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« Ugh In the Afternoon | Main | I Need You Guys to Keep Me Apprised of Things Like This »

March 31, 2009

Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column

My Take
By Mallory Harlen

I can't make it through a full episode of AMC without hearing a crazy line of dialogue or seeing an offensive plot twist. Actually, that's being generous; there are some days when I can't make it through a full minute without bad dialogue and plot twists. My respect for the tremendously talented cast grows every day because I'm quite impressed that they manage to film their scenes without laughing or breaking the fourth wall and apologizing to the audience.

The biggest problem of late has been forsaking the show's history to facilitate quick plot twists. Zach fathering Gabrielle behind Kendall's back has generated a lot of discussion amongst AMC fans, but for all the wrong reasons: It was another insane obstacle for the already-tortured Zach/Kendall pairing, and the list of obstacles they have already faced is long enough to defy reason. It ruined Kendall and Bianca's deep bond, which was one of the most fascinating relationships on any soap. Remember their bonding over Miranda, and Kendall sacrificing herself for her sister? And on top of all that, it was just...creepy. Remind me again why Bianca was so desperate to have another Cam bias baby. She is aware that the family's gene pool includes a rapist and serial murderer, right?

I had long been on record as wishing for more Amanda. I didn't exactly mean seeing her in a story that involves pushing JR off the wagon in exchange for money, and a tired, cliched "Who's The Daddy?" plot. It's especially sad because Chrishell Stause and Jacob Young have amazing chemistry together and seeing Amanda Dillon with JR Chandler is an AMC fan's dream, but there's no way for me to root for a couple who started out on such a sour note.

Luckily, Y&R is there to be a salve for my AMC-related wounds. The show has continued to be can't-miss television in recent weeks and has even managed to do the impossible: made three formerly irritating characters tolerable. As disappointing as it was that Don Diamont was fired and Brad killed off, the fallout from his death has been fantastic, and it has catapulted Colleen into the Newman/Abbott rivalry in a great way. I've been, um, critical of Colleen since Tammin Sursok took over the role, but this story has serious potential. The Chloe/Billy/Lily/Cane quad, while a retread of stories done a thousand times before, has given Lily some much-needed dimension. The always prim, always perfect Lily reminded me way too much of Christine Blair...in a bad way. But being a woman scorned has worked for her; her newfound feistiness is completely fitting for Drucilla's daughter. Amber's friendship with Katherine is another of the show's bright spots. Katherine makes Amber more human and more relatable than she has been during her entire time in Genoa City, and Amber's steadfast support of her friend throughout the mistaken identity fiasco has given the somewhat cartoonish story a great deal of sweetness. Adrienne Frantz and Jeanne Cooper are endlessly entertaining together and could probably have a sitcom of their own. I know I'd watch.


My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas

To kill off or not to kill off, that is the question.

I could vent for hours about how many characters GH has killed off over the last decade, and how most of those deaths served no valid storytelling purposes. (Truly, for hours. I have epic complaining skills.) Beyond the disturbing violence that is usually involved in the characters' ends, a soap that prides itself on steering clear of silly, other-worldly plot devices shouldn't so decisively kill people off because down the road, the dilemma becomes how to bring them back without completely straining the bounds of believability.

The latest example of this is the allegedly mysterious and intriguing Rebecca. (We know she is mysterious and intriguing because she wears lots of eye makeup and has a kicky haircut.) From the moment I read that Natalia Livingston might leave GH, I hoped the writers would fight their instincts and not kill off Emily Quartermaine. But they did kill her off, brutally. And then they brought her back as Nikolas's hallucination, a ridiculous storyline that was all the more eye-roll inducing bsince it had just been done (poorly) with Alan. At some point, Emily was gone for good, but then Livingston came back. Good news for her fans, but another blow to the credibility of GH, which has to dip into the "mysterious look-alike" bag of cliches with Rebecca since Emily met such a public death. Or worse yet, they will have to rewrite history to make viewers believe Rebecca is Emily, despite the fact that they saw Emily's corpse on-screen for weeks.

My great complaining skills mean I can also find fault with DAYS, which compared to GH, kills off few characters. But lately, DAYS has managed to make characters' exits as unceremonious as possible. Perhaps Drake Hogestyn wishes John Black version 11.4 had been killed off instead of paralyzed and shipped to Switzerland without more than a couple of flashbacks. Deidre Hall suffered the indignity of being at the center of the demonic possession and Melaswen storylines, so I guess it's possible that comparatively, getting the equivalent of a "don't let the door hit you" exit after three decades on the show isn't as horrible as it looked to me as a viewer. I doubt it.

