Have the past six months been bold and beautiful? Did you have an accident every time you went on vacation? Was your favorite breakfast the waffle? Did you discover that it gets very, very cold on the backburner? These and more situations faced the Forresters et al so far in 2012!
Well, Scoopers, I promised that, if you were good, we'd spend some time this column looking over the first half of the year. Of course, I'm not Santa Claus, and I can't tell if you've been naughty or nice. But I know if your fave B&B characters have been, so let's assume you've been good and look back at how the Forresters, Logans, Spencers, and Marones (remember them?) spent January through June. And, just to be different, let's do it Top 10 style!
10. Rick Rolled
Ever since Jacob Young reclaimed the role of Rick Forrester last year, it's felt like B&B hasn't known what to do with him. Do we involve him with Amber? Do we not? How about Steffy? Caroline? How about putting him in a dress? Yes, it seems like the still-unredeemed Rick is having trouble finding his way. The saving grace in all this? Jacob Young's bravado. He's unafraid to do comedy, wearing lipstick, but his All My Children chops came to the fore when Rick blasted Amber for her latest set of deceptions. Shades of Adam Chandler, Jr., on B&B? You betcha. Now give this once-green businessman a chance to play in the big leagues, and audiences will forget Leffy/Lope every existed!
9. Ooh Baby
Pretend for a moment that Dollar Bill Spencer didn't screw over his wife Katie in every way possible. He plotted to kill someone, he was ready to leave Katie for Steffy, he faked Steffy's MRI, and then locked Katie in a tower to prevent her from tattling about it. Pretend Katie didn't let him off with a slap on his bejeweled hand. Now take the girl with her brother's wonky heart that almost gave out more than once and knock her up by her barracuda husband that treats fatherhood like it's a game of Battleship. Yep -- by itself, that's a great conflict, and, already, Heather Tom and Don Diamont have taken that material and run with it like they were competing in the Olympics. There's a potential for great drama here, and what a way to write in Heather Tom's real-life pregnancy. Now if all that other stuff just hadn't happened...!
8. Crazy For Dayzee
Marcus was always likable enough on his own, but a little boring. Dayzee came in with a blaze that mostly flickered out once she got involved in the day-to-day dealings of the Forresters. But put 'em together? They both came alive, and with babymama Amber in the mix, Marcus and Dayzee are a breath of fresh air B&B sorely needs. Their let's-get-this-over-with-so-we-can-get-back-to-Leffy/Lope engagement was sure enough short, but long on sweet. Now they just need a powerhouse story of their own. How about we find out that Dayzee's mother isn't dead, causing Dayzee to live on the streets under an assumed name? Or maybe Marcus' adopted family has a few skeletons in the closet? Put baby Rosey in danger, and mama lion Amber will jump headfirst into trouble. I'm tellin' ya...this bunch just needs a little snap and crackle to make 'em pop.
7. Paging Dr. Barton, Dr. Stacy Barton
It was easy to forget how lightweight B&B was becoming until One Life To Live's Hillary B. Smith sat down at Dr. Barton's desk. Not only did putting Hope into therapy finally give us a chance to dig into the repercussions of Hope's infamous conception, but Dr. Barton's strong, sage-like presence was a grounding force B&B needed -- and shades of the Dr. Taylor Hayes of yesteryear. This woman needs to step out of the office and find her place on the L.A. scene. Doesn't Clarke groove on formidable females? Doesn't Stephanie need a confidante? Don't we need to have a little piece of OLTL live on? Yes to all three. Hopefully B&B will make more frequent appointments with Dr. Barton, stat.
6. The Transformation of Steffy
Two years ago, Steffy was a one-note villainess. One year ago, Steffy was chasing after unavailable Bill, and weeks away from falling into her tub and in love with Liam. Today? Steffy has actually learned from her manipulative ways and taken an if-you-love-someone-set-them-free stance with Liam. She's actually developed compassion for Hope. And now, she's told Bill where to stick it in the aftermath of his using Deacon to bring Liam back to her! Now, the girl just needs to stop being accident-prone (bird poop and falling in the Adriatic? Please) -- jet back to L.A., work that new attitude like Patti LaBelle, and get her groove back without Liam once and for all. Anything else would be regressing!
