I can recall a time during my OLTL viewing when the summer and winter previews would revolve around what new adventures Viki was getting tangled up in. Viki elected Mayor! Viki suffers a stroke! Viki travels through time to save Clint! Viki goes to Heaven! Viki visits Eterna (still my favorite story, by the way)! Niki returns (for the billionth time)! However, in recent years (since the dissolution of Ben and Viki), Erika Slezak's character has quietly simmered on the back burner. She's been a sounding board for her family, a sage mother with words of wisdom, and an encouraging friend. But Viki sure hasn't had a storyline of her own to boast of in quite some time. Although Niki re-emerged last year to help uncover the ugly truth about Jessica's traumatic childhood abuse, that episode was merely a blip on Llanview's radar. The heart and soul of Llanview just isn't as prominent as she should be, and I don't have an answer to explain reasons for this.
Instead, the new star of the show seems to be Viki's half-brother, Todd Manning, the tortured former rapist who can't seem to find happiness. Like I once discovered with Viki, it appears that Todd steals the headlines. Todd kidnapped! Todd raped! Todd executed! Todd tortures Spencer! Todd and Evangeline flirt! Todd proposes to Blair! Within the last 18 months especially, I get the feeling that the writers have focused much of the major action of the show around Trevor St. John's character of Todd. And as I mentioned in my last column, I cannot pinpoint when it happened, but I really became a huge fan of not only Todd but also St. John's version of him.
Classic Todd, as created by Roger Howarth, brought many nuances to the character, but we always saw how angry the character was. Moments of weakness were rare, and only during the birth of his first child, Starr, did Todd start to show signs of humanity and compassion. Then, Trevor St. John took over the role, and viewers learned the stunning truth that Todd had his face reconstructed (okay, I suspended reality big-time for that one), the Todd that we once knew and loved to hate was different. I couldn't put my finger on it for a long time, but while St. John was (and is) a brilliant actor, he just didn't embody Todd. He said all the right things and he interacted with everyone the way he was supposed to, but it just didn't feel like Todd to me. It all changed with the introduction of Margaret, though. That's when Todd's humanity started to emerge, and it HAD to. His life was changing before him---he now had two children growing more quickly every day. His youngest son developing his own voice, his daughter starting to date, and another son missing or dead---Todd sure had his hands full, and he needed to act according to a father in that role. He had been tortured, raped, executed, and disappointed by his wife. St. John infused new feeling and new emotion into Todd, and that is when I became a fan. Forget the fact that St. John didn't originate the role; he is responsible for the transformation and the reinvigoration of the role!
So, is Todd really the star of OLTL? I would assert so. A hostage crisis takes place in the hospital, and who saves the day? That's right, Todd. I have been quite annoyed that Todd and Marty aren't sharing more screen time together or passing each other's paths more often. This hostage crisis allowed two important things to happen: first, it showed Marty that Todd isn't the same person she remembered him as; second, it reaffirmed that Todd is the classic "antihero." How could Marty possibly want to condemn Todd more after he essentially offered his own life for Marty's safety? The complex relationship these two characters share coupled with the emerging romance between their children makes this story the one to watch! Everyone knows by now that Spencer's days are numbered, and he becomes more and more unstable each passing day. But the bigger question will be who steps up to do the dirty deed and whack the crazy doctor? Todd will be an important part of this whodunit, but Todd's role will ultimately be a small one. However, if Todd is truly the new "star" of OLTL, we can expect him to probably be put on trial for Spencer's murder.
One other sign of Todd's importance to the show is his frustrating relationship with Blair. I've said it once and I'll say it again, how many times do the writers expect fans of this couple to deal with this "I love you but can't be with you anymore" garbage? Before the year and a half of Margaret torture, the couple was on the verge of happiness that they haven't experienced in a long time. The crazy psycho put a damper on that. Spencer's involvement didn't help matters as he actually was romantically involved with Blair before she came to her senses and realized what a sociopath the guy is. Now that Blair is hovering near death (well, except for the miraculous recovery she appears to have had overnight), it would make sense that Blair accepts Todd's marriage proposal. I mean, she HAS been trying to woo him herself for several months. But she has chosen to take the "been there/done that" line of the century---"I love you but we aren't healthy for each other." Todd, on the other hand, summed it up best, "I'd rather be a little unhappy with you than completely miserable without you!" When I thought about it, it's the truth! This couple really is a supercouple, and they have been through more together than most couples will only read about in a lifetime. Blair and Todd always navigate their way back to one another, and their family will unite them forever. So, wouldn't it make sense to give them a little, teeny bit of happiness? Heck, they haven't had any in years! Cut these two a break and fast!
