Serial Drama's Best and Worst of 2012
Daytime television's 2012 was a soap opera of its own, featuring heartbreaking loss (we will never fully be over the loss of One Life to Live, will we?), a rekindled love affair (if people were still using Trapper Keepers, ours would be emblazoned with "I Heart GH!") and a twist that neither of us saw coming when we sat down to work on our annual Best and Worst list.
"I...think we might actually have more bests than worst."
"I think you're right. And actually, I have another best to add to the list..."
That has never happened before! Oh, sure, it wasn't a perfect year and we have a lot to complain about (please read on!), but usually, our Bests are sarcastic and contain nuggets of misery within the ostensible compliment, so this is a brand new experience for us. If 2013 continues this trend, we may need to change our tagline to "We don't mock soaps and our feelings are hurt by people who do".
Let's take a look back at the year that was...
Nobody was sadder than we to lose the amazing Kimberly McCullough, but we suppose that if she had to leave, at least she was given the most excellent exit of the year. Her “death” was heart-breaking—to spend so many months worrying that she would die from complications with her HIV and then have her die in a hospital explosion was such a shock, and McCullough absolutely killed us with her final scenes before the explosion at the hospital.
Months later, and we’re still tearing up at the very thought of the gutted goodbyes she shared with Patrick.
The ensuing fallout, from Patrick’s deep grief and momentary pill addiction — how amazing was Jason Thompson? — to her flashback filled funeral, was nearly perfect. Except for one glaring flaw: the absence of Robert Scorpio, which was the year’s He would NEVER do that! Moment. Would Robert, even crazy with grief, ever willingly skip out on his daughter’s funeral to chase Ethan? No! He would not, and we’re not saying that just because Ethan is terrible (even though he is). Newly-discovered son or no, Robert would be there for his granddaughter and for Anna, and would NEVER cheerfully leave town on an adventure. We can only hope that Tristan Rogers’s upcoming return rights that boneheaded wrong.
Ronn Moss, The Bold & the Beautiful
We can't lie. Ridge Forrester and his scarves were never really our favorites. But the fact remains that Ronn Moss was the leading man on this show from its very first episode and throughout its entire twenty-five years. Such feats should at least be acknowledged. But B&B's way to mark his departure from the series was to give him and Brooke a ten-minute living-room wedding ceremony and then have his new (again) bride return to town without him, explaining that he'd abandoned her, his family (including his terminally ill mother), and his company... all because she lied to him about a couple of freakin' text messages from Deacon. Ultimately, not only did they not bother to give him a decent send-off with a few reflections and flashbacks, they milked a lead character's absence for ABSOLUTELY NO DRAMA AT ALL. God forbid a missing or presumed-dead Ridge might take a little focus off a tedious love triangle among a gaggle of post-adolescents.
Seriously, couldn't they have at least done a "Ridge's scarves through time" flashback montage??
Best New…Well, “New” Character
Todd Manning, General Hospital
With OLTL regrettably over and the show’s powers-that-be headed to GH, it was only a matter of time before some of Llanview’s finest made their way to Port Charles and luckily for all of us, Todd Manning was them and he is, by far, the best "new" character on daytime this year. His sense of humor (Roger Howarth’s ease with zingers would make some veteran sitcom actors jealous) and chemistry with Carly and Sonny (and Sam and basically anybody he happens to interact with) make him endlessly watchable, even when the choices he makes—teaming up with Heather Webber and embroiling himself deeper and deeper in the massive lie about Sam’s son—boggle the mind.
Worst History Rewrite
Franco and Jason, Twinsies!, General Hospital
As good as GH has become at diving into its legacy, all uses of history aren’t so great and the worst history rewrite in 2012—nay, in recent memory!—was the decision to randomly decide that, oh, Susan Moore actually gave birth to twins and one of the twins was Franco. Sure, it was a way to link Jason forever with his sworn enemy, but wouldn’t that have led to greater storyline potential when Franco was actually alive?! Not to mention that there is something fantastically distasteful about making that horrible sociopath (and complete waste of airtime. We’re bitter) the son of Alan Quartermaine. Why must we punish that family so much? Wasn’t the systematic writing off of most members of the family enough?
