Some time ago, I questioned whether or not Todd Manning was the real star of OLTL. Well, I've come to accept that he is. Whether it's his year-long battle with Margaret, his even longer grudge towards Spencer Truman, his on-again/off-again marriage to Blair, his blossoming relationship with Evangeline, his interference with Starr and Cole's relationship, or his quest to find his missing son-one can hardly question the significance that Todd Manning plays on this show. With that said, I have quickly come to realize, especially after watching this week's episodes, that a happier Todd leads to a much happier viewer. Seeing Trevor St. John's comedic side emerge made for some of the most refreshing and enjoyable shows I have watched in an incredibly long time.
Todd and Evangeline have grown on me. In the romantic sense, that is. I have really been resistant to a full-fledged romantic relationship developing between these two friends, but the gradual way in which their relationship has been developing has made me more eager to see them emerge as a powerhouse couple. So, when Todd asked Evangeline to dinner and promised to make her the dinner from scratch, the comedic hijinks that followed were spectacular! First of all, who can't appreciate and relate to the giddiness that Todd felt at the prospect of making a good impression on this date he had with Evangeline? They are in the beginning stages of their "dating," and in those beginning stages, there are always butterflies and an intensely happy feeling that accompanies the prospect of a new relationship. Those feelings came out in spades as Todd burst into his sister's kitchen (interrupting a somber mother-daughter discussion between Viki and Natalie regarding Nat's break up with John) asking her and his niece to help him cook Evangeline an elaborate dinner. Rummaging through cook-books and trying to find ingredients for the meal, Todd was that giddy schoolboy again anxious to impress his date! When Natalie offered to help him with this fancy feast, Todd couldn't contain his excitement; he grabbed Nat by the hands and danced her around the kitchen! Is this the same Todd Manning who tortured Spencer with drops of water and lamented over the loss of his son in an elevator? His happiness was infectious, and I found myself actually REWATCHING the scenes again out of pure enjoyment! Honestly, I can't even recall the last time I watched any scene from OLTL a second time.
And this example certainly wasn't the only case of Todd's good mood shining through. Just hours before he asked Evangeline to share dinner with him, he spent time having a heart-to-heart talk with his sister over the status of her relationship with Clint. Viki was angry that Clint chose Dorian over her, and Todd, blunt as ever, spoke to her as only a brother would. He made Viki face her feelings, he forced her to analyze how she felt about the situation, and he reversed the roles that he and Viki usually assume. Typically, Viki is the one who listens to Todd's problems and gives him the sisterly advice which asks him to be honest with his feelings. This time, Todd was that person, and the way he made Viki utter "this sucks" was priceless! Only a brother like Todd would be able to elicit such a less-than-proper response like "this sucks" from the Queen Bee of Llanview! Truly priceless! And what about when Viki was asked out on a date right in the middle of the hospital? From just feet away, Todd blurted out, "She'd love to join you!" and "Call her Viki!" as he encouraged her to accept this date. Once again, the icing on the cake was when Todd grabbed this guy's hand and checked for a wedding ring. "Nope, no wedding ring!" he asserted. We haven't seen Todd in this good of a mood...well, in years, and St. John's comedic presence was never more on point. Tuc Watkins is clearly missed as David Vickers, but if the writers infuse more humor into Todd like they did this week, Tuc's presence will be felt vicariously through St. John.
