Okay, I'm not even going to play -- we all know why we're here. Sure, if you want to be a stickler about it, this column is supposed to be about the full five days of the past week on ABC's One Life to Live, but when you come right down to it, there's only one day of the week that really matters this time, and that is Friday and the debut, for better or worse, of Llanview's latest daytime musical, Starr X'ed Lovers. The songs! The voices! The autotune, apparently not quite as dead as Jay-Z thought! The, uh, stories! The dubious fashion choices! The expensive licensing fees for songs by REO Speedwagon, the Go-Go's, Pat Benatar, and coming up, yes, even Michael frickin' Jackson, all of which are likely to drive OLTL's budget so deep into the red that they'll have to cut poor Viki, Dorian, Bo, and Nora's airtime down to Renee Divine levels!
Okay, okay, so some other stuff happened this week too. Even I'd call foul if I didn't discuss the various story threads that built up and interwove to form SXL: Day 1. And let's not forget that deathless creature from beyond the abyss, the Marty/John/Natalie saga, now with 50% more demeaning character acrobatics for all the women involved! Toss in Hannah, Todd, Blair, Téa, Jessica, and the shocking forbidden passion of Kelly and Shaun, and I bet even I could make a musical number out of the pre-Friday fireworks in Llanview proper. Well, no time like the present. Oh, important author's note: this Two Scoops comes with a special Starr X'ed Lovers-themed bonus round. Each section of this column is named for a hit single -- write in and name each of the artists or groups in question, and you win...well, nothing but my undying admiration. But surely that's enough. Anyway, break out your iPods and get to shuffling -- it's time for Two Scoops.
Lies (Lies, Lies, Lies!)
Oh, Hannah, you so crazy. But unlike our Téa, I have no need to ask why you so crazy, because yours is a divine crazy I can always embrace. For all your fumbling, undergraduate puppy love-gone-Fatal Attraction tendencies, you've managed to put ol' Todd in a corner, and that's just where he belongs these days. I didn't think much of Meghann Fahy when she debuted as the clingy coed, but despite a fairly thin storyline and character, she's managed to surprise me with a steely resolve that was extremely watchable opposite Trevor St. John during Hannah and Todd's confrontation at the hospital. This girl is smarter than she looks, or often acts; even though Hannah's foolish enough to be devoted to Cole, from the way she took Todd in hand, I think young Ms. O'Connor may be destined for bigger and better feats of freakishness. Remember, Alex Olanov started out obsessed with Bo, Bo of all people! (No offense, Bo.) There's something there with this crazy kid that could be built on if OLTL handled it carefully -- and got her away from Starr and Cole, sooner rather than later.
On the flipside, it's tougher characters like Hannah and others before her that led to Starr becoming the bland, simpering ingénue she is today. I remember those halcyon days when Starr simply wouldn't have stood for spending multiple weeks choking on sobs over either Todd or Cole. She would've cut Todd off despite herself, shrugged off Cole's judgmental glares, and forged her own, bitchy, witchy way. Like Jessica, Starr is now someone things merely happen to, and the fact that OLTL seems to consider these helpless, hapless versions of those characters to be their primary heroines sends a troubling message.
As for the other big lie floating around Llanview, Blair and Téa's frenemy bond deepened this week as Blair blackmailed La Delgado into proper treatment for her terrible tumah. While it's refreshing to see Blair acknowledged, both in that storyline and in her tender maternal ballad on Friday, as the "earth mother" figure she really is for this show and has been for quite some time -- even Stevie Wonder could tell you Blair will likely end up raising Dani if Téa croaks, just as she did Sam before her -- I still find the entire tumor storyline to be a big ol' waste, because we're apparently supposed to root for Todd to find out the truth and get more involved in his loved ones' lives. Personally, I could watch Florencia Lozano and Kassie DePaiva doing "two-hander" scenes alone all day and be perfectly happy; their chemistry and combined talent is more than enough, and it's wasted on a story designed to make Todd sympathetic again without him actually having to change. Good luck with that. Besides, the bedridden creep who took on Hannah was compelling enough just being bad.
