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 Two Scoops: December 28, 2009 columns
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Jerry ver Dorn
Besties and worsties
by Michael
For the Week of December 28, 2009
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Part two of a special two-part look back at the events of the past year in Llanview.
This is part two of a special two-part year-end Two Scoops showcasing the best and worst of One Life to Live in 2009. This week, Michael is here with his thoughts in the past twelve months. To read Dawn's commentary from last week, offering up her thoughts on OLTL's hits and misses, click here.

We've put together a special year-end list of the top ten most-read Two Scoops columns over the past 12 months. To check out the list and see what came out on top, please click here.
  MORE YEAR-END READING

2009 YEAR-IN-REVIEW TWO SCOOPS
  AMC   Part 1: Best | Part 2: Worst
  ATWT Part 1 Part 2
  B&B  Part 1 | Part 2
  DAYS Part 1: Best | Part 2: Worst
  GH   Part 1: Best | Part 2: Worst
  OLTL Part 1 | Part 2
  Y&R  Part 1 | Part 2

  OLTL Best/Worst 2008: Part 1 | Part 2
  OLTL Best/Worst 2007: Part 1 | Part 2
  OLTL Best/Worst 2006: Part 1 | Part 2
  OLTL Best/Worst 2005: Part 1 | Part 2

  '09 Two Scoops: All OLTL Columns
  All the Recaps: 2009 Recaps
  All the Headlines: 2009 News

I love Christmas and everything about it. What I don't like is travel. I hate traveling in and out of New York City, because invariably, no matter what I do or which route I take from my home, no matter how clever I think I am in outwitting the New York transit system, I always end up several blocks away from my port of travel with a heavy bag, and I'm bobbing and weaving through the longest, narrowest, and perhaps most congested streets in midtown Manhattan, wishing I was dead before I even leave town.


And this is what is going to happen tomorrow morning, on Christmas Eve, with gifts still yet to be bought. It's going to be me, making a mad dash for the Borders next to Madison Square Garden as I try to get the last three gifts in an overstuffed suitcase, which d,espite having roller-wheels, never quite rolls properly on a crowded city block, while my carrying arm has gone numb and my hip is being bludgeoned in motion. I'm probably sleep-deprived, then I'm having to haul my butt through Penn Station as I search for the proper Amtrak train. All because - and this is where Oprah comes in, people - I am, yes, a child of divorce. Thus, my blended family has seen fit to split itself between two inconvenient locations this Christmas season, and so I get to bounce like a ping-pong ball between them for the next week or so. Huzzah!


Oh, I know what you're gonna say. "Why didn't you leave on Wednesday? Christmas Eve at Penn Station will be crazy!" Well, that was my game plan too, mister/missy, but apparently someone else in the family thought it would be more convenient for them for me to run with the bulls the day before Christmas. So, fine. I sacrifice. I'll be that guy. I'll take the hit.


But it's not all bad tonight, because today on OLTL, Matthew walked, he and Danielle got all cuddly, Bo and Nora shared cute gifts that reminded me of the good ol' days, Clint remained a supercool cat, and Mitch got to deliver lines like "I'm just cuckoo for Cramers!" Even more than my show, though, do you know what will sustain me in my brutal morning commute? Do you know what soothes the angry urban shut-in in my soul, dear Two Scoops readers? What is the balm for what ails me, my sunshine in shadow? Why, it's you, of course. You, my faithful public, and this year's Best & Worst of One Life to Live 2009. So lock up your daughters, hogtie your sons, and kiss your pets goodbye, it's time for another round of wildly fluctuating awards categories with possible redundancies from the previous year! This time with 75% less long, angry rants about Todd and Marty! Are you ready? I know I am! Let the fur fly!


Please note: Our first deadly serious category has actual nominees. This is serious business. Please treat it as such.


Best Performance by an Inanimate Object - Nominees:

Stacy Morasco's bag o' blood - Apparently I can just leave it like anywhere and there's no problem. That's staying power.
Cole Thornhart's evil Mentos - He jonesed for them all winter long, and it was all Mentos fun and games 'til Matthew lost his legs. Freshmaker, my foot!
Clint Buchanan's shotgun - Last seen in last week's big blow-out with Clint, Nora, and Our Kim. It's both a wicked cool tool of revenge against Bo and Nora's cheatin' hearts, and a disturbing Freudian symbol!
That crazy mechanical Thanksgiving turkey - In November's Thanksgiving episode, Brody terrorized, er, charmed Bree and the rest of us with a wonderful robotic turkey which shrieked "GOBBLE-GOBBLE-GOBBLE-111000111-GOBBLE" at us in terrifyingly awesome robotspeak. Its harrowing star turn has yet to leave my mind.
Nash Brennan, younger than springtime - Easily more interesting than the Mason/Noah storyline on As The World Turns with ten times the charisma of Jake Silbermann! Dead and clearly loving it, Nash has still got that certain '"something," and as this year's creepy November sweeps episodes proved, he can not only still dress for success in his white swingers outfit, but he can also still give the ladies the side-eye. I saw you watching me all week long, Nash. Don't play.

WINNER: Nash Brennan, by a mile. Accept no substitute. He might be a little dry these days but he's still the finest vintage around!


And now, onto the rest of the undemocratically-decided awards!


Most Revitalized Character: Clint Buchanan. It's just like Michael Bolton said: "she said she loved him, but she lied!" On contract but long without a purpose, Jerry ver Dorn's Clint recast seemed to me to flounder until the death of Buke patriarch Asa. Since then, the new Clint has blossomed and developed an identity all his own, forced to assume his Pa's throne for the good of the family, turning his "inner Asa" loose on first Dorian, then Langston, and now, finally - just like Asa - his own flesh and blood.

This is the second time Clint has been faced with an unfaithful wife, and this time he's not taking it lying down and headed for the backburner - no, along with getting mad, Clint has gotten even, and in the last weeks of 2009, has risen with more fire and purpose than Clint has shown since the Montez mess of fall '08. In a sudden flash of betrayal, Clint is instantly a power player again, and ver Dorn plays it to the hilt. He's spitting old-hat soap lines like "You're a coward" at Nora and making them sound like the burning truth of God, clocking Bo with a haymaker, and knocking back fistfuls of booze like it was going out of style - but Buchanans never really do.


Clint's inversion of the story of Bo and Nora's romantic reunion this past year by pretending to apply it to himself and Kim was the most sinister bedtime story I ever heard. And his new relationship with Kim has suddenly been turned on its head, as well; as of Tuesday's show, the seducer has become the seduced, with Kim disarmed by Clint's clever reading of her motives and his ability to best her in a drinking contest, leaving Amanda Setton showing a naked, vulnerable side to a character I previously assumed to be heartless. But Kim's not heartless, I don't think, just deeply cynical, a child, one helpless in the face of something real, honest, and tough as nails: the 'new' Clint. And so are we. And that's okay. 'Cause he's the king, baby.


