the borderline villains and vixens to reform, using their very weaknesses for the benefit of humankind and their sins for their own introspective understanding of others (horror novelist Stephen King rules doing this).
How much better would GH’s Faith Roscoe be if she had cause to connive, threaten and order hits on a greater evil power, say Cesar Faison, to protect and defend the children of Port Charles? R.J. could still keep his dangerous street cred, while secretly donating his considerable wily skills towards ensuring that nobody he loves be remotely considered for the murder of evil incarnate Paul Cramer over at OLTL (and this might very well happen in due time). AMC fans online are all a’buzz that this coming week, JR will cease and desist in his usual outrageously cruel intentions, insults and general fascist behavior to return once again to the torn, tormented fascination of a lost soul risking one, final glimpse toward heaven. Perhaps he’ll spill his guts to Bianca about Bess being her Miranda baby after all, seek to right the wrongs he and his father Adam perpetrated on the townsfolk. Surprising things could happen.
Another aspect of this tunnel vision about villains perennially perplexes me, on- (and off-)screen. You’d think eventually some smart head writer out there would impart the wisdom and kindness of a thousand Mother Teresas upon a Faith Roscoe WITHOUT castrating the very trait that got the murdering mob wannabe her nasty reputation.
With very few exceptions – only Tony Geary’s Luke on GH comes to my mind right now – the second the villains discover their softer side, falling for one damsel in distress too many or going gushy over suffer the little children, turning human after an unconditional, unprompted gesture of kindness... the villains ultimately lose their power to overcome any obstacle to their nefarious ends.
(Well, mostly because they have to then stick to the limits of the law like everybody else.)
Because of the saving grace of love, the villains are forced to reexamine their own villainous behavior, tone it down, remove it altogether, and find themselves often at a loss as to defeating their enemies. And this time, they need every device at their disposal, including the amoral, questionable ethics and devious follow-throughs that they once applied without question before becoming humane.
I wouldn’t have a problem if AMC’s David broke a few rules now and then to keep JR from keeping Bess from Babe (so Babe could give Bess back to Bianca), and somehow manage to enable Babe and Krystal to escape the strong arm of the law while he was at it. He himself achieved the impossible plenty of times on the road to recovery, escaping quite a few convictions and a surefire, lengthy stay at Sing-Sing.
I sure am dying for Erica to revert to her original type, as a tough, single-minded, cruel bully, in order to exact payback and justice for the unjust manner in which those three popular chicks, their parents and the financially indebted principal keep putting Lily and her father Jackson off. The old Erica would’ve laid waste to anybody daring to even THINK about mocking or liquoring up autistic teenager Lily, had the old Erica even cared – which, back then, she wouldn’t. Imagine the utter soapy perfection of Erica reviving her lesser instincts for the better good.
Admittedly, I’m forever going off on imaginative tangents started with, “What if...?,” crossing characters over, mingling the dark characters together for a common cause much nobler than their baser needs could ever comprehend, but they can now, because of the love of a good man or a good woman, (or because of a Sean Connery movie, “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen”).
A little over a year ago, AMC’s head writer Megan McTavish pulled it off beautifully when she paired up arch enemies Adam and Palmer (once renown for their brutality – visited upon their own especially) on the noble quest of avenging the rape of Bianca by Michael Cambias, and Erica with David, Reggie with Kendall, and on and on, busting out every devious maneuver at their disposal.
Former OLTL head writer Michael Malone and others before him have tried to do the same, but never with as much conviction. R.J.’s loyalties to his friends and family, Asa’s, Todd’s, Dorian’s, Lindsay’s... is always merely hinted at, teased in a glimpse of David tossing Dorian’s gun into the river, or R.J. loaning Lindsay his untraceable gun for protection.
