Some people just can't get enough of what's bad for them. Case in point: I love Cold Stone Creamery ice cream. It's terrible for me, but the local store is nearby, taunting me seductively, all but doing an ice cream fan dance. It should be illegal under the Geneva Convention for people to put cake mix in ice cream, and yet Cold Stone does, and I buy it, and I feel like a criminal every time I pass a Crunch gym here in the city. Why, Michael? the gym bunnies inside seem to wail. Why have you forsaken us? I can't help it, baby, I say, they've got cake mix. So I do another long walk or another set of exercises to repent, and I promise I'll never buy fatty foods again, and then I go out and buy a four-dollar gyro from the Greek vendor on the corner. It's a sickness, I tell you. So in a way, I have to say I understand where Blair was coming from this week on OLTL. Granted, cake mix does not rape people, nor am I aware of it ever having stolen babies. But I get it: Todd is Blair's Cold Stone Creamery. It should not be possible for him to exist and thrive, and yet he does and she can't get enough, even when equally exciting and far more nutritious alternatives stand before her. But unhealthy obsessions are often a two-way street. Such was the way of our Friday cliffhanger for this week's show.
First, let me say that I thought the scenes between Blair and Ross this week were some of the best interpersonal comedy this show has done in a while. These characters have taken lemons with the Todd and Tea grand romance story and made lemonade, in spades. They were hilarious out on that boat, aping everyone from Diane Keaton and Woody Allen to Myrna Loy and William Powell as Blair wrestled with Ross to sound her foghorn of rage. Even better, they looked sexy while doing it, and golly if that isn't what daytime is all about. Kassie DePaiva and Michael Lowry have chemistry up the wazoo, and Ross is a composite of all the best parts of Brad Vernon, Cain Rogan, and early Max Holden; now, the only trick left is to find a way for the character to stand as an original on his own. I had no trouble buying that Ross genuinely cares about and is intrigued by Blair, despite only barely knowing her. What's more, Blair's wounded-wolf facade seemed to soften in the shadow of defeat, as the duo grew closer back on dry land, revealing a wounded, battered, but still beating heart all over her made-for-daytime face. That kind of chemistry, that kind of innate connection from what is unsaid is often what some of daytime's best couples are made from. I can't get enough of these two, new and unformed as they are, and I can only hope Blair learns to choose TCBY over Cold Stone, such as it is.
By contrast, we have Todd and Tea's "wedding." Wow. I had thought the Glass Coffin Debacle of 1998 was perhaps the camp nadir of their relationship (much like the "dead baby lie" was Todd and Blair's), but clearly I was counting my chickens before they hatched. The words "hot mess" do not begin to describe the latest Manning nuptials, but that is at least a fair approximation. Where to start, really? Tea's multiple emotional meltdowns at the altar, and her angry fits in public, snapping at Todd? Todd's callous, cavalier treatment of both poor Tea and the minister, laughing and joking about their sexual relationship in front of God, Hope, and everyone? His constant search for Blair in the background? Could Todd have cared less? I'm honestly not sure, but it was certainly a sharp right turn from the writers given how much they'd piled on trying to convince me that Todd and Tea were again deeply in love these last few months. While I felt Todd's unfeeling, unthinking behavior on his wedding day validated my opinion of their current relationship - that Todd and Tea are both on the rebound, trying to prove something to themselves and other people, going back to what is easy and what enables them - I don't think their audience deserved that, nor did Tea. I may not be the couple's biggest fan, but I can't imagine being a fan of theirs and then having to be subjected to that "ceremony." I thought it was unfair to the fanbase, and probably as cruel as the subliminal Jared and Natalie wedding from the spring (more on them later). It did, however, strip Todd and Tea's rapport bare, and now we'll get to see how much Todd truly does or does not care as he learns the truth about Tea and Ross.
