Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 6/30/09

MAKE IT OR BREAK IT made a big leap forward with its second episode. I’m not prepared to say this ABC Family series is going to…er, make it, but among the things it did right: evoking the late, lamented EVERWOOD with “Rocky Mountain” establishing shots that looked suspiciously similar to the Utah locations used in the earlier series; and focusing on giving the characters some personality beyond their stock types. True, these are just baby steps, but viewers got hints about why hard-driven Payson was so upset with Marty leaving, and why Lauren would expose best pal Kaylie’s secret affair with Carter. Note to producers: Spend the time to bulk up Lauren’s character, because a good villainess can carry a series. Lauren should sink her hooks into Carter and let the fur fly.

I like the small doses of Peri Gilpin and Brett Cullen as Payson’s strangely well-adjusted parents. However, Susan Ward (ex-Meg, SUNSET BEACH) is not well-served by her flighty, silly character, the clueless Chloe. Chloe spotting Ronnie Cruz smooching Marty (Erik Palladino, ex-Malucci, ER), mirrored Emily catching Ronnie’s daughter Kaylie kissing Carter the week before. Like mother, like daughter (in both cases), eh?

I must be getting soft, because I also didn’t dislike NURSE JACKIE so much this week. The voice-over is still too droning, but Zoey seemed dialed back a lot, Apparently Eddie isn’t being replaced with a machine right away. But the whole encounter with the school counselor, nurse and teacher left me shaking my head. Good thing they didn’t analyze drawings back when I was in grammar school.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

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Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 6/29/09

We got another double-shot of the imported British series MERLIN this week, and it has made good on its promise and developed into a solidly entertaining series. The writing is strong, but the casting and acting is even better. Colin Morgan makes Merlin awkward without turning him into a buffoon, while Bradley James’ Arthur seems to be a snob purely because it’s expected. He is already showing hints that he will be a king more concerned with justice and fairness than rules and ceremony.

As strong as the dialogue and characterization have been, the plotlines are a little too concerned with the use of magic. Last night’s first episode dealt with Gaius and Merlin trying to cure a magical sickness, and the second dealt with finding a cure for a magical poison. I think the stories could have been spaced out a little more, eh? I did laugh when Gaius told Uther that his “scientific process” pointed to magic as the source of the plague ravaging Camelot. Michelle Ryan — best know to American audiences for her starring role in last year’s aborted revamp of The Bionic Woman — made her debut as the series’ Big Bad, the witch Nimueh, and she certainly showcases the seductive side of evil. The best line of the night honors went to King Uther, for insisting that while Merlin’s life isn’t “worthless,” it’s “worth less” than Arthur’s. Still, Uther is portrayed as an officious jerk, because I guess parents just don’t understand, no matter what century they’re in.

In the great tradition of British SF/fantasy series (like the pre-2005 version of DOCTOR WHO), the producers of MERLIN had absolutely no money for special effects, so poor James was forced to scowl and wave his sword in the air when Arthur was supposed to be fighting the afanc water beast and the cockatrice in the woods. I guess the costumer could not afford a shield, either, so the-powers-that-be dropped the tradition of the cockatrice’s gaze turning people to stone. Petrification isn’t free, people!

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 6/26/09

You gotta love today’s AS THE WORLD TURNS (well, as long as you didn’t see the CBS promo that totally bankrupted the big reveal about Riley, that is!). The shocking ending was very well-done. Margo happened upon Col. Mayer holding a gun on Riley, so she she pulled her weapon on him. Mayer turned around… and simply shot Margo! There was no talk; no gloating about his master plan or revenge or blah, blah, blah. Mayer got the drop in her — and dropped her! That cold-bloodedness made sense for Mayer, who is always depicted as pure evil. So of course he would give no warning. That’s the kind of schadenfreude too often missing from GENERAL HOSPITAL and its cartoon violence.

This was a return to form for ROYAL PAINS, with Hank cobbling together a “MacGuyver” contraption of tin foil, hair dryers and assorted kitchen supplies to save the life of a chef who suffered a thrombetic stroke. Callie Thorne seems to be carving a niche for herself and the go-to actress to play randy women. Best-known as RESCUE ME’s calculating and predatory Sheila, Thorne showed up in the Hamptons as a chef who wasn’t shy about…er, getting things cooking with her lover in the walk-in. Hank and Jill finally got cooking, themselves, and kissed on a romantic beach picnic.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 6/25/09

While Dominic, GENERAL HOSPITAL’s new thug on the block, has a sense of humor, he loses brightness points for seeking shelter from Claudia. Sure, he’s working for her, but she hired him to kill Jason, Sonny’s right-hand man. That makes Sonny’s home a very dangerous place to be. Even putting aside taking shots at Jason — Dom had just moments earlier held Sonny’s beloved ex-wife and his two sons at gunpoint! The Corinthos capo will not take to kindly such overt acts against his loved ones. I understand he was bleeding at the time, but it wasn’t a head wound; he wasn’t leaking brains. He should have grabbed some supplies and gotten to the getaway car. If he had done that, he never would have run into Kristina. So how will he treat Sonny’s daughter?

