RYAN: I was watching "Seinfeld" the other night when I heard Kramer say, "A gift that isn't enjoyed is like a flower that doesn't blossom." That particular line happened to just stick out for me not simply because we are all in the midst of the gift-giving season which requires us to shop and shop and shop for just the right gifts to present to friends and family but also because Ron Carlivati has presented us viewers with an amazing gift, one that I hope everyone appreciates and values. One year ago, I could barely stand to watch OLTL; however, today, it is that guilty pleasure for me like it used to be years ago. Instead of feeling as though it's a chore for me to play back an episode at night, it's instead a treat I eagerly anticipate. It is indeed blossoming like a flower, more and more everyday, in fact. I've been praising the show for many weeks mostly in support of Carlivati's use of veteran characters/actors, but one aspect of the improvements I have noticed that I have neglected to give proper credit to is his "connectivity." By that, I mean that Carlivati has masterfully achieved the ability to weave stories in such a way that so many characters are affected by them and thus become connected. For example, the way he has slowly integrated the Paris, Texas folks into the problems and lives of Llanview citizens is nothing short of remarkable (and interesting!). First take Charlie. Here is a man who is introduced to us as a new man for Viki, so the two officially begin dating. Unbeknownst to Viki, Charlie runs into Viki's arch-nemesis, Dorian, thus setting the stage for more conflict between the rivals later. Soon after the meeting, Charlie heads to Llanview to look for his son who he hasn't seen in quite some time. Is the son Jared or Nash? Viewers are left wondering for a few days during which Charlie has a taste of Llanview life---seeing Dorian's home, meeting some of her family. When Charlie's son is finally revealed to be Jared Banks (not Nash, as we were sneakily left to believe at the end of Thursday's episode), the stage has already been set for a number of complications: first, Jared just managed to blackmail Nigel into revealing that he is the "real son" of Asa Buchanan; second, he has managed to complicate his love life with Natalie as a result of the reveal (after all, it would be in poor taste to date one's uncle!); third, Charlie will now inevitably be forced to keep Jared's secret which now throws a monkey wrench into his relationship with Viki. Think about it---the Buchanans are essentially family to Viki, so if the man she is dating is quietly keeping a devastating secret that impacts her family, that is a recipe for disaster that even Moe can't fix! And this is just ONE example of "connectivity" that Carlivati has managed to create.
DENISE: Ryan, one year ago, I was completely despondent in terms of OLTL. In fact, I was devastated. My heart ached as I watched this show crumble and its integrity dissolve, and I genuinely believed at one point that we were on a downward spiral of no return. We endured a constant revolving door in terms of talent. Particularly painful was watching OLTL's veteran actors be subjugated like prize-winning thoroughbreds who were prematurely put out to pasture as the network retooled its entertainment agenda. I grew so disgusted with ABC at one point that I ceased watching AMC and GH after thirty years of viewing and switched to Y&R instead. I was actually amazed at how little I missed OLTL's sister soaps and how quickly CBS won my loyalty, and I haven't watched AMC or GH since. Yet through it all, I stuck with OLTL because it has always been, and will always be, the soap that is closest to my heart. Fast-forward one year and OLTL is swiftly reclaiming its own heart and soul. You hit the nail on the head: it's all about "connectivity." Characters are making contact in ways that we haven't seen in years. Fleeting moments and meaningless interactions have been replaced by generations of actors and characters interfacing on deep, emotional levels. We watched the Mannings respond to their daughter's pain and reach out to comfort her, as Todd suppressed his disdain for Cole and employed resources to locate him. We saw Todd phone his sister for support and watched as Viki struggled with remaining in Paris and enjoying her newfound contentment versus returning home to support her brother. We saw Michael crumble and fall to his knees as he grappled with the ramifications of his actions, as Todd pushed him to the emotional edge and taunted him. We watched Clint wrestle with his unresolved feelings for Dorian and fight his intensified feelings for Nora, as Nora and Clint were wracked with anxiety over whether Bo knew what had transpired between them. Suddenly, David Vickers reemerged from obscurity and stole the spotlight in Paris, TX - rooming with Viki, taste-testing pies, and confronting Marcie. Meanwhile, Nigel remains a man on a mission, and has morphed into a butler with serious backbone - and an equally sharp bite to match. So I ask all who contend that OLTL hasn't improved to rewind one year, when Spencer Truman terrorized Llanview and held its viewers captive, and when characters spewed hollow drivel and their conversations ran as deep as tomorrow's weather. Families are connecting, conflict is building, roads are intertwining...and this is classic "soapy" material at its best.
