Serial Drama's Best and Worst of 2008
We are two girls who love lists. We have been known to make up projects just so we can create to-do lists and check off each item. It's so satisfying! And if you can also incorporate color-coding? Consider us blissful.
So why, then, did we not jump for joy at the thought of doing this year's list of best and worst happenings on our shows? Well, it probably has to do with the fact that the number of soapy happenings entitled to "best" status in 2008 is roughly equal to the number of world capitals that Britney Spears can name off the top of her head. It was, overall, a dreary year in our corner of soapland, with the notable exception of Night Shift. If we're talking about all soaps, even those lucky enough not to have us as viewers, apparently on One Life to Live troubles melt like lemon drops and birds fly over the rainbow (except when gang rapists secretly romance their amnesiac victims!). But since we don't watch that show, we can refuse to acknowledge its goodness and maintain our general tenor of bitchy dissatisfaction. It works for us.
We did work up the stamina to compile a list of bests and worsts, but we feel compelled to issue our usual disclaimer: We only watch All My Children, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, Night Shift, and The Young and the Restless. So yes, there was that whole bear thing on The Bold and the Beautiful, As the World Turns is probably super progressive with the Noah/Luke couple, One Life is curing ebola, and Guiding Light is down to, like, four actors and location shoots at a strip mall in rural New Jersey. We don't care. Okay, that's too harsh. We totally care, we just don't...no, "don't care" pretty much sums things up. We're way happy if you guys are consistently entertained by those shows, though! We wonder what that's like.
Best Story: The Death of Babe Carey, All My Children
For years, Arabella Carey Cramer Chandler, also known as "Babe" also known as "the character who left trails of death, destruction and disease in her wake in a way that is only rivalled by World Wars", also known as "The Serial Drama Readers Choice For Worst Character in Daytime", irritated, outraged and appalled the ever-dwindling AMC audience. Until the fateful day that a tornado made its way to suburban Pennsylvania and KILLED HER. And it was amazing. It's possible that the writers intended for the loss of this young wife, beloved daughter and occasional mother to be a gut-wrenching affair and, um...they missed the mark there. But the euphoria that this story brought, however unintentional, was truly a soap highlight of 2008.
Worst Story: Michael Gets Shot in the Head, General Hospital
The idea that a child being shot in the head during a botched hit on his father's life somehow qualifies as entertainment is baffling enough but for someone to actually state, in a national magazine, that this shooting is a justly deserved punishment for said child buying a gun? Is so ludicrous that between the two of us (who are prone to hysterical, profanity-laced, rage-filled rants), we can't fully express the depth of our sheer hatred for that someone.
Also, it led to Limo Sex, which . . . EW.
We cannot un-see that. We've tried.
Best Couple: Patrick and Robin, General Hospital
We've been accused of showing an unfair bias towards Robin, Patrick and Robin and Patrick as a couple, being described sometimes as "fangurls", which is worse than being an ordinary fangirl? We don't know. What we do know is that Robin and Patrick are endlessly adorable, compelling and root-worthy throughout all manners of repeated conversations, wacky blog shenanigans and limited screentime.
Worst Couple: Chelsea and Daniel, Days of Our Lives
There are couples that don't quite click, and then there are ones that are so wrong from the beginning that you have to be either emotionally disturbed or intentionally trying to make the audience hate you by putting them on the air. Guess which category was-just-18-last-year Chelsea and early-40s Daniel fell into?
It is also worth noting that while together, they have bad hair. Case closed.
Most Entertaining Couple: Erica and Adam, All My Children
So they aren't technically a couple and they spar more often than anything, but there is nothing more fun than watching Erica and Adam face off with a limitless supply of banter, history and chemistry. David Canary and Susan Lucci are ridiculously entertaining together and if some network executive would greenlight an Adam/Erica sitcom, we'd totally watch it.
Best New Couple: None, All of the Shows on Daytime
Soap operas have the reputation for being little more than steamy love scenes amongst the non-soap watching public, but daytime these days is completely romance deficient. There are exactly zero new couples that we like. And though it is normally possible that such a statement would be due to our inability to find goodness and love in the world, this time, we feel confident in saying we are totally right. Not that we're ever not confident in saying that, but you see what we mean here.
