Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 6/23/08

The Daytime Emmys tend to be a mixed bag of conflicting material: Juxtaposing kiddie programs with lurid talk fests, game shows and soaps is more mismatched than apples and oranges, but THE 35th ANNUAL DAYTIME EMMY AWARDS turned out to be much more coherent this year, and I believe that is because the children’s content was mostly relegated to a taped wrap-up, avoiding mixing Elmo with EJ. Still, “coherent” does not equal “entertaining,” and the show was the usual painful mishmash of clips, strained presenter “banter” and winners complaining about not having enough time to thank their fourth cousins and the guy who mowed their parents’ lawn when they were kids. In other words, it was an awards show, and no one watches an awards show to be entertained; they want to know who won. Here are my impressions…

• Cameron Mathison (Ryan, AMC) certainly is enthusiastic, but perhaps he could dial it back a little; the man has hosted TV shows before. He did a good job with the awkward idea of ambushing actors at their tables and making small talk, and the actors all behaved themselves. 
• Sarah Brown‘s (Claudia, GH) gothic princess dress was very eye-catching. (I know nothing about fashion or designers or designer fashions, as my colleagues can attest!) Supporting Actress winner Gina Tognoni (Dinah, GL) looked like she was wrapped in Christmas ribbon, which I suppose is appropriate. (And she name-checked me! … What? She meant some other “Joe”? Are you sure…?)
• The “Style Lounge” appeared dead; nobody was there unless Cam was talking to them on-camera. (Guess I’m not the only unstylish one…) 
• GL’s Marcy Rylan looked stunning, especially her hair, even if her dress was a bit too shapeless. And she did a great job of delivering her lines: No squinting at the TelePrompTer, or wooden recitation &dmash; she performed her lines. I hate the way actors at awards shows usually appear to have never read lines before. Granted, the material is horsespit, but hey, they’re supposed to be pros. And Marcy was a champ here. 
• The various actress clips contained too much crying — this will prove to be a theme all night long. Makes it look like soaps are all sobbing, all the time. 
• ONE LIFE TO LIVE was the first of the Outstanding Drama Series clips and it established a trend of overlighting and title cards that tended to make all the soaps look the same. All the clips appeared to have been created by the same editing team, so there is no individuality to the shows. Wait, I take that back. The GH clip package was almost all explosions and violence; but then again, that’s what the show is. It doesn’t have nearly as much kissing as the other shows. And something big fell on YOUNG AND RESTLESS’s cast. 
• When OLTL’s Kassie DePaiva comes out to present, she name-checked “the real Marty Haskell,” and I cringe. 
• It looked like Younger Actress winner Jennifer Landon (ex-Gwen, ATWT) raided Madonna’s wardrobe, circa 1985. 
• Regis Philbin was given the Lifetime Achievement award, and I think the audience deserved some kind of award for surviving the hour-by-hour recap of his entire 40+ year career. Reege, trust me, the page years were not as compelling as you think they were. 
• Lead Actress winner Jeanne Cooper (Katherine, Y&R) had the best acceptance speech, and was the highlight of the entire broadcast, hands-down. “I bet you thought I’d died,” she quipped. I almost died laughing. Why can’t all speeches be like this? 
• Of course no one could possibly know better than Susan Lucci (Erica, AMC) that it’s an honor just to be nominated. And few know better than GH’s Anthony Geary(Luke) what it feels like to win — again! Definitely worth interrupting your vacation for, eh, Tony? Congratulations! (Whaddaya want? I am Weekly‘s GH editor!) 
• Any ideas why Barbara Walters was presenting the Outstanding Drama award? Me neither. I mean, it’s not like she’s wearing a sandwich board flogging her book, right? Hey, GH won! That’s No. 10. Executive producer Jill Farren Phelps is dedicating the award to those people suffering from floods in the real world. 
And that was the show… Off the air by 10 p.m. Eastern, which is an accomplishment (and a mercy to viewers). I do wish the broadcast had included an “In Memoriam” tribute as a reminder of the talents we lost this year. I hope the show returns to New York in the future, so maybe I can attend again. Let me tell you from personal experience, if you ever get the chance to walk the red carpet with Eva La Rue (ex-Maria, AMC) and Michelle Trachtenberg (Georgina, GOSSIP GIRL; ex-Lily, AMC), do it!

ABC chose to give its post-Emmys time slot to a rebroadcast (or, more precisely, a repurposing) of SOAPnet’s new nighttime soap, MVP. An import from Canada, MVP follows the men of a fictional professional hockey team and the women who love and loathe them. As an avid hockey fan, I can assure you that there is not a shred of realism to the hockey angle. The very idea of team captain Adam snorting cocaineduring the season is ludicrous. Every player is subject to “no notice” drug testing. And the entry draft is held in June (in fact, it began June 20, the very day this show was broadcast!), not during the season, so showing that the Mustangs — newly flush with insurance cash from Adam’s suspicious death — would then draft Trevor is crazy. Now, perhaps they might be able to sign him after drafting him the previous summer, but not draft him. Of course, one can hardly expect realism from a show that depicts a fancy party at a player’s mansion where the valets beg for autographs and the waitresses hit on the guests. Adam’s funeral is held at center ice of their home area — complete with corpse! That never happens, and never will!

