Soap Opera Weekly: 9/16/10

AS THE WORLD TURNS’s Jack and Carly got married yesterday for, like, the 17th time and, thanks to cancellation, fans can be pretty sure that it will stick this time. But what caught my attention about their 42nd stroll down the aisle was that the vows Jack and Carly wrote for themselves focused quite a bit on the negative.

“I mostly have made the mistakes — terrible ones, some of them,” Carly admitted, adding that she is no longer “stupid enough” to promise that she won’t make more.

Jack related how, “You brought me back from a very, very dark place, the darkest place I think I’ve ever been.” And, instead of promising her a clean happily-ever-after, he mused how, “None of us know where we’re gonna be in a year.” I took that to be a meta remark about how the show is going off the air and lots of cast and crew will potentially be out of work 12 months from now.

But then again, this couple has probably said every lovey-dovey line there is over the course of their 50-odd weddings. What’s left to rhapsodize about? Sure, there were upbeat lines, (like when she called him, “my true north, my soul mate, my best friend”), but it was the dark spin overall that I found fascinating.

With cancellation looming at the end of the week and, let’s face it, the legitimately angsty storylines over the course of the last year (Jack shot his own brother to death!), what else should we expect? I’m holding out hope that CarJack can find their path to happily ever after — with or without a compass.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 9/09/10

Allow me to interrupt the death spiral of AS THE WORLD TURNS in order to praise Van Hansis‘ turn as Luke in the demise of Dr. Reid Oliver.

This story is an example of what can happen when a soap focuses on a core family and tells a story about characters in whom viewers have invested a lot of time and love. Luke has been (pretty much) a front-burner character for months, and I am glad that ATWT took a break from crowding out veterans with throwaway newbies like Blackie and Gabriel in order to tie off Luke’s story. It may not have been the happy ending with Reid that so many fans wanted, but at least it was something.

Now, I concede that Reid (Eric Sheffer Stevens) was a relatively new character himself, but Reid benefited from an “old school” slow introduction; one that allowed audiences to get to know him in small doses over time. Hence, it felt like viewers were losing a friend as he lay gasping his last wishes on that gurney. Viewers were able to feel empathy for him, and suffer with his unjust death. (I choose to believe that Reid died because he was a healer trying to help a patient — not because an experienced brain surgeon panicked in a moment of stress and forgot how to work a seatbelt.)

And his doom afforded Hansis a chance to really swing for the fences. When Luke agonized over donating Reid’s ticker to Chris, it came across onscreen like Hansis was carving out his own heart. His performance was an epic and worthy swansong — and so far, clearly the best thing about the end of ATWT.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 8/30/10

The 62nd Primetime Emmys was kind of like a horse race last night: It started out really strong, moved at a gallop, then faded badly in the final turn, before finishing with a favorite and a dark horse in the winner’s circle.

First of all, I have to give kudos to GLEE’s Jane Lynch for pulling off my favorite win of the night; I figured she was the only guaranteed lock of the night, and luckily it happened. It was fantastic to see her win for such a vivid character and performance.

Speaking of GLEE, I loved host Jimmy Fallon‘s opening piece, in which he teamed with GLEE regulars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer and Amber Riley — as well as totally random guests Jon Hamm (Don, MAD MEN), Nina Dobrev (Elena, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES), Jorge Garcia (Hugo, LOST), Tina Fey (Liz, 30 ROCK), Joel McHale (Jeff, COMMUNITY) and AMERICAN IDOL’s Randy Jackson (as well as reality gadfly Kate Gosselin, whose 15 minutes is long past over) for a performance of “Born to Run.”

Fallon did a nice job keeping the show moving, even if he did rely a little too much on musical humor. The tuneful tributes to canceled series (like 24 and LOST) were clever, but I was less enamored of the audience-participation bits. Special kudos to Ricky Gervais for his hilarious segment, in which he complained about the ceremony not serving alcohol, so he doled out beers. (It was just a joke, and those waiters served non-alcoholic beer…)

My favorite wins: In addition to Lynch, I was really happy for THE GOOD WIFE’s Archie Panjabi, as she really brings to life a kick-ass character in Kalinda.

Least-favorite wins: Edie Falco in the comedy category (Since when is NURSE JACKIE a comedy?). And, as Falco herself noted, “I’m not funny.” Also, Kyra Sedgwick over Julianna Margulies smacked of a career-achievement award. And MODERN FAMILY beating GLEE just didn’t fly with me. MF’s absurdist humor strikes me as plot-driven “anything for a laugh” funny, whereas GLEE’s comedy feels more like it arises from character.

