Okay, kids: It's time to do something a little different this week. You know what's been goin' down. We've been knee-deep in this Evil Eli, Evil Hannah, Lyin' Greg, Undead Téa mess for what seems like eons, and as this endless story appears to be coming to a close and there are some bright spots on the horizon, I think it's time for us, in taking stock of this week in Llanview, to also take stock of OLTL as a whole.
Which brings me to the title of this week's Two Scoops - The Home Truths Hour. In which I make blunt, perhaps impolite declarative statements about the show and its storylines this week, addressed directly to the OLTL production staff, followed by an explanation of why I feel this way, and how it relates to the show at large. Or okay, some of these are just for fun, but I think you'll catch those when they appear. I urge you to try your own Home Truths Hour there at home, and send me your short and perhaps not so sweet conclusions about how the show is doing as it heads into Halloween and finally, the sacred November sweeps.
Of course, these "home truths" of mine do not reflect the opinion of Soap Central at large or any of you -- they're just how I see what I've been watching these past couple weeks. You let me know what you think of it. And now, it's time to bring the noise, bring the funk, because after what feels like nine months of Eli, Greg, Ford, Nate, Dani, Ross, Todd, Téa, Blair, and James, I'm about ready to keep it just a little too real.
Home Truth #1: I don't care about any of the Fords, and I never will. Okay, fine, except James. And he ain't great. I mean, it's not like his story or character are anything brilliant. But he's got a little spark with Starr, and that's helped a lot. The rest of them? No way. I'm sorry to say it, Powers That Be, but the sight of Ford convulsively coughing up blood after Clint's tune-up does nothing but fill my heart with boundless joy. Don't want him with Langston (bad move showing the adorable Markko in the same week). Don't want Nate with Dani. Don't want Ford fathering Jessica's baby. And that brings me to my next points.
Home Truth #2: I don't believe Nate still gets carded at bars. Come on, he looks older than James. And he's creepy. Would you let him take you to a second location after the prom, ladies? Would you walk with him down a lonely side street? He's got creeper eyes. I ain't havin' it, and I don't know why I'm supposed to appreciate him. Make him go away, please.
Home Truth #3: I don't believe Matthew is a jerk. You can dress him in as many sweater vests and polo shirts as you want to and you can do his hair up like Beaver Cleaver and you can make him be as snotty to Darren and Nate as you want, but Matthew is not a preppie villain from Grease and I'd still rather watch him than Ford Brother #3 any day. I've said this before -- the problem is not doing a story about Matthew with Clint at Buchanan Enterprises, but rather his overnight transformation into Evil Rich Kid, just so the show can try to make people like Nate more. Matthew is more than just an occasionally rebellious teen -- he's a good kid, with a heart, who learned a lot from Bo and Nora. He had friends, he reached out to people and didn't instantly alienate them, until it was time to try to sell tall, boringly handsome Nate to an audience. To quote Mean Girls, stop trying to make Nate happen! He's never gonna happen!
Home Truth #4: I don't want Ford and Jessica to get together. That is beyond gross. Come on, let's just be honest, he basically raped her. Okay? I'm going to say it again -- as far as I am concerned, Ford raped Jessica. He knew she was not in her right mind, that she was mentally incapable of consent, and he boffed her anyway. Classy. Do you think this is just like Nash and Tess, OLTL bosses? Cause I gotta tell you, I only liked Nash in spite of his creepy attempts to try to keep Tess around. And even so, Nash never, ever knowingly took advantage of Jessica, and promoted her mental health at every turn once he realized the gravity of that situation.
I totally believe that the show is heading for some sort of weak Ford and Jessica endgame pairing. In my opinion, it's obvious. My reasoning being that Langston and Brody can barely get a minute of airtime on this show without being tied to those two, and, more than likely, I suspect Jessica is intended to have yet another Ford in the oven. So after this overwrought "redemption story," Ford will learn to grow as a daddy and then fall for Jess. Meanwhile, Brody's going all Travis Bickle, because who needs him, right? I do. Not cool. Ford and Jessica is gross, and if you do it, I will not watch it. Period.
