Serial Drama's Best and Worst of 2009
"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.
Worst New Character: Stacy Morasco, One Life to Live
Everyone loves a daytime bad girl. Bring on a stripper, long-lost sister of a major character? Right on! Oh, she has designs on her sister's man? Perfect-o! She's a major schemer? Fun! Oh, she's willing to let her nephew die of leukemia by withholding "her" stem cells, unless her sister gives her the man? Oops. There's really no coming back from that one, and her storyline ate most of the spring and summer. Actress Crystal Hunt didn't exactly add surprising layers and depth to the role, but it's hard to spin gold from total crap.
Worst Exit: John and Marlena, Days of Our Lives
We will be diplomatic and say that we were not, in recent years, big John and Marlena fans here at Serial Drama. But no matter what you thought of the characters or their portrayers, this was a huge Dayssupercouple. And Marlena on her own was a daytime icon -- how many of your non-soap-watching friends still knew about the Marlena possession storyline? A metric buttload, that's how many. So the decision by the powers-that-be at Days to write off John and Marlena in the way that they did is baffling. The exit, played out over approximately 1.5 episodes, was essentially "Hey there random couple with seemingly no ties to this town. How about we emasculate and literally paralyze the male half of you and make the female half abandon all her children in times of crisis without any explanation, then ship you off to a random European country to which you have no ties whatsoever? Awesome! Kthxbye." Congrats, Days writers. Only you could top Bob Guza this year in the category we will one day -- after his retirement and our subsequent celebrations -- name after him: Highest Level of Commitment to Shitting on Legendary Characters and/or the Fan-Favorite Actors Who Portray them.
Most Bittersweet Return: Jonathan Jackson, General Hospital
Having Jonathan Jackson, the original Lucky, back on GH is pretty fantastic. The writers obviously adore writing for him and this version of Lucky is being portrayed as having the ability to compute first grade math problems, which is an improvement over the past Luckys. Hell, the fact that he is being portrayed at all is an improvement over the past Luckys, who more often than not resided at 666 Backburner Lane. He works with all of his castmates incredibly well, Tony Geary and Becky Herbst in particular.
But Jackson returning meant Greg Vaughan leaving, and we're still sad about that. He was oh-so pretty, he worked well with his castmates when the show gave him screentime, and he was Lucky for seven years. We miss him!
Best Return: Crystal Chappell, Days of Our Lives
Sure, Hope has been acting uncharacteristically like a lunatic in order to create the opening for Carly to play the interloper in the classic Bo/Hope relationship, but let's set that aside for the moment and just appreciate that Crystal Chappell is an awesome actress, and having Carly back in Salem has been a great addition to the hospital and the 40/50-something relationship set. The "mystery daughter!" storyline is a little lame, but Chappell is making it watchable. And if her awesomeness ever melds with Wally Kurth's, in a Carly/Justin romance, you might hear the "eeeee!s" from our living rooms in your own.
Worst Return: Natalia Livingston, General Hospital
"Remember when we killed off Emily, and there was massive outcry from everyone who watches this show? How about we bring Natalia Livingston back, but as someone new? Someone bad! With dark eyeshadow! And then she can be all bad, but then it turns out that she isn't really bad, just bitter about being sold at birth. And then Nikolas decides that he loves Elizabeth and we decide that maybe it's not so fun having Natalia back after all. That could be a fun way to spend a few months!"
WTFiest Return: Anna DiMera, Days of Our Lives
Anna is back in Salem! And she's a psychotic kidnapper!
Fortunately, Leann Hunley is still fabulous, and she can balance out this career blip with the fact that she used to get paid to make out with Joshua Jackson.
Best Hero: Dante Falconeri, General Hospital
He will probably undergo severe character assassination soon and become his father's number one fan and, Jason forbid, right hand man, but for now, how can we not love a man who was allowed to say these words without being immediately written off of the show?
Dante: I'm thinking about how hard it is for cops to actually win one. I'm thinking about how easy it is for the mobsters to make up the rules as they go and get away with literal murder. You know what else I'm thinking about? I'm thinking about the good guys who get caught in the crossfire and get mowed down on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Worst Hero: Victor Newman, The Young and the Restless
Victor brought Mary Jane/Patty, a mentally unstable crazy person hellbent on revenge to town as part of his latest battle in the decades long war he's been fighting with Jack Abbott. Mary Jane wound up poisoning his granddaughter, was responsible for Colleen Carlton's death and was just generally a menace to society. When questioned about his ties to her, Victor lied, repeatedly, and had the audacity to take offense to the all-too-truthful accusations that this was all of his fault
Victor: How dare you come into my home and make accusations? You know nothing. You have no damn proof, do you...you come to my home and vomit garbage about your family, how much you love them and protect them. You are the one who manipulated Colleen to assume that seat on the board of directors. She was not qualified for that, and you knew it. She was in way over her head. You watched her sink. You didn't do a damn thing, did you?... Don't you come into my home and talk to me about family love and family values, you got that?
