As 2005 draws to a close, it's time to reflect back on the year in Llanview. Before I present to you my "Best and Worst" for the year, allow me just a moment to share my thoughts on the changing landscape in daytime television. As I mention quite frequently, I have been a loyal ABC daytime viewer for well over 20 years. I've seen the highs and the lows, the cheesiness with the classy, and the brilliant with the sub-par. I've also witnessed the ratings take a sharp plummet. As a result, budgets have been slashed, younger actors and actresses have been pushed towards the front-burner while established veterans have been relegated to popping up during the holidays or an occasional birthday party. Daytime dramas just aren't what they used to be anymore, and I don't think that there will come a time that I will see much of what I remember (and enjoyed) from my early viewing years. With all of that said, I see so much negativity on message boards all throughout the Internet bashing writers, producers, individual shows, and even actors. If we want to ensure that OLTL and other daytime dramas remain parts of our lives in the future, we must champion them; we must make it our duty to herald the good and accentuate the positives! If we continue to complain, all we do is perpetuate the negativity and risk losing our favorite shows forever. Sure, viewers naturally have preferences towards certain couples or certain characters and take offense when others don't feel the same way (myself included); that isn't what I mean. Rather, when the Santi family became the dominant focus of OLTL a year and a half ago, I hung in there. I certainly didn't like the direction of the show, but I still found the positives in Llanview. In fact, I had to, because if I didn't, I would have tuned out for good. The same is true now. No show is perfect, and there will always be flaws, but every single one of us who calls him/herself a fan must make it his/her responsibility to tune in, find SOMETHING that we like, and enjoy the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even at its worst, I'd rather watch 75% Santi and be able to fast forward my show to the stories I prefer than not have the chance to see Viki, Clint, Todd, Blair, Dorian, or Kelly at all. So, even as you see my "worst" picks for the year, I still strive to maintain that the "best" will prevail. Now, as I step down from my soapbox, I shall now have a little fun in presenting my "Best and Worst" for 2005.
Best Couple: Tess and Nash
Here's how I see it---Llanview has been sorely lacking in the romance department for a very, very long time. Todd and Blair are neck-deep in the Margaret Cochran murder, Natalie and John or John and Evangeline have just played footsies for a year amid lies and miscommunicated feelings, Nora and Daniel hardly count since Daniel turned out to be a gay serial killer, R.J. and Lindsay are hardly seen on-screen to be deemed worthy of some honor in this category, and Jessica and Antonio are out since Tess has been in control for most of the calendar year. Who else is left? Adriana? Puhleese! Don't even get me started on her back-and-forth, indecisive relationship with Duke and/or Rex. Kevin and Kelly? They might be candidates for next year's "Best Couple" honor, but they are just refamiliarizing themselves with one another after the devastating baby saga from over a year ago. David and Dorian certainly would have been a great choice, but with their wedding called off at the last minute and the crippling effects of Dorian's feeling humiliated, they are out of the running.
On the other hand, Tess and Nash are the underdogs. Tess is the secondary personality created by Jessica to help her deal with some childhood trauma. Nash is the devoted boyfriend now aware of her D.I.D. and is standing behind her no matter what the outcome is. Apart, they are lost and empty. Together, they are at peace. Their love seems to make everything else go away---even if just for a few hours. I think deep down, both of them know their future together is bleak; however, they still fight for whatever time they can share together, and their genuine love for one another is apparent any time they talk. They were the best (and happiest) couple of the year.
Best Non-Couple: Bo and Rex
When Bo lost his son Drew while he was on duty as a police officer, Bo's life changed forever. He spiraled downward and contemplated suicide, lost his marriage to Nora, and found solace in practically nothing. Years later, when Bo discovered Matthew was his son, part of that paternal side in Bo emerged again. Now, Bo has found a good friend in Rex, starting from when the two of them snooped around a gay bar to find evidence of Daniel's crimes of passion (and including Rex pretending Bo was his lover) and ending most recently with Rex dropping to the floor in tears as he believed Bo died from injuries sustained in the prison riot. Rex has always needed a father figure who respects him, trusts his judgment, yet offers advice and steers him in the right direction. Bo is that man, that father figure, that friend to Rex, and their relationship strengthens each day.
