New head writer Dena Higley's work finally started to appear in mid-December. Although it's barely been one month, it is admittedly rather early to start making determinations about her direction and her ability to rejuvenate the show. Nonetheless, I do have a few initial gut reactions to some stories and plot points that I like and ones I don't. It IS a whole new One Life that we are looking at, and there definitely are already significant improvements being made.
What I'm Enjoying:/b> 1. In my "Best and Worst" column, I lamented at Cristian's ho-hum return. At that time, he was just starting to have "memories" that led the viewers to believe that he is not, in fact, Cris. The great thing about these mysterious flashbacks and memories is that I'm not so sure anymore that he isn't Cris. The show seems to be setting up a great thrill-ride for viewers in that they are keeping us guessing with a myriad of questions and hints and clues that seem to point in one direction but may actually be red herrings that lead to another direction. Having bandages removed from his face and wearing a hat on his head were clearly suggestive of the fact that this might be some other person who was given plastic surgery to look like Cristian Vega. But, could the show have planted those pieces as tools to throw us off? Could there be another explanation for the bandages? Whoever this person is, he clearly has been programmed to do something for someone. He seemed to lose his ability to draw and to remember any basic facts about his life. Again, the show leads us down the path of believing this is an imposter by allowing us to view the flashbacks that show someone placing photographs of Cris's loved ones on a bed and giving "Cris" a history lesson as to who they are and what their relationship is to Cristian Vega. I'm stumped....and I'm intrigued. Both of those feelings are good, though. I'm tuning in to find out if I'm right or if I'm wrong. If this tale had been penned by Malone, I would totally believe that this is an imposter playing Cris. Malone just wasn't very creative during his time on the show; a great deal of sloppy writing took place. But with a new head writer, I'm hopeful that there is more creative writing taking place that is putting viewers on a roller-coaster ride as we try to piece together the clues. I like it!
2. In connection with the Cristian mystery, I really am enjoying Jessica's involvement in it. Okay, so we all know by now that Jessica is going to suffer from a similar D.I.D. personality disorder like her mother. So, with that said, I was among a handful of readers who believed that she was going to be revealed as Tico's killer who committed the murder as one of her new personalities (as we will imminently find out, Cristian is the one responsible for this). Once again, I've been surprised at what I expected to be a predictable outcome to that story. However, my next thought, prompted by something a viewer wrote to me two weeks ago, is that one of Jessica's personalities is the one responsible for the empty alcohol bottles and the smoking. I also suspect this new personality is the one who "broke into" Jessica's car. After all, isn't it strange that nothing was stolen? Further, Jess seemed to have a feeling that something was awry since she didn't want Viki to notify Bo or the police. So, has Jessica been suffering from this disorder for weeks right under our very noses? That is the question, and I'm anxious to find out. Believe me, I'm not looking for another Niki Smith appearance or a retread of Viki's ordeal with this problem; we've been there and done that a hundred times. Nonetheless, I'm very interested in seeing how Higley handles Jess's condition with attention paid to Viki's history and past when she suffered from the disorder. It could be a very good story, assuming the acting chops are also there to support it from all of the players involved.
3. Another immediate improvement I have seen is the sudden transformation of Kelly Cramer's character. Since learning and accepting that Ace is not her biological son (and consequently learning her brother's dastardly role in the baby switch), Kelly has seemed to regain her sanity. For so long, the deterioration of this character seemed to be a result of two things: her obsession with Kevin and holding on to their marriage and her obsession with baby Ace and keeping the secret that he isn't really her child. Now that she seems to have resolved herself to the fact that Kevin isn't part of her life in a romantic manner and that baby Ace is with his biological mother, she seems to have regained her life back. She is no longer desperate; she is now able to focus some of her attention on her cousin Blair and her search for Todd, for example. She already seems to have some confidence back. She seems more focused and in control than before. She is slowly becoming a character I enjoy watching instead of one I just want to be erased from the screen. I'm glad that they made it a priority to re-establish Kelly Cramer as a viable and independent character instead of the suffering shrew that she had become.
