Has your year been bold and beautiful? Did and your destiny find silly reasons to prolong your estrangement? Did you give Mattel a run for its money? Did you lose your mind after it already seemed you lost your mind? These and more situations faced the Forrester-Logan-Spencer-Spectra-Buckingham clan in 2020!
Dang, Scoopers! Didn't we just do a Best & Worst column? Well, the appearance of this one can only mean that 2020 is over, and I'm sensing that communal sigh of relief that it can't possibly be over too soon. We've all been through a lot -- some far more than others -- but it's all been a none-too-subtle reminder that we're all in this together. If our soap characters can learn that once or twice a year, we can do better!
Though a column about soaps is a perfect place for a soapbox, I'll step down off mine now and turn my attention to this year that was. 2020. Whoever thought, when it started, that we'd end up going three months without fresh episodes because of a pandemic that had even television on lockdown? The break shone old light on current stories and made us even more grateful when cameras could roll again.
Still, despite there only being nine months of story to cover instead of twelve, there's a lot to best and worst about over here. We got new characters, new situations...some of the unexpected...and other arcs that went on so long, you couldn't Swiffer all the dust off of them. And so, once again, I am honor bound to Scoop about them for you and try to make sense out of this nonsensical year.
Full disclosure: I traditionally base these year-end columns on the Soap Opera Digest model -- and I have not, as yet, peeked at their picks. Neither have I read the best/worst column Chanel offered last week -- both because I didn't want my own choices to be influenced by outside sources. This that you're getting here, it's all me. So, to get us to 2021 faster, let's jump in and Two Scoop it Best & Worst style!
Who says you can't find a doctor when you need one? Steffy came back from lockdown only to end up on her back from a motorcycle accident. And it turned out Dr. John "Finn" Finnegan wasn't a figment of Steffy's anesthetic haze. He stood by her side through her painful recovery and subsequent addiction to pain meds -- more admirable, he stood up to Thomas and Liam's opinions as he declared his love for Steffy. Yeah, "Sinn" was rushed. Yeah, no love scenes 'cuz of COVID. But Steffy finally found a good man at long last...and glory be, he's not a Spencer!
"Flyatt" earned this title last year, too, but somehow that they're still together makes them seem more deserving. Wyatt ping-ponged back to Flo after Sally called him "Liam," and even Sally's I'm-dying plot couldn't dissolve the Krazy Glue between Flo and Wyatt this time. That would be okay, except Wyatt still hasn't washed the stink off from having treated Sally so badly, and Flo will always be "Felony Flo" to any viewer with a conscience. No matter how much "Flyatt" frolics in Bill's office, there's still nothing to root for with these guys. Guess you could say they...deserve each other.
Though the number of couples who received interference from third parties reduced due to less episodes this year, none of the trios we saw got hot enough to stand out in any particular way. Shauna never had a chance because we all knew Bridge would rebuild. Zende had only a passing flirtation with Zoe but no passionate reason to steal her from Carter. And, though both Thomas and Steffy tried, even Lope survived any foolery. Want a tempting '21 triangle? Select a lover who's genuinely torn between two others, with no bad guys and no easy guess as to who the winner will be.
Carter had the whole lockdown to long for Zoe, so when we hit "play" again and Carter hurried them together, it still worked. How kick-ass for the long-hidden-away lawyer to find love! Then Zende came home, and Zoe was somehow pulled to him after a handful of convos. Finally, we added Zoe's sister, newbie Paris, but Paris crushed hard on Zende from the jump. Where's the tension? There is zero heat between Zende and Zoe, who seems just as happy to marry Carter, and Zende mopes a little over Zoe but seems totally into Paris. Can't light a fire if you don't have a match!
No one would ever predict a worldwide pandemic would come along and stop our lives, let alone production of the soaps. Usually a real-life development wouldn't trounce reel-life, but network execs had to get creative when they couldn't fill their airtime with brand-new episodes. So they gave us day after day of classics! And not just "classics" from 2018. We witnessed B&B's beginnings, hitting epic scenes dating all the way back to 1987. These blasts from the past heralded the B&B that was...and left clues for how to do a better B&B tomorrow. If you have to have lemons, this is how you make lemonade!
Soap 101 teaches that, with the limited minutes on screen, you don't plant a plot seed and then not water it. Sure, soaps experiment, but this year B&B made a career of making nothings out of somethings. Quinn spiked alcoholic Brooke's OJ with booze, but Brooke stayed on the wagon. Thomas offered to help Quinn bust Bridge in one episode, but never mentioned it again. No one learned Vinny gifted Steffy with the extra pills that ignited her addiction. And Quinn and Shauna nearly fought over Eric, but the BFFs enacted "sisters before misters" instead. If the show's not interested in all their ideas, why should we be?
