Cult appeal

by Michael
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OLTL Two Scoops: Cult appeal
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The week of January 11, 2010
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It was a wacky week in Llanview as a number of sluggish storylines finally kicked the holiday malaise and started jumping, whereas several others merely continued to bore.

Hello, my public! How have you been? First, an apology: I am apparently to blame for false advertising. I expected to be pulling a double-duty shift on Two Scoops in the past two weeks, and announced it as such in my last column. Instead, due to an unexpected scheduling snafu, I was relegated back to my usual slot this week, which is fine by me, but I apologize for leading you down the primrose path, and for leaving you thinking you were going to get yourself a weekly dose of Michael's madness for once. Or maybe you were relieved that I didn't show up, in which case, all's well that ends well. The point is, fear not, dear reader: I am here now, we're back together, and everything's going to be all right until I sleep with your sister who ransomed our love for her bone marrow which was not even hers.

And there's our awkward segue! It was a wacky week in Llanview as a number of sluggish storylines finally kicked the holiday malaise and started jumping, whereas several others merely continued to bore this viewer. Mitch is out of the hospital and back where he belongs, prowling the streets and being an uncomfortably close and sexy talker with everyone he meets. Dorian has (once again) fired Bo and hired an old face in his place. And Blair, well, Blair finally got laid by someone who was not a serial rapist. All this and more in this week's Two Scoops!

Poker Face how John looks in every scene. Seriously, it's the same expression every single time, which is a large part of why I just can't get worked up about anything in Letter-Openergate '09-'10, a story I have seen several different versions of throughout John McBain's time in Llanview, each lamer than the last. Do we all remember the Spencer Truman murder mystery, in which John and Natalie also played these stupid cover-up games? How about the KAD murders, the last time John went renegade, less than a year ago? Or Lee Ramsey, Llanview's most recent corrupt Commish who also had a past with John? What is there left to invest in in ol' McBain? He acts the same way in every story, he breaks the law the same way, gets fired the same way, saves the day and gets rehired the same way, treats all his ladies the same disinterested way, and dumps them the same way for the next damsel in distress. What's the point, I ask you? Michael Easton is far from the worst actor on this show, but I find his appeal limited at best, or perhaps it's not his fault; perhaps it's simply the character of John, who has always had very limited story mobility, with a boxed-in, empty character who only seems to have two modes: take-charge, knows-best cop, and bored boyfriend.

He ain't the only one bored, though. This story bores me to tears, and it's too bad because it's sucked Natalie in. Natalie is a favorite of mine, but she and John are relegated to rehashing their "greatest hits(?)" in this story, in which John or Natalie does something rash and then spend all their time covering for one another, begging others to help the person in trouble, and fighting to defend each other's honor. This story is so tired. I can't count the number of times I've seen Natalie do these same scenes in the last six or seven years - Natalie pleads with Bo to help John; Natalie wonders if she is responsible for John's troubles; Natalie begs John not to sacrifice everything for her...John, John, John. It's all I ever hear. It's like Marcia Brady! In record time, Natalie has gone from a strong businesswoman, loving wife, and grieving widow to John's same old female accessory; meanwhile, Marty seems to have nothing to do but get thrown under the trestles of a "John and Natalie reunion," all of which is far less than either Haskell or Archer deserve.

I mean, it's not like we can't all predict the beats of these John stories now, right? I'll return to this point later, but come on, the writers have to know we have seen all this before: John is framed/wrongly accused/takes a crime upon himself to protect others; John is fired/quits the force; John saves the day and is reinstated. Look, it's one thing to say there are no new stories under the sun, that soaps are a continuum and many of the same plots are re-used. Yes, that's true, but usually they are not all re-used with the same character over and over in the space of less than ten years. Even if I did still have interest in John as a character, this would have me snoozing. I can't imagine that it's not doing the same for John and Natalie fans. I bet I could use up all my fingers and all my toes counting the number of times those two have done some version of this story.

It's not all bad, though - in between rounds of praying for John's job, Natalie did get some more heartwrenching scenes back at Jared's gravesite, which, along with Charlie's ongoing struggle with the demon hooch, sent this shameless Jared and Natalie fan's mourning process back to one all over again. Brian Kerwin has been killing me since Jared's death, and his scenes with Erika Slezak and Mark Lawson (as well as Melissa Archer and anyone else) have just gotten better and better. This storyline deserves more airtime, and Charlie deserves as much exposure as Natalie and frickin' John.

