Nobody Does It Better: Look and Learn

It’s not often that I actually praise a soap in its entirety.  OLTL is good, and I enjoy more of the show than I dislike of it… but it’s not GREAT.  Which soap is, in my opinion?  Hands down,  Days of Our Lives has to be the best overall soap in daytime!  It’s such a great soap that the things I hate about it are the things you’re SUPPOSED to hate about a soap or about the show’s characters.   What makes DAYS such a great soap?  Two words:  consistency and BALANCE!

What can drive you crazy about some soaps (YnR, BnB, and GH) is that they lack balance.  On the Bell soaps especially, the soap winds blow in only one direction.  Either most characters are happy, or they’re all miserable.  Bell soaps are tragic drama… minus the drama.  Can you think of a week in which BnB spoilers didn’t suggests that a ‘couple would be torn apart’?  Can you think of  a week, on the BnB especially, in which characters weren’t uttering dialogue that is deeply inconsistent from the week before?  How does Thorne Forrester shift from being tired of always being thought of as a last place loser in his family, to applauding having his ex-sister-in-law/former fiancee becoming a quarter owner in his FAMILY’S company?  The YnR?  Between the cancer storyline, the switched identities, Ashley having yet another breakdown, and the dead-for-live baby swap, watching the YnR could counteract the strongest prescribed anti-depressant.  GH?  There’s hope for the show… just very little of it.  GH may as well have been taped in a dark studio, with night vision cameras.   Given how heavy the show is, the change in lighting couldn’t possibly hurt.  For these three soaps, it’s the same stuff, different day.

One Life to Live,  All My Children and As The World Turns are shows that have balance, but lack consistency.  The storylines change too quickly and by the time you become use to the direction of a storyline, it changes gear – in some  cases that’s a good thing.  I don’t know how many more months of Dorian knuckling under to Mitch Lawrence’s demands I could stand.  Another week of JPL’s ‘Rex’ trying to emote as a ‘troubled and angry’ man and I really would have needed stitches from laughing.  What was the point of introducing Allison Perkins?  On ATWT, the ‘spare tissue’ pregnancy Janet suggested and was then shot down almost immediately?  EH!  (and who doesn’t already know that Janet will end up pregnant, anyway?)  There’s a lot going on with the three shows above, but it’s almost as if the writers are overwhelmed and aren’t keeping track of who said what, and when.

While DAYS held on far too long to the ‘Sydnapping’ storyline, overall, the fact that the show has been consistent and balanced allowed fans, like myself, who were tired of the storyline to focus on something else.  Knowing, last month, that the storyline would continue a while longer, I began tuning it out and focusing on other big onscreen news.  I don’t know what it is about ‘Daniel’ and ‘Melanie’, but I think it’s sheer genius to pair them together as father and daughter (and yes, I’ve been reminded that she once flirted with him when neither knew they were related).  Something about his presence in her life finishes Mel’s character profile out nicely.  She’s been two characters in one during her tenure at DAYS. There is the manipulating and selfish Mel, and then there is the vulnerable and melancholy Mel.  In some ways he softens Mel, but she does the same for him.  Shawn Christian (as Daniel) hit his stride perfectly in the hospital visitation  scenes, after finding out that Melanie was his child.  His eyes were soft and a bit weepy, his tone of voice was relaxed, and it was easy to believe that he was in awe of the young woman in front of him, one he’d only recently found carried his genes in her DNA.  That he was the doctor who operated on her and saved her life made the scene all the more meaningful.  Melanie  looked vulnerable and frail and in need of someone to protect her.  He looked ready for the job. Priceless.

And if it must be mentioned…

The kidnapping storyline is done, sorta’.  Anna will finally wise up and realize that EJ is capable of using and abusing anyone, until he no longer needs them, and she’s included in that number.  When he’s done with you, you’re on  your own.  Too bad for EJ  (but great for fans) that Anna isn’t a willing victim.  For those of you who don’t know (spoiler alert, stop reading here… I warned ya’!), it’s Anna who will make sure that Nicole is freed of all charges and allowed to resume her life in Salem.  Ej, you schmuck!  You had it coming.  So the question is, with Nicole’s return, how does EJ get busted for the kidnapping of his infant daughter?