Yeah, yeah, put a cute kid on screen and people are happy. But Henry Joseph Samiri brings much more to the table than that. In Douglas, he presents genuine confusion and unsettledness when Daddy wants to marry someone other than Mommy Hope. His joy is realistic when masterminding and officiating Liam and Hope's T-shirt wedding. And though Thomas doesn't really deserve forgiveness for his treatment of his son, Douglas, in Samiri's sneakers, makes us believe that forgiveness is possible. Keep this kid on the payroll, let Douglas age naturally, and let's see what Samiri does when Douglas hits the terrible teens!
Don't worry, Budge -- it wasn't you. It was the hype the show pumped out, making us believe that you were coming back for something substantial in November. After all, no one was getting married or reuniting. Bridget had to be returning for a story all her own! And what did she get? One phone call with Brooke that covered nothing worth the appearance. Talk about disappointing. Lesson: Bridget Forrester is only the First Freaking Daughter of her generation. She is legacy. And she should be front-burner at all times, not relegated to day-player scenes and misleading announcements. We love you, Bridget!
Felt like you traded in B&B for reruns of Passions there for a while? This came to mind when Thomas took home a mannequin that looked exactly like Hope and started talking to it. Supping with it. Would he go all the way with it? And when "it" became "her," things got interesting! "Hope" berated Thomas for not taking Hope and demanded he forever remove his competition by killing Liam! Her eyes turned murderous red as she "came to life!" Not typical B&B fare, but "Hope" was an even more effective soap villain than actual ones who have appeared, and she was a lot of fun to boot.
As a doctor, Penny Escobar was capable enough, but as an accomplice in Sally faking her death to win Wyatt back, Penny was definitely a few cents short. She lacked any gumption; all she did was complain to Sally about how they should tell the truth. Naturally, most actual people wouldn't have the stomach for the scheme, but watching Penny turn green through the whole thing wasn't entertaining. And she just happened to be a doctor who wanted to be a fashion designer so she could be rewarded with a spot at Forrester. Sure was a relief when Penny's prescription ran out.
2020 might as well have been 1920 for Katie Logan, because she would have made a great town crier. Basically all she did this year was find herself in convenient places to overhear bits of life-altering news, then report said news. She's also a crappy secret-keeper -- Sally swore Katie to secrecy regarding her terminal diagnosis, which Katie quickly blabbed to everyone. Watching 1987 Katie apply Oxy-10 to her zits was more compelling. If you've got Heather Tom in your stable, you don't waste her on bean-spilling. At least Katie didn't take Bill back; let's hope that means something new and exciting for her in 2021.
You know it's bad when even donating a kidney and enduring a kidnapping can't redeem you. Flo, who earned 2019's Worst New Character here, couldn't capture the interest of most of B&B's audience no matter how hard she tried; there's no way we can forget her banking $50,000 to help Reese facilitate Beth's fake adoption. Even if we could, as a stand-alone, Flo is rather wimpy and dull, and it's hard to believe she's spitfire Shauna's daughter, or that Wyatt would prefer Flo to Sally -- twice. Maybe Flo can get her old croupier job back in Vegas, and the sooner the better.
Outside of a flashback or two, who ever thought B&B characters of old would grace our screens once again? Ah...Stephanie...the original Sally...Sheila...the list goes on. Whether through flaming feuds or couture competitions, the revisited episodes we got during the lockdown brought back still-missed characters, which felt about as cozy as ducking under a comforter while watching TV in lockdown. And then there were previous incarnations of characters! Carrie Mitchum's Donna! Ronn Moss' Ridge! Jennifer Finnegan's Bridget! It was such a treat seeing all the old faces, it was hard not to get wrapped up in the nostalgia. And to come out of it.
Note to Delon de Metz -- it's totally not your fault. You bring more suave to the returned Zende, which is only right, given the adoptee's years in Paris. It's the fact that Zende inserted himself into Zoe's relationship with Carter, and gave up after one not-gone-through text. Zende has Zoe's sister, Paris, waiting in the wings, but doesn't seem to be spending time with her just because he can't have Zoe. Worst of all, Zende came home single but still hasn't told us what happened with Nicole, or if he's even divorced from her. It feels like part of Zende got lost in the luggage.
In the Beforetimes, we called it Friday. But in late April, we saw Ridge cavorting with Shauna in front of a wedding chapel. Concurrently, puny Penny clocked Flo over the head just as she was about to tell Wyatt that Sally was faking her death sentence. The girls struggled to drag the unconscious Flo out as Wyatt came home and uttered, "What the hell?" And that's how those normal Friday endings became boffo cliffhangers, because we had to wait 'til July for answers. Were Ridge and Shauna married? Was Sally really kidnapping Flo? Mesmerizing. Hmm. Maybe there's something to be said for taking the occasional break!
