LISTEN: Tony and Laurisa discuss their picks for the Best and Worst of the year, be sure to listen to their appearances on Soap Central Live's two-part special wrapup of the year -- The Best of 2011 and The Worst of 2011.
READ: The Alex North Memorial Awards for the Worst of 2011
I happen to be one who thinks that there can never be enough celebrating this time of year. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Festivus, New Year's; whatever it is, I say bring on the party! For us in DAYS Land, that means it's time to preheat the oven for the most famous pastries of all -- Alice's doughnuts. I can only imagine that they're like a culinary hug with enough butter and sugar to make Paula Deen blush.
And it is those famous doughnuts that lend their name to the end of the year awards banquet that Tony and I throw each year, over here at our corner of the Internet. We love Alice, and we don't pass up any chance to celebrate in her name.
In order to spread as much cheer as possible, Tony and I swear under penalty of the ghost of Christmas Present that we won't pick the same winner for each category. Additionally, each character can only win one individual award (same goes for actors.) So, with that ingredient list ready, let's make some doughnuts!
BEST NEW CHARACTER
Laurisa: Fafe (real name: Arnold Finegan, go win a trivia bet with your friends with that one!)
Okay, so he sort of killed and raped people. But, aside from that, darn it if I didn't enjoy him! He appealed to my inner smirkette and made her very happy each time he pointed out that the Bradys kind of have a double standard when it comes to pretty much everything they do. Since I knew that he was a hired and trained goon, I never looked at him as a real person. Instead he reminded me of Iago, Jafar's jerky bird friend from Aladdin. He always squawked out the thing that I would like to say, that somehow got caught up in my pesky inner-filter.
Tony: Dario Hernandez
Picking Francisco San Martin's Dario had nothing to do with the actor's pouty-lipped adorableness. Nothing, I tell you! Well, maybe a little, but I digress. Dario snags this award for one shining reason. I hate unresolved storylines, but his short stint in Salem resolved a biggie -- Arianna's death. I thought that storyline was a goner, so despite the oddness of never knowing he existed before he strolled into town, I liked that Dario stepped in to play amateur detective and avenging angel with a slightly tarnished halo.
BEST "SPECIAL GUEST STAR" CHARACTER
Laurisa: Valerie Wildman as Fay Walker's ghost
I thought that we'd seen the last of the Hard Luck Kid once Fafe smothered her with a pillow. But then she showed up to haunt Nicole and won my heart forever. Ghost Fay was crazy mesmerizing. She reminded me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie character from the days when the blonde damsel in distress would tremble at the sight of the villain. We knew she'd be caught, but we couldn't resist the urge to be scared for her and of her at the same time.
Tony: Sydney Penny as Dr. Liz Norman
Truth be told, I absolutely adore Sydney Penny! I remember her on The New Gidget, on Santa Barbara as B.J. Walker, her temporary recast as Meg Cummings on Sunset Beach, and, of course, as Julia Santos on All My Children. So, we've been TV-besties for a while now, and seeing her on DAYS made my heart go a-flutter. Not to mention, her acting chops were sharp enough to go up against a certain Ms. Chappell during some very powerful scenes. My only complaint -- her stay was too short lived!
Laurisa: Carrie Brady
I never thought I'd be thrilled to see Carrie Brady back in Salem. But, giving her a good career, and seeing her in action in said career, was great! Sure the Mary Ingalls hair and reindeer blouse was crazy suspect. But her newfound strength (and surprising chemistry with Rafe) more than made up for it. Welcome back, not-Sami!
Tony: Drake Hogestyn as John Black
Although his Brady/DiMera origins seem to have been forgotten since he rolled back into town, having John in Salem makes it feel like the good old DAYS again. I've also been dying to know what happened to him since he was shipped off to Switzerland to recover, and we sure weren't getting any updates form the Higley régime. Sure, sure, the character can be a bit cheesy at times, but that's just part of his nostalgic charm. John's part aging James Bond, part devoted family man, and part brainwashed nutcase. Ultimately, though, it's Drake's big heart that shines through. You can tell he loves what he does and brings everything he has to the role. That certainly makes me root for John. And, that's a fact!
Laurisa: Patrick Muldoon as Austin Reed
Austin Peck played Austin for eight-plus years, including some of my college years, so Austin Peck has always been "Austin" to me. Thus, Patrick is a recast in Laurisa Land. And what a welcome change he was! Whether it's the new face, the hot tan, or the fact that Austin is more Clark Kent than Hans and Franz, he's working wonders on my Austin memory. Congratulations, Austin, you're no longer my least favorite Kate offspring.