4. Even though I'm not a fan of the romantic triangle between John/Evangeline/Natalie, I AM enjoying watching the struggle that John has everyday between his feelings for Evangeline and his undefined feelings for Natalie and the uncertainties he has about Cristian (our super-ace cop has already suspected Cris may not be who he says he is, and he isn't sure about the anger outbursts he has exhibited). Here is a man who is involved in a relationship with a woman he cares deeply about (that would be Evangeline, folks) and a woman he has shared a solid friendship with (with hints of possibly more) in Natalie. At this point, I'm not convinced that John's inner-struggle is because he loves Natalie more than Evangeline or even that he wants to be involved in a relationship with her. Rather, I think it because that he feels there is an undeniable bond with Natalie (after all, they did share a great many experiences together from before Cris's "death" until today), and he has always looked out for her and her safety--even during the Music Box Murders. So now that Cris is back in the picture, I don't believe that he is necessarily jealous of Cris, but he is cautious of him and his behavior because he doesn't want Natalie to be hurt by a potential imposter or by someone who might pose a threat to her down the road. But, Evangeline doesn't understand that or see his struggle in that way; she sees Natalie as a threat, and as a result, drama unfolds! As long as this doesn't become a story of John loves both Natalie and Evangeline, but which one will he choose?, I will enjoy watching McBain struggle over sorting out his feelings for both ladies and defining each relationship in a very clear manner.
5. While not a fan of the specific story (see the "I'm Not Enjoying" list below), I am happy to see that Blair is finally believing in Todd rather than assuming he has ditched her and the kids and is playing his typical "Todd games." As I've said before, it is so much better to have Blair and Todd getting along than being at one another's throats (I am soooo over that never-ending story). It is better to see that they are soul mates and have withstood so much pain, suffering, happiness, and joy together. They both don't have to sacrifice their scheming and manipulative habits; they just don't have to use those tactics with one another! Together, they are the force to be reckoned with! It will be interesting to see what happens when Blair puts the pieces together and stands up to Wacko Margaret to get back the man she loves.
6. Marcie Walsh has arguably become one of the most annoying characters under the last few months of Malone's tenure. Since Al died and Michael replaced him as her new romantic lead, she has just been transformed into a character I just don't root for anymore. With that said, her new struggle with deciding whether or not to undergo lyposuction is a great story for her! It's refreshing to see her deal frankly with the issues surrounding her weight problem. As she weighs the pros and cons of the procedure, she has a great deal of soul-searching to do. What if the procedure goes wrong? How can I afford this? Will it really make me feel better about myself? All of these are viable questions for her to be asking herself as her book tour approaches. I like that the focus is off of Marcie and Michael's relationship for a second (even though this decision DOES affect them both to a degree) and the story is wrapped around Marcie's vision of herself and how she is viewed by others in the world. It's a real story that I'm sure many people are faced with all of the time, so I'm eager to see how it is handled in the coming weeks.
What I'm Not Enjoying: 1. How just a couple of weeks can make a difference. After just having written about the fact that I enjoy the Bo/Nora/Daniel triangle, I am now absolutely despising it! Okay, how can Nora believe that she is ready to MARRY a man she hasn't really spent significant romantic time with? I mean, sure she and Daniel have dated and have shared some close moments, but would she have us believe that she feels she is ready to spend the rest of her life with him?? Completely unrealistic for this character. The Nora of today doesn't make rash decisions like that; I thought she learned her lesson from the incident involving sleeping with Sam to conceive a child for Bo. If the decision to accept Daniel's proposal is a ploy to make Bo jealous, it's childish. It's a schoolyard game used by children and teenagers to make some else jealous. The frank discussions Bo and Nora have had that deal with each other's forgiveness (or lack thereof) regarding the circumstances surrounding Matthew's conception have been long overdue; however, if each of them has unresolved feelings for the other (which Bo definitely does!), then it needs to be handled in a better way than these ridiculous tactics to provoke jealousy. Going on a few dates with Daniel to make Bo jealous is one thing; accepting a marriage proposal to achieve the same purpose is something quite different. Enough!