The good news is John's latest "struggle" is currently only a side element of a larger story, building from Mitch's machinations, the whole reason Dorian has fired Bo and rehired good ol' Stan Lowell, the drug-peddling mayor who beat his kid like a rented mule (hey, whatever happened to Justin?). I'll admit this twist is pretty unoriginal since we just had a similar story with Lee Ramsey during the writer's strike of 2008 (and Ramsey was far more interesting), but Lowell makes a decent villain and the larger reason for the story - the conflict between Dorian and Mitch - is far more interesting than what we had back then. I'm always into stories where the "black hats" take over the town like this, which is why I welcome yet another of Bo's firings or resignations; this has to be at least his third in the last decade, by my count. Of course, thanks to Clint's fury, Bo can no longer fall back on playing rent-a-cop at Buchanan Enterprises, so what is he to do with himself? Just once, I'd like to see one of these "Bo gets canned" stories follow through and actually show him pursuing a new line of work for a while - what if Bo went back to producing television? Lest we forget, our Bo once was the "Frank Valentini" of popular Llanview soap Fraternity Row, home of Megan Harrison and Snoop Dogg, and he even owned a football team and helped build a nuclear-powered car! With Ilene Kristen (not playing Roxy back then, mind you)! Good looking out for the environment, Bo.

A Haunting In Llanview

There is one nagging complaint about the Dorian/Mitch storyline that I do feel needs to be addressed, namely, "why doesn't she just tell someone?" Most of the town has already guessed Dorian is in Mitch's pocket, and it's not like he wouldn't try to kill her and her family even if he didn't need her help. But on the other hand, I can understand Dorian going it alone, because it's what she's always done; rightly or wrongly, Dorian considers herself the ruling body of the Cramer family, responsible for caring for (and micromanaging) all the others - in her mind, if she weren't around, they'd all perish. It's natural for Dorian to take all the responsibility onto herself, no matter how foolish; this kind of protective myopic impulse is all she knows, and I'll bet Mitch was counting on that. Still, she should just tell someone.

Unfortunately, Dorian's devotion to family led to the appointment of Lowell, and the subsequent Cramer exodus from La Boulaie, which left Dorian alone in a big spooky house - until her spectral visit from Stephen Markle's Mel Hayes. Robin Strasser has spoken often about the loss of Mel, and how she considers him to have been the love of Dorian's life; I think that's probably correct, though I'm very partial to Dorian and David. Just in those brief scenes this week, Strasser conveyed an eternity of yearning and heartbreak, etched into the contours of her face and brimming across her eyes. When, murmuring his name, she fell into his arms, you could tell Dorian was in bliss, tinged with bittersweet longing. My only problem with the scene was that, as usual, Mel seems to be showing up to tell Dorian to not do exactly what she is going to do - in this case, try to kill Mitch, and in all likelihood, Mel will not be re-appearing any time soon to give Dorian hell over it, so what's the point? Kind of an inconsistent disciplinarian, if you ask me. Get your act together, Mel.

Bad (and Good) Romance

I could understand the Cramers moving out on Dorian given what Lowell did to Starr, Cole, and Hope. What I can't understand is their choice of living accommodations, namely Todd's place, better known as Rapehaus '08. What the hell, ladies? Why on earth would they want to live there? Is the Palace all full up, or are the writers worried about the show turning into Guiding Light, where everyone ended up living at the Beacon Hotel when Ellen Wheeler ran out of money? Who gets Marty's room, that's my question. Who wants to sleep in there? As a victim of rape, is Addie really jazzed about living in the house of the man who tossed Starr down an Atlantic City boardwalk, tried to steal Hope, and raped the same woman twice?

More likely the whole "Cramers move in with Todd" thing was done as another kind of lame opportunity to play Funny Hijinks With Unexpected Living Arrangements. And hey, listen, I've got no objection to Unexpected Living Arrangements, or some Funny Hijinks. In my studied scientific opinion, Unexpected Living Arrangements are quite important on a soap. But they've got to make some vague sense. If not for the events of the last two years and who Todd has become, I'd have no objection to the Cramer girls moving in with him, but today, when even Starr now dismissively refers to him as "my rapist father," you have to wonder what the writers are thinking. Do they just want to pretend nothing's changed?