Most Ignored Character: Addie Cramer. When Ron Carlivati reintroduced Addie as a (mostly) sane, single, sassy sixtysomething, it was like a bomb dropped on Llanview; suddenly, you could do anything with any time-worn character, and it could go any kind of wild new direction. The post-St. Anne's Addie is a constant delight; the only problem is we've seen precious little of her since last summer. And why? Stage thespian Pamela Payton-Wright is not on contract, and her fee can't be that high; plus, Addie plays an integral role in the lives of Dorian, Blair, and all the Cramers. When she enters a scene, anything can happen, and has. So where's Addie, OLTL? Why don't we get her anymore except on holidays like Wednesday? I call foul. I demand more and better Addie for Llanview in 2010.


Best Exit: Jared Banks. JARED! I loved him, I lost him, I hate it, it hurts, but if you've got to go, go like Jared did this year. It wasn't so much his literal death scenes that made this exit work, but the resulting fallout: the heartbreaking scenes of a Thanksgiving and Christmas season without Jared, and the loss of his presence felt through Natalie, Charlie, Viki, Bree, Jessica, Renee, Clint, even characters like Matthew, Moe, and Noelle, who all were touched by him. Also consider the touching, resonant poems read on Thanksgiving by Viki, and at his memorial service by half of the cast, along with Melissa Archer's shattering performances day in and day out, with Natalie still white-knuckling her way through every second of every minute of every hour of every day without her husband.

When Jared still occasionally does appear, in dreams, memories, or visions, it's like a gust of cool wind into a stuffy room; he smiles at Natalie, touches her, speaks, and, just as it did for Natalie, for us too, it all rushes back. In this way, OLTL has articulated the experience of mourning in a way that most modern soaps now take for granted: every day becomes a struggle, every day a new goodbye. We can't forget Jared, because OLTL won't let us; they have made us carry it daily since. And that's real.


Worst Exit: Talia Sahid. A senseless death in a senseless story. Talia was a rare breed on soaps; an unpretentious, down-to-earth female lead, with the same awkwardness and candor of real life, she carried herself like any officer on the police force, rarely appeared out of uniform in soapy glam makeup while on the job, and just dressed down and did her work. When she found love for Antonio, we liked it because we liked her; we'd learned to respect her, and she demanded attention by not screaming for it it, but rather by just being real on a soap opera. We wanted her to get the same kind of love as an Erica or a Kendall or a Jessica or a Natalie because Talia deserved to get swept off her feet, too, even when they always remained firmly planted on the ground.

By most accounts, Antonio and Talia were written out of the show due to a combination of budgetary issues and story concerns. Okay, fine. So why didn't OLTL write them out together, in a happy ending? Was a cheap, exploitative contract-player death in the lame KAD storyline so important to the program? Exiting them separately as they did also leaves several loose story threads twisting in the wind; how would omnipotent crime boss Carlo Hesser ever have allowed this to happen to his daughter? How would he have not sought revenge? What will become of Antonio and Carlo's long feud? Will Antonio ever find happiness at all? It was a sour, nasty note to end Antonio on (let alone Talia), it leaves a huge question mark regarding Carlo, and it killed another strong female on ABC Daytime, one with great ties to a famous villain and - something even more rare than feminine strength on a soap - Middle Eastern ancestry. What a tacky way to go. For shame, OLTL.


Runner-up: Pamela Stuart. Poor Christine Jones. Back for one day to play a corpse. What the heck was that?


Best Return: Rachel Gannon. I know you all thought I was going to say Mitch. He's runner-up, live with it. I never thought they'd bring Rachel back on contract after all these years, but betcha by-golly-wow they did in the gorgeous and talented persona of Daphnee Duplaix Samuel, and here's why I think this is so important - Rachel is a strong, layered, nuanced black female heroine with almost twenty years of history, who is still viable in story, still strong and level-headed, and still, like Talia, able to command respect and attention just by being relatively real. This kind of longevity and character consistency in a black lead on soaps is sadly very rare; it's actually very rare of characters of all colors, these days.

OLTL did right by Rachel by not resurrecting Mari Morrow's crack addict Rachel, or Sandra Grant's murdering headcase, but by honoring all of her history, particularly Original Recipe Rachel, Ellen Bethea's tough, honest, principled character, who now manages to also have a cracked, damaged core from those turbulent recast years of writhing beneath her righteous armor. When Greg penetrated her defenses, we saw past Rachel's "Type A" rehab counselor front to a frightened, traumatized ex-con, struggling to reconcile the strong parts of herself with the raw, fearful ones. Greg Evans may be a chair-throwin' maniac, and the triangle with Greg, Shaun, and Rachel may not have been terribly original, but the good doctor's pursuit of Rachel gave us one of the most careful, humanistic, and three-dimensional portraits of an African-American female on American daytime in the last twenty years.

Reviving Rachel not only services the Gannon/Hanen clan - one of the most diverse and unique families on soaps (still not enough Hank or RJ though) - but also allows OLTL to begin to develop a thriving African-American canvas again, and allows for different types of characters, delineating between a bubbly, romantic character like Layla, who flourished in her new romance with Cristian and her touching drama with Oliver, and a slightly older, slightly more mature but damaged ex-Ingénue like Rachel. This is a show that now has two well-thought-out black females, and to tell the truth, I don't think that would've been possible without Rachel's introduction forcing the writing team to learn to write for their differences. Suddenly, we have more black representation than The Young & The Restless. And while Layla's been around a while, that trend started this year, with Destiny and Rachel.


Runner-up: Mitch Laurence. See? When you enter with an exhumed corpse in a greenhouse and end the year with a surprise coffin-jacking, you're almost a shoo-in for Best Return of 2009. Mitch is still large and in charge, and I love his crazy ways. 'Nuff said.


Worst Return: Rebecca Lewis. I don't think I've ever felt more insulted by a character return. I grew up watching Todd and church girl Rebecca Lewis' tortured, abortive affair-on-the-run, watching it roil with pent-up passion and then get snuffed out; I was rapt at the forbidden chemistry Roger Howarth and Reiko Aylesworth shared together. Rebecca was a decent, true, naïve young woman with a more primal, dark side to her, a side that loved "dirty little thrills," just waiting to peek out. She didn't know how to deal with what she really wanted, which was Todd. And then she left, and one assumed that was that; Rebecca would go on to find a better, less-dramatic life. But no.

Apparently not content with simply bringing back Powell Lord in a misguided attempt to try to whitewash Todd of the stink of the "rapemance," OLTL also dragged Rebecca back onto the canvas this year; she was played by a truly wooden recast actress and appeared for maybe ten episodes tops, not enough time to do anything of merit. For no apparent reason, Rebecca had suddenly gone insane, became the "Sexy Sadie" to ex-fiancé Powell's Charlie Manson, and began helping him kill people, which was followed by her helping him to terrorize Jack, take Blair, Téa, and Todd hostage, and finally, with her blowing herself up in the KAD frat house.

Though Rebecca had always been a bit shaky emotionally, no explanation was given for her psychotic behavior or her vilification by the writers; no character who knew or cared for her seemed to anymore, not even Todd, for whom Rebecca had once meant everything (all he ever said about it was, "Is that Rebecca Lewis?"). No insight into Rebecca's life since Llanview was given, nor into her life with new sibling Kyle, or how it related to the scraps of Rebecca's past we had heard during her first run on the show.