Best Breakup: Carly and Jax, General Hospital
Laura Wright and Ingo Rademacher work well together and are a fantastic looking couple, but nothing about Carly and Jax's romance has worked. Ever. Not from when they hooked up minutes after his wife/her best friend died, not when they had their splashy wedding and certainly not when she cheated on him with Sonny multiple times (including one marriage). (Reminder: Limo Sex. EW.) So to say that the breakup was a long time coming is an understatement, and would have gotten Best Breakup honors on that basis alone. But the GH writers exceeded our expectations (low though they may be) and wrote some outstanding fight scenes that were realistic and expertly acted.
Demerit because it looks like they're putting Carly and Jax back together. But for now, let us bask in the light of their acrimonious divorce. Woo!
Worst Breakup: Jason and Elizabeth, General Hospital
Years of build-up, scorching chemistry between Steve Burton and Becky Herbst and so of course...
...Jason and Elizabeth break up before they had an actual relationship. Really, GH writers? Really?!
Best Quadrangle: Lucky, Liz, Emily and Nikolas, General Hospital
The episode that SOAPNet aired on Christmas showcased...oh, it's cheating to name something from 1998? And we need to choose something from this year? Um. We've got nothing.
Worst Quadrangle: Every Permutation of the 30-Something Set, Days of Our Lives
Dear Days of Our Lives writing team: Please stop trying to make soapy quadrangles happen under your watch. They're not going to happen.
Most Preposterous Plot: The Blog Wars, General Hospital
Only on General Hospital would daytime's first HIV-positive pregnancy be merely a footnote in a storyline. Instead of a legitimately good look at the issues Robin, Patrick, and their unborn baby would face, we wound up with two grown-ass doctors sniping at each other via blogs. An effing blog war. Gloria Monty wept.
Biggest Tearjerker: The Tribute To Myrtle, All My Children
Who knew that AMC was capable of producing an outstanding hour of television? Certainly not us. From start to finish, the December 19th tribute to Myrtle and her amazing portrayer made us cry, what with the use of history, the copious flashbacks and the knowledge that Pine Valley is now without its heart and the viewers are without one truly fantastic character. It's been a week and a half and Mallory's eyes are still puffy.
Best Recast: Billy Miller as Billy Abbott, The Young and the Restless
After being wasted by All My Children in the most frustrating of ways, Billy Miller rebounded by joining the number one show in daytime and getting the opportunity to act alongside Peter Bergman, Jess Walton and Eileen Davidson. It has been awesome in and of itself and when you compare it to the unfortunate era where Scott Seymour was physically incapable of emoting as Billy back in 2006? The word awesome doesn't do it justice.
Best New Character: John Black 2(?).0, Days of Our Lives
It took a while, but the robotic NewJohn with the mean Muppet voice really grew on us. We will neither confirm nor deny that his obvious hatred of the increasingly intolerable and obnoxious Marlena is what tilted the scale in his favor.
Related honorable mention: Most Awesome Prop: The Door. We love you, Door. Never change.
Worst New Character: TIE! Daniel Jonas, Days of Our Lives
and Eden, The Young and the Restless
The last thing Michael Baldwin needed was a whiny teenaged sister to join his ever-expanding family of nutbars and the last thing that Y&R viewers needed was an obnoxious character played poorly by two different actresses. We put up with a lot this year and Eden is just adding insult to injury.
Dr. Daniel Jonas is an icky grody perv. Shawn Christian is hot and deserves far better than this creepy, backstory-less borderline-sexual-predator excuse for a character. Days really needed a leading man in this age range, so it's a shame the writers bungled his introduction and development so astonishingly. The only remotely good thing we can say about Dr. Jonas is that he gives us a new appreciation for GH's "hero," Jason Morgan, who at least until this point has avoided the gratuitous groping of women in his care.
Best Return: Laura Spencer and Robert Scorpio, General Hospital (and Night Shift)
Never one to take a good thing and run with it, General Hospital opted for short-term engagements of two daytime legends, but beggars can't be choosers and we loved seeing Genie Francis and Tristan Rogers back in Port Charles, even for just a short while.
Genie Francis was back for the only thing the idiots who run that crapfest of a show will allow, one of those "little short doses during sweeps periods." But was she amazing during that brief return?
