Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
In the December 9th issue of Soap Opera Digest, we turned our attention to Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless. After the jump, Becca looks back on the quality entertainment that Days and GH provided (she is as surprised as you are that she made it to 500 words), and Mallory wonders why the Y&R writers refuse to tell a story that isn't about Victor Newman.
By Becca Thomas
I would normally take this year-end opportunity to catalog the best and worst things on my shows, but this year the worst entries would far outnumber the best. However, in the holiday spirit of being thankful, I suppose I can cobble together a slight variation on the usual year-in-review theme, without violating my overall pessimistic attitude about soaps and the year that was: “Reasons 2008 Wasn’t Horrible Across the Board on GENERAL HOSPITAL and DAYS OF OUR LIVES.”
I am truly at my wit’s end with GENERAL HOSPTIAL, suffering through yet another pointless mob war and looking down the barrel of another year of 75% of screen time going to a total of about five characters. However, this past year did have a few bright spots that made GH worth watching. Well, that’s not true; I have it on good authority from friends whose side-job does not depend upon watching GH that nothing makes it worth watching these days. So, correction – there are characters that make me remember why I started watching in the first place.
Patrick and Robin are soapy goodness. Jason Thompson and Kimberly McCullough generate enough electricity in even in the most mundane scenes to power a small town, and somehow despite the fact that Sonny and Jason have had the same conversation 964 times in the last 12 months, at some point this year Patrick and Robin – finally! – started to have new and interesting ones. Granted, most of those conversations were on NIGHT SHIFT, but they happened nonetheless. Hopefully this charming couple avoids the usual soap curse of becoming hugely boring after having a baby.
DAYS isn’t as violent or offensive as GH, but it’s become relentlessly boring. There were a few bright spots this year, at which points I got my hopes up about a turnaround, only to be disappointed in the end. Most of the bright spots are attributable to James Scott’s ability to have chemistry with even inanimate objects, let alone great scene partners like Ariane Zucker and Alison Sweeney. Zucker’s Nicole in particular surprised me, since I loathed that character the first time she was in town. Sami screams and whines far too much lately, but her brief reconciliation with EJ earlier this year made me forget how otherwise annoying the writing has been for the character.
Another surprising DAYS highlight for me was Drake Hogestyn’s portrayal of the new and very much improved John Black. The sarcastic, cynical, non-Marlena-worshipping incarnation of John has been fun to watch, particularly with Hogestyn’s slightly odd choices, like the mean Muppet voice and robotic speech patterns. I’m sure the new John will wear thin soon, but for now I will take highlights in Salem where I can get them.
My Take, Too
By Mallory Harlen
Victor Newman of YOUNG AND RESTLESS famously chose his last name to signify his rebirth from orphaned Christian Miller to Genoa City’s business tycoon. It also signifies a wish I have had for years: a wish for a new man to become the center of Y&R.
2008 in Genoa City can basically be described as “Things happened to Victor Newman. Other people talked about these things and also about how great Victor is”. From his whirlwind romance with Sabrina to his grieving over her untimely death, from his trip to Mexico to mourn her to his trip to Paris to, uh, continue mourning her (pretty sly move on the part of the Y&R writers to throw in gorgeous Paris location shots to distract me from the fact that we have already seen this exact story already this year. It almost worked, too!), a fair share of episodes were devoted to Victor. I can deal with an airtime hog, but what’s particularly irksome is the way that the rest of the Y&R cast has become little more than a Greek chorus, existing only to comment on how things affect Victor and how wonderful Victor is.
There are multiple characters who have ceased to have personalities and storylines of their own and function only as part of the larger, Victor Newman umbrella story. Adam Newman has, as far as I can tell, absolutely no discernable qualities aside from being Victor’s son. Just an FYI to the writers: “Victor is my father” is not a substitute for a personality.
My beloved Jack Abbott has done little these days but become a mustache-twirling villain hellbent on taking Victor down. This is problematic because Jack has been trying to best Victor for decades and has never once succeeded. I think it’s time that he cut his losses for the sake of the audience: how are we supposed to get invested in Jack Vs. Victor Part 3,276 when we know that it will end with Jack the town pariah once again?
The biggest victim of the show’s Victor focus is Nikki. Remember those days, when Nikki was a tough as nails business woman and aspiring politician? I think that incarnation of Nikki would be aghast at how Nikki follows Victor around the globe begging him to come back to Genoa City, even after he told her that he wished she, and not Sabrina, had been the one to die. Because I know that I was aghast. Victor and Nikki are the show’s great couple and I am sure that they will find their way back to each other again, but surely there has to be a way to make that happen without Nikki becoming so staggeringly pathetic and obsessive. Melody Thomas Scott wholly deserves an Emmy nomination for being able to film this storyline with a straight face.
Victor is a huge part of Genoa City, but he certainly doesn’t need to be the only part.