Oh, but because he was shot instead of Jack, that makes all of this awful behavior okay and we should all praise him for being heroic. Gag us with a spoon.
Best Villain: Mitch Lawrence, One Life to Live
Yeah, yeah, it's so unrealistic that he just can't die, gets away with everything, and is inexplicably omniscient. Except it's awesome that he just can't die, gets away with everything, and is inexplicably omniscient. And his 24-year history on this show means this isn't some random sociopath who only cares about the sweet young newbies. And we have Mitch to thank for the terrifyingly hilarious corpse of Nash (with due respect to the props department)! Just get him out of the hospital bed already!
Worst Villain: Andrea Floyd, General Hospital
She skulked around the hospital managing to hear confidential conversations, tried to frame Alexis for murder and made her look like a woman driven crazy by love, drugged Edward Quartermaine and wasn't even entertaining once. So glad that GH brought Martha Byrne on for this thankless, stupid role instead of doing something crazy like "writing a compelling character for a daytime icon to play".
Best Wedding: Maxie and Spinelli, General Hospital
We're cheating, because this was a non-wedding, but it was so delightful, well-written and happy that we had to include it. Bradford Anderson and Kirsten Storms were at their best, the show acknowledged friendships and complicated familial relationships, there was karaoke and the reasons for the couple not getting married were true to character and soapy.
And! Jason's pink tie, who is our choice for Best Supporting Actor.
We loved it so much that we are not even going to mention Maxie's ceremonial headdress.
So that says A LOT about how much we loved it.
Worst Wedding: Bianca and Reese, All My Children
Bianca and Reese's wedding, the first lesbian wedding on daytime, was pretty inspiring, wasn't it? Lesbians can also have poorly written, cursed marriages! Three cheers for equality! Bianca, one of the show's most beloved heroines (at least before the unfortunate circumstances of Gabrielle's conception, anyway), married a woman who made out with Bianca's brother-in-law hours before the wedding, dreamed about marrying Bianca's brother-in-law and made repeated references to the deep connection she had to Bianca's brother-in-law, who was also terrible in every way. And then the marriage ended practically moments later, when the truth about the kiss came out. What a poorly written joke.
Weirdest Casting Decision: James Franco joining General Hospital
We still have more questions than we do answers, but anything that leads to that much pretty joining GH and that much homoeroticism deserves a special mention.
Worst Casting Decision: Killing off Colleen, The Young and the Restless
It is always the worst casting decision when shows kill off young legacy characters so that they can have a few emotional episodes, rather than just quietly send the young legacy characters out of town. There was NO reason to kill off Colleen. Sure, she was on the backburner for the better part of the year, and yes, Tammin Sursok hadn't even attempted an American accent after 2008, but Colleen was Brad Carlton and Traci Abbott's daughter, and a young, gorgeous heiress. There were decades worth of stories for her to be a part of, but the show killed her off in the most exploitative way possible. Months later, and we're still bitter.
Most Hot-Guy-Conscious Casting: Days of Our Lives
...and we thank them for it. Sincerely. In little more than a year, Daysadded Galen Gehring, Eric Martsolf, and Mark Hapka, who joined -- among others -- James Scott and Jay Kenneth Johnson. That is a whole lot of chiseled faces and shirtlessness-worthy torsos, dear readers.
Worst Soundbites From Show-Runners: Julie Hanan Carruthers thinks we're all crazy and Charles Pratt hates Eden Riegel, All My Children
ABC Daytime needs to bar all All My Children writers and producers from speaking with the press, because everything they manage to say is rude, condescending and awful. The two most rude, condescending and awful things have to do with the clusterfuck of a story that was Reese and Bianca's romance. First, Julie Hanan Carruthers told the audience that they were delusionally writing mental fanfiction:
The Advocate: Some fans were upset when it appeared that Reese might consider leaving Bianca for a man.
JHC: She is not considering it. That’s the audience rewriting what’s there. It’s not being written that way at all.
And Charles Pratt acknowledged that the story was terrible, but blamed it on Eden Riegel. The people in charge are bitchy AND inept! No wonder this show blows.