My only complaint about Todd's date this week was that the writers cut it short too unnecessarily. Just as I was chomping at the bit to watch the chaos that was about to ensue as Todd and Natalie started to cook Evangeline's dream meal, Todd received a call from Miles about Todd Jr. It all went back to Fast-Forward City from there! At first, I was really annoyed that Todd didn't think to call Evangeline immediately. She knocks on his penthouse door, and he's not there? I don't buy it. Todd's entire focus was on this dinner, and if he had received a call that pulled him away from that focus, there is no way that he would have gone to see Miles without making sure that Evangeline knew where he was. Later when he said he "tried to reach her but she must have left already," all I could keep thinking was that he couldn't have told the doorman at his place to give Evangeline a message? What about a cell phone? Am I supposed to believe that a high-powered attorney like Evangeline doesn't have her cell phone by her side and turned on every single minute? Nah. Don't buy it. And in the end, Todd's actions of "blowing off" Evangeline didn't hurt their relationship at all; they still ended up going to dinner, and Evangeline even agreed to go to Chicago with Todd to look for clues about his son's whereabouts. With that all said and done, what would have been the harm in following through with the fun of Todd's "botched dinner attempt" with Evangeline, allowing them to have a little bit of fun, and THEN having Todd get a call in the middle of dinner from Miles? The same end result would have been achieved, but viewers would have been able to get a glimpse into this other side of Todd we rarely get to enjoy. Alas, I guess I can't have it all...
The rest of the week was completely hit-or-miss, so allow me to randomly give some thoughts on the rest of Llanview:
1. I'm still not buying Christina Chambers as Marty. The whole Todd-Marty dynamic is completely lost on me. Susan Haskell's husband, Thorsten Kaye, just resigned with "All My Children," and Haskell herself just gave birth to their child (her pregnancy was the reason she couldn't return to the role). What's to stop OLTL from asking her back? I certainly don't want Chambers to be out of a job, but I think back to when Nicholas Walker stepped into the shoes of Max Holden. It just didn't work, and James DePaiva was lured back to the role in place of him. Ditto for Elaine Princi (who fared better in the role of Dorian) who was replaced again by her predecessor Robin Strasser. It's not an uncommon practice, and I think I'd find more connection to the story with at least one of the two original actors in the roles.
2. I continue to love the relationship between Rex and Bo. Watching them hang out together talking about their problems is refreshing. And I couldn't help but snicker when Bo held up the photo of Rex in his underwear as he said, "Is there something you want to tell me?" Talk about the harassment Rex will soon face! I can't wait!
3. The most boring storyline on the show right now has to be the one involving Nash/Jess/Antonio. I don't care that Jess is having doubts about adopting Jamie. I don't care that Nash and Jess have this connection to one another. I don't care that Antonio is such a na´ve nit-wit for not seeing what is being flaunted right before his eyes. What I DO care about is the increasingly complex relationship forming between Antonio and Talia, two characters I wouldn't mind watching more frequently.
4. Nora sure is getting back her backbone, isn't she? I'd be frustrated, too, if my house were burned to the ground, I lost all of my possessions, and I found out I was the target of a hate crime. The only bummer of this storyline is that by moving into Asa's mansion, I expected to see more interaction between Nora and Asa (as I'm sure Hillary B. Smith did when she resigned for 4-years under the promise of this so-called "great" storyline).
5. Did anyone else see the TVGuide.com interview with Executive Producer Frank Valentini? He essentially credits Dena Higley for the show's "Best Drama" Emmy nomination and says it would be silly to demote her now on the heels of that [insert eye roll here]. Puhleeeese! I am so sick of this woman's horrible, choppy, unfocused, and inconsistent writing. So she happens to pen a good couple of episodes when Todd was "executed" and gets rewarded with an Emmy nomination for the one single episode that was submitted. So what? Even the worst writer can have a couple of good days. I can't get past the fact that this show can be so good one day and so awful the next! Her vision of what viewers want is poor (well, I guess that tends to happen when the Head Writer admits she doesn't even watch the show she writes for!), and her use of all characters on the show is despicable. Quite frankly, it's unacceptable what is happening to this show, and when such stars like Erika Slezak feel compelled to weigh in and criticize her (go to her official website and click on the March newsletter to see that most interesting read!), we know things are bad. So, Mr. Valentini, as Judge Judy often says, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining." He may not be the one who hired her, and he may not be the one who can fire her, but don't insult the viewers by defending her! She is destroying the credibility of this show.
6. Ilene Kristen's sure got one heckuva punch in her, doesn't she? Why doesn't Roxy have a storyline?
Well, everyone. I hope your Easters were quiet, relaxing, and enjoyable.
See you again in two weeks!