Last week it was chocolate (scroll down). Today, it’s nuts.
For way too long, watching my soaps has been like picking through a can of cheap mixed nuts. You know, mostly peanuts and Brazil nuts (pod stories dominated by new, plot-driven characters, tangentially connected, if at all, to core families, about whom I care not at all), with the occasional pecan or hazelnut – or, as I described a couple of years ago in connecting the dots: “conversations exploring the relationships among the characters, steeped in the show's history”
For the past couple of years, I’ve been able to count on One Life to Live to keep me in pecans and hazelnuts. Sad to say, not so much recently (see lead time), but of late, the conversations between Téa and Blair, as Téa faces an inoperable brain tumor have moved me to tears. Sure the odds of Téa actually dying are approaching zero, and Téa and Todd’s daughter, Dani, should be in grade school, not high school, and some fans see this as a ham-handed plot device to force Dani to accept Todd as her father – and, horrors!, reconcile Todd and Blair – again! They’re probably right; I don’t care. I get to see real scenes that come from an emotionally honest place in each character. These days, I take what I can in the afternoon…
Which is why Friday in Oakdale was such a pleasant surprise. Gwen and Will returned for a visit and they had conversations all over town. Viewers were reminded that Gwen and Casey Hughes had a baby together a few years back. And that Will’s brother, Paul, caused Gwen great heartache. One poster on MediaDomain called them “the continuity fairies.” And so they were, but not in that obvious, “okay, here’s the recap,” kind of way; just conversations that sounded like regular people catching everyone up. Can’t remember when that last happened in Oakdale.
Of course, the reason for Will and Gwen’s visit, the disappearance of Will’s mother Barbara’s who's been kidnapped (most likely by Gwen’s bat-shit-crazy mother, Iris), is the storytelling equivalent of the aforementioned peanuts. It’s just sheer happenstance that Barbara’s being held in some surreal fun house with only a clown for company.
What really threw this into sharp relief for me were the episodes of Ryan’s Hope that ran on SOAPNet Friday morning. Here’s the Cliff Notes recap: Jillian cheated on golden boy, apple-of-his-mother-Maeve’s-eye, Frank, who responded by pursing Jill’s sister, Faith. When Frank realized that he still loves Jill, as everyone warned both Frank and Faith he did, he breaks his engagement to Faith just before the wedding.
Faith is so blinded by hurt and anger that she’s lashing out at everyone – Frank, Jillian – even Maeve. A while back, I wrote, also about RH,
(T)he character of Delia holds up a mirror to viewers, and reflects back to them so many of the shortcomings, and vulnerabilities, we all do our best to tame.
And that’s exactly what Karen Morris Gowdy did when Faith came to visit Maeve – accusing her of raising an entitled, selfish son who always put his own desires first, no matter who got hurt in the process. Who among us hasn't behaved badly when we’ve been hurt? Watching these scenes made me, and I expect many others, squirm at the memories. But as unfair as Faith was being – Frank’s no saint, but he’s a decent human being – watching Helen Gallagher’s face as Maeve deflected Faith’s verbal blows, and, at the same time, absorbed the kernel of truth they contained was the stuff of great storytelling. Not a peanut to be found.
© 2010 Lynn Liccardo
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