Archive for November, 2008

When I Watched… “The Young and the Restless”

Posted in When I Watched with tags on November 30, 2008 by Jeff

young-and-restlessOf all the soaps I’ve watched over the years, The Young and the Restless has always baffled me.  I know it’s the most popular soap on the air, but I’ve always found it to move a bit slow for my taste.  My mother watched Y&R when it first debuted, and I remember Jill and Mrs. Chancellor; Lori Brooks and Lance Prentiss, and most of all, Lance’s creepy mother who wore a veil to cover the scars on her face.

In 1983, Guiding Light had become my favorite soap, and I watched As the World Turns also.  I saw a preview for Y&R and recognized Andrea Evans, who had played Tina on One Life to Live. I tuned in and liked what I saw.  Evans was Patty, Paul’s sister and the wife of Jack Abbott.  Jack, always the cad, was cheating on Patty and she had just found out.  Patty brought a gun to Jack’s office and told him she was going to kill herself. Jack tried to talk Patty out of suicide, and told her that if anyone should die, it should be him.  Little did Jack realize that Patty would take him seriously and shoot him.  At the same time, Jack’s overweight sister Traci was being tormented by her slim and beautiful rival for Danny Romalotti’s affection.  I kept watching Y&R.

Alas, while the show was great, it just moved a bit too slow for me.  By the end of the summer, the Jack/Patty shooting storyline still wasn’t wrapped up.  I felt that I could “take a month off” of watching and tune back in and the show would be in the same place as where I left off. I didn’t watch every day, but I kept track of the show here and there, and enjoyed it when I watched.

Unlike other shows, The Young and the Restless never turned me away because of lack of quality.  It was never my favorite show, and when I had time I’d tune in. The older I got the less time I had.  The last time I payed attention to it was about three years ago when Nick and Sharon’s daughter died. It was a great episode, but it didn’t leave me wanting more.

It will be fun to see what is going on in Genoa City when I tune in for a week on January 19.  I’ve heard good things about Maria Arena Bell and the Kay Chancellor/Marge storyline.  I’ll report my thoughts here after I watch.


When I Watched… “One Life to Live”

Posted in When I Watched with tags on November 29, 2008 by Jeff

one_life_to_liveIn the late 1970’s my sister conned me into watching All My Children on sunny summer days so she could go in the back yard and tan and I would relay to her the events in Pine Valley upon her return.  The things people did before VCRs… It wasn’t long before I was hooked on All My Children, and soon after I started watching One Life to Live.

Llanview in the 70’s was a special place.  Vicki loved Joe.  Becky Lee loved Richard.  And Karen Wolek was a bored housewife who turned tricks to earn extra cash.  At the time, I didn’t fully understand what Karen was doing, but I knew it was wrong and it was a secret and it was fun to watch and see if anyone would find out. And find out they did!  When Vicki was on trial for the murder of Marco Dane, Judith Light (Karen) acted out one of the finest scenes in daytime television as she finally came clean about her past – setting Vicki free and destroying her marriage to Larry in the process.

In the early 1980’s, the oil-rich Buchanan family moved from Texas to Llanview and viewers were taken in by the adventures of Asa and his sons Bo and Clint.  Vicki’s goddaughter Tina Clayton turned out to be her sister, and Vicki’s alter ego Nicki Smith came back – several times.  By the mid to late 1980’s, One Life to Live had taken on a more fanciful tone of storytelling.  Stories still revolved around love and betrayal, but took place along the backdrop of visits to Heaven, the Wild West, and the secret underground city of Eterna.

In the 90’s, One Life to Live returned to the realistic and socially conscious storytelling of it’s heritage.  Head writer Michael Malone crafted stories about Billy Douglas, a gay teen who struggled with his identity, and the tragic gang rape of Marty Saybrooke at the hands of Todd Manning and his frat brothers.  Viewers were drawn to these stories, along with the romance of Max and Luna, and the escapades of Asa and Alex.  One Life to Live was at it’s best.

After Malone left, the show went through several head writers, none capturing the imagination of the audience.  By the end of 1996, I had stopped watching One Life to Live.  I tuned in out of curiosity here and there: during the “live week” in 2000, Asa’s fake funeral in 2001 and his real one in 2007.  Malone returned to One Life to Live in 2003 but the magic would not be recreated.  Instead, he resurrected Vicki’s long dead father (in 1995 Malone himself had finally written the finale to the long standing mystery of the Lord patriarch’s 1976 death) and created convoluted story lines that didn’t do much to interest viewers.  One may wonder how much of the show Malone actually wrote during this period and how much was created by network interference.