1.  Rafe, hottie hot hot, to the rescue?  Rafe figures it all out and makes sure Sami knows what a low life EJ is?  Sami tends to forget that fact of life when she allows EJ to play on her desperation.

2.  Nicole is redeemed, to a degree, by joining forces with Brady and they bring the news to Sami and Rafe?  Sorry Arianne Hernandez, with Nicole’s return, I’m hoping your DAYS are numbered… Phillip will probably be free soon – give him a call.

3.  A dark horse candidate emerges.  Stefano learns from Anna – who is by now hiding out in a bunker and out of Dimera reach, about EJ’s dastardly plan.  He realizes that his son was willing to hurt him in among the worst ways possible and decides to deal with EJ his own way…by throwing him to the wolves!

I’m partial to the third option.  I’d love to see Stefano strip Ej of his money and power.  DAYS’ writers have been relatively creative in their storytelling.  What could they do with a powerless EJ, who no longer has the ability to manipulate and/or offend the women of Salem?  The writers could continue to move EJ on to the next storyline but in the end  what good would it do if Ej isn’t completely deconstructed and rebuilt?  He’s currently an (evil) freakshow!  What would life look like from the other side, a man without resources at the mercy of the power brokers?  Nothing could give him greater insight into what his negative influence has been over others  than having him fend for himself against the next ‘Ej Dimera’.  His deconstruction could also lead him to find real love for the first time, a woman he doesn’t have to force to have sex with him.

Other DAYS questions:

Can Chloe and Daniel survive his strong-willed adult daughter?  Chloe isn’t too much older than Melanie and she may not think his penchant for younger women is so cute now that she can’t date him (and excuse me… EWWWW!)   At some point, Melanie will most likely forgive Carly for allowing Lawrence to give her away and leave her at the mercy of her adoptive father.  When she does, will she want to see her parents together and fulfill a childhood fantasy of having a mother and father who love her and are part of a complete and  loving family?

Will the writers break up Phillip and Melanie for Nathan and Melanie, or will Melanie begin to realize that she does love Phillip.  I’m on Team Nathan, but I do think it would be a more interesting storyline to have Phillip be a ‘good guy’ who genuinely loves Mel and wants to save his marriage to her without resorting to going to his ‘dark place’ to make it happen.  The best triangles keep you rooting for everyone involved.

With Hope defending Bo and asserting that he is (professionally) an ethical man, will Bo begin to realize that he may be professionally ethical but that he’s lacking personally?  For most of their adult lives, Hope has been defending their marriage against each of Bo’s new ‘great loves’ and any children that are born or resurface as a result.    He has yet to have to do the same because she has centered her life around him.  Is there some point in his life when he realizes that he’s taken more from his marriage than he’s ever given to Hope?

I could do this all day with Days of Our Lives.  Each storyline offered is one that poetnitally generates an entirely new group of storylines.  Days writers thank you for the use of both veterans balanced against the introduction of newbies.  My only criticism… Abe… Lexie… MORE please!   DAYS is the only show consistently posting large gains in viewership over the year before.  Daytime writers… watch… learn… emulate!

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Ratings – sometimes it sucks to be right!

In the last blog entry, I noted that I fully expected the BnB to lose the ratings race to DAYS.  Here are the ratings for the week in question (and many thanks to the folks at SoapOperaNetwork – SON, for posting them):

Ratings for the week November 16-20, 2009
1. Y&R 3.5/12 (-.1/-.2)
2. DAYS 2.3/8 (+.1/+.3) ——–> (Last time in 2nd place: June 7-11, 2004)
2. B&B 2.3/8 (-.1/-.3)
4. GH 2.0/6 (-.1/-.2)
5. AMC 1.9/7 (-.1/-.1)
5. OLTL 1.9/7 (-.1/-.2)
7. ATWT 1.8/6 (same/-.2)

