Character assassination

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Character assassination
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The week of August 2, 2004
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Did someone send a memo to everyone in Llanview instructing them to treat Kevin Buchanan like the town pariah and to revere Todd Manning like the next American Idol?

Did I miss the memo in Llanview that announced to everyone to treat Kevin Buchanan like the town pariah and to revere Todd Manning like the next American Idol? I just feel like I'm watching one of the episodes from a cartoon I used to watch as a kid on Saturday morning--the one where Superman and his heroic buddies all end up in a weird, bizarre universe with Bizarro versions of themselves, possessing qualities that are completely opposite of what they are in the "real" world. I feel like this is Bizarro Llanview.

Let's first get to Bizarro Todd. I realize that I essentially missed three weeks of episodes during my recent trip to Australia and New Zealand; however, surely I didn't miss so much to be confused by the sudden rush of support Todd is receiving from everyone in town! This week during Kevin's sneaky and underhanded endeavor to oust Todd as Editor-in-Chief of the Banner, nearly every one seemed to stand by Todd's side and denounce Kevin as a rat. Viki, Jessica, by one, these individuals stepped forward to defend Todd as if he were the Patron Saint of Llanview. I don't get it. When did Todd suddenly become the hero? When did all of Todd's prior machinations get swept under the rug and become forgotten as though he simply left Carlotta's diner without paying for his food?

The scene which really drove home the new characterization of Todd came when Starr and her new young love arrived at Kevin's doorstep with Todd to apologize for hacking into the Banner's computer mainframe in an attempt to change an article about Kevin to a more negative and defaming manner. There stood Todd, a "proud" parent, of sorts, watching his daughter and her friend do the right thing (albeit at Viki's urging) and apologize to Kevin for their inappropriate actions and poor judgment. Todd said nothing at first. He just watched and listened as his first-born child genuinely apologized. Suddenly, Kevin calls her a liar and starts ranting about how low Todd can go as a human being and that he should be ashamed of himself for bringing his daughter into the vendetta they both share. Todd steps up, throws Kevin against the door, and quietly yet forcefully assures Kevin that he is not to blame and that he should never treat Starr like that again. Wait a minute? Todd is the hero of this scene? Kevin is the villain? Just one or two years ago, these roles would have been totally reversed, and now Todd is just left with everyone's sympathy for being unjustly booted from his Editorship of the newspaper.

Then, like I already said, we have Bizarro Kevin, so consumed by his anger and frustration and jealousy that he has turned into the biggest Buchanan Creep the show has perhaps ever seen. Many incarnations of Kevin Buchanan have been written, and many fine actors have portrayed this role, but this current take on the eldest Buchanan son is just completely misguided. Dan Gauthier is an excellent and superb actor! I find no fault with him or his performance; he's just reading the words he's provided. In fact, the initial confidence and maturity he brought to the role when he first arrived on the show made me really think he was right for the role---and I still think that is the case! But I just don't think the writers have a grasp on what motivates and drives him. I can't help but think that Kevin's recent turn into the dark abyss is a set up for the return of his neglected son, Duke--you know the son he has maybe gone to visit a small handful of times since LeeAnn took him with her all of those years ago. Ironically enough though, Kevin is willing to sue for sole custody of Ace, a child he knows isn't his own. So my question is this---here is a grown man who is going to put all of his effort and time and money into suing to raise a child that isn't his, yet his own flesh and blood is alive and out there, and he essentially wants nothing to do with him! See what I mean? The writers just are too misguided on his motivations. They don't make sense.

We even have Bizarro Blair. After all of the deceptions thrown her way by Todd and after all of the protests that she would never take him back, look at how quickly she is gushing and showing off her new engagement ring to everyone in town. She's acting like a schoolgirl with her first crush! C'mon, Blair, the man has duped you more times than we can keep track of. In one month, Blair is attracted to Kevin; in the next month, she hates him with as much passion as she did when Todd lied to her about Jack's "death." There was a time when family meant everything to Blair. She stood by Dorian and Kelly's sides through thick and thin. But now, Kelly and Blair are cat-fighting in the middle of Dorian's living room! They have as much animosity for one another as Dorian and Viki once had for each other. Family and the Cramer women bonded together no longer is important to Blair. The best part is that she blindingly believes that she and Todd are going to live a happy (and lie-free) life together! My chances of winning the billion dollar lottery are better than believing that these two will tell one another the truth from now on.

With all of these character assassinations, it should come as no surprise that Josh Griffith, formerly a co-head writer with Michael Malone and until recently a self-demoted writer, has resigned from the show altogether. Soap Opera Weekly reports that the former writer left the show disgruntled after having some of his story pitches turned down, but I can't help think that he saw the writing on the wall: the sinking ship called One Life to Live was running out of lives and was heading on a direct path to destruction! I'd love to know what his story ideas were to warrant them being nixed, but surely almost any pitch has to be better than the misdirection of the current stories. As one reader so brilliantly observed to me last week, the show lacks direction and focus, and the stories are totally disjointed. How true! I almost think that some of the writers (I won't point fingers since there are many writers listed in the credits, and Malone surely can't take all of the heat for the many problems of this ratings-languishing show) can't focus on more than one or two stories at a time. If it isn't the Kelly storyline (which brings in the Todd/Kevin fight) or the Santi family introduction (yawn!!), what is left for us to enjoy?

Trust me, I want the show I have grown to love to rebound quickly. I want the show to be must-see TV again (and not just for one or two episodes but for weeks on end). I want to see the show recapture some of the buzz it had generated during the Gary Tomlin era (you must admit, whether you loved him or hated him as Executive Producer, the man took risks and showed great creative direction). What about the LIVE week? What about those hysterical July 4th episodes ("Trading Places" and "Babes Behind Bars")? While they may have been a little over-the-top, few can argue that they provided an hour of truly entertaining and light-hearted entertainment. And who was willing to miss a single second of the LIVE week knowing that a blooper could occur at any moment? Those moments are gone, folks. There is nothing to talk about with excitement anymore, and it frankly becomes tedious for me to vent my frustrations week after week about the parts of the show I'm not enjoying. I'm not a negative person; in fact, I like to consider myself an optimist in many aspects of my life. But OLTL leaves little hope for me these days. Aside from the brilliant acting that can overcome even the worst scripts, the show needs an overhaul of drastic proportions. Brian Frons, generally an ABC daytime cheerleader, needs to refocus his attention to this struggling show that has totally lost its foothold.

It's also clear to me that I'm not the only disgruntled viewer. After my last column regarding the baby-switch storyline, every single person who wrote to me wanted that story to end. Most were appalled by how poorly it is being done, and some were just upset the story had been done at all. But I also know that we all can find something to love about the show, otherwise we wouldn't still tune in and watch it. For me, I cling to the David and Dorian moments. I also long for the inevitable reunion between Bo and Nora. Even Evangeline and John have gotten me a little excited. Seeing Evangeline move back and forth between different storylines is exciting; this character has languished on the back-burner for far too long, and finally she is getting some long-overdue screen time. So, all we can do is hope for some changes soon so that the character assassinations stop and our favorites can once again go back to acting like themselves.

Enjoy the week,

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