Currently, fans are furious over the recent romantic pairing of amnesiac Marty Saybrooke and her rapist, Todd Manning.  I don’t know if this storyline will still be playing out when I watch One Life to Live for one week starting on January 12, but I hope it’s long gone by then. Either way, I’ll let you know what I think of the current version of One Life to Live.

When I Watched… “Guiding Light”

Posted in When I Watched with tags , on November 28, 2008 by Jeff

guiding-lightOf all the soaps currently on the air today, the one that I am most fond of is Guiding Light.  I haven’t watched it regularly in ten years, but when I did watch, I loved it.  I loved it when I was a kid and my mom would watch it while doing housework.  I didn’t know who everyone was, or exactly what was going on, but I knew that Mike Bauer was a really good guy. I knew his wife Leslie was a really good lady.  And I knew that Mike’s mother Bert reminded me of my own grandmother.

When I was old enough to take control of the remote, I watched the ABC soaps.  It wasn’t until the summer of 1981 that I rediscovered Guiding Light.  The Morgan/Kelly/Nola storyline was simplistic yet incredibly powerful.  I was drawn into the drama and intrigue of Springfield, as invisioned by the late head writer Douglas Marland.  Jane Elliot, whom I loved as Tracy on General Hospital, was riviting as Carrie Marler.  And Bert was still the heart of the show.

After Doug Marland left Guiding Light, the show went through a creative slump, and several head writers came and went. In the spring of 1983, former Texas executive producer Gail Kobe came on board and brought former Texas head writer (and actress) Pamela Long with her.  Within weeks, Guiding Light was bursting with energy.  Kobe and Long expanded the Lewis family, turning them into daytime’s version of Dallas‘ Ewing family.  The famous “Four Musketeers” storyline, in which Phillip Spaulding and his best friend Rick Bauer became involved with Mindy Lewis and Beth Raines, packed such a powerful punch that the actions of those four teenagers twenty five years ago are still the basis of story lines in Springfield today. Of course, Long’s most famous creation is Reva Shayne Lewis, played as always by Kim Zimmer.  In early 1984 Kobe lured daytime legend Beverlee McKinsey to the show as Alan’s sister, Baroness Alexandra von Halkein. The stage was clearly set for success.

With the good, there is also some bad.  While fans loved the Lewis and Spaulding families, Kobe and Long slowly started to dismantle the Bauer family – the core of the show.  In the summer of 1984, Guiding Light rose to the top of the ratings, but a few months later Mike and Hillary Bauer were written off, Ed Bauer was recast for the second time in three years, and actress Charita Bauer (Bert) passed away.  The Bauers were no longer the focus of Guiding Light.  Fans were disappointed, and ratings dropped.

After Long’s second stint as head writer ended in 1991, Guiding Light came into its own once again.  Under the writing team of Steven Demorest and Nancy Curlee, Guiding Light focused on the turbulant relationship between Roger Thorpe and his ex-wife Holly, former jewel thief turned heroine Jenna Bradshaw, the tale of Nadine Lewis’ faked pregnancy (while keeping pregnant teen Bridget Reardon in her attic), and the love triangle of Alan-Michael/Eleni/Frank.  In 1993, Guiding Light killed off Maureen Reardon, a character that had been carefully written to take the place of Bert Bauer – Guiding Light‘s heart and soul.  Viewers were outraged.

Guiding Light still entertained me even after the death of Maureen.  In 1995, evil Brent Lawrence attacked Harley’s half-sister Lucy Cooper.  He came back to stalk her, this time disguised as a woman named Marion Crane.  I was glued to my television.  Then, Guiding Light went through a string of head writers.  Each writer had his or her own idea of what Guiding Light should be about.  In fact, GL had five head writing teams in 1995 alone.

By 1998, Guiding Light was still a good soap, but there had been so many cast changes and abrupt changes in storytelling that I stopped watching every day.  The last great story for me was the Annie Dutton storyline.  I tuned in here and there during the Conboy era to see what was going on.  There wasn’t anything happening to lure me back.  I watched again when GL finally addressed Roger Thorpe’s death and again there wasn’t much to keep me hooked.

On January 5, I will watch Guiding Light for five consecutive days to see if there is hope for me returning to Springfield.  I’ll let you know my thoughts.