Best History Rewrite
Anna DeVane was John McBain's FBI Mentor, General Hospital
Sure, it makes no sense at all when you consider the backstory timelines of both John and Anna. But it was necessary to give John a personal connection in Port Charles to tie him to the canvas in a way that had some resonance (beyond repeated vampire jokes), and Finola Hughes just ups the game of anyone she shares a scene with. McBain was always worlds more fun on OLTL as the wry-humored detective than the brooding, withdrawn lover, so anchoring him to GH in the character's crossover by linking him to someone from his bad-guy-hunting past was an inspired choice.
We'd mention that the chemistry's not bad either, but it's so refreshing to see platonic opposite-sex friendships actually valued on soaps, so we'll keep quiet about that for now!
Most Welcome Return
Duke Lavery, General Hospital
The length of the list of exciting returns makes it tough to narrow it down to just one -- we’ve had Heather Webber and Felicia Jones and AJ Quartermaine and Anna DeVane and Lucy Coe (!), to name just a few. But perhaps the winner should be the one that was the most shocking: Duke Lavery. Now we know that the first time we saw Duke it wasn't really Duke but Faison (and we're relieved that Duke didn’t really go full evil!), but there are really no words to describe how aflutter all our hearts were the first time we saw Ian Buchanan’s face on screen for the first time in 23 years. 23 years!
Huge kudos to the folks in charge for keeping a lid on that one; now let’s just hope they don’t squander the great chemistry between Duke and Anna to "give" her back to Luke, who has been insufferably smug about his mini-relationship with Anna.
The Best Trimming of Dead Weight
The showrunner changes over at GH also gave us this gift. Remember Cassandra/Irina, the Woman In White? And Maggie, the boring doctor who just stood around repeating sentences about Memphis? Well, we barely remember them either, and are terribly grateful that Valentini and Carlivati made quick work of dispensing them before they made too much of an impression. That could have left marks!
Character Rebound of the Year
Tracy Quartermaine, General Hospital
We’re also terribly grateful for the character rebound of Tracy Quartermaine. Not only has her screentime increased twenty-fold, she’s actually had real storylines of her own, has been taken seriously, and has been appreciated for how hot and awesome she is (while losing absolutely zero percent of her edge). While the Quartermaines as a whole have started to creep back from the brink of extinction, the prominence of Tracy has been the most delightful of all.
Worst Character Turnaround of the Year
Johnny Zacharra, General Hospital
Oh, Johnny. Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. It was not a good year for him. His relationship with Carly did not generate the heat necessary for the stakes to be particularly high in his year-long story arc that started with Johnny accidentally killing Cole and Hope, deliberately killing Anthony, sexing up a mentally ill woman who he later coerced into taking the fall for crimes he committed, and then being blackmailed by Connie into marriage (and I mean, are we supposed to be feeling bad for him after all that?). Brandon Barash has done great work, but it's hard for it to have much of an impact when the character brought it all on himself and the end never seems to be in sight. Hey, Mr. Carlivati, we know you know better than to have a man who looks like that on screen and not take advantage of it!
Viki's Tribute To Soaps, OLTL
Seriously, they should just air that speech every year at the investors' meetings.
Viki: Megan actually passed away nearly twenty years ago, but I still to this day get stopped on the street by Fraternity Row fans who remember the characters that she played. And some ask how she's doing or will she ever return. But I must tell you that there are times I get so caught up in the show that I find myself wondering the same thing. The fans are so loyal, so passionate, so invested in their stories. I always ask how they started watching Fraternity Row. Some of them were stay-at-home mothers taking a break before their children came home from school. Others? Were college students, with free time between classes. Many of them inherited a love of the show from their parents and their grandparents, who were long-time fans themselves. I remember the first time I tuned into Fraternity Row. I was hooked, instantly. I needed to know what would happen next to these fascinating people. Would the hero and the heroine find their way back to true love? Would the villains get their comeuppance, or would their crimes go unpunished? Would loving families overcome their obstacles, or would their troubles become too difficult to surmount? Ultimately, that's what soap opera is about. Families. Close families, rival families, even families that are unexpected. Or the ones we choose for ourselves. And when a show is lucky enough to be on the air as long as Fraternity Row has been on, these families become extensions of our own. The audience might be upset when a favorite actor leaves. But they're always willing to welcome a new one, even when that new one is quite different than the one being replaced! After all, this is a place where people come back from the dead, go off to grade school in the morning and come home from high school in the afternoon! Because for every new face, every new couple, every new family, there are long familiar faces. Some who have grown up before our very eyes. And a few more we hope to watch grow up. We know them so well, they've become our friends. We yearn for their happiness, especially when it's hard-won. We laugh as they laugh, we cry as they cry, and we can't imagine doing without them. And when things are at their very worst on the show, that's when we seem to enjoy them the most. There's just one thing we have to do to keep them in our lives. Tune in tomorrow.
