Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
By Mallory Harlen
I can't make it through a full episode of AMC without hearing a crazy line of dialogue or seeing an offensive plot twist. Actually, that's being generous; there are some days when I can't make it through a full minute without bad dialogue and plot twists. My respect for the tremendously talented cast grows every day because I'm quite impressed that they manage to film their scenes without laughing or breaking the fourth wall and apologizing to the audience.
The biggest problem of late has been forsaking the show's history to facilitate quick plot twists. Zach fathering Gabrielle behind Kendall's back has generated a lot of discussion amongst AMC fans, but for all the wrong reasons: It was another insane obstacle for the already-tortured Zach/Kendall pairing, and the list of obstacles they have already faced is long enough to defy reason. It ruined Kendall and Bianca's deep bond, which was one of the most fascinating relationships on any soap. Remember their bonding over Miranda, and Kendall sacrificing herself for her sister? And on top of all that, it was just...creepy. Remind me again why Bianca was so desperate to have another Cam bias baby. She is aware that the family's gene pool includes a rapist and serial murderer, right?
I had long been on record as wishing for more Amanda. I didn't exactly mean seeing her in a story that involves pushing JR off the wagon in exchange for money, and a tired, cliched "Who's The Daddy?" plot. It's especially sad because Chrishell Stause and Jacob Young have amazing chemistry together and seeing Amanda Dillon with JR Chandler is an AMC fan's dream, but there's no way for me to root for a couple who started out on such a sour note.
Luckily, Y&R is there to be a salve for my AMC-related wounds. The show has continued to be can't-miss television in recent weeks and has even managed to do the impossible: made three formerly irritating characters tolerable. As disappointing as it was that Don Diamont was fired and Brad killed off, the fallout from his death has been fantastic, and it has catapulted Colleen into the Newman/Abbott rivalry in a great way. I've been, um, critical of Colleen since Tammin Sursok took over the role, but this story has serious potential. The Chloe/Billy/Lily/Cane quad, while a retread of stories done a thousand times before, has given Lily some much-needed dimension. The always prim, always perfect Lily reminded me way too much of Christine Blair...in a bad way. But being a woman scorned has worked for her; her newfound feistiness is completely fitting for Drucilla's daughter. Amber's friendship with Katherine is another of the show's bright spots. Katherine makes Amber more human and more relatable than she has been during her entire time in Genoa City, and Amber's steadfast support of her friend throughout the mistaken identity fiasco has given the somewhat cartoonish story a great deal of sweetness. Adrienne Frantz and Jeanne Cooper are endlessly entertaining together and could probably have a sitcom of their own. I know I'd watch.
My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas
To kill off or not to kill off, that is the question.
I could vent for hours about how many characters GH has killed off over the last decade, and how most of those deaths served no valid storytelling purposes. (Truly, for hours. I have epic complaining skills.) Beyond the disturbing violence that is usually involved in the characters' ends, a soap that prides itself on steering clear of silly, other-worldly plot devices shouldn't so decisively kill people off because down the road, the dilemma becomes how to bring them back without completely straining the bounds of believability.
The latest example of this is the allegedly mysterious and intriguing Rebecca. (We know she is mysterious and intriguing because she wears lots of eye makeup and has a kicky haircut.) From the moment I read that Natalia Livingston might leave GH, I hoped the writers would fight their instincts and not kill off Emily Quartermaine. But they did kill her off, brutally. And then they brought her back as Nikolas's hallucination, a ridiculous storyline that was all the more eye-roll inducing bsince it had just been done (poorly) with Alan. At some point, Emily was gone for good, but then Livingston came back. Good news for her fans, but another blow to the credibility of GH, which has to dip into the "mysterious look-alike" bag of cliches with Rebecca since Emily met such a public death. Or worse yet, they will have to rewrite history to make viewers believe Rebecca is Emily, despite the fact that they saw Emily's corpse on-screen for weeks.
My great complaining skills mean I can also find fault with DAYS, which compared to GH, kills off few characters. But lately, DAYS has managed to make characters' exits as unceremonious as possible. Perhaps Drake Hogestyn wishes John Black version 11.4 had been killed off instead of paralyzed and shipped to Switzerland without more than a couple of flashbacks. Deidre Hall suffered the indignity of being at the center of the demonic possession and Melaswen storylines, so I guess it's possible that comparatively, getting the equivalent of a "don't let the door hit you" exit after three decades on the show isn't as horrible as it looked to me as a viewer. I doubt it.
And then there's Steve and Kayla, characters that are the reason I watch soaps. In the sixth grade, one of my friends told me I had to watch DAYS because of a great couple, and I was hooked by Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans's chemistry and Patch and Kayla's fun, escapist storylines. When they came back a couple of years ago, I was positively giddy. I understand that in tough budget times, cuts have to happen, but just fading probably the show's most iconic couple to the background with zero fanfare is ridiculous and lazy.
I may be a persistent complainer, but I think even the least critical soap fan would agree that good writing includes the ability to complete--or at least believably pause--characters' stories. Too bad neither of my shows has been able to do either lately.