B&B: Best and Worst 2011, Part 2

by Mike
For the Week of January 2, 2012
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B&B: Best and Worst 2011, Part 2
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Time once again to look over a year's worth of B&B. Was it bold? Was it beautiful? Or was it another adjective that starts with the letter 'b?' Brave the backlog with Two Scoops' Mike!

LISTEN: Mike discusses his picks on Soap Central Live's two-part special wrap-up of the year -- The Best of 2011 and The Worst of 2011.

READ: Allison offered up her picks for Best and Worst of 2011 in last week's Two Scoops column.

MORE YEAR IN REVIEW: Check out our Year-in-Review columns dating back to 2004.

Has your year been bold and beautiful? Did you discover you liked keeping it in the family? Did you whip through life at three times the normal speed? Were things very scary because of berries? These and more situations faced the Forresters et al in 2011!

The time has come to say goodbye to another year. The Bold and the Beautiful is doing so by having Amber suddenly get territorial about Rick (!), and playing the "Let's Keep Liam and Hope Apart" game in yet another location shoot. No one can say the show's not consistent. But consistently what?

Over the years, the "B" in B&B has stood for many things besides "bold" and "beautiful." "Brash." "Breathtaking." Even "ballsy." But this year, the unfortunate adjective that keeps coming up is "bad." And not in the Michael Jackson sense. It pains me to say that about a soap I love, but how can it be denied? Was it experiments gone wrong? The absence of a muse? Deliberate sabotage? Decide for yourself as we Two Scoop it Best & Worst style!

BEST DISASTER: The Plane Crash
B&B was overdue for bona fide calamity, and found it by plunging Brooke and Thomas into the ocean during a storm. The moments as the plane went down were genuinely terrifying, and the ordeal as Thomas saved Brooke from drowning in the dark waters was movie-quality. The ensuing rescue did the expected -- group characters together to ponder the fragility of life -- but seeing usual adversaries Ridge, Bill, and Nick team up in a time of crisis was the icing on the cake. Everything leading up to and following this event defied description, but the actual crash and rescue did soaps proud.

WORST SOCIAL ISSUE: Nick and the Cigars
Think the recent foster care story was fodder for a fourth Emmy? Ten months before, B&B clamored for it by dovetailing Stephanie's lung cancer with a heavy-handed intervention for Nick in their 6,000th episode. We'd hardly seen Nick smoke, but suddenly everyone from Stephanie to Jackie to Aggie was haranguing him about his cigars after a spot showed up on his lung. (No Brooke?) Bringing in actual cancer survivors was well-intentioned, but by then the point had been so rammed down our throats that even Nick was getting pissed. Social stories work best when presented subtly, not pushed at us in "special episodes."

Since his entry to the world of the Forresters, Donna's never-before-heard-of son had been dull as dishwater. Even papa Justin and first girlfriend Steffy failed to energize him. This year, Marcus dallied with becoming a player, but he was still a cure for insomnia until he was given an unexpected B-12 shot: a child. Suddenly there was a light in his eyes as he took responsibility for daughter Rosie, gently rebuffed babymama Amber's advances, and got into a sweet romance with Dayzee. Now other characters look dull next to him. Only one question: when are we going to see his adoptive parents?

Last year's Most Entertaining Character went from badass to just plain bad in 2011. It was one thing for the former womanizer to drool over Steffy with wife Katie at home. But once he ended the affair, he used his considerable resources to push Steffy on son Liam, even using security cameras to make sure she spent the night! What really killed Bill, though, was his plotting to off Amber, which would also have killed his own unborn grandchild. And he showed no remorse about it! Dollar Bill was much more fun when he was simply diabolical instead of pathological.

BEST RECAST: Jacob Young
Okay, he was the only recast, and then because of All My Children's tragic cancellation. But what a joy to see the original Rick Forrester back after twelve years. He slipped right back into those designer shoes with parents Brooke and Eric, and connected to the younger generation by helping sister Hope in Aspen. Of course, Young, who became a powerhouse on AMC, hasn't had much to do yet besides potentially design with Amber and flirt with Beverly. And Rick, who turned to the dark side under Kyle Lowder, still needs redemption. So there's a lot of potential for Rick if B&B keeps itself Young!

