DENISE: I want to welcome Dawn to the roundtable discussion, as she was kind enough to fill in for Ryan, who was recently NYC-bound. As usual Dawn, you've chosen a whirlwind week to co-write! While Todd winning custody of Tommy and Marcie abdicating with him weren't exactly unexpected surprises, these events certainly yielded some intense emotional moments. Kathy Brier has been positively unstoppable these past several weeks, and while this top notch cast always puts forth its very best, her performances have touched me the core and rendered me breathless. This is a prime example of what transpires when a competent scribe acknowledges the talent under his roof, and Brier is definitely a powerhouse. Marcie was painted as subdued and forlorn for so long that most viewers had forgotten what Brier is capable of putting forth. Also emerging as a rising star is Brittany Underwood, whose recent performances were strong and impressive. I cared little about Langston's character until recently, despite the fact I enjoyed Underwood's onscreen presence as well as the fact that she and Starr forged a solid, genuine friendship. Watching Langston grapple with acknowledging the death of her parents as Dorian confronted her and then proceeded to console her was absolutely heart-wrenching, and Underwood was not only put to the test, but she delivered in a huge way. So what has changed? Why do viewers suddenly find themselves possessing an affinity for characters they had essentially once dismissed as extraneous? I believe it is because Carlivati is connecting veteran actors to younger ones in an effort to create complex relationships - which is exactly what a good Head Writer should do. Two prime examples consist of tying Lindsay to Marcie's character in the baby Tommy scenario, and connecting Dorian to Langston in a similar manner. How much more interesting is OLTL when established characters are paired with less established ones, and when generations of actors (and characters) intersect? Creating this type of environment brings out the best in these actors, and connects less established characters in a way that is meaningful, thought-provoking and rich. The world would be a very bland place if we only chose to interact with our peers, and I'm delighted to see life mimic art in this respect.
DAWN: Thank you, Denise! It's a pleasure to write, and I hope Ryan had a blast in NYC. One Life to Live has changed so much in just a couple of months that it is beyond belief. The custody battle turned out to be must see television because so many characters were involved. I agree that Kathy Brier has really had the chance to shine recently. I am thrilled that she's had the chance to do something other than be a part of the teen scene. She did an outstanding job in showing how Marcie has changed. She went from a trusting wife to an angry woman that will do anything to protect her son. I also fully agree about Langston. I barely paid attention to the teen stories over the summer. The "Mean Girls" story bored me to tears, and Langston was just another random teen. Now, she is connected to the Cramer women and has a story that is interesting. Connecting Langston and Dorian gives them both more of a purpose. Dorian has been a supporting character for a long time, and I am happy to see her do something besides hang all over Clint and comment on other people's lives. She is forming a mother/daughter bond with Langston, which fills a void in Dorian's life. Adriana is one of the most boring characters on daytime television, and I honestly can't see Dorian as Adriana's mother. However, with Langston, we will get to see Dorian help Langston overcome her tragedy and become a Cramer woman. I also think Kristen Alderson has had the chance to show what she can do too. She did a wonderful job of showing Starr's conflict between wanting to support her father and liking the McBains at the same time. She was immersed in the teen scene for so long that I felt her character had been watered down. However, the custody trial allowed her to get some of her strong will back. I like the way the characters are being utilized on the show. The show no longer belongs to one or two characters. Instead, the entire cast is getting the chance to shine!
DENISE: I was thinking the exact same thing, Dawn! It's so refreshing that Carlivati is using his entire cast instead of writing for a handful of characters and allowing a select few to drive story and dominate the canvas. It's also interesting you raised the issue of how Kristen Alderson has been granted an opportunity to shine, because while she's always been a dynamo, she has just blossomed these past couple of months and run with the material she's been given. Again, I think this represents another example of what happens when you weave generations of actors and their characters. The relationship between Blair and Starr has evolved as Starr (just as Kristen) has matured right before our very eyes. Their mother-daughter bond has definitely fostered a newfound sense of respect and friendship between them, which is a wonderful change of pace from the incessant screaming matches Higley penned for these characters. Add Dorian to the mix and it's pure heaven, because we witness three generations of Cramers interacting with one another in a meaningful way. The dialogue between Natalie and Clint reinforced this same premise. I really found those scenes enjoyable, because Natalie went head-to-head with her father and stood her ground with him in relation to Jared's firing. The infamous Buchanan stubbornness manifested itself in a huge way during those moments, and further solidified Natalie's position within the family. The same can be said for the interactions between Nora and Matthew. Matt has grown more assertive, vocal and independent, and he wanted to ensure that his opinions on the issue of where he and his mother would reside were heard loud and clear. Eddie Alderson received an opportunity to strut his stuff when Nora collapsed and was rendered comatose, and most recently during the OPP storyline. He can carry heavy drama as well as lighter fare, and I hope Carlivati begins to pen some substantive material for Matt's character. The interesting aspect about Nora and Matthew is that they really represent the only mother-son relationship that has endured throughout the years. The ratio of mothers to daughters has far outweighed that of mothers to sons on OLTL's canvas throughout its history, which I find rather interesting. I'm only periodically reminded of Jack's existence, and his character will perpetuate the Lord/Manning/Cramer lineage, so those in charge really need to carve out a solid foundation for Jack's character because right now, he's easily forgettable. In contrast, we've watched the relationships between Nora and Matthew and Blair and Starr evolve over time, and though we hardly see enough of them interacting, I'm hoping Carlivati places greater emphasis on their unique bonds. While peer interaction is a crucial component of this medium, equally important is weaving generations of characters and emphasizing that sense of family dynamic, which we've discussed at length in times past.
