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Charcter death, corporate takeover, paternity revelations - what more could you ask for? [Jun. 6th, 2008|05:34 pm]
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I never expected to be saying this, but I'm way more excited about watching today's episode of One Life to Live than tonight's episode of Battlestar Galactica. I've had to recalibrate my BSG expectations (once again) after last week's episode, because I don't want to be disappointed two weeks in a row. But OLTL has pretty much been on fire for the last month.

It's not that the episodes are perfect -- I thought that the big payoff to months of storylines earlier this week, where Dorian strolls into the big shareholders meeting to reveal that a) Jared's not actually Asa's son and has been scamming everybody, and b) he's been sleeping with his ostensible-but-not-really neice Natalie behind the whole family's back, and c) oh by the way, Jared's real father is Charlie, who was only pretending to be Rex' father, and d) one more thing before I forget, I just took over your family company? Of course, Robin Strasser as Dorian was pretty awesome and in classic form, but the structure and directing of that episode was pretty weak overall and drained a lot of the power out of those revelations.

But when Nash accidentally fell through a skylight after scuffling with Jared, and was taken to the hospital, where they couldn't save him? That was a pretty awesome character death. Awesome because it wasn't just heartbreaking, it was painful and agonizing to watch Jessica (his wife) sobbing hysterically as she tried and failed to accept that he was dying and say good-bye to him. It felt very real -- there was no emotional closure, no reprieve, no consolation, no silver lining. It was just a senseless, horrific tragedy.

And Erica Slezak as Viki has been terrific lately, ever since Charlie confessed that he'd been lying to her -- the rawness of her hurt and anger and confusion has been mesmerizing. My favorite scene so far was when she chewed her brother Todd out when he turned to her for help with Blair, and said that she's no longer going to make excuses for his bad behavior, especially after so many times when he's promised to changed only to fall quickly back into his selfishness when he gets what he wants. And then there was Kathy Brier's perfomance as Marcy at the hearing to determine whether Todd's son Sam would be taken away from him, which revisited her excellent work last winter when she'd kidnapped Sam (it's a long story).
What's especially striking about all of these stories & performances is how good writing and acting on soap operas can do things that no other genres -- including prime-time dramas -- come close to achieving, just through tapping into the sheer accretion of histories and relationships that span decades. At various points in the past few weeks, Viki, Dorian, and others have referenced events and characters from 5, 10, 20 years ago on the show. Even the many references that I don't know give a certain weight and texture to the present-day events, and lend a seriousness and three-dimensionality to the characters & the narrative world.

I don't know if writer Ron Carlivati and company can keep up the quality of storytellling on One Life to Live over the long term -- but hasn't that always been the most pressing question for BSG's Ron Moore as well?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: anatsuno
2008-06-06 10:29 pm (UTC)

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OH HAI, TOTES HOFTOPIC, I WROTED U A POAST. on my thesis.
(for whenever, of course, don't feel pressued - I'm not even sure it's readable)
Now I think I'll... perhaps go watch last week's BSG. :-)
[User Picture]From: cryptoxin
2008-06-06 11:04 pm (UTC)

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Oh excellent, thank you thank you!

*goes off to sit by your feet LJ & listen attentively to your wisdom*
[User Picture]From: anatsuno
2008-06-06 11:05 pm (UTC)

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my scatteredness you mean!
[User Picture]From: veejane
2008-06-06 10:48 pm (UTC)

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Unfortunately, every accreted-history moment on a soap is balanced out with a ludicrous moment of plot-amnesia or copout. (And if you're unlucky, a ludicrous time-travel plot and/or death-by-choking-on-a-doughnut.) Part of that's attributable to the boot-camp/deathmarch nature of soaps: people get fired, plotlines get pruned, writers chicken out, things aren't dramatic enough so somebody has a psychotic break. Sometimes it's really obvious that the new head writer hasn't read far enough backwards in old canon, and you get vaguely repetitive storylines from a decade past.