Tony: Cody Longo as Nicholas Alamain
When Carly returned to Salem in 2009, the name "Nicholas Alamain" started to pop up again. Carly's über-strained relationship with her wayward son was pure torture for the already overly tortured Doc Manning. So, when she hit rock bottom, lo and behold, a re-casted Nicholas actually returned to Salem to work out their issues! Cody proved to be a fine actor. And he had to be. Not only did he have a month to make you like him, but he played opposite tour de force Chappell. And he completely held his own. Plus, he had charming sibling chemistry with Molly Burnett. It was a win/win recast all around.
MOST IMPROVED CHARACTER
Laurisa: Daniel Jonas
A few years ago, when he came to town as the granny-bedding, wife-stealing man-whore, I never thought that I'd touch Daniel with a ten-foot pole, even if it was covered in antibacterial wash. But this year, he handled Chloe's betrayal with impressive kindness, including paying for her apartment for months, despite the fact she slept and had a baby with his son-in-law! Then, he freely admitted that his crash-and-burn with Chloe was perhaps karmic retribution for the way he treated Lucas. Add in his adorable love for Melanie, his unconditional support of Carly, his respect for Maggie, and his compassion for Jack and Jennifer, I have to say that Daniel is on the upswing.
Tony: Abigail Deveraux
This is pretty easy to explain. When Abigail -- not "Abby" anymore -- initially returned to Salem, I wanted to smack her. She was self-righteous and, as soon as she hooked up with Chad, all she did was talk smack about his family and fret over if she could be with him or not. But, over the past few months, she's matured and blossomed into an interesting, multi-layered character worthy of her supercouple lineage.
Laurisa: Stefano DiMera
I admit, Stefano's been a little lax in the scheming department since his last return. But, this year he returned to the Stefano that I've come to know and love. He gave a guy full body plastic surgery to look like Rafe and then sent him to ruin Sami's life. It was classic soapy Stefano, and I'd expect nothing less.
Tony: "The Bad Guys"
There was something incredibly unsettling about "the bad guys" who ran the illegal gambling ring through Chad, Sonny, and Will's website. Through casting news, I found out they had names, Horace and Zig, but not knowing them beforehand didn't deter them from being absolutely creepy. Heck, they didn't even care that two of their targets were a DiMera and a Kiriakis. They simply struck their victims viciously and anonymously. And that makes anyone who spends time on the Internet feel a little vulnerable. Plus, as I mentioned in a former Two Scoops, it beat the default "the DiMeras did it" excuse.
Me-ouch! Be it catty comments or full-fledged fistfights, the best battle of 2010!
Laurisa: Sami vs. Fafe
When she finally learned the truth, Sami got to go all sorts of crazy on the dude who had been sharing her bed. And it was classic Sami. Never one to shy away from confrontation, it took the collective efforts of Rafe, Bo, and Hope to hold Sami back from physically harming Stefano's latest creation. However, that didn't stop her from taunting Fafe, "Use your words!" while seeing him squirm while gagged and tied to a chair. This was one bad guy who totally deserved it too!
Tony: Chloe Lane vs. Kate Roberts-DiMera
2011 wasn't a kind year for Chloe. That was largely due to one revenge-minded, royally pissed off, yet slightly delusional mama bear named Kate. These two ladies had many blowouts throughout the year, but most of them ended with Chloe in tears or trying to fight back without any real oomph in her punch. But that changed in late September. Chloe had recovered after being attacked by Gus, she had her friends in her corner, and she was privy to all of Kate's dirty deeds against her. And when she laid into Kate, it was epic! Kate was stunned by Chloe's returned chutzpa, but, more importantly, the Chlomeister got to leave Salem with a little dignity restored. Um, a little.
BEST COMEDIC SCENE STEALER
Sure, drama's nice, but comedy is, too, and this character always managed to tickle our funny bone!
Laurisa: Vivian Alamain
Not many women can be scary and funny at the same time, but the divine Louise Sorel managed to pull it off. And it's solely because of her that Vivian ever seemed entertaining. Opening wine on the beach with her teeth, recalling how much Gus likes to watch the fish swim at the pet shop, and reminding me to use the word "trollop" were all welcome tidbits from Auntie Viv.
Tony: Victor Kiriakis
The man not only knows how to deliver a line like nobody else, but his gruff persona absolutely cracks me up! When John Aniston walks onto the screen, I instantly smile and brace myself for the hilarity that is sure to follow, and he never disappoints. Even when he rips into someone that he feels needs his special brand of tough-love (or hard-hate), he does so with a comical flair that keeps me in stitches!