Most Disappointing Show: All My Children
A show with Susan Lucci, David Canary, Debbi Morgan, Darnell Williams, Alicia Minshew, Thorsten Kaye and Vincent Irizarry in the cast managed to be the most painful hour of television all year, thanks to a writing and production staff that thought about what could be entertaining, and did the exact opposite. Reliving the details of exactly how awful this year was in Pine Valley was painful once, so all we're going to say is thank goodness Charles Pratt got canned and that we're keeping our fingers crossed for a much improved 2010 (even if the only way to realistically do that is have 2009 be the figment of a disturbed person's imagination).
Most Improved Show: Days of Our Lives
Days still doesn't seem to be able to maintain consistent quality for more than a few months, but 2009 was a huge improvement over 2008, and right now we actually look forward to watching the next episode on a regular basis. It's a bizarre feeling, but we're giving it a chance before we seek out medication to dull it.
One thing keeping Days from being truly great is its seeming inability to create great new couples, a problem possibly directly attributable to its horrible romantic pacing. Phillip and Melanie are engaged (and based on Wednesday's episode, possibly married depending on when you're reading this post) and they haven't been on a single date. And that's Phillip's second engagement this year. Stephanie, his ex-fiancee, is on relationship #3 in 2009, as is Melanie. This show needs to take lessons from its 1980s episodes on how to do a good soapy build-up.
Best Show: One Life to Live
It's not necessarily saying much to call OLTL the "best ABC soap," but it's more than that. Instead of trying to be something it's not, the folks in charge over at OLTL seemed to figure out that when you truly embrace what soapiness is (part indulgent campiness, part never-more-than-three-degrees-of-separation, part total honesty), there's a huge payoff. While it had its hits and misses this year (hey, there's no love lost between Stacy and the audience), it still managed to move forward at an entertaining pace, give ample screen time to almost of its available vets, integrate several newbies into an already-overflowing cast, and offer a little something for everyone. When ATWT shuts down next year, it will officially be the last NYC soap standing -- how appropriate that in the capital of the stage world, it's at its theatrical soapy best. It's rumored to be next on the chopping block, but we all know a few fans (this one included) who would even show up if they moved shop to a makeshift stage in the middle of Central Park. As long as Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati are still on board.
Best Actor: David Canary, All My Children
The lone highlight of the "Who Killed Stuart?" mystery and its fallout was David Canary, who was heart-breaking and amazing even when he was given the most rotten material with which to work. He's effortlessly amazing and made the most awful scenes must-see-TV. Because of him, we didn't fast forward through any of the murder mystery which, now that we think about it, probably killed a few brain cells. Present day All My Children in no way deserves this delightful man and his talent. We hope that the new writing staff gives him worthy material.
Best Actress: Laura Wright, General Hospital
Laura Wright has managed to make one of us (ONE!) love Carly again and one of us dial back the hatred a few notches, which makes her worthy of a Nobel Prize, let alone a Serial Drama shoutout. She's fantastic in difficult scenes (she killed us during Michael's coma and the weeks after he woke up and despised her) and equally enjoyable in the all-too few light and happy scenes she gets.
Worst Actor and Actress: TIE! John Paul Lavoisier and Terrell Tilford, One Life to Live
John Paul Lavoisier used to play a fun supporting character -- the soap archetype of a bad boy with a soft center. But something happened over the last year or two, and it's hard to remember those days anymore. It doesn't matter what the scene calls for -- anger? Jealousy? Rage? Self-pity? Love? Heartbreak? Grief? It all gets the same mugging, eye-bugging, arm-flailing treatment. It doesn't help that the character has been bitter, angry, controlling, and humorless most of this year, but he's been given some meaty material and plays it all like a cartoon. Is this really a soap hunk these days? Speaking of soap hunks, Terrell Tilford showed up as Dr. Greg Evans and stopped a lot of hearts. He's a sexy, sexy man and brought a new spark to milquetoast Rachel. Alas, he was then given some difficult scenes in which he had to deal with having been the surgeon responsible for his brother's coma. More than feeling for his character, or being bothered by bad acting, most of us were probably just deeply, deeply embarrassed... and he's been suspiciously backburnered ever since.
Most Criminally Underused Actress: TIE! Nancy Lee Grahn, General Hospital, and Jess Walton, The Young and the Restless
Two gorgeous, talented women playing intriguing smart characters. Remind us again why these two permanently reside in the land of no screen-time?
Best Recast: Michael Muhney as Adam, The Young and the Restless
Sheriff Don Lamb as Victor Newman's son? The six Veronica Mars fans reading this recognize how weird that prospect was when first announced, but Muhney has been excellent in what's probably the most difficult role on the entire show. He's very different from predecessor Chris Engen but, to borrow a term overused by Paula Abdul, he's made the role his own and he's endlessly compelling, even when Adam is endlessly awful (which is most of the time).