It's better when you can have those moments, of course, when you've had the same actor for years (or decades, as with Erika Slezak), and you can literally show how the character and the show survive only because of each other. By contrast, it's always freaky and weird when they recast an old stalwart, even when they do it because, like, the previous actor died or retired. Papa Quartermaine will always be his old 1985 incarnation in my mind, despite the fact he's been recast 2-3 times since then.

(WTF! The world is ending. Forefix's spelling dictionary doesn't recognize the proper spelling of doughnut. Apocalypse!!)
[User Picture]From: cryptoxin
2008-06-07 12:02 am (UTC)

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That's what I'm really enjoying about the current OLTL writing -- their deep knowledge & respect for the show's history really shines through. The worst example of what you describe that I've heard of is how All My Children recently retconned Erica Kane's groundbreaking abortion to produce a hitherto-unknown/long-lost adult son.

I never really watched OLTL regularly, but I'm struggling with their recast of Clint Buchanan, now played by Jerry ver Dorn -- who played Ross Marler on Guiding Light for two and a half decades. It just doesn't work for me. Conversely, I'm surprised that I've come to accept Trevor St. John as Todd -- though when I watched As The World Turns, I could never see Roger Howarth as Paul Ryan without thinking "Todd Manning."

I've never really watched The Young and the Restless, but I got the impression that they've done the best job with recasts. But even there, I imagine that certain characters (Victor, Niki, Kay) would be pretty much unrecastable at this late date.

(I just realized that the death-by-doughnut wasn't a hypothetical, but rather serial killer!Marlena, right? Even Firefox had to register how appalling that was!)
From: mitsamford
2008-06-08 04:07 pm (UTC)

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I've never really watched One Life to Live, but I keep hearing so many good things about it...My wife and I were in a diner the other day and saw some prom episodes with numbers that looked like they were out of High School Music, and I was starting to doubt whether all that I'd heard was true or not, but someone I work with assured me of just what you did. Perhaps it would be worth checking out.

Over on ATWT, they're at least finding ways to use some of their veterans more often. Multiple stories brewing are about the Stewarts and the Hugheses, the two most historic families on the show, and I'm excited to see how that will all play out, but I hope it means they will create a story that uses all the generations as well. They've been able to pull Tom and Margo, Bob and Kim, and Lisa and Susan all into the story of late, focusing on Emily having a secret affair with Casey (after having a son with Casey's father Tom years ago and most recently having a relationship with Casey's uncle Chris) and Alison filing sexual harassment charges against Chris for her dismissal from the nursing program and being taken off rounds, complete with Tom representing Chris in the case. Of course, this is all fueled by the affair Susan and Bob had back in 1990, but even farther back the rivalry between Kim and Susan that started in the 1970s with Dan Stewart.
[User Picture]From: cryptoxin
2008-06-09 04:45 pm (UTC)

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I'd definitely encourage you to check out OLTL. Ron Carlivati started his run as head writer last summer (after writing for the show for years) with the funeral of one of the show's signature characters and patriarchs, Asa Buchanan. Over two well-crafted episodes, he paid tribute to the show's history, complete with appearances from several family members who hadn't been seen on the show for several years, and launched two major storylines that would ultimately involve virtually all of the characters. I'd never watched OLTL regularly in the past, so I miss a lot of the historical references -- but just recognizing that he's weaving the histories in adds texture to the dialogue & the characters. So I'm definitely hooked!

I'd largely drifted away from ATWT, but I checked out & enjoyed a couple of last week's episodes. I'm all for a Hughes/Stewart family feud, though I'm a little concerned about the gender politics of a dubious sexual harassment claim playing out at the same time as Sophie's false rape accusation (ironically made against a character played by an actor who'd portrayed one of daytime's most famous rapists, Todd Manning on OLTL!).

Still, I'm looking forward to anything showcasing the veteran actors -- and maybe even Lucinda will get involved, since she's on the hospital's board! And I'll admit to being pleasantly surprised at the great chemistry between Holden & Carly as well, though I gather that the pairing is controversial among fans.
From: mitsamford
2008-06-10 02:37 pm (UTC)

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Hmmm...I wish OLTL had an audio podcast. Both ATWT and GL had one, but they haven't been updated since March, which might mean they don't anymore. But I have about a 45-minute commute each way to and from work, which is just enough time to listen to a soap each way. Too bad it doesn't look like there are any choices. I'll look around in iTunes and double-check though. Maybe I just can't find it. I remember AMC had an audio podcast for a while...

