Jumping the Shark

That’s my favorite scene from the movie Soapdish – what started out as a spoof of daytime turned out to not be a spoof, after all!  A soap writer asked to write the impossible, a ‘back from the dead’ character who couldn’t logically come back from the dead since the audience witnessed the horrifc act and everything that followed (a la Taylor Forrester, Bold and Beautiful) ? Taylor laid in her casket for THREE DAYS before being buried.  Her return was explained by the return of an obsessed Moroccan Prince who somehow made it to her deathbed within hours of her shooting and who then noticed that she was only in a coma, while an entire hospital staff and the husband who held her while she died missed it.  The Prince then replaced her body with a wax dummy that was buried in her coffin – and no one noticed.  

Many storylines that were once thought of as ‘spoofs’ have become mainstays in daytime storytelling.  There’s so much about daytime I still love, and a hell of a lot that gives me pause for concern.  I promise, I’ll soon write about what I love.  Today is just not that day. 

I’ve been such a HUGE fan of One Life to Live, lately, that it pains me to call it out as the one show doing the most it can to jump the shark after such a beautiful rebound.  I loved the first part of the 40th anniversary episode, in part because of the return of so many beloved characters (why WHY did Mel Hayes have to die?).  Another reason I enjoyed the 40th was the inventive use of the current cast in retelling the show’s history.  I also liked the fact that the show seems to be opening up the issue of Bo and Rex’s relationship.  If Bo isn’t Rex’s father, he should be.  Natalie and Rex, cousins instead of siblings?  Something about that seems to restore the balance that was lost when ‘Nattie’ became a Buchanan.

The second part of the 40th anniversary?  Not so much.  I can’t say that I enjoyed it.  Much of it seemed to be used to pimp current storylines rather than celebrate the show’s 40 glorious years.  Ben sending ‘Blondie’ back to Charlie, because he needed her?  Megan and ‘Aunt Megan’ making sure Viki realized that her place was with Charlie?  Jared and Natalie as Clint and Maria?   It’s sure sign, to me, that the writers realize that they have to work hard to sell this paring (maybe with both pairings).  Not for nothing, but would it have killed TPTB to hire, I dunno, a LATINA to play a LATINA?  It’s 2008, people.   How could TPTB believe that a black wig, a bit of bronzer, and a forced accent would be enough?  I was embarrassed for Melissa Archer (Natalie), to be placed in that position.  The ‘Maria’ casting, in my opinion, was careless and indicative of the movement away from clean, crisp storytelling and production that has this show has been leaving behind in its trend toward ‘jumping the shark’.  Other problems include:

1.  Marcie’s desperation.   I’ve always believed that Marcie’s relationship with Starr is predatory, and this past week’s shows have only reaffirmed my belief.  Not many of us can fully appreciate Marcie’s circumstances – who could criticize her for wanting to be a mother?   My only earlier concerns were her desire to raise Todd’s grandchild, and her inability to stand back and have Starr ask her if this was the best option for her baby.  If Starr truly loves the child, why turn it over to a woman for whom her father has such hatred?  Does she honestly believe Todd will EVER give up on trying to destroy Marcie’s connection to that baby?  It’s just all heartache waiting to happen.

This week, my concerns about Marcie’s actions grew.  It’s disturbing to have Marcie ask if her marriage to Michael ‘is all there is’ in life.  It’s disturbing to have no one counter her statements that she’s not choosing motherhood over her marriage.  It’s DEEPLY disturbing to hear her comment that people leave you but that your child will always be there for you.  I don’t think Marcie SHOULD be a mother, and not because she can’t have children, but because she’s not yet adult enough to realize that children aren’t supposed to make YOU happy as a parent, or give your life meaning. It should be the other way around.  (So glad to see the writers on Guiding Light get this one right in their story of a couple that was desperate to become parents for pretty much the same reasons).  if the writers’ intent is to have Marcie come slowly unglued and unlikable, good job! 

If that’s not the intent, this plot has been pushed to its limits.  Marcie hasn’t shown, at least to this viewer, any compelling reasons to root for her and it’s dragging this show down to keep focusing on her obsession.

2.  Root for Marcie because she’s not Todd? I can’t.   I’m still holding out hope that the writers will redeem Todd though that’s becoming more and more unlikely.  I’m disturbed by Todd’s interactions with Marty, even more disturbed by him than by Marcie.  The writers have taken a once great character and reduced him to a serial violator.  I’ve already commented on why it’s never made sense for Todd, who was a battered child, to become violently aggressive with Starr and her friends.  There was never any history of aggression toward children from Todd.  As much as he hated Margaret Cochran, he couldn’t bring himself to kill her and their unborn child.  Not only is he now attacking teens, he’s unremorseful for his actions.  I believe his views are understandable. His actions?  Not at all.

Capping that off by having Todd take advantage of Marty’s amnesia?  The writers couldn’t have painted him as more of a cartoon villain if they tried!  The Fourth of July scenes crossed the line – if kidnapping her hadn’t already pushed the envelope.  There’s no way Todd should have been in a darkened room with the woman he raped, no matter how innocent the act of watching fireworks.  Todd had begun to understand what he did to Marty when Margaret kept him captive, and forced herself on him by threatening to kill his family.  How could he not realize how deeply painful the memory of that darkened room and his ‘gentle massages’ will be when she fully recovers?

Ruining Todd to advance the adoption storyline, and to force a pairing between John and Blair (and who didn’t see that one coming) won’t work.  I’m sure this is all part of Cole’s ‘comeuppance’ for daring to trust Todd.  Thanks, but no.

3 – Romeo and Juliet (with child).   The Baby Borrowers  this storyline ain’t.  There’s no redeeming social value in the Starr-Cole pregnancy storyline.  Daytime has shifted from creating summer love storylines it used to try to draw teens in, to creating more explicit teen sex storylines that are turning adult viewers off.  I cringed when One Life decided to show a ‘seduction’ scene between Cole and Starr when they were ‘on the run’.  I don’t think I’ve stopped cringing. 

Rather than dealing with the difficulty of pregnancy, Starr and Cole are still being treated like a modern day Romeo and Juliet.  There’s just the little matter of her pregnancy coming between them. So little focus on the child, so much focus on how to get the ‘lovebirds’ back together.  The pregnancy is trivialized and I think I understand why.  For most teens pregnancy limits their options – going to college, finding  employment that allows them to be self-sufficient, finding adequate housing, purchasing medical care/health insurance.  Clearly, none of the above are serious issues for Starr or Cole – which is probably why this storyline hasn’t been useful as a vehicle for this couple, but surely there is some sort of emotional consequence?  Most of the ancillary storylines building up around the pregnancy could have been played out without Starr or her child.  In fact, it probably would have been better if they had.

The cruel irony?  Teens aren’t watching!  Daytime has been unsuccessful in replacing the adult viewers who’ve tuned out with the teens so many soaps have heavily courted.  Thanks for nothing!

There’s so much to love about OLTL:  David Vickers, David and Addie, the burgeoning Rex/Gigi/Brody triangle, the corporate battle, and Tess – long may she reign, to name a few.  When comparing the above three storylines to the rest of the show and what it has to offer, I’m looking forward to the end of all three.  Besides, David Vickers could use a little more airtime!

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