Grading The Guiding Light

Today’s GL is giving fans EXACTLY what they’ve deserved all along, intergenerational story telling that makes you want to tune in for more:

  • The matriarchs of the Lewis/Spaulding-Raines clans getting together to pull off the ‘wedding of the century’.  Bill Lewis and Elizabeth “Raines” Spaulding are getting married in 21 days… We know, because almost everyone on screen repeats that there were only 21 days left.  The gathering of the matriarchs would have been PERFECT, if the following hadn’t happened:  Vanessa, Alexandra, Beth, and Lillian plan the wedding of the century in Peapack/Springfield’s equivalent of a 7/11.  I was distracted by the display of batteries  and other point of sale merchandise on the checkout counter behind the cafeteria seats they were sitting in.    What lousy product placement!  It only made me think of making sure I had enough fresh batteries to FF through most of what’s airing on daytime right now.  I also kept thinking about the beloved but bratty Vanessa Chamberlain and  the stuffy and sophisticated  Alex Spaulding who wouldn’t have been caught dead in a convenience store cafeteria.  Even still, I was so grateful to see the four women on screen again that I decided I didn’t care too much about the product placement.  A-
  • Loved the glee-some foursome barging  into Bill and Lizzie’s budget priced hotel room/suite  and interrupting the happy couple who had to push back the covers to see who’d invaded their love nest.  For the love of cheese, wouldn’t you just die if your grandmother and mother walked in while you were naked with your significant other?  It would be even worse if they treated you as if you were simply having a play date with your little  friend and told you to get dressed so they could get started on getting your wedding planned.  A-
  • Phillip/Alan/No-longer-adorable-James.  Oh Alan!  How could he have missed out on even the most BASIC tenet found in parenting books?   Love your children and praise them when they do well.  Ignore the misbehavior as much as you can.   Alan simply LOVES Phillip now that Phillip has engaged in the felonious act of bribing a judge.  He loves James even more, since James was indicted for running a Ponzi scheme.  Nothing like encouraging your children and grandchildren to be the best they can be!  B+
  • Billy threatening to make James ‘sleep with the fishes’if he does anything else to hurt Bill or Lizzie, and then having James run to Alan to tell him about the threat because he thinks it’s ‘funny’.   Those two scenes made me hope that there was enough time left for the writers to do one of two things:  Split Spaulding-Lewis, making them TWO companies as they should have been all along, and let the corporate wars begin.  I’ve missed the  corporate infighting and would love to see things end, if they must, with the Spauldings and Lewises continuing their friendly war.  If not?  My second option is to have Lizzie join the Spaulding Clan, along with Phillip, and have them make Alan and James powerless and miserable… for now at least.  B+
  • Billy… Billy… Billy… how lovely that he alone saw the overwhelmed look on Lizzie’s face and tried to have the glee-some foursome let Lizzie decide on how to plan her own wedding.  Billy has always been a bear (sometimes cuddly, sometimes grizzly).  It was so sweet.  The problem is that he should have known!  They shot him down so fast poor Billy’s head started spinning.  A (hell, it’s Billy!)
  • Did anyone know that Alex has always had the fantasy of running off to Vegas and getting married by an Elvis impersonator?  WOW!   Cyrus was a close to a Vegas wedding as Alex was going to get.  More importantly?  Forget point one… I can easily see Vegas Alex hanging out in a convenience store planning a wedding. B-
  • Billy and Vanessa?   ’nuff said!  If the writers give us the ‘beach wedding’  for the couple that Vanessa mentioned, along with Reva and Josh, Olivia and Natalia, Beth and Phillip, Buzz and Lillian, Blake and Frankie,  Mel and Rick… well, I promise to not refer to them as the writing team that sent GL to its early death… OR I’ll at least I’ll promise to TRY to not refer to them that way.  A
  • Alan shooting basketball with James?  Uh, SURE!  It’s as conceivable as my vegetarian sister downing a double cheeseburger.  So contrived… but i enjoyed it anyway.  B.
  • Phillip turning to Ed for medical help?  I’m actually shocked that the writers chose such an organic storyline to bring Ed back to town.  I don’t know how the rest of the storyline will play out.  B+
  • Reva and Marina growing closer.  I’m enjoying the developing friendship between Marina and Reva.  They’re mothers of young infants and have long respected one another – Marina as Shayne’s ex-girlfriend and now Marina is the mother of Shayne’s child.  I’ve been trying to figure out if the writers are setting Marina up to be the target of Reva’s ire when she finds out that her son and Marina have hidden the fact that Marina unknowningly adopted Shayne’s believed dead child.  I’ve gotta admit, I want to know more!  B+

By and large, there are still so many things wrong with GL that there’s not enough room to list them all.  The individual pieces work, but as a continuous thread there’s something faulty about the show. I’m torn between thinking that I won’t even miss this show when it’s gone, to still being angry that it’s over.   What about you?

