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« What's This Feeling? Could It Be...Enjoyment? | Main | Soap Blog Coalition »

April 29, 2009

Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column

SOD editor's note:  This month, we asked the My Take columnists to watch shows they normally don't.  Here's what they had to say.

My Take
By Mallory Harlen

GUIDING LIGHT has been broadcast for more than seventy years, and it has a great cast—a great cast that it actually utilizes.  Imagine that!—and yet all I could focus on at the beginning of my experiment watching it were the horrible production values. The cheap-looking sets, random outdoor scenes and handheld cameras look, at best, like a public access channel and at worst, like home videos filmed by a toddler with a shaky hand.

Once I got over that, and the accompanying motion sickness, I was impressed by the much-buzzed-about Natalia/Olivia relationship.  Part of it is a love of all things Crystal Chappell-related, sure, but I also think it’s well-written and realistic.  I also found myself really enjoying Shayne and Dinah. Something about the tried and true “two damaged people bond over being damaged” trope works when strong actors are involved.  And Jeff Branson, in a handful of scenes, already got better writing here than he did on ALL MY CHILDREN.

The rest of the show is sort of all over the place.  The pacing is a mess; so long was spent dramatically gearing up for Philip’s trial and talking about Philip’s trial and then the trial lasts a whopping eight minutes? O…kay.  Mallet and Marina bring new meaning to the word “boring” and the less said about Reva’s pregnancy, the better.  Kim Zimmer is certainly a force of nature (that’s diplomatic, right?), but the story is so poorly written.  

My prior BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL knowledge can be described thusly:  (1) It features characters named Ridge and Thorne Forrester, giving it an immediate “so bad, it’s good” air and (2) It is a home to beloved sitcom actors of yore, including Betty White (Ann).  If it’s good enough for my favorite Golden Girl, it should be good enough for me, right? Well...I think the “so bad, it’s good” assessment was right on target.

There were some moments that had me looking away from my television in horror.  Like the fact that dating entire families is routine, even when your dates share your last name.  When Thomas was raging about Rick, and how Rick dated his mother and his sisters, I was on his side, frankly.  Maybe attempted murder was an overreaction, but surely some sort of punishment needs to be meted out, especially because Rick is odious.  I can see why he would be irritated that everybody blames him for Phoebe’s death (the concept of an accident is completely foreign in the soap world), but his sleazy demeanor isn’t helping any.  Taunting Ridge about his relationship with Steffy was gross.  (Actually, his entire relationship with Steffy is gross on both of their parts.  Who gets involved with their dead twin’s boyfriend before her body is even cold?)  On a shallow note, for a show ostensibly about fashion designers, the wardrobe is completely insane, with a never-ending parade of sheer and sequined. B&B: you don’t need to honor your show’s '80s legacy by using the '80s wardrobe. 

However, that being said, I found myself compelled to watch every day.  There’s something about the over-the-top camp and brisk, half-hour pace that I really enjoy. Or maybe I just enjoy hearing Ronn Moss’s hoarse, melodramatic line readings…

My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas

Last year, Mallory and I couldn’t rant about how terrible any of our shows were without a ONE LIFE TO LIVE viewer (or 20) commenting on our blog about how we should really reduce our stress level by watching OLTL instead.  It will make your spirit soar, your hair shiny and your skin clear, they wrote!  (That is only a slight exaggeration.)  Perhaps I decided to tune in a year too late because I wasn’t so wowed.   

Even if, like me, you’ve never watched OLTL, you know that Robin Strasser’s Dorian and Erika Slesak’s Viki are the fierce, female hearts of the show.  While OLTL uses its veterans better than GENERAL HOSPITAL (though, who doesn’t?), I would have liked to see more Dorian and Viki.  The week I watched, the two most featured women were instead the seemingly vile Stacy and her screechy sister Gigi.  Do those two have redeeming personality traits in general?  Not according to the storyline about Shane’s bone marrow transplant.

When it comes to Llanview’s youngsters, there is Shane (critically ill with leukemia), Matthew (paralyzed and depressed) and Cole (hooked on drugs and charged with the DUI that caused Matthew’s paralysis).  Not the most uplifting stories of youth, but soapy!

Todd Manning has been a psychopath since I was buying purple jeans and debating the merits of scrunchies vs. banana clips, but somehow his creepiness is still a bit shocking and disturbing. The less said about his “relationship” with Marty, the better.  Ick.