The problem for DAYS is that they’ve never been able to sustain dethroning the BnB for long, and I don’t see it happening this time, either.  The focus on Rafe, Gabby, and LH’s Arianna is a HUGE mistake – but who am I to say it?  Rafe as a solo character is  likable and worth the airtime.  Arianna and Rafe onscreen together brings back awful memories of the PASSIONS’ Lopez-Fitzgerald clan.  Adding Martsolf’s Brady Black only triples my pain (sorry, I was NEVER a Theresa and Ethan fan.  They made my skin crawl.)  By the time you add the snooze producing Gabby (who is awfully reminiscent of Paloma Lopez-Fitzgerald), I find myself bored silly!  I’m not even intrigued by the idea of Theresa/Arianna working with Roman to get rid Salem of its criminal element.  Kill off the Hernadez clan, other than Rafe and bring on a brother for him instead of the family he currently has on screen.

Hey, if  I must continue in committing soap heresy (as I’m sure Terror/Ethan fans will accuse me of), I have to admit that I’m not terribly interested in Vivian Alamain’s return.  L-O-V-I-N-G Louise Sorel, I’m disappointed that the writing for her has made the character of Vivian so quirky and annoying.  This Vivian is a caricature of Vivian 1.0 – who was always clever, conniving, and dangerous.   Vivian 1.0 would be thinking of ways to make a tough business move to establish herself as Salem’s lead power broker, instead of focusing on how to woo a cantankerous and verbally abusive curmudgeon like Victor.   As currently portrayed, I fully expect Disney to write a theme song to be played every time Vivian enters view and to watch small puppies tremor in fear in her presence – hey, those coats won’t make themselves, people!  Vivian 2.0  … 3.0?  4.0? is focused on gaining power by ‘merging’ with Victor Kirakis.  I hardly recognize Viv!

On a positive note, DAYS should be applauded for daring to focus on a quadrangle featuring an over 40 crowd, as well as its 40 something quad featuring Bo/Hope/Justin/Carly.  Kate and Stefano (a match made in hell) tangling with Victor and Vivian (another match made in hell); with Kate displaying  jealousy?  Nice, though a bit odd given Victor’s emotional and verbal abuse of Kate.  He hasn’t been quite as cruel to her as he has been to Nicole and Chloe, but still nasty enough that he’s given her enough reason to want to see him alone and lonely.   All is forgiven? I guess.  Despite their past behaviors and betrayals of one another, what makes this potential quad work is that each of the four characters (and their portrayers) are incredibly strong in their own right and only enhance this storyline.  The idea of Kate and Vivian along with Victor and Stefano locking horns is as good as it gets in daytime.  There will be blood, and the ‘fun’ part is not knowing whose blood will be spilled.  There are all equally capable of ripping the others in half.  I hope that the writers will respect the history of all four characters and leave them strong – most especially Vivian and Kate.  More than anything else, daytime needs strong women and these are two of the strongest, fiercest warriors in daytime – if not a bit psychotic, much like the men they’re involved with.

If I was a  DAYS writer/producer thinking about how to keep the ratings rock rolling up hill instead of down, there would be more focus on both quadrangles and even exploit the overlapping relationships between the two quads;  I’d kick up the Brady and Nicole storyline until Zuker goes on maternity leave.  Brady would actually be on the run with Nicole, trying to get her to return to Salem but all the while knowing that he is willing to betray his family to be with her;  I’d realize how much more interesting Stefano is without EJ and yes, Virginia, if there really is a Santa Claus – EJ would be history; Rafe’s family would also be gone;  I’d avoid making Maggie the collector of lost souls – her relationship with Melanie worked because it was unique.  With Mia it’s just old hat and a little tired.  Why not a role reversal with Maggie having relationship problems and Melanie serving as her sounding board?;    and finally,  I’d think about what it would need to happen to make Abe and Lexi and frontburner and interesting couple.  The writers need to do more to challenge themselves on what to do with the Carvers to enhance the show’s diversity in a way that’s meaningful.  Too much of what happens with the Carvers feels like an afterthought.

DAYS: Chock full of surprises…

Maggie and Melanie… It’s no secret that I’m a Melanie Layton/Molly Burnett fan.  MB brings back some of the best moments of daytime for me.  I think of her portrayal of Melanie as a cross between Lynn Herring’s wicked bad girl Lucy Coe and Jackie Zeman’s vulnerable bad girl Bobbie Spencer.  There’s something fun and light-hearted about MB’s approach to ‘Melanie’ and having removed the dead weight of big brother ‘Max’ makes her even more fun to watch.

