Another week, another painful confession: I am a bad gay, ladies and gentlemen. I must turn in my gay card for incineration. No more secret handshakes! My crime? I despise the chick-flick classic Beaches, starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. I've seen it a couple times on cable and I think it's just horrific each and every time. Two incredibly bitchy, passive-aggressive women tearing strips off each other for a good three hours (accounting for commercial padding), followed by one of them dying a slow, painful death, during which time neither of them have apparently learned anything. They're the same old shrikes for the full running time, and then suddenly the credits are rolling and Bette's singing and my mom's crying and I'm just feeling pissed off for no good reason. Maybe that's why I'm kind of on the fence regarding OLTL's own Beaches ripoff, better known as the 'Téa's got a Tumah' storyline.
But more on that in a minute. Yes, kittens, I have returned from a brief professional obligation, and this time, we really are going into sudden death overtime, as I will be here in the catbird seat for two weeks straight. All Michael, all the time, straight, no chaser! If I'm this excited, surely you have to feel at least a little tingly, too. We're going to face it all together, as a family, caring and sharing: Tumah Delgado! Cole versus Judge Hardcore! Natalie talking about Jared's death certificate like she just picked up some laundry! Kelly and her lingering relationship with Obvious Villain! Todd turning into Gary Oldman from Hannibal! The exciting return of Kevin, who for some reason is still not on a contract! Blair's amazing hair and surprisingly solid relationship! And of course, our all-new promotional bumpers, be they good, bad, or ugly. All this and more is yours, mine, and ours, today in Two Scoops!
Now then, back to Bitches, er, Beaches. I hate Beaches. I do not, however, totally hate this new Téa/Blair/Tumah love triangle -- the sterling performances by our two leading ladies are what's keeping it afloat and able to be invested in as a viewer. As bizarre as I find hearing Blair's sudden devotion as she says things like, "you're a good mother, Tea," I buy her remorse and fear for Danielle because Kassie DePaiva is one hundred percent committed; for a long time, Blair's been oriented towards her children and family, and took Sam as her own despite Margaret Cochran. What's more, she and Florencia Lozano sell the awkwardness of their embrace and newfound kinship. They're both true pros and thus, they're able to find some connective tissue within a story that at times seems only half-written, filling in the gaps to make their characters' choices seem organic and real. Blair and Tea were easily the stars of this week's show, because these women truly understand the nature of soap opera.
That being said, I still don't see the point of some five-hankie tumor storyline for Téa, even if Lozano might be leaving the show, and I have no interest whatsoever in Téa and Todd reuniting or Danielle being taught to accept Todd. It seems forced to tell us how we should feel about Todd, Téa, and Danielle's overall story. I like Lozano and I want her around, but I don't believe in that family unit and I never will, at least not when they play it up as "true love." Matter of fact, I think Téa has a shocking amount of chemistry with Terrell Tilford as Greg -- there's a story in there, somewhere, especially if he ends up mistaking her foot for her brain and throws another chair when he realizes he's made a crucial mistake. I kid, but they really are kind of hot together, and he played well opposite her in those excellent scenes where Téa learned her diagnosis.
Blair, on the other hand, is pretty damn lucky these days. She's in the thick of several stories, and she's got what is easily the most stable and delightful new romance on the show -- who didn't melt when Blair asked Elijah to "hold me," and he did just that? What other man has ever done that for poor ol' Blair? Matt Walton plays Elijah's obvious adoration for Blair so close to the surface, it's painful to have to go back to watching our supposed "leading men" like John stare impassively for the other four days a week.