The other elephant in the room is that the show is likely doing this to keep Blair orbiting Todd, in her bizarro new function as Todd and Téa's #1 fan. I'm very glad Blair's moving on, but there's no earthly reason for her to constantly coach him to patch things up with Téa. Blair should not care less. Which brings me to this week's Wednesday juxtaposition of Todd and Téa's melancholy "last night together" and Blair and Elijah's surprise hookup. Maybe OLTL wants us to believe Todd and Téa are "twoo wuvv," and Blair and Elijah are cheap, tawdry sex fiends, but honestly, I ask you, America, which of those scenes was more fun to watch?

I'll admit, Elijah Clarke was not what I had in mind for Blair's next move. Matt Walton's a great actor, but in my opinion the once-promising Elijah character was wrecked by the last several months, in which he turned on brother Ross to unquestionably follow Téa in the hopes of one day, someday, somehow getting a little sugar from Ms. Delgado. I hate lame, one-plot characters like that, which is something I've mentioned here before; when they don't get the object of their affection, they turn into their asexual cheerleader instead. And that's what happened to Elijah, but...he turns out to have a lot of chemistry with Blair, and during their Palace romp, I enjoyed him for the first time in months. Elijah may not be a terribly well-rooted character on the show, and he may not have as much value to the program as the kind of man I'd like to see Blair "forget Todd" with. But he is played by an interesting actor, and his roll in the hay with Llanview's resident Dragon Lady has revitalized him in short order. I'm eager to see where this story goes, as long as it does become backburner fodder. Every time Blair picked up Elijah's business card, it was like she was holding a cross to ward off a vampire, namely Todd. Blair finally has some dignity again, however, um, unconventional; now let's see her keep it.

By contrast, Todd and Téa's scenes didn't really wake me up. Were they well-acted and written? Yes. But do I buy their epic romance yet? No, and I don't think the actors do either. I also question what the writers are trying to do to the bonafide, invested Todd and Téa fans out there (they've certainly let me know they're out there) when several of the couple's key emotional scenes - first their wedding, and now this week - feature Todd killing the romance vibe by trying to finagle Téa into bed with a lot of smirks and leers and innuendo. If I was a fan of theirs, I'd feel cheated and insulted by that. I'm just saying, it doesn't exactly help the case that Todd and Téa aren't about sex and dysfunction. Is there a rogue scribe on the staff, or does the writers' room on a whole just not know what they're doing with this couple? St. John and Lozano seem as confused as I am, and that's not their fault.

So, Téa and Danielle jetted off to Tahiti, but not before Matthew got to plant one on the object of his affection. Finally, a teen couple I can care about! I can't tell you how long it's been, or how happy I am to see Eddie Alderson really blossom as an actor. I laughed when Blair and Elijah's sexcapades interrupted the kids' tender moment, and I can't wait for Matt and Dani to reunite again. In the meantime, however, the Delgado-Rayburn clan has a surprise waiting for them in Tahiti: Ross! Oh, I knew he wasn't dead. Doesn't Michael Lowry look great? Why did they have to toss out Blair and Ross, anyway?

Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)...Okay, May be A Little More

That about sums up the whole Schuyler/Gigi/Rex triangle for me right now. I don't want to say much because I find it so predictable, yet I do want to get my two cents in, yet the act of it makes me feel almost as worn out as watching Rex/Gigi scenes of late. It's like I said before about John: We're not stupid. We know where all this is going. The modern ABC Daytime reheats these plots every six months with different characters on different shows. Rex(/Zach/Ryan/Sonny) is a boorish creep to Gigi(/Kendall/Greenlee/Carly) and blames her not only for his being unfaithful but for driving her into the arms of another man; Gigi whines and cries and clings to what appears to be a better man (Schuyler a.k.a. Aidan Devane, Lorenzo Alcazar, you name it), but will soon learn that he is also lying to her and is, in fact, as I'm sure ABC will try to tell us, "no better" or perhaps even "worse" than Rex. Cue a Rex/Gigi reunion, followed swiftly by my lapsing into a coma.

