The Week in Review – August 29, 2009

I’m introducing a new weekly column, with an astonishingly original title: “The Week in Review.”

(Can you tell the hours, sweat and tears that went into that choice?)

I’ll be taking a look at what’s happening, commenting on the week’s news and casting announcements, and generally finding reasons to complain about something.

Ready?

POSITIVE TRENDS

Pleasant thing to say about All My Children, part 1: I’m really encouraged by the “JR has cancer” storyline. AMC has not been known for its subtlety of late, and it’s managed to ruin a few characters (Amanda and Jake) that I initially liked. JR Chandler has, for years, been nothing more than a haircut and a sneer. I’m glad that we’re going to see JR in a story that doesn’t require him to (a) emulate dear old dad BEhlersor (b) be a complete asshat to the women in his life. It’s also drawing in other people on canvas (Marissa, Scott and Angie), so this looks promising.

Pleasant thing to say about All My Children, part 2: They’re finally using Beth Ehlers. Her chemistry with Michael E. Knight (Tad) is wonderful. I love Beth, but I still think Taylor as a character is kind of shaky. When the show moves to LA, they should woo back Katherine Noone as Ellen, and then reveal that Ellen is Taylor’s aunt.

Emotional truth: I have a lot to say about the “Holden Dies 2: Bigger, Better and Uncut” story on As The World Turns, and some of it isn’t all that positive. (More on that in a minute.)

But amid a lot of handwringing, screeching, and yelling from assorted family members, it was a quiet scene between Kathleen Widdoes (Emma) and Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda) that brought out the emotional truth in this story for me.

jpi_episode13238_59470It was magnificent to watch these two quietly talking. Emma and Lucinda have been through hell together; they fought over a man (John Dixon) and Lily and Iva’s ties to Lucinda wove her into the Synder family in a way Emma found impossible to extricate.

Those years of history provided a magnificent context and made Lucinda’s friendship and comfort to Emma all the more moving.

Elizabeth Hubbard is amazing, and she’s been recognized with an Emmy and several nominations for her work. But I have to say, I’ve had a new appreciation for Kathleen Widdoes, who I don’t think has been as appreciated for her fine work as she should be. In the face of some significant changes to the characters around her, Widdoes has kept Emma’s heart and intelligence – as well as her fierce love for her family – front and center.

Mrs. Mayor: Kudos to One Life to Live for finding a way to revisit the Viki/Dorian feud. The mayoral race should be a lot of fun and a way to revisit the animosity between these two characters without reinventing the wheel, revisiting tired old plots or, worse yet, retconning another piece of OLTL history. (I don’t know or remember who killed Victor Lord at this point, and I don’t care, either.)

If I were Viki, I’d hire David as my campaign manager, or at least my PR man. He’d probably make a commercial with all of Viki’s alters in it, though, so perhaps that’s not a great idea.

WTF: NEGATIVE NOTES

Dueling Banjos: And now, my complaints about the “Holden dies – agaaaaaain” story.

  • Holden’s already not died once before. To have him “not die” again seems incredibly stupid. Who does he think he is, James Stenbeck?
  • If the Synder family is so close, why didn’t we see Iva, Ellie, Caleb and Abigail?
  • Were the writers/producers deliberately trying to offend their rural audience? The whole Kentucky set up seems like a ripoff of My Name is Earl and Deliverance. (And Misery, too.)
  • I *love* Judi Evans, but after watching her try incredibly hard to make this lead balloon fly, I have to say: I’d rather sell cemetary plots, too.

6a00d8341c681b53ef01157060adb2970c-500wiCrazy cluster: I’ve blogged about what I thought were the strengths, individually, of many of the stories on The Young and the Restless. But whoever’s been in charge of pacing at Y&R needs to be fired. They’ve piled one sad, dreary, tragic storyline on top of another.

Over at Marlena Delacroix’s site, she wrote a piece a few weeks ago where she felt OLTL had made fun of mental illness, or taken it lightly. She made some valid points in a very spirited debate, but quite frankly, I think that accusation is more applicable to Y&R.

This week was a perfect example:

  • We have Ashley, who’s carrying a dead baby, seeing images of Sabrina and experiencing increasing paranoia. This story was really Gothic and compelling in the beginning, but given Ashley’s prior mental health history and how long this is being dragged out, it now plays as cruel and exploitative.
  • There’s Sharon, who spent this week in a mental institution. She’s experienced blackouts and turned to shoplifting last year as a way to ease her pain. Was her institutionalization a subliminal message that a woman promiscuous enough to break up a marriage and have three possible fathers for her baby should be punished?
  • And of course, there’s Mary Jane Benson a.k.a. Patty Williams. Again, I really enjoyed the buildup to this story (and Stacy Haiduk’s performance), but it’s been hard to watch Patty’s obvious mental issues boil to the surface.