Worst Recast: TIE! Jamie Luner as Liza, All My Children, and
Clementine Ford as Mac,The Young and the Restless
Jamie Luner is many things (attractive; vixenish; um, orange), but she is not Liza Colby in any way. She's way too young and too brash, her Liza comes across sleazy and she looks ridiculous interacting with all of the people in Liza's life. We like Jamie Luner just fine, but this is not the role for her. Clementine Ford, meanwhile, is a charisma vacuum and has not had one moment all year that's made us feel anything other than boredom. When the audience is focused more on random extras than Mac, there's a problem.
Worst History Rewrite: Ethan is Luke and Holly's son, General Hospital
Luke and Laura, and Robert and Holly, actually weren't happy and in love in the 80s; who knew?! It turns out that Holly and Luke had an affair that resulted in an unwashed Australian douchebag son. There was something to offend everyone: Luke and Laura fans, Holly fans (because she was always a con-woman and nothing more, despite the years that she wasn't), the shampoo industry. Sadly, the story's biggest cheerleader of all was Tony Geary, who loved everything about it, making it highly unlikely that Ethan will be written off the show and never mentioned again.
Most Offensive Plot Twist: Faking Trevor's Death, All My Children
It seems like the majority of Pine Valley residents have taken part in a scheme that involved lying to a bereaved parent that his or her child was dead. We're not sure why that's the plot that AMC writers always go back to, but it was only a matter of time before Jake and Amanda turned to the dead baby lie to keep Amanda's son away from David, because he's so...mean. Seriously, that was their explanation. Because he's mean. What made this dead lie even more offensive was Amanda informing him about the baby's death, complete with mentioning David's other two dead children.
Amanda: He was so perfect, David, like a dream, but I couldn't say goodbye because he was already gone. It was so still. You don't want your only memory of your son to be a little baby in the morgue. He's in heaven, laughing and gurgling and waving his little fists. He's with Babe and Leora. So say a prayer and hold on to that.
That's gross. And she's the one we're supposed to be rooting for. Uh-huh.
Best Diversity and Use of Vets: One Life to Live
Worst Diversity and Use of Vets: General Hospital
We don't even have the energy to type out another rant about this. Suffice it to say we didn't need to discuss what show would win this "prize."
Best Soap Child: Cameron Webber, General Hospital
This adorable, expressive boy continues to be the most wonderful tyke in all of soapdom. Whenever he reacted adorably to the goings-on in Port Charles, or whenever we learned intriguing tidbits about the generosity of his character, we smiled big, goofy smiles.
Honorable mentions: Sam Manning, One Life to Live (children + glasses = cute times a million), Sydney on Days, and all of the babies on General Hospital.
Most Welcome Haircut: James Scott, Days of Our Lives
Oh god, you guys, do you remember? The horror of early- to mid-2009? Those dark days when James Scott was either prepping for a role in Hair or, in a spin on Mallory's suggestion that in order to make EJ truly hateable he would have to disfigure himself, James Scott's hair looked like this?
But it does not anymore! He came to his senses and all hotness was fully restored!
We threw a party. We had t-shirts made and everything. (Note to James Scott's attorneys, particularly those who deal with restraining order matters: This was hyperbole used for dramatic effect. Total fiction! Well, mostly...)
Most Insane Hair: Lauren Koslow, Days of Our Lives
Lauren Koslow currently has INDIGO BLUE CHUNKS in her hair, people. It is like something out of a horror movie, and we have to watch it without popcorn and while sober, on worknights! Life is unfair.
Duh Face of the Year: Sonny Corinthos, General Hospital
This category may well be re-named The Sonny Corinthos Duh Face of the Year award with how consistently he wins. We've finally found something the man is good at!
The Year's Most "Really, he's the show's leading man? Him?" Dialogue: Sonny is Tired and Also Wants Sex, General Hospital
Sonny, cranky: Say what you gotta say because I gotta take a nap
Sonny, while being seduced by Claudia (glurg): Ok, but don't take long, ok? Because I need it right now
Really, he's the show's leading man? Him?
Our Favorite Soap Moment of 2009: Paul learning the truth about Mary Jane, The Young and the Restless
There was no single scene more enjoyable than Paul learning that his sister had radical plastic surgery and was on a spree of life-ruining crazy in Genoa City. Doug Davidson could have, like many before him, gone subtle and done the single tear thing. But he didn't. He...went batshit. And it was glorious.
FYI, this serves as a handy primer of how to react to any and all bad news in the future. Begin relatively stable
And end crumpled in the fetal position, hands covering your tear-filled face as you sob impotently about the horrible curveballs thrown by life.
It will let people know how seriously you feel about the issue!