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« Will This Character Rehabilitation Work? I Say No, No, No | Main | Pardon Me While I Dry Heave... »

March 06, 2009

Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column

My Take
By Becca Thomas

I tend to try to do a hundred things at once and lose focus.  (A friend once told me I am a “smart airhead,” which I decided to take as a compliment, because I am narcissistic like that.)  Anyway, before I lose track, here is my point:  DAYS OF OUR LIVES is utterly unfocused, and not in an endearingly airheaded kind of way.

I say this as someone who had not been a fan of theirs in at least a decade:  John and Marlena’s send-off was ridiculously lame.  I watched it and tuned in the Monday after, assuming there had to be more to it.  But no, after more than 20 years, that half-hearted partial share of a single episode was truly it.  The writing team had two months to plan for it, and that was the big farewell?  What were they focused on instead?  Oh, I know: Characters that weren’t even on the canvas two years ago. 

Examples abound, but let’s start with Melanie.  I like the idea of Melanie.  I think she’s supposed to be kind of like Maxie on GH, except unlike Maxie, Melanie is one-dimensional and so instead of being delightfully bitchy she’s just…bitchy.  And her storyline is ridiculous.  An 18-year-old is suddenly an executive at Titan?  What?  If Victor weren’t so busy commenting on Chloe’s “big bazooms” (side note: a little part of me died when poor John Aniston had to utter that line a few weeks back), he would put a stop to that insanity.

Speaking of Chloe . . . why is everyone speaking about her?  And even if Chloe were half the person people keep saying she is (attributing characteristics to her like “honest” and “caring” with a stunning lack of evidence), why is this character, with no ties to Salem other than who she’s sleeping with, suddenly front and center?  Is it because one of her current flings is Daniel, and he is now apparently the only guy in Salem allowed to have a sex life?  Shawn Christian could play a good character if the writers actually gave him one, but they haven’t.  Daniel has been in town for, what, a little over a year?  And he’s been in love with at least three women, and has virtually no storylines outside of those relationships – none of which, by the way, I’ve found remotely engaging.

DAYS is managing to make me question even its focus on characters I had grown to like.  Nicole was a hoot and I was enjoying the much-needed humor she brought to the show.  But then someone decided that Nicole and her horrible (and horribly predictable) baby-swapping story should be on virtually every day and now I just want to smother her with that fake pregnancy belly.  (She’s not using it anymore, so really it would be like environmentally friendly recycling, in keeping with DAYS’s recent green theme!) 

Okay, I’ve now drifted from somewhat thoughtful criticism to threatening to kill a fictional character.  You can see, then, why if even I think DAYS is off track, it may be time to worry.

My Take, Too
By Mallory Harlen

There are many things that daytime does well--catfights, cliffhangers and splashy events incorporating the whole cast.  There are also many things that daytime does poorly and lately, stunt casting has fallen into the latter category.  I understand the impulse: landing a high quality star has great storyline and ratings potential.  But I get the feeling that network executives only think, "Great, Big Name Star is joining the show!  This is going to be awesome!" and move on before considering character.  Or plot.  Or anything past where they'll be placed in the opening credits.

When Rebecca Budig agreed to come back to ALL MY CHILDREN, ABC touted the coup (we all remember the "Real Greenlee" ad campaign, right?), and promptly threw her back in the storylines she had played during her first tenure: her romance with Ryan, her friendly rivalry with Kendall and her outright hostility with Erica.  After treading water in these recycled stories for almost a year, Budig left the show and AMC viewers are left wondering what the point was.  Landing popular star Ricky Paull Goldin (Jake) was similarly celebrated, especially when his GUIDING LIGHT partner, Beth Ehlers (Taylor), joined the cast.  But after a few months, Taylor is in a compelling story with Brot, while Jake has merely become the go-to person for snarky comments.  Come on, writers, he's a Martin!  You can do better than this.

