"Were there any real bests this year?"
"But lots of worsts."
"Should we just do the Worst of 2009 list?"
"That would just reinforce the image of us as hypercritical nags who hate everything."
"Right, which would be...bad? And we shouldn't do it."
"Yeah. Unless we can't come up with any bests, and then we might be forced to."
Okay, perhaps that's an overly pessimistic behind-the-scenes look at how we compiled our Best and Worst of 2009. There were soap highlights; they were overshadowed by the myriad lowlights, but they were there! So while it was a bit difficult to remember them, remember them we did and bring you our picks, because we love tradition, especially when tradition involves listing things!
Before we begin, we'd like to mention a notable best of the year: Best Readers! Thank you so much for reading, commenting, emailing, Facebooking and generally being fantastic. Here's to 2010 and, hopefully, improvements across soapdom. Fingers crossed!
And our usual disclaimers: we only watch All My Children, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless; Louise watches One Life to Live. Therefore, these are the shows that our Bests and Worsts come from. We're sure that As the World Turns, The Bold and the Beautiful and the late, lamented Guiding Light have many worthy nominees for the following categories and you can feel free to share them. Also: these are only our opinions. We don't expect all of you, or even many of you, to agree with our choices. Feel free to dispute and make your own nominations in the comments!
Best Story: The Baby Switch, Days of Our Lives
Initially, we hated that Days was going to the dry baby-switch well. And the story didn't start off terribly interesting. But great performances by Arianne Zucker, Allison Sweeney, and James Scott, plus ample hotness by Scott, Galen Gering, and Eric Martsolf -- not to mention the most expressive and adorable baby in daytime, who plays Sydney -- combined to overcome some tedious writing and breathed new life into an old cliche. It wasn't outstanding, but it was the best overall story arc on our shows. Plus, the story played out over a full year, which is pretty much the only truly soapily paced thing in Salem, but we'll deal with that later.
Worst Story: Stuart's Murder, All My Children
Remember when Stuart would make his handful of appearances over the course of the year, all sweet and adorable, and clad in Cosby sweaters? And how Adam loved him more than anything in the world. Well, we're glad you have those memories, because 2009 saw Stuart violently murdered...by Adam.
Everything about that sentence is horrifying, and horrifying is an apt description for the entire debacle of a story. Adam, under the influence of drugs administered by David without his knowledge and wanted dead by all of Pine Valley, shot his brother. Kendall, for some boneheaded reason, confessed and planned to go to prison for the murder, which she did not commit. Annie became the focal point of the story (and, eventually, Mrs. Adam Chandler). Marian was turned crazy and institutionalized, just for kicks. Charles Pratt half-assed the story from the beginning (a dark and stormy night, with random people showing up--without weapons!--to kill Adam? PUH-LEASE) and only became worse as it dragged on.
Best (New) Couple
It says a lot about soaps today that we have been scratching our heads over which couple to give this title to for weeks. Beccawanted "Kristian Alfonso and Crystal Chappell's eyebrows." Mallory wanted "All My Children and the fast-forward button." Louise finally prevailed, because her show actually has couples viewers consistently want to root for. Who knew?
Somehow this pair was being called "Kish" on message boards months before they even came close to getting together. And sure, they took a cliched path by making one half of this same-sex, star-crossed pair ashamed and closeted, but once he was out, he was out, and they had regular old daytime-serial-couple-obstacles after that. And even before the couple got together, we saw same-sex makeout sessions without trumpets and fanfare -- a neat trick that made it so once Oliver Fish and Kyle Lewis actually got together, we were watching for them, not for "daytime history being made." Instead of a statement, we saw an old-fashioned love story, with through-the-roof chemistry coming from two daytime newcomers. Brett Claywell (Kyle), the more seasoned and nuanced actor, and Scott Evans (Fish), who feels his way through his role with a constant-exposed-nerve approach, have colored the small moments in this essentially-B-story romance with a depth that invites all of us to imagine all-night talks and exciting dates we just didn't see. [I'm afraid to say this next bit because I think some of us believe there are a number of ABC execs who just didn't realize this was even happening but....] And in the final episode of 2009? They made daytime history anyway. The two men finally consummated their relationship in a scene just as hot, steamy, romantic, and sweet as any major couple's first big love scene. It's hard to imagine not going gooey at that.
Worst Couple: Erica and Ryan, All My Children
There's something profoundly disturbing about Erica falling for Ryan, the father of her grandchild (oh, sorry, we should have phrased that as "the father of her daughter's son"), who her daughter was still sleeping with as of this spring. First of all: EW. Second of all: I think Erica can do about ten times better than Ryan "I have literally zero redeeming qualities" Lavery. And third of all: EW.
Best Triangle: Bo/Nora/Clint, One Life to Live
A good old-fashioned triangle in which no one was completely unsympathetic. It's over now, and while it's unlikely anyone really was a massive Clint/Nora 'shipper, no one wanted to see Clint hurt. The writers worked a little "duh" magic (why don't other shows get this? Especially when dealing with brothers?) by having Bo and Nora confess their love to one another but make the decent choice to stay away from each other's beds in celebration until they'd faced the music with Clint. A lot of us were screaming, "No, no, don't marry Clint!" at the same time that we were yelling, "No, no, don't break Clint's heart!" Good stuff, where everyone's perspective was valid.
Worst Triangle: Elizabeth/Lucky/Nikolas, General Hospital
Add "Write a compelling story about a woman torn between two brothers" to the list of things that Bob Guza cannot do. There was no organic buildup to Liz and Nik falling for each other, and less than no explanation for why Liz would sleep with Nikolas and then immediately go accept Lucky's marriage proposal. And when you factor in the complete lack of chemistry between Becky Herbst and Tyler Christopher, and the oodles of chemistry between Herbst and Jonathan Jackson, it gets even more confusing.
Best New and/or Newly Aged Character(s): Kristina Davis, Michael Corinthos and Dante Falconeri, General Hospital
We like to think of the hiring of Lexi Ainsworth, Drew Garrett and Dominic Zamprogna as General Hospital's way of saying, "Totally our bad about how awful Sonny is. Would it make you feel any better if his children all turned out to be awesome?" Slightly, GH. Slightly.