DENISE: Ryan, it's clear the show is still in transition, and by and large, the only significant movement story-wise consisted of Viki's reentry onto the canvas (Welcome Back, Erika!). As I watched some the characters that you mentioned interact, I felt like I was transported to the "Island of Misfit Toys" in Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. If it were up to me, I would purge every one of those characters EXCEPT for Antonio, Talia and Nash. That the remaining characters are doomed is reinforced by the fact that having them interface with Antonio and Talia didn't prevent me from fast-forwarding. It's also disconcerting that a legacy character such as Jessica could drop off the canvas tomorrow and I simply wouldn't care. In fact, I can't even determine whether I'm watching Tess or Jessica from one day to the next. I enjoy what Forbes March brings to the canvas, but his character has been written into a corner. I already find myself bored with Jared (after granting the character props and an open mind when he first appeared on the canvas). The only way Rex can be redeemed is by separating him from Adriana, resurrecting the scoundrel within him, and connecting him to Roxy and Natalie in an interesting way. I believe Carlivati wove Talia and Antonio in with these other characters story-wise in an attempt to salvage them...but it simply isn't working AND negatively impacts their characters. I think the real standout here is Sean Ringgold, who has had minimal airtime as Shaun but has impressed me and as such, I'd enjoy seeing his character developed and woven into the mainstream. I have always been a fan of Michael Easton, but John's character simply doesn't do his level of talent justice and I much prefer him as a "bad boy." Further, killing off Al Holden was one of the DUMBEST things this show ever did - especially with Max back in the picture. While I think Nathaniel Marston has done some of his best work as Michael, I can take or leave Michael's character. I'll save my comments about where the vets stand story-wise for my next paragraph, but I'm starting to think the best thing Carlivati could do is to pull a Dallas and make the past three years a dream.
RYAN: Boy, did you hit the nail on the head with that "Island of Misfit Toys" comparison. How funny! Well, I did struggle when I put Antonio and Talia on my list because I had such high hopes for them following the breakup of Antonio and Jess; however, something happened that I just can't put my finger on. Boredom set in, and I don't know why. I think, for me, part of the appeal was seeing them work together and letting me see the sexy, let-your-hair-down Talia at night and the all-work/no-play Talia in uniform during the day. That spark, though, is missing from the couple, and I hope that it can be recovered because I'm a big fan of BethAnn Bonner. I'll tell you what the show did that I approve of---it got rid of bad girl Brittany. What a long-overdue move that was. And a month ago, I would have asked them to show Langston the door, too, but her involvement with Dorian has become one of my favorite storylines at the moment. As you and Dawn discussed last week, Langston was a character few people cared about AT ALL, but now that she's thrown in with veteran actress Robin Strasser, she's dynamic and interesting! I love the protective and nurturing relationship that Dorian has with Langston, and what's more, I think it's truly genuine and has legs for longevity. Take this illustration--with her biological daughter, Dorian couldn't help but meddle in her relationship with boyfriend Rex. In fact, Dorian went to extremes by hiring someone to stalk Adriana and trying to blame it on said boyfriend. With Langston, Dorian seems to not only approve of Langston's relationship with Markko, but she supports it. She shared phone call time with Langston with Markko, she allowed him to put his hand on her shoulder to show her support when Langston was taken away by Child Protective Services, and she encouraged Langston to tell Markko the truth about her parents. This is unlike the over-protective Doran we all know, so if the show can take a character I was completely indifferent about before and turn her around, I'm hoping they can do that with other characters on my list---otherwise, they need to go bye-bye.