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The problem with GL is this…

I am in awe of fans who love daytime to the point of working to save it, despite what writers and EPs have done by way of making the genre unrecognizable.  Fans are holding on to the hope that not only are daytime brass listening to their concerns, but that they’ll actually do something about them.  It’s not just The Guiding Light.  Daytime fans are in the same position no matter which show they watch.  I’ve chosen to focus on The Guiding Light because of long swirling rumors that the show is on the verge of cancellation (rumors that have persistently dogged this show and its fans for a number of years, now).

Below are five things that I believe have been consistently wrong with the show – five things that are easily corrected. 

1.  Get rid of the ‘live from Peapack’ shots.  Daytime is about fantasy, escapism, and about the impossible becoming plausible.  I have no doubt that Peapack has many homes with lush interiors filled with fine furniture, open floor plans, hardwoods, crown moulding, stainless steel appliances, and custom cabinetry.  It makes sense that the show’s budget doesn’t allow for location shoots in those environments.  Instead, the current interiors are shoddy, and frankly – they’re depressing.  I’ve jokingly referred to Springfield as the land of cheap knotty wood paneling and faux stone.  It’s no longer a joke to me.  I’m distracted by the bad decor and dark interiors when trying to focus on the characters and dialogue.  

It’s hard to see a man like Remy Boudreau  living in a cheap apartment.  His living conditions  make sense for a couple like Daisy and Grady, who have a hard time maintaining steady employment.  On any other show, willingly living in the conditions Remy lives in would be a sign of a character in emotional, psychological or financial distress.  We would ask ourselves if Remy was punishing himself as part of a deep depression, or  an unyielding sense of guilt for some perceived wrong.  The type of decor that’s prevalent on GL usually comes with a liquor bottle and bad attitude on any other soap – and on the GL of the past.

If watching someone like Remy (solidly upper middle/upper class) live in such squalid conditions, think about what it means to see the fabulously wealthy Spauldings live in roughly two cramped rooms, or Olivia live in a tiny farmhouse, or the Lewises wandering from place to place because they have no where to live at all – that we’ve seen.  The exception is Bill Lewis, who lives in a tiny hotel room.  From Remy to the Spauldings to the Lewises –  all are living in spaces that are the sizes of what should be their clothes closets.

Guiding Light is the least aesthetically pleasing show in daytime.  Beautiful people, ugly scenery.  If it’s true that the network is saving money by purchasing/renting the current locations, great!  But there’s a trade-off and given the ratings, I have a feeling that other (former) GL fans are having  a hard time looking at the show in it’s current state. 

2.  Make better use of the big moments and pay homage to your the show’s rich history.  There aren’t a lot of ‘big moments’ left on any show, but GL had the perfect opportunity to grab back some of the show’s glory and to reunite it’s signature couple with this one scene:

As Reva lay dying, Josh confessed his heart and soul to her.  They talked about how long and how deeply they’d loved each.  Josh told her that he  couldn’t conceive of a world that she wasn’t a part of (and we pretended not to remember that he’d already lived through a Reva “death” when she drove off a bridge during the course of her postpartum storyline.  We realized that he meant that he’d already had to live in a Reva-less world once before and that he couldn’t stomach the thought of doing it again).

What happened?  Reva came back to him this time too, and Josh moved on without her.  After all of his tears, his pain, and his comments about not wanting to live without her, not only did he move on but he moved on with her sister.  Both Josh and Cassie treated Reva’s survival as an ‘annoyance’; Josh most especially when Reva let him know that she wanted to save their marriage.  Every moment that took place after the ‘death’ scene made a mockery of Josh and Reva’s epic history. It just did not compute that when the writers could have cleared the coast for this legendary couple, they kept them apart.  The writers were so determined to break them up that Reva defied the laws of  nature.  She became pregnant with another man’s baby after twice undergoing menopause.  You figure that one out.  I can’t and wouldn’t want to if I could.

3.  Allow characters to behave as if they live in the same town.  Either that, or stop having them talk about how much they value family.  Why, dear writers, has Beth put more effort into planning a romantic getaway with her boyfriend than into helping her daughter heal after her kidnapping ordeal?