The first time Malone took over writing duties in the ‘90s, he almost pulled off a beautiful redemption story for Antonio “El Lion” Vega, when introducing the proud, ferocious gang leader, wrongly imprisoned for a bar brawl that went horribly awry and released after having studied to become a lawyer. He also pulled off two major soap requirements in the bargain: glorifying good in the most unlikely places and featuring a minority player in the center of the proceedings.
On GH, I’m supposed to get into the latest caper Luke and Skye are involved in and about to involve Faith and Lorenzo in too. All four participants are or were criminals or criminally inclined. Each of the four agree to a reluctant, tenuous group effort for their own personal purposes, Luke to save (and find) Laura from a murder sentence, Skye to save her own skin, Faith to start a new, better life with Justus somewhere safe and Lorenzo to possibly capitalize on Luke flaking out on his marker, and taking over the Haunted Star. Yet co-head writers Bob Guza and Charles Pratt are unable to draw me in, because they haven’t invested in the redemptive value of intrinsically decent, but offbeat people who behave badly teaming up for the greater good. They’ve left Luke, Skye, Faith and Lorenzo out to dry, doing and saying a lot of nothing just for something to do to offset the heavy human-based drama over at General Hospital proper.
But I was talking about the writers missing every opportunity to transform a petty operative into something special, the ultimate anti-hero who knows enough to still keep the edge, the thinking outside the legal bounds, and call on his anti-hero buddies on occasion, to finally do some good.
If this were allowed, the truly unrepentant, unredeemable bad guys and gals would not know what hit them.
“OMG, BESS IS MIRANDA.”
The moment I’ve been waiting for began with JR turning a corner from Adam to Dixie after reading Babe’s letter to him.
Babe did it, she came clean, sort of. She should’ve done it in person, face to face, like a woman, but took the coward’s way out, leaving behind several revealing letters on the identity of Bess (as Miranda), leaving out the part about Ace over in OLTL’s Llanview being hers and JR’s. Then, as the coward Krystal raised in her own commitment-phobic image, Babe took off with Jamie to kidnap her own baby and live in anonymity as Mr. and Mrs. Anderson in Mexico.
Everybody received the letters, but everybody did not get to read them. Five guesses who. In the days to come, JR will have realized the truth of Babe’s letter at the crash site, Bianca will harangue Erica about the letter, Erica will not fold, Bianca will then go to JR and get him to recite the contents of the letter, but alas, she will not believe him.
No matter. I’ve waited for what seems like years (merely about eight months) for the baby-switching truth to come out, for Tad to open his eyes, for JR to close his as the tears flowed, for Erica to go after Krystal first, Babe second and Miranda third, to return to her beloved daughter Bianca. It’s like cliffhanger day every day, and this week will be even better.
For all my (our) grumbling about head writer Megan McTavish delaying the inevitable with her pathetic stalling tactics (Babe is about to spill her guts, no wait, time for a chat with God off in the wilderness miles away!), the lady got one thing right in soapy storytelling, she knows how to pay off dividends just as extravagantly. The fallout from this baby-switching incident will reverberate with the core characters for years to come.
Still, I wished ... as Kendall and Bianca made eyes with a little girl whom they believed to be Babe’s ... that somehow McTavish and her writing team could’ve found it in their creative mind meld to afford the quick recovery of both babies within seconds after Paul’s attempted (aborted) plane crash – then create story from there. Unfortunately, I suspect in today’s ADD-addled world of invasive immediacy, McTavish and team could ill-afford such luxury. In the golden heydays of soaps, when good, old-fashioned, often boring, tales of relationships forging, developing and crashing thrived, allowing a mother to bond with her baby within seconds to minutes of birth, as surrounding relatives and friends joined in was good enough... maybe. But today when it’s the old nothing new, when it’s better to seek the next shocking event around the corner, maybe a peek at Paris Hilton’s nipples, maybe a new Eminem video displaying the evisceration of Michael Jackson’s shady reputation, maybe WWIII over politics as usual?... never.