But let's look at this stuff from a higher vantage point. OLTL seems to be acknowledging, or perhaps is being forced to acknowledge by plummeting ratings, that its veteran actors and especially actresses are key to holding any kind of share of long-term audience, and even as the show grows, IMO, more bland and homogeneous with the unfortunate exits of character like Kyle, Oliver, Kim, and Rachel (and BTW, why wouldn't Rachel turn up for BFF Téa in her time of need, or when Bo was shot, or as Bo and Nora's wedding approaches?), at least we've been seeing a significant amount of vets like Blair, Nora, Marty, and Viki, who, thank God, reunited with Charlie just in time for a new storyline about the city center. If anyone can hold the line in times of trouble, it's women like DePaiva, Haskell, Smith, and Slezak. Even poor Dorian's slowly getting more to do, though to be fair, the great Robin Strasser hasn't been hurting for airtime as badly as some others. My fear is that the current reliance on fleshed-out female leads like Blair and Marty will fade once OLTL has fully re-worked out its creative restructuring, and that would be a bad mistake. The majority of the current storylines these women are supporting are not worth their talents, and the people being showcased instead will not easily be able to recover from those failures.
I say that the stories are not the greatest of late, but that doesn't mean that they're not being well-told in a number of ways. I don't like the "who threw Marty down the stairs?" storyline because I think it's going to end with the message that we should feel bad for Todd and accept him as not so bad after all, when, as usual, he's doing nothing to earn that. On the other hand, several of the performances and often the daily scripts for that story this week were mesmerizing, first and foremost the spellbinding, exceptional work done by Trevor St. John, who is never afraid to be dark and ugly. Playing his scenes in a series of croaking hisses from a hospital bed, he resembled nothing more or less than Gary Oldman's creepy lunatic in Hannibal, the deformed, bed-ridden madman who drank children's tears and fed people to man-eating pigs.
This highlights the disparity between what is presented on the show from day to day, and what a larger storyline's message ends up being; you get the sense that one department at the show is not talking to the other. We're told over and over that this story is about Todd being falsely accused and having to fight to prove he is innocent and a decent person to Danielle, but this week we're shown that Todd is as sick and twisted after his beating as he ever was, immediately defaulting to calling Hannah a "slut" and equating his daughters with his lovers. I dare you not to feel your flesh crawling as Todd boasts to Marty and Cole that Starr loves him more than she ever could love her boyfriend, as he tells Danielle that she "runs hot and cold" just like Téa -- "you want me, you don't want me..." There's something very baroque and dementedly Shakespearean about Todd summoning Starr to his side, pulling her back into his web to conspire with him about Hannah, pulling her back into his dysfunction. The writers of these episodes know Todd is sick and twisted, just like Trevor St. John does. Even if he didn't push Marty, he is a dangerous, diseased person who is as bad now as he was when he re-raped Marty and at core, as his scenes with Marty prove, he is unrepentant.
My fear is that after her confrontation with Todd in his hospital room and Susan Haskell's amazing work, the show is now setting Marty up to be "the woman who cried wolf" and shuttling her off the show as some sort of shamed wrongful accuser who went too far (note the scene on Wednesday where Marty told John she should never have come back to Llanview). But I think Marty could never go too far with Todd. What Cole did was legally wrong, yes, and savage and vicious, but morally, it's a gray area -- the simple fact is that his actions aside, he had every reason to want to tear Todd limb from limb, even before Hannah's tall tale, and he always will. I just fear Marty and Cole will be going "under the bus," as the kids say, permanently for Todd, and that the suggestion from the storytelling will end up being that Todd is not so bad because Marty dared to falsely accuse him of the one thing he actually didn't do to her. What about all the things he did do, and the confrontations he seeks out, and has failed to be redeemed for? Trevor St. John and the daily scriptwriters are doing the work of their careers with twisted Todd -- the show needs to accept him for who he's become since the "rapemance," or make a more concerted effort to change him for the better. A beating and a false accusation are not redemption. Trevor St. John obviously knows that -- why doesn't ABC?
Another quick note about Starr, Cole, and Hannah. Another year, another psycho, but wasn't that judge a trip? I call him "Judge Hardcore," and judging by his ranting about "vigilantes" he probably really hated The Dark Knight. I want him back, and I want him to talk that loudly in every scene.