5. Italians Do It Better
All right, there's nothing wrong with Aspen or Cabo San Lucas as remotes. But for a soap opera, they were just...blah. Everything they did could have been shot around Southern California, with a few on-location establishing shots to make us believe the characters had travled. Dynasty did that all the time. But sending B&B back to Italy? Sumptuous. Yes, the show had been there several times before. But it captured the spirit of what a soap remote is supposed to be -- exotic. We want to see the people we love, hate, and love to hate in a fresh and exciting environment. Puglia accomplished that in a way the show hadn't done since Australia. Sure, soap budgets are tight, but better to save up and splurge on the big time rather than make us feel cheated by venturing a mere thousand miles. Brava!
4. Deacon, the Sharpe-est Knife in the Drawer
When Sean Kanan shows up either in Los Angeles or Genoa City, viewers find themselves quoting that old disco song: "more more more!" The guy can go from badass to vulnerable in 0.2 seconds, and you buy it every time. We had been waiting for Deacon to face his grown-up daughter, Hope, for two-and-a-half years. And who knew Deacon could out-snark the über-snarky Dollar Bill? Of course, the only gripe -- which I'm hearing from a lot of you this week -- is that Deacon was written off too fast. I heartily concur. Deacon's got the bold and the beautiful to give us a helluva long ride. He's Steffy's daddy issue dream, or maybe Deacon could steal Katie away and give Bill a taste of his own medicine! The possibilities are endless. More more more!
3. O-live You So Much
Yes, many of you still want Ridge, the original waffler, with Taylor. And yes, Ridge and Brooke have had more engagements, proposals, invalid weddings, and actual marriages than Elizabeth Taylor ever dreamed of. Then why did Ridge's latest proposal in Italy work? It wasn't the silly search for the giant olive. It wasn't playing hide-and-seek to the strains of "Mambo Italiano." The proposal scored because it was unusually down-to-earth for the generally over-the-top "Bridge." They joked about their multiple marriages and flashed back to Ridge's first proposal in 1989. And best of all: this marriage will undo the damage done by the berries. Olives trump berries every time!
2. The Very Informal Wedding
Another couple with an all-day pass to the marry-go-round was Eric and Stephanie. The show started with Eric wanting to divorce Stephanie, then stopping through Brooke, Sheila, Lauren, Jackie, and Donna along the way. Yet, like State Farm, Stephanie was there. Was watching a septuagenarian couple getting married for the zillionth time (with Phyllis Diller, of all people, officiating!) something audiences wanted to see? You bet your martini it was. Like "Bridge's" proposal, it was a surprisingly understated affair (Stephanie wasn't even in her trademark pantsuit and brooch!), but an awesome way to bookend the show's history -- and better than the actual 25th anniversary episode itself. Not to mention, multigenerational. Remember mutigenerational? For one glorious moment, B&B learned from As The World Turns' gone-but-not-forgotten knee.
1. Little Diddy 'Bout Karen and Danielle
B&B was the only show to be set in the fashion industry and the last one to introduce any gay characters. Sure, not everyone is ready to see same-sex couples on their screen, but it was high time for B&B to catch up with the 21st century. And they did it by pulling a game-change on Karen Spencer. She'd been off the canvas for 15 years, so she had time to realize some truths about herself. Bringing in the always-fascinating Crystal Chappell as Karen's spouse, Danielle, was a stroke of genius (despite the slight bit of typecasting, since Chappell has already played lesbians on Guiding Light and Venice). But the best part of this story is not so much the diversity, but the new life it breathes into B&B. Katie always knew! Bill will freak when he hears! It upped the new Caroline's intrigue value, and may have been the only thing to make the unredeemable Thomas watchable again. Plus, it seems that these lovely ladies will not be swept back into the closet anytime soon. Hallelujah! Mark my words, they'll go a long way toward putting the "bold" and "beautiful" back in B&B!
