Repetition breeds contempt
For the week of August 16, 2010
By imbuing Natalie's strong, forthright character with a strident sense of denial, the writers are doing her a grave disservice.
What to say about last week in Llanview, my peoples? We had four days of business as usual and one day of OMG BRENDA fever over the triumphant(?) return of Vanessa Marcil-and-her-new-last-name-which-I-will-not-attempt-to-spell, interrupting the flow. Not that there was much of a flow to last week's OLTL. To be perfectly honest, even though I am not a huge fan of the legendary La Barrett of Port Charles, I viewed Tuesday's Brenda Interruptus, complete with an old GH episode from 1997 (and BTW, did every old episode that ABC re-ran have to come from the lamentable Richard Culliton era?), as a welcome respite from hour upon hour of the Ford clan, Elijah the omnipotent mustache-twirler, and of course, Dying Téa.
Some stories moved this week -- a little -- but more often than not they were stories I didn't care for about people I don't like, while the people I do care about were either invisible or beaten down by the writing. Especially the women. If you've got a set of ovaries, you better watch your hindquarters in Llanview, because these days it seems no one's safe from the poison pen treatment.
For starters, there's the obvious. As of this week, poor Natalie is insisting to everyone who will listen that John is the father of her baby, and she won't brook any argument so everybody better shut up about it. Right. What this means is that Natalie has adopted the mindset of every third Maury Povich Show guest in the last ten years. She is now one of the single moms on his "Who's The Daddy?" episodes -- "I'm two thousand percent positive John's the father of this baby, Maury -- I mean, Brody!" And as anyone who has ever watched about forty-five seconds of any episode of Maury knows, when the mother says that, that is a dead giveaway that her babydaddy ain't on the show that day, and the dude she called out is about to do the Maury Victory Dance because the DNA test results show that he is...not the father. Will John do a variation on the Electric Slide, or the Worm when it turns out he's not the sperm donor? I vote for the Worm.
Seriously, though, this story is lame on toast. By imbuing Natalie's strong, forthright character with a strident sense of denial, the writers are doing her a grave disservice, and it seems as though the story is now being skewed to favor everyone else, particularly John and Jessica. I had feared Brody would be ruined for this story, but even Brody was preaching about the value of love and trust in his relationship this week while Natalie was ordering him to keep quiet. All she does now is work at John's job, help John find people's body hair at crime scenes, and hide baby secrets. I find it terribly depressing, and I think this writing is leaving one of OLTL's best strong heroines cruising for a bruising. Nobody wants to look like Marisol from Maury, the lady with like eighty kids of unknown paternity. But that's Natalie -- she's becoming Marisol! She's fifty thousand percent sure you fathered her baby! So shut up, Brody!
Then we've got Todd and Téa and the Tumah. Yes, Téa is off to a hospice of unknown origin to die alone like Old Yeller, just in time for us all to begin to suspect that hey, maybe she's not dying at all. I know that was my first thought when Evil Elijah started monkeying around with Téa's last will and testament. Still, I don't know where this is going and honestly, I really don't care, other than to hope Florencia Lozano remains with the show. Lozano gives the material her all, but I have no ability left to invest in cozy family scenes for the Mannings in which Téa plays "Money Honey" again and urges Todd to be "the best version of himself." This coming from the woman who helped him beat the "rapemance" charges does not ring true to me, and the talented Trevor St. John seems to be playing Todd as a remarkably impassive character of late.
Even Todd going to see Jessica and Viki about Téa's departure doesn't work for me, since the show has never properly addressed what Todd's collusion with Tess did to Jessica and the late baby Chloe in 2008 while hiding (and re-raping) Marty. This whole thing feels like half a story -- Lozano is pumping her life's blood into it, but St. John seems baffled by the inconsistent and ruinous writing for Todd over the last several years that has led the character to this point, wherein heartfelt emotional scenes with his dying wife and long-lost child ring hollow to me. Because Todd hasn't earned an ounce of emotion or sympathy from me. So why should I care about how he claims to feel about Téa, or how Téa feels about him? We know Todd will live to hurt, or worse, rape again. That's why this story fails for me. Not because of Lozano, or her great "bromance" (sistermance? what do we call it?) with Blair, but because it is predicated on the audience believing in and caring for Téa's world with Todd, and I haven't cared about anything Todd's done in a long time. Should she live, will Téa's character be allowed to be defined outside Todd once more? No way. And that's another woman in crisis in Llanview.