DENISE: Exactly, Ryan - and here's something else that concerns me. I'm really fascinated with the way Carlivati has reintroduced Viki onto the canvas. This is a side of Viki we never knew existed until Niki Smith's persona was explored and cultivated throughout the years. I find it completely plausible that Viki would've taken Dorian's advice to heart - whether out of respect for her adversary or simply to "one up" her - and head for parts unknown where the pace is slower and whereby she can rediscover the simple things in life. I also understand that Viki's "new adventure" can't be told without the introduction of supporting players that explain her recent whereabouts. That aside, I truly hope this story remains centered upon Viki and that she isn't lost in the process of introducing Charlie, Moe, Gigi and whoever else onto the canvas. One might argue that all vets were newbies at some point and that the way to effectively introduce new characters is through the use of veterans. I wholeheartedly agree, but submit the following. The way to restore a show's integrity and viewers' faith is NOT by bringing on a slew of new characters until the current canvas is purged of all failed, extraneous ones. Not even the most gifted writer can effectively connect this large a cast in a meaningful manner. It's simply impossible, because: 1) too many characters are vying for airtime, and 2) this large a cast creates an impersonal atmosphere whereby viewers detach themselves from the overall show and instead focus on those characters in whom they are vested. This is reinforced by the positive reaction to connecting Dorian with Langston and giving Dorian a role that does not reduce her to that of "prop." In contrast, if the best OLTL can do for Roxy's character is link her with Miles and pull her out of storage occasionally to babysit Tommy and provide comic relief, how unfortunate. The same can be said for whatever scenario is unfolding with Bo, Lindsay, Nora and Clint. Honestly, I have not a clue what is happening with these four characters - and it isn't for lack of trying. We jump from Bo and Nora rediscovering a certain level of closeness after Asa's death, to Bo then harboring animosity for Nora in defense of Lindsay, to Clint and Nora seemingly growing closer, to everyone wondering whether Lindsay is faking her insanity, to Clint trying to comprehend why Dorian behaves as she does, etc. I'm all for revisiting the Lindsay/Nora rivalry, but I'm simply not a proponent of romantic "redos" and am looking for a fresh direction for these characters that utilizes history unconventionally. In any case, trying to determine what is or isn't happening with Lindsay/Bo/Nora/Clint has grown exhausting, and the same dialogue and scenery is recycled each week, which I find very disappointing thus far - despite some wonderful character interactions. I'm truly hoping that Viki's "new adventure" somehow weaves these vets together in a significant manner because once again, they appear to be getting lost in the shuffle as more new characters are piled on top of an already overcrowded canvas. Carlivati has promised that these veterans will indeed receive their own storylines, and I am willing to give him every benefit of the doubt. Yet if I had a dollar for every time the network made this same promise, I'd be co-writing this column from my private island in the Carribean.
RYAN: I have the very same concerns about these new imminent characters from Paris, Texas. My only hope is that they are introduced slow and steady. I would hope that Carlivati's first major story as Head Writer would follow the "standards for success" that all new soap writers SHOULD follow. Seeing Farah Fath promoted so heavily as Gigi gives me pause for concern, but I will stay hopeful...for now. The thing is that if Carlivati is bringing in so many new characters, then some should be written out to make room for them. In with the new, out with the old (or at least uninteresting). And as for Jared, my hope is that his parentage helps jump-start his presence in Llanview. If I had one wish, it would be for his mother to be Alex Olanov, one of my very favorite Llanview femme-fatales! If it's plausible and makes sense, I can't think of a better potential schemer to shake things up in town than Jared. Maybe then HE can work on getting rid of the Laylas, Vincents, and Sarahs of the world!
DENISE: I'm thrilled that Tonya Walker-Davidson is returning, albeit temporarily, because she is one of my favorite daytime actors. She and Arlene Sorkin stand out in my mind as two individuals who can take otherwise forgettable, seemingly one-dimensional characters, and blow viewers away by making them one-of-a-kind. It's the unique ability to inject this wonderful sense of quirky humor, yet in a way that prevents the character from morphing into a caricature. Perhaps OLTL jumped the gun by introducing Jared, because what's to say that Nash couldn't have been revealed as the son of Alex and yet another familiar character? Another imminent return that I'm anticipating consists of David Vickers, because Tuc Watkins is a riot a minute on a bad day. Pair David with Alex and you have one formidable (and comical) con team! My personal philosophy when it comes to characters is simple: use them, or lose them. I have an issue with introducing new characters when what most viewers long to see is a return of characters with historical significance and those with an invested fan base. Most viewers would rather watch Kevin, Joey, Max and Tina versus Charlie, Moe and Gigi. What about asking Mike Storm to resurrect his role of Larry Wolek, which only seems fitting since Llanview Hospital is minus one Chief of Staff? There's just so much history that begs to be explored. Something else that concerns me is the continued minimization of the Lord family. I enjoy the Buchanans, but they've simply driven the Lords out of business. It isn't enough to know that Viki, Tina, Todd and their children have Lord blood flowing through their veins. The Lords are the foundation of OLTL and dictate the culture of Llanview. How integral was the Banner to OLTL - and how significant is the impact of its absence? the Banner has been lost to The Sun and BE, and we rarely see the Llanfair set anymore. Restoring integrity is a comprehensive, ongoing process, and dictates more than stellar writing. It requires ABC to take a look at the big picture, reevaluate its commitment to daytime programming, and subsequently determine WHAT it is willing to sacrifice - and what it is willing to invest - in order to generate a quality product.
Have a wonderful week!
Ryan and Denise