Back in 2001, Whipple Jones III fell for Brooke, who couldn't forget Ridge. In 2010, Whip married Taylor -- but she couldn't forget Ridge, either. The good-natured PR whiz was suddenly reduced to pulling photo pranks and whining about Taylor not being home when she was only out looking for her presumed-dead son. He finally smartened up and called Taylor on her crap regarding Ridge and Brooke, but disappeared after giving her his walking papers, with not even a mention during the recent troubles at Jackie M. Talk about doing Whip (and Rick Hearst) cold.

Joanna Johnson was on our screens for one single episode. But what a difference an episode makes! Karen Spencer -- twin sister to the infamous Caroline -- had been rather milquetoast during her '90s run. But the woman who came back for half-brother Bill's surprise vow renewal was warm, wise, positively glowing, and quick with the snappy comebacks. The show is in desperate need of a grounded character like this. She could keep Bill in line, and once Thorne realizes (again) that Taylor will never be over Ridge, he and Karen could have a reunion of their own. Give this woman a contract!

When Windsor Harmon stepped back on to the front burner, fans were overjoyed. But getting thrust into two rehash stories (heralded by a psychic prediction!) was unworthy of him. First, Thorne looked to Taylor to stage a coup at Forrester. He'd already jockeyed for position there once, and the sudden hostility with Ridge seemed manufactured. Then, he tried a third romance with Taylor, glossing over the fact that Taylor killed his wife Darla! B&B nixed the coup and the romance, ignoring Thorne's interesting chemistry with Amber before dropping his story completely. More Thorne, please -- but next time give us something more original. (Calling Karen Spencer!)

Adam Gregory, it's not your fault. Thomas has been insufferable this year, and in a series of tacky, outright icky plots. He almost ruined his father's marriage by kissing Brooke, then acted all entitled when Ridge pulled the plug on the Taboo line. His instant interest in Dayzee strained credibility. He showed no backbone when he let Stephanie twist his arm into lying that he had sex with Brooke, led astray by the promise of Stephanie's stock. And now he's at it again, chasing after stepsister Hope. Forget the basement -- Thomas needs to be banished to Forrester International, pronto!

Brooke earned this title in 2010, and it was inconceivable she could be even more of a whipping girl in 2011. But B&B pulled it off, jeopardizing her marriage with stepson Thomas' advances, putting her through a hellacious plane crash she barely survived, and making her eat psychedelic berries that deluded her into thinking she'd had sex with Thomas. Looking over her admittedly sordid history, Brooke beat herself up like she was Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ. And all by June. Give Brooke a few months at a spa and let someone else wear the trouble magnet for a while!

BEST USE OF HISTORY: Stephanie's Past
To set up a questionable "special episode," Stephanie chased down foster kid Beverly, who was blamed for a done-to-death design-stealing plot. But when Beverly went off about Stephanie's privileged existence, La Forrester got real about her own childhood. Not only did it remind us of the abuse Stephanie grew up with, but it added new layers to Stephanie's decades-old relationship with Eric when she suggested she only got married to get out of her father's house! Soaps are best when they reach upward while rooted deeply in the ground -- and that one paragraph was more Emmy-worthy than the whole "special episode" that contained it.

Brooke has had a very colorful romantic life, making decisions that ranged from misguided to abominable. Naturally, Hope would want better for herself. But it was a complete up-yours to continuity when Hope suggested there was a now-serving sign over Brooke's door. "All the men we had coming in and out of our home," she told Liam. "I didn't know all of them." Hope was born in 2002, during which time Brooke only bounced between Ridge and Nick. What man did Hope not know? Andy, who raped Brooke? Acknowledging history is one thing. Twisting it that egregiously is misguided and abominable.

Bill and Steffy's steamy (non-sexual!) assignation seemed inevitable after eighteen months of lustful looks and snappy banter. But the real passion was in the fallout. Katie's transplanted heart almost gave out (despite the fastest recovery in soap history). Ridge punched Bill, who practically enjoyed it. Steffy and Hope almost came to blows themselves yet almost made up in the same scene. And best of all, Taylor, who'd spent months co-signing Steffy's crap, blasted her and Bill for cheating. Steffy's instant rebound with Liam was a mockery, but the reaction to "Still" featured fine performances all around, especially from Jacqueline MacInnes Wood.

