By Becca Thomas
Two of my favorite daytime characters are seriously trying my patience of late.
DAYS OF OUR LIVES's Hope Brady, played by the gorgeous and talented Kristian Alfonso, has been among my favorite characters since I had big bangs and wore stirrup pants. But recently, Hope has--how can I put this delicately--lost her damn fool mind.
I completely understand the writers' temptation to jump into the Bo/Hope/Justin/Carly quadrangle. All four actors are great, and new couples with old drama could drive story for eons. But Bo and Hope should have split up for a remotely logical reason. As a viewer. shouldn't I think a couple really belongs together in order to be torn between them reuniting versus turning to their respective interlopers? That's not happening right now.
Hope's reasoning for leaving Bo--who she's been in love with for most of her adult life--appears to be "I'm really peeved that we disagreed about a law enforcement tactic you chose that ultimately led to our kidnapped daughter being returned unharmed many months ago." What? Where is the soapy drama in a quadrangle when it's been months since you really liked the female half of the couple at the center of it? A good, slow-burn romance with Justin, followed eventually by reconciliation with Bo, could restore my affection. But it remains to be seen if this show can do a properly paced relationship.
In our latest My Take/My Take Too column, Mallory takes the bold and possibly insane position that All My Children and General Hospital each do at least one thing very well and could school the other, while Becca pretends like she actually knows fictional characters in real life and takes Days of Our Lives' Hope and GH's Elizabeth to task for their recent behavior. Bonus: The Editors' Choice column has some deservedly high praise for the Lucky vs. Liz and Nikolas confrontation scenes.
And this seems as good a time as any to ask: Can we pool our resources and get some internet access for the people who write into the Ask Us feature asking SOD about pressing issues along the lines of whether someone on As the World Turns ever appeared in an episode of the Brady Bunch or if a side-by-side photo comparison of a soap actor from the 80s and an American Idol contestant will reveal previously unknown doppelganger status? IMDB and Google Images, people! They are things. Look them up.
Here's a rare completely sincere Serial Drama post...Even daytime fans who didn't watch Days probably understand the significance of this: Frances Reid has passed away.
Hopefully Days gives Alice Horton a proper sendoff; she was the heart and matriarch of the show for decades. More importantly, our sympathies go out to her family and friends, including those on the Days set.
(In addition to the link above, check out We Love Soaps' ongoing coverage.)
By Becca Thomas
Every year, I make the same new year’s resolutions. And 98% of the time, I don’t keep them. But I continue to make them. Why? Tradition, I suppose. For probably the same reason, at this time of year I map out changes I’d like to see on my soaps. I’ve given up on the really crazy ones (like that GENERAL HOSPITAL should be less violent and mob-centric, or that DAYS OF OUR LIVES should have consistent quality for more than three months), but I still have some smaller-scale hopes for 2010.
On GH, while I have given up hope that Port Charles will stop revolving around the mob, I do hope that there are at least some consequences for the mobsters this year. The only reasons I’m remotely optimistic are: 1) the reveal of Dante (whom I adore, by the way) as Sonny’s son would be hard, even in the hands of a writing team that clearly worships Sonny’s homicidal self, to conclude with anything other than some anti-Mafia reflections and happenings, and 2) I don’t learn lessons very well and have forgotten the 738 other opportunities for such consequences that have already passed by.
More realistically, I hope 2010 sees more of the episodes centered around karaoke nights at Jake’s, or similar setups. Those were easily the best of GH in 2009, and that kind of cast interaction and escapism is exactly what GH needs. More of Robin and Patrick as something other than back-burnered medical Nancy Drews would be nice, as would an actual storyline for Patrick’s brother Matt. More screen time for Diane and Alexis’s almost uniformly delightful and entertaining friendship, and an actual romance for Alexis with someone who isn’t a sociopath, would be great too.
I will start as I seem to do with every post over the last year or so, by apologizing for my nonexistent Days of Our Lives coverage lately. Real life, and my day job (which has the slight advantage over this side one in that it, you know, keeps me from being homeless), have kept me ridiculously busy. Fortunately, Mallory is hilarious and somehow keeps up on all her shows while producing awesome post after awesome post in addition to carrying on with her myriad real-life responsibilities. (I secretly suspect a meth habit, but don't plan an intervention until things slow down for me and I can therefore afford for her to be less productive. I am a good friend.)