Meanwhile, the B-Eli Clarkson caper continues to be made of a million parts per cray-zay. A good soap villain done well needs to be smart, charismatic, ruthless, and surrounded by characters we care about. By contrast, the Bennett Thompson story remains clunkily slapped together and seemingly improvised by the day; the only constant is Eli's boneheaded refusal to kill anyone under 25 who knows his secret. Since the show seems to value Ford and Hannah over half the veteran cast, that means Eli keeps giving them second chance after second chance, something I've complained about before in this column. It's just silly, period, and watching poor Matt Walton, a fine actor, play an incompetent cartoon villain with vague motive in a series of super-villainous capers like the clobbering of Cristian or the various awkward "suspicion" scenes is becoming extremely painful and tedious. Eli couldn't have looked more evil at St. Anne's this week, and John even confronted him, but nothing happened; the scripts just keep treading water. Repetition breeds contempt.
Worse, Blair's only function in this story now is to be the same brainless fool she was for Todd and Spencer many times over. It's a real break from Blair and Eli's previous enjoyable romance, and it's painful watching both these characters being dismantled to serve a plot that only seems to benefit John and Kelly. Speaking of Kelly, she was at least halfway enjoyable with Rex, but when I still find myself siding with the serial killer against her, the show might want to reconsider their overall approach to her return. The people we know about from Kelly's life, the people we care about her with -- Dorian, Blair, Kevin, Joey, her son Zane -- are either barely present, clueless foils, or invisible altogether. You can add Jessica to the "clueless foil" list, too, because Kelly's role in her miserable story isn't helping either of them.
Which brings us to Jessica, and by extension Starr, Langston, and the Fords. If there's a single female character who's been more degraded by the recent writing than Jess, I can't think of her. This is now her third pregnancy that she's faced while battling mental illness, and once again, we are being led to believe that she slept with the potential father while ill. What kind of message does this send to the audience? And if we get down to brass tacks, isn't what Ford did to Jessica actually a form of rape? He took advantage of a brain-damaged, mentally ill young woman who was, psychologically, below the age of consent. If he slept with her, he's even more despicable than I'd previously believed, and yet the show seems to expect us to treat the possibility of a Ford/Jessica baby as titillating, a way to cement him on the canvas. Even though I can't find more than a single person at a time who likes Robert Ford and his recycled-from-Todd backstory at all.
Which makes it all the more baffling that we were subjected to a full-on Ford family reunion this week, as Inez broke the news to her sons that they were all her children, though not created by Agnes Nixon. And again, other than poor dim James, why do I care? Nate is creepy and I don't like the way he looks at me; Inez is not a lesbian on this show, and her character is whisper-thin; Ford is a total creep. Who wants to watch this family? This storyline is making the Great Rappaport Invasion of 1998 look like a slow and natural atmospheric alteration. No, I don't find the idea of Starr and Langston dating these brothers amusing, and I found that whole scene with Starr dragging Lang along to publicly announce that she had no interest in James or his magnificent pecs to be cringingly awkward and poorly written. Starr and James make a cute couple, but the writing for all of these people is just wretched.
Hey, at least Viki and Charlie came back to town. That's something. But all in all, I wasn't at all happy with the week that was in Llanview. Too many women are being debased, too many poor characters are being forced, too many rotten stories are being pushed ahead. When I welcome an interruption from Brenda frickin' Barrett, something's gone quite wrong. Hopefully things will pick up soon and you'll have a less grumpy columnist. Until next time, please remember, all you need to do to recover shredded documents is a little glue and a lot of pluck. See you in two.
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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