The only reason Rebecca was brought back was to say they did it; it didn't apparently matter that nothing she did made sense, or that it forever tainted one of Todd's greatest stories. But then, OLTL already did that with Todd and Marty's 2008 romance, so I don't know why I'm surprised. For me as a totally overinvested fan, this truly callous treatment of Rebecca was like Todd and Marty's rapemance, or the murder of Gabrielle Medina, or the 2003 resurrection of Victor Lord; something that is a black mark on the program.


Best Story: Matthew's Accident. It was the true definition of an umbrella story, what soaps do best: Cole takes drugs, which leads to Matthew getting in Cole's car, which leads to a traffic accident, which leads to Shane being diagnosed with cancer, Marty regaining memories of motherhood, Cole's agonizing rehabilitation, the reintroduction of Rachel, the civil suit battle between parents and child, the teen triangle with Danielle and Destiny, and, of course, the decade-in-the-making romantic reunion of one of OLTL's best supercouples, Bo and Nora.

Everyone won in this sprawling story, even the losers. Brandon Buddy and Cole were elevated by his great work at the rehab center with Rachel, which finally transformed Cole into a real character, while Matthew was fleshed out as a teen lead in his relationships with Dani and Destiny, his ever-shifting issues with Bo and Nora, and his conflicted feelings about his parents' clandestine love. Susan Haskell and Hillary B. Smith also finally got to flex their acting muscles again in their love/hate push-pull scenes following the initial accident. They drew on Nora and Marty's long history in a horrifying new situation.

Jerry ver Dorn has flamed back into full blaze as Clint, the husband scorned after the accident caused Bo and Nora to reconnect, while Robert S. Woods is rediscovering aspects of Bo that I haven't seen in years with every new glance at Nora through unclouded eyes. Rachel and the Gannons were revived, while a new black family was born with the Evanses, and Téa did what she does best by bringing a gun to a knife fight in her courtroom duels with Elijah. I don't know what else to say, it was that good. The accident/paralysis storyline may not have been as flashy as Mitch's return, but it was character- and history-based storytelling in the classic soap tradition, modernized for today, and it's continuing even now, with Bo and Nora as the lovers in exile, Clint the vengeful patriarch, and Matthew finally taking his first new steps. This is what soaps are all about.


Worst Story: My Sister Stacy. Again, how much can I say when the sheer density of wrongness is so simple? Stacy Morasco is a plot device, not a character; an action, not a person. She blew onto the show out for revenge against her runaway, pregnant-teen sister for "stealing her man," who she apparently claimed when he picked up her backpack in junior high. WHAT? Seriously, what? Whose idea was this? How entertaining did OLTL possibly believe that motivation could be? Within weeks, Stacy had slept with Fish, practically date-raped Rex, and blackmailed Gigi into breaking up with Rex and faking an affair with Brody. She ransomed little Shane's life so she could finally have that life with Rex, the man who didn't want her. This led to the utter ruination of Rex and Gigi as a couple, the complete destruction of Rex as a male lead, and the endless frontburner exposure of one single character who I simply can't abide.

Stacy is everything that's wrong with soaps today; she is a weaker carbon copy of better, classic soap vixens who actually had substantial motivations, characterizations, and layered performances. She is the Sam's Club Sami Brady, the Wal-Mart Sheila Carter. She is a hollow vacuum taking up script space, making everything cheap and two-dimensional; she is no character, she is all plot. And in being all plot, she has infected the characters around her with the same disease: plot-based stupidity, plot-based misogyny, plot-based promiscuity, plot-based repetition for the sake of, again, plot. Plotty plotty plot plot.

At least now Stacy's plot seems to be making some coherent sense, as she interacts with a monolithic, real character: Mitch Laurence. Sic 'er, Mitch. Stacy's greatest service comes in giving us Schuyler, and in enabling potential new storyline for Kyle and Oliver with her counterfeit Rex-baby. But she's just the vessel. Strip away the elements of other people's stories, the breakout sidekick Kim, and there's nothing about Stacy that works. OLTL knows that. They had to know that several months into the year. The question is why it is now taking them a year to get rid of her.


Best New Character: Schuyler Joplin. There's a rarity of good, decent, kind men on soaps today, especially on ABC Daytime. Brody Lovett's one, but he was last year's hit. This year it's Schuyler for me, or as Kim calls him (I still don't know why), "Sky King." Sure, Schuyler is keeping Stacy's secret (which is also a lie against him) for now, but it's not his nature, and he's clearly tormented. His feelings for Gigi are pure and true, he seems to genuinely respect and listen to her, and he just wants to do the right thing. Unlike Rex, Todd or John, he doesn't browbeat or intimidate his fellow characters or female counterparts, but connects with them as people. And he has an actual life, not just plot.

Schuyler struggles to get by, struggles to find work, struggles to pay the rent; these are problems we can relate to, and I connect to Schuyler because nothing about him seems to be a put-on, but rather, he's someone who's had a hard life, made bad choices, is endlessly self-deprecating (not that I'd know anything about that), and is trying to stay on the straight and narrow and do better. Schuyler's ordinary people; like Brody, or Andrew Carpenter, he is a damaged, good person with a burning heart that sometimes threatens to overcome him. That's a human story, and it used to be a soap story. So why do daytime execs think this is so "uncool?"


Worst New Character: Stacy Morasco. See also Worst Story.


And now, switching the order up for a little suspense...


Worst Couple: Todd Manning and Téa Delgado. I will be the first to admit that Trevor St. John and Florencia Lozano have crackling, incendiary chemistry. It was evident from the first day they shared scenes together this time last year. Put simply, when you get them in a jail cell or a courtroom or a room with breakable objects, this Todd and this Téa are hot together, and when they clash, they seize the screen. Physicality and fury ares not their problem. It's everything else that comes next that's the problem. The Todd and Téa of 2009 is a viral outgrowth of the problems the writers had with the Todd and Téa of the '90s, only this time, Todd is skating the edge of that soap abyss, a single, dark word: Unredeemable.

Todd and Téa's reconnection began well enough, based in their history; a dysfunctional, pathological love/hate relationship, fueled by anger, twisted psychological issues, and angry sex. In my eyes, their "no strings" trysts were just a physical representation of all the mental and verbal trauma they used to inflict on each other as foreplay back when Roger Howarth was playing the role. Instead of sleeping with Todd, Téa fought him all the time. Now she can do both, and does.

But as always with this couple, OLTL has the same problem: honesty about the story it's telling. The Todd of 2008 and 2009 became involved with Téa because they understood each other, and didn't care about their ugliness. She was the only woman who would touch him after his re-rape of Marty; she didn't care what he had done, and got him acquitted because she could. Because she wanted to, because she wanted him, like she always has, no matter what he does to anyone, even her. Unlike in the past, there were no attempts to change Todd, or fix him, no striving to be better on either side; instead, Todd and Téa seemed to finally have cast aside their illusions about one another, and simply wallowed in their twisted, so-bad-it's-good chemistry.