2. So suddenly Dorian "hates" Viki? Within the past year, the two of them shared a number of tender and compassionate scenes together. They seemed to resolve to have more than a truce---they would embark on a friendship together. The decades of feuding would be put to rest as each woman realized that they shared such a remarkable history together, that they really did have a caring bond that should be honored. Now, Dorian has decided that she "hates" Viki and her family all over again? Over what? Viki meddles in family business? Puts her opinions in where Dorian doesn't like? Are we REALLY going back to that petty nonsense? Now, Dorian is going to make it seem like Viki is having an affair with her (gay) student by putting their picture on the front page of The Sun? Please! It was comical that Viki beat her at her own game by having to point out that the half-naked man in the picture with her was actually gay (and therefore couldn't possibly be involved in an affair with her)---the looks on David and Dorian's faces when she left was priceless! But does this rivalry HAVE to be reignited? I'm just so over it!
3. Evangeline is one of the brightest and self-assured female characters on OLTL these days. She is a brilliant attorney, intuitive friend, and street-smart individual. Why, then, do the writers have to start taking those traits away from her by making her the irrational jealous girlfriend? She has feelings for John; in fact, she probably is as close to loving him as possible. I just can't stand to see this intelligent, head-strong woman reduced to conversations in which she is pushing John away or walking away from him because of jealous reactions to Natalie. I don't like her confrontations with Natalie, nor do I like how she is clouded by her insecurities. Are all of these feelings realistic? Sure. But one of the reasons I love Evangeline and John together as a couple is that both of them are solid, intelligent, and bright people who initially didn't seem the type to allow those emotions to get the better of them. But I do suppose it shows that even the most seemingly-secure people CAN allow those uncontrollable emotions of jealous and insecurity to take over despite the best resistance. I just hope these emotions do not destroy the integrity of a character I really think stands out among her female counterparts.
4. I wish the show would just cut its losses on this baby switch storyline. Why drag this thing out any longer? Let AMC deal with the ramifications of the switch; that show is doing a much better job of it anyway. Over in Pine Valley, JR has to confront Ace's biological mother Babe over the fact that she has led him to continue believing that Ace is really dead. Why does that now have to include Kevin and Asa over on OLTL? Kevin has NO biological ties to this baby! I don't know the law and don't pretend to, so I don't know if Kevin has any legal recourse to pursue in regards to claiming that because he raised Ace for almost a year since birth that he has some right to custody. However, I do know that it seems silly for him to pursue that. JR and Babe are Ace's parents; they didn't do anything wrong to warrant Ace finding a home in Llanview---the baby was stolen. Kelly has already done the right thing and accepted the fact that the baby is where it belongs. She loves Ace enough to know this; for once this year, she has done the unselfish thing and given up. Kevin should do the same thing when he finds out the truth. Storyline over. Move on.
5. Finally, Todd as a victim? Don't buy it. Don't think that I haven't noticed what the show has probably intentionally tried to do---show us that for once, Todd is the victim of a woman (as a former rapist, there is surely some irony in that). In the decade-long history of this character, when has Todd ever been capable of being in a position to be a victim? I just don't buy it, really I don't. It's a pathetic, lame attempt to separate Blair and Todd for some unapparent reason. Crazy Margaret wants to have Todd's child? Where did this come from?! As much as Todd and Blair might deserve some front-burner storyline, this isn't it. It's completely unbelievable to me knowing the history of Todd Manning (could anyone see Roger Howarth in Todd's current condition? I can't), and it's insulting to think that he couldn't find a way to escape.
We all have such high expectations for Dena Higley to revive the show and bring it back to its former glory. Show after show has created such great buzz about their stories this past year, and I'm just anxious for OLTL to be the most improved show of 2005. Frankly, we all deserve it!
Enjoy the week,