So while Todd may be the "star" of the show, he certainly doesn't own every storyline, and there were a few other parts of this week's show I'd like to address:
1. I am completely bored stiff with the whole arson storyline. It's so obvious that Vincent is guilty, and to have Cris be implicated for these fires is not interesting nor is it dramatic. Until the ante is upped and someone we care about is affected by the fires, this story will be a complete dud.
2. Lindsay and Bo sharing a meal together was such an unexpected treat! Now, before I explain, let me be very clear---I am a staunch Bo and Nora fan. Always have been, and I always will be. Period. With that said, I really like how the writers are clearing the way for Lindsay to want to rekindle her relationship with Bo and find herself head-on for a collision with Nora. It's a perfect set-up, really. Furthermore, poor innocent Paige doesn't know what is coming to her! Seeing Lindsay sitting at a table by herself wallowing in the pain of her breakup with R.J., Paige suddenly thinks that she can be Lindsay's friend. HA HA HA! Poor, deluded Paige! Maybe this is the reward that we viewers get for having to put up with such a pathetic character for so long! Lindsay is going to eat Dr. Miller alive! And I cannot wait....
3. Seeing Nash and Jessica in the steamroom at the end of the week with Jessica's feisty spirit kicked up a notch made me think there is hope for these two yet! Having Jessica finally admit that she has feelings for Nash that she cannot control made me sit up and listen to their scenes (something I haven't done attentively for a long, long time).
4. I'm completely over Cristian and Evangeline. Why does she need a man in her life right now? The disintegration of her character over the last year has been all about her relationships. This character has lost so much of her spunk and fire, and I attribute it to the wishy-washy Cristian. It's time for her to refocus as Assistant D.A. and show Llanview that she means some serious butt-kicking business!
5. How disappointing that Passions was cancelled. It's never a good thing for any of us when a daytime drama is axed. However, with that said, it is my firm, confident assertion that ABC's dramas are just fine. Rumors of an AMC/OLTL merge have existed for over 5 years now, and the sudden expansion of "Today" to four hours (which is ridiculous!) now has everyone worried that "Good Morning America" will follow suit. It's just a reaction to the news, gang. Look, we can all say what we will about Brian Frons micromanaging his ABC soaps, but nobody can argue against the fact that this man is a champion cheerleader for the daytime genre. He loves the soaps (so much so that he meddles in stories!), and he loves the daytime community. That is a proven fact. Although he has other people he must answer to within the ABC/Disney Management Téam, he is the President of ABC Daytime. I do not see him relinquishing control of any of the three ABC daytime dramas. I really don't. If there is a time to start wondering, let that come in 2009 when "Days of Our Lives" reaches the end of its contract with NBC who will most likely cut ties with the soap at that time. It has been rumored before that "Days" might find a home on ABC---that is a valid rumor I would give weight towards. So, let's just enjoy Llanview for the next couple of years and worry about the status of the show if and when we have conclusive proof that there is reason to worry. In the meantime, keep watching (!!) and keep writing to let the executives at Disney know that this is a show you love and do not want to lose.
One last thing, for those of you who are excited about the "Bitchfests" that are emerging between Dorian and Viki & Lindsay and Nora will absolutely love the merchandise that is available at www.cafepress.com/cheristore. I bring it to your attention only because it reflects the excitement that fans have at two great storylines: Dorian and Viki's fight for Clint and Nora and Lindsay's fight for Bo. These items are one-of-a-kind, and all of the profits will be split to go to Robin Strasser's "One Life/Many Voices" foundation to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and Catherine Hickland's West End Intergenerational Residence charity. I know how much we fans love items like this, which is why I share it with my faithful readers!
See you again in two weeks!