This week, Dawn reflects back on the best and worst of One Life to Live in 2008. Remember that this is a special, two-part season finale. Well, so to speak. Next week, Michael takes his turn with his picks for the tops and the flops from the year gone by.
It's hard to believe, but 2008 is almost over. The show definitely has had its ups and downs this year. We started the year with that dreaded writers' strike, and it felt like the writers were playing catch-up the rest of the year because of it. Let's take a walk down memory lane as I reveal what I feel is the best and the worst of 2008.
Best of 2008
Viki visits heaven: One Life to Live reached a true milestone this year, as it celebrated being on the air for 40 years. This is especially poignant when soap operas are fighting to stay alive. Viki has been the core character of One Life to Live almost since the beginning, so it was fitting for her to visit heaven and reunite with other characters from the past. It was great to see her interact with Asa, especially since they had such a special relationship, and it was wonderful to see Viki reunite with Ben, if only for a short time. It would be awful if Viki ever went to heaven permanently, but I enjoyed her short trip to commemorate the show's anniversary. I also liked that Dorian brought Viki back to life and that they were able to reach an understanding, even if it was only temporary!
Addie and David get married: This has to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. Bringing Addie back to Llanview as a "sane" person was a great idea because we've gotten to see a different side of her. She returned with a list of things she wanted to do that she hadn't been able to do in St. Anne's, including marrying David. Usually, it's pretty easy to predict who will become a couple (for better or worse) on a soap opera, but David and Addie were a pure surprise for me. Who knew that they would be so much fun, especially when they did couple's yoga! David and Addie might not have had what it took to be a long-term couple, but they were fun to watch, and both knew what they were getting into when they got married. They also had a lot of fun making Dorian miserable by flaunting their relationship in front of her, which made it even better. Dorian did her best to split up David and Addie, and while Addie was mad at Dorian for forcing a divorce, Addie viewed her marriage as just another item on her list. She was able to cross David off of her list and move on to on other things. Perhaps the best part of the story is that while Blair and Dorian worried that Addie was making a big mistake, Addie was making one of the sanest decisions of all by living her new life to the fullest! Dorian and Blair could learn a few things from Addie!
Adriana and Rex try to get married: There are typically two types of weddings on soaps. There are weddings that feel more like a fairytale (although OLTL has had VERY few of those lately), and weddings that are bound to be disasters. Adriana and Rex's wedding had everything a disastrous soap wedding should: conflict, an unexpected return, an objection to the marriage, and an old fashioned bridal punch! While Rex and Adriana's marriage was over before it started, their wedding was fun to watch. After doing her best to keep Gigi away from Rex, Gigi decided to declare her love for Rex during his wedding to Adriana. I felt bad for Adriana because she was so insecure about Gigi, and her worst nightmare came true at her own wedding. She couldn't deal with Gigi's confession and punched her, right before Brody Lovett came back from the "dead." Brody caught everyone off guard, and Gigi was forced to take Brody and Shane home and play a happy family, as she continued to pine for Rex. Meanwhile, Rex and Adriana decided to get married even though neither one was really sure that they should. There were many surprises for the guests at this wedding, but I think the biggest surprise is that Adriana and Rex got married at all! We know that they didn't stay together, but their wedding certainly was fun to watch
Gigi/Rex/Brody's conflict: I liked this story because it wasn't black and white. Brody returned from the "dead" ready to fulfill his role as Shane's father and also as Gigi's husband. However, the Gigi that he left a decade ago doesn't exist. Gigi wanted to tell Shane that Rex was his father, while Brody was doing everything he could to make sure Shane wouldn't accept the truth. Gigi might have looked at Brody as the villain, but truthfully, he was emotionally attached to Shane, and he wanted to be Shane's father, as he thought he was supposed to be. He was brought back to Llanview by a manipulative Adriana and felt compelled to follow through on his promises to Gigi. Meanwhile, Rex and Gigi realized that they wanted to get back together after ten years, and Rex wanted to be Shane's father. The emotional conflict of this story was done well, in my opinion, as both sides wanted to do what they thought was best for Shane. However, Brody was still dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and thought he was still fighting in the war. It was chilling to watch him put on his uniform and go to Shane's school to take him away. When Gigi and Rex found Brody and Shane, Brody was having too many delusions to reason with him. He thought he was facing the enemy and shot Rex, who was trying to protect Shane. The aftermath sent Brody to St. Anne's and left Rex in a coma. When Rex woke up from the coma, Adriana finally let him go, and he and Gigi did their best to help Brody because they knew he was ill. I think this story had a terrific level of emotional conflict and showed all sides of the story. It would have been lame for Brody to be painted as a villain. Fortunately, the writers wrote a well-rounded, compelling story that put all of the characters involved in a new direction.