RYAN: I am really glad that you brought up Tuc Watkins, because David was definitely THE gift to enjoy this week---David Vickers' character was the gift that people line outside the store to buy at 4:00 in the morning (can you tell I have Black Friday on the mind?). Here is the classic example of "connectivity." David reemerged earlier this month only to be bamboozled by Alex into marrying her. She knew that he was the Buchanan heir and that he likely was bequeathed millions of dollars at the reading of Asa's will. He simply heard that she was a filthy rich sex addict, and his eyes lit up! Add that to his one-night tryst with Dorian after she found Clint and Nora in a lip-lock, and he's suddenly connected to the entire Buchanan clan. Technically, David has now slept with his half-brother's girlfriend! And when Clint caught the two in bed the next morning, the hot-headed cowboy threatened to blow his half-brother's head off. So an ultimate reveal that Vickers is the true Buchanan son is the last thing our beloved Nigel wants to unleash. But wait! If that isn't enough "connectivity" for you, what about having David run into Viki at the diner? David is now the first Llanview-ite to discover Viki's secret. And THAT, my friend, is when the hijinks started! Watching David interact with Moe, Noelle, and Gigi was an absolute treat. From his antics in Viki's motel room once Gigi discovered him there to his inability to choose which pumpkin pie tasted better, David was the quintessential embodiment of light-hearted comedy that was desperately needed to balance out the serious drama that unfolded around Cole and Marty. Unfortunately, while David was connected to everything and everyone---from Viki in the diner to Marcie in the motel---I felt that all of the action that was going on in Ireland was just too remote and distant from all of the other action to be anything that I could care about.
DENISE: We're in complete agreement in terms of the goings-on in Ireland. I can make the creative transition in my mind from Llanview, PA to Paris, TX - but adding another faux locale to the picture simply fizzled. Quite honestly, there's nothing in that story I care about. We discussed Christina Chambers' exit long ago, and while I'm curious to see whether Marty will reappear one day in the form of Susan Haskell, nothing interests me in terms of these characters at present. I keep grasping for something to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for John's character, because he now tops my fast-forward list. The mere mention of Caitlin's name raised my blood pressure last week, because all we did was watch John battle inner demons for three years and though it pains me to say this, I honestly think John's character has outlived his usefulness. That is why I cringed when Al Holden perished and was reborn as Michael McBain. This was one of the dumbest moves TPTB ever made in recent years, along with rewriting history to pen Mitch Laurence as Jessica's biological father. Imagine if Max returned to Llanview one day on a more permanent basis and Al were still alive! That father-son relationship and their "connectivity" to everyone in town would generate more story than anything the McBains could ever do for OLTL's canvas. In fact, I cannot even fathom why OLTL even re-casted Michael's role after Marston's exit, because the McBains are one family that just haven't "stuck" for most viewers. I'm not sold on Cole and Starr, and I also think Hunt Block is completely wasted in this role. Try as I might, I'm still not "feeling" Cris and Sarah. I presume this couple has its fans, but I'm not one of them. Cris' character is another that has been written into a corner, and my only hope is that Gigi or Noelle makes the trek back to Llanview to breathe new life into him. I was impressed that Evangeline has not been forgotten as Cris struggles to move forward, but his character is completely stagnant. In contrast, I believe Antonio and Talia are positioned to be one of this show's future star couples. I think the chemistry between BethAnn Bonner (who "wows" me more with each passing week) and Kamar de los Reyes is off the charts, and Carlivati has nurtured their relationship very slowly and woven in lots of conflict that is going to make their story THE relationship to watch in '08. I'm curious to get your thoughts on Jared and how you believe recent developments will play into the concept of "connectivity" on the canvas, because I have mixed feelings about how events unfolded last week and a mini-rant to share as well.
