Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
In our most recent Soap Opera Digest column, we turned our ever-critical eyes to All My Children, Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. After the jump, Mallory asks why long-lost twins and ghosts have become so trendy and practically begs the powers-that-be at AMC to bring Dixie back, while Becca learns the hard lesson that, when it comes to Days, first impressions aren't always right.
By Mallory Harlen
Daytime shows have gotten a somewhat well-deserved reputation amongst the nonsoapwatching public for playing fast and loose with mortality. I don't have actual statistics, but I'd wager that at least three-quarters of soap deaths aren't actually deaths at all, just temporary ways for a character to leave the canvas. Even if we saw someone die on-screen and have an elaborate funeral or even donate organs, it doesn't preclude them from coming back to town sometime in the future. It's kind of hokey, and more than a little embarrassing to explain to people (my mother and I had a long conversation about John Black on DAYS not actually dying that included a lot of silent judging on her part and half-hearted "You know how the DiMeras can be with their brainwashing", on mine), but it's part of the soap territory.
So I'm not sure what to make of the latest trend that has writers killing off beloved characters and, upon seeing the outrage of fans, bringing them back as a ghost, an angel or a look-alike. It's a patronizing attempt at placating the audience: "Remember how much you liked Ted Shackelford as William on YOUNG AND RESTLESS? Lucky for you, William has a heretofore unmentioned identical twin who's coming to town, so you can stop your complaining." "You loved Jerry Douglas as John Abbot, so you'll love him even more as John's Scottish, alcoholic look-alike. Wackiness will ensure!" "We fired Stuart Damon right before his 30th anniversary with GENERAL HOSPITAL, but he still has a few months left on his contract, so we're thrilled to present the Ghost of Alan Quartermaine, now with added sass."
AMC is the latest show to jump on this bandwagon, bringing Cady McClain back for a brief stint as an angelic Dixie, helping to reunite Tad with their long-lost daughter, and I just have to put it bluntly: Learn from the failures of GH and Y&R and bring Dixie back from the dead. When viewers said that they wanted Dixie back, they meant ALIVE. I don't care how the show would rewrite the death via pancake scenario, but I know that I, personally, would stomach any nonsensical explanation for Dixie's resurrection. An elaborate faked death? Okay! A nightmare of JR's? Sure! I'd accept anything if it meant that I could see Dixie, Tad and Kathy/Kate get the chance to be a family, or have Dixie embroiled in a full-on rivalry with Krystal. It's not like they haven't brought her back from the dead before, after all, and Jesse Hubbard's presence in Pine Valley has taught us that just because you were an angel once doesn't mean that you were actually dead. Please, AMC?
My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas
"I was wrong." This is a sentence that my family, several ex-boyfriends and our blog's regular readers may be unfamiliar with. But I'm willing to admit that--in certain, limited, soaps-related situations--I have occasionally made misjudgments. For example, I was wrong about a few things on DAYS recently.
It's possible DAYS created Dr. Daniel Jonas in a soap opera laboratory, formulating him specifically to apply to viewers just like me. Daniel is a single, flirtatious doctor. He is played by Shawn Christian, who is fantastically hot, and talented to boot. He is not (as far as we know) related to the Bradys or Hortons, something the DAYS canvas desperately needed. He is tied to Salem through Victor, one of my favorite '80s villains. Did I mention he's gorgeous? And that often I ask for little else in my soap leading men? So I was certain I was going to love Dr. Jonas. I had picked out a Trapper Keeper to doodle his name on and everything.
But I was wrong. They decided to make Daniel a surfer dude who talks like he's a middle-aged Jeff Spicoli in a stage production of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I grew up around surfers and skateboarders and as a result I use "dude" and "awesome" with near abandon, but even I find this forced "cool dude" routine taxing. I love a goofy doctor--Michael Weiss's Mike Horton with his fish ties and Three Stooges fandom was one of my earliest soap crushes (in spite of the mullet!)--but they need to steer Dr. Jonas more toward character and away from caricature. And while they're at it, steer way, way clear of a creepy relationship between Daniel and his 20-years-younger patient, Chelsea. I always thought letting the fabulous Julie Pinson go was a mistake, and handing down the guy who would have been a perfect love interest for Pinson's Billie to her on-screen daughter instead isn't convincing me of the wisdom of that particular exit.
On a happier note for DAYS, I was wrong when I said bringing John Black back from the dead was the dumbest thing in the history of dumb things that are dumb. I was wrong when I said the new John was annoyingly one-note and boring. Because I now find myself looking forward to Robo-John, with his weird diction and snarky comments about his family and insane haircut. I'm sure I'll go back to being bored by him when he ends up with Marlena again, the two of them making out like teenagers and going on and on about their great love. But for now, I am getting a serious kick out of watching John dramatically puff on cigars in Stefano's house while mocking everyone around him. I'm even really optimistic about this storyline of EJ, Sami, the "mismatched twins" and Marlena moving into the DiMera mansion with him. Can you imagine the conversations between John and EJ that we could get? They might take place entirely in sarcasm and involve slams on everyone in Salem! Please don't let me be wrong this time.