Home Truth #5: I don't believe you care about Cristian. And by "you," I mean the OLTL powers that be. Because you don't. You do not. At all. All his storylines and pairings are the same -- Cris meets girl, fights with girl, falls in love with girl, does nothing for like eight months, and then loses girl abruptly. Or she's evil, like Vanessa. And then he wipes his hands and moves on.
The show dropped his pairings with both Evangeline and Sarah swiftly and unceremoniously, and now he's in the process of losing Layla to Paris and haute couture, despite their coupling being easily his most appealing and vibrant in some years. Apparently after Tika Sumpter was allowed to walk, they forgot how to pronounce the word "recast." So who's next? Gigi? First of all, I kind of doubt it'll go all the way despite Cris's approval of her lame heart-necklace sketch and Gigi's adoration for his art slideshows. And secondly -- come on, Ron Carlivati -- you just don't care.
Cristian is the last character on OLTL's mind at any given moment. They stick him with whoever they're not sure they want to write for and move on, hoping the problem will take care of itself one or two days a week. We saw a brief burst of inspiration last year with Cris, Layla, and Kish together, but the boys are gone and now so is Layla, and so the Cristian backburner merry-go-round begins again. It's boring.
Does anyone out there believe Cristian and Gigi will go the distance any more than these other ladies in his life? Anyone at all? Does anyone believe they will ever be on four days in a week in a front-burner storyline? No? So what's the point of recycling the same story for poor David Fumero over and over and over? Listen, I get that Cristian Vega is not always the most inspiring male lead, but he is a sweet guy who deserves some break. But if you know you don't really want to write for him, and I know you don't really want to write for him, why do I have to watch it again? Why not give Cristian and Layla a happy ending instead?
Home Truth #6: I don't believe Natalie is going to be okay. John's all focused on the baby and maybe finally moving out of his disgusting hovel apartment -- I'll believe it when I see him drop off the key -- and yet Natalie's still keeping her lip zipped about El Bebe, even as we prepare to receive paternity results. Even Marty's on her case now! And crazy Hannah's at least glimpsed Brody's case file. I still think Natalie's going under the bus for John and Jessica, right along with Brody under the wheels, and I hate it.
I fear that when the dust clears, she'll go back to the meager screen time she and Jared shared for most of 2009, only this time without a loving husband to stand beside her collecting his weekly guarantee -- instead, I suspect she'll spend her days begging John's forgiveness as he ravishes Kelly or Terri Colombino or somebody, until his newest story belly-flops and Natalie is drafted for the case again. And I think that's boring. Natalie deserves a story that does not require her character integrity to be totally compromised for John or her twin sister. And I'm still not into her going back to CSI work.
Home Truth #7: I don't believe Bo knows how to use a computer. So I don't know why he was pretending he could over at the hostage stand-off at the warehouse on Friday's show. Did he actually touch any keys or use a mouse or anything? No, I don't think so. Go on, check. That's because Bo has no idea what those things are. I think the last computer Bo saw was an Apple IIe right around the time he married Delilah. Just keep staring at the monitors like they're giving you information, Bo. That'll work.
Home Truth #8: I don't believe Starr has a spinal column. Even though James perked up a bit, it's still like she is completely defenseless. When they trot that baby out, she completely collapses. Starr never used to be so weak. Back in the day, you couldn't get anything past her; she filled Max Holden's bathtub with piranhas or something, if I remember correctly. Since becoming a teenager, 60% of her storylines per year involve her and/or that baby getting kidnapped and taken to second or third locations. Is this really the primary image OLTL wants to be sending to young teen girls? Why doesn't Starr ever get to knee one of the bad guys in the junk or break out one of her slithery snakes from the Reptile Round-Up? What's it going to take to get a young woman on the show who doesn't have a backbone made of Kleenex?