So, if they’re going to drag this baby-switch story out, they might as well go all the way. And, they have, as practically the entire town will learn sooner or later, that Bianca’s baby never died and Babe perpetrated one of the worst deceptions a mother ever could – all before the actual other mother in question – Bianca – learns.
In this specific case, it’s not so much about when Bianca learns, and believes, but about the journey of those around her in getting there. The performances by the key players in this story alone are worth the further wait.
I’m reading some fantastic reviews of JR’s Jacob Young, who managed to overcome his “Pretty Anger Boy” image and whose character stopped cutting people down for a living long enough to reveal a breaking heart and a genuine attachment for the adorable baby Binks Jr.
Before, he barely cracked a genuine smile in between his baby bartering, all clenched jaws and steely gazes, posed perfectly as a battering mannequin in dictator repose. Not even his own, brother Jamie’s sacrifices, stepfather Tad’s appeals, best friend Bianca’s plight...moved JR. Not until the real threat of losing his daughter, Bess, did the smile crack into a stricken look of panic, sorrow and resignation.
It makes sense that he would be the one to come clean after all to Bianca in the end. The perfect antidote, a foil from the former number one enemy of Babe and Bianca, broken down in confessions and regret. Guy de Maupassant couldn’t have come up with a better, more surprising twist.
Watching Tad come unglued as he put two and two together to equal Krystal’s ultimate betrayal also provided me with closure. He spoke all the words most fans like me longed to hear, “Oh my God, Bess is Miranda,” and then some. Portrayer Michael E. Knight’s entire body, including his usually bored, smirking face, reacted fully to the lies, the deception, the elaborate con his intended fiancée put over on him, from the DNA switch to the joining of forces with his arch-enemy David, to the hurtful reminder of what his dead beloved, Dixie, went through personally. In Knight’s capable hands, with his reputation for economy of insults, always hitting their marks, the first of many in a series of climaxes couldn’t have been pulled off as efficiently and thoroughly by anyone else.
The only drawback is in having to listen to Krystal’s self-interested rationalizations, backward logic used as compassion, and watch her crocodile tears over Bianca, the best friend of her daughter, a new mother and a rape survivor she treated as a completely insignificant stranger. My sympathies to portrayer Bobbie Eakes, who’s doing the best she can with the material that does nothing but set her up as a villainess. Quite frankly, unless Krystal does something enormously selfless, having nothing to do with her precious Babe but everything to do with Bianca, the character is shot.
The true test of a good story is in the longevity of its draw – whether it frustrates me, is hampered on occasion by leaps in logic or narrows the field into tunnel vision, to the detriment of other stories (Edmund and Maria divorcing, Greenlee going nuts, Jonathan falling for Maggie, Bobby losing Anita to Aidan).
The baby-switch story took eight months and counting to reach this climax, with more climaxes to come as more is revealed to others. It’ll probably take eight more months to a year before the dust settled, and then, the characters must adjust to a new family scenario as Bianca learns to love her presumed-dead baby all over again, forgive those who kept this secret and her baby from her, and as Babe reaps the punishment she, David, Krystal and Jamie so richly deserve, as they, too, learn to adjust to a new baby in their lives, a baby boy.
I can’t wait.
“YOU HAVE GOOD DREAMS.”
While the repercussions of the baby-switch story over on AMC, where the story started, have become a huge hit with fans and pushed the struggling soap up to first place in the demos, OLTL’s writers just went through the motions, barely giving the Frons-ordered cross-over edict enough thought.
Dan Gauthier’s Kevin and Heather Tom’s Kelly seemed frantic, lost and scared enough. Gauthier, especially, earned his place as a recently-nominated SOD actor as his normally suave business-like demeanor cracked slightly, revealing a little boy wandering around aimlessly, wondering what to do, in a helpless daze, as Viki and Dorian ordered him to report the child missing to Bo, and Bo inquired as to the details. I thought this cross-over of one story, two soaps, would succeed as I saw Kevin gently place three, four pictures of Ace, one by one, on Bo’s desk, barely able to believe that his baby boy was gone, and struggling to grieve for the loss of this one, when he’d never grieved for the loss of his own.