Todd Manning’s former portrayer is now on the second show I took for a trial run, AS THE WORLD TURNS.  Roger Howarth plays creepy like nobody’s business, but the Meg/Dusty/Lucy/Paul quadrangle did nothing for me.  In general, none of Oakdale’s romances appealed to me much, other than Luke and Noah.  ATWT does inter-generational family interaction well.  It reminds me in that sense a bit of DAYS, and it was great to see former Salemites Austin Peck -- who is charming when not saddled with the role of professional dope Austin Reed -- and Julie Pinson.  Pinson thankfully has more to do in Oakdale than Salem, though I don’t know how she keeps a straight face calling her on-screen daughter Liberty.

There are fewer children in peril on ATWT than OLTL.  However, Parker is married, underage, spoiled, about to come into a ton of money and has Ric Ocasek’s circa-1986 haircut.  I suspect none of that is going to turn out well.

Maura West’s Carly intrigued me; I wanted to stick around to see her obviously upcoming downward alcoholic spiral.  Damien’s deviousness is exceedingly soapy, which stood out.  Few other characters really drew me in, though.  In general, ATWT has a strong cast across the board; it just seems like the well-played characters need more interesting things to do.  

Comments

The Otalia storyline on GL is the best thing on daytime right now. Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia are phenomenal and Ellen Wheeler and Jill Lorie Hurst deserve kudos for the production and writing. If anyone is not watching GL they should be.

The Otalia storyline on GL is impressive, isn't it? The writing and acting are phenomenal, and not just with Otalia but across the the entire show. GL has developed into a very entertaining hour of viewing and the universal love story between Olivia and Natalia is a MUST SEE. The best romance on TV anywhere at the moment.

Thanks for the compliments on Otalia!! It is brilliantly written and acted! And thanks for saying its realistic! Falling in love with your best friend, been there done that!

Thanks Mallory. I agree the production model took some getting used to on my part as well, but after the adjustment period, I actually like it. I mean we would have never been able to see those powerful graveyard confessions scenes the conventional way...now would we? The Olivia/Natalia storyline is such a beautiful well-written and well-acted storyline on television. Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia compliment each other amazingly and their chemistry is out of this world.

Thanks for referencing Natalia and Olivia on GL! They really do remind me of the supercouples back in the heyday of daytime programming--before the outrageous storylines got out of control on daytime. Between the strong writing and the brilliant work of the actresses, I really feel like Otalia is one of the better love stories I've seen in television--daytime or primetime. Let's hope that the show finds a new home and is able to continue!

I actually like the way the production looks now compared to other soaps. Crystal and Jessica have been exceptional as Olivia and Natalia

Thanks for praising Otalia. They really are the best on television. The production style takes some adjustment but it actually provides a realistic intimacy to the scenes. I can't even watch other soaps now because they look so unrealistic.

Wait. . .REVA SHAYNE is pregnant????? She was a rapidly aging ingenue when I watched GL with my Nana. . .and Nana died in 1987.

Thanks Mallory for the column. i remember the first time I saw the production model. I was shocked, outraged and a little bit curious. Good thing I stuck through otherwise I would've missed what is IMO the best show on tv right now. I can't even watch the other soaps now cause it looks so fake.
The otalia storyline is impressive. i am sorry you watched the show on a Mallet and Marina day, I would've loved to get your view on what is in my opinion the best couple on daytime, Bill and Lizzie.

I too was curious about the Olivia&Natalia story... its why I started watching in January. What can I say, but I was just as impressed as you were - the writing blew me away! Finally I had found the romance that has been missing from daytime for years. While watching this Otalia story, the rest of the stories sucked me in as well & as a result GL has pemanently replaced GH on my DVR & might I add that I am a happier soap fan for it. As much as Guza sux, that is how much GL's head writer, JLH, rocks!

thanks for mentioning Otalia! they're certainly one of the high points of Guiding Light and deserve to be recognized :)

Guiding Light are doing some brilliant work. As I'm an international viewer, I can only comment on the parts that I have seen, which is the Otalia storyline. The writing for them has been outstanding and Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia have been knocking it out of the park acting wise day in day out. It is an absolute joy to watch, which is more than I can say about our soaps this side of the water. Kudos indeed also needs to go to Jill Lorie Hurst and Ellen Wheeler.