And then there's Steve and Kayla, characters that are the reason I watch soaps. In the sixth grade, one of my friends told me I had to watch DAYS because of a great couple, and I was hooked by Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans's chemistry and Patch and Kayla's fun, escapist storylines. When they came back a couple of years ago, I was positively giddy. I understand that in tough budget times, cuts have to happen, but just fading probably the show's most iconic couple to the background with zero fanfare is ridiculous and lazy.

I may be a persistent complainer, but I think even the least critical soap fan would agree that good writing includes the ability to complete--or at least believably pause--characters' stories. Too bad neither of my shows has been able to do either lately.


Bless you, Becca. You said it perfectly.

Love your summation of the firing of Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans. They also brought me into the world of soaps. You use the words ridiculous and lazy to describe the treatment they and their characters received - I agree but the words I would use might need to be censored.

Steve & Kayla were the reason I watched soaps. Now that they are gone, so is my reason to watch. Not only was the non-writing for their departure ridiculous and lazy, it was pathetic beyond belief. And what truly baffles me is the fanfare being given for the 'rise in the ratings'. That too is BS. The ratings are below where they were last year at this time, and everyone was singing the blues then. Now, let's throw a party. Truth is, it will take weeks for us to see the 'real' ratings, especially considering those who are not internet savvy have no earthly idea icons such as Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans are actually gone. And, there's no denying that with the DH'ers departure, one can easily think they'll be back any day now. Sad that a soap opera has to resort to such trickery to try and keep the fans they alienate the most and appreciate the least.

I am SO with you...Steve and Kayla were my teen years, and I was SO excited to get a chance to have the magic again!! Days letting them go was beyond stupid....they let the best actors go and lost a long time fan.

I agree with your comments completely. I was so happy when Steve and Kayla returned to Days. I really believed that maybe some of the magic would return to Days with their return. Unfortunately they never really wrote for the characters we loved back in the 80's. Dools built us up with their return and then shot us down when they fired them. Terrible, terrible mistake on their part. They have really let the fans down.

I am on board with what you are saying, Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans were the reason I watched. The way in which they were given their undeserved exit is beyond lazy and ridiculous, and it exhibits to me that they and their fans mean nothing to Days, a shame, and considering that the soap is continually trying to figure out how to win over viewers, that is not the way to do it

"The latest example of this is the allegedly mysterious and intriguing Rebecca. (We know she is mysterious and intriguing because she wears lots of eye makeup and has a kicky haircut.)"

You forgot the gum.

Emily + Dentyne + Maybelline= Rebecca

Totally agree with your comments re Steve & Kayla on Days. That couple were the reason I watched Days, what a waste of two talented actors & two iconic characters with the best chemistry to ever grace daytime TV. Days has gotten rid of it's heart and soul & now is a boring joke. They need to hire a new head writer, a new executive producer, & bring back Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans.

Another great set of columns, Ladies, with zingers aplenty. I'm just curious -- and I mean no offense by this -- but seriously, why haven't the two of you been fired? The soap press has never been very good about criticizing anyone in ABC daytime yet you two do it with flair and abandon. I'm deliriously happy (and somewhat amazed) that you haven't been canned and can continue writing soap journalism for the discerning viewer! ;o)

Days has become a joke and is only a shell of what it once was. I haven't watched since February 17th and I won't unless they bring back Stephen and Mary Beth. They keep saying it's the money!! the money!!! Yet they keep hiring new cheap people that nobody has heard of or cares about and everytime I hear about the new people I want to hit something.

Then recently I hear that DOOL tries not to alienate fans of characters for a long time! That's another joke because all they have been doing is alienating people!

Corday made a huge mistake when he hired Tomlin and Higley! I hope Days sinks like the Titanic!

I am now watchubg Y & R and I love it! Days could take a lesson from them. How not to disregard the vets or fans!

At one time, I was a huge GH fan, when it was written well. When you had romance, friendships, family, stories that were not all centered around the mob and violence. When you would see Brenda and Robin, or Monica and Bobbie sitting around, shooting the shit, talking about random, everyday things. Now, I find the show unrecognizable.

I tuned Days out a very long time ago and have not had a desire to tune back in. I now only watch AMC and well, that gets harder and harder with each passing minute.

I watch because of two characters - Zach and Kendall. Thorsten and Alicia are deliciious together. I absolutely hate the contrived plot points, out of character actions, and the continual torture this couple has to go through. These two are the reason I remain a viewer.

At one time, AMC used to be on top of the alphabet network. I do applaud the actors for doing the best they can with the unoriginal, inconsistent, and poorly written drivel they receive. This cast is full of talent, with interesting characters who still have a lot of story to tell, and yet the brass can't get their collective asses in gear to actually pen something original, thought out, and realistic. Instead it is more of the same.

