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« What's This Feeling? Could It Be...Enjoyment? | Main | Soap Blog Coalition »

April 29, 2009

Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column

SOD editor's note:  This month, we asked the My Take columnists to watch shows they normally don't.  Here's what they had to say.

My Take
By Mallory Harlen

GUIDING LIGHT has been broadcast for more than seventy years, and it has a great cast—a great cast that it actually utilizes.  Imagine that!—and yet all I could focus on at the beginning of my experiment watching it were the horrible production values. The cheap-looking sets, random outdoor scenes and handheld cameras look, at best, like a public access channel and at worst, like home videos filmed by a toddler with a shaky hand.

Once I got over that, and the accompanying motion sickness, I was impressed by the much-buzzed-about Natalia/Olivia relationship.  Part of it is a love of all things Crystal Chappell-related, sure, but I also think it’s well-written and realistic.  I also found myself really enjoying Shayne and Dinah. Something about the tried and true “two damaged people bond over being damaged” trope works when strong actors are involved.  And Jeff Branson, in a handful of scenes, already got better writing here than he did on ALL MY CHILDREN.

The rest of the show is sort of all over the place.  The pacing is a mess; so long was spent dramatically gearing up for Philip’s trial and talking about Philip’s trial and then the trial lasts a whopping eight minutes? O…kay.  Mallet and Marina bring new meaning to the word “boring” and the less said about Reva’s pregnancy, the better.  Kim Zimmer is certainly a force of nature (that’s diplomatic, right?), but the story is so poorly written.  

My prior BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL knowledge can be described thusly:  (1) It features characters named Ridge and Thorne Forrester, giving it an immediate “so bad, it’s good” air and (2) It is a home to beloved sitcom actors of yore, including Betty White (Ann).  If it’s good enough for my favorite Golden Girl, it should be good enough for me, right? Well...I think the “so bad, it’s good” assessment was right on target.

There were some moments that had me looking away from my television in horror.  Like the fact that dating entire families is routine, even when your dates share your last name.  When Thomas was raging about Rick, and how Rick dated his mother and his sisters, I was on his side, frankly.  Maybe attempted murder was an overreaction, but surely some sort of punishment needs to be meted out, especially because Rick is odious.  I can see why he would be irritated that everybody blames him for Phoebe’s death (the concept of an accident is completely foreign in the soap world), but his sleazy demeanor isn’t helping any.  Taunting Ridge about his relationship with Steffy was gross.  (Actually, his entire relationship with Steffy is gross on both of their parts.  Who gets involved with their dead twin’s boyfriend before her body is even cold?)  On a shallow note, for a show ostensibly about fashion designers, the wardrobe is completely insane, with a never-ending parade of sheer and sequined. B&B: you don’t need to honor your show’s '80s legacy by using the '80s wardrobe. 

However, that being said, I found myself compelled to watch every day.  There’s something about the over-the-top camp and brisk, half-hour pace that I really enjoy. Or maybe I just enjoy hearing Ronn Moss’s hoarse, melodramatic line readings…

My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas

Last year, Mallory and I couldn’t rant about how terrible any of our shows were without a ONE LIFE TO LIVE viewer (or 20) commenting on our blog about how we should really reduce our stress level by watching OLTL instead.  It will make your spirit soar, your hair shiny and your skin clear, they wrote!  (That is only a slight exaggeration.)  Perhaps I decided to tune in a year too late because I wasn’t so wowed.   

Even if, like me, you’ve never watched OLTL, you know that Robin Strasser’s Dorian and Erika Slesak’s Viki are the fierce, female hearts of the show.  While OLTL uses its veterans better than GENERAL HOSPITAL (though, who doesn’t?), I would have liked to see more Dorian and Viki.  The week I watched, the two most featured women were instead the seemingly vile Stacy and her screechy sister Gigi.  Do those two have redeeming personality traits in general?  Not according to the storyline about Shane’s bone marrow transplant.

When it comes to Llanview’s youngsters, there is Shane (critically ill with leukemia), Matthew (paralyzed and depressed) and Cole (hooked on drugs and charged with the DUI that caused Matthew’s paralysis).  Not the most uplifting stories of youth, but soapy!

Todd Manning has been a psychopath since I was buying purple jeans and debating the merits of scrunchies vs. banana clips, but somehow his creepiness is still a bit shocking and disturbing. The less said about his “relationship” with Marty, the better.  Ick.

Todd Manning’s former portrayer is now on the second show I took for a trial run, AS THE WORLD TURNS.  Roger Howarth plays creepy like nobody’s business, but the Meg/Dusty/Lucy/Paul quadrangle did nothing for me.  In general, none of Oakdale’s romances appealed to me much, other than Luke and Noah.  ATWT does inter-generational family interaction well.  It reminds me in that sense a bit of DAYS, and it was great to see former Salemites Austin Peck -- who is charming when not saddled with the role of professional dope Austin Reed -- and Julie Pinson.  Pinson thankfully has more to do in Oakdale than Salem, though I don’t know how she keeps a straight face calling her on-screen daughter Liberty.

There are fewer children in peril on ATWT than OLTL.  However, Parker is married, underage, spoiled, about to come into a ton of money and has Ric Ocasek’s circa-1986 haircut.  I suspect none of that is going to turn out well.

Maura West’s Carly intrigued me; I wanted to stick around to see her obviously upcoming downward alcoholic spiral.  Damien’s deviousness is exceedingly soapy, which stood out.  Few other characters really drew me in, though.  In general, ATWT has a strong cast across the board; it just seems like the well-played characters need more interesting things to do.  

Comments

The only thing that still bothers me on GL is the cheesy canned synthesizer/soft rock music. Whereas B&B is easy on the eyes, but I can't stand to watch anything except the Stephanie-Jackie M. storyline. They ought to exile Rick and Ridge to Peapack and send Olivia and Natalia to LA in a soap quality exchange.

GL's 'look' took some getting used too for me as well; but now I love the way the show feels.

The Otalia SL is easily the best love story on TV right now and it needs to be recognized by the mainstream media.

I am completely invested in what happens to Olivia and Natalia. They have the potential to be as big as Luke and Laura was back in the day. If the writers play this just right they could have a water shed moment on their hands.

Here's hoping GL continues to have the opportunity to tell such finely crafted SL's.

I know I'm in the minority, but I really like Rex and Gigi. My problem with this storyline is that OLTL shoved Psycho-Slut Sister in our faces when a leukemia storyline would have been just fine. I think the stress of finding your "true love" at the same time that you're just getting to know your dying son would have been a good enough test for this relationship, without throwing in a Vegas stripper ho.

Hey, thanks for the review.
I had to get used to the handheld cameras on GL too, but now I actually like it, makes it feel more real somehow.
On the storylines, what can I say: The Olivia/Natalia storyline blows me away like no other... but I'm finding myself enjoying the other stuff as well, especially now that they're all cute and happy at Universal Studios..
I'll take daytime like this over nightime, anytime.

I am so glad I am not the only one that gets motion sickness trying to watch GL.

I watch B&B, and I also find it compelling viewing, since I only started watching it due to the fact it comes on right after Y&R....and in spite of the fact that supposedly successful career women (Brooke and Taylor) spend so much time standing around sighing over framed photos and having sex in offices.

ATWT has been like that for as long as I can remember; strong acting, good lines...boring story. It's incredibly frustrating.

They do seem to have characters in less of a bubble though, and family interactions are played more often than other soaps - I just wish they could get some kick ass storylines going.

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