As  a BnB viewer… yeah, yeah, it’s back on my playlist, I’m use to a very typical, but sadly misogynistic relationship between older women and younger women in daytime.  Older women in daytime, despite their own questionable histories, become renewed virgins and unreproachable paragons of virtue.  Stephanie Forrester (who in her youth slept with two men in a matter of weeks, lied about it, and passed one man’s child off as another’s) routinely  refers to young women she dislikes as ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’ even if they have a SINGLE partner – men they’re married to or dating.  She gives a ‘pass’ to younger women she likes and whose histories may be equally questionable to if not worse than her own.

On each soap you can name a woman who should be a mentor to women of the younger generation and who, instead, belittles and demeans them.  Not our Maggie.  Maggie knows what it means to be unfaithful to a good man who loves you and to find yourself caught up in a major scandal.  Of course, there were no sex tapes to be distributed on the internet as evidence in her time, but that’s neither here nor there.  Maggie embraced Melanie earlier  on and continues to embrace her.

She’s not concerned that Melanie isn’t good enough for her grandson.  She’s concerned that Melanie doesn’t realize her own value and will end up being hurt by a man unworthy of her love – with Phllip Kiriakis being exactly the sort of trouble Maggie described to Melanie… oh how I thought I’d lose my lunch during his speech about knowing a woman who accepts him for who he is and who isn’t out to change him… Let’s face it, there’s a lot about Phillip that REQUIRES changing.  Now that he’s moving in on Melanie like a heat seeking missile, both Maggie and Nate have their work cut out for them, stopping Melanie from becoming her own worst enemy and giving in to Phillip.  Phillip will no doubt continue to toy with Melanie’s feelings while bouncing back between her and Stephanie.  Let’s hope that Melanie will take Maggie’s counsel to heart.   I love the relationship that’s developed between the inexperienced but headstrong Melanie, and her generous and loving mentor.  Who’d a thunk it?  Women don’t actually hate each other!

Brady/Nicole/EJ. How amazing are Brady and Nicole on screen together?  EM’s use of subtle cues to lead us to realize that there’s still something very real between the pair makes every scene worth watching.  I keep waiting for the next ‘cue’.    While Nicole was crying and begging Brady to be the good friend she’s needed, to help her keep the daughter and husband she loves more than her own life – I thought it was Brady who would collapse into Nicole’s arms.   He seemed to feel every bit of her pain.  Notice how he held her just a little too long as she thanked him for saving her family?   Brady would do anything for Nicole.  When it comes to this woman, clearly his heart allows him to betray his head as long as she needs him.

The big shocker was having EJ tape Nicole’s conversations and learn about the miscarriage through her.  I was prepared for Kate’s move into the mansion to be the catalyst for having Nicole and EJ’s marriage destroyed by Kate…Kate would overhear Nicole and Mia, blackmail Nicole, EJ would catch them.. that’ s par for the course in daytime, but not this time.  Nicole’s own need to confess all to Brady and to keep him involved in her whacked out plan to save her marriage did her in.  Oh the irony!

I would love for EJ, for ONCE, to be a real man –  THAT would be  a welcomed surprise.  I would love for him to love Nicole and Sydney as he should, as much as they love him… but he won’t.  He’s not capable of it.  H won’t care that Nicole, as misguided as her actions were, took Sydney in to protect him, to stop his heart from breaking as hers had.  He won’t care that she wanted to prevent him from losing a child he knew nothing about to complete strangers – given Sami’s  original plan to have Grace adopted.  Sooner or later EJ will try to make his way back to his rape victim, Sami, I’m sure.  He’ll tell her it’s a miracle that their child is alive and that they belong together as a family.  Nicole, the woman who truly loved him, will be devastated – but hopefully not for too long.  Brady is much hotter… and he’s not a in love with the idea of victimizing the woman he claimes to ‘love’ and raising a family with her.

