Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
By Mallory Harlen
The economic recession has hit the soap world. Major stars are being fired or forced to take pay cuts, sets are being consolidated and now, in what appears to be the latest cost-cutting measure, soaps are even sharing storylines. Right? Both ALL MY CHILDREN and GENERAL HOSPITAL have simultaneously introduced twin sisters of now-dead characters who were sold at birth. I have to assume that the writers went to the Soap Opera Cliche Factory and decided to split the cost of the cheapest one available.
Krystal Carey selling one of her children at birth is not at all surprising to me; after all, she uses every child she comes into contact with as currency. The woman sees babies as meal tickets, not tiny humans. What IS surprising is that AMC felt we needed a replacement Babe on canvas so quickly. I was downright gleeful when she was written off the show, though my joy was short-lived, as she was eulogized on a daily basis for moths afterward. I'm reasonably sure that if you added up all of the times the show mentioned her, she'd still probably have the highest episode count of all AMC characters. The writers have decided to compound this Babe overload by introducing her twin. And having every conversation about her twin mention Babe in some way. And set up a romance between her twin and JR, Babe's ex-husband. The only thing saving this story so far is the introduction of Brittany Allen (Marissa), a fantastic actress who has great chemistry with virtually every character in Pine Valley. And Marissa is markedly less awful than her sister, although she does share Babe's self-righteous streak: I can't help but be annoyed when she lectures people about their hatred of David. Sure, parental devotion is nice and all, but maybe she should check out dear old dad's criminal rap sheet before she starts defending him.
The murder of Emily Quartermaine was the very definition of senseless: a young legacy character with ties to the Quartermaines, Cassadines AND the hospital? That opened up decades of storyline possibilities that GH foolishly squandered for a cheap sweeps whodunit. They attempted to right their wrong by bringing Natalia Livingston back on canvas, this time in the person of the mysterious Rebecca Shaw, a con artist with no personality (sorry, GH, but heavy makeup is not the same thing as characterization). That hardly seems like a fair trade! And Rebecca's very existence tarnished one of my favorite GH plots by making the kind, loving Paige Bowen into the kind of morally bankrupt woman who would sell a child at birth and not tell her confidante, Monica, about it, even on her deathbed. I know that character assassination happens daily on this show, but I thought that long-dead characters were exempt from it.
I'm not a big fan of bringing characters back from the dead, but I'd gladly make an exception here. With just one Byzantine Helena plot, we could have Emily back and be spared Nikolas and Rebecca's altogether unsettling courtship that is pretty much a ghoulish love triangle with the late Em. And we wouldn't be forced to watch Ethan and Rebecca plan the most convoluted, terrible cons ever. It's a win/win!
My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas
There's been some great DAYS OF OUR LIVES casting news of late, but I'm a bit wary of Wally Kurth (Justin) and Crystal Chappell (Carly)--among my favorite DAYS vets--being subject to the show's current pacing problems.
Nothing especially offensive or nonsensical is going on in Salem (unlike on my other show, GH, where "offensive and nonsensical" is also known as "a good day in Port Charles") and the day-to-day dialogue is generally pretty good, but it feels like DAYS is in slow motion. I'm a huge fan of lengthy, soapy buildups, but there's a difference between buildup and foot-dragging. If I have to sit through one more of Bo's stupid visions, Brady and Arianna's 17th consecutive identical, semiflirty conversation or yet another EJ rage-fest, I can't promise not to start giving my fast-forward button a serious workout.
But at the same time, so many stories are moving at a snail's pace, other things that should take months happen in a few weeks. In particular, virtually every new couple in the last year or so seems to declare their undying love within a few hours of their first date. EJ and Nicole, Max and Stephanie, Max and Chelsea, Philip and Stephanie, Daniel and... [insert name of whoever he is creepily latching onto at the moment]. Soap couples are supposed to take forever to get together, and even longer to get to the point where they're in love and therefore also probably boring and in need of an interloper and/or terminal illness and/or kidnapping and/or evil twin and/or who's-the-daddy storyline! That's basic soap opera math.
I'm thrilled to have Kurth back on one of my soaps--I liked him as Justin in the '80s and absolutely adored him as Ned on GH--but I am a bit wary of Justin being back without Adrienne and presumably his passel of Kiriakis kids. I am excited for some old-school Victor and Justin arguments, and Justin interacting with Philip, and Brady has great possibilities, but there better be a believable explanation for Adrienne's absence when we just saw her, marriage intact, in Salem last year.
Crystal Chappell's Carly came on the scene when I was in high school, at the peak of my soap-viewing years when I almost uniformly loved everything on them. I thought Chappell was fantastic, and Carly was a smart, interesting character. I am anxious to see how and with what family trailing her, she returns to town. A Hope/Bo/Carly triangle could be great if it is well written and spaced out over several months or a year, but I'm a little doubtful that will happen. Because, you know, I actually watch this show. If current trends keep up, by Thanksgiving Carly will be married to Bo, and Hope will be shacked up with Justin. But Bo will still be having those stupid visions (will he see the breakup coming?!) and Sydney's parentage still won't have been revealed, so it will be like summer all over again in the middle of winter.