But the predominant concern of OLTL’s writers and whomever charged them with the Santi mob story infiltrating every corner of Llanview managed to dilute and derail that thought immediately.
What stands AMC out from OLTL, and GH too for that matter, is that somehow AMC’s writers are able to include more characters, related by blood, friendship, and common concern in scenes for a major story that fans have instantly gravitated to. Not only is the more, the merrier, but the more is the essential foundation for an important story to work.
Because only a handful of conveniently available characters happened to be around at the time of Ace’s kidnapping – Viki and Dorian, for reasons other than Ace – without any character/story development leading up to this climax, I did not care. If the writers can hardly be bothered to involve the town in this matter, how am I supposed to be bothered to involve myself in the freak-out of an isolated Kevin and Kelly?
Instead, I found myself returning to a shockingly sexual dream I’d had in the middle of last week involving none other than Michael Easton’s John McBain.
Shocking because Easton/John is not my type. Oh, he’s cute enough, in that dark, smoldering way, a male doppelganger if you will, but he’s not Damian Lewis, tall, lanky, awkward, red-haired, or Mark King (Level 42), burn victim scary outsider enough.
So when I found myself going for Michael Easton, aka John McBain, causing a small cut on his upper lip, then going for him again, apologizing but swearing I really can kiss better, and he softly, gently obliged me, you could’ve knocked me down with a can of genital lubricant.
The rest of my dream sequenced into me sliding onto his lap as he leaned back on a sofa, me opening my bra (I just happened to have a maternity bra on for nursing), letting my 37DD breasts have at his mouth – which strangely felt like my husband’s – and trying to find his less-than-porno-sized penis to fit in one of the crevices that passes for my vagina opening...
I dream all the time, every time I close my eyes to sleep. Sex dreams are no big deal to me, I experience them, as a bisexual, in and out of body forms, and wake up shrugging off the after-glow easily.
Unless they’re one of THOSE dreams, sexual or not. I am also lucky enough to experience vivid, beyond lucid alternate universes, which sometimes garner a premonition, a psychic connection or encounter and a few glimpses into another person’s soul, or two. It’s like that “Ally McBeal” episode where a comatose woman did not want to wake up to die, because she’d been living her entire, superior life in her dreams, with a husband, children, family and friends... in stark contrast to her actual existence as a lonely spinster. ...Only I’m not a lonely spinster, just odd for my closing in on 40 years.
I’m not saying me and Michael Easton are gonna be soul mates next month or anything (from what I hear, he’s already taken, and his character drinks way too much coffee and beer for my liking)... although at one time when he was on PC as vampire Caleb, I did fancy we shared a poetic sensibility, since he’s published “Eighteen Straight Whiskeys” detailing his experiences on the recovering end of homeless. And once I e-mailed his webmaster several of my own poetic treatises.
I’m not even saying the dream meant anything other than my mind picking up on the last image I saw before I hit the sack. After watching OLTL and John’s everywhere on that show, it’s not a surprise I’d be reenacting what might’ve been had Natalie given in to her lust and not let Evangeline stand in the way.
The dream just felt different from my usual imaginative wanderings, more real, like maybe there’s a reason – other than wanting to jump his bones, which I swear, I don’t – my mind focused on him in particular. It could be as innocent as an approaching storyline turn that will stand the actor in better stead amongst the audience of critics and fans. He WILL allow himself to go there with Natalie as Evangeline gives way and as Cristian makes his way back for a different triangle. It could be as significant as me about to meet the man in person, maybe in passing and I say nothing (I’ve passed the likes of Ronald Reagan Jr. on the streets of Seattle and said nothing; it’s my anonymous instinct), or I say a lot of somethings, and he remembers me because he faithfully reads my columns here and elsewhere.
Hey, it could happen.
