LISTEN: Allison discusses her picks for the Best and Worst of the year, be sure to listen to her appearances on Soap Central Live's two-part special wrapup of the year -- The Best of 2011 and The Worst of 2011.
READ: Mike also offers up his picks for Best and Worst of 2011 in next week's Two Scoops column.
Oh the year we had with our friends -- and enemies -- on The Bold and the Beautiful. It was a year of highs and lows, plane crashes and stolen designs, shocking revelations and mundane mysteries. There were berries and gondolas and bathtubs and cliff houses with dangerous branches. Rick returned from Paris, Bridget gave up fashion for medicine (again), Stephen broke Pam's heart, Stephanie didn't like being touched by Eric, Thorne wanted more power, and Marcus became a daddy. Oh, one more thing -- Hope's still a virgin.
As we look back at 2011, let's try to put it all in perspective, the bold, the beautiful, the good, the bad, the way they were in the land of Forresters, Logans, Marones, Spencers, and the characters whose last names we don't have to bother to mention.
Now, on to the awards! Let's start with some happy thoughts ...
Top Storyline: Not surprisingly, the heart of B&B's best story of the year involved a heartless act. Stephanie took advantage of Thomas and Brooke's surviving the plane crash in a most unusual way. She used Brooke's guilt over not remembering what happened while under the influence of hallucinogenic berries to bribe Thomas into making Brooke think she'd cheated on Ridge with his son. It was a despicable thing to do.
Not only did Stephanie use this tremendous lie to drive a wedge between Ridge and Brooke -- with the idea of sending Ridge back to Taylor -- but she did it in the most corrupt way. She bribed Thomas, offering him her shares of Forrester Creations (upon her death) so he'd gain control of the company. That kind of temptation is biblical -- like the snake offering Eve the apple in the Garden of Eden!
Stephanie should have the same deep and abiding love for her grandson as she does for her son, but she doesn't. Clearly, she didn't mind subverting Thomas morally to get her favorite child married to the woman of her choice. It was a heinous action, but it made for a great story. Anytime you find yourself yelling at the TV screen, the head writer has successful done his job by moving the viewer emotionally.
Storyline We'd Love to Forget: On the other hand, the acid trip-berries has to rank right up there are one of the worse storylines ever on B&B. It was, as Dan pointed out during our chat on Soap Central Live, something more suited to a soap like Passions. That's not a good thing. It was just too far out and extreme for a reality-based drama like B&B. Rainbows, waterfalls, giggling and splashing like demented hippies... Oh, please.
Wasn't it enough that Brooke and Thomas survived a disaster when their plane went down in the South Pacific? Instead of dealing with the reality of that trauma, Brad Bell brought in the berries and out went any semblance of excellent storytelling. It was insulting to viewers. On that whole island, the only thing to eat for survival were trippy berries that made Thomas and Brooke imagine that they were lovers. The plot skirted close to the edge of incest and in the aftermath, made Brooke doubt her true self. All in all, the best thing to do about the berries is forget they ever existed.
Best Performance (Male): Although he didn't get nearly enough airtime and storylines for me, John McCook ran away with this category. There were two specific sequences that did it for me; the first was on the occasion of Ridge's wedding to Taylor. Ridge asked his father to be his best man, prompting Eric to really let Ridge tell him what he thinks of him. It was great that there was some real bitterness there, that Eric had legitimate contempt for his presumed son, and Ridge had to take it because Eric was speaking the truth.
Ridge had destroyed Eric's marriage to Brooke. Ridge did rip apart Eric and Brooke's family. So while it may have been Ridge's wedding day, Eric was determined to give Ridge a swift kick in the caboose. It was great to watch and John McCook was superb. The second storyline that gave McCook a chance to shine was the character's intimacy issues with Stephanie. They cut the story short, for whatever reason, but John was great as he tried in vain as Eric to ask Stephanie to resume their sex life.
Best Performance (Female): It would be really easy to give this prize to Susan Flannery because, as I wrote last year, she is truly the Bette Davis of daytime TV. But I'm going to pass the honor onto Stephanie's namesake, Steffy -- played by Jacqueline MacInnes Wood. You have to admire an actress who's given the most intense storylines and manages to make them work. Let's face it; Steffy was thrown a barrage of curveballs during the year. She returned from Paris (Forrester International) and had to immediately deal with being the disgruntled daughter, the little girl with Daddy issues. Then she was the vamp, hawking the Intimacy line, which might as well be called soft porn considering the overt sexuality of that damn promo video with the inane song that they wouldn't stop playing!
Steffy then fixated on Bill as the object of her affection/obsession. It was an extreme kind of love, like a Fatal Attraction sort of thing, which should have been a big storyline, until Brad Bell decided that Steffy would fall for Liam instead after a slip in the tub. Yes, it was just that simplistic. But to her credit, Wood pulled it off.