Of course she was. And we suppose Laura being off in generic "Europe," thousands of miles from the family she adores, is better than being in the mental institution, but not by much. One of these we imagine Tony Geary will finally refuse to spout the inane dialogue they write for him in which Luke craps all over his and Laura's history. Maybe that will be the day the powers-that-be call Genie Francis for a more permanent return? Totally! (We have rich fantasy lives.)
Tristan Rogers' brilliance as Robert Scorpio was never in doubt in our minds, but even viewers without any longstanding emotional connection to GH and the Scorpio clan must have been blown away by Rogers' performances this year, especially on Night Shift. Even in the small moments, like kissing Robin on the cheek as he gave her away at her wedding, he is outstanding. We love him. And really, really want to hang out and have many beers with him, because we think he would have very colorful things to say about the "professionals" who are in charge of GH and ABC Daytime. Call us, Tristan! (See above re: fantasy lives.)
Worst Return: The REAL Greenlee, All My Children
The crass marketing blitz that accompanied Rebecca Budig reclaiming the role of Greenlee was bad enough, but it is especially galling when you consider the fact that over the year, all of the storylines that Sabine Singh's Greenlee had been a part of (kidnapping and maiming Spike and having a great romance with Aidan, for instance) were rewritten or ruined; the writers introduced a terrible Ryan/Greenlee/Aidan/Kendall/Zach...thing that was awful; and the gag-inducing Ryan/Greenlee pairing was back. And! On top of all that badness, Rebecca Budig is on her way out again, meaning that we put up with all of that for nothing. Unless you count a year of terrible stories as something, which we don't.
Most Boring Character: Anyone With the Last Name Carver, Days of Our Lives
If you can name a single interesting thing that anyone in that family has done since Lexie-as-Nell cartwheeled out of that tunnel a year and a half ago, you are watching a different show than we are. Snooze city. The writers have literally reduced Abe and Lexie to having conversations about her daily schedule. On a freaking soap opera. Dear god, make it stop.
(Side note to Ken Corday: If you wanted your show to do a decent autism story, you should have called the Night Shift crew. Actually, could you call them anyway? Sri Rao and his friends might be able to actually save that...thing...you are trying to pass off as our beloved childhood soap.)
Most Annoying Character: Nadine, General Hospital
We get what the GH writers were going for: cute, naive, nice girl. But, as they do so often, they failed, and we wound up with a painfully stupid character played by an actress too laden with tics and exaggerated facial expressions to make it work.
Honorable mention goes to Melanie on Days, who is saved from the title only because her OTT-bitchy barbs occasionally land on some of the many characters we've lost patience with. And in our world, bitchiness beats smurfy-ness every time.
Best "Bad Girl": Maxie, General Hospital
We love Maxie. Kirsten Storms is magic. Kirsten-as-Maxie is awesomely fashionable and has super-fun hair.
We cannot even be snarky about this topic and must break out the very rare unironic e-hug: (((((Maxie)))))
Worst Hero: Jason Morgan, General Hospital
HE KILLS PEOPLE FOR MONEY! AND IF WE KEEP SAYING THIS IN CAPS LOCK EVERY YEAR, PERHAPS SOMEONE WILL TAKE NOTICE!
Worst Heroine: Carly, General Hospital
If Carly, with her demented sense of loyalty, smugness, anger problems, and general tendency to act like a screeching harridan, was supposed to be -- like the Carly of the 90s -- the bitchy antiheroine of Port Charles, she'd still drive us crazy, but at least that would be on purpose. As written, Carly has almost zero positive attributes and is, for some reason, presented as the show's most wonderful character: everybody loves her, men throw themselves at her instantly, and she loses in life about as often as Jason. In fact, that gives us an idea; if ever there was a GH character more in need of a personality-erasing encounter with a very large tree, it's Carly.
Also, Laura Wright, we love you, but please stop making this face:
Quickest Descent from Best to Worst: Kate Howard, General Hospital
This time last year, we named Kate Howard one of the two best new characters in soaps. Now, we pretty much want to kick her in the shins and shake her by the shoulders until she promises to go back to the independent, mob-hating, Sonny-despising diva she was when she first arrived.
It's not about the hair! We adored the bob but we love Megan Ward and her gorgeous hair regardless. We are insulted that you think we would be that shallow.
(And yes, we are obligated to make our argument using allusions to physical violence. That is what happens when a character gets shot TWICE in one year because of the same mumbly asshole of a duh-faced mobster. We are going with the theme, okay?)