RYAN: Well, your examples illustrate that Carlivati isn't perfect. Sometimes I feel like I might be TOO effusive in my praise for him because I certainly don't want to get to the point that I look back and realize this was the best it ever got. I think that he's made leaps and bounds in his ability to utilize so many members of the cast and to create umbrella stories that impact a variety of characters. But there are still "islands" out there that are not connected to very much---Cris and Sarah are cases in point. Snooze-o-rama! Don't care about either one of them. Vincent and Layla? Either use them or ditch them. Rex and Adriana? Please, put me out of my misery now! Even Jess and Nash are making me think seriously about creating a patent that uses them as an aid for chronic insomniacs! But I think that Jared is finally finding his place in the overall scheme. I still don't know what his overall goal is (other than weaseling in on the millions of Asa's money), but I do know that his scheme to blackmail Nigel into revealing that HE is the true Buchanan heir instead of David Vickers really cements his place on the canvas much more than before. What I particularly love is that his greed for money and power is obviously more important than love, because he knows he can't pursue a relationship with Natalie now that he is supposedly a blood relative. Yet, deep down, he knows that a relationship is POSSIBLE because he isn't really a relative. So watching him try to restrain from flirting will be interesting because it will definitely cause some uncomfortable moments between him and Natalie. I also like that he is the "connecting" factor between Llanview and Paris, Texas when it comes to Charlie, as I mentioned before. My only complaint is that he's painted too much as a con-artist and doesn't exude enough vulnerability to make him a complex character. He doesn't have enough redeeming qualities at this point. But maybe that will come later. All I know is that during this holiday season, I'm thankful for the many gifts that Carlivati has offered his viewers. It's been a long-time coming!
DENISE: Exactly - and I'm a big believer in giving credit where it is due. I also recognize that Higley ran this show into the ground and am therefore willing to overlook those few "islands" of characters not currently connecting, because to expect Carlivati to completely revamp the show in this short a timeframe is both impossible and unreasonable. That aside, I did walk away from last week with two nagging issues that persist. First, why can't Natalie simply exist and just be for awhile? I was so thrilled to see Natalie rediscover her beauty and self-confidence and spread her wings at BE. It's been an absolute delight to watch her interact with Clint and the Buchanans and really cement her position within the family. My optimism was cut short when Natalie began falling hard for Jared, because once again, she comes across as needy and irrational, and her character now walks a fine line between "vulnerable" and "victim." Natalie keeps gliding from one self-destructive relationship to another, and I've seen her surrender much of her newly-reclaimed confidence by falling head-over-heels for Jared like a schoolgirl. The chemistry between Melissa Archer and John Brotherton is undeniable, but I've just grown weary of watching Natalie continuously pursue men who are unworthy of her. As a viewer, I'd like to learn more about WHY she continues to lay her heart on the line and fall for men who either need to be "fixed" or are undeserving of her affections. Second, I am disappointed (though not surprised) that Nash wasn't revealed as Charlie's son. I was hoping that Jared would be the red herring for several reasons. While Nash and Jessica bore me to tears, I'm pulling for Forbes March to survive the inevitable "cut." His character has been on OLTL's canvas for two-and-a-half years and possesses zero back story. Now, I understand full well that Nash isn't Carlivati's creation and as such, I'm not certain what TPTB have in store for his character. Yet I would contend that while most viewers have tired of Jessica and Nash as a couple that his character remains a huge fan favorite. Nash was a bright spot throughout Higley's regime and represented a breath of fresh air amidst all the extraneous characters she created and force-fed viewers. As such, I hope Nash is revitalized and painted a part of Llanview's future. If Nash were Charlie's son, that would've connected Charlie to Viki in a more significant manner (as Bree's grandfather) AND impacted their relationship, as well as given Nash much needed back story and conflict to resolve. So while the "connectivity" of characters on OLTL's canvas still bears great room for improvement, one can't deny the progress made. That, in and of itself, constitutes a very large gift for viewers this holiday season.
Have a wonderful week!
Ryan and Denise