When I Watched… “General Hospital”

Posted in When I Watched with tags , on November 27, 2008 by Jeff

general-hospitalMy first introduction to General Hospital was in 1979.  I was all of eleven years old, and my sister (who had already hooked me on All My Children and One Life to Live) turned me on to GH.  The first storyline I liked involved Heather Webber (then played by Mary O’Brien), who would do anything to get the baby she gave away from his adopted parents, Dr. Peter Taylor and his wife Diana.  Heather was seriously on a mission.  Then the entire hospital was quarantined when a patient came down with the horribly contagious Lassa Fever.  Among those quarantined together in the hospital were Dr. Rick Webber and Dr. Monica Quartermaine, who had long ago been lovers before they married Lesley Webber and Alan Quartermaine, respectively.  Would Rick and Monica give in to temptation? I was hooked.

I loved GH during the excitement of Luke and Laura, and the recasting of Heather with Robin Mattson. Then the show took on more of a sci-fi feel, with Mikkos Cassadine freezing Port Charles, and Russian spies and everyone looking for discs and such.  I lost touch with the show and by 1984 I had stopped watching.

In the mid 1990’s Claire Labine became General Hospital‘s head writer and created a new Golden Age for the show.  Luke and Laura returned, BJ Jones died and left her cousin Maxie the heartbreaking gift of her own heart, Monica battled breast cancer, and Stone Cates fell in love with Robin Scorpio and eventually succumbed to AIDS.  General Hospital was great again.  After Labine left, Bob Guza became the new head writer and for the most part, kept the show where Labine had left it.  Guza gave us the famous “clink boom” episode where Sonny’s wife was killed in an explosion at the same time his beloved Brenda was toasting her marriage to Jax.  Too much of a good thing can lead to problems and GH eventually became the Sonny Corinthos Show, with almost everything revolving around the mobster.  By 1998, I had become bored with Sonny, and therefore I was bored with General Hospital.

I’m giving General Hospital another shot on December 29, when I will watch it for one full week.  I’ll let you know if I get hooked again.

When I Watched… “Days of Our Lives”

Posted in When I Watched with tags , , on November 26, 2008 by Jeff

days1My favorite soaps have mostly been on CBS or ABC, with the exceptions of Another World and Santa Barbara.  I had never sampled Days of Our Lives until 1982 when Days received a lot of publicity after”the Salem Strangler” killed heroine Dr. Marlena Evans, played by Deidre Hall.  I saw a story about fans picketing the Days studio on Entertainment Tonight, and made a point to watch the soap to see what all the fuss was about.  Of course, Marlena wasn’t the real victim, it was her twin sister, but the show was well plotted and I enjoyed the strangler mystery.  Soon after that, the Tony DiMera/Renee Dumonde/Anna Brady storyline took off.  Renee’s murder kept me hooked until Bo Brady and Hope Williams became the show’s new super couple.  During most of the early to mid eighties, Days succeeded by blending action and romance. The focus was on super couples, and their wild adventures.

By the end of the eighties, the show got lazy.  Super couples became a cookie-cutout formula, and the show became very predictable.  I stopped watching every day but kept up with what was happening.  In the early 1990’s head writer James E. Reilly came on board and spiced things up.  He carefully blended new characters with existing tent pole characters, brought back favorite characters from the past, and then added his own blend of wacky humor.  The result was a resounding success.  Heroine Carly was buried alive, Marlena was possessed by the devil, Eileen Davidson played five characters simultaneously, and viewers were hooked.  For the first time in years, I was watching Days every day.  Alas, when you go over the top it’s hard to stay there.  Not unlike Dark Shadows, which started off unique and ended in a mis-mash, Days lost it’s footing while trying to stay at the height of campy soap drama.  The result was a convoluted mess that I could not follow. I stopped watching in 1998.

After James E. Reilly left, each new writer tried to imitate his campy story lines, and none succeeded.  A few writers tried to return Days to more serious story lines and the show improved during those periods.  James Reilly returned to write the show again in 2003, and ratings soared when another stalker haunted Salem, this time killing off beloved characters such as Maggie Horton, Caroline Brady, and even Alice Horton. The killer was none other than Marlena. Then the story went off the deep end. It was revealed that no one had been killed, everyone was on an island that looked exactly like Salem, and Tony DiMera was behind it all.  Fans were confused and angry. Ratings went back to where they had been before the storyline began.

On December 22, I’m going to watch Days of Our Lives again for a full week.  I’ve heard all about the firings of Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn.  I’ve heard the show probably won’t be renewed after it’s new 18 month cycle. That said, I’m still going to give it a try.  And I’ll let you know what I think!