Sarah Brown re-joining GENERAL HOSPITAL, the soap that earned her a boatload of Emmys, was a big deal, which I assume led the writers to believe that they didn't need to exert any effort with the character of Claudia.  After a year, I still have no idea if Claudia is supposed to be evil, misunderstood or not so bad.  Her personality is wildly different depending on who she is sharing a story with.  Here, the writers aren't doing the character any favors; sure, it's sad to watch her be treated so terribly by her father, but at the same time...we all know that she ordered the hit on Sonny that left Michael in a coma.  All the insults in the world from Anthony won't make that palatable.  Yes, it was an accident, but: (A) preteen boy in coma and (B) attempting to have now-husband killed.  Am I the only person having trouble rooting for a character like this?  Although there's always the off chance that the writers will spin it that someone else also had a hit on Sonny, absolving Claudia of all responsibility.  It's absurd, yes, but totally within the realm of possibility considering this writing regime.

The rest of daytime could learn a lot from YOUNG AND RESTLESS, which is making casting decisions based on something other than "Oh, this could be fun!"  The show rectified one of its worst moves by bringing Eileen Davidson (Ashley) back on canvas.  Her re-hiring grabbed headlines, sure, but the writers made sure to bring her back organically and actually give her stories that made sense: She reunited with Victor, took control of Jabot and introduced the newly-aged Abby to Genoa City.  See what happens when you think these casting decisions through?  Entertainment happens, and everybody wins!

Comments

What the heck is compelling about Beth Ehlers' story on AMC? She's barely on. And when she's on her scenes are as short as possible and she gets to interact only with about two people. What is "compelling" about that???

Great column on the arbitrary clusterfuck that is Days, Becca.

Now Ashley is pregnant with Old Man Winter's child. Yuck.

Here is what I don't get about GH and Claudia:

She comes on the canvas as a tough woman, trained in all things Mob. She orders the hit and walks over Kate's just shot body. Ok, I get it she's tough and I actually don't hate her as a character - I also didn't hate Faith, so maybe I'm in the minority.

Now, a few months later the writers decide to change her personality completely. She's not mean, she visits Micheal every week and feels so bad.

I guess it's possible that she could be feeling remorse or whatever, but I wish they would write her as standing up for what she did, owning the fact that this is the life and they all chose it. Sonny chose to adopt Micheal and this is what can happen!

Sonny tortured her brother for no reason - this is a consequence,that's the life, these are the prices - why weaken the character this way?

I know - I'm thinking about it too much, and these writers are going to keep plowing down the same road...but it's frustrating.

Mallory, my only quibble (and it's a teensy one) is that I don't *ever* have a problem with someone ordering a hit on Sonny -- I just have a problem that none of them succeed.

Just a small thing with Claudia also...are we all also supposed to have forgotten about her being a bigot on top of all those other sterling qualities she had when she joined the canvas? Her total intolerant attitude toward Robin because of her HIV status was completely dropped after a couple run-ins. I mean if Robin and Sonny were going to have a convo about why he's still married to that woman (and I actually don't think that convo was at all necessary nor enlighting in any way), then perhaps they might have actually delved into this aspect of things because let's just think about it...Claudia who is married to Sonny--the same Sonny who stood by Stone and Robin during a what was a huge and groundbreaking storyline on GH...the same Sonny who also funded the Stone Cates Memorial AIDS Wing at GH? The same Sonny who was pouring out his feelings to baby Emma--the baby that Claudia thought Robin was irresponsible for having? Yeah, irony.

I know it's sort of minor given all the other GINORMOUS holes in plot, character, continuity and history on this show under this producing/writing regime. But it still manages to annoy me...

Effin' show.

Actually, having Jake as the "go-to person for snarky comments" ain't all that bad, considering the other choices. He could be a drunk taking on a desperate woman carrying someone else's baby, a spit-yelling widower out for revenge and/or adultery, an unwashed former hero who alienated his wife and blinded a confused lesbian -- or a special ops' agent falling in love with a damaged loony. (Shhh - the agent/loony story is going pretty well...the writers haven't had time to totally ruin it yet.)

So, having a designated snarker is really a nice respite from all the angsty stuff. And, put the Jakester in a scene with Tad or Angie and there's even a bit o' magic.

Thank-you Becca for slamming Days. I am at my wits end with that soap. How many men does Sami need? Why is Philip wasted in this ultra boring relationship with Stephanie? Bo's psychic visions? Max banging another niece? Nicole's plotting to kidnap ANOTHER baby? The show has been gutted and what's left is contrived and unwatchable. Rafe is the worst addition in a long time. Nicole has been written into a corner and I wanted to strangle her myself when she went to the orphanage and picked up Grace. If she kidnaps that baby too I'm going to need Nicole dead or in jail at the end of this.

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