On the plus side, Dominic Zamprogna has very quickly pumped some personality into Dominic, making him a quick-talker, if not exactly a quick-thinker. His quippy sense of humor is sorely needed among the mob masses (Max can’t keep getting all the best lines). Sadly, Dom doesn’t seem to be a very good shot, which is par for gangsters. But then again, his faulty aim was good for Jason.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 6/24/09

Last week, I half-seriously lamented the lack of fires on RESCUE ME. This week’s episode opened with a harrowing, slow-motion escape from a collapsing, blazing corridor by several of firefighters, including Tommy, Lou and Sean, set to Duffy’s bluesy, dreamy song, “Syrup and Honey.” That tense drama was followed by comatose Sean (recovering from his kidney operation) dreaming another song-and-dance routine that gave Steven Pasquale a chance to warble a tongue-in-cheek ode to being in a vegetative state.

As twisted as that opening was, it was almost outdone by grim closing tableau: As Sean lay in a coma following his kidney operation, Tommy sneaked into his room to be alone with his booze and watch sad old home movies (including scenes of Tommy’s dead son, Connor) on the room’s TV. When Sean’s mom came in, she misinterpreted Tommy’s presence as concern for her boy. And when she spotted his liquor, she demanded a belt — straight from the bottle! Then led him in an awkward prayer over her inanimate son. I didn’t know whether to cringe or laugh, so I did both.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 6/23/09

I’m shocked, shocked to find that shoddy writing is going on in here! I really hate it when a soap falls back on the Casablanca excuse for breaking up couples: “I waited for you that day and you never showed.” And they never saw each other again, until now. That is just lazy writing … and it don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

The latest soap to take the easy way out is ALL MY CHILDREN, which explained that Randi stood up DA North years ago. What’s more, he was actually left waiting at a train station when she never showed — just like Ilsa stranded Rick. (No word on whether it was also raining on North). She felt that she was just another hooker and he deserved better. But North seemed to disagree; evidently Randi was a happy hooker, since he recalled how she used to “dance out of bed in the morning.”

No one was dancing after last night’s episode of Showtime’s NURSE JACKIE. Not even a shout-out to the New York Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup win could keep me interested in this mostly dull series. Perhaps I am just sick of medical shows. The writers seem to be really scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with unusual patients for the docs — one poor fellow was being treated because a cat mauled his scrotum. But that sort of titillation is no substitute for compelling story.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 6/22/09

Last night’s NBC premiere of the British series MERLIN surprised me by not totally sucking. In fact, I quite liked it. It took me a while to get past the near-total reimagining of the King Arthur legend, but once I accepted the (ludicrous) premise that the key players were teenagers and the castle could be thought of as “Camelot High,” I settled in. The fact that TORCHWOOD’s Eve Myles (Gwen) guested as the baddie in the first story helped reassure me. She completely suppressed her natural Welsh accent, but couldn’t hide that trademark gap in her teeth. I also got past the anachronistic language by telling myself the-powers-that-be simply wanted to be accessible to today’s lazy teens, hence Arthur and Morgana tossing off phrases like, “Thanks,” “See you,” and, “Tell me about it!” Whatever! The other major change in the adaptation was making making Morgana the “ward” of Arthur’s father, King Uther. At a time when American soap operas go out of their way to play up or even just hint at incest (we’re looking at you, GENERAL HOSPITAL), this retooled British import has taken pains to sanitize the incest element from the established Arthur/Morgana relationship that has been part of the established legend for hundreds and hundreds of years.

It was old home week on BURN NOTICE, as THE SHIELD’s former Detective Wagenbach, Jay Karnes, reprised bad guy Brennen, who used Michael’s perpetual sad-sack brother, Nate (Seth Peterson, ex-Robbie, PROVIDENCE), as leverage to force Michael to pull a job. Also, Detective Paxson (Moon Bloodgood, from Terminator Salvation) stepped up her investigation of Michael. Nothing particularly original there, just nice execution of the material, thanks to fine casting.

BURN NOTICE’s lead-out, ROYAL PAINS, however, is on a distinct downturn. The latest episode was a bald-faced clone of HOUSE, with Hank treating a would-be college athlete for a bafflingly mysterious ailment. Would Hank diagnose the problem and save the boy’s life (and football career) before the hour was up? But once again, at least the casting was interesting. GOSSIP GIRLS’ maniacal Eleanor, Margaret Colin (ex-Margo, AS THE WORLD TURNS; ex-Paige, EDGE OF NIGHT) played the sick boy’s also-maniacal mother — the Lady Macbeth behind her senator husband. Colin’s former GOSSIP GIRL co-star, Dreama Walker (she’s Hazel on The CW series and also cameoed on ONE LIFE TO LIVE as Karen and GUIDING LIGHT as Janie) portrayed the senator’s neglected daughter, Melody. If ROYAL PAINS continues to neglect what makes it interesting (the “MacGyver as concierge doctor” angle) in order to ape HOUSE, I won’t take pains to tune in anymore. After all, USA already airs repeats of HOUSE — earlier that same night!

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com