Oh, incidentally -- the junior girls' rendition of Pat Benatar's "We Belong" on Friday was surprisingly excellent, but I call shenanigans on covering a Benatar power ballad without letting Kassie DePaiva and Florencia Lozano duet on it. You know those ladies would've killed it. They do Pat Benatar every day, only without all the singing. The one who really spiked that song to the cosmos, however, was this week's recurring dark horse: Meghann Fahy, who moonlights in the ensemble of Broadway's Next To Normal. Sure, Kristen Alderson and the others were lovely singers one and all, but let's face it, Fahy showed up in the last verse, Lojacked that number, and took off with it across state lines to parts unknown. She was a straight-up musical cat burglar, nay, a flannel ninja. Truly, she belonged to the thunder.
If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)
...is what Layla should have said to Jessica weeks ago. I seriously cannot take this anymore. I know, I know, I've said that before, but this time, I really, really mean it. How Layla has not wiped the smile off Jessica's smirking face by now is beyond me. In real life, if Jessica had stepped to her like she did at Foxy Roxy's on Friday, song or no song, she'd be giving new meaning to the phrase "Suicide Blonde." It is ridiculous to me that Viki, Clint, even poor Matthew, have been roped into indulging the Freudian high school fantasies of a brain-damaged widow and single mother. Her father tried to rape her a couple months ago and she can't remember anything past a decade ago, but apparently the prom is just what she needs to get Jessica (or, as a dear friend of mine has nicknamed her, "El Pollo Loco") back on track!
Sorry to say, I have absolutely no sympathy left for Jessica's "plight" while out here in the semi-real world, people like Brody and Layla suffer. And Cristian needs to man up, too. No more of this wishy-washy nonsense -- I remember the last time he did this "I dunno, I dunno" routine, and we ended up with Vanessa Montez, and Sarah running away with a one-hit-wonder band. Layla ain't goin' out like that! She is brain-damaged, Cristian; to quote either Johnny Rotten or Prince (pick your poison as you so choose), this is not a love song!
Then there's this nonsense with Nate, Danielle, and Matthew. I have no idea who Nate is and what he's supposed to be doing here, but I simply don't care about anything he does, says, thinks, or feels, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I am suddenly expected to by virtue of his height, build, and conventional good looks. I remember when OLTL gave me this same hard sell with Cole four years ago -- sorry, no sale. Just because Nate looks like a Ken doll doesn't mean I have to want Danielle to be his Barbie. I much prefer poor doormat Matthew in this equation, and I resent the sudden push to show Nate and Danielle as a viable romantic option despite their sharing next to nothing in common. I find it unnerving that even the adult characters are being forced to emulate bland "Starr and Cole" high school romance models, heading off to the prom with Viki and Clint snapping pictures and Dorian declaring that Starr and Cole are the best and the brightest couple ever. I don't like our being pushed to embrace thirtysomething Jessica's adolescent idiocy as "destined love" and Nate's pushy attitude as summer passion.
That being said, I actually loved the kids in their opening Starr X'ed Lovers number. It was cheesy, deep-friend cotton candy pop, vocodored and auto-tuned within an inch of its short life, delightfully choreographed, and I adored it unreservedly. Oh, and I don't know what they were thinking with Matthew and that hat and chain, stylin' like Ne-Yo, but Eddie Alderson pulled it off. Apparently Matthew is part of an old numbers racket with Nathan Detroit from Guys & Dolls. Just keep gesturing at the camera, Eddie, that'll get you through! I couldn't hear a singing voice in there over all the din so I don't know how good his range is, but he and Shenell Edmonds sure acted the hell out of that lip-synched musical number, impressive since Shenell appeared to be wearing some sort of bedazzled futon. They all did well. Even poor Kelley Missal, who had to stand stock-still as some guy flailed around behind her with jazz hands, like "Soy Bomb" interrupting Bob Dylan's performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards. That was the single awkward moment in an otherwise enjoyable little fracas.
The other two big numbers of the hour, however, were another story. I thought "Our Lips Are Sealed" was a hot mess on virtually every level, from concept to grim execution, and maybe it was the sound mix but I couldn't detect a single strong voice. The budget-conscious visuals ended up making the whole thing look like an old-school Fruitopia commercial done on the cheap, and the hot pink wigs -- no. Just no. The whole number just seemed like a sorry excuse to drag more adults down to the kids' level, or in Jessica's case, even further below. I cringed.