Perfect. Or "perfection on a plate."
Worst Soap Tribute
The Daytime Emmy Awards
"A tribute to All My Children and One Life to Live!" the announcers trumpeted throughout the painful telecast. "It will be awesome", the announcers implied in between awkward appearances by Bethenny Frankel and strange bits with Debbie Gibson and Jack Hanna and animals. It was not awesome. It was not even really a tribute. It was a few minutes of Susan Lucci, Erika Slezak and Cameron Mathison talking. It lasted exactly as long as Debbie Gibson hanging out with alligators and making sex faces at the camera. It was half-assed, terrible, and insulting to two iconic shows.
Jason/Sam/John, General Hospital
Please don't misunderstand--we are hardly fans of Jason Morgan and, as is well documented, nearly everything the man has done in recent years (and certainly everything the guy did in 2012) bothered us. But as one half of the ever-popular and ever-divisive JaSam pairing? We're basically Switzerland, because...whatever. We can't recall ever feeling...well, anything for this couple. Until this year and the introduction of a spoiler in the form of the handsome, husky voiced John McBain who has insane chemistry with Sam. Suddenly, we couldn't get enough.
Hope/Liam/Steffy, The Bold & the Beautiful
(This selection was a shocker, right?) It's hard to really find anything new to say about this torturous triangle, since 95% of Serial Drama's B&B coverage this year consisted of ranting and railing against these three and their endless, show-devouring merry-go-round of stupidity and inanity (BECAUSE THERE WAS ACTUALLY NOTHING ELSE TO TALK ABOUT). It's not just that months went by where this was literally the only storyline going (and I mean "literal" in the LITERAL way and not the figurative way it's now trendy to use "literally"). It's not just that dozens of adults on canvas were inexplicably obsessed with what these youngsters were up to in their love lives. And it's not just that Liam is such an utter douchenozzle who deserves no woman at all, much less two gorgeous women battling it out over him, it's that these people are way too young to be in a storyline that's all about who's going to walk down the aisle together. Did your fiancée break off the engagement? Better get another one before nightfall! Did your date postpone? Better make out with someone else! Is someone walking toward you in a terrifying bridal get-up? I guess you have no choice but to marry!
Most Boring Couple
Marcus and Dayzee, The Bold & the Beautiful
Look, it's not that Marcus and Dayzee are so awful. They're not bad people or annoying characters, nor are they played by bad actors. And they're certainly lovely to look at!
But the fact is, when you're part of a couple on a show that spent ten full months of the year focusing entirely on one stupid love triangle and you're not in that triangle, you're going to be an afterthought. Marcus and Dayzee practically got together completely offscreen and their courtship wasn't showed but simply implied, so their engagement came from out of nowhere and wasn't remotely interesting. For a couple whose wedding took place while the groom was seconds from being arrested, these two offered up very little and were given no opportunity to even try. Perhaps 2013 will give them a little more to do besides be concerned about Hope, Liam, and Steffy.
Robin and Patrick, General Hospital
Yes, still. Yes, always. Yes, fangirls.
But honestly, their last seconds together?
Patrick: I'm not leaving you! I'm not going anywhere!
Robin: I'm not leaving you. I'm in your heart, just like you're in mine. I'm never leaving you. You've got to go.
Patrick: Robin, I love you.