Best Villain: Sonny, General Hospital
Rage issues, a violent streak, deeply rooted misogyny, and an obsessive need to be a part of the mob at all costs despite the fact that loved ones drop left and right around him make Sonny the clear cut choice for the year's best...oh. Right. Never mind.
Worst Villain: David Chow, The Young and the Restless
For a man whose entire life was based upon hiding years of secrets, murders and secret murders
David Chow was pretty terrible at being a criminal mastermind. Not least because Vincent Irrizarry radiates sleaze, which made viewers assume at the outset that he was shady and get frustrated at how long it took the rest of Genoa City to catch on.
Best Wedding: Jesse and Angie, All My Children
Worst Wedding: Sonny and Kate, General Hospital
Call us crazy but there is something about a wedding between an unhinged, violent criminal and a woman who got shot earlier in the year by his son that ends not with vows, but the bride being shot again because of mob violence that makes us shake our heads and weep for what daytime used to be.
Worst Stunt Casting: Vincent Pastore, General Hospital
Just imagining how self-impressed Bob Guza became after landing an actual Sopranos cast member on his seventeenth-rate Sopranos rip-off is irritating and the actual, wacky shenanigans of Max and Milo and their gangster father were doubly so. Who on earth was clamoring for more screentime for the Giambetti family? Who looked at this show and thought, gee, you know, what we really need is more mafia stories? Who thought that women -- still soaps' target audience last we checked -- would be thrilled and delighted to see Vincent freaking Pastore on their show? Why does this show hate us?
Most Tortured Fanbase: "Liason" Fans
We both have the attention span of fruit flies and admire the sticktoitiveness of a group of people who spend weeks rooting for something, let alone years. The "Liason" fans did just that and spent a decade hoping for Jason and Liz to get together. A DECADE. That is devotion. And what does GH do? Jerk the fanbase around, giving Jason and Liz a child, a few scenes together and a breakup that came before they were ever a real couple. Wicked cruel.
Most Disappointing Show: TIE! Days of Our Lives and General Hospital
It's not even worth writing out in detail for the 10,000th time, so to sum up, General Hospital has no right to suck as much as it does. Add a decent writing team to the stellar cast and fantastically layered history, and you'd have soapy perfection. Instead, tune in next week for mob war #597! Hopefully, a toddler will get shot so that kids everywhere learn a valuable lesson.
Days of Our Lives is a little sadder, and more disappointing, for us. It's more disappointing because at one point last year, Days really seemed to be on an upswing, while GH has been languishing in mobville for the better part of a decade and everyone involved with it seems to think that's a-ok. But the current Days writing team swept away all progress away from the years of laughably ridiculous storylines and seems to have no regard for history, very little wit, and zero commitment to long-term story arcs that are actually interesting. Plus it's a soap opera on which we hate or are bored by every couple, except the veteran ones who are practically invisible. And all of this is happening as the show stares down the barrel of cancellation within a couple of years. Now that we think about it, "disappointing" doesn't really seem to cover it.
Most Improved Show: General Hospital: Night Shift
If you had told us this time last year that we would be naming Night Shift the best of anything in 2008, we would have put money only on something like "best excuse for profanity-laden tirade late at night" or "best attempt to skate by totally on people's nostalgia for Robin Scorpio and Jason Thompson's intensely hot hotness." But then something amazing happened: A new executive producer and head writer put a darned good soap on the air. For 13 consecutive weeks! A soap that was based on relationships and drew on the characters' histories and interactions. It was everything that General Hospital should be but hasn't been since the '90s. We even had trouble being bitchy and hypercritical about it! US! It was a strange and wonderful time.
Side note: Much as we hate to openly disagree with the powers-that-be at Soap Opera Digest, who are kind/crazy enough to pay us to write a monthly column in which we essentially take huge bites out of the soap hand that feeds them, we must quibble with their selection of Days of Our Lives in this category in their year-in-review issue. Perhaps it's possible that "improved" has many less common meanings, including one somewhat along the lines of "borderline unwatchable and apparently written by people with the attention span of gnats," but if so, they should have been specific!
Best Show: Night Shift
For all the reasons listed above, and because Jason Thompson's intensely hot hotness was on full display.