BEST PAYOFF: Amber's Baby
Déjà vu dominated as Amber again faked a babydaddy with mama Tawny looking on. Everyone knew Oliver was the father, anyway. Or was he? Jaws dropped when Marcus also turned up in Amber's bed -- from there, the endgame seemed obvious. Yet, Amber's delivery of an African-American child was strangely satisfying. It ended the drawn-out Liam/Hope/Oliver foolishness, inspired Amber to reform after finally having a healthy baby -- and didn't it make Marcus interesting? Plus, it fit, since it felt like that's how the Rick/Raymond story should have ended in 1999. Every once in a while, you can go back again.

The chiseled designer long ago set the standard for waffling that all are following now. But this year, Ridge topped himself in his worst Brooke/Taylor retread ever. He was understandably upset when son Thomas came on to Brooke. But Ridge was more angry over a kiss she slept through than he was over Brooke "accidentally" sleeping with Oliver! He forgave Logan, yet ran to Taylor over Brooke's supposed berry sex, arranging to marry Doc the next day! Then when the truth came out, he returned to Brooke, wearing his wedding clothes. Wow. He's flakier than the Pillsbury Dough Boy!

MOST INNOVATIVE STORY: The Spencers' Therapy
Katie and Bill's marriage hit the skids when she found out her husband was plotting a murder. Using Soap Logic 101, her next step would have been to divorce him -- or at least have an affair. Instead, Katie dragged Bill into therapy! It sounds dry on paper, but it worked, between Bill's snarking and Katie's fear of violence after brother Storm's tragic death. And glory be, Taylor was Taylor again, carefully listening and dispensing sagelike advice. Did anyone else catch the spark between her and Bill? Every current story could benefit from such a trip to the psychiatrist's couch.

In an age of few boundaries, retaining Hope's purity was actually an admirable move. Getting hit over the head with it is what stained it. Hope suddenly worked her point-of-view into her fashion line (never happen!). Liam, after a patient year, suddenly couldn't wait to devirginize Hope. And everyone weighed in on it. Brooke (who offered up lingerie!) argued with Taylor while Steffy pursued Liam and taunted Hope, all making Hope sound like a freak because she chose not to have sex. There was a good message in there somewhere. But this was virgin territory that should have been left unexplored.

MOST CONFUSING PLOT: The Forrester Stock
Obviously Brad Bell doesn't read this column. Donald Trump couldn't have found the bottom line of what was already last year's Most Confusing Plot. First Ridge gave Thomas a 5% share from his 25%. Then Stephanie promised Thomas her 25% if he said he had sex with Brooke. Once that lie was exposed, angry Taylor obtained that quarter through an "irrevocable trust." Further story was based on Taylor, Steffy, and Thomas holding 55% of the company -- except Stephanie's original deal was that Thomas would get the stock after she died! This never-ending mathematics game is one story that just doesn't add up.

B&B took us from the roof of CBS Studios to the cliffs of Malibu, from the mountains of Colorado to the beaches of Cabo San Lucas in an effort to illustrate their stories. While all these backdrops prettied things up, what really worked was when the cameras rolled in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Putting Dayzee and Beverly on an actual L.A. Metro bus lent more authenticity than any verdant vista, as did Stephanie pleading with Beverly through the gates of a real apartment building. Gone are the days of B&B's truly exotic locales (Italy, anyone?), but sometimes, less is definitely more.

It's not that this Rocky Mountain town isn't beautiful, especially in the show's new HD. If anything, the hilly haven far outshined the insipid story that brought our characters there. Fresh off Liam's engagement switcheroo, Steffy skulked around Aspen trying to keep Hope away from him -- hardly compelling enough to justify the trip. And certainly no fan wants to hear the word "gondola" ever, ever again. Finally, riding in discotheque taxis and running around the outside of Brad Bell's own vacation home felt like a cheat. Next time, save the air miles until there's a story worth using them on.

In 2010, Ollie made Worst New Character, and nothing's changed -- there's no "there" there. Being paired with Amber -- at least for scheming -- should have jazzed him up. Instead, he just moped about Hope. Miss Logan further confused him by sending him mixed signals Sherlock Holmes couldn't decipher. And when Steffy finally snatched Liam away from Hope, Oliver was nowhere to be seen while Thomas stole his mojo. In fact, the only spark Oliver has is with Thomas! As the only remaining Jones, Oliver needs a story with bite before he goes the way of Whip and Aggie.