We’ve seen many more scenes of Coop and Beth pawing each other than we have of Beth embracing Lizzie and trying to help her, most especially since Lizzie has become suspicious that her boyfriend, Bill Lewis, potentially played a role in her abduction.  Is Beth aware of the fact that she’s still Lizzie’s mother?   This is a mother and daughter living in the same house and yet they have very little contact. 

Alan is no angel, either.  He was obsessed with Rafe’s medical care when Gus was alive.  He arranged for Rafe to meet with the top physicians in the country and was willing to pay for advanced medical treatment to control his diabetes.  Now?  Natalia is killing herself to get the medicine Rafe needs by paying for it at her own pharmacy and having it sent to the prison (uh, yeah, that would happen in the real world!).  Why haven’t the Spauldings mentioned Rafe and Natalia?   How has Alan managed to avoid running into Natalia given how many of the same places they both visit?

Why hasn’t Alan already pulled enough strings to have Rafe sleeping in a single cell -with silk sheets covering  his pillow top mattress?  That’s only, of course, until Alan could have him sprung from prison.  Alan has recently gone through a trial and faced prison time.  No sympathy for Rafe?  Is Alan only capable of being obsessed with one grandchild at a time?  Is interfering with Lizzie’s love life REALLY more important than keeping Rafe out of prison, or at least safe while he’s behind bars?  It’s hard to care about Alan’s obsession with Lizzie, given his lack of concern about Rafe.  

4.  Recognize that imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery.  Guiding Light is working on solving one of it’s biggest problem – the shedding of old school characters and replacing them with newer characters who were meant to serve the same function, but somehow fall flat. In the mad dash to win over the 18 – 24s who were never planning a  mass defection to daytime, great characters like Edmund were cut loose to make room for pale imitations like Kane Manera’s Grady Foley.  Manera is a brilliant actor.  His choices are instinctual and highly consistent.  I like the actor, I just hate the writing for him.  Between the writing and the direction, there was never any hope for Manera’s Grady to become a likable character.  Where David Andrew McDonald’s Edmund was far more nuanced, and more choices about the character appeared to be placed in the actor’s hands, Manera’s Grady was more of a caricature of Edmund and every other GL bad boy.

Grady was never allowed a moment to be ‘human’ (as Edmund was).  Grady was never allowed to develop a backstory that would allow us to see him in a more vulnerable light, as Edmund was.  While Edmund acted out as a way of dealing with the pain of being measured against the impossibly perfect Richard; Grady was just one more sociopath in a family of sociopaths.  I’d like to say that I’ll miss Grady when he eventually goes, but I won’t.   There’s nothing likable or root-worthy left when it comes to this character, through no fault of his portrayer.  

5.  Don’t turn strong storylines and characters into ‘gimmicks’.

Watching Olivia and Natalia this past week, I wondered if the writers have thought about where they’d take the two after their current friendship/relationship ends, and eventually it will.  Will they go back to who they were before?  Are they forever changed?   

Is this only a matter of living in the same home and raising Emma together?  What makes their relationship romantic and not sisterly?  Was Olivia’s lifetime of desperation in every relationship before this related to never feeling loved by any of the men she dated/married.  Was she running from herself?  Does Natalia love Olivia because of who she is? Does she love her because she finally has a feeling of family and she’s been so alone since Rafe was imprisoned and the Spauldings pretend she doesn’t exist?

I like the slow development of their friendship/relationship, but if the writers simply throw them together after a kiss, won’t viewers perceive their relationship as a gimmick of some sort?  It’s already feeling gimmicky with Natalia holding Liv’s hands through the ‘My Two Mommies’ presentation and not ‘getting it’ that the teacher and other parents thought they were lesbians.  A ten year old would have picked that up! 

All it took was a teacher making a suggestion and Olivia has developed new feelings for Natalia?  It feels gimmicky that Olivia can’t use the word ‘lesbian’, but is able to plant a kiss on Natalia to illustrate her point – not long after Frank planted an unplanned kiss on her as well. It’s gimmicky – as Beth’s relationship with Alan was.  It’s becoming as gimmicky as Beth’s relationship with Coop is, or Bill’s amnesia that shouldn’t affect what Lizzie remembers about the kidnapping, or Marina and Mallet and their babymania-out-of-nowhere storyline, or…. you get the point.

If this isn’t a show living on borrowed time, it needs to act like it.  Slow down and take the time to work out the big and the small details.  We’re not going anywhere.