That goes back to what I was saying about obsession being a two-way street; it was like watching an addict scramble for a fix as Todd hesitated, then chased after Blair outside his place on Friday, finding her waiting, not because he necessarily wanted her, but because Todd simply can't help himself - he is a controlling, paranoid individual, possibly a sociopath. He and Blair understand each other, have some of the same makeup; she knows he can't let things with Tea, or with any woman, Blair included, just lie - he has to control, he has to dominate, he has to know, and then he has to judge and punish. Already, Todd sabotages himself and his chances with Tea, which is not to say that Todd doesn't deserve the truth, because he does. But his knee-jerk rush for his old savage impulses, which Blair knew how to tweak, was a naked, unguarded moment that cut to the core of the character. It wasn't just about him and Blair or Tea, it was about Todd himself, and why he always fails. Tea is an equally dysfunctional character, but I think she deludes herself on far more sophisticated levels than Todd. I enjoy all these characters as individuals - even Todd sometimes, who has been mostly alien to me since the "rapemance" - but I continue to find their main story, about "ruining" Todd and Tea, to be turgid and predictable. If they were to quit all these silly love polygons, let Blair and Ross flourish with a new romance, let Todd find himself, let Tea dig deeper into her own darkness, and let character be serviced over plot concerns, I'd be a lot happier with this area of the show, and I don't think I'm alone. But hey, Todd, Blair, and Tea aren't the only ones who can't escape bad impulses - OLTL has been coasting on the fumes of the old fan battles over these characters for over a decade. Maybe The Powers That Be don't know how to turn away, either.
Now, as to Jared and Natalie, I have only one thing to say:
This alleged casting development makes even less sense after you've seen this week of episodes. This stalker storyline is on fire, people. Jared Padalecki's stunt double was prowling around the patio on a pre-paid pink phone, and boy, he looked pissed. And now he's dead! You saw (our) Jared with the whole "what, a corpse on my lawn?" hands shaking near the body, right? He totally didn't do it. This is all a big Agatha Christie misdirect; Jared and Un-Padalecki were both on the phone at the same time, but if you watched carefully on Thursday, you will notice that Stalker Boy was on the phone with someone at the same time Jared and Natalie were talking in the foyer - and Jared had no phone in sight. So, who keeps calling Jared? I have a few suspicions, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't no stalker. This is a big setup, and someone is using John's issues with Natalie and her having moved on against him. Which brings me to my other point: I grew tired of John and Natalie long, long before they ended, but even I could tell they still had chemistry in their sparring scenes this week, rivalled only by Jared and Natalie's unbreakable bond. Toss poor Marty into the fray and this is a hot quadrangle waiting to rock and rule for years to come. Why the heck would you want to remove Jared from a good, exciting story? He's an integral piece of the puzzle, and a good, yet edgy character, one who is both well-conceived and consistently well-written, something rare with recent daytime hunks. It just doesn't make sense, America. I love this story, it's creepy and it's kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky, but JARED! How can you just leave me standing alone in a world so cold? This is what sounds like when part-time Internet columnists cry!
On that note, we have to talk about some of the sillier stories of the week. Gregory Evans continues his undisputed reign as Dr. Dramatical, MD. I still enjoy this story and Greg/Rachel, I feel this character's pain but somehow, since his freakout in the last couple weeks, virtually everything Greg says in that ultra-solemn tone of his is funny to me. When he says stuff like "I have to stop killing people!" (don't we all?) or "I turned my brother into a turnip!" - come on. I don't know if it's Terrell Tilford's delivery or the script or the director, but it's a little off, even though I genuinely care about these characters. It's begun to border on camp, which is fine, except there are other stories on the show with intentional, well-executed camp, and I'm pretty sure the Evans family drama is not supposed to be one of them. Now poor Matthew has to get operated on by some scrub. The question here is, will Greg and Rachel get freaky before Matthew regains the use of his legs? I'm betting yes, and somehow that seems a little mean. Rachel can get some play but Matthew can't get his operation? Think clearly, Greg. You can't possibly kill Matthew the same way you almost killed Shaun! I bet he doesn't even like Stevie Wonder!
Then of course there was The Best Story On Daytime. Oddly enough, the Morasco Madness was actually a lot more tolerable this week, because it focused largely on Sky, Gigi, and the always-entertaining Kim, who singlehandedly made Stacy somehow watchable to me. Rex made a brief "Where's Waldo?"-style appearance, then resigned himself blessedly to the backburner, leaving everyone else to enjoy Lionel Richie and Jeremih (hang on a second), while Sky literally walked into Rodi's and got a job. Okay. Why is it that people on daytime television always seem to just wander into places and get handed employment? Has Sky ever tended bar other than that one time? Does he have references? Credit? Why do these things never happen in real life? Why don't people just throw jobs at us, too? "Oh, Michael, so good to see you here at DreamWorks. We need a movie director, our last one called in sick! What's that? You once owned a Viewmaster when you were six years old? Can you start tomorrow?"