Home Truth #9: Clint is awesome and everything he does is mostly right. Am I supposed to be mad at Clint for hiring thugs to pound poor, poor Ford into tartar? He could've gone on snapping those fingers like Sinatra all night for all I care. A Pimp Named Clint Buke remains in full effect, and it's a beautiful thing. OLTL should not expect me to root against Clint or for one of the Fords, ever. I guarantee you it will not go down like that. There is nothing on this earth that could make me unhappy seeing Ford pulverized. Excepting Matthew's unfair characterization, Clint's story is a shining beacon of awesome on this show.
Home Truth #10: Cole, your hair will not save you. So stop screwing with it every couple days -- bangs, no bangs, bangs, upswept, no bangs... Whatever. You're off the show, it's over. Maybe his hair is supposed to be like a mood ring? When he's got bangs, he's out of control? Seriously, whatta dunce,
Home Truth #11: Lady veterans in a catfight to the death is good soap entertainment. And it's about time -- the only thing that could make soap divas Viki and Dorian band together was another soap diva, namely the Great Zimmer as Echo DiSavoy. The freeloading ex-shutterbug managed to finagle her way into a room at Roxy's, but not before blowing up Dorian's spot at the worst possible time and earning her enmity, complete with more hot '80s flashbacks. What, oh what, could Echo's secret be? I got it already, I think -- she's Rex's mom, and Clint's his dad. Clint may or may not know he has a kid by Echo, depending on if she visited him during that stopover after she left town.
I think Charlie's a red herring again -- it's all "mean" Clint and "poor" Rex. And hey, this retcon could work for me, as John-Paul Lavoisier has smashing chemistry with both Zimmer and Jerry verDorn. I just wonder how they'll attempt to explain that goofy Native American angle with "Rick and Lili." So long as Viki and Dorian remain in the driver's seat here and don't cede it all to Rex, I'm totally onboard with this story. And yes, focus group executives, I am under 30 and have disposable income. I promise to buy many soap and feminine hygiene products I do not actually need if you in turn promise to continue doing right by Slezak and Strasser, for frickin' once. Do we have a deal? I take your silence as consent, just like Ford did with Jessica, so you can't blame me when we fall in love.
Home Truths #12: I am so over hostage standoffs. This has got to be the third or fourth hostage standoff in four years that they have had over by that same chain-link fence. It was at the drug bust last year (when Starr and Hope were also kidnapped!), it was at Statesville Prison during those riots, you name it, the fence was on the scene, makin' it happen! Seriously, Frank Valentini, how many ways can one show/tell the same story with a teen mom taken hostage by a supervillain, over and over? I bet Kristen Alderson gets bored playing these scenes repeatedly. Only the name of the bad guy changes; in this case, it was the once-fun and exciting Eli Clarke.
I will accept any excuse to get Matt Walton back on this show full-time, but wow is this ending badly. I won't ask how Eli can constantly move around undetected, lay his hands on huge stockpiles of explosives, and generally be omnipotent, because I know those answers were thrown out and ignored months ago. I don't care how this ends, I don't care who has to die, I just want it to stop.
Here's another home truth as part of the last one - No, I still don't believe in Todd's love for others. He's perpetually disinterested and vague with the hostage proceedings, standing around bickering with Eli about cash while -- what a surprise -- someone else (Dani, then Blair) is inside the warehouse sobbing over a real-live Téa (who's really going to deserve a hot shower when this is over -- how long has she been wearing that hospital gown and robe?). In my opinion, Todd remains a broken character reduced to only the most shallow characterization since the "rapemance" with Marty, which hollowed out his personality and left him without a soul. And I'll be darn tootin' if Trevor St. John isn't playing his scenes with something like that in mind, because he seems almost as cynical about this latter-day Todd Manning as I am. So, OLTL -- stop trying to convince me Todd really, really cares because he stares at that urn with puppy dog eyes, and start working on how to fix what you broke with his character on a deeper level.
Home Truth #13: Two supporting character siblings and a bunch of recurring players is not a minority canvas. Yeah, they put Sean Ringgold on contract; good for him. But let's look at this clearly -- Daphnee Duplaix is gone, for no reason. Terrell Tilford is out as Dr. Feelbad. Tika Sumpter quit in frustration with her part. All that's left on contract now for African-American representation are Shaun and Destiny Evans. And no, OLTL, those two plus Darren and their parents and maybe Detective Price are not enough, because we still only have thumbnail sketches of who these people are versus the white leads. They are not given the same amount of character development.