Robin: I love you so much. I love you always.
It was tragic soap romance at its best. And Patrick spending the rest of 2012 grieving and mourning and never having a moment where he wasn't thinking of Robin has been so heartbreaking (and so refreshing--there are too many shows that would have paired the hot young doctor off with a new love interest sometime in mid-April) and, again, romantic.
Luke and Anna, General Hospital
Um, ew. The next time we hope for a romance between characters of a certain age, we'll make sure to specifically request that the romance not be upsetting on a visceral level. It just seems wrong.
Robin's Not Dead and Faison's Responsible!, General Hospital
The only thing keeping us from utter emotional devastation over the loss of Robin Scorpio was our belief in one of the most famous principles of soapdom: dead never really means dead. We're talking about a genre that has seen people return, healthy and spry, after their organs were donated; nothing is out of the realm of possibility (and even if they reintroduced Robin in a storyline that WAS completely off the wall and ridiculous, we'd probably accept it, no questions asked, because we'd be so relieved to have her back on our television screens). So we figured (and hoped, and wished, and prayed) that Robin wasn't dead, just..."dead". That delusion saved us a fortune in tissue costs and therapy bills!
The revelation that Robin actually was alive wasn't a surprise, then. What is surprising is how well done and engrossing this entire storyline turned out to be, starting with the pitch perfect cut from a mourning Patrick to an unconscious Robin in a hospital bed somewhere.
It then turned into an amazing, complex umbrella storyline, incorporating a rogue's gallery of villains--Ewen (remember Ewen? Ewen was terrible), first, and then...DUKE. DUKE LAVERY. Except Duke wasn't actually the evil villain we were led to believe that he turned into, which was another relief because we still have post traumatic stress issues regarding character assassination over the last ten years on this show, because he wasn't actually Duke at all. He was FAISON. In a DUKE MASK. This is something that HAPPENED.
If you didn't break into a huge cheesy grin just reading that sentence--DUKE MASK!--we worry for you, because you clearly hate joy. A cameo appearance by HELENA CASSADINE and the recent (and belated because really, who could not have guessed this would be the case? It's not a complaint, exactly. Just a statement) reveal that JERRY JACKS is involved are even more fantastic beats in what has been a fantastic, old-school-soapy story.
Marcus Almost Killed His Friend by Texting and Driving, Except He Totally Didn't!, The Bold & the Beautiful
Hey, did you guys know that texting can be an addiction, and that texting and driving can be super-dangerous? Well, in case you didn't already know that, B&B was kind enough to let us know this year in a storyline in which a regular (though one should really put "regular" in quotes when referring to people not named Steffy or Hope or Liam) character almost killed his own friend by engaging in this very risky act. Can you imagine the guilt he must have felt? And how could he and his friend ever build back their friendship and trust? And what would the legal repercussions be, and would Marcus's minutes-old marriage be able to survive the aftermath? What a story! Oh wait, just kidding. It never happened. Another unrelated car hit Anthony. Marcus hit a pothole. Yeah.
Most Welcome Character Death
Robert Ford, One Life to Live
Death by chandelier! Sure, it would have been nice had it come months earlier. It would have been great if a legacy character like Jessica Buchanan hadn't been saddled with that lecherous douchebag Ford as her final pairing on the series. It would have been fantastic if we had been spared the Fords altogether or if Markko had run the eldest Ford brother out of town on a rail years before. But we weren't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Not only did Mitch Lawrence continue his favored-villain status by inadvertently dispensing of one of the most loathsome and tedious characters on OLTL, it was done in such spectacular fashion by an inanimate object that many commenters gave said object an affectionate nickname.
Here's to you, Chandy, and all you did for us in 2012!
Least Welcome Character Death
Stephanie Forrester, The Bold & the Beautiful
This one was a heartbreaker. The upside is that this wasn't B&B unceremoniously killing off a beloved character they didn't feel like writing for anymore; Susan Flannery left the show of her own volition and it was, in fact, the best choice they could make (especially considering this was a character who'd already been battling cancer). Moreover, it was one of the better-written arcs for a dying character that we've ever seen on soaps. They really took their time telling the story and letting her say goodbye to her loved ones and, in an unprecedented move we can't recall ever seeing on another soap opera, devoted an entire episode to each of her farewells with those closest to her, complete with flashbacks and walks down memory lane. Every actor (especially the incomparable Ms. Flannery herself) got a chance to shine, and it was clear to anyone watching that the cast was having as tough a time saying goodbye as the characters were.