Then, OLTL once again decided to make this into a "real" love story. They began to claim that Todd and Téa had genuine, decent, true-blue, good feelings for one another; not the same crazy, wild feelings they've always had, but something with hearts and flowers and puppy-dog tails. They began to present Todd as once again a perfect family man, but also a perfect boyfriend, a perfect husband, the guy who gets your favorite singer to serenade you on a roof but also sleeps with his ex-wife a couple weeks prior. But Todd had done nothing to redeem himself from 2008's rape of Marty, or his kidnapping of Hope. Yet we were asked to accept him as a sex machine and a good guy.

Suddenly, Todd was simultaneously World's Greatest Lover and World's Best Boyfriend, while Téa transformed into Suffering Heroine who just wants to live a good life. As always, Téa's bleating complaints about Todd rang hollow in the face of her own enabling of him. How do these cheesy paperback novel archetypes square with the delusional rapist and remorseless defense attorney we saw earlier this year? Answer: They don't, and OLTL apparently did not care. Instead, with the Danielle storyline, they decided to ignore these problems and character issues and try to just make everyone else worse instead. While Blair humiliated herself yet again for Todd's cursory attention, the show also tried to sell an extremely dodgy rewrite of Michael Lowry's long-suffering Ross Rayburn as a kayak-battering surfer, in the hopes of making Todd look like the "Good Dad" by comparison. Even Stefano DiMera is a better dad than Todd at this point, people.

But Ross went nuts, and Todd strode in like the hero, while only Blair was allowed to call Téa on the fact that she hid Todd's child away out of jealousy and spite for fifteen years. Meanwhile, Starr coos over Todd at his homecoming, and calls him a great father. When did Starr and Todd make up? What did he do to win her love and trust back? How does Téa really feel about what Todd did to Marty last year? How is Todd a romantic leading man again after that story? I can't tell you, because I don't know, and I don't think OLTL knows either.

They know that Florencia Lozano and Trevor St. John are talented actors with amazing chemistry, and that Todd and Téa have fire between them. They know that the characters' relationship is thorny and complicated. But they don't want to deal with the characters that got back together late last year; they don't want to do the work to rehabilitate Todd, or to be honest about Téa's many contradictions. They want her to be wild and volatile, yet still a pristine heroine above reproach by anyone but the most biased characters (Blair, Ross, Danielle). They want to have it both ways with Todd and Téa, to keep them crazy but also write them the way you'd write Ryan and Greenlee on AMC, and they can't. Soap love is not one-size-fits-all. That's why they've become OLTL's worst couple, even when they're extremely watchable.

If not for the lack of action by OLTL regarding Todd, I would not have given Todd and Téa the Worst slot; that would have gone to Rex and Gigi. But I don't recognize Todd since the rapemance, and this storyline has done nothing to fix him, nor would any reunion with Blair or Evangeline or anyone else. The problems with Todd since last year go deeper than his romances, but OLTL doesn't want to deal with them, or honor these complex characters. They just want to write a lazy, slanted love story, something that fits into a sanitized, pre-selected box like "Rylee" or "Jason and Sam" or "Rex and Gigi." But neither Todd nor Téa were ever any good with labels. So why are these twisted antiheroes being forced to pretend they are Holden and Lily Snyder, when they're more Carlo and Alex or James and Barbara?


Runner-up: Rex Balsom and Gigi Morasco. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I'll spare you another speech. I used to love them, but how can I love a couple where twice in the same year, the man is blaming the woman for his sleeping around? First when he knocked Stacy up, then when Rex's neglect led to Gigi falling for Schuyler; now, he tells her she has to move out, away from her son, and hide her shame in the forest at Viki's cabin. What the deuce? What kind of storytelling is this? And why should I root for an immature, bullying boor like Rex, or the whimpering daffodil Gigi becomes around him?


Best Couple: Oliver Fish and Kyle Lewis. The gay agenda rears its chartreuse head once more! Was there ever any doubt? And again, is there really much more to say that I haven't in the past? More than just giving us a great couple, the "Kish" saga singlehandedly revolutionized gay and lesbian storytellng on daytime TV, telescoping from a small, intimate love story between two people to a gigantic umbrella story affecting the whole canvas, showcasing a mayoral election between Llanview's matriarchs, including several tasty side romances and secrets (Cristian and Layla, Stacy's baby), and exploring a fascinating gay and lesbian sociopolitical landscape which no other soap would ever have the guts to do.

It's given us perhaps daytime's only black lesbian in Amelia Bennett, and shown yet more diversity with Nick Chavez, a dedicated community organizer, thereby exposing racial and cultural plateaus which are very real in LGBT culture. It's also made one of OLTL's most famous characters, Dorian, into a pro-gay crusader, while discussing and, yes, unapologetically cheering for gay rights on a serial drama airing at 2:00 in the afternoon.

We can debate about the merits of the story, and how it played out: Was Kyle and Oliver's story told too fast (in my opinion, no)? Did they have enough roots on the canvas (for me, just enough)? Were Amelia and Nick worthy of their focus in the umbrella story? Did Viki get enough airtime (no)? Why wasn't there more of a voice for the anti-gay marriage side? These are valid questions.

Personally, I feel OLTL and other soaps have spent years tiptoeing around the question of gay rights, and have given more than enough airtime to the alternative side of the argument. But after a certain point, you get tired of playing devil's advocate. It's been seventeen years since Michael Malone's "Billy Douglas" story; if OLTL hasn't come far enough since then to be able to tell a forceful, positive story about gay equality, it never will. And by showing us supporting characters like Amelia and Nick, even if they were lesser in characterization, they contributed to a larger, more diverse tapestry and fabric of life on the show, the likes of which daytime has never seen in gay and lesbian characters.

Finally, Oliver and Kyle. They're adorable together, the actors have amazing, easy chemistry, and despite one half of the couple being straight in real life, they show not a hint of anxiety; there's a fresh, unforced naturalism that other gay characters on TV don't have. We heard so much about them from each other before they actually reunited, in their stories, their lovelorn glances, their pained sighs; every small beat added to a larger song. When the speeches are over and the signs are thrown down, they're just two people, two adults in love, just like anyone else on OLTL. These are not dayplayers or under-fives holding hands with Billy or Michael Delaney; they're real, fleshed-out, flawed and idiosyncratic, full-grown, and not going anywhere, not panning away or fading to black. Every time they touch, they move us a little further into the future. OLTL's fearlessness with this couple is what OLTL is all about.


Runner-up: Jared and Natalie Banks. In many ways, Jared and Natalie are a "Best Couple" for what they didn't do this year, as much as what they did. Backburnered and marginalized by OLTL and ABC Daytime since the "Tess's secret room" story concluded last year, Jared and Natalie did what all strong soap couples with real staying power do in hard times: they persevered. Through a subliminal wedding, a series of "talk-to" scenes supporting other frontburner characters, a succession of aborted short-term storylines, and finally, their return to the stage with the final mystery leading into Mitch's return, Jared and Natalie's romance retained the dignity, care, rapport, and "spark" that Ron Carlivati first wrote them with.