Okay, so Shaun and Des are not siblings -- as we learned this week, they're uncle and niece! Big surprise -- Greg is Destiny's daddy. Called it! And famed cable star Tonye Patano turned in a stellar performance as Phylicia Evans, jousting with Greg over the dark secret he forced her to tell.
Did I like the Evans family drama? Yes, I thought it was solidly done, and young Shenell Edmonds surprised me with the depth of Destiny's emotion. But it remains insular and disconnected to the larger show, which brings me back to my larger point. OLTL has two amazing, celebrated character actors of stage and screen in Patano and Frankie Faison as Richard Evans, yet they are reduced to doing recurring bits for two minor characters. No white actor with Patano and Faison's résumés or stature (Weeds! The Wire! Coming To America! Silence Of The Lambs!) would be treated so offhandedly. They would be given something real to do, something lasting.
The reason I say this is because while I like both Shaun and Destiny, I get no sense that the show is truly committed to major stories for them. What are the options? Darren, talented but recurring? Dr. Vivian Wright, who all but ran screaming through the hospital on Thursday howling, "Code Blue! Contract! I need a contract!" but couldn't hold my interest? These are half-measures, quick fixes designed to say, "well, they have love stories." Yeah, not really, though.
If OLTL really wanted to sell me on wanting diversity, they would have kept Rachel, kept Layla, put young Darren on a contract, found a contract lover for Shaun. But they don't, and I suspect they won't. So while the Evans showdown this week was good and satisfying, it remains isolated; one family, alone, with no solid prospects on the show outside of their own relations. And that's token diversity. It's not enough.
Home Truth #14: I don't believe Blair's going to get a real love interest. When not one but two possible options turn psycho within a year, it tends to sap my enthusiasm for poor Blair. Way to ruin a popular pairing by turning Eli into a psychopath in a Members' Only jacket.
Home Truth #15: I don't believe you plan out half of this stuff. Yeah, I know what Ron Carlivati told me about this Eli story with Melinda and everything else. How it was all planned months in advance. And I don't believe it. It doesn't make sense. The explanations for how Melinda and Rodney knew of Evil Eli don't hold together in the slightest. I defy anyone at OLTL to tell me how Rodney knew Bennett Thompson. Do any of you know in the audience? Because I don't. Even poor Gina Tognoni recently admitted the story did not make sense to her.
Then there's Hannah O'Connor. One week she's crazy, the next she's the new century Marty Saybrooke, a misunderstood girl we should try to love because the actress comes from the Broadway stage. Then, plans change and suddenly Hannah is insane again and kidnapping Starr and Hope. What was the point of making us watch her forced rehabilitation crud with Cole and Marty? Why waste my time with material that is invalidated on the screen mere weeks after it airs, whether it's Hannah or Eli, or Ford's insistence that his night with Jessica was loving and decent?
And by the way, how did Téa's fake tumor not get noticed by all the specialists and doctors and nurses she consulted from overseas and all over the States? OLTL staff can say these story and character inconsistencies don't matter because "it's only a soap," but in doing so, they insult their own field.
These Home Truths are not meant to demean or belittle the show, but rather to help improve it. For the first time in months, this is a recovering show with some interesting new stories and exciting characters and ideas percolating, including the Echo mystery, Clint's wild ride, and several of the new minority characters like Darren and Theo, even if, as I said before, a bunch of related siblings is not enough to jumpstart a black canvas. I am blunt because I love this show with all my heart and want to see it continue to get back on track, away from interchangeable hostage scenarios, implausible supervillains, overexposed Ford brothers, and romances for Cristian that I can write in my sleep.
If you feel as I do, and you want to make your voice heard, I suggest you write in to me here care of Soap Central with some of your own thoughts. This is an interactive age, and social networking means you can never be totally ignored. People have the power, just like the hippies used to say. Give it a shot, and I'll see you back here in two weeks. Until then, please remember: We are flesh and blood. I am your father!