Marty returns to Llanview...and actual people: While I think the story with Marty and Todd wasn't a highlight of the year, I have enjoyed watching Marty return to Llanview and to Cole. All too often, when characters suffer from memory loss, they suddenly remember everything at a convenient time. Marty, however, has struggled with her desire to remember things and people, especially Cole, with minimal success. I can see Marty's struggle with trying to remember who she is and with trying to cope with her current situation. She is angry at what Todd did, and she feels awful for not remembering her own son. Susan Haskell has done a wonderful job of showing us how Marty feels conflicted and overwhelmed all the time. Returning to Llanview has been an emotional rollercoaster for Marty, and I like that it hasn't been easy and that she hasn't had the "miracle cure" to restore her entire memory. I think this story would have been just as compelling if she hadn't been living in Todd's house for months. Her time with Todd certainly raised the level of her emotional turmoil, but I think trying to remember her former life with other people has been the most interesting party of her story.
Dorian takes over Buchanan Enterprises: Dorian pulled off quite a coup when she blindsided the Buchanans by stealing their company. Only Dorian would go to such great lengths to seek revenge on Clint, and she did it with true gusto. After kicking the Buchanans out of the building, she quickly changed the company name to Cramer Enterprises and decided to make the company her new purpose in life. I was amazed that she was able to pull the takeover off. Dorian's schemes are notorious for backfiring on her, but she pulled off her plan and rocked the Buchanans to their core. Dorian certainly didn't keep that company for long, as Nora blackmailed her into giving it back, but Dorian did succeed in hurting Clint. While I doubt that stealing Buchanan Enterprises will be Dorian's last scheme, it might go down in history as one of her best!
Nora returns!: Nora never actually went anywhere, but her role on the show had been diminished to that of a random scene or as occasional arm-dressing for Clint. In the past month or so, however, Nora has returned as a main character as she prosecutes Todd and helps Marty. In reality, she shouldn't be prosecuting Todd at all, but I am happy that Nora is back in action. Hillary B. Smith is halfway through her four-year contract, and she has been woefully underused. I hope she continues to appear on a regular basis and that Nora FINALLY gets a story!
The Bon Jour Café returns: Viki's reaction to seeing Carlotta's diner as a replica of the Bon Jour Café was worth the wait for the Viki and Charlie's reunion. I hope we get to see the Buenos Dias Café on a regular basis.
Worst of 2008
Starr's Pregnancy: I am not sure what this story was supposed to look like before the writers' strike. However, this story was botched from the start, possibly because of the strike. One of the main problems with it was that the writers couldn't decide what the focus of this story should be. One day, the story felt like a clichéd after-school special about teen pregnancy, and other days, it was about an overly protective father on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Having Todd beat up Cole and Markko was a bad choice, and that started the story in a bad way. Towards the end of Starr's pregnancy, the story became about Todd's desire to steal Starr's baby for his own purposes, and finally, it became about a baby switch. It seemed like the writers never knew what to do with the story, but they knew they wanted a story about teen pregnancy. This story wasn't without its good points. Kristen Alderson has done a wonderful job showing all of Starr's emotional turmoil. Starr learned that there are real consequences to her decisions, and they affect other people in serious ways. She thought she could give her baby up for adoption, even though Cole didn't want that, and move on with him as if nothing had happened. When Cole gave up his paternal rights and also gave up his relationship with Starr, she quickly discovered that her feelings weren't the only ones that counted. She eventually took responsibility for getting pregnant and realized that she made bad a bad decision. Starr has grown up a lot since she got pregnant. I just wish that this story had been better executed and had a better focus from the beginning.
Baby switch: I won't belabor the point for too long, but I must iterate that I think the baby switch was another example of lazy writing. There was a lot of drama surrounding the births of Starr and Tess' babies without switching the babies. The problem with doing a baby switch is the viewers can write the entire story in their sleep. We've already seen the funeral for Hope. We've already seen Starr hold Hope without her realizing it was her own baby. Now we simply have to wait for the obligatory medical crisis where Jessica's baby needs type-specific blood where everyone discovers that Chloe couldn't be the right baby! It might not happen exactly like that, but the point is, there is no suspense with this story. I don't even want to watch the scenes where Starr is mourning Hope because I know there is no reason for her to have to go through it. Honestly, switching Starr and Tess' babies feels like a cheap way of extending two stories that don't need to be extended. I hope that everyone realizes that Hope is alive soon because I can't watch much more of this rote, predictable story unfold.
