What a difference a year makes. It's hard to believe that last year when I wrote this column, I proclaimed ATWT the best daytime drama on TV. Now, I can barely make it through the show without reaching for the fast-forward button. What happened, you ask? I'm not sure, but here's a look back at the year, followed by some advice on how to return ATWT to its former glory.
Here's a quick recap of the past year, in case you missed it: The Snyders ended their marriage, Carly went to work undercover in a strip club, Mike and Katie married, Katie wrote a tell-all book and cheated on Mike with her ex, Luke came out, Hal and Jennifer passed away, Nick's cousin hit town and left in a body bag, Lily recovered from a coma, Damian, Simon and Craig returned, the teens graduated from high school, Henry's sister was introduced and was revealed to be the serial killer, Emily went nuts, and Lucy came home, only to steal her brother and leave again.
Best new character: Vienna Hyatt. She's bitchy, beautiful and blatantly lacking any form of political correctness. She says what she thinks, consequences be damned. Vienna started out as Simon's wealthy, comical sidekick, but she's made waves in Oakdale with Henry, Katie and Carly. No matter what scene she's in, I can't look away, especially if she's purring about "that cute Detective Jack."
Worst new character: Jade. Rose's daughter should have been a feisty, troublemaking teen we loved to hate (think Alison or Katie in their younger days.) Sure Jade has caused problems for Will and Gwen, but the character lacks the pizzazz and appeal to sustain my interest. As it stands, Jade is just a bad girl, with an emphasis on the "B" for boring.
Best return:Craig Montgomery. Craig didn't return in the form of fan favorite Hunt Block, but Jeff Meek put his own stamp on morally challenged Craig. From the day he hit town, Craig began fighting for custody of his son, to the chagrin of Dusty, Paul, Barbara and his own family. Craig was thrust into a well-plotted storyline, sharing scenes with Lucinda, Lucy and his sisters and flirting with Emily and Meg. Major characters returning to town only work when they are involved with those from their past and are given exciting new material. The show got it right with Craig. If only Simon had been given the same treatment.
Worst return: Simon Frazier. For months I counted the days until my favorite, Paul Leyden, was to return to Oakdale. His entrance was fantastic, shaking things up for newly married Mike and Katie. But his glory was short-lived. He didn't share screen time with Henry, Margo or any of his previous cohorts. And he barely had face time with Katie. He got involved with Carly, and apparently, that's all the writers thought he needed to be doing. When he did finally address his feelings for Katie, their romp was so impromptu and hasty that it lacked the emotional punch it should have delivered to viewers who've loved this couple for years. Simon came home rich, but then lost his money. A deal with a loan shark and a jewel heist later, and Simon ended up looking like a fool once again, instead of what he should have been, a romantic anti-hero who we can't help but love.
Runner up:: Damian Grimaldi. His evil manipulation of Luke and Lily regarding Luke's homosexuality tainted this once beloved character
Biggest waste of talent: Dallas Griffin. The only new, exciting male character this year, in my opinion, spent the majority of his time off screen. Duane McLaughlin has some serious acting chops, if only we'd gotten to see them. Dallas is macho, good-looking and has family ties in town, not to mention a history with Maddie. Sounds like the perfect guy for a decent storyline. Sadly, Johnny's bottle had more screen time than this hunky cop.
Best six pack: Mike Kasnoff. For the third consecutive year, Mark C. Collier takes the prize and gives us a treat every time he does a shirtless scene. No one can match his six-pack abs. Perhaps we should just rename this category the "Mark Collier six-pack award."
You'll be missed: Hal Munson and Jennifer Munson's deaths left viewers reaching for Kleenex. Without this father/daughter duo on screen, Oakdale hasn't seemed right.
Best recast: Lucy Montgomery. Spencer Grammer's Lucy had potential. It wasn't her fault that she wasn't given much to do, other than toss meaningful looks at Dusty. Given time, I think she could have developed the character and perhaps a new love interest. But, the writers put the character on shaky ground, in my book, by making her understand Dusty's need to shoot her father, but not her father's need to raise his own son. If she'd been given a storyline outside of Dusty and Craig, perhaps Lucy would still be in town. Instead, she beat a quick path out of Oakdale, with Johnny - or whatever his name is these days.
Worst recast: Adam Munson. In only a few months, two actors have tried this part. Just as I had started to warm a little to the first Adam, he was recast. The new guy hasn't sold me yet. Here's the issue: Adam is the product of tough-guy Hal Munson and even tougher cop Margo. Their offspring should be a sexy, guys' guy, not an effeminate whiny 20-something. If this guy is supposedly going to tempt Gwen away from Will, well, he needs to be a little more tempting.
Biggest shocker: Jennifer's death. No one saw it coming. Jennifer Munson had a little cold, or so we thought. In only a few short days, she was gone, forever changing the lives of her family and leaving a nasty custody battle to ensue between her death-bed husband, Dusty, and her hated lover, Craig. Her family was shocked at her quick death and so were viewers.
Best storyline: The Snyders break up. There were plenty of possible choices for this category: The slasher storyline, Luke's coming out and Lucinda's breast cancer. But the love story of Jack and Carly Snyder is the only plot that seems to have been followed through consistently, thus edging out the competition. Maura West and Michael Park have endless chemistry. Their break up was understandable for viewers, who watched Carly scheme and connive, as Jack struggled to accept that she wasn't the perfect woman he though he'd married. In the end, Jack couldn't accept Carly and her lying ways, and she realized she shouldn't have to change who she is to have a perfect love. The result is two people who still love one another and the angst they deal with every time they share a scene. Their love story is bittersweet, and hopefully for viewers, still not finished.