That all being said, what I liked about this story this week was it focused on the right people, the most intriguing ones, and cleverly reversed the dynamic between Sky and Gigi. Now, Gigi is the odd one out, looking in at Sky trying to get on with his life, while she's stuck with, let's just say it, a tool. That's what Rex is now, a big ol' tool. And while Gigi's complaints that Kim has the same twisted lack of ethics as Stacy seem to be very valid, the character is just a lot of fun to watch, if they'd only give her a better story to cause trouble in. This whole Morasco mess has been backburnered of late, and now seems to be zeroing in on what works about it, instead of what doesn't. Hopefully, OLTL has caught a clue with this problem story.
After the hard times comes the lovin', baby, and thus we come to the endless delight that is The Kish Saga. Somehow they have managed to make this story even more awesome by dragging Viki, Dorian and their mayoral deathmatch into it - I don't know how they could possibly make it better, but they keep proving me wrong! Viki and Dorian slugging it out for the gay vote, I can't think of anything more perfect. I also really appreciated the heartfelt scenes between Kyle and Oliver at Rodi's, which were necessary to flesh out the characters, who still seem to spend more time with others instead of alone together - I think that's appropriate so as to slowly build up anticipation for a romantic reunion, but a foundation has to be laid, and OLTL is doing that, thank goodness. "We're in the thick of it, and it's exciting," Kyle told Oliver about his relationship with Nick, who is everything Oliver isn't - confident, self-assured, and an out and passionate social advocate for gay rights. But Kyle's words are also a meta-statement about OLTL to me, which is going for broke in the way it is presenting the gay storyline, causing my fanboy heart to swell with pride.
What's so important and so touching is that at every turn, OLTL has gone out of its way to normalize the homosexual storyline and present it as no different from the hetero stories on this show - Kyle and Nick kissed goodbye again this week with no fanfare or ABC press conference, while Cristian was presented as being at ease with Oliver in the same way he would've been with Antonio, discussing a friend's romantic entanglement with no regard for gender or orientation. Another extremely important beat was when Cristian told Oliver that Kyle was still fair game without a ring on his finger, and Oliver asked if that was really the way Cris felt about relationships. In that scene, Cris, the straight man, was presented as the more casual lover, while Oliver, the young gay male, was shown to be more heartfelt and anxious for a true connection. In writing that interaction between the guys, OLTL quietly ruptured a nagging stereotype about modern gay relationships; that unlike hetero romances, they are fleeting and based only in sex and instant gratification, instead of genuine love. OLTL was even able to effortlessly parallel Oliver and Kyle's fractured trust with Cristian and Layla's tentative romance, and showed an all-too-real scene of social transference between Oliver and Layla, who projected her own insecurities onto Oliver as she warned him not to be too hasty about Kyle, when it was Layla herself who was afraid to open her heart. As a gay man with straight female friends who I love dearly, I have to say I've been there before. OLTL may not put out a press release every week, they may not screen every kiss for Good Morning America, but they are making history everyday with the Kish storyline, and in an age where Luke and Noah fall prey to cartoon villains in Oakdale and Olivia and Natalia can't even peck each other on the cheek before the light dims in Springfield, USA, OLTL deserves the highest regard for what it has already accomplished with these characters. Bravo.
So that was the week in Two Scoops for our totally not cancelled show. But wait! Don't run for the emergency exits yet. There's more. As most of you already know, our twisted sister show, General Hospital, is welcoming a very special guest this month. No, it's not Liz Taylor again, although they could always reuse the turban. It is in fact Hollywood Megastar/Michael's Future Husband James Franco. Star of Spider-Man, Milk, Pineapple Express, and yes, sadly, Spider-Man 3. Apparently seeking a change of venue and a new challenge, Franco is coming to GH for a few days to shoot several months worth of appearances, in a short-term role. I'm impressed with Franco's dedication to his craft and his willingness to stretch himself in a punishing medium that too many industry heavyweights look down upon - the truth is, daytime actors work harder than anyone else in the business. I just wish he was going to any other show besides General freakin' Hospital. They get everybody!
