I was prepared for this. I knew it was coming, given the cast of this show. Sooner or later the writers would pair characters on screen who were previously paired on their original soaps. Such pairings would leave the viewer asking the question: ‘Is this pairing better now than before?’. It’s a risk. The possibility exists that fans will decide that Steamboat’s writers should have left well enough alone and not begged the comparison. Judge for yourself before I give you my answer to the above question:
I’m a rabid Steamboat fan, and so every seeming inside joke is just a delight for me. I was not a fan of The Guiding Light’s “Rick Bauer’ and ‘Beth Spaulding’ (now Steamboat’s Michael and Tabitha). I disliked the pairing immensely, so I’m shocked to find myself rooting for Tabitha and Michael on Steamboat. I know. I know…Tabitha and Michael aren’t a couple . In fact, Tabitha is deeply repulsed by the idea of even kissing Michael while in character and filming their show – so why would I want to see them happy and in love as a behind-the-scenes couple? It’s even odder if you consider the fact that. Tabitha and Michael are engaging though exaggerated versions of their GL counterparts. At the time ‘Beth Spaulding’ began dating ‘Rick Bauer’ (or sleeping with him for kicks and helping him cheat on his loving family), she’d become a cold and cruel shell – a far cry from the Beth Spaulding fans first loved. Her mission was to make herself happy at everyone else’s expense, including Rick, Mel – his wife, and their daughter Leah.
Tabitha’s knee to Michael’s groin was the physical manifestation of Beth’s ‘knee’ to Rick’s life (aiding him in ruining his marriage, ending the only real happiness he’d had in a very long time). Beth caused Rick as much pain as Tabitha caused Michael – the only difference was the location of the pain. GL’s Rick, like Steamboat’s Michael, had a history of being cast aside and treated as second best for so long that the thought of even the slimmest chance to get close to the object of his unspoken affections (Beth) was enough for him to run the risk of being used and discarded. He’d talked himself into believing there was a shot of real happiness with Beth even after her horrid personality change.
Michael is an even sadder sad sack character than Rick, tossed aside for the sake of the pretty boys, secretly lusting for the ‘hot but crazy girl’, and hoping to have his shot at proving he’s worthy of being considered a real leading man. Despite Tabitha’s warning in the last episode that she’d kill him if he even thought of kissing her in their upcoming love scenes, emboldened by Scott – he went for broke… and was broken.
Given the above comparison, am I suggesting that writer/actor Michael O’ Leary has become the independent soap equivalent of the former writers of GL? Are the two seemingly different shows already converging? HELL NO! What made Rick and Beth such a horrific pairing is that their relationship flew in the face of GL history and was built on purely selfish instincts – making them a danger to anyone who loved them, and to one another. Beth was well aware of the unimaginable pain her husband/former father-in-law would inflict on Rick and didn’t care that she was putting him at risk; Rick, who’d loved her and cared for her since they were teens. Rick, who’d always been a heroic good guy became the worst sort of man – a cheating husband who was willing to leave his daughter fatherless for a woman who didn’t love him.
Tabitha and Michael are such new and fresh characters that a pairing between them wouldn’t bring the same sort of baggage as GL’s Beth and Rick. O’Leary is a competent writer who knows how to take his characters to the brink and pull them back in just enough time. It makes you both glad he pulled them back, and makes you wish they were back on that edge, again. You feel as if you’ve missed something when they don’t go over that cliff, because you want to go with them. The possibilities for a Tabitha/Michael pairing are endless. There’s something about rooting for an underdog like Michael.
The story is repeated countless times in films such as “Taming of the Shrew’, “Kiss Me Kate’, and even ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’ (each film increasingly less sexist by the way). Tabitha should never be ‘tamed’, just less abusive to Michael. Everyone else is fair game. The running joke on the show is that he’s not the pretty boy of daytime and everyone feels comfortable reminding him of that. He is, however, that character female audiences love. Poor Michael is not the pretty boy, he’s the good man worth a thousand of the pretty boys. He’s the man female audiences idealize even while being excited by the bad boys. In the end, we still want the good guy to win.
Speaking of being out on that edge
Who the frack gets shot at the end, PEOPLE? I loved Michael and Dirk’s nonchalant response to the gunfire, but I need to know! My money is on Rhonda. Is Tabitha the shooter? Will she still be holding the smoking gun while wearing a gleeful… snarl? Will Scott feel liberated by Rhonda’s shooting or angry that he didn’t get to pull the trigger himself? HEY! Maybe the victim getting the ‘Tabitha Treatment’ is the poor hapless Lactene girl, Candy. There we have it. One onscreen ‘too old to be my granddaughter’ character goes down. Will the Steamboat cast get to keep Candy’s set and dump the Cedars Hospital green screen special?