The Otalia story line works because of the chemistry and talent of Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia and the writing and producing prowess of Jill Lorie Hurst and Ellen Wheeler. It's realistic, it's hot and it has a sweetness to it that the likes of which haven't been seen in daytime, let alone primetime, in a long time.

Here's hoping that some smart and savvy executives at some cable network see what a winner they'd have in Guiding Light.

These two amazing actresses make the idea of love possibble, they brought me to GL and now we must save them, even if it is on another show,,, save them, they also need to bring Ellen Wheeler with them, because the writing has been wonderful! Crystal and Jessica are genuine, caring and loving,, best couple of the century!

The true love story without labels of Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera is definitely an extremely well written, well acted, and well produced story line. Also, Jeff Branson's presence and talent is finally being used full-throttle on Guiding Light. He and Gina T. are wonderful together!

The true love story without labels of Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera is definitely an extremely well written, well acted, and well produced story line. Also, Jeff Branson's presence and talent is finally being used full-throttle on Guiding Light. He and Gina T. are wonderful together!

I have to say this is a great idea! I like a fresh perspective. I too had a similiar thing with GL in terms of getting used to it versus other shows, but I have to say with the Olivia/Natalia story, it has completely captivated my heart. Sometimes it does feel like their story is transcending the rest of the s/l's but at the same time there are days when GL hits it out of the ballpark with all the stories. Loving Jeff Branson, and of course, the writing has been superb - you can completely tell the difference when you head over to other soaps.

Otalia is by far the best love story being written and performed right now, and I can't believe how it just keeps getting better and better with each passing day. They and GL must survive to be discovered by everyone!

I weep for OLTL. Despite having moments that are worth watching the show is just a shadow of its former selves. I wish you guys had decided to take a look-see last January but as it stands right now? Ugh.

Unfortunately you did get right into the middle of the wretched Morasco Fiasco and you probably picked a week where it was the absolute CENTER of the OLTL universe. Not that the Jchn McBain Serial Killer Hour is any better. Or the Trials of Starr and Cole - They're True Love... For Reals!! Or the sexy hijinks of serial rapist Todd Manning! See how he smirks!

It is a sad sad thing that OLTL has become this. It really was good soap for awhile there. I guess nothing gold CAN stay.

In my opinion, Guiding Light is the best soap opera on daytime televison. Ellen Wheeler and Jill Lorie Hurst have done wonders with the show. And what else can one say about Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia except that their performances are phenomenal! The Otalia storyline, in particular, is outstanding! I haven't seen such a beautiful message being conveyed like this on daytime in years. I'm so proud of the show and I am hopeful that Guiding Light will be granted a new place to call home for the future. It would be almost criminal to allow this historically rich show to end after all these years of entertainment excellence!

Otalia is one of the many reasons to turn on the Light! I'm sorry you had to suffer through M&M, I wish you would've gotten a taste of Bizzie!! Kudos to EW and JLH!

I'm glad you enjoyed it! There was a lot I liked about GL, and Otalia definitely stood out as the best part of the show.

Marley, I really like Bill and Lizzie. I've always thought Marcy Rylan was adorable, just based on her Daytime Emmy appearances.

We'll be posting more detailed thoughts on all of these shows in the coming week!

I love Otalia storyline.It is a deeply touching emotional journey. It is realistic ,honest and amazingly written love story that is outstandingly performed by Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia.

i've never watch a soap until i learned about the amazing story that is olivia and natalia. everyone is doing an incredible job with this story and i hope it continues!


I quite like the production model that's being used, I think it's probably less invasive than the original, and that really comes through with the lack of inhibition shown by the actors. I also like how the picture is a little shaky, it's kinda funky and often adds to the atmosphere. To me it shows that the GL team are not afraid to try new things, they are still ambitious, and not set in their old ways.

As for the Otalia Story, it's history in the making. It really is the love story of our time. It's brave, it's beautiful and the writers clearly have what it takes to give us a story with real integrity. It doesn't hurt that the acting is superb either! CC and JL are just rocking this storyline!

I agree with much of what you said about Guiding Light. The Olivia/Natalia love story as well as the Shayne/Dinah storyline make every minute worth watching. The writing has really been stellar. CBS is CRAZY to be cancelling the show now, while ratings are slowly climbing and there is such a huge buzz about the Otalia storyline.... it makes no sense. And what are they going to replace it with...another talk show or a game show?? Boring. Somebody save this show.

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