As I Saw It… One Life to Live

susan-haskellI haven’t watched One Life to Live on a regular basis in years, but last week I felt as if I had never left Llanview – and I don’t think I’ll want to leave for a long, long time!  I haven’t enjoyed a soap this much in a decade.  Where can I start?  From the minute the show starts, it is beautiful to look at: lush sets and warm lighting bring the show to life.  And what a show it is! The acting, writing, and direction is truly remarkable. 

Headwriter Ron Carlivati has wisely weaved new characters into the canvas by mixing them with veterans.  Unlike As the World Turns and Days of Our Lives, there was never one scene last week where I scratched my head and wondered “who the heck are these people?”  I might not have known every character at the start of the week, but I knew who they were interacting with, and that helped me to quickly follow along with the story.  

I admit that I was not looking forward to anything to do with the Todd/Marty rapemance, but the fallout of this controversial plot will give OLTL years of storyline to mine.  Trevor St. John, who needs an Emmy, tore up every scene last week as Todd Manning.  St. John’s Todd is anything but a one-note villain.  Sometimes you hate him, sometimes you pity him, but you can’t take your eyes off of him.  The character can easily be compared to ATWT‘s John Dixon of the 1970’s and GL‘s Roger Thorpe of the 70’s and 90’s.  Is Todd basically a good guy who does really bad things because he can’t help himself or is he a really bad guy who does good things despite himself? Freud would have a field day with this guy! Emmy winner Susan Haskell is mesmerizing as amnesiac Marty Saybrooke, who was duped into a romance with the ringleader of her gang-rape all those years ago at the Spring Fling Dance.  I admit the thought of the storyline turned my stomach and I thought the show was throwing part of it’s rich history out the window, but I was wrong.  This new chapter in the lives of Todd and Marty compliments the classic 1993 storyline written by Michael Malone.  Marty is not the typical soap anmesiac who wanders around wondering “who am I” but instead is comfortable with the person she is now -the only person she knows herself to be.  While she acknowledges that she doesn’t have memories of her son Cole (Brandon Buddy), she doesn’t hide the fact that she really doesn’t have an emotional attachement to the boy.  Haskell effortlessly makes Marty real, raw, and heartbreaking – often in the course of a single scene. 

One of the things I like best about OLTL is that the show doesn’t bring out it’s younger cast here and there and forget about them.  The kids of Llanview have active lives and the actors who bring them to life hold their own in scenes with heavy hitters like Bob Woods (Bo), Hillary B. Smith (Nora), and others. The standout is Kristen Alderson (Starr). This girl is going to be a star. If she plays her cards right, she’ll be the next Julianne Moore (ex-Frannie, ATWT).  She hits all the right notes, never goes over the top, and makes Starr a believable teenager regardless of the elevated dramatics of her storyline.  

Bree Williamson is great as Jessica and her alters as she carries on her family tradition of dissociative identity disorder.  Robin Strasser (Dorian) and Tuc Watkins (David) are always fun.  John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex) has grown into an impressive actor, and I like the pairing of Rex and Gigi (Farrah Fath).  Mark Lawson’s scenes of Brody’s visions of a dead Iraqi boy were interesting and well done.  Of course, Erika Slezak never misses a beat as Viki.  She’s the heart and soul of OLTL

What is most impressive about One Live to Live is that last week was not a “big reveal” week for the show.  Storylines continued along, but nothing culminated or took off. In a week where it was business as usual, the show managed to excel and hook a returning viewer. 

All in all, OLTL is the best of what I’ve seen since I started my experiment last month.  With my Y&R week staring tomorrow, and all the buzz about how great that show has been, I still have to wonder if it can top One Life to Live.

Needless to say, OLTL has gone to the top of my TiVo list.

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