I'm BAAACK! After my brief sojourn to Europe and some time for rest and relaxation, I'm getting back in the thick of things in Llanview goings-on. First, let me thank Dawn for agreeing to return to her commentary duties while I was away (and to continuing to help support Hillary B. Smith with her own "A Favorite Nora Moment"). And a hearty welcome to Yolanda as she embarks on her own Two Scoops experience. Welcome!
I've gotten so many emails asking me about what I do exactly while I'm traveling, so I thought I'd take just a moment before this week's commentary to talk just a bit about that. If you want to skip right to my thoughts on Llanview, jump to the next paragraph! Let me first say that a trip such as the one I was on isn't exactly considered a "vacation" when there are 39 high school students and 3 other teachers together all day, every day, for 19 days. Essentially the program is an ambassadorial program created by Dwight D. Eisenhower to promote open communication between foreign countries. Students actually have to be selected and interviewed to be accepted into the program, so they are really top-notch kiddos. The journey began in Rome where we saw Vatican City, the Coliseum, the Roman Ruins, and St. Peter's Square. My favorite part of Rome (other than when I had to spend a morning at the US Embassy because one of the students lost his passport ON THE PLANE from the US to Rome!!!) was when each teacher was given a map of Rome and ten students to run an "Amazing Race"-style hunt. We had clues and the map, and that was it. It was designed to force us to communicate with the locals, and it was so much fun. A lot of poor navigating along the way, but a great experience! Also in Italy, we rappelled down a 100-foot castle wall before going through Florence and Pisa (to see the Leaning Tower) before heading to southern France, where we spent time in Cannes and the Riveria area. This is also where we spent three days with a family in France. None of the families spoke English well, so the kids (who were there in pairs or groups of three) relied on each other and their limited French-speaking skills to get them through the experience. I speak French pretty well, so I had a blast communicating with my homestay host. Our trip then concluded in Barcelona and Madrid where we saw how bulls are raised, the Olympic City from the 90's, and a live flamenco show. All in all, a wonderful experience (albeit very, very hot and humid), but it's always nice to return home to your own home and own surroundings---not to mention to catch up on what is happening on OLTL!
I did discover something quite interesting once I returned home and started to watch the show. Keep in mind that for 3 weeks, I didn't record OLTL; my DVR space was reserved for Finola Hughes's return to GH as well as some of my favorite primetime shows. Interestingly enough, when I started to watch the show again, NOTHING HAD CHANGED! No stories had advanced at all! Todd was still trying to convince Evangeline to have the eye operation, Kevin and Kelly were still arguing, the stalker was still taunting Adriana, and Jessica was still in control of her personality. I realized that pacing so slow is a key reason the ratings have slipped so low this summer, a time of the year when shows can reach out to the students who are at home during the summer and might be drawn in by some exciting stories. If I can leave the country for three weeks and not miss any advancement in any story, that's clearly a problem for a show. Furthermore, another problem I started to immediately become more aware of (perhaps because I had a short break from the show) the "islands" on which each story seems to be situated. All of the stories are separate from the others; there is no big umbrella story under which many characters fall. Instead, each character is isolated into his/her own storyline away from any other characters in Llanview. For example, if you are a big fan of Blair but cannot tolerate Spencer anymore, too bad! Blair is pretty much stuck in that storyline in her own little world. She won't interact with any of the Buchanans or any other citizens of Llanview. The problem for producers of the show is once again ratings. Creating a show that has so many "islands" leads viewers to turn off the TV more easily if their favorite story isn't playing on a particular day. Stories need to intermingle with others; there needs to be a sense that stories and characters connect with others. When this doesn't happen, it's almost like watching 3 or 4 completely different shows! With that said, let me just comment on a few random topics this week since nothing does fall under one big umbrella:
1. It's so nice to finally see Nora out of the hospital! I think that her progress, while realistic, is just taking too long. This is soap opera, and with babies two years old one week and sixteen years old the next week, time is relative in this universe. So, I would be able to get past any rapid recovery that Nora would have so that her storyline could advance more significantly. I think Hillary B. Smith is giving a great job showing the effects of her condition, and the dynamics of a mother and son relationship is also being played out quite nicely. I was even surprised by my liking the scenes between Nora and Paige this week when Matthew was trying to convince his mother that she needs a nurse to help her. The dialogue between these two women who surely share no love was pretty dynamite. I'm still not a fan of the character (or actress) of Paige in the least, but considering that these two should really be competing for Bo's attention, I thought the scene was done just right. Believe it or not, after years of aching for a Bo and Nora reunion, I just might be inclined to see a Nora/R.J. romance!