They kept their fanbase, remained a steady, intriguing couple in the eyes of the audience, and were recognized again by critics when Jared was killed off far too soon. In many ways, even more than Kyle and Oliver, Jared and Natalie were the "indie favorites" of 2009's "Billboard Top 100," underrated but always hip, showing up some of the network favorites. They were rebels, baby, bred in Texas, and they were just too hot to handle. They could have gone on forever. I will always love 'em. BTW, Jared got a great haircut in the afterlife...if he is dead. DUNH-DUNH-DUNHHH!!!


So that's your Besties and your Worsties for 2009. Please write in to praise or bury me and my madcap choices; I welcome all comers. Now to try to snatch a few precious hours of sleep before braving the Christmas Eve hordes. Here now is my other present to you; I will not see you in two weeks, but will instead be back next week for our New Year's edition! OMG! Double-barreled, baby. But until next time, Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night! Don't eat the yellow snow.





And this is what is going to happen tomorrow morning, on Christmas Eve, with gifts still yet to be bought. It's going to be me, making a mad dash for the Borders next to Madison Square Garden trying to get the last three gifts in an overstuffed suitcase which despite having roller-wheels never quite rolls properly on a crowded city block, while my carrying arm has gone numb and my hip is being bludgeoned in motion, probably sleep-deprived, then having to haul my butt through Penn Station searching for the proper Amtrak train. All because - and this is where Oprah comes in, people - I am, yes, a child of divorce. Thus, my blended family has seen fit to split itself between two inconvenient locations this Christmas season, and so I get to bounce like a ping-pong ball in-between them for the next week or so. Huzzah!


Oh, I know what you're gonna say. "Why didn't you leave on Wednesday? Christmas Eve at Penn Station will be crazy!" Well, that was my game plan too, mister/missy, but apparently someone else in the family thought it would be more convenient for them for me to run with the bulls the day before Christmas. So, fine. I sacrifice. I'll be that guy. I'll take the hit.


But it's not all bad tonight, because today on OLTL, Matthew walked, he and Danielle got all cuddly, Bo and Nora shared cute gifts that reminded me of the good ol' days, Clint remained a supercool cat, and Mitch got to deliver lines like "I'm just cuckoo for Cramers!" Even more than my show, though, do you know what will sustain me in my brutal morning commute? Do you know what soothes the angry urban shut-in in my soul, dear Two Scoops readers? What is the balm for what ails me, my sunshine in shadow? Why, it's you, of course. You, my faithful public, and this year's Best & Worst of One Life to Live 2009. So lock up your daughters, hogtie your sons and kiss your pets goodbye, it's time for another round of wildly fluctuating awards categories with possible redundancies from the previous year! This time with 75% less long angry rants about Todd and Marty! Are you ready? I know I am! Let the fur fly!


Please note: Our first deadly serious category has actual nominees. This is serious business. Please treat it as such.


Best Performance by an Inanimate Object - Nominees:

Stacy Morasco's bag o' blood - Apparently I can just leave it like anywhere and there's no problem. That's staying power.
Cole Thornhart's evil Mentos - He jonesed for them all winter long, and it was all Mentos fun and games til Matthew lost his legs. Freshmaker my foot!
Clint Buchanan's shotgun - Last seen in last week's big blow-out with Clint, Nora, and Our Kim. It's both a wicked-cool tool of revenge against Bo and Nora's cheatin' hearts, and a disturbing Freudian symbol!
That crazy mechanical Thanksgiving turkey - In November's Thanksgiving episode, Brody terrorized, er, charmed Bree and the rest of us with a wonderful robotic turkey which shrieked 'GOBBLE-GOBBLE-GOBBLE-111000111-GOBBLE' at us in terrifyingly awesome robotspeak. Its harrowing star turn has yet to leave my mind.
Nash Brennan, younger than springtime - Easily more interesting than the Mason/Noah storyline on As The World Turns with ten times the charisma of Jake Silbermann! Dead and clearly loving it, Nash has still got that certain 'something,' and as this year's creepy November sweeps episodes proved, he can not only still dress for success in his white swingers outfit, but he can also still give the ladies the side-eye. I saw you watching me all week long, Nash. Don't play.


WINNER: Nash Brennan, by a mile. Accept no substitute. He might be a little dry these days but he's still the finest vintage around!


And now, onto the rest of the undemocratically-decided awards!


Most Revitalized Character: Clint Buchanan. It's just like Michael Bolton said: she said she loved him, but she lied! On contract but long without a purpose, Jerry ver Dorn's Clint recast seemed to me to flounder until the death of Buke patriarch Asa. Since then, the new Clint has blossomed and developed an identity all his own, forced to assume his Pa's throne for the good of the family, turning his 'inner Asa' loose on first Dorian, then Langston, and now, finally - just like Asa - his own flesh and blood.

This is the second time Clint has been faced with an unfaithful wife, and this time he's not taking it lying down and headed for the backburner - no, along with getting mad, Clint has gotten even, and in the last weeks of 2009, has risen with more fire and purpose than Clint has shown since the Montez mess of fall '08. In a sudden flash of betrayal, Clint is instantly a power player again, and ver Dorn plays it to the hilt, spitting old-hat soap lines like "you're a coward" at Nora and making them sound like the burning truth of God, clocking Bo with a haymaker and knocking back fistfuls of booze like it was going out of style - but Buchanans never really do. His inversion of the story of Bo and Nora's romantic reunion this past year by pretending to apply it to himself and Kim was the most sinister bedtime story I ever heard. And his new relationship with Kim has suddenly been turned on its head, as well; as of Tuesday's show, the seducer has become the seduced, with Kim disarmed by Clint's clever reading of her motives and his ability to best her in a drinking contest, leaving Amanda Setton showing a naked, vulnerable side to a character previously assumed to be heartless. But Kim's not heartless, I don't think, just deeply cynical, a child, one helpless in the face of something real, honest, and tough as nails: the 'new' Clint. And so are we. And that's okay. 'Cause he's the king, baby.


Most Ignored Character: Addie Cramer. When Ron Carlivati reintroduced Addie as a (mostly) sane, single, sassy sixtysomething, it was like a bomb dropped on Llanview; suddenly, you could do anything with any time-worn character, and it could go any kind of wild new direction. The post-St. Anne's Addie is a constant delight; the only problem is, we've seen precious little of her since last summer. And why? Stage thespian Pamela Payton-Wright is not on a contract, and her fee can't be that high; plus, Addie plays an integral role in the lives of Dorian, Blair, and all the Cramers. When she enters a scene, anything can happen, and has. So where's Addie, OLTL? Why don't we get her anymore except on holidays like Wednesday? I call foul. I demand more and better Addie for Llanview in 2010.


Best Exit: Jared Banks. JARED! I loved him, I lost him, I hate it, it hurts, but if you've got to go, go like Jared did this year. It wasn't so much his literal death scenes that made this exit work, but the resulting fallout; the heartbreaking scenes of a Thanksgiving and Christmas season without Jared, and the loss of his presence felt through Natalie, Charlie, Viki, Bree, Jessica, Renee, Clint, even characters like Matthew, Moe and Noelle, who all were touched by him. Also consider the touching, resonant poems read on Thanksgiving by Viki, and at his memorial service by half of the cast, along with Melissa Archer's shattering performances day in and day out, with Natalie still white-knuckling her way through every second of every minute of every hour of every day without her husband.