Stefano/Kate... I’ll say it once and then I’ll avoid ever saying it again if I can help it because it creeps me out…I like them together.  I didn’t think I would, especially since Kate was blackmailed into marrying Stefano.  Then again, it’s not like she’s had much luck in love!

Daniel was a lying cheat.  Victor ws just freakin’ cruel. A relationship with Roman could never work because Kate could never stop hating Sami (who might have ended up in that hospital bed instead of Chloe, under different circumstances), and nothing else has panned out.  What does she have to lose at this point?  Neither Kate nor Stefano make apologies for who they are and I like that about them, to some degree.  Stefano has been a part of so many quirky, unrealistic, and embarrassing supernatural storylines that I’d lost the ability to think of him as a romantic lead… I’m starting to see that it’s possible that they could be a real couple, and  I can only imagine the fresh hell they’ll unleash in Salem… as a matter of fact,  I’m looking forward to it… the added bonus of the tension between Kate and EJ and Kate and Alexandra?  PRICELESS!

What, are you NEW?

The Bold and the Beautiful

Clearly there are new writers on board.  There HAVE to be! How else can you explain the highly emotional grief scenes following Phoebe’s death!?!?  It’ s been a long time since I’ve cried over BnB scenes because they were so highly emotional.  Usually if I’m crying over a BnB scene, it’s because of the self-pity I feel knowing I haven’t been able to break my BnB viewing habit.

Jacqueline MacInnes Wood was pitch perfect and completely sold me as the soul shattered twin sister unable to fathom living the rest of her life without her other half.  Together with Ronn Moss  ‘Steffy’ and ‘Ridge’ broke my heart opening the bag containing Phoebe’s personal effects and gingerly removing each time… a shoe, a bag, a hair clip, on their own -each with seeming no real value, now invaluable because of the fact that Phoebe wore them in her last moments.

I shuddered when I saw the door to the hospital morgue.  I waited for the gratuitous and exploitive “bloodied and battered” Phoebe  images.  I was wrong. The writers handled those scenes with a sensitivity rarely seen on this show. They’ve done us proud.  For the record, if there is a new team at bat, HIRE THEM… they’re good. If it really is the same writing team, what the hell? Why aren’t we getting this level of writing more often? I don’t even need it daily, just more frequently than we’ve been treated to the past… say… 6 or 7 years!

Young and the Restless

I’m sorry.  I think I’m losing my hearing.   I thought I heard Lauren express shock at Gloria’s self-centered behavior and her willingness to allow an innocent party to be blamed for something they hadn’t done.  I was shocked that SHE was shocked. Two words:  Ashley Abbott… Two more: Face Cream.

Are the writers confused?  Is there another character named Gloria living in fictional Genoa City?  There has to be, because otherwise the writers could never have written those lines.  Instead, they would have had Lauren tell Gloria that it’s time she STOPPED allowing others to pay for her lies and her selfishness.

Apparently Kay Chancellor isn’t the only GC resident with a look-a-like, and not the only one suffering from memory loss.

BTW, Phyllis, seriously?  It’s not like this is the FIRST marriage you’ve broken up, what’s up with that plan to split Jack and Sharon? What would make her think that Sharon would immediately run to Brad?  If Sharon is getting close with Nick, again, and she becomes a free woman, wouldn’t it make sense that she’d have to keep an eye on her wandering, philandering husband?  Great going there, big red.  Phyllis is just a little rusty at manipulating others.

One Life to Live

Oh sure… kill off Nash, bring back Tess, add new alter for Jessica, and then hook her up with the ‘new Nash’.  In this case, I think the writers think WE’RE new.  Can Jessica please have a love life that doesn’t revolve around alternate personalities and psychiatric care? Please? I’ll admit, I love Jess/Tess/Bess and Brody, I just wish the writers hadn’t used the same plot line they used to pull Tessica  and Nash together.

I can only assume that it’s tacit admission that getting rid of Jess and Nash was a FOOLISH move, especially for  a storyline that had enormous potential  ending with a whimper and not a bang.  The revenge storyline became diluted and distracting when it got in the way of other, less compelling, storylines.  Natalie and Jared replacing Jessica and Nash as the show’s hot young couple felt like a pipe dream from the beginning.Nared-Jatalie (whatever couple name they’ve earned) are a chemistry challenged couple that makes ‘romance’ feel like a four letter word -and not fun dirty four letter words, either.

