My 2017 best and worst

It’s been a long, strange year, kids. The oddest soap with the strangest twists is, clearly, our lived experience as US citizens, watching our current government do….whatever it is that it’s doing.

I’ve been catching the remaining shows here and there over 2017, and so when Digest’s Best and Worst issue came out, I had a bit of a clue.

Now, the Best and Worst issue is always a conversation starter. Sometimes I’ve agreed with it, and often, I disagree with it. They’ve made some calls over the years that haven’t panned out so well.

There is, for example, this 1987 Best and Worst about a certain Guiding Light couple.

Soap Digest 1987 feature article (Source classicsodnews.tumblr.com)

Yeah, that Josh and Reva that no one ever heard from again….uh, wait…..

Anyway, I have a few things to say about this year. Where appropriate, I’ll compare my entry with the Digest one.

SADDEST DEPARTURE: Tracy, General Hospital

Large chunks of GH have, and continue to be, unwatchable for me, but Elliot was glorious in every scene. The only good things I can say about her departure is that (a) it was on her terms and (b) Tracy isn’t dead, so we may see her sometime, if only for a day or two.

MOST WASTED CHARACTERS: Bobbie, Monica, Laura, Kevin, Scotty, Mac and Felicia, General Hospital

A GH with more of these characters would be so much more watchable, especially if they played to the rich history here. Laura is GH royalty, and while her story with Kevin is sweet, I wish we could see Laura without Luke, really coming into her own and not needing to be coupled. I’d love to see Monica grapple with the realization that she’s spent so much time on her career that some of the smaller moments of life have passed her by.

GH has really not done well by many of these characters, killing off children of Scotty and Felicia, for example. It’s great that some of them are still here, and we understand vets are expensive and can’t be on every day, but there are stories still to tell there, and ways to root new characters around these vets, as GH did so well with Hayden and Tracy. Get to it, folks.

SHOW MOST IN NEED OF AN IDENTITY:  The Young and the Restless 

Y&R had had a tough time of it since the death of Bill Bell.  It’s been torn between trying to update and evolve, while paying homage to its history.

Chuck Pratt’s storytelling style had certainly damaged the ship. Sally Sussman Morina and Kay Alden steadied Y&R and gave it back its heart.

Their departure was not one I was happy to see, although they may have been telling a 2017 story at a 1987 pace.

My main beef is that so many of Y&R’s stories – for years, through many writers – were literal retreads of previous stories. Even setting aside the Abbott vs Newman and Nikki/Victor conflicts playing into infinity, there are other stories that felt repetitive.

Cane and Lily? Done before. Victoria and Billy? Ditto. Lauren and Michael? Do we even know what they’re doing these days, or why?

There were some great moves: bringing back Dina, the Newman family implosion, a flinty resistance/attraction coupling in Billy and Phyllis.

But so many other stories were ones we’ve seen before. A number of characters just seem so played out. The new approaches by Mal Young might well be visually interesting. Then again, so were scenes recorded outside in pastoral Peapack.

Where is the story?

I don’t say this to be mean. There’s always been a few things I loved about this show, and an actor (ahem) or two that I just can’t stand, but beyond those personal opinions, I think something is missing here. I just get a feeling when I watch an episode that these stories are treading water.

The raw goods are still there, but Y&R needs to do some long term planning and decide  what stories it wants to tell, trim a few overgrown branches, and bring a few new characters on the canvas with the power to carry the next few years of story.

SHOW I NEVER EXPECTED TO LIKE AGAIN OR NAME THE MOST IMPROVED SHOW OF THE YEAR: Days of Our Lives

Holy cow, this is a surprise. A year ago this would be unthinkable.

Over the years, Days has embodied so many things I disliked about where soaps were going. A focus on action/adventure stories and supercouples. Stories that went so far over the top that new definitions for “the top” needed to be developed.

There have been times where I was entertained by DAYS. The initial James Reilly stint managed to be outrageous and yet, rooted the show in strong characters and stories, with Sami at the center.

DAYS has been largely a mess for the last decade or so, though, alternating some decent stories with some dreadful muck. Solid writers like Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas Jr. made way for the queen of dreck, Dena Higley. (More on that later).

A year ago it looked like Higley’s DAYS would slide into the trash heap, but Ron Carlivati saved the day.