Meanwhile, the Kelly storyline picked up a little this week, and by "picked up," I mean, "John was not involved, Kevin appeared, and Kelly reunited with Reed a.k.a. Obvious Villain." Because that's what he is. Reed VAAAAGGG-ner of Indeterminate Accent totally killed Melinda, people. I love getting background on Kelly and Kevin's life in London, but Reed is a bit of a cipher, isn't he? And once again, Kelly is dismal with John McBain but lights up around Kevin or David Vickers -- she came alive in those flashbacks in an amazing way, and her tortured relationship with Kevin (as well as brother Joey) can still be mined for so much story. Yet despite this, Dan Gauthier is not back on a contract, saving Kelly's return storyline from the mire of McBain's Disease, and you know John's going to save Kelly from evil, evil Reed. If I'm wrong, I'll eat my hat. Balance is what Kelly's story needs, a happy medium between her angst over her past mistakes and the light frothy fun she shows in scenes with Kevin and David, putting on a fun façade to hide her deeper problems. Today she's just one-note and sad. And no, Kelly, you don't get to tell Blair that your miscarriage makes up for Brendan. You had no idea why you miscarried, you say? I remember why you miscarried -- you were a hysterical mess over your scheme to save your marriage to Kevin, and were working with "Walker" to keep Kevin from leaving you. I like Kelly (at least, without John), but let's not rewrite history. Harumph.
Then there's Natalie, who goes from the divine to the miserable in zero to sixty. First we get all these delicious "friends, or MORE?" scenes with Brody -- and I mean, I love Brody and Jessica, but at this point, what man deserves that hot mess? -- and the hotness at the Rodi's pool table, where it looks like Natalie might just be living her own life again. Then, she heads to London, and there's a lovely Kevin/Nat "siblings forever" party, and then suddenly the bottom falls out. This week's needle-scratching moment of facepalm horror with Natalie? When she cheerfully told Kevin she'd come by just to drop off "Jared's death certificate" -- you know Jared, tall, brunette, died only a little over six months ago -- and then moved right on to talking about John, John, John, and Marty's fall, for like the eightieth time. What the hell, Natalie? Better yet, what the hell, ABC? Did no one at the show think that a scene like that would highlight the ridiculous speed at which Natalie has moved on to obsessing over John? It's one step forward and fifty steps back with Natalie these days, I swear. I can barely watch her without Brody.
As for people I can actually stand to watch, surprisingly, Rex and Gigi qualify again, but that's because they were hardly on this week. Their story was second-tier, which is where it should be. They worked much, much better in their supporting roles for Brody and Natalie at Rodi's then they do on their own or in this "triple-secret parents" storyline. They're just not ready for heavy rotation again, they might never be and I sincerely hope this goofy storyline doesn't take off into another five-day-a-week affair, but I'm not holding my breath.
Starr X'ed Lovers fast approaches, and apparently I'm going to be on duty for it next week. I didn't much like the last OLTL stage show, but this one at least appears to have some decent music. In the meantime, it's feast and famine on any given day with that part of the canvas -- Danielle and Matthew are adorable, but Danielle's Todd issues, though well-acted by Kelley Missal, are irritating; she shouldn't have to give in to his domineering will. Also, her sudden obsession with far-too-old-for-high-school Nate and his big guns is ridiculous -- if they junk Danielle and Matthew to put her with this random character, I'll be livid. At least Destiny's new beau, Darren, is entertaining; cute and funny are always a good mix. Meanwhile, Markko and Langston moved not an inch. Poor Markko.
So we come to the end of this week's column, and the final issue of the hour, namely, OMG, LOOK AT THE NEW PROMO BUMPERS. I gotta say that, as pleased as I am that ABC is actually investing some money into the show for once, I think it's a bit of a toss-up so far -- I like the idea of these character-themed bumpers, but the execution is somewhat lacking. The Nora one is poorly shot and looks ridiculous, and the Starr and Ford bumpers just look cheap, like they gave OLTL the bare minimum to work with, whereas GH and AMC get big new cast shoots, CGI, and the works. OLTL retains the llllaaaammmme, anonymous black background opening from 2004, and some of the bumpers, like Starr's, invoke that. I did like Natalie's, and yes, even John's, more for the concept than the character, who I can't stand. Let's hope the other new bumpers show a little more flair and a little less cost-cutting.
So that's it for me this week, folks -- see you again next week for the beginning of Starr X'ed Lovers! I'll be there with bells on. You bring the karaoke. Love to all, see you soon!