Of course, what goes up...must come down. Mostly exemplified by the slippery slope of Leffy/Lope!
10. Is It Aspen Too Much
Hollywood works off the credo, "if some is good, more is better," as evidenced by its often-unnecessary sequels. B&B followed in its footsteps by sending the Kiddie Patrol back to Aspen for the second time in six months. Yeah, okay, the snowy peaks were nice (even if we were seeing them by May). But Leffy/Lope was already such a bore that a retread remote wasn't going to pretty it up. To say nothing of Steffy having two away-from-home injuries in a row! B&B forgot the basics of Soap 101, which is, if a story is good enough, it will sell right from your own back yard. Save the money next time and invest in stronger, more balanced stories instead.
9. She's My Sister! He's My Brother!
Incestuous pairings seem to be part and parcel of B&B, although that was never the case until 2003, when viewers were first grossed out by the potential pairing of Ridge and Bridget. Rick and Steffy were gross, too, but they weren't raised together. Sure, Hope and Thomas look like the stuff that fairyland princes and princesses are made of, but many couldn't get the images of Hope and Thomas sharing Thanksgivings and Christmases as siblings out of their heads. If "Bromas" was "Taboo," then "HOT" was Jerry Springer waiting to happen.
8. A Divorce Is a Divorce, Of Course, Of Course
Having Steffy hold out for a proper divorce from Liam instead of giving him the annulment he asked for was supposed to be good drama. Instead, we heard the word "annulment" way more than any one person should in one lifetime, and B&B decided to up their level of discontinuity by making Liam wait six months for his divorce to go through. Never mind that both Ridge and Taylor obtained next-day divorces from Whip and Brooke, respectively, just last year. And then, the "six" months was suddenly up after three months, with everyone staring at their watches for Liam's divorce to be over at an inexplicable midnight. We were all staring at our watches, waiting for it to be over, too. Just not in the way B&B intended.
7. The Pop Heard Round The World
No wonder Hope had issues around her sexuality. It wasn't because she's the daughter of the brazen Brooke and the dastardly Deacon. It was because everyone, but everyone, was invested in the loss of her virginity! Maybe Hope brought it on herself for layering her wait-for-marriage message into a fashion line (which would never happen). But to have every single character weigh in on whether or not Hope should lose her virginity to Liam -- and how! -- was not only silly, but unnerving. And when Hope finally got devirginized, you half expected it to end up on the evening news! It was a teen/summer story blown up into a full-fledged adult story, and it didn't work. Let's just say Hope wasn't the only one who got screwed.
6. Spin the Pill Bottle
Oh, it had such promise. Hope getting addicted to antianxiety pills on the heels of her unsuccessful attempt to make love to Liam sounded so intriguing. But it pretty much fell flat right out of the starting gate. Hope followed her prescription, but was out of- control overnight, and her loved ones barely noticed. Bringing Amber in as her "supplier" had merit, but not after Hope and Amber both knew the on-line stash was potentially tainted. Hope was stoned enough to not realize she'd run Steffy down on the slopes in Aspen, yet was able to go off the pills cold turkey the next day because Liam said so. More research and better pacing really would have benefited this story. Instead, it was just one pill that didn't pop.
5. Bill's Free Pass
Bill has gotten away with murder. Well, plotting it, anyway. So why not gondola-trapping, MRI-faking, therapy-recording, and Deacon-delaying? Bill has become a one-note Darth Vader, and B&B thinks it's enough to have him get a little weepy about Katie's dangerous pregnancy or suddenly accept Hope into the Spencer dynasty to humanize him. Guess what? It ain't. This man has run roughshod over everyone in his path, and he needs to pay for it. Even Stephanie, the Queen Manipulatrix of all time, gets shunned by her family every once in a while. Let Katie and Liam walk out and stay out. Let Steffy and Hope leak the story about the faked MRI. Bring Bill to his knees with the destruction of Spencer Publications (with a ghostly visit from a pissed-off Bill Spencer, Sr.!). Sure, Bill can rise like a Phoenix afterwards and be badder-ass than ever. But not until we see him lose absolutely everything. That would be great drama.