Tactically, I think it was a mistake to group the show by segments, but it did make it easier for fans to watch: saving the miniseries and movie category for the final hour was probably for the best; if it was going to be segregated, the-powers-that-be certainly didn’t want to lead with the HBO love-fest.

While it was tough to pay attention until the end, the two big categories were saved for last: MAD MEN won its third straight drama trophy (I thought last season saw a dip in quality, but it finished strongly, so that’s what voters must have remembered) and MODERN FAMILY unseated 30 ROCK. At least MF is funny, even if it’s no GLEE.

But I was quite happy with the Emmy ceremony as a whole.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 8/18/10

What does GENERAL HOSPITAL have against Brook Lynn? She was brought back to Port Charles as a hired…er, gun to break up Lulu and Dante by sleeping with him (and documenting it). Already hounded by charges of credit-card fraud, Brook accepted the job as a prostitute. Then, yesterday, she became something worse than a scam artist/hooker: She became a would-be rapist, stopped just short of her goal.

At Jake’s, Brook slipped Dante a roofie that left him zonked out and unaware of what he was doing. Then viewers watched Brook continue to feed him alcohol, steer him to a deserted location, and take advantage of him sexually. Clearly, his faculties were impaired and the babbling guy was in no condition to make judgments or give informed consent. She started kissing him, stripped off her clothes and climbed on top of him. That was a clear violation.

Brook was clearly in the wrong, and if the roles had been reversed, surely viewers would have been outraged by a man drugging a woman in order to molest her. If GH’s intention was to show how low Brook has sunk, well, then, mission accomplished.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 8/12/10

So…that was it? After weeks and weeks and weeks of hype that culminated in surrendering an entire afternoon’s programming to reruns, GENERAL HOSPITAL refrained from revealing Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo‘s face until the very last seconds of Wednesday’s episode. And when she finally did appear, Ms. Brenda Barrett did not speak a single word!

Considering the unavoidable megahype that completely dominated both ABC and SOAPnet ever since the Brenda’s return was announced, GH’s bid to camouflage her presence was a real head-scratcher. Tiny scenes throughout the episode depicted a mystery woman from behind, teasing viewers with everything except her face. Was anyone fooled into thinking we were going to see the shocking (and unheralded) return of V. Ardanowski?

The entire viewing audience knew from the relentless PR campaign who the “mystery” person was going to be, so stringing fans along was pointless. The trickle of scenes made the episode drag, and ultimately undermined and blunted the big reveal.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 8/04/10

I usually try to avoid any and all spoilers before seeing a thriller, so I went into Angelina Jolie‘s spy flick, Salt, with blinders on. (And, never fear, I won’t spoil anything here.) I knew the plot concerned a CIA operative accused of being a Russian sleeper agent, and I was determined not to ruin any surprises.

Well, imagine my surprise to see that the film’s president of the United States was played by none other than Hunt Block! Block was my favorite incarnation of AS THE WORLD TURNS’ Craig (Sorry, Jon Lindstrom), and I was delighted to see that he portrayed fictional President Lewis with the same laconic charm that he brought to the shady Mr. Montgomery. But Block also lent Lewis a real sense of gravitas. I was surprised at what a great commander-in-chief Block made.

Another veteran of ATWT, former Faith Cassidy Hinkle, has a featured role in several flashback sequences. In addition, a couple of other soap stars have blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em roles: Victor Slezak goes from dead sleazeball politician Silas on ATWT to a one-star general in the movie; ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Tika Sumpter (Layla) runs the front desk at Langley, while castmate Kamar de Los Reyes (Antonio) plays a Secret Service agent; and Michelle Ray Smith (ex-Ava, GUIDING LIGHT) can be seen in a key bunker scene.

And, by the way, I really enjoyed Salt. Jolie is a charismatic lead, and the story went in a direction that I didn’t quite expect. The action sequences were a bit outlandish, but the story was so entertaining that I was willing to take it all with a grain of…salt.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 7/07/10

“You’re a gifted liar, Sonny,” GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Olivia noted. “Just don’t lie to me now,” she pleaded as she demanded to know if he planted the explosive in Johnny’s car.

She was not the only one wondering: Alexis had already confronted Sonny with the same question the instant she heard about the bomb. “Of course not,” he calmly shrugged, then launched into a song-and-dance that climaxed with him rapping his knuckles on the desk as he insisted to Alexis, “I did not put that bomb in his car.”