So,on days that my favorite duo is not on, I don't watch, and when they are, I only watch their scenes. And if there is an unwanted interloper, I find myself passing through - because that monkey in the middle is the worst plot point to date.

The treatment of Stephen Nichol and Mary Beth who gave us the most glorious of Days characters was beyond insulting. It actually made me find the current fare on Days beyond nauseating.

Ken Corday made a once avid fan more than ready to completely disown and discredit Days from existence.

Add to that tbe manifold lies Mr Corday and Mr Tomlin have told make it impossible to support Days under their incredibly insulting leadership.

And the lack of good characterization and writing by Higley makes Days prime for cancellation.

Corday did us a grave wrong and never once offers an apology or change of tune. This makes HIM the worst of the worst.

Steve & Kayla were the reason I watched soaps as well. I watched Days by accident in 1986 -- I think it was March of that year. Just flipping the stations and there they were. Handsome Steve in a closet watching this pretty young nurse taking off her clothes and getting into bed. Well, let me tell you -- I never stopped watching that show until 1991 when Steve was killed off. They tried to ruin Kayla`s character by throwing her with Shane yuck. There wasn`t one day that I missed that show. Everything revolved round the time it was on the air. I followed these 2 to GH and I was not disappointed there either although I feel they could have been written much better than they were. I was ecstatic when I heard they were coming back to Days. Yes, Hogan didn`t quite get them but, I believe he was given orders from the back office as how to write them. But, Stephen & Mary Beth were fantastic. Even, in 2008 with the crap written for them by Higley. How disrespectful of the powers that be to treat them the way they did. Mr Corday, they were the only couple to knock Y & R out of first place. Their popularity took your show there and that didn`t happen before and hasn`t happened since. That`s the thanks they get. Thanks to the moronic decisions of Mr Corday, Mr Tomlin and the worst writer in Daytime,Ms Higley they have a lost a longtime fan of their show. I tuned out Feb.19/09 last date Stephen & Mary Beth were on. Frankly, if they wanted to save money why not fired Tomlin & Higley they could save a lot. I will always be a fan of Stephen Nichols & Mary Beth Evans and am hoping that another show picks them up. I certainly will follow. I am so happy I don`t watch this crap of a show anymore.

Kazou, I sincerely have no idea how we remain employed. The powers-that-be at Soap Opera Digest have yet to censor our criticism even once. It's lunacy, I tell you!

Becca- I found a typo. "Intriguing Rebecca" it's not i-n-t-r-i-g-u-i-n-g it's a-n-n-o-y-i-n-g.

I no longer watch Days since they canned Steve and Kayla. I am too upset with them to ever watch it again UNLESS they bring them back, then I will be loyal once again.

They so blew their return but I watched anyway coz any scene they were in, the chemistry oozed and sizzled.

Miss them so.

What TPTB did to that show was a travesty. I will follow Stephen and Mary Beth to where ever the fates take them.....TIIC never gave them a chance, I'll NEVER accept their reasoning in why the vets were let go......especially with all the new hiring!
Anyway.......RIP Days, cause they surly killed ya!

Well I ain't no Natalia Livingston fan but you know what. GH lost it's credibility long ago. Uhm the Cassadines and freezing the world remember that. How about Stavos coming back from the dead via Helena by being unfrozen when we saw Luke kill him. Or Diego as the TMK returning back from the dead. It's a soap opera not reality TV.

I'm shocked after all the bitching about GH killing legacy characters off, that Emily possibly returning is so so so hard to believe. I'd take any stupid story on GH to get all the dead Quartermaines back, Emily,Alan, and my beloved AJ. I don't care how stupid it is. I'm sure if they were bringing Georgie back, there would be a celebration here, because some here seems to the the Scorpio family on GH outranks the Quartermaines, the most popular family of any soap.

It's not so much Rebecca possibly being Emily that's annoying...it's the fact that Guza and Company went WAY out of their way to tell us Emily was DEAD DEAD DEAD! Instead of her death happening offscreen...we had days of a Weekend at Bernie's scenes where characters all hung around her corpse. Then she was Waaay Too Happy Tumor. Then when Dead Diego came back we were treated to repeated full viewings of him strangling her to death.

We had barely stopped seeing her a potentially fatal tumor-related vision before they decided to return her as a "new" character and insisting everywhere that she is NOT Emily and we would see that shortly, while instead overselling her "resemblance" to Emily in ridiculous ways.

It's not so much the returning from the dead I object to, it's the ridiculously bad bungling of it. If she's Emily, fine...just give me an explanation better than "well you all bitched enough about it". And don't repeatedly show me her murder for five months straight.

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