Worst Character (Male): This is not a knock on Scott Clifton, a good actor who was wonderful on General Hospital. This is a condemnation of Liam. Oh, Liam, what a spineless worm he turned out to be. In a year when he finally found his daddy, when he should have emerged as his father Bill's heir-apparent, he came off like the biggest weenie at the hot dog buffet. Liam was duped into thinking he was the father of Amber's baby and simpered around like a clueless dolt, uncertain what to do. When he finally learned that Marcus was the father of Amber's daughter, Liam turned his attention to the love of his life, Hope.
That should have been all he needed for happiness, but no -- he had to have a serious attack of raging hormones. He couldn't wait two months and honor Hope's request to be a virgin on her wedding night. Liam let Steffy feed his ego and entice him. Then, without thinking, he put Hope's ring on Steffy's finger without a face-to-face confrontation with Hope. Liam had no gumption whatsoever, allowing Steffy and Bill to manipulate him into a quickie mountaintop marriage. And now he's stuck. See, when you're a sponge with no backbone, people can push you around. That's why Liam was the worst character on the entire canvas.
Worst Character (Female): I'm really sorry to have to drop this award on Amber's doorstep. Poor Adrienne Frantz...did she really agree to take her character from The Young and the Restless to B&B for this? Oy vey; this is a case of character assassination. Instead of being the scrappy, smart woman she was in Genoa City, her second time around in La-La-Land finds her a man-trapping cougar in training. She did everything short of raping Liam to convince him that he was the father of her unborn, only to be astonished when her baby turned out to be half-African American and therefore the child of Marcus.
Amber apparently was doing a little bed hopping with Marcus and Oliver simultaneously, but still tried to make Liam think he was the papa. You know, I assume Brad Bell has a pretty good idea what happens in Genoa City. Surely, he knew what kind of character Amber was on Y&R. For fans that watch both shows, watching Amber become a grotesque cartoon on Brad's show was disheartening.
Can't Figure Him Out Award?: That would be homicidal Bill Spencer. It's one thing for Bill to be unscrupulous and selfish, power hungry and bossy, but is he really a killer? That's what happened when Bill couldn't handle Amber having Liam's baby. Instead of being rational, he turned into a madman, plotting how to throw Amber off the Malibu cliffs. Seriously, why on earth would a man of his stature do anything so stupid? And it's not like he's motivated by some great love for Liam. He only found out he was Liam's father a few months ago.
For Bill to become the super-dad of all time, willing to kill for his son, was ridiculous. Then Bill fell head over heels for Steffy, before he realized he preferred his wife -- weak heart and all -- so he dumped Steffy. But that wasn't enough. No, because he's a character you can't figure out, he had to then become Steffy's confidante and Liam's matchmaker. This character is a joke. It's time to give him some depth -- please.
Can't Figure Her Out Award? Dr. Taylor Hayes baffles me. This is a beautiful, brilliant professional woman who has allowed her emotions to rule her life. She was a sucker for Ridge -- again -- and wound up being left at the altar -- again. And that was after she dismantled her marriage to Whip and let Ridge break her heart in Paris. Despite all that, she still let herself think that Ridge would marry her because Brooke supposedly "ruined" Thomas on the island?
Taylor never once used her head, and that's just inexplicable to me; she's a smart woman, but she has acted like a ninny. Since being left at the altar, she found some strength by becoming a woman scorned; her rage has made her a force with which to be reckoned, so why then is she falling for Thorne? She's "been there and done that" with him, and he's not the answer. See, I just can't figure her out.
What About the Missing in Action: Is Bridget in the show or not? Why have they brought Rick back if they don't have a storyline for Jacob Young? Does anybody really miss Justin and Donna as a couple -- were they ever anybody's idea of a good couple? What does Oliver do at Forrester and when will he ever get a plot? And until recently, Pam was M.I.A., too. Now, of course, the Lemon Bar Lady has a storyline, but for much of the year -- nothing at all. Sure, it's easy to say that B&B is just a 30-minute soap and there's only so much time for storytelling, but I don't buy that. If there's time for Brooke and Ridge to romp in the steam room on a regular basis, there's time for all the characters to get involved in some way.
Feel Good Story of the Year : Even though they bailed on it, I thought Hope's desire to remain a virgin until the wedding night was a great story. It was old-fashioned, but what's wrong with that? Hope's seen too much easy sex all around her because of Brooke's lifestyle; why shouldn't she seek a different kind of relationship for herself? Of course, the writers blew it by making Liam a horn-dog and throwing Steffy at him in skimpy outfits. Instead of being a mature man and waiting for the lady he said he loved -- Hope -- Liam went for the hot available girl who was ready, willing, and able to have sex with him. Very disappointing.
Finally, the season comes to a close with some interesting plots in the works -- Jackie M and the stolen designs, Thomas and Hope's romance, Steffy's desperate need to hold on to Liam... So we'll be tuning in and watching.
Mike will be here next week with his picks for the Best and Worst of 2011. Be sure to tune in to see what makes his list.