DAWN: I admit that I sometimes forget about Jack myself. The character hasn't been developed enough to leave a lasting impression, and we hardly ever see him! It will be interesting to see what happens to Jack's place on the canvas once Tommy comes home. I hope Jack doesn't get lost in the shuffle and that he gets his own identity. I am thrilled that you mention Nora and Matthew. I thought the scenes with Nora, Matthew, Clint, Renee, and Nigel were stellar! With all of them living under the same roof, I am hopeful that Renee and Nigel won't vanish inexplicably. After all Matthew has been through, it has to be comforting to have relatives living with him. Eddie Alderson really portrayed Matthew's resolve and maturity quite well in those scenes, and I can see him carrying on the Buchanan legacy far into the future. He is already becoming Llanview's resident old wise man in some ways! I know some people think Matthew acts too old for his age, but some people are just wise souls, and I think it's great that a child in Llanview is well adjusted like he is! I also think Patricia Elliott is doing a fantastic job of portraying Renee's grief. She disappeared right after Asa's funeral, so I am relieved that she is starting to appear again. We also learned that Nigel is still working for her and that he is looking out for her. How great was it to see Clint treat Nigel like a family member as opposed to a random employee? I have been reminded of the great characters that are on this show lately, and I give credit for that to the writers and actors. One Life to Live has a big cast, and it seems like the writers are working hard to give each character a reason for being there. I admit that when I first heard Asa was going to die, I was afraid the Buchanans would ride into the sunset. However, they are pulling together and have a strong place in Llanview. I am glad my fears were wrong, and I can't wait to see what transpires as Nora and Matthew continue to live in Asa's mansion!
DENISE: I was so delighted to see Renee and Nigel, and those scenes were really heartfelt and a nice reprieve from the ongoing baby Tommy saga which, in all honesty, is starting to wear thin with me. I really enjoy what Carlivati has done with this story and how he is utilizing much of the cast to lay a foundation for future storylines. That aside, it's time to wrap this up because Todd's bellowing and the continued inefficiency of Llanview's finest have grown redundant. I'd say the majority of fans concur, judging by the horrific numbers OLTL pulled in last week in terms of ratings. OLTL reached a new historical record low of 2.2 in households, and lost in excess of 200,000 viewers in one week's time. The show also lost nearly 150,000 viewers from the same week last year to this current year. Worse still, OLTL dropped in every demo group last week. While the network cares little about household numbers, the fact that AMC and GH also tied their historical household lows AND dropped in every demo group last week will undoubtedly create a stir - especially among advertisers. While the ratings system is a greatly flawed, archaic form of measurement, it still represents a barometer for what viewers are feeling. It's certainly no secret that the medium is in serious trouble, but ABC Daytime is in dire straits at this particular point in time. I submit this is due to longtime viewers throwing up their hands in disgust and walking away from these shows after the network shoved its corporate agenda down their throats. Viewers want to see generations of characters woven together and mature in their experiences over time just as in real life. Viewers do not wish to see beloved veterans and other fan favorites minimized in significance and shoved onto the back-burner; nor do they want to endure watching a smattering of characters propel MTV-minded drivel five days a week. The network is fully responsible for the monster it has created, and some permanent modifications must occur in order to rectify this mess. ABC invested so much time into attempting to create a sexier, "edgier" product and woo new viewers that the network lost touch with its audience and drove away those viewers who pay the bills. Brian Frons continues to insist that both he and the network are committed to its daytime programming, but I see no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. A good first step might consist of resurrecting the VP of Daytime Programming position. I'm a big believer in a system of checks-and-balances, and right now, none exists in terms of ABC Daytime. So the issue is not whether Carlivati has the ability to restore OLTL's integrity and win back longtime viewers. Instead, the question begs whether the network will allow him the creative freedom to do so. My guess is that OLTL will shift in another direction when Erika Slezak's newly-taped scenes begin airing, which should be any day now. Hopefully, the commencement of Viki's story will continue the pattern of weaving together this cast of characters and edge OLTL closer to the foundation that Agnes Nixon laid nearly four decades ago.
DAWN: I am so happy that Viki is going to be back on air soon. Whenever she is gone, there is a void in the show! I hope her story energizes OLTL. I have faith that Ron Carlivati has something terrific planned for Viki, and that is long overdue! I think the writers are starting to focus on the veteran characters more, but you are right that the management at ABC needs to give the writers the freedom to do it. It is disheartening that the ratings dropped to an all time low. I too am tired of the story about Tommy. I think it should have wrapped up once and for all last week. However, I want the powers that be to see ratings go up since the writing is generally better these days! The show has a long way to go, but I have been enjoying it a lot more the past couple of months. I know other people have a similar opinion as I do, and I desperately want that to be reflected in the ratings. I have a feeling more people will return to the show when Viki does. She is the heart and soul of the show in many ways, and I think maybe people don't want to watch if she's not going to be on the show. Whatever the reason for this decline in ratings might be, I don't want ABC to have any excuse to go back to the writing that brought this show down. We don't need "edgier" shows that are infiltrated with new, useless characters. The show is STILL recovering from the effects of that. It's ironic that the decline in ratings happened at virtually the same time as the recent fan-based writing campaign of October 11. For those who are not aware, fans of All My Children and participants of The C.H.E.R.I (Catherine-Hillary-Erika-Robin-Ilene) Initiative joined forces to send correspondence to the network and the program sponsors about the state of ABC Daytime and how its veterans are mistreated. Hopefully, the timing of the decline in ratings and the big, coordinated writing campaign will serve as catalysts for changes at ABC Daytime!
Have a wonderful week!
Denise and Dawn