Say what!? The character, on average, who always came up with the finest zingers!
In ancient Greek theater, the Greek chorus served as a narrator, one that would let the audience in on background info and other important details. The counter of this -- a Roman solo, if you will -- is Nurse Maxine, for she always got to call out the things that every viewer wanted to say to the characters on screen. In fact, I propose that NBC start issuing "Maxine Buttons" that viewers can push each time a character needs a lesson in common sense. If enough viewers push the button, Maxine should magically appear on our screen and school people.
Tony: Kate Roberts-DiMera
Lauren Koslow can certainly deliver a line! She makes it so Kate seamlessly slices through anyone in her way with slick sarcasm and snide, catty comments. Add in Lauren's hysterical, well-timed eye-rolls and exasperated expressions, and it's the perfect storm of in-your-face remarks that leaves her targets battered and bruised, but her audience thoroughly amused.
Laurisa: Bo Brady
Bo's not one to suit up like his brother. (Honorable mention/moment of silence for my beloved Philip.) But Bo has certainly done the whole "aged rebel" look right. The military style jackets are a neat nod to his time in the Merchant Marines. And when he has to clean up a bit (like for the Horton Square dedication), he does so without looking like a stiff suit. After all, he has to look great since he must be seen next to...
Tony: Hope Brady
Truth be told, the Wardrobe Department would have to work hard to make Kristian Alfonso look bad. She's basically one of the hottest things this side Soap Land! But they outdid themselves with Hope's Horton Town Square Dedication dress. The white and gold wear simply worked for Kristian. She looked breathtaking! And, usually, when selecting recipients for this award, I go with the character who, on average, dressed well all year. Hope did that, but her amazing dedication dress certainly sealed her cyber-statuette this year!
DAYS' Hottest Female Eye Candy
Laurisa: Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe Lane)
It's the last year that the stop-and-stare gorgeous Ms. Nadia Bjorlin will be up for this award, so it would be sacrilege not to give Chloe and her always cocktail-party-ready attire one last nod as the fairest one of all. She's never met a color pallet or heel height that she couldn't master. In a way, she's sorta my hero.
Tony: Renée Jones (Dr. Lexie Carver)
Lexie isn't on-screen as much as I'd like, but one thing rings true every time she randomly pops up. I always think, "Wow! Renée is gorgeous!" She has a classy, timeless beauty that's only enhanced by her innate warm presence and a smile that lights up the screen. Plus, this year we got to watch Lexie step out of her scrubs and lab coats and into her Jackie O-esque politician's wife wardrobe. And she looked good, very good!
DAYS' Hottest Male Eye Candy
Laurisa: Casey Deidrick (Chad DiMera)
Casey's brought a swagger to Chad this year that is pretty darn hot. Gone are the goofy t-shirts and shaggy hair. Instead, this leather-clad stud sample is embracing the tall, dark, and mysterious look of other DiMera spawn before him. As much as I'd like to get all moral on Melanie for making out with Chad in that storage room, I kinda can't blame her. She's not blind.
Tony: Bren Foster (Quinn Hudson)
I mean, really, have you seen the man? Have you heard him? He even looks good in a Best Buy blue polo shirt. So, I'm fairly certain if you look up "wowza" in the dictionary, you'll find Bren's picture. And, sure, Quinn might have come to Salem as a slimy pimp, but if loving him is wrong, I don't want to be right.
Speaking of "bad guys who look so good," Laurisa and I would like to officially give an Honorable Mention to all of the hunky DiMera minions, especially Marco (Steve Bruns) and Troy (Eric Fellows). If there was an " Under-Five Holy Hunk" category, they would have certainly gone home with some gold. Cheers, fellows!
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
Laurisa: Melanie Jonas
Melanie may seem like an odd choice for this award, since her year consisted of infidelity, divorce, miscarriage, breakups, and kidnapping. And, sure, now she's crushing on her bestie's fella. Yet, I still remain firm in my belief that 2012 will be a better year for her because she's finally back in the right age bracket. I never did wrap my brain around why the writers pretended that there weren't ten-ish years of age difference between her and the Philip/Chloe/Brady/Arianna group. Melanie fits a zillion times better with Chad, Abigail, Will, Gabi, and Sonny. I'm glad she's there, and I can't wait to see what she does with
Chad her new set of friends.
Tony: Sonny Kiriakis
In some rights, Sonny is already successful. He's charming, confident, and can stay calm in a crisis, but I have a feeling he's going to be like a fine wine that only gets better with age. With an amazing support system already in place, including the ultra-fab Justin and Adrienne, I have no doubts that given the right storyline next year, Sonny will continue to shine.