Thus, in the spirit of this exciting casting news, we come to the ill-advised bonus round of this week's column, which I like to call Shameless Celebrity Pandering, Llanview-Style. Who's to say that other Hollywood celebrities will not take Franco's career move as an acting gauntlet thrown down, and decide to test their mettle in the thankless low-budget jungle that is modern soap opera? Who's to say that we here at 2 PM Eastern Time could not also warrant a visit from an A-list star who is dying to see if he or she could handle shooting five or six episodes a day? Lucky for them, I've factored in this (highly improbable) possibility and prepared a minor brief on actors who could visit Llanview and light up our screens in some clever short-term roles. Join me, won't you?
Laurence Fishburne: The ridiculously obvious first choice. Before he was beating up Anna Mae in the sound booth or showing Neo the Matrix, Laurence Fishburne was Llanview's own street urchin, Joshua Hall, adopted son to Llanview's first and best couple of color, Ed and Carla Hall. The Hall family hasn't been seen since 2000, when grandson Jared (yes, another fired Jared) appeared briefly to romance Rachel and take a visit from Grandpa Ed, but their legacy, and Carla's classic "passing for white" storyline, echoes in Llanview history. An appearance from Morpheus could help put the Halls back on the map, the way Agnes Nixon intended them to be, perhaps by re-introducing Joshua and his children.
Meryl Streep: She can already do everything else onscreen, from cooking French food to teaching Catholic school, and possibly turning water into wine. Who's to say the acting queen of our times could not also conquer daytime? La Streep would make a devastating Irene Clayton Manning, Todd and Tina's apparently deceased mother, the concubine of Victor Lord. Remember, everybody said Victor was dead too.
Jack Nicholson: For years we have known only a few things about Blair's mysterious, unseen father - he was Asian (okay, scratch that), he was a hospital orderly, and he raped Addie Cramer at the sanitarium where she resided for years. Deadbeat rapist dad of a vixen who married a rapist of her own, that's a dark, challenging part, right? Who better to frighten and delight us than the star of The Shining? Jack Nicholson is both soulful and scary, fascinating and terrifying, and somehow I think both he and Kassie DePaiva's Blair have that same manic, defiant edge in their eyes.
Robert Downey, Jr.: He's had a million and one comebacks and now, against all odds, he's the king of Hollywood again. If anyone can help Llanview's original Wolek family mount their own revival, it's Robert Downey, Jr., America's Iron Man. Wry, damaged, and above all sexy, he'd make a great Dan Wolek, the estranged son of Dr. Larry, who fought with his dad for the love of the wholly unworthy Brenda McGillis before disappearing from OLTL in the early '90s. Toss in a few kids for Danny to leave behind and a surprise appearance from Judith Light as Karen and you've got a canvas reborn.
Nicole Kidman: Somehow, after last year's Mendorra caper, Carlo Hesser just doesn't have the same menace he used to. Maybe if OLTL moved a little further down the family tree? In recent years, Nicole Kidman has excelled at playing stunning, dangerous ice queens. Something tells me she'd fit the short term role of Charlotte Hesser, the mob princess who once tried to steal Jake from Megan, like a stiletto pump.
Kristen Stewart: Rough, ready, and rock 'n roll - that's what Sarah Roberts has been presented as since she returned to Llanview as "Flash," but the character has never quite clicked as an adult no matter the actress. Twilight's Kristen Stewart is building a career of playing disaffected alt-rock chicks, and after her melancholy turn in Adventureland she could be perfect to take a spin as Sarah, the fallen starlet, and finally define this amorphous character.
Paul Dano: Unfortunately, the Roberts family isn't complete without their prodigal son, the long-absent C.J., a runaway who became a Navy SEAL, not unlike the delicious Brody Lovett. Indie film superstar Paul Dano has played everything from a mute teenage outcast (Little Miss Sunshine) to a fire-and-brimstone youth preacher (There Will Be Blood) and is one of Hollywood's most versatile young actors to ever be killed with a bowling ball by Daniel Day-Lewis. As C.J. Roberts, he could handily complement Tina's histrionics or Sarah's rebel yell, and charm Langston away from Markko - or Kyle away from Oliver. Short-term, of course; don't throw the tomatoes, Kish fans!
I'm sure the casting agents' phones are ringing off the hook as we speak! If you have any Hollywood fantasy casting of your own, or you want to decry my crazy schemes, or if your eyes are just hurting from all the reading, please feel free to contact me c/o Soap Central. I love you guys, I'll see you in two weeks, where we will in all likelihood still not be cancelled!