On the edge

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OLTL Two Scoops: On the edge
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The week of April 11, 2011
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Austin Williams has given the performance of his young career, and his rooftop scenes with Farah Fath this past week were heartbreaking, especially when Shane asked if he had ruined Gigi's life.

Okay. I don't really know where to start with this Two Scoops, so I'm going to begin by stating the obvious. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for all of us Llanview-watchers, both onscreen and off. There have been ups, downs, high, lows, and everything ugly or beautiful in-between. I've seen this show go from the pits of doom to some really fine soapy highs, and now I've seen it all happen in the span of a single, econo-sized five-day stretch. Just when I think this show is totally tanked, it turns around and wows me; just when I think it's got it together, it falls apart, then it reverses itself and does it all over again. It's been a rollercoaster ride of emotion, driven by a drunk honey badger for the last five days on OLTL -- let's dive in.

Spring Nicht! (Don't Jump!) ...In retrospect, perhaps that last paragraph ended on a bad choice of words. Um, let's not sugarcoat this -- Austin Williams (Shane) has given the performance of his young career on OLTL these past couple weeks, and he along with Farah Fath(!) really did break my heart in those rooftop scenes, especially when Shane asked if he had ruined Gigi's life when she was his age; that was a very real moment. He's so much better than all the other kids in this storyline that it is insane.

I was pleased that the show followed Shane and his parents all the way to the hospital and back home to show step by step what happens; the awkward questioning, the hiding of household items, and so on. Those grim logistics need to be dramatized. Even Rex didn't get on my nerves when he broke down to Bo -- his reaction was on point. But I really hope this story, which was very poorly executed up 'til now, doesn't just end here. There's so much more story to tell with Shane, and I hope Williams is only off-contract by choice, because he's the best hope his end of OLTL's teen scene has for the future.

And then there was Jack Manning. Well, Andrew Trischitta is a handsome young man with huge doe eyes, but Austin Williams, let alone Olivier, he is not. Scenes with Kassie DePaiva and Kristen Alderson have allowed for some mild improvement by sheer osmosis, but I see almost nothing there, and it baffles me as to why a truly poor actor has been allowed to continue in a key role, which is also chafing under the yoke of being written as an overnight sociopath. Yes, as Jack explained to Blair this week, he has adopted the Charlie Sheen philosophy of "winners" and "losers," Just Like Dad; I half-expected him to begin ranting about "trolls" and his "tiger blood." As Blair continues to bite her nails about Jack's utter lack of remorse (and oddly pitched, wooden voice) the obvious question is, is Jack a total sociopath? And if we're expected to believe he's not, couldn't they hire someone who doesn't deliver his lines with all the passion of Bingo Night down at the community center?

I am grateful Todd is not awake for this madness, because I'm sure he would be totally on Jack's side; he got back on the "Women/The Weak Deserve It" train some time ago. He would just bring this down. Even if Tomas did shoot 'im, I'd be willing to give the guy the same pass we gave Todd when he "missed missing" R.J. Gannon with his sniper rifle way back in 2000. And I was so, so glad that Blair walloped Jack over Marty; that was beyond the pale, and I've rarely seen a soap kid more in need of a beatdown. What's Brody doing next week? Couldn't Shane call him? Brody could engage in some dwarf tossing with little Brad, then move on to breaking Thespian Jack with his pec muscles.

Lord Of The Bitchslap "There is one explanation for this: You are a devious, selfish whore." Oh, Viki, tell it true! See, this is what OLTL doesn't understand about the way they misuse Jessica's character -- when Viki goes off on a tear, no alters can match it, because you know that this is for real and it's all the alters combined into one very pissed-off woman. What can I say about the big reveal this week with Viki, Charlie, and Echo? As far as I'm concerned, they can give Erika Slezak her umpteenth Emmy now; she was beyond incredible, beyond heartbreaking, and then beyond badass. Charlie pretty much just looks pathetic at this point as he trundles around the hotel room, swaddled in a shameful toga of sheets, galumphing off into the scuzzy bathroom to dress while Viki faces her nemesis. Leave the money on the nightstand!

As for Echo -- well, this is the problem with the way ABC Daytime reportedly now organizes the writing teams on their soaps. I've repeatedly heard that the network allegedly prevents the same staff writers from writing exclusively for a single storyline over a long stretch of time; instead, by switching the writers up constantly on various parts of the show, they prevent any claims of ownership. This is wrongheaded for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, it has the potential to kill any clarity or consistency of character or storytelling on a soap, a problem I often have with OLTL and ABC Daytime of late. Echo said this week that she never intended to fall for Charlie or win him back, and Viki rightly called this a lie, but she failed to point out what we all saw onscreen; around the holidays, Echo was openly gloating to both Dorian and Viki about her connection with Charlie and how she was the better woman for Viki's husband. So if the current writers handling this stuff expect me to believe Echo really is just a woman in love, they need to go back and check what was written by their own people. Echo knew exactly what she was doing.