And the decision to have her final scenes be shared with the woman who was once her arch nemesis was a provocative and affecting one. So while we're giving this a "least" award, it's only because it was so hard to say goodbye to Stephanie after all these years. B&B did a beautiful job sending her off.
Heather Webber, General Hospital
This category had some stiff competition this year with the returns of super-villains Cesar Faison and Jerry Jacks (to make no mention of the likes of Helena Cassadine, Joe Scully, Jr., and other baddies), but the favor that Heather Webber did us in ridding the world of a certain Dr. Maggie Wurth made this one as easy pick. Robin Mattson gave some of the more outstanding performances of the year, playing the full range of Heather's insanity and -- most importantly -- Heather's firm conviction that she is always and ever only carrying out true justice. Also...
Heather's villainy really gave us some of the best images of the year.
Best Love Scene
Todd and Blair, One Life to Live
I mean... it was pretty perfect, right?
We soap fans notoriously think someone behind the scenes is out to get us, but we can't lie here: it feels pretty good when a love scene for your favorite couple is the centerpiece of a series finale. It's some twisted kind of validation. We'll take it!
Van Hughes as Cole, One Life to Live/General Hospital
It's hard to say that without being mean. It was really only a few days. You know what? Let's just be mean. We know it came out of a last-second emergency, but we're so glad it did.
Lindsey Morgan as Kristina, General Hospital
It's true that even at the best of times, Kristina could be impossibly annoying and often downright unlikable. And it's also true that the Mob Princess storyline was so terrible as a concept that even the most talented actress on the planet would have a difficult time pulling it off. And it's equally true that Lindsey Morgan is probably really nice and has lovely hair.
But holy goodness, is this terrible to watch. The girl has a repertoire of exactly two facial expressions (pouting and bitchface; she's also quite good at staring blankly, but we don't think that's due to any real effort on her part), wildly overacts and delivers her lines in a robotic monotone.
Best Torturous Friday Cliffhanger For Which We May Never Get Any Answers
Victor is Alive!, One Life to Live
Most excellently, the very final image from the very final scene from the very last episode of One Life to Live (disclaimer: any online resurrections notwithstanding) was a big shocker. Not only had Todd, who'd just been arrested moments before for this very crime, not murdered his twin brother Victor in cold blood, Victor wasn't dead at all!
And Allison Perkins has him! Why? How? Did Todd actually shoot him and he somehow recovered? Did someone put a magical bullet in Todd's gun to make it look like it worked? Did Victor fake bleeding out in front of Tea because someone was brainwashing him into participating? Did Todd just imagine shooting Victor because Irene wanted him to believe it was his fault? Can Madam Delphina show us what really happened on a time-traveling TV set like she did for Rex and Gigi? Does little Sam miss his dad? I don't know. None of us know. We may never know. And that's a pretty freakin' awesome way to end the show.
Most Nonchalant Dispatching of a Legacy Character (To say nothing of his status as a paid murderer/deity)
"Jason? Meh...", General Hospital
The "Their Loss is Our Gain" Award
The Young & the Restless and The Bold & the Beautiful give up Sean Kanan to General Hospital
Oh, Y&R, you don't want him? Oh, B&B, Deacon wasn't exciting enough for your show about his daughter's love life? We're cool with that.
We're cool with that because A.J.!
Most Heartbreaking Loss
Saying goodbye to John Ingle and Edward Quartermaine, General Hospital
We're still crying a little bit. When John Ingle passed away after filming his last ever scenes as Edward, in which Edward beautifully played hero, we knew we'd be getting a tribute to the amazing Quartermaine patriarch and what a beautiful tribute it was. "Lila". We just can't.