Yes, I liked Schuyler and Gigi together; I kind of still do. The problem is the story has swiftly begun to follow this familiar story track as outlined above - Schuyler now seems obsessed with Gigi, and is gleefully reporting back to poor Rachel (who we will address shortly) about it, while insisting that he has every right to keep the 'truth' about the baby from her "until I'm as sure of her love for me as I am of mine for her." What? This does not sound like the Schuyler Joplin we knew even a month or two ago. Schuyler might not have gotten thrown under the bus like an Alcazar or an Aidan yet, and OLTL seems to have investment in this character, but he is clearly being compromised just enough to subvert any interest or legitimacy for a Schuyler/Gigi coupling. So what we're left with is a damaged male lead (Sky), a totally unsympathetic one (Rex) and a show that seems to be hoping we will root for the bigger loser.

It's predictable. I'm tired of seeing these same old plots with certain "destined couples." I was a Rex and Gigi fan not that long ago, but I feel the Stacy storyline ruined them. Yet after promising me a compelling alternative with Schuyler, after giving me a taste of a classic soap storyline in which a single woman tries to move on with her life with a new man, OLTL seems poised to yank it all away again to go back to the status quo. And the problem isn't even necessarily Rex and Gigi, who used to be good to me and could maybe be good again. The problem I sense with this story is the problem this story always has when ABC Daytime tells it, and that is this: The man is never wrong. Zach, Ryan, Sonny, Rex are never wrong. Even when they behave horribly, as Rex has for months and as he did this week threatening to take custody (I would've loved to see Rex try, given his rap sheet), we are told he is only reacting out of pain and heartbreak. Meanwhile, according to the network, the woman is always at fault, even when the man cheats; the writing always tells us that it is something she did that "made him do it." And in this situation, we even have a twisted attempt at parity - Rex may have slept with Stacy, but Gigi has decided to start a new life with Schuyler, which, it is hinted, we are supposed to find as being "worse.'" Well, I don't buy it, and I'm tired of these kind of stories on the network. These characters all have life in them, life which is slowly drained out of them by misogynistic, sexist stories such as these, in which the male leads are allowed to do anything and get away with it while the women can't choose their own lives.

I could have liked the scenes this week in which Gigi chose Schuyler and fought with Rex about custody arrangements, if I thought there was anything real to invest in. But in the last couple weeks, I get the sense that we are being played. The reason I'm talking about this on a larger level is because I see these same signs playing out with this story: Angry Rex pouts while Gigi is off with Schuyler, "the wrong man," who, we are told, is a far worse liar. Who do you think is going to be the one to apologize when this is all over? One guess, here's a hint, it won't be Rex. If it is, I will eat my hat, possibly on streaming YouTube video.

There are some bright spots in this mess. Namely, Schuyler moving in with Rachel; again, an example of fans being able to figure stuff out. I will eat two hats if Rachel doesn't leave Dr. Hulk for Schuyler after he bombs out with Gigi, and I'd be very happy about that coupling. Also, the Mitch and Stacy hijinks were actually a lot of fun. With Mitch on the streets again, stepping to people and sending his minions to stab people with syringes so they can be dragged away to his land of mischief, suddenly this story feels a lot more exciting, at least from one angle.

...And The Rest

Time for the miscellaneous file, y'all: Ford. Already kind of over it, I gotta say. Markko is just as cute and twice as adorable. Please note, Cole wore a large warm-up jacket at Serenity Springs to try to hide having a less-jacked body than Ford, Markko, and Cristian. Poor Cole, I see you hiding! Why is Ford going after a high school girl, anyway? Creepy. Also: Cristian's shaved head was mad hot. Finally, props to Natalie and Jessica for reminding us of soap opera connectivity by going to the police station and throwing shade at Nora for cheating on Clint. Those kind of scenes need to keep happening with all the Buchanans as a point of story principle. Speaking of connectivity, why the hell have Blair and Todd had no reaction to Mitch yet?

So that's our column. It's been grand. See you in two weeks, I promise, and until then, remember, if a man comes to your apartment with a syringe of goofy juice and a butch nurse, do not let him take you to a second location, unless he is Roscoe Born or Mark Lawson. Goodnight, everybody!


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Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of Soap Central or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen and what has happened, and to share their opinions on all of it. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same point of view.

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