MOST LIKELY TO RETURN
Laurisa: Jett Carver
It's not so much that I see any reason for Abe's nephew to come back to Salem. It's more that Salem is in desperate need of another 20-something guy to keep Chad from being the token "straight" in Salem charged with romantic storylines for Melanie, Gabi, and Abigail. Jett fits the bill in that he's 1) connected to Salem, 2) not related to any of the three ladies, and 3) on for such an abbreviated previous stint that his age could be adjusted as necessary without much viewer backlash. Other acceptable substitutes would be: Andrew Donavan, Stephen Hawk, and/or Rex Brady.
Tony: Chelsea Brady
Part of this selection is wish fulfillment because I want nothing more than Rachel Melvin to return to DAYS as Chelsea. The other part is reasonable deduction. With Billie heading back to Salem in 2012, I have a hunch that we may see our favorite little former swamp-baby again next year. Well, here's to hoping, at least!
Laurisa: Return of the Holidays
Since we spend every day of our lives with these people, it always seemed strange that they never marked holidays like we do. So, I was beyond thrilled when I turned on the TV one day in October to see that Salem was having a full-on Halloween party -- complete with costumes! My joy continued with Thanksgiving when Victor begrudgingly, yet charmingly, peeled potatoes. And, my holiday love peaked when the Horton tree went up early (more time to enjoy it!) and a second tree went up in the Horton Square! I love that everyone can have a personalized ornament on the big tree, and even better, put them up for people that aren't around Salem for the holidays. (Here's to you, Anna!) I am crossing all of my fingers and toes that these traditions continue into the new year.
Tony: Nicole Gives Up Sydney (For Good)!
There was this short, but sweet scene tucked away amongst all the high drama this year in which Nicole finally -- and I do mean finally -- admitted that Sydney was her "make-believe" daughter. She confessed that she'd always love her and feel close to the little cutie, but she would do so without all the craziness. It was a huge step toward returning Nicole to her former glory. Now, if she just realized her love for E.J. is a one-way ticket to Bad Ideaville, she might score another award next year!
Laurisa: Justin and Adrienne Kiriakis
The quantity of screen time was severely lacking. However, the quality was top-notch. The writers didn't forget to give us the scene where Justin and Adrienne both made their peace with Hope over the whole weird Hope/Justin almost-affair thing. They worked things out so well that Bo, Hope, Justin, and Adrienne got back to sharing tables and beers at the pub! Then, when Justin and Adrienne's out-and-proud son came to town, no one was happier than his beaming parents. Justin and Adrienne were certainly Salem's classiest couple of 2011.
Tony: Daniel Jonas and Jennifer Horton-Deveraux
At most, Dr. Dan and Jen seemed like a summer romance that was sure to fizzle out as soon as her ex came back into the picture. But even if it was supposed to be short-lived, I totally fell for them falling for each other. They entered their courtship cautiously and open-eyed to the fact that they were both mourning failed marriages. Theirs was a slow, steady burn filled with tender moments and charming, awkward encounters straight out of a romantic comedy. It also didn't hurt that Jennifer's class and warmth sanded off Dr. Dan's skanky edges, inching him closer to the non-manwhore he was when he first came to Salem. In return, Dr. Dan treated Jennifer like a queen with the respect and praise she's always deserved from a man, but seldom received.
BEST VETERAN CHARACTER
Laurisa: Maggie Horton
We can always count on Maggie to do the right thing. And, she lived up to every inch of that expectation when she found out that Daniel was her long-lost egg baby. Considering how (justifiably) angry Maggie was when she learned that some of her eggs had been stolen, Maggie could easily have thrown hate-daggers at Lillian Jonas. But, Big Red took into account how much Daniel loved his parents who, by all accounts, gave him a blessed childhood. So, she set about forging a bond with her biological son that in no way negated the place that Lillian has in Daniel's life. That Maggie has poise and panache to spare.
Tony: Dr. Lexie Carver
Lexie makes "having it all" look doable. She's a hardworking doctor, a good friend, a devoted mother, and a supportive wife willing to stand by her man throughout his tumultuous reelection campaign. She also makes the time to help her loved ones and to repair strained relationships. And she does all that while dealing with a family that tests her patience on a daily basis. Lexie handles the DiMeras by staying true to her convictions. She's unwilling to support their shady ways, and strong enough to dish out tough love when needed. Because of that, Lexie is a great, even-keeled character to have roaming around the crazy streets of Salem.