Carlivati’s ascension to HW was a surprising piece of news, but honestly, it makes so much sense I’m surprised it didn’t happen earlier.  His past stints show that he can deliver a show with both punch and heart, and pay attention to history while breaking new ground.

He has a few bad habits, too – sending a lot of characters to prison, and saddling female characters with severe mental health issues – and I’m hoping he doesn’t rely on them while he’s at DAYS. But so far, it’s promising.

I most agree with Digest here, where it says that the Will story managed to make a back from the dead tale seem fresh. It was very unique, and a nice use of both Alison Sweeney (Sami) and Eileen Davidson (Susan/Kristen/Mary Moira).

It is, of all the shows currently on the air, the only one I really want to sit down and watch from beginning to end.  Who knew?

WORST SHOW: The Bold and the Beautiful 

Here’s where I’m sure people will just shrug and figure I’m crazy.

But Patrick, theyll say, B&B has been Digest’s best show for years now. It’s won Best Show Emmy. What are you smoking? 

Some truth, that’s what.

I don’t see what others see, I guess. To me, B&B is often unwatchable.

I get that a 30 minute show has its challenges. There’s only so much airtime, only so many characters you can play. And certainly, B&B has its fans. It celebrated 30 years this year.

But I don’t understand why. The serious repetition drives me to distraction.

Let’s take Liam. I like Scott Clifton, and certainly think he’s a solid younger leading man. But he’s been on the show since 2010 – seven years – and I can’t buy anything the character says or does. There is no credibility whatsoever. The constant flip/flop/flip of love interests for Liam makes it impossible to invest in what he, or any of the other connected characters, does.

There’s a rumor that Hope Forrester is coming back. Played by who? Does it even matter? These are just names on a chalkboard that just keep getting flipped around.

It’s a template that worked great for this show in its early years, with Ridge and Brooke and the third in that triangle, whether it was Caroline, Thorne, Eric or Taylor.

And it was great when there were counterpoints to that energy, whether it was the late, great Darlene Conley, or the legendary Susan Flannery. There was a balance.

That balance is gone, and no counterpoints have taken its place. The “new” Spectras are a mixed bag, but while some moments were fun, the whole story – and reuse of names – seems like a weird sort of cosplay.

The show has completely wasted Maya, one of the most fascinating characters of any show in the last five years, by diminishing her bitchy side and making Maya a PSA instead of a woman with a full, rich, complicated life.

It had two sparks of energy this year – Quinn and Ridge, and the return of Sheila – but bizarrely muffled both stories after short explorations.

Some of these stories are so bland and blah. And the shame of it is, there’s character and history there. I still say that the scene where Katie cut off contact with Brooke, by saying goodbye to her sister, was one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen in the last several years.

But Brooke has already married Katie’s ex-husband, discarded him, and is now making her way back to Ridge for the eight millionth time.

I didn’t particularly have an issue with the Thorne recast per se, other than a feeling that it’s just going to add to the repetition.

This show feels less like an actual story being told, and more like a board game where the pieces are interchangeable. I’m sure in this era of Short Attention Span Theater that this approach is totally intentional.

Years ago, I said that B&B never seemed like it had a long term story – that there was just a bell, invisible to the audience, perhaps ensconced in Brad Bell’s office.

And every few weeks, when the Bell rings (pun intended), there’s a voice that yells “Change!” And so the names flip on the board, and Liam loves Sally this week. Or Hope. Or Steffy, or Quinn, or let’s pick a name out of the hat and see who’s next.

I suppose it’s dramatic. But that doesn’t make it a story.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Since Digest has one of these, I’ll add a few thoughts of my own.

SOAP PROFESSIONAL WHO SHOULD BE BANNED FROM EVER AGAIN GETTING WITHIN 50 FEET OF A SOAP OPERA PRODUCTION: Dena Higley

Ms. Higley, I’m sure you’re a nice person, kind to animals, and a true professional in all you do.

But to be diplomatic, madam….it’s clear from every one of your head writing stints that you have a very different idea about good storytelling and good soap opera than…well, most everyone everywhere.

I wish you no ill will. I wish you health and happiness and every professional success. But Jesus, lady, do it as far away from any of the remaining soaps as you can. Please.

YOUR BUDGET IS SHOWING AWARD: Young & Restless

Kind of weird that so many stories in the last few months were on the shoulders of newbies or recurring players: Juliet, Zack, Graham, Ravi…….