Besides, on Thursday, November 4, he – as John McBain – did sort of mention me, i.e. dreaming, to Evangeline on the phone, as in “You have good dreams,” he’d see her later the next day. I took that as a sign.
When I wasn’t ogling on the deja-vu.
“I WILL DO WHAT I NEED TO DO, TO PROTECT MY DAUGHTER.”
The writers kept the baby-in-peril theme going over in Port Charles and the viewers responded in kind with predictable bickering about blame.
Factions formed between those who found new excuses to vilify Alexis as a monster and those who found theirs to urge the hasty exit of newcomer Sam, while the rest of us in the minority sat back and felt enormous compassion for both characters (and the actresses forced into such troubling confines by the heat-seeking writers).
Through over two decades of taking sides myself, I’ve learned a lot as a GH soap fan. Namely, to enjoy the storyline as it unfolds first and examine my reactions in such a fantastical context. Often, I had to learn these lessons the hard way, through board and fanbase wars, through my own deeper frustrations with my personal life or the incompetence of the show’s PTB, and through just plain growing up, as a college student, a single working girl, a wife, a mother.
I learned, as a matter of fact, that life is never cut and dried, this or that, as easy as Jason pointing angrily at Alexis and yelling, “And she did it!” It would be, wouldn’t it? Then none of us would have to give much introspective thought to the other person’s plight; we could all strut around with our crowns believing we were always right, demi-gods lost in the kingdom of Eden.
While almost everybody else railed against selfish Alexis and Sam steadfastly taking care of their own, with no regard for the well-being of the other, ignoring the sudden onset of an unremarkable, illogical plot turn designed solely to heighten Maurice Benard’s Sonny’s senses... I watched without expectation, preconception, the common soap disorder of the spoiled, waiting for their beliefs to bear fruit.
I watched Nancy Lee Grahn take Alexis to a place no sane person, much less a devoted mother, would want to go, literally shattering her soul before my eyes. And I couldn’t believe that she would open up herself this way, and for this? The GH writers who’ve shown her nothing but contempt in painting her as the vindictive, petty, ugly spinster villain out to ruin S&C? Those anti-fans who’ve shown her nothing but disrespect and loathing for having the misfortune of hitting sparks with one-half of S&C and simply doing her job well (while being outspoken about her craft, her life and her politics)?
In a crucial scene, Grahn had to break down in front of Maurice Benard’s Sonny, while Rick Hearst’s Ric observed, begging the mobster to have pity on her and leave their daughter alone. She could barely get her lines out, some lines were mangled, run over, in her attempt to reach the awful, painful truth of the situation and convey that truth to someone she felt would never listen.
Benard and Hearst fought mightily to resist, and for the most part, failed miserably – high praise to Grahn for her affecting, effective acting.
I could actually see Benard struggling not to cry in sympathy for Grahn’s Alexis, and believe with all my heart that the actor – unlike a lot of his fans – felt the opposite of his character, felt Alexis had more than succeeded in convincing Sonny, felt Sonny was a cold, thoughtless bastard to cause this in the first place.
Hearst is such a gentleman in real life and such the friend to all his co-stars, it wasn’t a surprise to catch him protectively putting an arm around Grahn, to hold her up, give her strength to go on with the scene, as both actor and in character. I could fairly see this man dying to do more than what had been scripted for his character, to burst out and beat the crap out of Sonny.
In another crucial scene, the finale to Friday, November 5, Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis) came up against Kelly Monaco (Sam), and came out the clear winner – if we’re talking about convincing me of the character’s plight.
Again, Monaco said her lines perfectly, seemed torn and upset about having to turn down Alexis’s request to save Kristina. But her eyes told me nothing. It was as if she said what she was supposed to say, but without the experience of understanding the meaning of the words a mother-to-be would say in defense of her unborn child. Since she’s not a mother herself, quite common.