4. Development Hell
It's hard to squeeze well-rounded stories and characters into a 20-minutes-after-commercials show; I realize that. And, to keep up with our attention-deficit society, soaps have had to speed up the pace. So, naturally, you're going to lose layers. But, for the last 10½ months, B&B has gone in the inexplicable direction of focusing on one single story at the expense of all others. We are left to assume that time marches on for the other characters, too, but by the time we finally see Thorne and Taylor, or Rick and Amber, or Marcus and Dayzee, or Thomas and Caroline, their brief mentions are heat-and-serve affairs, without giving viewers a chance to invest in their sagas. We're left with underdeveloped stories and characters that feel forced when we see them, because it feels like B&B is only addressing them because they have to, not because they want to. There's absolutely no reason B&B can't be a balanced show. No reason at all.
3. Invasion of The Body Snatchers
Who is this Liam Spencer who switches between Hope and Steffy faster than he can switch between ESPN and ESPN2? Because he's not the sweet, adorable, funny Liam Cooper we got to know two years ago. Soap or no, I can't for the life of me imagine how any girl would put up with Liam's waffling antics. How could she ever know Liam's feelings were genuine when she could be dumped for her competitor at a moment's notice? Liam makes Ridge look downright stable, and you know that's saying something. It's one of the worst cases of character assassination I've ever seen. Worst of all, Liam has no internal reason for doing what he does, which just makes him look like a big flake. His total lack of conviction has made many of us want to see Liam assassinated, period.
2. You've Heard of Loose Ends, But...
These days, B&B is like a speeding train that passengers are trying to hang on to, but flying off of in its wake. Those passengers, more specifically, are important plot points that are getting dropped because B&B is so hot to move on to the next Leffy/Lope "twist." The news of Bill's faked MRI was said to have the potential to destroy Spencer Publications -- why isn't it being used? Why have paparazzi snap a picture of Hope popping a pill and then bury it? Why does everyone know that Liam ripped up Steffy's annulment papers except Hope? Why didn't Marcus jet to Italy to stop Bill as soon as he found out about Bill's scheme? And Donna, Nick, Jackie, Owen...remember them? They're still in the credits, although we were told they were all going bye-bye. How about proper send-offs for these people? As I said, B&B has less than 20 minutes a day to wow us -- they need to make every second count. And a big way to do that is by following through on juicy story tidbits instead of ignoring them and thinking we'll forget. Because, well...we don't forget.
1. Never-Ending Story
There's nothing I could write here about Leffy/Lope that I haven't already worn the letters off my keyboard writing for almost a year. So I'll just say this: Hope and Liam are married now. Let it go at that. Let the newlyweds make peanut butter/banana/bacon sandwiches off-screen for a while, and let Steffy move on to something else...anything else. Even the Brooke/Ridge/Taylor triangle, which Leffy/Lope is desperately trying to be, never got this much airtime. No one story should ever dominate the screen five days a week. No soap has ever done it before, and, if this is meant to be an experiment by B&B, it's failing miserably. Oh, I know from spoilers that Leffy/Lope isn't over. But it really needs to be. Because viewers don't care anymore. And we're the ones that have to invest the time watching. Which I think B&B has forgotten.
That's my take on 2012 so far. What's yours? Write up some opinions of your own, send 'em over here to me, and they might show up in an upcoming column. The good news in all this? There's still a lot of potential on B&B, and still six more months left to make this the boldest, most beautiful year yet. So keep watching, be alert, and most of all, be bold!