Add to this the sadness of watching young Lily undergo chemo, and honestly, I’d rather turn on Fox News and watch the birthers and the health care protestors scream at each other, because THAT would be less of a buzzkill.

Hope you enjoyed this Week in Review. You can look for this column every Friday/Saturday. See you next week!

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3 thoughts on “The Week in Review – August 29, 2009

  1. Paul on ATWT has been seeing his “dead” father for several years. Of course, James isn’t dead, and Paul had a microchip in his brain! Mental illness? I thought so, and was surprised ATWT so cavalierly ignored it. Barbara spent several years a few cards short of a full deck, and Julia Lindsey went from wimp to wacko so fast, my head spun.

    And that’s just one soap.

    I’m not sure if daytime MEANS to make fun of mental illness, but I don’t think they’re truly willing these days to actually tell a TRUE story about it. It’s a plot device. And we, the audience, so seem to respond favorably to the “crazy” characters. (I loved Julia Lindsey, or at least Annie Parisse’s performance. Likewise, Annie Dutton on GL, who had numerous issues in two incarnations, and is now institutionalizd, believing she’s married to Josh. Progress?)

    Speaking of Y&R, who else could use some major therapy? Kevin’s should be ongoing. Is Adam mentally ill in some way? Or just EVIL? Couldn’t Jill use some twice-weekly visits to her therapist? Let’s discuss.

    BTW, the Holden story on ATWT? I’m not watching. I assume I’m one of the non-viewers who will consign this show to cancellation next year–sorry. Not my fault. I’m from the South, and, yeah, I do find the stereotyping insulting. This ISN’T MY NAME IS EARL, which was actually funny (and Jaime Pressley lived right down the road from here). Never met a Southern girl named “Maeve,” either. “Tammy” or “Laurie” would be more like it, and you can always tack on a “Jo” or a “Sue” if you want to force-feed cornpone to the audience.


    Ant, the oddest thing of all is that Y&R is doing all of these stories AT ONCE. I mean, every show has shown mentally unstable characters from time to time, but there’s so many characters now struggling with these issues.

    They have tried to deal with depression before on soaps (Cass on AW comes to mind) but most other issues are played for laughs or shock value, unfortunately.

  2. Certainly you know my points are always more than valid! But look what you’ve done–scooped me on my promised Y&R column, which I had been holding off on to see just how stirred up all the mentally ill women on Y&R would become this very week! LOL.

    My point on OLTL’s use of mental illness is the show uses this ploy to put down older women characters (Addie, Dorian, Viki etc) On Y&R, women of all ages are afflicted and their depiction seems more like B movies or camp to me. Tell me if mad ‘bride’ MJ/Patty wasn’t bad movie camp yesterday on Y&R!

    BTW, madness is a continuing theme on Y&R, and they do give it equally to men. Remember, just this year Kevin and the chipmunk?


    Hello Marlena! You are right, the mental illness that’s been shown on OLTL of late is definitely focused on older women.

    You’re right about Kevin’s mental illness on Y&R, too. It’s just so odd that so many characters are experiencing these issues all at once. And it’s not the first time there’s been a “crazy” female character on the front burner – Phyllis and Sheila come to mind, too.

  3. Don’t forget Brad’s ex, Lisa, who kept him prisoner in the cage!

    Or Victor himself, when he first came onto the show. I never once believed he’d still be around, 30 years later.

    Lauren’s crazed fan, Shawn, who buried her alive?

    Joshua’s ex, Veronica, who killed him and almost took out Nikki too. (Poor Miguel…he loved “her.”)

    Yeah, looking back, Genoa City usually has a psycho lurking around, but never more than one at a time. You’re right–we’re above average this year.

    Too much of a good thing? Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you feel like three or four nuts?

    But while Patty is “soap crazy,” to me, Ashley and Sharon have (what could be, if played correctly) REAL issues that I’d like to see dealt with. And it’s nothing new for either character. Both of them have real issues with mental health. (So does Patty, but we’ve seen Sharon and Ashley fall apart time and again consistently over many years, while the character of Patty seems “new” to most of us, even those of us who remember Lilibet Stern and Andrea Evans.)

    Sharon will recover as soon as she and Nick have their baby girl, but Ashley STILL doesn’t know SHE’S NOT PREGNANT! More to come, I’m sure.

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