BEST FRIENDS: Bill and Justin
You wouldn't think a loner like Dollar Bill would revel in needing anybody. So of course he'd never admit that he enjoys having right-hand man Justin at his side. Surrounded by yes-men (and yes-women), Justin is the one person who can really call Bill on his BS -- and get away with it. Their banter is smart, substantial, even sometimes adversarial, but Bill listens when Justin talks. Why? Justin's the only person who's not afraid of him, even when Bill issues the occasional threat. And Bill always has Justin's back. The Forresters, Logans, and Marones could use friendships like this!

La Forrester tried repeatedly to rid Ridge of Brooke -- until lung cancer had her "looking through a new lens." But "Brephanie" collapsed under Thomas' interference, and when Brooke wouldn't resurrect the truce, Stephanie resurrected her wicked ways and bullied Thomas into lying about sexing Brooke so that Ridge would return to Taylor. Not only did she cruelly screw over Steffy and Ridge in the bargain, but BFF Taylor! In fact, the only good part was Taylor blasting Stephanie for initiating their friendship to keep Brooke away from Ridge! Everyone's forgiven the matriarch except Taylor -- and us.

Last year's Best New Character already started losing his goofy charm while being duped into fatherhood by Amber. Once free, he proposed to Hope -- but things quickly went downhill. Suddenly Liam was a horndog who couldn't wait for sex. He was so dense, he didn't realize Hope bolted because he let Steffy paw him, instead proposing to Steffy the same night! Having learned nothing from Amber, he couldn't see he was now being manipulated by Steffy (and Bill!), staying married to her even after discovering her lies! Talk about dropping IQ points. Maybe it was his multiple concussions?

2011's crop of day-player "reality" stars failed to impress, as did the appearance of a real-life princess. Then in walked Dr. Ramon! As half of Santa Barbara's Cruz and Eden, we cared about A Martinez right away because he's one of us. Plus we know he has the acting chops to pull off anything thrown his way. And he had chemistry with everyone he shared scenes with (especially Don Diamont). He'll be back January 13 -- hopefully B&B will keep him on staff this time, which would really give the show an "A"! (And hey -- Felicia needs a boyfriend!)

"The Huntress" long ago proved she can play meaty story -- so why is she never given any? This year, Taylor was reduced to chasing after Ridge while married to Whip, and remarrying Ridge on a double rebound. Oh, Doc had her moments, standing up to Stephanie and laying down the law with Bill -- not to mention gently counseling Bill and Katie. But she always gets sucked back into pining over Ridge and sparring with Brooke, which blows any fresh story because you know how it will end. "The Huntress" deserves far more after 21 years!

WORST QUADRANGLE: Steffy/Liam/Hope/Thomas
Liam and Hope had already weathered a dizzying array of breakups before finally recommitting. Then Steffy, dumped by Bill five minutes earlier, fell in love with Liam because he saved her from drowning in a bathtub. What followed was us drowning in months of contrived plots and repetitive dialogue, five days a week. Brooke/Ridge/Taylor for the new millennium? Not even close. Then creepy Thomas was added to the mix to leer at stepsister Hope. Eww. And do the Forresters have nothing to do but talk about this forced foursome? All the sparkly remotes in the world aren't enough to cover up this hot mess.

Was any B&B character true to themselves this year? At least there's a certain consistency when no one's doing things that fit their personalities. It would be easy to laundry list specific examples, but here's the real culprit: plot-driven stories. Why do these moments designed to shock fall flat? Because the characters are simply pawns on a storyline chessboard instead of what they're meant to be -- human beings with feelings and fears and experiences that make them behave the way they do in character-driven stories. Dig there and you've got soap gold every time. Everything else just comes up fool's gold.

BEST FLASHBACKS: Taylor Goes '90s
It wasn't the actual set of flashbacks that did it -- how many times have viewers seen Taylor frolic with Ridge in St. Thomas these past 19 years? Nor was it what triggered the flashbacks -- psychedelic berries. (The less said, the better.) No, what was most intriguing about revisiting this period was the way present-day Hunter Tylo was incorporated into the retro footage. Through careful editing and a dash of CGI, it really seemed as if 2011 Taylor was talking to 1992 Ridge. Taylor's continual yearning for Ridge has long bypassed pathetic, but at least this was a cool way to illustrate it.