1968: This story might have been okay if it had lasted for one or two episodes, kind of like Viki's visit to heaven. It was fun to see Rex and Bo discover that they were Bo and Asa in 1968. It was also fun for them to figure out who the people they knew in 2008 were playing in 1968...for one or two episodes. Stretching this story out for weeks was a mistake. My problem with this story had little to do with it being unrealistic. I wasn't picking out inconsistencies in the story. It was written as a fantasy, and the occasional fantasy story is okay, in my opinion. However, the story stalled for several weeks, and by the end, I just wanted out. The story did have its good points. We got to see Bo struggle with laying down the law as Asa had, especially since he knew how Asa's decisions would affect everyone. Robert S. Woods got a chance to shine in this story. Also, I enjoyed Jon Brotherton's inspired portrayal of a young Clint and Catherine Hickland's wonderful portrayal of the mentally ill Olympia. I just think that this story veered too far off course and that when Bo and Rex returned to 2008, it wasn't a moment too soon! I implore the writers to leave 1968 in 1968 and not subject us to it again.
Mendorra: I wanted to like this story because it brought Tina back to the show. I wasn't watching One Life to Live when Andrea Evans played Tina the first time, but I knew that people enjoyed her portrayal of Tina, and it was big news that she was returning. However, the story in Mendorra ended up resembling a bad high school play or even a spoof of a bad high school play. The plot was silly, and it felt like it went on forever. It also felt out of place, considering that Nash's funeral was juxtaposed with the foolishness in Mendorra. This story might have worked if it had only last the two days of the anniversary shows, but I couldn't remain interested in a story about stolen jewels and fraudulent royalty. Every single time we saw a scene in Mendorra, I felt like we were going to the Land of Make Believe, and I honestly didn't care what happened. Even revealing that Carlo Hesser is Talia's father was a flop because it was only revealed to move the Mendorra story forward. I hope that the writers leave Mendorra where it belongs: in the PAST!
Todd and Marty: One of my main objections to this story is I think I am tired of Todd. It seems like the better part of the year was about Todd and Todd's anguish, anger, happiness, etc. Todd took Marty in for reasons that were unknown for months, and we watched him use Marty as a catharsis for his past misdeeds. He then decided to rewrite Marty's past, especially the parts that included him, and he began believing his own lies. I am not going to discuss whether I think Todd raped Marty. That's not why I added this to my worst list. I think this story went without a solid direction for too long. By the time Marty was discovered, I felt relieved, and I wanted it all to be over. Now, we are watching Todd be prosecuted for a long list of crimes, and I find it hard to care what happens to him.
The end of Nora and Lindsay's feud: If Lindsay and Nora's feud had been so easy to resolve, I am sure it wouldn't have go one for so long in the first place. These two women's lives have been intertwined for better or worse (usually for worse), for almost a decade. Nora and Lindsay have been the constant thorn in each other's sides, and yet, the writers decided to end it all in two episodes. It didn't feel right, and it seemed like a cheap way of removing Lindsay from the canvas. It wasn't even done in a creative way. We saw Nora break up Lindsay and Bo's wedding a few years ago, so for her to do it again in almost exactly the same way was just lazy writing. Nora finally got the upper hand over Lindsay when she forced Lindsay to confess about faking her breakdown, but it was short-lived. Nora and Lindsay's story is far from over, and their history can't be swept under the rug and forgotten. It's an insult to the characters, to the actresses, and to their fans.
Nash's Death: I still don't understand why Nash had to be killed off. I realize his death led to all sorts of drama, most prominently, the return of Tess. However, Nash was a rare find on this show. He wasn't anyone's long-lost son or relative, nor was he a long-lost character with a new face by way of plastic surgery. I don't like how every new character ends up being related to someone in Llanview, so Nash was a good change of pace. His death was dramatic and soapy (although quite strange), and it left everyone reeling. These are qualities of a good soap story, in my opinion. However, firing Forbes March and bringing other new, useless characters was a slap in the face to all of Forbes and Nash's fans.
Jessica/Tess/Bess: Before I begin, please understand that I think Bree Williamson has done a wonderful job of portraying Jessica's grief for Nash, and her two alters. In my opinion, she deserves awards and accolades for her work this year. However, I am EXTREMELY tired of alters and D.I.D. I commend Tess for locking Jared and Natalie in the secret room so I wouldn't have to be subjected to them, but Tess and Bess's acts got old very fast!
Vanessa and Lola: Get these two characters out of Llanview. PLEASE! They serve no purpose, and I don't care what happens to them!
Finally, the end of Nora and Lindsay's feud also meant the end of Lindsay's tenure in Llanview. While I hope Lindsay returns one day, there is a great way to support her portrayer. Catherine Hickland has written a book called The 30 Day Heartbreak Cure, which will be officially released on December 30, 2008. It is available for pre-order for an amazing price on Amazon.com and on Barnes and Noble's website. If you need a good dose of inspiration and tools to help you live a more meaningful life, I urge you to read Catherine's book!