Viki and Charlie's breakup is still crushing to me, but I've pretty much numbed myself to it and to Charlie in general in order to enjoy the great scenes giving us Viki's fiery retribution. This single week aside, this storyline could have been done much better overall, not so rushed or half-thought-out. And the real question, still, is who is Echo DiSavoy? How can these people let her into their lives? She was a con artist, a woman with a wild gothic vendetta back in the '80s, and she came back and smashed up Viki's world again, but she's Rex's mother and Shane's grandmother -- there's got to be more potential here for Kim Zimmer to stay on or come back and tangle with Viki properly.

I feel like we've only scratched the surface of this character, who I think is largely amoral and self-obsessed, and I don't buy her "poor me" act about her drinking or her hard times. I think she only half-believes her crocodile tears for herself, for Charlie, for Gigi and Rex. I also wonder what happened to her controlling partner in crime, Giles. This could be the starting point for another interesting storyline with some great daytime vets, especially as Viki and Dorian's relationship has evolved in the last year. Viki should not be through making Echo pay yet.

Matty's Got A Gun Okay, I know I bastardized both his name and the Aerosmith song title, but I had to. Yeah, OLTL has another young actor Emmy lock; Eddie Alderson is still the best teen on the show, and probably the best currently on daytime. Those nice boys who moon over each other all the time on Days of our Lives might be pretty good, but they can't compare to what Alderson pulled off this week as Matthew confessed to the obvious: He killed Eddie Ford. Sure, I already figured on that, but the execution was elegantly done, with really stunning work from Our Eddie as well as the always-effective John Wesley Shipp.

What does irk is Clint's continued insistence that he was only trying to protect the family -- Matthew would never have been in this position if not for him. I don't know where this is going for Matthew; I do remember that Nora failed in the past to protect Rachel from prosecution, and by the way, given the George Phillips debacle and how it shattered their family, Rachel's presence would be kind of more than welcome here, so I have to give OLTL major fail marks for not allowing her to even be mentioned. It's pathetic that she is not around for this.

I don't want Matthew off the show, as he is the single best young lead around, but at present I don't think he's going anywhere -- knock on wood -- and I am curious to see what develops with him and Destiny vis a vis her continued concern for Shane Morasco. Maybe Matthew can gain some measure of personal salvation (for himself, not from the audience) by finally sticking up for his little cousin and sticking it to Uncle Clint, who was too ignorant to realize Shane definitely does count. I still love you, Big C, I'm just saying.

Withering Skanks: The Tess Chronicles And now, a dramatic rendition of an Internet meme: "Oh, God. What is this? I can't even." This is my daily reaction to the ongoing fungal infection that is the Ford/Tess/etcetera storyline. Bree Williamson appears to be having the time of her life, but I am alternately bored and grossed out. I also have no clue which genius on-staff thought we would root for Ford to bring Tess back, then start sucking face with her mere milliseconds after his supposed "true love" Langston walked out on him. When can Viki split into Tori and begin plotting this guy's death?

Oh, and I haven't even gotten to Cutter. With the advent of Tess into his life, this guy is just that much more pointless. This is the whole Nash story, only even trashier and ill-conceived. He knows who she is, and he's all into it! It's ridiculous. Why does the entire town just let this continue? "Sure, Tess, nice to see you here at the gym, don't kill us." Are you kidding me? Where are the men with the Purell and the butterfly nets? This is what I'm talking about when I say highs and lows -- we go from great stuff like Shane and Matthew's storylines, then we hit the concrete when it comes to the Tess disaster. Make it stop.

Babycapades '11 Okay, so Marty is clearly still crazy, terrifyingly so now that she's so calm about it. She's still got that wave in her hair -- the wave of mental instability, apparently -- and she is workin' it. Me, I've seen a crazy, vengeful Marty back in the day, in the early '90s, and all I can say is these people aren't taking enough of the proper steps because this woman can leave a mark when she wants to. She still shouldn't be leaving the show, at all. And sure, we all knew Liam was John's, right? Because why would we ever want Brody and Natalie even though they are hot and funny and sweet and down-to-earth, right down to Natalie flashing Brody the business while breast-feeding? Let's just get right back to John and Natalie and their relationship. Sure, whatever. That's got so much potential for growth after the last...eight years? Eight? Oh, my God, I'm old.

Did I catch Kelly trying to give Marty a little attitude this week, also? Kelly? The woman who cheated on "true love" Joey and flaunted her very public marriage to his brother for years? The woman who initiated a long, annoying crossover with AMC where she stole a baby and then popped pills and slugged booze for months at a time? The woman who slept with the boy she raised and then helped kill him when a church fell on them mid-rut?