When Jared still occasionally does appear, in dreams, memories or visions, it's like a gust of cool wind into a stuffy room; he smiles at Natalie, touches her, speaks, and just as it did for Natalie, for us too, it all rushes back. In this way, OLTL has articulated the experience of mourning in a way that most modern soaps now take for granted: every day becomes a struggle, every day a new goodbye. We can't forget Jared, because OLTL won't let us; they have made us carry it daily since. And that's real.


Worst Exit: Talia Sahid. A senseless death in a senseless story. Talia was a rare breed on soaps; an unpretentious, down-to-earth female lead, with the same awkwardness and candor of real life; she carried herself like any officer on the police force, rarely appeared out of uniform in soapy glam makeup while on the job, just dressed down and did her work. When she found love for Antonio, we liked it because we liked her; we'd learned to respect her, and she demanded attention by not screaming for it it, rather by just being real on a soap opera. We wanted her to get the same kind of love as an Erica or a Kendall or a Jessica or Natalie because Talia deserved to get swept off her feet, too, even when they always remained firmly planted on the ground.

By most accounts, Antonio and Talia were written out of the show due to a combination of budgetary issues and story concerns. Okay, fine. So why didn't OLTL write them out together, in a happy ending? Was a cheap, exploitative contract-player death in the lame KAD storyline so important to the program? Exiting them separately as they did also leaves several loose story threads twisting in the wind; how would omnipotent crime boss Carlo Hesser ever have allowed this to happen to his daughter? How would he have not sought revenge? What will become of Antonio and Carlo's long feud? Will Antonio ever find happiness at all? It was a sour, nasty note to end Antonio on, let alone Talia, it leaves a huge question mark regarding Carlo, and it killed another strong female on ABC Daytime, one with great ties to a famous villain and something even more rare than feminine strength on a soap - Middle Eastern ancestry. What a tacky way to go. For shame, OLTL.


Runner-up: Pamela Stuart. Poor Christine Jones. Back for one day to play a corpse. What the heck was that?


Best Return: Rachel Gannon. I know you all thought I was going to say Mitch. He's runner-up, live with it. I never thought they'd bring Rachel back on contract after all these years, but betcha by-golly-wow they did in the gorgeous and talented persona of Daphnee Duplaix Samuel, and here's why I think this is so important - Rachel is a strong, layered, nuanced black female heroine with almost twenty years of history, who is still viable in story, still strong and level-headed, and still, like Talia, able to command respect and attention just by being relatively real. This kind of longevity and character consistency in a black lead on soaps is sadly very rare; it's actually very rare of characters of all colors, these days.

OLTL did right by Rachel by not resurrecting Mari Morrow's crack addict Rachel, or Sandra Grant's murdering headcase, but by honoring all of her history, particularly Original Recipe Rachel Ellen Bethea's tough, honest, principled character, who now manages to also have a cracked, damaged core from those turbulent recast years writhing beneath her righteous armor. When Greg penetrated her defenses, we saw past Rachel's "Type A" rehab counselor front to a frightened, traumatized ex-con, struggling to reconcile the strong parts of herself with the raw, fearful ones. Greg Evans may be a chair-throwin' maniac, and the triangle with Greg, Shaun and Rachel may not have been terribly original, but the good doctor's pursuit of Rachel gave us one of the most careful, humanistic, and three-dimensional portraits of an African-American female on American daytime in the last twenty years.

Reviving Rachel not only services the Gannon/Hanen clan - one of the most diverse and unique families on soaps (still not enough Hank or RJ though) - but also allows OLTL to begin to develop a thriving African-American canvas again, and allowing for different types of characters, delineating between a bubbly, romantic character like Layla, who flourished in her new romance with Cristian and her touching drama with Oliver, and a slightly older, slightly more mature but damaged ex-Ingénue like Rachel. This is a show that now has two well-thought-out black females, and to tell the truth, I don't think that would've been possible without Rachel's introduction necessitating the writing team learning to write for their differences. Suddenly, we have more black representation than The Young & The Restless. And while Layla's been around a while, that trend started this year, with Destiny and Rachel.


Runner-up: Mitch Laurence. See? When you enter with an exhumed corpse in a greenhouse and end the year with a surprise coffin-jacking, you're almost a shoo-in for Best Return of 2009. Mitch is still large and in charge, and I love his crazy ways. 'Nuff said.


Worst Return: Rebecca Lewis. I don't think I've ever felt more insulted by a character return. I grew up watching Todd and church girl Rebecca Lewis' tortured, abortive affair-on-the-run, watching it roil with pent-up passion and then get snuffed out; I was rapt at the forbidden chemistry Roger Howarth and Reiko Aylesworth shared together. Rebecca was a decent, true, naive young woman with a more primal, dark side to her, a side that loved "dirty little thrills," just waiting to peek out. She didn't know how to deal with what she really wanted, which was Todd. And then she left, and one assumed that was that; Rebecca would go on to find a better, less-dramatic life. But no.

Apparently not content with simply bringing back Powell Lord in a misguided attempt to try and whitewash Todd of the stink of the "rapemance," OLTL also dragged Rebecca back onto the canvas this year, played by a truly wooden recast actress and appearing for maybe ten episodes tops, not enough time to do anything of merit. For no apparent reason, Rebecca had suddenly gone insane, become the 'Sexy Sadie' to ex-fiance Powell's Charlie Manson, and began helping him kill people, followed by helping him to terrorize Jack, take Blair, Tea and Todd hostage, and finally, blowing herself up in the KAD frathouse. Though Rebecca had always been a bit shaky emotionally, no explanation was given for her psychotic behavior or her vilification by the writers; no character who knew or cared for her seemed to anymore, not even Todd, for whom Rebecca had once meant everything (all he ever said about it was, "is that Rebecca Lewis?"). No insight into Rebecca's life since Llanview was given, nor her life with new sibling Kyle, or how it related to the scraps of Rebecca's past we had heard during her first run on the show. The only reason Rebecca was brought back was to say they did it; it didn't apparently matter that nothing she did made sense, or that it forever tainted one of Todd's greatest stories. But then, OLTL already did that with Todd and Marty's 2008 romance, so I don't know why I'm surprised. For me as a totally overinvested fan, this truly callous treatment of Rebecca was like Todd and Marty's rapemance, or the murder of Gabrielle Medina, or the 2003 resurrection of Victor Lord; something that is a black mark on the program.


Best Story: Matthew's Accident. It was the true definition of an umbrella story, what soaps do best: Cole takes drugs which leads to Matthew getting in his car, which leads to a traffic accident, which leads to Shane being diagnosed with cancer, Marty regaining memories of motherhood, Cole's agonizing rehabilitation, the reintroduction of Rachel, the civil suit battle between parents and child, the teen triangle with Danielle and Destiny, and of course the decade-in-the-making romantic reunion of one of OLTL's best supercouples, Bo and Nora.