Then there was Mark Lawson doing REO Speedwagon. I love poor Brody, and Lawson's got a great voice, but the lip-synching from the studio track was painfully obvious, and he seemed out of place and uncomfortable. It reminded me of what might happen if 24 did a musical episode -- it was like watching Jack Bauer trying to go Broadway. Lawson's a very intense, emotional, physical actor, and forced to do a big pop number, he just looked anguished and overwrought, mouthing lyrics; it was distracting and off-putting. Personally I would've held out for Night Ranger and "Sister Christian." I could watch Brody sing that all night long. Don't wait up, know what I'm sayin'? Yeah, you know.
Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word
Everybody knows how I feel about John and Natalie these days. The mere fact that La Nat is willing to pack up and leave town if she can't win a guy whose girlfriend just miscarried, while her own husband died only half a year ago, is straight-up Bananas Foster. Marty had a DNC, what, less than a week ago, but Natalie thinks now is the time to give John an ultimatum? As far as I'm concerned, both she and McBain are obnoxious people in a terrible, forced story, and I care nothing whatsoever for their renewed "love." Yes, Marty did a silly, stupid thing snatching up Natalie's letter, but I do hope no one at OLTL thinks that act in any way brings her down to John or Natalie's level. As far as I'm concerned, despite a few lapses, Marty comes out of this mess smelling like a rose. It's painful to say it as a doggedly faithful Natalie fan, but I'm finding her very hard to watch these days. She was never, ever this weak, this cloying, this high-school -- unless she was with John. Looks like Jessica's disorder is catching; what good is dignity, self-determination, and strength of character without cheesy, overripe "destined love" from way back when? Ugh. That's all I've got to say about that. So far, John and Natalie's An Affair To Forget maybe-rendezvous is leaving me cold.
(I Don't Want) No Scrubs
...but I still have to write about them. Yes, it's time again for the rest. First up, the Balsoms, or what's left of them. It's been a long time since I was in New Mexico, but apparently it's just as beautiful and boring as I remember -- such is the way of Rex and Gigi's dynamite summer story. I don't care who Rex's parents are or who old Otto made that necklace for, but I swear to God if a dude named "Clear Eyes" shows up, I am walking out. Yeah, the original "Old West" storyline always kind of squicked me out -- like, jeez, Clint, you've only been lost in the past a couple months and already you're all hyped to marry Viki's grandma just because she looks like her? Why didn't Viki (you know, his wife, from the future) give him more grief about that? Anyway, I digress.
Then, of course, there was Kelly's ongoing romance with Obvious Villain, who was even more obvious this week. Listen, evil Reed, evil Todd, evil John, they're all also-rans -- Gina Tognoni's brightest spark with any present-day Llanview citizen is clearly with our man Shaun Evans, her new bodyguard. There's gold in them thar hills, and I like it. Listen, it's the first time this year that a Kelly scene has woken me up, outside of her duets with Kevin and David, so that's got to count for something, right?
And now, my dears, we come to the end of Act I of Starr X'd Lovers, as well as this week's Two Scoops. All in all, I have to say I think this year's musical is a cut above the first effort, which I frankly found pretty miserable. I admire the hard work the cast and crew always puts into these things, but my primary concern is for whether all this special treatment is due to the stories and characters being spotlighted; this year, so far, I'm on the fence, but that, at least, is better than last time. We had several great numbers and several not-so-great ones on Friday, and while I don't really care about Starr and Cole or Jessica, I really like Matthew, Destiny, Layla, Danielle (sans Nate), and Meghann Fay's powerhouse singing voice. The storylines are not up to par, which is key to a musical's success, but so far, the actors and their voices are carrying the day much more than in 2007. Special consideration should also be given to supporting players J.J. Singleton (cutie-pie Darren) and Erin Moriarty (teen queen Whitney, the Mean Girl who spiced up "Our Lips Are Sealed"), who I think are doing wonderful work and at times outshining the principles even though their roles are barely there. Enjoy the rest of the show, I know I will -- I'm still hoping to see Tika Sumpter and others get a real chance to shine. I'll be back the week after next, and I hope all our ears are in one piece -- er, pieces. You know what I mean. Okay, fifteen-minute intermission! Love to all, see you in two.