2009 Best (and Worst)

It’s that time again.

All sorts of blogs, Web sites and media publications are dishing out their Best & Worst issues. They’re ubiquitous enough, but to add insult to injury, many outlets are also sharing their Best & Worst of the Decade.

It’s rather hard for me to come up with a whole slew of “bests” in a year that saw the two shows I most frequently wrote about get the axe. But I’ll do my best to give you an objective list of what I loved, what I hated and what made me say, what the Frons?

BEST RECAST: Hands down, Michael Muhney as Adam Newman on Y&R. Muhney stepped into a role that could go any number of ways at a very sensitive time in the story. In my eyes, he’s so completely owned the role that I have a hard time remembering Chris Engen as Adam. Engen was a fine actor, but Muhney has brought so many levels and colors to the character that simply didn’t exist before, and kept us from hating Adam even when he committed one heinous deed after another.

WORST RECAST: I gave the award for worst recast to Jamie Luner’s Liza on All My Children back in this blog post from June. NuLiza, bearing almost no resemblance to Original Recipe Liza, is winner and still champion. However, it must be acknowledged that the casting of Darius McCrary as Malcolm Winters on Y&R is providing intense competition, even though nuMalcolm hasn’t aired yet. McCrary may be a talented performer and a capable actor, but he looks nothing like Shemar Moore.

BEST PAYOFF: Sami versus Nicole, Days of our Lives.  It may not have been the seven years it took for Mike Horton to find out his parentage, but DAYS built up tension over nearly a year of twists and turns until Sami finally learned that Sydney was hers. Viewers were treated to a glorious smackdown scene. Bonus: DAYS managed to address Arianne Zuker’s maternity leave AND find a way to temporarily extend the story in a very inventive way.

WORST PAYOFF: Holden Isn’t Dead, As The World Turns. A stinker from start to finish. Holden’s “death,” orchestrated by Damian, left his family bereft, and Holden even more adrift: he was stuck with Maeve and Eb. This story did the usually wonderful Judi Evans no favors, and it seemed to be a pointless way to tread water until Holden’s return to town – which was the least surprising surprise ever.

BEST INTERNET TREND, SOAP DIVISION: The love for Mr. Kitty, Mary-Jane-slash-Patty’s stuffed dead cat on Y&R. Kitty was an awesome way to spell out where Patty was, mentally, and added a camp factor to those already dangerously-over-the-top scenes. Kitty quickly garnered groups of fans, a Facebook account, and eventually, a hysterical behind-the-scenes video made by Y&R backstage folks.

ODDEST INTERNET TREND, SOAP DIVISION: Pam and her “Cat Walk” video, The Bold and the Beautiful. Would a fiftysomething woman prancing around like a cat and meowing gain such a fan following? You be the judge. It is funny, but I wonder how much coffee (or Nyquil) Brad Bell has been drinking…..

BEST ROMANTIC PAYOFF: A tie between two One Life to Live couples in very different stages of their love: the new love between Oliver and Kyle, and the reunited-and-it-feels-so-good-but-oops-you’re-married-to-my-brother love of Bo and Nora. After a slow-ish build on both parts, it’s been rewarding to see these relationships progress. Bonus: The Kish romance, in particular, has played out delightfully – realistic, sweet and funny, and tied to another very sweet slow-burn couple, Cristian and Layla.

WORST ROMANTIC PAYOFF: Otalia, Guiding Light.

No kiss. ‘Nuff said.

MOST WELCOME RETURN: There were a number of high profile returns this year (Jonathan Jackson! Crystal Chappell!) and most of them have been very successful. These, however, are my personal favorites.

First place goes to GL and the return of Phillip Spaulding. This was a minefield of story that could have been ripe for mistakes and self-parody – after all, Phillip has been “dead” twice before, and his departure in 2004 was such a convoluted mess you’d be forgiven for not remembering what happened, who did what and whether he was dead or alive.

But Phillip’s return, and everything Grant Aleksander touched along the way, was golden. His presence made the Spaulding family matter again before GL ended for good, and his return launched compelling stories for James and Alan.

Second place goes to Molly’s return on ATWT. Lesli Kay has been gone for several years, but ATWT nailed her return brilliantly, and it’s as if she never left. Molly is a welcome presence in Oakdale – and has a history with half the town. Molly may not always be good, but she’s NEVER boring. Let’s hope she stays in town!

LEAST WELCOME RETURN: Emma Samms as Holly, General Hospital. This character hasn’t mattered since the intense character assasination done to Holly a few years back. And making Teethan – er, Ethan – her son with Luke didn’t gain her any new members of the Holly Scorpio fan club. Sorry, Emma, nothing personal – we blame Mr. Guza for this idiocy.

MOST BOTCHED RETURN: Thom Bierdz as Phillip, Y&R – for the reasons I mentioned in this post from a few weeks back.

CHARACTER ASSASINATION AWARD: All My Children. These are scary times, and soaps are trying to shake up the status quo, so it’s understandable (if not desirable) that a veteran character, or a well-developed one, might have to take one for the team now and then. But AMC (under Chuck Pratt) has shown no mercy in its devastation of long-term characters. The collateral damage includes:

  • Aidan, who went from upstanding guy to insane criminal in the blink of an eye;
  • Amanda, a character whose rooting factor dissipated into thin air the day she slept with David;
  • Adam, who killed his own brother, for which there can be no reason or logic.