WORST TREND: Pace and Follow-Through (Tie)
There's a difference between keeping an audience's attention and barreling through so fast they can't keep up. Where's the opportunity to get excited about a storyline's build-up or payoff? Such unnatural rhythms render even the best tale implausible. Conversely, the show spends weeks beating one story into the ground at the expense of all others. Intriguing alternate possibilities either get dropped, or their momentum is completely lost by the time they're finally revisited. Neither tack is the way to keep viewers hooked. It's about balance, B&B. Keep things cookin' but switch it up, tie up the loose threads, and for soaps' sake, slooooow down.

It took every contrivance in the book to even conceive of Pam becoming Nick's first mate. First, fiancé Stephen suddenly ditched Pam off-screen after a year-long relationship. The same day, Pam waltzed into Jackie M's steam room just as Jackie contemplated stealing Eric's designs, leading Jackie to promise the loony lemon bar lady some Nick nookie if she committed the crime. So who expected the twist that Nick, who'd reluctantly agreed to the scheme, would actually warm up to Pam? It won't last with Donna now in the picture, but for one brief moment, a Nick/Pam pairing actually didn't seem so half-baked.

Surprise! There wasn't a single couple to root for this year, simply because either they were rushed together too fast to allow viewers to get invested in them, or they played musical chairs to the point it wasn't worth the investment. Taylor, Steffy, Ridge, Liam, Pam, Owen, Hope, and Donna all glommed on to new partners as soon as the old ones left the room. Where was the stability, the emotion -- the romance? Even 2010's Best Couple, Brooke and Ridge, collapsed under another Bridge/Tridge retread. We beg you, no more instant relationships, marriages, and divorces! Give us something we can feel.

WORST STORY: The Berries
Last year's mask-boink looks like Shakespeare next to this. You all know: B&B topped months of "will they or won't they" tripe between Brooke and Thomas with a deserted island and psychedelic berries that made the step-relatives think they did the nasty. How could they both have the same CGI hallucination? But even that is overthinking a story that was a shipwreck from beginning to end. Taylor wanting to prosecute Brooke for child abuse? Stephanie destroying the life of a woman she'd made peace with? Two divorces finalized overnight? Ridge's instant proposal to Taylor? Thomas was about ruined forever, with Stephanie not far behind. "I don't want to have to spend that much time around you people," Thorne growled at Taylor's non-wedding. And most viewers shared that sentiment. Quite simply the worst story on this or any soap, at any time. Brad Bell, you should be ashamed of yourself.

BEST STORY/MOST WASTED OPPORTUNITY: Eric and Stephanie's Intimacy Issues
B&B's crowning moment was Stephanie's very quiet realization that she no longer felt amorous toward long-time partner Eric. She loved him, but her cancer and advancing age made her not want to get her groove on. Eric understood, but wasn't ready to give up giving it up. True to form, he turned to Jackie, but they both cared for Stephanie so much that they couldn't stab her in the back. This understated, powerful story featuring three soap veterans was not only the best this year, but the most realistic. It had heart. It had soul. And it had guts. Unfortunately, just as it got rolling, Ridge's barking caused the whole thing to dissolve into unnecessary, design-stealing rehash. But if there's any hope for B&B in 2012, it's that they can still spin such a substantial tale. We need to see kick-ass material like this every episode, not just a couple weeks a year!

Hopefully you got a chance to hear Allison and me expound on our Best and Worst picks on Soap Central Live -- if not, the shows have been archived and are ready for listening at your convenience.

In collecting my thoughts for this column, I've had a lot of ideas on how B&B can really rock in 2012. There are still so many possibilities, and I will share them with you in my next column, January 16. In the meantime, I want to extend a big THANK YOU to all my readers -- your comments, encouragement, and appreciation make me want to Scoop the best Scoop I can for you guys every two weeks. I wouldn't still be on here if it wasn't for you!

The happiest and healthiest of new years to everyone, and, as 2012 begins, let's all make a resolution to be bold!

Mike (Adam-Michael James)
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Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of Soap Central or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen and what has happened, and to share their opinions on all of it. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same point of view.

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