OLTL Head Writer Dena Higley has been the topic of discussion among so many disgruntled fans lately. With lackluster stories and uneven writing/dialogue, she has certainly failed to give the show much to cheer about in recent weeks/months. So I thought as May Sweeps inches towards its conclusion, I would evaluate the current state of OLTL under the guidance of Higley.
Higley still hasn't mastered the craft of keeping her viewers tuning in to the next episode. Well over a year and a half ago, when Hillary B. Smith encountered contract negotiation hell, Higley threw her character of Nora into a coma immediately following the reveal that her husband Daniel was not only gay but also a murderer. She suffered from an aneurism, and instead of leaving the viewers on the edge of their seats wondering if Nora would pull out of her sudden coma, Higley left her in storyline purgatory for over half a year! Now Higley seems destined to do the same thing to Renee Goldsberry's beloved character of Evangeline after she suffers injuries brought on by the town arsonist. Where is the creativity? Why isn't Higley creating an exit for Evangeline befitting of the character and the talented actress who portrays her? Respecting the viewers who invest 5 hours a week (minus fast-forwarding) is paramount, and Higley would rather insult us. With fans clamoring for Goldsberry to resume negotiations with ABC in hopes that she'll return to OLTL, it would seem that Higley would write an exit for Evangeline that doesn't repeat stories from the past that have already alientated and upset viewers. At least Higley gets some credit for crafting a suspenseful exit for Todd, with a mystery that leaves both viewers and other Llanview characters guessing. Knowing that Trevor St. John will be imminently returning to the role helps to ease the worries of viewers who might have believed Todd was dead. But in all, Higley needs to start thinking outside the box and not recycling old stories.
Spencer Truman was murdered, right? Months ago when Dr. Evil was stabbed to death, I was hopeful that his killer would ultimately be his ex-wife, Paige, who seemed to be written into a corner and was less and less interesting by the minute. Despite a seemingly out-of-nowhere "confession" by David, viewers know better that Vickers is innocent of offing his brother. So his killer remains at large, and while this story has virtually disappeared, viewers are left scratching their heads. Then there is the suspense that was rescripted last week after Executive Producer Frank Valentini decided to scrap 17 scenes involving Henry, Cole, Brittany, and Starr (among others) in a school hostage storyline. While I greatly respect Valentini's decision after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I found the alternative scenes to be extraordinarily contrived. Henry hasn't slept for two weeks? He takes the teens "hostage" by car instead of by weapon in a school? The suspense and supposed danger that the teens faced while being in the car with a sleep-deprived and romantically-spurned Henry were just non-existent. The only story that has redeemed Higley in this department is the way she has been able to drag out the mystery surrounding Tommy's paternity. Seeing Al and Marcie grow closer to the child day after day while Rex struggles with the knowledge that the baby is Todd and Margaret's child has connected these characters in ways unimaginable.
If I have to endure one moment more of this Nash/Jessica/Antonio triangle, I don't know what I will do! Only in Llanview would a character be having an affair with a man she loved as one of her other personalities only to find out that when she was ready to break off her marriage that she would be diagnosed with liver cancer with the only compatable donor being the husband she just informed about her affair! Confusing, huh? Yeah, I feel the same way. In just the next "chapter" of Higley's tome entitled "The Trials and Tribulations of Jessica, Nash, and Antonio," this medical crisis is dullsville! To me, this isn't a story highlighting the medical seriousness of Jessica's cancer or one that encompasses a good portion of the canvas; instead, I see it as a "stunt" to force these three characters to overcome feelings and emotions in order to help Jessica recover (which we know she eventually will do!). Enough said about this. But what else can we cheer about in this department in Llanview? Certainly, Rex/Tate/Adriana is a ridiculous trainwreck. Dorian and Clint just doesn't make sense from a historical perspective (although it is quite entertaining to see Strasser and Slezak interact). Viewers were promised a slugfest, knock-em-out fight between Nora and Lindsay over Bo way back at the end of the year (hasn't happened yet). Marty and John have potential, but it's too early for me to make a judgment on this couple yet. If I have to be tortured with more Todd and Blair when he returns, I just may have to march down to West 66th Street in New York City to protest outside of OLTL's studio. I just can't take anymore of the Todd and Blair madness! Where are the couples to root for? I just don't see them. Higley's idea of romance seems to involve complications and adversity. Sometimes a little happiness goes a long way!
Storyline Potentials: B+-
I had to end this evaluation on a positive note, and while the current state of OLTL is dismal (at best), there are many possible storyline directions that could take the show to a more interesting place that it hasn't seen in quite a long time. Consider for example how much more interesting the Todd/Marty/Starr/Cole storyline would be with Susan Haskell returning to the role. While this is obviously out of Higley's hands (and is a topic I've talked about numerous times before), it is within the scope of possibility if execs persuade Haskell to return to the role for which she won an Emmy. And the groundwork has already been laid to make this a meaty story now full of possible flashbacks and historical perspective.
Another great story in the making is the reconciliation of Lindsay/Bo. I've read a number of message boards and blogs that have lambasted this couple redux claiming Bo would never warm up to the woman who essentially once ruined his life. I disagree. Enough time has passed and major life changes have occurred in each person's life to make one another see that change is possible. Bo is mature enough to be able to put the ugliness and the horror of what she did to him behind him, and whether or not we would do the same in our own lives, I have to admit that the interaction between Catherine Hickland and Robert S. Woods is still there! To consider the notion that Hickland and Hillary B. Smith's character of Nora might do battle over Bo again is enough to make me salivate. With such a blockbuster storyline, why does Higley waste time?
May is supposed to be a time of interesting stories that spike ratings, but instead, viewers are being subjected to stories that are average at best. Higley has had more than enough time to prove her mettle by writing for those in Llanview, and viewers have had enough! If you wish to continue the discussion of this column or provide your own grades and evaluations of these departments, I encourage you to visit the SoapCentral message board!
Enjoy your week,