Laurisa: Chandler Massey as Will Horton
It's probably too soon to start making broad declarations that this storyline and this performer may single-handedly reinvigorate an entire daytime audience. It's probably presumptuous of me to start supposing that the powers that be finally got it right by doing a timely, yet non-traditional storyline, by presenting a gay teen as something other than some sort of gay angel. And it's probably waaaay out of line of me to point out that his acting choices challenged the most tenured of vets to bring something new to their craft just to avoid being steamrolled by his intriguing blend of desperation and pathos. But, I'm gonna say all that anyway.
Tony: James Scott as E.J. DiMera
James is always amazing, but he had a lot of heavy lifting to do throughout 2011. In fact, I give him high praise for simply making it out of the entire "Taylor debacle" unscathed. He had to work double-time in an attempt to make us think E.J. and Taylor were a good idea. Although I was never convinced of that, I never doubted that James was doing his best with the material he was handed. However, James brought down the house months later when E.J. grieved over Johnny's apparent death. His scenes alone, as well as with Alison Sweeney, were raw, powerful, and easily reminded me of how wowing James can be. Plus, he has interwoven those high emotional moments with E.J.'s newfound cool, calculated, yet smarmy and slick political persona. Bravo, Mr. Scott!
Laurisa: Crystal Chappell as Carly Manning
By all accounts, no one should like Carly. She was the not-Hope who came to town to try to replace Fancy Face. Much like Diet Coke, we could all tell that it wasn't the real thing. Yet, I found myself rooting for Doc Manning thanks solely to Dame Chappell. To her never-ending credit, Crystal Chappell was never afraid to get ugly with the material. And when she went to that scrunchy face, snot-covered place, like she did each time Lawrence showed up to haunt her dreams or drugs crippled her strong will, no one could touch her. All others are best to just pull up a chair next to me and enjoy the production.
Tony: Alison Sweeney as Sami Brady-Hernandez
Alison is easily one of the hardest-working women in daytime. But even while spreading herself thin around Tinseltown, she still manages to impress me with her performances. She naturally churns out drama with a touch of comedy, when needed, in her own unique way. But sometimes Alison exceeds great, and she catapults herself into superstar status. Her intense scenes when Jonny "died" were a great example of just that. Plus, she's also an actress who can effortlessly go tit-for-tat with anyone. Her scenes with James Scott, Lauren Koslow, Deidre Hall, and Chandler Massey are always must-see-TV. More, please!
Laurisa: Carly's Drug Addiction and Rehab
Even if Crystal hadn't cashed in all of her awesomeness chips for this storyline, it still would have held its own. The supporting performances were wonderful. Melissa Reeves was superb in that powerful scene where Jennifer threw Carly into the shower in an attempt to sober her up. Shawn Christian was amazing when he confronted Carly. Molly Burnett was brilliant in the therapy scenes where Melanie cracked. And, even Bren Foster started to give Quinn a heart. Add in the fact that Carly was long overdue for some sort of a breakdown since she stabbed her husband, and this storyline actually...wait for it...made sense for the character! More big, sweeping stories like this in 2012, and I'll be a happy scooper.
Tony: The Horton Town Square Dedication and the Return of Big Business
After a summer of battered prostitutes and drug abuse, DAYS really, I mean, really, needed to give us something sugar and spice and everything nice. And they did. They threw us a party! Well, actually, the party was in honor of our beloved Tom and Alice, but why split hairs?
A refreshed, sparkly-eyed Kristian Alfonso made Hope the perfect hostess who kept us guessing until the big reveal -- an amazing new set and the return of some old friends! You could tell all the actors were having a blast by the smiles on their faces. Add in the guest stars, the wardrobe, music, and lighting, and it was a great night had by all! Well not by all, the entire night ended with the right amount of jaw-dropping drama, and set up storylines for the rest of the year.
Plus, the dedication ushered the return of big business in Salem. Nostalgic names like Countess Wilhelmina and Basic Black returned to our vocabulary. And, most excitedly, Kate and Sami are back in the ring with each other -- and one of Kate's sons isn't the prize, which is a refreshing change. Simply watching Lauren Koslow and Alison Sweeney interact again is worth the price of admission! And with that, I repeat, "More, please!"
Finally, we have to give a big, huge doughnut to the powers that be for managing to keep DAYS alive and kicking, even in this dreary soap economy. It's not always easy being the sole soap left on a network, but we DAYS fans are a stubborn bunch. Just like Alice, we're not turning our back on our loved ones. That includes our soap family!
So, from our soap family here at Soap Central to you and your family, have a very happy holiday season. Remember to check back next week when all of the sugar will be gone (we used it all for the doughnuts) and we're left to joke about the not-so-great parts of DAYS. We promise, it will be all in good fun!