Before I begin this week's column, I must take just a moment to mention the overwhelming response I received to last week's column entitled "Higley Has To Go." I have sensed for some time that there was a general discontent with the direction of Dena Higley's writing for the show, but I had NO IDEA that so many people felt so passionately about her inability to create engrossing, quality stories (except for the one lone dissenting email I opened from a reader who urged me to "chill out"). My intent for writing the column to instill a belief that we all can make a difference if we remain vocal about what we like and dislike about the show. As much as I hope everyone takes a moment each week to write Brian Frons and Co. about what is so wrong with Higley and the goings-on in Llanview right now, I also hope that when things eventually become better (and trust me, for every downhill slump, there is an uphill climb), we take a moment and let them know what we are enjoying about the show. Everyone needs to hear the positive as much as the negative. But thank you, everyone, for writing to me and sharing your thoughts about the column and the state of OLTL and also for forwarding me some phenomenal letters that were intelligent, concise, and blunt about Higley's writing. Our concerted efforts are important, and when we remain idle, that is when we see Llanview deteriorate even further. And an important "shout out" must go to my "campaign partner" NoraDiva1 for keeping awareness high on the message boards and at her fantastic Nora's Blog about what we all can do to make our voices heard to those in charge. Thank you, everyone.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I must comment on this so-called tornado that ripped through Llanview and was supposed to be the impetus to kick-off a big May Sweeps period. A story like this that is meant to be the "main attraction" for an entire month should be one that has suspense, drama, intrigue, emotion, and even romance. While I might be compelled to believe that some of these might appear in very small doses within this story, it certainly isn't a plot on the same level as Marty's rape or Viki's multiple-personalities, two stellar stories from the last ten-plus years. Indulge me a moment to analyze what is so wrong with the big, bad tornado that I feel caused only a whimper.
1. First, tornadoes, while a rarity in Pennsylvania, have become more frequent in recent years; yes, I live smack-dab in the middle of the state, so I'm keenly aware of the tornado warnings that pop up on my TV screen around this time of the year. Several years ago, there was a vicious tornado that actually touched down in Campbelltown, a very small town that is just 5-7 miles from where I live. It was a terrible tragedy and destroyed a very nice neighborhood; it made national news, so some of you may have heard about it. My point is that since that terrible tornado, people within the state are more cautious and careful when tornado warnings are issued. But this tornado was taken as seriously as a piece of toilet paper stuck to someone's shoe at a formal event. It was a joke! Nobody seemed concerned until after it touched down and the injured were being taken to the hospital. The wedding (Michael and Marcie's) continued, the reception continued, and the sex (between Kelly and Duke) continued. Where was the urgency? Where was the suspense and the danger leading up to the destruction? I remember when All My Children did a tornado storyline quite a number of years ago, and it coincided with one of the balls that the town had. Everyone was at Adam Chandler's mansion, and the suspense and danger was thick. When the tornado sirens blared, the action stopped, the train-roaring sound took over, and everyone looked at one another quietly until the tornado struck. Who lived and who died? We had to wait until Monday to find out, but the special effects were incredible, and the event was laced with excitement...it was everything that this tornado wasn't.
2. Here's one more thing that Higley doesn't do well: she doesn't copy-cat others well. Without a doubt, this tornado was meant to be "an event" (similar to recent General Hospital "sweeps event" stories: the hotel fire, the train wreck, the flu epidemic). But unlike GH, that created the umbrella stories to impact most of the cast, OLTL continued to write for only a few. The effects were laughable, and the danger was non-existent. Did anyone really think that Tess's baby was going to be in peril or that Antonio and/or Nash wouldn't survive? Nash's unconsciousness lasted for only one scene, so the worry and danger involving him did not exist. Natalie's cut leg and Evangeline's blindness weren't worrisome either. The drama was short-lived. The tornado should have ripped through Llanview in one humongous swoop! Higley had written most of the main characters as participants at Michael and Marcie's reception---what better location to have the tornado hit and place more characters in danger? I can understand wanting to give the duo a stress-free wedding; however, if Higley is going to write an all-encompassing story, then USE the characters who are available and make the action pack a punch from one scene to the next, from one destroyed building to the next.
3. What it all boiled down to was that Higley's idea of "the event" didn't come from the concept of special effects or immediate danger for the cast; rather, it centered around the disgusting and deplorable penmanship of Kelly and Duke having sex right before a wall crushes them and Kelly's fiancé/Duke's father, Kevin, finds them in their state of undress. That sort of writing is neither shocking nor controversial; it's just malicious. It's a slap in the face to fans of Kelly, it's spitting on the memory and the history of Duke, and it's a cheap trick to give a quick boost to ratings (if that will even be the result). I couldn't get past the fact that Kelly and Duke were so willing to "do the nasty" in the RECTORY OF A CHURCH DURING A TORNADO! Who does that?!? It's bad enough that Duke betrays his father by sleeping with his fiancé (nevermind the fact that he haphazardly breaks off the engagement moments before), but the fact that they do the deed in the church is beyond reproach. I can't forgive that sloppy type of writing. As I stated last week, I also find it jaw-dropping that Higley is going to waste the potential of a young Buchanan who has years of storyline possibilities for the sake of a quick stunt. Okay, so Kevin chooses between his son's life and his fiancée's? The ramifications of their sleeping together should be far wider than the possibility that she's pregnant with Duke's child or that Kevin signed, sealed, and delivered his son's death certificate. This romantic triangle only got started, and it had months upon months of unexplored territory. What a waste to end it so prematurely.