Jason Thompson, GH
This one was a no-brainer. No other actor in soaps has come to close to the tour-de-force performance that Jason Thompson has put in as a grieving and recovering Patrick from the beginning of this year to the very end. It's hard to even put it into words because he is doing so much with each little moment, so much more than is typically asked of a daytime actor in a storyline about the death of a loved one. Sure, he can cry. We know he's good at that -- crying (hotly). But the way he's imbued each tiny gesture with a world of meaning all year long, the way one slight glance or aversion of the eyes tells a gut-wrenching story all in itself, it's something else entirely. It's a new league of soap acting, the kind of performance an actor in any medium or genre would strive for, and Thompson elevates all of his scene partners, no matter how fortunate or unfortunate the scenes and storylines may be. While we want to keep Patrick forever and ever, we also hope that folks outside this genre have taken notice of this outstanding talent (and no, fun though it was, running off to be a 90210 cop for ten seconds doesn't count!).
Best Actress - tie!
Finola Hughes, General Hospital, and Heather Tom, The Bold & the Beautiful
Ms. Tom and Ms. Hughes basically owned the year on their respective shows. We thought it strange (but not undeserved!) that Heather Tom won the Best Lead Actress Emmy last year because, in terms of minutes logged, she played a supporting role in 2011. While 2012 still backburnered her for too long, the autumn and her impending maternity leave did give us a heartwrenching story about Katie's postpartum depression (and didn't involve leaving any babies in any trees) and Heather Tom proved herself a hundred times over and broke our hearts almost as much. Over in Port Charles, Finola Hughes was just tearing up the place playing the full spectrum from a grieving mother to a clever cop to a confused ex-wife to an ass-kicking captive, and she did all of it in a manner that made us baffled as to how GH ever lived without her. We love that they remembered that Anna DeVane works as an excellent heart and soul of this show, and we hope it stays that way.
Duh Face of the Year Award
TIE! Sonny Corinthos and Jason Morgan, General Hospital
It's oddly poetic that the two halves of daytime's most famous bromance share this award in the year that their relationship came to a (probably temporary but hopefully not!) end. Humphrey Bogart may always have Paris, but Sonny will always have complete and utter bafflement.
Laura Wright, General Hospital
Laura Wright is lucky that she seems so fun and generally awesome, or else we'd have to hate her for having such shiny, full hair (it was especially hard to like her while watching in the midst of a humid heat wave).
Best Soap Child
Emma Scorpio-Drake, General Hospital
After the devastating year she's had, it seems only right to give her an award for resilience in the face of tragedy and for an impeccable little wardrobe.
Days of Our Lives
Oh, we should probably offer more of an explanation than that, shouldn't we?
We're still watching Days, if by "watching" you mean "dutifully DVRing and watching every episode without paying attention to a single moment because the show is so dull that it's literally impossible for your mind not to wander while it's on". Bo is gone. Hope has no Bo and is pathologically annoying. Nick is back and horrible. Daniel and Jennifer are painful to watch. EJ, Rafe, and Sami are stuck in a horrifying loop of repetion, with only increasingly poor writing differentiating their stories from those of years past. Not even Kristen's return has raised the interest a little and Kristen, quite frankly, owned Mallory during her earliest soap watching years, so the fact that even that fell flat is as scathing an indictment as we can come up with.
We know! We can't believe we're typing this either. And no, it certainly wasn't the best show at the beginning of 2012 (obviously that honor belongs to OLTL, right?). But what a difference a year makes -- General Hospital had one hell of an amazing turnaround. Who knew, right? Well, we all knew, actually; all discerning soap fans knew that all we needed was a new writing staff, who was interested in… you know, writing and not just half-heartedly rewriting old storylines about Jason Morgan. And all of us were right: with its improved pacing, umbrella stories (yes, you read that right—these are stories with the entire GH canvas, not just Jason and his inner circle), snappy dialogue and use of history, watching has gone from a chore to a delight and we find ourselves waiting impatiently between episodes.We're sure that you have your own nominations for Best and Worst of the year, and we look forward to reading your agreements, disagreements, and "You two are nutters" in the comments. Here's to what we hope is a fantastic 2013! Happy New Year, all!