Everyone won in this sprawling story, even the losers. Brandon Buddy and Cole were elevated by his great work at the rehab center with Rachel, finally transforming Cole into a real character, while Matthew was fleshed-out as a teen lead in his relationships with Dani and Destiny, followed by his ever-shifting issues with Bo and Nora, and his conflicted feelings about their clandestine love. Susan Haskell and Hillary B. Smith also finally got to flex their acting muscles again in their love/hate push-pull scenes following the initial accident, drawing on Nora and Marty's long history in a horrifying new situation. Jerry ver Dorn has flamed back into full blaze as Clint, the husband scorned after the accident caused Bo and Nora to reconnect, while Robert S. Woods is rediscovering aspects of Bo that I haven't seen in years with every new glance at Nora through unclouded eyes. Rachel and the Gannons were revived, while a new black family was born with the Evanses, and Tea did what she does best, bring a gun to a knifefight in her courtroom duels with Elijah. I don't know what else to say, it was that good. The accident/paralysis storyline may not have been as flashy as Mitch's return, but it was character and history-based storytelling in the classic soap tradition, modernized for today, and it's continuing even now, with Bo and Nora as the lovers in exile, Clint the vengeful patriarch, and Matthew finally taking his first new steps. This is what soaps are all about.


Worst Story: My Sister Stacy. Again, how much can I say when the sheer density of wrongness is so simple? Stacy Morasco is a plot device, not a character; an action, not a person. She blew onto the show out for revenge against her runaway, pregnant-teen sister for "stealing her man," who she apparently claimed when he picked up her backpack in junior high. WHAT? Seriously, what? Whose idea was this? How entertaining did OLTL possibly believe that motivation could be? Within weeks, Stacy had slept with Fish, practically date-raped Rex, and blackmailed Gigi into breaking up with him and faking an affair with Brody, ransoming little Shane's life so she could finally have that life with Rex, the man who didn't want her. This led to the utter ruination of Rex and Gigi as a couple, the complete destruction of Rex as a male lead, and the endless frontburner exposure of one single character who I simply can't abide.

Stacy is everything that's wrong with soaps today; she is a weaker carbon copy of better, classic soap vixens who actually had substantial motivations, characterizations, and layered performances. She is the Sam's Club Sami Brady, the Wal-Mart Sheila Carter. She is a hollow vacuum taking up script space, making everything cheap and two-dimensional; she is no character, she is all plot. And in being all plot, she has infected the characters around her with the same disease; plot-based stupidity, plot-based misogyny, plot-based promiscuity, plot-based repetition for the sake of, again, plot. Plotty plotty plot plot. At least now her plot seems to be making some coherent sense, interacting with a monolithic, real character: Mitch Laurence. Sic 'er, Mitch. Stacy's greatest service comes in giving us Schuyler, and in enabling potential new storyline for Kyle and Oliver with her counterfeit Rex-baby. But she's just the vessel. Strip away the elements of other people's stories, the breakout sidekick Kim, and there's nothing about Stacy that works. OLTL knows that. They had to know that several months into the year. The question is why it is now taking them a year to get rid of her.


Best New Character: Schuyler Joplin. There's a rarity of good, decent, kind men on soaps today, especially on ABC Daytime. Brody Lovett's one, but he was last year's hit. This year it's Schuyler for me, or as Kim calls him (I still don't know why), "Sky King." Sure, Schuyler is keeping Stacy's secret (which is also a lie against him) for now, but it's not his nature, and he's clearly tormented. His feelings for Gigi are pure and true, he seems to genuinely respect and listen to her, and he just wants to do the right thing. Unlike Rex, Todd or John, he doesn't browbeat or intimidate his fellow characters or female counterparts, but connects with them as people. And he has an actual life, not just plot. Schuyler struggles to get by, struggles to find work, struggles to pay the rent; these are problems we can relate to, and I connect to Schuyler because nothing about him seems to be a put-on, but rather, someone who's had a hard life, made bad choices, is endlessly self-deprecating (not that I'd know anything about that), and is trying to stay on the straight and narrow and do better. Schuyler's ordinary people; like Brody, or Andrew Carpenter, he is a damaged, good person with a burning heart that sometimes threatens to overcome him. That's a human story, and it used to be a soap story. So why do daytime execs think this is so "uncool?"


Worst New Character: Stacy Morasco. See also Worst Story.


And now, switching the order up for a little suspense...


Worst Couple: Todd Manning and Tea Delgado. I will be the first to admit that Trevor St. John and Florencia Lozano have crackling, incendiary chemistry. It was evident from the first day they shared scenes together this time last year. Put simply, when you get them in a jail cell or a courtroom or a room with breakable objects, this Todd and this Tea are hot together and when they clash, they seize the screen. Physicality, fury is not their problem. It's everything else that comes next that's the problem. The Todd and Tea of 2009 is a viral outgrowth of the problems the writers had with the Todd and Tea of the '90s, only this time, Todd is skating the edge of that soap abyss, a single, dark word: Unredeemable.

Todd and Tea's reconnection began well enough, based in their history; a dysfunctional, pathological love/hate relationship, fueled by anger, twisted psychological issues and angry sex. In my eyes, their "no strings" trysts were just a physical representation of all the mental and verbal trauma they used to inflict on each other as foreplay back when Roger Howarth was playing the role. Instead of sleeping with Todd, Tea fought him all the time. Now she can do both, and does.

But as always with this couple, OLTL has the same problem: honesty about the story it's telling. The Todd of 2008 and 2009 became involved with Tea because they understood each other, and didn't care about their ugliness. She was the only woman who would touch him after his re-rape of Marty; she didn't care what he had done, and got him acquitted because she could. Because she wanted to, because she wanted him, like she always has, no matter what he does to anyone, even her. Unlike in the past, there were no attempts to change Todd, or fix him, no striving to be better on either side; instead, Todd and Tea seemed to finally have cast aside their illusions about one another, and simply wallowed in their twisted, so-bad-it's-good chemistry. Then, OLTL once again decided to make this into a "real" love story. They began to claim that Todd and Tea had genuine, decent, true-blue, good feelings for one another; not the same crazy, wild feelings they've always had, but something with hearts and flowers and puppy-dog tails. They began to present Todd as once again a perfect family man, but also a perfect boyfriend, a perfect husband, the guy who gets your favorite singer to serenade you on a roof but also sleeps with his ex-wife a couple weeks prior. But Todd had done nothing to redeem himself from 2008's rape of Marty, or his kidnapping of Hope. Yet we were asked to accept him as a sex machine and a good guy.

Suddenly, Todd was simultaneously World's Greatest Lover and World's Best Boyfriend, while Tea transformed into Suffering Heroine who just wants to live a good life. As always, Tea's bleating complaints about Todd rang hollow in the face of her own enabling of him. How do these cheesy paperback novel archetypes square with the delusional rapist and remorseless defense attorney we saw earlier this year? Answer: They don't, and OLTL apparently did not care. Instead, with the Danielle storyline, they decided to ignore these problems and character issues and try to just make everyone else worse instead. While Blair humiliated herself yet again for Todd's cursory attention, the show also tried to sell an extremely dodgy rewrite of Michael Lowry's long-suffering Ross Rayburn as a kayak-battering surfer, in the hopes of making Todd look like the 'Good Dad' by comparison. Even Stefano DiMera is a better dad than Todd at this point, people.