My viewing choices take so much time up...If I watch a soap faithfully, which I do ATWT, and then watch wrestling, Colbert, and Stewart faithfully, that starts to add up quickly...

ATWT has always had the benefit of just through retaining its cast sort of being forced to weave history in, but they often end up with writing or production teams that seem to resist doing it and who see veterans as obligations rather than great opportunities. I think the sexual harassment story could have played out well if not juxtaposed with the Sophie storyline. At least in the case of Ali and Chris, you could see it either way. Chris was wrong for giving Ali special treatment in the first place, AND he intentionally got her kicked off rounds. But Ali really was a bad student, and Chris could just have been seen as correcting a mistake when he said he had no right to ask for special treatment. I enjoy the storyline primarily because no one is clearly coded as being "right."

We even got to see the Hughes men in all their self-righteousness: Bob pulling strings while acting as if he's above that; Tom making snide remarks about Emily, despite the fact that he's the reason she's a permanent part of the family; Emily and Casey, showing little regard for Daniel in their inability to control themselves around one another...the only person that needs more time in the matter at this point is Kim, who has just seemed stern and heartless lately when it comes to her role as television station producer. It's been a pleasure seeing them finally try to use Lisa for something worthwhile, while still trying to work out how to use the unique charisma Eileen Fulton brings to the screen. :)

BTW, great SOD write-up about Tom and Margo's marriage lasting 25 years. I wonder, is that a record among current soap couples? They were married before Bob and Kim, so I know it's an ATWT record, but I'm not sure if there is any couple on another show that has been together that long, without a full-fledged divorce...
[User Picture]From: cryptoxin
2008-06-10 03:05 pm (UTC)

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I was hoping to watch OLTL online, as I've done for ATWT, but no luck -- I'm wondering if ABC's daytime division hasn't followed CBS' lead because their afraid of cannibalizing the audience for their rebroadcasts on Soapnet. Fortunately there's YouTube, with at least three different people posting the episodes, but you'd think ABC would clue in to the potential for podcasts.

I will try to follow ATWT's Hughes/Stewart storyline -- unfortunately, I have zero interest in the Brad & Katie stuff, which looks like it will be on the frontburner for the near future. I'm also wondering about the pacing -- I've gotten the impression that ATWT pushes a lot of plot-driven storylines and wraps them up fairly quickly, instead of letting them build over time. This seems to hold true for relationships as well -- I'd have an easier time with Emily and Casey if they'd spent several months working together before they slept together.

Has it really been 25 years for Tom and Margo? I remember, growing up, seeing them in some kind of jungle adventure that was popular in the '80s -- back then, they were played by Justin Deas (now on GL) and Margaret Colin (who has a recurring role on Gossip Girl). Hey, what do you know, imdb tells me that Deas & Colin have been married for 20 years themselves!

I have a feeling the record for longest soap marriage may belong to Joe & Ruth Martin on All My Children, who married in 1972 according to Wikipedia, though apparently the actress who plays Ruth only makes occasional appearances these days.
From: mitsamford
2008-06-10 08:10 pm (UTC)

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I'll at least give ABC Daytime credit for not sending the copyright cops after the YouTubers, though. Surely, they're aware it exists, but they don't seem to be doing much to police it. I enjoy Austin Peck's Brad, and I think the kid has potential, but the whole thing is just so poorly written. I mean, why should we care about this Janet? She seems like a plot device character being stretched into a full-time role, but with no more depth than if she were only going to be on for a few days...

ATWT seems to have all starts and no finishes. Stories are launched and then just peter out...It gets old. Seems the only couples that are given stories that keep going over time are those that just seem to be stuck in a permanent cycle: Jack and Carly, Holden and Lily, Paul and Meg...Tom and Margo hardly count, since they aren't front-burner much of the time, although Ellen Dolan has been on more than any other veteran actor this year, which leads me to believe she agreed to a pay cut per episode.

I figured there was still a veteran couple out there somewhere...