Worst Couple: Natalie and John
I never bought the attraction that was supposed to be felt by these two characters and that was shoved down our throats by the writers. The chemistry and the excitement was clearly present in John and Evangeline's relationship, but that quickly dissolved when TPTB decided to bring David Fumero back to the show as Cristian. Suddenly, the best way to maximize conflict between all of the characters involved was to break apart John and Evangeline and have John come to some "epiphany" (practically overnight, I might add) that he really loved Natalie. Whatever. All I saw was a rushed romance that led to the two characters quickly sleeping together (again, to cause some conflict)---all leading up to the big revelation (gasp!) that Cristian is really alive and that both men lied to Natalie. Ooooooh! By having them rush into a relationship, the writers can now play on the torn love Natalie surely must feel for Cris and John, the betrayal she feels by both of them, and the strained relationship between John and Cris, who knows that John has been sharing a bed with his wife. The set up sounds good on paper, but it was too rushed, and I didn't buy how quickly John's feelings changed. He had always been Natalie's protector, but despite some innocent flirting and exchanged glances, he had never been passionate about her.
Best Triangle: Tess & Jess/Nash/Antonio
This was a truly unique triangle due to the fact that Jessica and Tess are really one person. As opposed to Natalie and John's quickie romance, Tess and Nash's relationship grew over quite a long period of time. Unlike the other men in Tess's past, Nash is someone she didn't jump into bed with; rather, she remained guarded with him. When he showed her that he cared about her and wanted to start a relationship with her, she was floored because she never envisioned someone actually wanting to love the other personality! On the other hand, Antonio and Jess's long history together has added a rich texture to this triangle because when Tess/Jess announced her pregnancy, the question very quickly became not only who is the father but who is the mother! Antonio is devoted to Jess and wants to see her fully integrated; Nash loves the wild side to Tess and is willing to do whatever he must to have her back. Who will win? It's anyone's guess, but someone is definitely going to be unhappy.
Worst Triangle: Todd/Blair/the whacko of the week
This shouldn't really count as a triangle, but I must throw it in here, because poor Todd and Blair just can't catch a break! Can't this couple EVER be happy for more than a millisecond? First we have crazy Margaret who is so in love with Todd that she kidnaps him, rapes him, and becomes pregnant with his child. She returns months later only to cause havoc ever since. Then there is Spencer, who is clearly fixated on Blair, and unlike Margaret who strikes fast like a snake, takes his time and manipulates everyone else around him into making Todd look like a schmuck and himself look like a hero. Even though Margaret is dead, Spencer still has tricks up his sleeve, and that means more unhappiness for Todd and Blair for the foreseeable future.
Best New Character: Spencer Truman
Okay, okay. You are probably screaming "WHAT?!" as you read this, but let me elaborate. Spencer arrived in Llanview full of potential. He's the brother of David, the ex-husband of Paige, and who knows what other family ties he has to other citizens of Llanview. But the writers had him on the screen every single day. Isn't that no-no taught in Chapter 1 of "Writing Soap Operas 101"? Despite the way I personally feel about Spencer (I'm not a fan of his), I still think the character has great potential. He's slimy, he's a creep, he's a manipulator, yes. But he's still got quite a few secrets up his sleeve, and I think that the best is yet to come. I'm not fully ready to write this character off quite yet, and I think that of all the new individuals we have been introduced to over the past year, Spencer at least has the most layers to him and brings the most potential, which is more than I can say for...
Worst New Character: Hugh
He wears glasses, he flirts with Marcie, and he is a legal-eagle. Whoop-dee-do! He's boring, he brings no history to the show, and the character represents a salary that could help pay for Catherine Hickland to return to the show with a contract. I don't like the character, and I think that his purpose could be served with other existing characters already on the canvas. The best plan for the show would be to cut its losses as it did with the character of Ginger Foley.
Best Reason to Watch: Clint returns home!
In a genius move, Clint has returned home to re-center the Buchanans and make them the driving force of the show that they had been in the 80's and early 90's. Jerry Ver Dorn is a phenomenal actor who brings every nuance to Clint that makes him the cowboy that everyone knows and loves. He has re-established relationships with Viki, Natalie, and Jess, and with his recent break-up with Dallas under his belt, he's now a free agent and can pursue a romantic relationship with Viki or even Dorian (the chemistry between Ver Dorn and Robin Strasser is out of this world!). This acting find was the coup of the year for OLTL.