Wait, I’ve got it! Chuck Pratt has a secret fear of the letter A!!!!!! That’s as logical an explanation for this as any.

BIGGEST WASTE OF TALENT: All My Children wins again, for wasting one of my personal favorites and a glorious actress, Beth Ehlers, on a thankless, shapeless role. Boo, hiss.

BEST VILLAINESS: And winner of the Beverlee McKinsey Award for Fabulous Dialogue Delivery: the much-missed Louise Sorel, back on Days as Vivian Alamain. Vivian’s return is a Welcome Return, too, and it touches so many other characters (Kate, Victor, Phillip and of course, Carly). And no one can deliver a line full of sugar and venom like Sorel.

WORST VILLIAN: Les Moonves. For reasons which are well known to him.

S.T.F.U. AWARD: Goes to Stacy “The Fiasco” Morasco on One Life To Live. Shut yer whining piehole, already.

THE FABULOUS LADIES OF SPRINGFIELD: There were a number of old favorites during GL’s last week that were great to see, but three performers in particular just looked luminous – and their characters had wonderful, hopeful endings. Watching Tina Sloan (Lillian), Maeve Kinkead (Vanessa) and Liz Keifer (Blake) was both a joy and completely devastating.

SAYING IT ALL WITHOUT WORDS: It’s so tiny a piece of stage business as to seem silly, but when Lisa Brown’s Nola looked around Company and blew it a kiss goodbye, it spoke volumes for performers and fans alike – and made more a few of us cry, reminded as we were about what we were really saying goodbye to.

NINE LIVES/HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS AWARD: Crystal Chappell, who managed to land on her feet after GL’s cancellation with not one but two shows. Chappell’s Venice is part of the future of serial storytelling (if they can get those pesky servers to stop crashing, that is). A very close second here is Martha Byrne, who had a great limited run on GH and also created her own show, Gotham.

UNLUCKY LOCATION: New York City, whose long, storied and symbiotic relationship with soaps is an endangered species. In January 2009, NYC hosted four shows. Come October 2010, it will be down to just one, OLTL.

THE “OH NO, NOT AGAIN” AWARD FOR MOST REPETITIVE STORY: A tie between James Stenbeck’s dead-or-alive-go round on ATWT, and the Brooke/Ridge/Taylor redux redux redux on B&B. That triangle became a borefest two attempts to revive it ago, and the only thing that could surprise me about James Stenbeck at this point is if ATWT revealed that he was transitioning to become a woman.

I’m missing so many more, I’m sure – so tell me what’s on your mind. What was the best and worst ON SCREEN this year for you?

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3 thoughts on “2009 Best (and Worst)

  1. Patrick, you got the moment of the year for me. Nola saying good-bye to Company, once her mother’s boardinghouse, was the only thing in the last week of Guiding Light that got me teary. For me GL died when Maureen died, and though I watched it go out, my emotional connection to the show was gone. Lisa Brown, one of the main reasons I started watching back in the Nola-Kelly-Morgan days, made that connection one last time.

    How about a Turning Straw into Gold award for the reconfiguring of the awful Paul-Meg pair into the interesting Paul & Emily, with Nut Meg on the fringes? Who would have thought I would ever feel sorry for Meg or root for Paul & Emily as a couple.

    To balance it out, how about a Whatever Happened to…? award to ATWT for continuing the tradition of characters simply disappearing. Since Goutman has been around he has had a nasty habit of letting characters just stop appearing without explanation. John and Ben were the worst examples, though there was also Billy at around that time. This year we lost Matt and Jade. Matt was fairly disposable, though the audience seemed to respond to him even when he was a villain, but Jade is a member of a core family and Luke’s talk-to. Never mind that WT lost ALL its people of color at about the same time, the fact that Lily doesn’t seem to even care that her last connection to Rose has gone missing is just one more thing making it impossible to accept Noelle Beck as Lily.

  2. “Aidan, who went from upstanding guy to insane criminal in the blink of an eye;
    Amanda, a character whose rooting factor dissipated into thin air the day she slept with David;
    Adam, who killed his own brother, for which there can be no reason or logic. ”

    Don’t forget the destruction of Bianca for that awful Gabrielle story and the “groundbreaking lesbian love story”. Then there was the pointless recasting and destruction of Di. NuDi acted nothing like real Di and then got killed off all for a brief story that could have easily been done with a new character. Di wasn’t beloved but she was popular enough to deserve better treatment than that. Then there was the death and character assassination of Josh who held up a casino and endangered lives, and suddenly hated Bianca despite being close with her during her last stint.

  3. I agree about Nola and the kiss goodbye. I was amazed they even brought Nola back, especially since they did so little with her, but that moment, likely unscripted, said so much.

    I never thought they’d bring as many people back as they did for the last weeks of the show. As awful as this past decade of GL has been, it had a much better finale than I’d expected. Certainly not great, but better than I expected.

    As for Best Recast, I don’t see these shadings with Muhney. I think the show is trying very hard to write him as a complex character but he’s really just a plot device, and a cold one at that. He was ruined long ago.

    I would actually say the Patty/Mary Jane disaster was Worst Return.

    Best recast, I would pick Rachel from OLTL.

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