4. And don't even get me started with the nurses who were talking loudly in the waiting room about Kelly and Duke's condition or the EMT's who were mocking the situation that Kelly and Duke were in when they were found---out in the open for all to hear. That just doesn't happen like that. It really doesn't. Although I'm certainly not naïve enough to think that the EMT's who found Duke and Kelly didn't find a moment to say "Woah" to one another, they certainly wouldn't be incompetent enough to do it during these emergency moments when one or both might die and they are trying to rush a crash cart to the E.R. rooms where they are located.
5. One last grip about the fallout of Kelly's medical condition---Dorian's reactions. I wish that Higley would stop writing Dorian into a corner. She is more than the anti-Buchanan shrew that she has become in recent months. Get over it! Robin Strasser is a class-act; she is an actress with a range that has been ignored in recent years. Sure, she is protective over her Cramer women, but she is nothing more than a busy-body right now. What happened to the wonderful opportunities that her becoming Chief of Staff at the hospital could have presented? That position lasted a mili-second, and it was yet another wasted chance to show Dorian in another light. This week, she went from ranting to Viki about Kevin's destruction of Kelly to a tender exchange in the waiting room about their families being okay to another rant about how Kelly's condition is all Kevin's fault to begging and pleading with the man she just called a drunk to save Kelly's life to once again blaming him for all of the Cramer women's problems! Dorian would have to know that most anyone else in Kevin's situation would have chosen his son to live-no questions asked, hands-down. Yet, he chose Kelly for the operation. How dare Dorian continue to rant and rave about Kevin's shortcomings and his role in a wall falling down on Kelly and injuring her? This is certainly an injustice to Dorian fans. How does Robin Strasser manage to get these lines out of her mouth?
Higley did do one thing right though with this story: she created an innate drama that reeked of raw emotion. When Spencer told Kevin that his surgery would only save one person and that Kevin had to choose, I was sucked in. This time, I did suspend reality for just a moment to assume that Kevin, as next of kin for both, would be the ultimate decision maker regarding who lives and who dies. At least Viki had the good sense to speak what I was thinking---there must be a protocol for this sort of situation! Nevertheless, I found myself thinking what I would do? Would I react as Clint warned not to and make a decision based from revenge or hurt or betrayal? Would I buckle under the pressure and flip a coin? Seriously, how does one live with the consequences of such a decision? The scenes that led to this decision and the subsequent ones that found Kevin in Duke's room holding his hand were actually quite good. I couldn't look away. Dan Gauthier has finally had his moment to shine, and he blew away these scenes as a husband and a lover placed in a precarious situation that nobody would ever dream of being placed. I applaud his efforts with this difficult material, and I look forward to his scenes next week when he deals with his son's death.
So, with that being said, I'd like to take a break from my "Favorite Nora Moment" to try something new this week. I had so many interesting observations this week about what is wrong with Higley's writing and what could be done to improve it, but there was one in particular, from Todd, that I would like to use as the inspiration for a thread that I will post at the OLTL Message Board for us to discuss ideas to help OLTL out of its slump. For this, I'd like everyone to think outside of the box. Go beyond "Higley should be fired." We already know this. What can Brian Frons do in his new position at ABC to get OLTL back on par with its former glory? Give this some consideration and then post it in the appropriate thread.
So, see what you think about this novel idea from Todd:
"I think the sliding ratings may call for drastic measures. I have a suggestion that may or may not work. I wanted to contribute a thought that may be beneficial given the society that we live in today.---I'm sure you probably get many complaints about what is wrong with daytime TV today. I wanted to offer one possible solution to the sagging ratings for daytime television, One Life To Live in particular. Why? It's my favorite soap,of course.
I don't know how much latitude the producers, directors, and writers have, but maybe they could explore the possibility of fan participation in the fate of their favorite characters. The shows that are interactive with their fans have shown great success today. I'm well aware of the fact that shows are taped in advance. With that being said, provide the OLTL audience with periodic screenings of episodes that would air two to three weeks before it actually airs. The participants could, in a multiple choice format, call in or write in (internet, cell phones, etc.) what should happen to a designated character or characters. I would not recommend real time voting as some of your poor ratings are due to more people working today vs. those that didn't worked during the early years of daytime TV. Many who aren't able to watch during the day are recording their favorite shows. Give your audience a few days to cast their ballots. The most popular response would win. I feel it needs to be a character or characters with a compelling storyline. That should certainly increase viewership, if not for the intrigue alone. It will also make your audience feel that they are being heard through their participation. Lastly, you can monitor which storylines are most compelling through the audience participation."
Now, let's hear your thoughts! Go over to the OLTL message boards and share your own ideas!
Enjoy your week,