But Ross went nuts, and Todd strode in like the hero, while only Blair was allowed to call Tea on the fact that she hid Todd's child away out of jealousy and spite for fifteen years. Meanwhile, Starr cooes over Todd at his homecoming, and calls him a great father. When did Starr and Todd make up? What did he do to win her love and trust back? How does Tea really feel about what Todd did to Marty last year? How is Todd a romantic leading man again after that story? I can't tell you, because I don't know, and I don't think OLTL knows either. They know that Florencia Lozano and Trevor St. John are talented actors with amazing chemistry, and that Todd and Tea have fire between them. They know that the characters' relationship is thorny and complicated. But they don't want to deal with the characters that got back together late last year; they don't want to do the work to rehabilitate Todd, or to be honest about Tea's many contradictions. They want her to be wild and volatile, yet still a pristine heroine above reproach by anyone but the most biased characters (Blair, Ross, Danielle). They want to have it both ways with Todd and Tea, to keep them crazy but also write them the way you'd write Ryan and Greenlee on AMC, and they can't. Soap love is not one size fits all. That's why they've become OLTL's worst couple, even when they're extremely watchable.

If not for the lack of action by OLTL regarding Todd, I would not have given Todd and Tea the Worst slot; that would have gone to Rex and Gigi. But I don't recognize Todd since the rapemance, and this storyline has done nothing to fix him, nor would any reunion with Blair or Evangeline or anyone else. The problems with Todd since last year go deeper than his romances, but OLTL doesn't want to deal with them, or honor these complex characters. They just want to write a lazy, slanted love story, something that fits into a sanitized, pre-selected box like "Rylee" or "Jason and Sam" or "Rex and Gigi." But neither Todd nor Tea were ever any good with labels. So why are these twisted antiheroes being forced to pretend they are Holden and Lily Snyder, when they're more Carlo and Alex or James or Barbara?


Runner-up: Rex Balsom and Gigi Morasco. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I'll spare you another speech. I used to love them, but how can I love a couple where twice in the same year, the man is blaming the woman for his sleeping around? First when he knocked Stacy up, then when Rex's neglect led to Gigi falling for Schuyler; now, he tells her she has to move out, away from her son, and hide her shame in the forest at Viki's cabin. What the deuce? What kind of storytelling is this? And why should I root for an immature, bullying boor like Rex, or the whimpering daffodil Gigi becomes around him?


Best Couple: Oliver Fish and Kyle Lewis. The gay agenda rears its chartreuse head once more! Was there ever any doubt? And again, is there really much more to say that I haven't in the past? More than just giving us a great couple, the "Kish" saga singlehandedly revolutionized gay and lesbian storytellng on daytime TV, telescoping from a small, intimate love story between two people to a gigantic umbrella story affecting the whole canvas, showcasing a mayoral election between Llanview's matriarchs, several tasty side romances and secrets (Cristian and Layla, Stacy's baby), and exploring a fascinating gay and lesbian sociopolitical landscape which no other soap would ever have the guts to do. It's given us perhaps daytime's only black lesbian in Amelia Bennett and shown yet more diversity with Nick Chavez, a dedicated community organizer, thereby exposing racial and cultural plateaus which are very real in LGBT culture. It's also made one of OLTL's most famous characters, Dorian, into a pro-gay crusader, while discussing and yes, unapologetically cheering for gay rights on a serial drama airing at 2 in the afternoon.

We can debate about the merits of the story, and how it played out: Was Kyle and Oliver's story told too fast (in my opinion, no)? Did they have enough roots on the canvas (for me, just enough)? Were Amelia and Nick worthy of their focus in the umbrella story? Did Viki get enough airtime (no)? Why wasn't there more of a voice for the anti-gay marriage side? These are valid questions. Personally, I feel OLTL and other soaps have spent years tiptoeing around the question of gay rights, and had given more than enough airtime to the alternative side of the argument. But after a certain point, you get tired of playing devil's advocate. It's been seventeen years since Michael Malone's "Billy Douglas" story; if OLTL hasn't come far enough since to be able to tell a forceful, positive story about gay equality, it never will. And by showing us supporting characters like Amelia and Nick, even if they were lesser in characterization, they contributed to a larger, more diverse tapestry and fabric of life on the show the likes of which daytime has never seen in gay and lesbian characters.

Finally, Oliver and Kyle. They're adorable together, the actors have amazing, easy chemistry, and despite one half of the couple being straight in real life, they show not a hint of anxiety; there's a fresh, unforced naturalism that other gay characters on TV don't have. We heard so much about them from each other before they actually reunited, in their stories, their lovelorn glances, their pained sighs; every small beat added to a larger song. When the speeches are over and the signs are thrown down, they're just two people, two adults in love, just like anyone else on OLTL. These are not dayplayers or under-fives holding hands with Billy or Michael Delaney; they're real, fleshed-out, flawed and idiosyncratic, full-grown, and not going anywhere, not panning away or fading to black. Every time they touch, they move us a little further into the future. OLTL's fearlessness with this couple is what OLTL is all about.


Runner-up: Jared and Natalie Banks. In many ways, Jared and Natalie are a 'Best Couple' for what they didn't do this year, as much as what they did. Backburnered and marginalized by OLTL and ABC Daytime since the 'Tess's secret room' story concluded last year, Jared and Natalie did what all strong soap couples with real staying power do in hard times: they persevered. Through a subliminal wedding, a series of 'talk-to' scenes supporting other frontburner characters, a succession of aborted short-term storylines, and finally, their return to the stage with the final mystery leading into Mitch's return, Jared and Natalie's romance retained the dignity, care, rapport, and 'spark' that Ron Carlivati first wrote them with. They kept their fanbase, remained a steady, intriguing couple in the eyes of the audience, and were recognized again by critics when Jared was killed off far too soon. In many ways, even more than Kyle and Oliver, Jared and Natalie were the 'indie favorites' of 2009's "Billboard Top 100," underrated but always hip, showing up some of the network favorites. They were rebels, baby, bred in Texas, and they were just too hot to handle. They could have gone on forever. I will always love 'em. BTW, Jared got a great haircut in the afterlife...if he is dead. DUNH-DUNH-DUNHHH!!!


So that's your Besties and your Worsties for 2009. Please write in to praise or bury me and my madcap choices; I welcome all comers. Now to try and snatch a few precious hours of sleep before braving the Christmas Eve hordes. Here now is my other present to you; I will not see you in two weeks, but will instead be back next week for our New Year's edition! OMG! Double-barreled, baby. But until next time, Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night! Don't eat the yellow snow.


Until next time, please be sure to check out the other year-end Two Scoops columns for other soaps. Over the past two weeks, all of the columnists have been reflecting on the best and worst of 2009. It's definitely a fun read -- even if you aren't familiar with all of the soaps!


Plus, feel free to head over to the soapcentral.com message boards and join in the discussion about the highs and lows of the year gone by. And, if you're feeling prolific, start your own blog and offer your own take on the Two Scoops' best and worst edition. If we like what you write, you might just see your comments posted here!


Michael


Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of soapcentral.com or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen, what has happened, and to take a look at the logistics of it all. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same view point.



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