Despite this drawback, the scene itself and Grahn’s courageous conviction and commitment to her character’s single-minded motivation – despite how selfish and monstrous it appeared to the fans – succeeded in moving me, holding my invested interest and kept me anxiously awaiting the fall-out from that one fateful encounter into next Monday.
In that scene, I did not single out negatives with which to attack an already victimized female character, either female character.
I couldn’t. I’m a mother myself. I know what it’s like to want for your child, as well as your unborn firstborn. I would never do anything to jeopardize any child, for that matter, least of all what Alexis did to Sam.
But this is a soap opera. All of the stakes, for better or worse, MUST be raised to a higher, impossible level, which includes the impossible thoughts none of us would ever utter or act upon. But these thoughts exist nevertheless, only to be brushed aside, IRL.
If such an impossible situation ever presented itself to any mother worth her salt, who would choose another child over her own? Maybe I’m as monstrous as Alexis or Sam, but if it came down to my son and your son, my son is first.
But the trouble is, in real life, such impossible situations rarely surface, and people rarely behave the way Alexis is allowed to (because it’s a soap).
Assigning blame is easy to do. It removes the tougher assignment of appreciating the outstanding performances and the gist of the story itself. It keeps the viewer from noticing that every participant in the controversial, emotionally-laden story has a stake and has a valid point. It comes in handy when the viewer would rather distance herself from the chance to learn empathy for those she may not personally like or remotely want to, in order to be RIGHT. (Tell me when soaps became politics.)
There is a lot wrong with this story, don’t get me wrong. But there is so much that is right.
A lot of women are featured, whether that was the intent of the Sonny-focused writers or not. A lot of characters are behaving in human and humane fashion, dealing with the emotions that come from family issues instead of the far-fetched, violence-crazy mob. A lot of other characters are going to factor in the mourning and recovery period for both Alexis and Sam, revealing their own emotional depths.
It’s a whole lot of character-, and whole lot less of plot-driven.
What’s wrong with that?
Hi Carol! Love your columns on Soapzone and EOS.
My comments relate to SOD's Soap Awards [“The Consolation Dildo,” week of Nov. 1, 2004].
1. Why wasn't Melissa Gallo (Adriana, OLTL) nominated for Outstanding Female Newcomer? Out of all that were listed, Adriana would have been the best! Sure Lily on AMC is good but Adriana shines especially when working with David Vickers (well who doesn't with him!).
2. Why wasn't Skye & Luke nominated for Favorite Couple? I still think David & Dorian should win that category but I also think Skye & Luke should have been nominated also. They have great chemistry together and have been the one highlight on GH in a very long time.
3. Why wasn't the Carly/Jack/Julia Triangle on ATWT nominated for Favorite Triangle? Out of all of the nominated, this triangle has really given us some fantastic performances and real drama to daytime. ATWT proved to me that they can pull off a way more interesting amnesia storyline vs. GH and their lame NEm/Mary Bishop travesty!
4. You picked AMC as Favorite Show but I think ATWT has been far superior in showcasing veterans and integrating them with the younger crowd. JMO! Sure AMC uses Adam and Erica with the younger crowd, but they really fail to utilize better players like Brooke, Mary, Liza, Palmer, Opal, Myrtle... When was the last time AMC had a great older couple relationship (besides Erica & Jack) showcased? For example on ATWT I can give you Tom & Margo with her problems of so-called adultery with Doc Reese. They had an intense blowout over it and their story involved history, intrigue, family issues, consequences of her actions, and real-life issues presented with great emotion and believability. Also ATWT has Dusty & Lucy which is better than OLTL's Rex & Lindsay's relationship of older/younger love.
Anyways these are my opinions and I would love to hear what you had to say on the matter. Thanks for listening!
[CBW: I neglected to copy and paste the reader’s name, might’ve been Lisa, or Keri, or Kathy. Lisa, Keri or Kathy, please forgive me. If you want, e-mail me via SoapZone like you did before with your latest thoughts about your soaps and I’ll print the letter here WITH your name, as compensation.]