Runner up: One Life to Live. Sure, we don't watch it, but we like our inboxes to be polluted only by unique opportunities to get rich in a very short period of time, as opposed to OLTL-related hate mail. We are still a bit skeptical, as we watched an episode several months ago in an attempt to understand the brilliance and blog about it, but the episode included some of that Mendorra fiasco and the beginnings of the Todd-romances-Marty disaster. We drafted and then deleted the post and never spoke of it again. Until now. We know we should have left well enough alone...so, woohoo, OLTL! You are probably a much better show than we think you are based on the 44 minutes we saw.
Best Actor: Tristan Rogers, General Hospital: Night Shift
Not to be the type of people who lavish massive amounts of praise with all manner of highfalutin adjectives, but...Tristan Rogers was a revelation on this season of Night Shift as Robert Scorpio battled cancer. He made us laugh, he made us cry, he made us remember when we loved General Hospital. He even made Antonio Sabato Jr. look like a natural and talented actor. Tristan Rogers rules and we will hear no different from anyone.
Best Actress: Melody Thomas Scott, The Young and The Restless
Melody Thomas Scott has never won an Emmy. Unbelievable, right? She is way overdue for actual, legitimate recognition but this year, she'll have to settle for the praise that comes with being Serial Drama's Best Actress of the Year. No matter how horrible her lines are (and she's had some clunkers) or how ludicrous her story is, she gives it her all; even relegated to the background, she can be depended on for some quality reaction shots. Every scene she is in should go on her Emmy reel and, fingers crossed, she could maybe win one of these days.
Worst History Rewrite: Undead Diego Is the Text Message Killer, General Hospital
So you kill off Emily Quartermaine and Georgie Jones, legacy characters with eons of storyline potential between the two of them. No big, right? But oops, you forgot to decide who the killer was going to be. Your red herrings of Coop and Logan could get you into trouble for portraying veterans, again, as unhinged lunatics, so you need to come up with a surprise, something that will shock the viewers...and you settle on a character that viewers saw DIE ONSCREEN and who had already once been thrown under a bus and randomly named the villain in a previous shitty storyline? That is 32 flavors of blatant hatred for your audience coupled with an extreme inability to craft a story that doesn't suck.
Most Offensive Plot Twist: Zach Fathering Bianca's Baby, All My Children
A quick recap:
Bianca, Kendall's sister, asked Zach, Kendall's husband and the brother of the man who raped Bianca and fathered her first child, to be the father of her second child. And Zach agrees. And neither of them mention it to Kendall.
There is probably an eloquent way to describe how completely terrible, offensive and downright ludicrous that entire premise is, but we are still stuck on the "Incoherent and Yelly" stage of rage: WHO THOUGHT THIS STORY WAS A GOOD IDEA AND WHY DID THEY THINK THAT WHYWHYWHY?
Cheesiest Moment: Nikki and Victor on the Beach, The Young and the Restless
There are times when we are embarrassed to be on the record as soap viewers. That was one of those times.
Best Soap Child: TIE! Cameron Webber, General Hospital
and Kathy Martin, All My Children
Our fondness for Cameron Webber and Braden Walkes is well-documented and he continued to make Port Charles a better place in every scene in which he appeared this year. Over in Pine Valley, Kathy's awesome, albeit short-lived, descent into evil spawn territory gave Cam his first real competition in this category. When she ripped the head off of the "Krystal" doll she was playing with? AWESOME.
Honorable mention: Cam's little bro Jake is gaining on him.
Duh Face of the Year: Sonny Corinthos, General Hospital
Becca: I assume the Duh Face winner is the usual?
Mallory: It is really just a matter of finding the best Maurice Benard pic.
Mallory: Sometimes I truly love our job.
Worst Attempt to Impersonate a Network Dedicated to Airing Soap Operas
and Preserving the Daytime Drama Genre: SOAPNet
It's not surprising that a network helmed by Brian Frons is hopelessly inept, frustrating and embarrassing. What is surprising is the lengths that SOAPNet goes to to be those things. Buying the rights to movies so bad that Lifetime passed up on them? An attempt at celebreality shows? Using the website as a celebrity news and gossip site? Spending the Daytime Emmys pre-show promoting the career of a Disney singer? All of those are terrible ideas and, above all, have NOTHING TO DO WITH SOAP OPERAS.
Screencaps courtesy of all our usual friends. Thanks so much for all your great 'caps in 2008!