Which reminds me….where are those characters again?

TIMID AWARD: Tessa and Mariah, Young & Restless

I’ve seen Otalia. I lived Otalia. I *loved* Otalia.

And sorry to say, but you, ladies, are no Otalia.

I’d write a whole post about how sad it is that, almost a decade after Otalia, we still have a story that tiptoes around two women falling in love. But I’d get so sad and angry, and that happens too often these days, so, self-preservation, kids.

WORST CHARACTER NAME: David Bensch, General Hospital

Really? James DePaiva deserved better. (He also shoulda been a recast for Jeff Webber or Jimmy Lee Holt, if you ask me, but that’s a whole other can of worms.)

MOST WELCOME RETURN TO DAYTIME: Kassie DePaiva

Speaking of the DePaiva family, it’s wonderful to see a healthy Kassie back at DAYS.

CHARACTER I’D BE MOST HAPPY TO NEVER SEE AGAIN:  Brady Black, DAYS

Can someone explain the rooting value? I don’t know if it’s just that Brady’s been ruined by story, or if it’s the performance of the actor, but ugh, this character is unbearable. Why does the show keep pushing Brady front and center?

MISSING IN ACTION:  The Female Catalyst and the Male Heartthrob, All Soaps

These two character archetypes are classic ones that we’ve seen in hundreds, if not thousands, of episodes of TV, both daytime and prime time.

Sure, it’s 2017, and the definition of those archetypes have evolved.

But it feels like today’s shows needs these characters.

They need a Nola Reardon, or Carly Roberts, or Sami, Brady, or Reva Shayne, or Carly Tenney. The character who wants more for themselves, and pulls several other characters into that pursuit.

And we also need a heartthrob that is handsome and strong, and maybe, just maybe, one without a rap sheet.

Writers love an anti-hero, sure, and many stories over the last decade or more have been strong women redeeming the anti-hero. Those have been great stories.

But hey, a hero wouldn’t be such a bad thing in the mix, too. A truly gorgeous man with a moral center and a focus that’s almost as intense as the hunger of that female catalyst?  A recipe for a hot, engaging story.

GH is sorta kinda close to this with the Griffin/Ava story, and I think it was hoping Nelle would be that young catalyst, but her story has been a bust so far.

Most other shows haven’t even tried in recent years, on either front.  I wish they would.

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One thought on “My 2017 best and worst

  1. I agree with you 100% on B&B being the worst show. I watched a bit of one episode while at the gym, and it made me sick. The dialogue was so inane that it took away the credibility of the characters. Now, one can have a retread story, but if some new elements were added, it can be freshened up. Ridge/Thorne. Instead of just puffing out their breasts, how about playing the real anger that Thorne feels (Ridge took Caroline, his wife killed Thornes wife, Ridge’s daughter killed Ali, Ridge being the ‘star’ of the show because he designed, while Thorne made the business really happen) and Ridge’s own feeling of vulnerability (he isn’t really a Forrester, Stephanie is no longer around to promote him, he damaged his relationship with both Eric and Brooke by his kiss with Quinn). And how about Katie throwing a jab at Brooke that she is ‘at it again’ with Ridge. That she sacrificed her relationship with her sister over a man that she is done within less than a year.

    And for God sake, why are we not seeing Rick in this mix of Thorne and Ridge, or his opinion of Ridge going after his mother again (for that matter, why is he not going after Bill)?

    And finally, after 30 years of a show in the fashion industry, wouldn’t it be nice to finally have a gay designer come in and actually be better than Ridge? Maybe throw a monkey wrench into the mix by turning all of Forrester on its ear, but suddenly put Spectra on the map legitimately?

    Douglas, I couldn’t agree more with your last point. The fact that it’s never happened is insanity. They should bring back Clarke, CJ’s father, and have him come out as a gay man. We’d then have a legacy character, a gay man and potentially a new big-bad/villain. All in one character! If not him, someone else. There have been gay designers as day players here for there, but the fact that they’ve been an asterisk and a footnote in a story steeped in fashion is just nonsense.

    I don’t mind a retread once in a while, if it’s done right. But the Ridge/Brooke/Third story has been running 30 years and the Liam Changes His Mind Every Five Minutes Triangle has been running for seven. It’s so beyond tired by now.

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