2. When Jerry verDorn took over the role of Clint, I was pretty excited. I thought verDorn brought a great energy to the role, and Clint was definitely a Buchanan who was sorely missed. His rapport and chemistry with Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser is clearly there, so to see verDorn and Strasser involved in a love story doesn't bother me. I think their scenes together are tender and give the character of Dorian that soft edge that is always needed with that character. Here's the problem I have, though: Clint and Dorian are two characters who would NEVER become embroiled in a romance! The history between these two characters just goes back way too far for me to accept these two characters suddenly have a romantic attraction to one another! How am I supposed to believe that Dorian isn't sleeping with Clint in order to hold it over her arch-rival's head? How am I supposed to believe that Clint would bed the woman who has been responsible for so much turmoil in his and Viki's life? I think back to the horrible, vicious feuds between the Cramers and the Buchanans, and then I see Clint and Dorian kissing and making out in a bed and I wonder if I just missed something! The chemistry definitely works between the two actors, but the character history is more important, and Dena Higley doesn't have a firm enough grasp on the history of these two legendary characters.
3. Mary J. Blige's performance at Capricorn was great! I loved her first song, and I thought her look fit well with Capricorn and its ambiance. However, could someone please tell me what the point of her being there was? The first half of the episode dealt with on-going stories. Then, out of nowhere, people were running to Capricorn to see her perform. Afterwards, it was back to storyline business. It was so out of place, so unnecessary, and so distanced from the action of any plot. If producers insist on bringing in celebrity talent such as this, then at least work it into the story. There has to be a reason for us to care about her being there, otherwise, it's just an MTV performance thrown smack in the middle of an ABC soap for no reason.
4. How much do I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Evangeline/Cris/Todd storyline!! By the way, that's a statement, not a question. It's so refreshing to see Todd out of Blair's immediate universe, and it's also refreshing to see him interested in someone else. I love seeing Todd's tender, compassionate side emerge when he's with Evangeline. The problem I have is that I'm not sure if I'd prefer them to remain close friends or have them involved in a relationship. Having them stay close friends allows Todd to have someone who knows him, understands him, and calls him out on decisions he makes that are in poor taste without any romantic repercussions. But I knew that Evangeline would regain her eyesight this week, so I was anxiously awaiting each new scene in this story to see if this would be the moment when the operation proved a success. When she finally told Todd that the operation worked and she was still upset with him for tricking her into the operation, I knew that these two were destined for something significant---whether it remains friendship or moves on to something more. The stars are lined up for this to be a strong triangle---and even a quadrangle once Blair gets the goods on Spencer and decides she wants Todd back---but Higley, I hear, is dead set on a Todd/Blair reunion....AGAIN!
5. Will this stalker story NEVER END??? I feel like I'm going out of my mind every time these scenes show up on my screen! I find Adriana's character utterly useless and pathetic. She serves no purpose in any story, and she actually grates on my nerves to the nth degree. Planting clues to make viewers think Rex is the stalker is ludicrous as well. I didn't think for one moment this week that Rex would turn out to be the stalker---and leaks on the Internet and in the soap magazines regarding the identity of the real stalker didn't help, either. I just never cared about this storyline, and I'm appalled by the climax Higley has dreamed up for this clunker of a storyline. The identity of the stalker never really concerned me, but the motives behind the stalking, to be revealed next week, are mind-blowing. Oh, and I don't mean mind-blowing as in "you won't want to turn off your screen" but instead mind-blowing as in "how many writers suffered hangovers the morning they sat around the table and talked about a conclusion to this story!" Yet another reason the ratings are at an all-time low.
6. Finally (but believe me, my list could continue), I really like Bo and Blair working together to bring down Spencer. Spencer has totally outlived his usefulness on this show, and if Higley even TRIES to redeem this sleeze-bucket, I just might have to camp outside the ABC studio on 66th Street in NYC in protest. Well, I'll think about that, at least! To see Blair smarten-up to a degree and start scheming to help both Bo and Todd brings a little bit of integrity back to the character. Seeing Bo, who has been forced to resign because of Spencer's planted evidence, and Blair secretly meet to talk about evidence and what she might find is the first excitement I've had watching this show in a while. The suspense of seeing Blair caught in the act by Spencer is enough to cause my heart to skip a beat because we all know Spencer is one evil dude who is capable of some serious damage. What will happen though when he finds out that he's sleeping with the enemy? It sure should make some great TV!
So, it's nice to be back again in the thick of things. I only hope that the excitement in Llanview will pick up a bit before fall kicks in. I also am eager to talk about the winner of "I Want to Be a Soapstar" and what his/her role on OLTL will be (for the record, I really love Mikey as a person, but I can't see how his accent would fit in throughout Llanview. He has potential in a supporting role. Kelly, on the other hand, could really land a meaty role on the show. She's eccentric, but she has more training that Mikey seems to lack. Mikey IS the soap-look, though, so it's anyone's guess who the judges will pick). We'll find out this Thursday, though!
Enjoy your week,