Guiding Light: Have I Been Too Harsh?

Driscolljustin-deas1You read my take on Guiding Light when I watched it for a week last month.  You know that I loved Guiding Light back in the 80’s and 90’s.  You know I don’t love it now. I complained, I ranted, I just wasn’t happy about watching five episodes of a mediocre show that was once great.  I continued my rant when I was asked to comment on the state of soaps in an article on the entertainment blog The Chronicles of Von Klapp.  

And then Coop died.  

Who would have thought that bringing Phillip (Grant Aleksander) back, tying it to the death of Coop (John Driscoll), and letting Justin Deas (Buzz) act his butt off all at the same time would create soap opera magic? That is exactly what happened when all of this came together on GL. I watched GL just for the hell of it on the day Grant Aleksander came back to the show.  I was expecting more Peapack propaganda – all hype and no delivery. I was wrong. I was really wrong. The writers crafted several storylines including everyone from Bill and Lizzie (Daniel Cosgrove, Marcy Rylan) to Natalie and Olivia (Jessica Leccia, Crystal Chappel), and of course Beth and Alan (Beth Chamberlin, Ron Raines) all tying around Phillip’s return.  What made Phillip’s return so powerful was that is was playing out against the death of Coop.  

The episode where Coop died was classic soap opera.  The writing, directing and acting was spot on.  The producers even cut the opening sequence to show the only the title card with the sound of Coop’s blaring heart monitor in the background.   The flashbacks of Buzz and Coop’s history, featuring Fiona Hutchison as Jenna, Coop’s mother and the love of Buzz’s life, only made Coop’s death more achingly powerful.  Justin Deas should pick out a space on his mantle for the Emmy he will win for this episode.  

So, here we are: more than a week after the day I was going to watch GL for “one day” to see Phillip return, and I haven’t missed an episode yet.  Was I too harsh in my judgement of GL? Was one week enough time to judge a soap? If I was wrong about GL what other shows should I take a second look at? Let me know what you think.

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6 Responses to “Guiding Light: Have I Been Too Harsh?”

  1. I like GL. I read lots of complaints about it on the web but don’t understand them. I watch most of the soaps (all but Days, actually) and GL is the only one that regularly has me interested in most of the storylines. Yes, some of the stuff misses badly. But, now that the Aussie boys have faded into the background, it’s a pretty enjoyable show. I do fast-forward through some of the stuff. On most of the other shows?…I fast-forward through almost everything, slowing down for just one or two scenes per episode.

    I think the worst show these days in terms of story is ATWT. Paul and Dusty and Craig are the same character doing the same things over and over again. It’s bizarre that a show can get away with having 3 instances of the same character on a soap at once…and act like they’re 3 different characters. It may be that they were different back when. But, no matter who’s playing/writing those three characters now, they all behave in the same stupid way.

    Days, by the way, was the show I watched growing up. I loved it. I watched it from the mid 70s through the early 90s. I gave up when Marlena was possessed by the devil. I tuned back in when they brought Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans back. But, I couldn’t take it for more than about two weeks before giving up again.

  2. Wow, Joanna it seems as though you have an impressive history of soap viewing! I totally agree with your comments on Paul, Dusty, and Craig on ATWT. I’m glad that you are enjoying GL. I’ve definitely developed a new appreciation of the show over the past two weeks and I can’t wait to see Mindy come back next month!

  3. I was just thinking today, watching Coop’s funeral, that GL is back on target. I cared about every character at that funeral — Buzz, Frank and Marina, Beth, Lizzie and Lillian, Blake, Olivia, Alan, Mallet, Rick. And of course Phillip.

    I then sat there trying to remember the last time I felt that invested in an episode (prior to Phillip’s return). Aside from episodes involving Reva and Josh, the last time I felt much investment in an episode was then they killed off Gus a year ago.

    Phillip’s return seems to have ignited GL. They finally seem to be realizing that STORY has got to come first. They can do all the fancy handheld camerawork and use real locations. But it doens’t matter much without the stories to back it up. And from the looks of things, there’s some good story to come.

    Bravo to GL for getting its act together in conjunciton with Grant’s return.

    And kudos to Justin Deas for some excellent performances. Justin can chew scenery with the best of them,. And frequently does. But his scenes connected to Coop’s death have been astounding. Made me go, “ahhh, yes, this is why he has 5 Emmys.”

    A couple of other things to note.

    1. I was pleased they mentioned Harley, Lucy and Rocky. It’s important for shows to remember the family members that aren’t currently on screen. And given that Lucy has been off screen for 12 years and Rocky was last seen as a baby, those nods to history were quite nice for long time viewers.

    2. The Jeena “flashback” scenes were newly created. They did , however, lift much of the dialogue from the original scenes from what I could tell. Too bad they dind’t just use the orginal scenes, but I guess using the old stuidio scenes in conjunction with the new production model would have been quite jarring.

  4. Jeff you were harsh, but it was really bad. It only started improving in the last month or so. Somehow bringing Phillip back has brought a focus that GL hasn’t had in years. It may continue, it may not, but it was good soap for a few weeks.

  5. BL, I hope it continues on this path. I haven’t been this involved in GL in YEARS! I like Springfield again!

  6. Alas…better or not…it is done. Sad day…

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