If you started watching B&B any time after 2010, you may not know there was a time there was no Liam bouncing between Hope and Steffy. This year, Liam was largely Team Hope, except when Hope wouldn't marry him because he wanted her to give up both HFTF and custody of Douglas. Then Hope saw Liam kissing Steffy, which landed Hope in Thomas' clutches. Lope finally got through that, except now Liam slept with Steffy because he saw Thomas kissing a mannequin that looked just like Hope. Come on, B&B -- Lope was settled and Steffy had Finn. Couldn't we have left it alone?
It's not often, in this digital age of spoilers and rumors, that any TV show can genuinely surprise us. B&B pulled that off pre-lockdown, and how. We found out our beloved Sally Spectra was dying! Our hearts went out to her as we watched her diagnosed final month with extra interest. But then, during a visit with Dr. Escobar, the truth came out -- Sally wasn't dying; she was just trying to lure Wyatt away from Flo by pretending she was! Bam! We'll never know if that was the plan all along or if the show shifted in mid-stream, but it sure woke us up!
Bridge won this trophy last year as they banally battled over Thomas, but this year, we switched villains on B&B's endgame couple and put Quinn in the mix. Quinn fumed when Brooke slapped Shauna and turned her attentions to having Shauna replace Brooke as Ridge's wife. For it to happen, Bill had to kiss Brooke, Shauna had to send Carter a text on Ridge's phone to enact divorce documents still sitting in Ridge's desk, and Quinn had to push a do-over wedding even Shauna didn't want. And all because Quinn wanted vengeance on Brooke. Cramming puzzle pieces together doesn't always make them fit.
When watching TV, it's easy to forget we're looking at living, breathing people playing roles. The coronavirus, and the show's subsequent shutdown, reminded us of that. B&B was the first soap back -- how would they handle things going forward? Oh, it's different. We can tell when characters are making out with obvious, now infamous mannequins. We see when one character enters and another darts across the room. We don't see couples in bed. But we can handle that. We're soap fans, and we would rather do without certain things and bristle at forced staging if it means our actors and crew are staying safe. Kudos, B&B.
They say there's nothing new under the sun, and for a 33-year-old soap, that may be true. But not only have we mostly gotten retread stories this year, we've also gotten them with little pop. Thomas' schemes became more and more diabolical, but we'd already seen enough of them in '19. Brooke was sure Quinn was behind Shauna marrying Ridge, but Brooke never investigated. The Spencers forgave Flo, when some lingering resentment (especially from Bill) would have been welcome conflict. Even fresher stories like Steffy's addiction and Thomas' descent into madness lost steam midway. This show has no shortage of beautiful -- how about a lot more bold?
Wait! Who's that snazzy lawyer with the hella bod and killer smile? Why, it's Carter Walton, who's been essentially AWOL since his engagement to Maya tanked in 2014! Sure, we've still seen him...officiating everybody else's weddings. But post-lockdown, the show wisely took Carter out of mothballs, gave him his own apartment, a ginormous promotion, and a love interest of his own! How his eyes glow when he sees fiancée Zoe! Hopefully Carter won't be played for a total sap should Zende spirit Zoe away from him...and if Zende does, hopefully Carter will keep his mojo flowing and bounce back sooner than six years this time.
Kick a girl when she's down! Sally 2.0 already earned last year's Most Wasted Character, only to get dumped by Wyatt again and become so pathetic, she tried to hang on to him by pretending she was dying. Sally came to California brash and confident, yet spent her final days there jockeying for a guy more beneath her than a Santa Monica sewer. And when Sally got snagged, her final scene was with Katie, who barely factored into her story; Sally didn't even get a proper exit scene. Thankfully, Y&R snatched Sally up; one can only hope Genoa City treats her better than Los Angeles did.
Thomas was coming off like one of those old-school cartoon villains. With a twirl of the mustache he didn't have yet, everyone fell into his traps so he could possess Hope. Until Steffy caught Thomas designing a wedding dress for Hope when he was supposed to be marrying Zoe. On cue, Hope arrived in her dress and stopped Zoe's nuptials. Unbeknownst to us, Steffy, Hope, Liam, and even Zoe had put their heads together and decided to trick Thomas into revealing his true intentions -- and it worked! The secret society had Thomas ugly crying his way out of the room in hand-rubbing, satisfying humiliation. Foiled again!
Like pretty much all other shows, B&B ground to a screeching halt when COVID came, leaving stories hanging high and dry. Stories which weren't all working. Our soap received three months to affect a mass retooling...and didn't take advantage of it. They could have pulled a DAYS time jump, writing themselves out of the corners of lesser arcs and starting fresh with details just begging to be filled in. Or jazzed up the stories they had going. Instead, B&B literally took the next script they had in the pile and continued from there. They didn't even strike long-gone characters from the credits. Time isn't always kind.