When I Watched… “The Bold and the Beautiful”

Posted in When I Watched with tags on November 25, 2008 by Jeff

bold_and_beautifulIn 1987, I was a huge CBS Daytime fan.  As the World Turns was my favorite soap, and Guiding Light, while going through some ups and downs after Pam Long left as headwriter, was still very watchable.  As Capitol came to a close, CBS created an ad blitz for their new soap, The Bold and the Beautiful, created by William J. Bell, the creator and head writer of The Young and the Restless.  The ads made the show look lush and beautiful, yet glitzy and glamorous at the same time.  I decided I’d watch the show from the beginning and see how I liked it.

The Bold and the Beautiful started off very similar to its sister soap, The Young and the Restless.  Brooke Logan was the “Jill Foster” of the show; the wealthy Forrester family could easily cross paths with Y&R‘s Newmans or the long-lost Brooks family.  It was fairly slow paced, again not unlike Y&R, and mostly realistic.  Then, someone at the Bell offices must have accidentally tuned into Santa Barbara and got an idea that the show needed to add some camp into the mix.  Enter Sally Spectra. And B&B would never be the same.  Stories that dragged began zipping by at a faster pace, and a strong dose of humor was added.  The changes worked for the show, and B&B‘s ratings were on the rise.  In 1992, B&B struck ratings gold when they transplanted Y&R‘s evil Sheila Carter from Genoa City to B&B‘s Los Angeles.  Additional cross-overs from Sheila’s Y&R arch-enemy Lauren Fenmore helped the show rise to number two in the ratings, behind only Y&R itself. It’s held that position ever since.

While I was never a die-hard B&B fan, and never really watched every day unless it was a Sheila/Lauren ratings sweeps stunt, I enjoyed the show and watched often enough to know what was going on.  However, by the late 90’s, something had changed.  The Forresters stayed front and center, but the supporting cast seemed to change every six months. Characters would be introduced, play out a short story arc, then vanish. Meanwhile, Brooke/Ridge/Eric/Stephanie would play out the same stories that had been going on since the show began.  The Forrester children (and grandchildren) aged rapidly. It became very confusing as to who was related to who, and oddly enough, they began dating each other due to most of them being related by marriage only. Call me a prude, but if you grow up in the same household as someone and share a last name, keep out of their bed.  I became bored, somewhat grossed out, and stopped watching.

On December 15, I’ll check out The Bold and the Beautiful all over again for one week.  Will Brooke Logan seduce me into watching every day again? Time will tell.

When I Watched… “As The World Turns”

Posted in When I Watched with tags on November 24, 2008 by Jeff

as_the_world_turnsSome of my earliest childhood memories include playing on my parents’ living floor as my mother watched As The World Turns while ironing.  I would hear the familiar theme music while visiting my grandmother and my aunts.  Although I didn’t really understand who the people were, I knew that my mom liked Kim and wanted her to be with Dan, but Susan and John always caused problems.  As I got older, I watched All My Children and most of the ABC soaps.  I never thought much more about World Turns until I became a fan of Guiding Light in the early 1980’s and saw a few commercials for World Turns around the Tom/Margo/Mr. Big storyline.  I was curious enough to tune in.  While I didn’t watch every day, I enjoyed Tom and Margo, the who shot John Dixon mystery, and also the Steve/Betsy/Craig triangle.  When legendary head writer Douglas Marland was named head writer of As The World Turns in 1985, I began watching daily.

I loved the resurgent Hughes family, the introduction of the Snyders, Lucinda and Lily, and the blend of humor, pathos, and mystery that Marland wrote so well.  As The World Turns featured youthful storylines but always tied things into the past and kept veterans front and center, sharing the spotlight with their younger co-stars.  It was a show my whole family could watch together.  My favorite storylines during this era were Lily and Holden’s romance, the secret of Lily’s adoption and true parents, Bob and Kim finding Sabrina in Venice, Tad Channings’s murder, and the first (and best) return of James Stenbeck.

Sadly, Dougas Marland died in 1993 and As The World Turns was never quite the same for me.  Subsequent head writers each put their own spin on the show, and nothing really caught my attention. Slowly but surely my favorites left the show.  I was particularly sad to see Lisa Brown (Iva) leave, as she was also a big favorite of mine from Guiding Light, where she played Nola.  New characters were introduced that had no bearing on the existing cast, and some storylines were almost laughable.  I stopped watching the show in 1995.

Eventually, Hogan Sheffer became head writer, and critics began taking notice in World Turns again.  I checked the show out, and while the stories were interesting (especially the Barbara and Craig storyline), I found many of my favorite characters had come back with totally different personalities – most notably Dusty Donovan.  I kept tabs on the show here and there, but never became a real viewer again.

On December 8th, I’ll try out As The World Turns again for a full week.  I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.