Which is literally the truth, since the hired bomb-maker actually put the device in Johnny’s vehicle. I was amazed at the ease with which Sonny wove his cover story, but everyone knows the best lies have a dose of truth mixed in. It’s Alexis’ fault for not asking the correct question, right?

A dazzled Michael’s jaw hung open, in awe or disbelief, as Sonny asked, “You understand why I had to lie tonight, right, son?” Um, I think I do, Sonny: You didn’t want to get caught! But the whoppers didn’t stop there. “I’m not used to lying to the people that I love,” Sonny maintained. Later, Olivia made him take an oath to tell the truth. “I swear on Dante’s life that I didn’t do it,” Sonny rasped.

Sonny told Michael, “Someday you’re gonna be a father, and you’ll understand what I’m saying.” I think Michael understands just fine right now: Sometimes Daddy screws up, and it’s too embarrassing (or too dangerous to life and limb!) to admit.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 7/6/10

GENERAL HOSPITAL observed Monday’s Independence Day holiday with another rerun of its most infamous recent episode, the Jan. 29 installment in which Sonny shot Dante.

Okay, we get it, GH, that was a turning-point episode — but it also marked a low-point for Sonny, didn’t it? Dante pulled his badge to arrest Sonny. The gangster pulled his weapon and held the cop at gunpoint long enough to have a conversation with him, then unleashed a stone-cold, “Goodbye, detective” and shot Dante right in the chest. Then he stood over his victim and prepared to plug him a second time to make sure he would die. There is no way to sugar-coat what Sonny did to an officer of the law (and his own son), and replaying the (admittedly emotionally powerful) sequence drives home the point that Sonny is exactly what Dante called him: “A cold-eyed bastard who’d kill anyone to get whatever the hell he wants.”

Point taken. By now we can be pretty certain that everyone has seen this pivotal installment, so I hope we see something a little more upbeat to celebrate Labor Day. How about rerunning the May 5 episode, in which Lulu and Dante make love for the first time?

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Soap Opera Weekly: 6/25/10

If you’re looking for an over-the-top, fun action movie this weekend, why not try The A-Team? If the big-screen adaptation of the iconic 1980s TV series seems to be struggling a bit at the box office, there is one person nobody can blame: Brian Bloom, who formerly played AS THE WORLD TURNS’ Dusty. Bloom not only features in The A-Team as cold-fish bad guy Pike (Get it?), he also co-wrote the screenplay! What more do you want the guy to do — sell you popcorn in the lobby?

I have seen the movie, and I can tell you it is an excellent reimagining and expansion of the TV series. The best material goes to Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) as lady-killer “Face,” but everyone gets his moment, including Ultimate Fighting champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as B.A. Baracus, and Sharlto Copley (District 9) as Murdock. Liam Neeson adds dramatic heft as Col. Hannibal Smith. The plot concerns stolen printing plates for counterfeiting U.S. currency, and provides plenty of excuses to travel the globe, blowing stuff up and trading quips. Bloom is quite sinister as the bloodless Pike, and I certainly did not trust him after his first appearance.

But you can trust Bloom to deliver a highly entertaining popcorn movie.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 6/11/10

This week’s wedding of Jake and Amanda on ALL MY CHILDREN was my favorite soap nuptials in a long time — thanks largely to Ricky Paull Goldin, who played Jake more like a regular guy than an idealized romantic hero so many male characters are forced to be.

I have never been to a real-life wedding in which the bride and groom wrote their own vows. Nope, it’s never happened. Yet, on soaps, every couple writes their own vows — no matter who they are, or how impromptu the ceremony. Hell, even THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS’ drunken Billy and Victoria made up their own vows on that beach a couple of weeks ago! It’s one of those soap conventions that reminds us viewers that we’re watching a fantasy. Well, Jake joked that he didn’t know he was supposed to plan something! When Jake fashioned his own vows, the words sounded realistic; it wasn’t some flowery speech clearly penned by a writer who stayed up all night crafting it. He simply professed his love and admiration and devotion for his bride. Jake was not afraid to play the goofball and look a little silly. He feels real. Goldin plays Jake as a guy who would hang out and watch a game with you — and know the teams.

Jake and Amanda’s ceremony itself also had a grounded quality that made it seem like an event that could actually take place in the real world; it was not some impossibly grandiose affair fit for fairy-tale royalty. Even with the do-it-yourself vows, this was a ceremony real people might actually be invited to.

Okay, so Jake busted out the purple prose at very end, and the happy couple made a splashy, scripted exit. But, hey, it is a soap opera, after all.

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