But I know our Days-viewing readers have been deprived of late. (If "of late" = 2009.) However, what helps to balance out my abandonment of our weekly snarky sessions, I hope, is that this show? Got good! It's not perfect, but it is far superior to what it was, to the extent that even with months of episodes to choose from, I had difficulty finding things to make fun of. This kind of situation has the potential to alter my entire world view! If I can't make fun of Days, what am I supposed to do? Sit back and enjoy it? What is this, 1987? My bangs aren't nearly voluminous for that to be the case.
Anyway, with my crazy schedule I don't even have time to read Soap Opera Digest, the publication that kindly publishes our monthly rants. And I already didn't read online spoilers except in rare circumstances. So now I am basically completely spoiler-free, and I have to say, I highly recommend it. I've had a couple of surprises over the last few weeks alone, including Mickey dying and EJ being in on the kidnapping. I honestly didn't see that latter one coming at all. Maybe that's less that the writing is improved and more that years of watching soaps has finally done what my dad said it would (eaten my brain), but regardless: Go spoiler free! It's fun, it's less time-consuming, and it will make you lose weight and help save the planet!I started watching Days in 1986, by which time Mickey Horton was already one of the show's elder statesmen (along with his dad Dr. Tom Horton -- sniffle). I had sensed with the recent increased mentions of Mickey that the show was planning to have him die, but it was still a jolt when Maggie announced he had passed away. This is largely due to the fact that Suzanne Rogers freaking rocks.
When Maggie took the wedding ring off Mickey's finger, I might have teared up.
And I am a sucker for flashbacks of all varieties, including those from before I was watching (and perhaps even before I was born).
For our column in the December 29th issue of Soap Opera Digest asked us for our thoughts on the Best and Worst of 2009 in soaps. And we had...well, we had many thoughts, which we compiled for this month's Our Take. (It's our first ever jointly authored one, for those keeping track -- which we assume is roughly zero). You've seen some of these choices before in the Serial Drama Best and Worst of 2009 entry (along with those containing profanity, as well as thoughts on One Life to Live), but we are both slightly OCD and bring you the column below anyway, because incomplete archives would drive us crazy and/or to drink. Plus watching soaps has taught us that redundancy is not only a good thing, it earns you the most prestigious awards in your field. And we're totally shooting for that.
As two practically semi-professional list-makers, we look forward to Best and Worst lists at this time of year like little kids do to holiday gifts. In truth, we look forward to holiday gifts with similar zeal, but it seems shallow to admit that, so…on with the year-end soapy analysis!
2009 brought a regrettably large number of stories that can be aptly summarized with a groan and an eyeroll, but standing out as the Worst Story is the murder of Stuart Chandler on AMC. It’s troublesome that the show’s powers-that-be listened to the storyline we can only assume was pitched as “The three times a year that Stuart is onscreen being cheerful and sweet is just too much, so for our big sweeps story, he gets murdered. And then it turns out that ADAM killed him. What’s more exciting than a twin killing a twin? Nothing! And then Kendall confesses to the murder that she didn’t commit because…well, the ‘because’ part isn’t important” and not only didn’t run away screaming from the story’s inherent badness but agreed to film and televise it. The debacle’s lone saving grace is David Canary, who proved again that he is daytime’s Best Actor by rising above the material and giving amazing performances in a story that does not deserve it.
I was a seriously derelict Days blogger this year. (Uh, last year. See, I am so far behind that I don't even know what year it is.) So anyway, this Year in Review is less "here is a summary of what happened on the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives this year" and more "here is a summary of the 3.5 posts I did about the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives this year, which cover approximately 7% of 2009's story arcs and focus heavily on how many hot men are on the show and how bad James Scott's hair was through mid-summer." Thank you for your understanding.
So here we go; 2009 in very brief and incomplete review:
Days started the year off on a couple of veteran-canning notes, first ignominiously writing off John and Marlena (if you can even call that writing), then by sending the recently returned Steve and Kayla off into the sunset without really writing them off at all and making for awkward conversations about how they were just hanging out around town and then in some new undisclosed location.
In March, basically everything on the show was still bad. Among other things, Chloe and her ginormous hair talked to God and/or ceiling tiles a lot, tragic things happened to James Scott's hair, Bo had ridiculous psychic visions, Melanie was a grating caricature of a character that made my kicking foot itch, and there was a super-hot bartender that we have inexplicably never seen nearly naked again.
Until her recent character pseudo-rehabilitation, the only thing I liked about Melanie was when she got smacked in the face by nasty hospital food.
"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.