But take away the wacky stuff and you’re left with the clichés — the lady-killer with the collection of videos of his conquests; the team owner who’s secretly bankrupt; the cheating spouses; the wide-eyed young talent from the small town who loves his low-rent girlfriend. I had to laugh when Trevor was blinded by the sun reflecting off the limousine sent by the team — his future’s so bright he has to wear shades!) We know Gabe is Connie’s Prince Charming because he literally returns her lost shoe. C’mon! The storyline anvils were falling fast and furious, folks! Dan has visions of his baby mama and child? Please.

Nothing about this series says “hockey.” The guys could be involved in any high-paying jobs — lawyers, doctors, whatever. The only reason they skate is because the series is produced in Canada, where hockey is a national obsession. So where is the actual game footage, eh? The tagline for this series is “He shoots, she scores!” Well, I’m here to “save” you from making the mistake of watching this. To put it in hockey terms: “Kick save, Diliberto!”

Your precious time is much better spent with DOCTOR WHO. As befits an episode called “Silence in the Library,” the Doctor and Donna visit one the size of an entire planet — and it’s silent. Not a living entity in sight or earshot. This is the Doctor’s annual visit to the 51st century, but this time the writer is not executive producer Russell T Davies (who was just made a knight of the British Empire for his revival of DOCTOR WHO) but incoming EP Steven Moffat, who takes over with series five in 2010. (What do you expect from a series about a time-traveler?) Moffat wrote last season’s “Blink,” the truly scary one about the statues that move only when you aren’t looking at them — or when you blink, which I think stands as one of the most brilliant WHO scripts ever written. In “Blink,” the warning was “Don’t blink,” but for this new episode, the command is “Count the shadows.” Because they move. Moffat’s scripts are so brilliant because he makes the effort to really think about what’s scary and really think about what’s unique and cool about time travel. That’s how he came up with the idea of the Doctor recording messages on DVDs as a way of communicating across the decades in “Blink.” This time Moffat is examining mankind’s primal fear of the dark, positing that microscopic creatures called Vashta Nerada are responsible. “It’s what’s in the dark,” the Doctor intones, warning the others: “If you understand me, look very, very scared.” That, my friends, is writingto send any sci-fi fan to heaven.

The other thing that Moffat does better than anyone else (even Davies) is create characters. Sally Sparrow from “Blink” was one of the best one-off companions ever seen, and Prof. River Song of “Library” is already looking to be another spectacular creation. Song is leader of a band of archeologists who have come to investigate the library, which doesn’t impress the Doctor much (“I’m a time-traveler; I point and laugh at archeologists,” he sniffs.) Song illustrates Moffat’s clever use of time travel. She knows the Doctor from her past, but from his perspective he hasn’t met her yet. Her diary of adventures with the Doctor is a classic Moffat device. (Notice how the Doctor never asks to see it; he knows the perils of foreknowledge.) When Song realizes the Doctor doesn’t know her yet, it breaks her heart. So it’s a good thing the talented Alex Kingston (ex-Elizabeth, ER) was cast as Song. And even such minor characters as “Proper” Dave, “Other” Dave, and Miss Evangelista get their moments to shine.

Ah, poor Miss Evangelista. She was killed by the Vashta Nerada, microscopic swarm creatures that act like air-breathing piranhas. They strip their victims to the bone in seconds. Miss Evangelista was wearing a communication device wired directly into her nervous system, and its program picks up an imprint of the wearer at her moment of death, creating a “data ghost” that speaks the person’s last thoughts. Viewers heard poor Miss Evangelista’s heartbreaking final impressions of being lost and alone, and looking for her friend, Donna. “She’s a footprint on a beach, and the tide’s coming in,” the Doctor mused. “That was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen,” Donna sobbed. (And she’s seen Ood with their brains mutilated to turn them into slaves.) Miss Evangelista’s end was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen on WHO — and possibly the saddest TV death since BRIAN’S SONG. I think Moffat just won himself another Hugo for that scene.

One thing that bothered me about this story was the Doctor withholding information about the Vashta Nerada. Why leave everyone else in the dark, so to speak? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) He shouldn’t have waited for Miss Evangelista to get eaten to explain.

The episode ended with a Donna cliff-hanger, as a robot doppelgänger with Donna’s face pronounced, “Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved.” What does that mean?

Hopefully, it means you will be back to read the next Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

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