Worst Reason to Watch: The neverending story of Margaret
I'll admit that she was a hoot to watch when she kidnapped Todd and Blair (even though it was a little eerie to see her do to Todd what he had done to Margaret "Marty" Saybrooke a decade ago). I loved when she would impersonate a singing Blair while donning a wig, and I loved the one-liners she would throw out. But upon her return to Llanview as a pregnant mother, the psycho wore out her welcome...fast. Todd kept her reappearance (and pregnancy) a secret from Blair---I can't even begin to figure out the reason why since Blair was empathetic with Todd's ordeal at the hands of Wacky Margaret. But since her return, she has taunted Starr at least twice, stabbed Todd with a pair of scissors, and continued her delusional quest to become the wife of Todd and to have their child. Even with her death behind us, her saga still haunts the screen to this day since Todd is being unjustly tried for her murder. We know he didn't do it already, so enough! She was good for a while, but it became too much of a good thing.
Best Actor: Tuc Watkins
Besides being the best comedic actor on the show, he also shows enormous depth. As he struggled with the decision to break off his wedding to Dorian, the pain and the remorse in David's face was obvious and apparent. To this day, the remorse that he feels can be felt in the way that he approaches Dorian and genuinely wishes her a good day, a good night, or a happy holiday. He can be a funny guy one minute, a jealous ex-fiancee the next moment, or a concerned friend the next. He is a jewel in a cast mostly consisting of diamonds.
Best Actress: Erika Slezak
Any doubt as to who the star of the show is must have been erased after the most recent escapades of Niki Smith. Slezak has a blast playing this character, and her antics rank up there as some of the most entertaining of the past year. Despite how overdone the Niki Smith story is, one has to admit that in small doses, Niki is hilarious! I only wish she had more scenes with Foxy Roxy, because Niki and Roxy together make for must-see TV!
Best Plot Twist: (TIE) Daniel is a gay serial killer & Asa frames Carlo Hesser for Blair's Kidnapping
It was a shocking moment indeed when viewers finally saw Daniel throw his arms around his lover, Love Shack student Mark!! Further, the jaw-dropping moment when Daniel was being sworn in as Lt. Governor just as Bo arrested him for the killings of Paul Cramer and Jen Rappaport was one for the books. I certainly didn't see this twist coming, and Nora's pain and heartache as she realized her husband was not only a killer but also an adulterer who cheated on her with another MAN certainly made this an unusual and explosive ending to a convoluted murder mystery. On the other hand, I loved the history that OLTL used in bringing back Carlo Hesser to "kill" Blair in order to erase the $30 million debt that Hesser owed Asa for stealing the money years ago. Instead, Carlo was set up to take the rap for kidnapping Blair and sending her to a mental institution. This allowed Asa to avoid serving jail time, and it sent Carlo to jail where we learned he was behind Cris's brainwashing. Brilliant use of history and character relationships!
Worst Plot Twist: Nora collapses with a brain aneurism at the same time Hillary B. Smith's contract is up for renewal
Fortunately, it's been settled that Smith will stick around in Llanview as Nora, at least for the time being. But I'm still in shock that the writers and producers (and probably even Brian Frons, ABC President) believe that Nora is not a viable character. Robert S. Wood's Bo Buchanan is over 40 and is on screen 80% of the time. Ditto for Slezak. Smith has the Emmy to prove her mettle, and she also has considerable history with the show and with the characters on the canvas. Not sure what to do with Nora? Put her back in the courtroom---imagine if Todd had somehow managed to convince Nora to represent him a second time in court. The first time he was guilty and led her to believe he was innocent. Would she have been willing to trust him a second time with the Margaret case? The irony of the whole story is amazing, yet here is a fantastic tale right before our eyes. What a shame.
So there you have it--my best and worst, the good and the bad. Like I said, no show will ever be perfect, but I have resigned myself to realizing that OLTL circa 2006 and beyond will never be the same as OLTL circa 1992-94 when I found the show to be utterly at the top of its game. As a result, I will just sit back and enjoy the ride for as long as I can.
I'm sure that my picks for the "Best and Worst" will not agree with all viewers, so I invite you to present your picks on the message boards this week. If you click on the link, you will be redirected to the boards where you can agree or disagree with my picks and even present your own categories besides those listed in the column.
I hope everyone continues to have a happy holiday season and a wonderful and safe New Year. Former Two Scoops Columnist Dawn will be returning next week to give you her take on Llanview in 2005, so I'll be back again in 2006!
Enjoy your week,