I don’t understand the writers’ fascination with Natalie and Jared as a couple and I also don’t understand the sudden forgiveness for their actions.   It was Jessica who was angry, and felt betrayed.  Jessica watched her husband die.  Jessica held him in his last moments.  Jessica had to tell him about a child he’d never get to hold.  I don’t want Jessica to hate her sister the rest of her life, but the idea that she’s now beyond what’s happened, and that it’s ok that Natalie and Jared are caring for her children just seems odd.  At the very least, what should make Jessica’s recovery so difficult is being conflicted, both feeling guilty that Tess took things so far -but still feeling betrayed and feeling angry about their role in Nash’s death, and their role in her family’s financial difficulties in losing BE.  To have Natalie and Jared back in good stead just feels hollow and rings false.

Thank goodness I have Gigi/Rex/Shane to take my mind off of the rest of it. I love that Shane still loves his hero father, Brody, while being willing to slowly get to know his biological father, Rex.  I think it’s realistic for Shane to be confused and still love the man he’s thought of as his father his entire life.  I love that he’s a sensitive and loving child.  I love that Rex is patient, and respects Shane’s feelings.   I’m actually looking forward to more of this little family.

Days of Our Lives

Oh, I should have known.  Nicole Walker Dimera (emphasis on Dimera)! What have you done?   WHY, writers, WHY?  She loves Brady so much, to think that she would try to send him back to his addiction to protect her pregnancy lie?  That’s far too vicious, even for Nicole.   How could I have fooled myself into thinking the writers would make the character capable of anything else?  Oh well… I’m in for the long and the short of it.  Nicole will have to face whatever she has coming.  It will be well deserved.   If she succeeds in the long run, move me to the ‘love to hate’ column for a while.   Eventually I’ll find a way to forgive N.W.D.  for her dastardly actions… I’m so weak.  The writers always get me when it comes to this character.

As The World Turns

Oh dear.  I’ll bet you thought that Carly would be vindicated! I’ll bet you thought that the magnificent Snarly had Janet and her demon seed dead to rights, right?  HA!  What are you, NEW?  This is As The World Turns. Everyone turns on Carly, including her own children.

Parker forged Carly’s  signature, Liberty encouraged it, and it was ‘all good’ because their criminal activity was only about making someone else happy, namely Janet.  Sure, Janet is more deserving than most people.  It’s ok for her to want a 5k wedding gown, marrying a man with three children, making a cop’s salary.   Seriously?  That she never looked at the price tag is no excuse, in some ways, it’s WORSE that she didn’t look.  Did she really believe that an upscale boutique would have cheap gowns?

Parker has to humiliate his mother in front of Janet and Liberty.  Great. He forged the signature on his trust fund check to make Liberty happy… and that’s Carly’s fault.  They were willing to continue lying about it until they were caught… and that’s Carly’s fault, too;  she’s just an evil angry jealous bitch out to stop their happiness (uh, huh, despite the fact that she AGREED to let her jackass ex- take out a second mortgage on their house to pay for his wedding to another woman).  This is the man who attacks Carly for the kind of mother she is, NEVER thanking her for raising a child HE brought into their marriage (JJ)  after initially abandoning her and their other children, for JJ and his mother, batshit crazy Julia2.

I’m ready to give up on As The World Turns.  It’s not JUST the Kick the Carly storylines that are doing it for me.  The KTC storylines are symptomatic of a larger problem- the overall lack of balance on this show.  I think I’ve had my fill.  Someone contact me when the ‘Kick the Jackass’ storylines start (Jack-Janet, take your pick!)

Just  a word of caution, writers… viewers who are raising, or have raised, children are NOT entertained by a smart-assed obnoxious kid like Parker. It’s tiring of having the  show held hostage by the writers’ interpretation of teenaged hormones gone awry.  Liberty-Parker sex scenes, groping, lusting, crying, conspiring, and now attacking Carly for having LEGITIMATE concerns.  Get a clue, folks.  Surely JJ is missing his brother, by now.  It’s time to send Parker and Liberty away to school.