Runners up: Luke comes out and Lucinda's cancer battle. Both of these stories were played beautifully by the actors and had plenty of emotions to captivate viewers. Holden and Lily tried to deal with the fact that their son was gay, while Lucinda put on a brave face to take on her biggest enemy ever: cancer. Both stories were worthy of praise, but sadly haven't had much follow-up.
Most ruined character:: Dusty Donovan. Once upon a time, Dusty was a sexy, bad boy with a passion for danger and an eye for the ladies (Rose, Lily and Meg.) Now, he's been relegated to an embittered, vengeful guy when he's not playing the role of devoted dad. His arrogance and bossy demeanor have left me cold and trying to remember why I used to love this guy.
Runner up: Emily. See the next category.
Worst storyline: Emily's mental downfall. The once tough-girl of Oakdale took a fall this year, that frankly she still hasn't recovered from. After being stood up at her wedding, she turned into a psychopath and shot Paul. Then to top things off, she kidnapped Dusty and chained him up for weeks, depriving him of food and water. Emily went from a savvy, career gal and mom to an easily manipulated lovesick fool. Viewers were confused as to how and why Emily went nuts, but mostly they just wanted a break from her weeks of hysterical sobbing.
Best use of cast:: The slasher storyline. Everyone in town seemed to be somehow connected to the slasher storyline. Jack, Tom and Margo were on the hunt for the wacko. Gwen, Will, Maddie, Jade and Casey fought off the attacker and suspected one another. And my beloved Henry was front and center, when it turned out his crazy sister Eve was the culprit and her even creepier husband Lewis was a rapist. I love storylines that get the entire town involved, and this one used the teen set and the vets beautifully.
Runner up: Oakdale Confidential. Katie anonymously wrote a book about the juicy lives of Oakdale's citizens. Lisa and the town divas were ticked. So was Mike, when it turned out that Katie fictitiously implicated him in a murder, that in actuality his cousin, Nick, committed. The whole town was abuzz with Katie's tell-all, and even Nancy got in on the fun, when she falsely took the blame for writing the best seller.
Strangest twist:: Mike's cousin is a murderer. After Katie's novel hit the stands, Mike's cousin hit town and folks started breaking into the Snyder's house looking for the stash that he apparently stole. What they found was a body. Mike's cousin, Nick, the new cop in town, apparently put it there. Before viewers could say "Sorry for your loss," Katie shot Nick in self-defense, and Nick was escorted out in a body bag.
Best use of continuity:: Grandmas with gusto. The grandmas in Oakdale have proven they are still a hot commodity. Whether it's Emma pointing a shotgun at Paul to protect her daughter, or Barbara verbally slaying Craig to keep him away from her grandson, or Lucinda counseling Luke about his homosexuality, these ladies prove that getting older doesn't mean they should have less screen time. In fact, it proves that they get better with age.
Worst use of continuity::Friendships. With the exception of Holden and Jack and Maddie and Gwen, friendships in Oakdale are spotty at best. Viewers couldn't keep up with the Katie/Carly friendship. One week they were best buddies, the next, mortal enemies. The same for Mike and Jack. One week they were friends; the next Mike was threatening him at the police station. Then, there is Paul, who apparently has no friends at all. And finally Henry and Katie, who have been best friends for years, didn't even share a scene when Henry's life fell apart this summer and it was revealed that his sister was raped and his other sister was a murderer. On top of that, Katie didn't even invite Henry to her wedding. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Advice for next year: How can the show I used to love get back to its former glory? I'm not sure I have the answer, but I'll give it a try.
1. Don't put characters in a vacuum. A talented cast is one of the show's best assets. Who says that Holden should only have scenes with Lily and the kids? Why can't Henry hang out with Lucinda, Meg or Nancy? Katie does have a sister and should get to chat with her from time to time. Too often, characters are tied to another character too closely i.e. Katie and Mike, Simon and Carly, Lily and Holden and that is the only person they ever talk with again. Stop it! 2. When hiring new people, make sure they're keepers. Casting has been lacking this year, compared to last, in bringing in new actors that immediately mesmerize viewers. We need leading ladies and gentleman who are charismatic. There are plenty of young actors out there who are talented, exciting and sexy. (Think Julie Julie Marie Berman on General Hospital or Alex Musser on All My Children.) And what about the untapped market of ex soap stars who could make the show must-see again. I'd give my right arm to see some exciting fresh faces in Oakdale in the form of Heather Tom, Lisa Peluso, Wally Kurth or Jensen Buchanan. 3. Utilize your best assets. Barbara Ryan, Lucinda Walsh, Jack and Carly Snyder, these are the folks who are the backbone of the show and who viewers never tire of seeing. Don't backburner them. Give them something fun to do, or in the case of the Snyders, some angst I suppose.
Best Line of the Year:
(Henry describes Carly's illustrious past with men.)
Henry: "That woman's seen more action than a thoroughbred."
Best Reader Spotlight of the Year:
( From Two Scoops reader Lisa about Meg's relationship with Paul:)
"Meg may not end up poisoned or comatose; She may just bore herself to death."
This week's Reader Spotlight from Connie:
Maybe I'm getting busier or something, but I have found lately I am bored stupid by the same conversations over and over and over again on ATWT and have been fast-forwarding a lot lately to get it over with. Here is a short list of phrases I never want to hear again:
Dusty: I'll do anything to protect my son.
Lucy: I just want to keep Johnny safe.
Craig: Johnny is MY son.
Barbara: He's my GRANDson.
Katie: I did it for you, Mike.
Katie: I have to prove to you I'm over Simon.
Carly: I trust you, Simon.
Adam: Are you serious about this demo or not, Gwen?
I know the writers are better than this. I know they know we lose interest when they keep pounding on the same stories to the point where we can recite the actors' lines along with them for an entire episode.
That's all for now. Merry Christmas Scoopers! See ya next year.