This is the problem with Kelly's character; they never write her true to what she's done. They expect us to let her default back to "plucky ingénue," but Kelly is so much deeper and more damaged than that, and Gina Tognoni can certainly play it. But she's not playing it; instead, we have Kelly doing the same idiocy she always does. She honestly believes she is not the latest Evangeline/Marty/etcetera and that she is "John's new girlfriend" as he moons over Liam's sonogram; are you kidding me? All she's doing right now is making herself look that much more pathetic, and I can't wait to see her knocked off her smug perch, given her current attitude, when John learns the truth.

The bottom line is that while there are good elements of a story here, they're not coming together. Kelly's character is an ongoing, confused mess that the writers refuse to commit to in any intelligent or concise direction, while Brody seems on track to once again get hurtled under the wheels of the bus when he learns he is the father of neither boy -- despite Natalie's fumble at the end of the week, it is only a matter of time before Marty spills the beans -- and John swoops in to squire Natalie once again. You could do so much with these characters, Marty and Kelly included -- you could do a triangle or quadrangle worth watching with a little more effort and a little more consideration for someone other than John McBain -- but the show doesn't seem interested in that.

Return Of The Vicker Man Oh, sue me, I'm glad David and Dorian are back and that they're still married. That "Vicker Man" joke is more than a little labored, but I'm just glad to see Langston getting an exit story that is not death, rape, dismemberment, or general Ford-related madness. As far-fetched as Lang-Lang's outro may seem, I can guarantee you that show business is often all about who you know/are related to, so this is really not too far off the mark. Hilariously, David appears to have been kicked off his own real-life property and may have to go mount some sort of low-rent competing production -- the sort of thing that happens all the time, by the way; just look at what became of 30 Rock and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip on NBC -- but whooooo could be his shocking new director be? Well, if you've read the front page lately, you probably know, but I'm not going to spoil it. I'm just going to say here and now before she disappears that I loved Brittany Underwood and Langston when she was cared for and written well, and I hated when she wasn't, and I felt she and her relationship with Dorian deserved a lot more years and a lot more frontburner airtime from the show in good storylines, as opposed to the Ford fiasco. I'm glad Lang is getting a happy ending, and who knows? If we're around in a year, maybe she can pull an Adriana and start coming back a lot.

Also, These People Yeah, what else is there to say about James and Deanna? I mean, honestly, I'm just glad I was spared more porn and more Austin Peck this week. All I can say is I find James's apparent history of torrid passion with the ladies to be unconvincing, and I'm going to semi-tactfully leave it at that, since this storyline got very little airtime this week. I think Nafessa Williams has some potential, though, and would much rather see her tried out in any story other than this slop.

Then there were those other scrubs. Oh, Joey, why must you always be so stupid? I've belabored this point ad nauseum but the character deserves so much better than to be relegated to Goat Boy for Aubrey and Cutter, who I am officially beyond tired of. They need to be taken down, and Joey needs to get his own back -- not for Saint Kelly, for himself. Meanwhile, Rama and Cristian are kind of sweet but I'd much rather see her spice up Joey's life and help him go after Aubs. This thing has a decidedly hollow "Stacy and Kim, Part 2" vibe that seems very calculated and cheap to me, especially when I'd rather see Kim back and Rama re-purposed in a different storyline.

And now, the real meat of the week -- the off-screen drama. Well, it's been a whirlwind two weeks, but we haven't been cancelled, yet, and believe you me, I was seriously expecting to possibly have to write that column or drop a few words of condolence for AMC, or both. I don't know what to make of anything right now, honestly; I think a lot of the soaps' decline has been a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of network heads who often just want out of the business of the daytime drama and actively avoid looking at ways to streamline and modernize the soaps we still have. I don't know if we are entering a terminal situation for the ABC soaps, or how far away it is or where it's all going; I don't know any more than any of you. All I can do is take things day to day, and enjoy what I'm given as much as I can.

I'll tell you what did throw me for a loop: The long-anticipated return of Roger Howarth. I had no idea that was going to come at this of all times, and I frankly had given up on expecting him. I welcome Howarth's return, as I think the Todd mystery involving his two faces and Tomas' backstory has huge potential; I just hope it leads to a serious change for Todd's ruined character, one way or another. Is Roger Howarth Todd? Is Trevor St. John? Is it even more complicated? I have no clue, but it's the only Todd storyline I've been onboard for since mid-2008, and I welcome back one of OLTL's finest talents. The only fly in the ointment is the possibility that he may not share scenes with the allegedly departing Susan Haskell as Marty, which would be an absolute travesty. Why does she need to leave anyway? Is there not enough room in the budget for her and frickin' Aubrey and Nate?

Like I said -- ups, downs, highs, lows. I guess that's OLTL for you. I'm back in two weeks to hash it all out again. Love you, kids. Goodnight!


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