Earlier this spring, when Guiding Light announced that they were bringing the character of James Spaulding back to the canvas, I was a bit skeptical.
He was described as having an attitude and a chip on his shoulder, and my first response was, “Oh, joy. This is Jonathan III: The Nightmare Returns.” Of course, we all know that the previous sequel, Jonathan II: Grady Foley, failed miserably at the box office (and with fans).
But whaddya know? GL might just have one of the biggest hits of the year on its hands with this character.
The success of this story is probably due to the convergence of a few factors. The return of Phillip (and Grant Aleksander) gave GL, and the Spaulding family, a much-needed kick in the ass and re-energized our interest in all things Spaulding.
Casting Zack Conroy as James was an excellent choice. I mean, Betty Rae excellent.* As I’ve mentioned before, Conroy looks uncannily like his onscreen father. It wasn’t so long ago we saw the same look in Phillip’s eyes.
(No, I didn’t pick that clip out for India’s fabulous hat. That was just an added bonus.)
Conroy is a natural performer; he may be a bit green around the edges, but he’s hitting all the right notes as James, playing his anger, confusion, hurt and mistrust. (The fact that James is easy on the eyes is a plus, as well.)
The writers and Conroy have created a very vivid picture in James. He’s the most realistic teenager I’ve seen on soaps in a while – disaffected, detached and distant. That’s a universal feeling among Gen Y teens and twentysomethings these days, and it makes for more interesting conflict than Spaulding/Cooper Feud, part 28.
The source of James’ misdeeds – his management of a Ponzi scheme – is also a very believable way to tie young James to some of the older characters in Springfield, including his dad and grandfather.
It can be a challenge for writers to play various generations of characters together in a single story; usually, those attempts are made of fail. The teens are usually forced to play “adult” stories (baby rabies, multiple marriages). Or, worse yet, writers have tried to play the vets in a “hip” surrounding with twentysomethings in a story that’s inexplicable and illogical.
But GL has created an interesting umbrella story that affects many characters on screen (Bill, Lizzie, the Boudreauxs, Alan, Phillip and James) and yet, at its heart, is a really emotional story about how far Phillip will go to show his son that he loves him.
Unfortunately, this success is coming too little too late for fans to really enjoy; we’ll only get to see a snippet of what could have been before GL concludes in September.
Lizzie, James and Rafe might have made for a really intriguing sequel that we really wanted to see – Spauldings: The Next Generation.