When we came back from the shutdown and Sally absconded with Flo, we looked to be in for months of Flo-as-victim, laughable enough as Flo could easily have untied the pantyhose that strapped her to Sally's radiator. But Flo (and the show) decided to have a little fun in speeding up the denouement. Flo tripped Sally and managed to write "help" on Sally's underwear the few moments Sally was out, knowing Sally was on her way to seduce Wyatt. He saw Flo's scrawl reflected in his mirror and the jig was up for Sally. What a clever, funny way to turn a story on a dime!
We know that not every soap character can be front-burner. But B&B has the peculiar problem of focusing on Ridge, Brooke, Steffy, Liam, and Hope...and that's about it. Other characters almost always get pulled into something going on with that quintet. Little was different in 2020. Jennifer Gareis (Donna) and Aaron D. Spears, who have been on contract for two years, still have nothing to do. Powerhouse Bill is rarely on. Granted, COVID protocols may be limiting those allowed on set, but Finn and Thomas are there; they're just tied in with Steffy and Hope. No great painter buys a palette yet only uses a few of the colors.
It's true: Liam and Hope have had so many do-over weddings, their caterer must be on call 24/7. What made this year's different? To begin with, no interruptions. No exes or tip-offers with ceremony-stopping news. Next, no fanfare. Liam got Douglas to help him Magic Marker some "Bride" and "Groom" T-shirts, and that was the wardrobe. Finally, it was an inside job. No Forrester or Logan mansion living rooms for Lope (B&B hasn't actually had couples marry at a church in years), just Liam and Hope exchanging vows in their cabin living room...with Douglas officiating. It was enough to make even the most cynical of soap viewers smile.
Let's be clear: Jacqueline Macinnes Wood crushed every scene she was in with this storyline. It can even be ignored that essentially every heroine on this show (Brooke, Katie, Hope -- Steffy's own mother, Taylor) has grappled with addiction to one substance or another. And with Steffy in so much pain recovering from a motorcycle accident, there's certainly proper motivation there. The problem was the pacing. Steffy stared at her painkillers a little, then tried to charm more out of doctor Finn. Out of nowhere, she got a secret stash from Vinny, then suddenly Steffy was pulling a knife on Hope and Liam for keeping daughter Kelly from her. Rushed much? The intervention with Ridge, Finn, and Liam was epic, but Steffy was out of rehab in no time with a new lease on life. This was a story that needed months to simmer, not weeks to sweep under the rug.
Before B&B had even come back from their enforced shutdown, they were already nearing laughingstock territory for having the audacity to use mannequins in place of actors it was no longer safe for other actors to kiss, even stage kiss. That humorous reputation was cemented quickly once new scenes broadcast with characters' romantic partners sitting surprisingly still. So the show decided to go with it and build a story around one of the on-set mannequins. Using one that was the spitting image of Hope, B&B had Thomas find it and form a "relationship" with it, one that progressed to Doll Hope demanding Thomas kill Liam and claim the real Hope as his own. That this started around Halloween just added to the effect. Reactions to having Thomas talk to a dummy were mixed, but it was the year's most creative touch to include one in story given the real-life circumstances.
If not for the lockdown, this story never would have worked. We had already been forced to watch Thomas' insane actions for months, with no real indicator anything was wrong with him. He bolted after being exposed at his wedding to Zoe, and then we skipped three months. Upon returning, Thomas seemed like he was at least working to find his marbles. He had compassion for Steffy and really looked to be over his obsession with Hope. Then Thomas found the Hope doll and his world started to spiral. He went into cold sweats, couldn't concentrate, and eventually kissed the mannequin, thinking it was Hope. Turned out Thomas had a brain bleed and required surgery. It's unclear whether this brain injury caused or rationalizes any of Thomas' previous wacko behavior, but Matthew Atkinson's bravura performance set all the questions aside and actually generated empathy for a character who had long passed unredeemable. Crazy!
What do you think, Scoopers? Did my Best & Worst picks match up with your own thoughts, or do you see things completely differently? Put 2020 to bed in the Comments section below or on the Soap Central message boards, or simply click here to submit feedback. Your comments could wind up in a future column!
Thank you once again for supporting me and my columns. It's been one crazy-ass year, and we're not out of the woods yet. But I have a feeling certain storylines are starting to wrap up, and soon we'll be able to move on, just like your favorite B&B characters do. May all your holidays be happy, and your 2021 be a vast improvement on the past twelve months!
Keep watching, be alert, and most of all, be bold. In the meantime, stay safe safe safe, because protecting yourself and others from a global pandemic is super beautiful!
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