One of the most powerful stories Douglas Marland ever wrote was in 1990, when Margo Hughes disconnected her step-father (and Katie’s father), Casey Peretti, from life-support. Margo was charged with murder, and while she was eventually cleared, the incident created a serious rift between her and Tom. Katie was a just a baby at the time. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t remember this incident ever having been mentioned since a SORASED Katie returned to Oakdale in 1998, much less its emotional impact on Katie’s relationship with her sister explored.
Blame that squandered opportunity on then Executive Producer, Felicia Minei Behr, and co-head writers, Lorraine Broderick, Hal Corley and Addie Walsh. But since then, absolutely nothing has been done to give Katie’s character any depth or complexity. In fact, it’s been the exact opposite. Over the years, Katie’s been portrayed as a rather superficial, even frivolous, young woman without direction or purpose, whose only goal in life seemed to be collecting as many men as possible. (And nicknames on fan boards. Among them: the human mattress; miracle spread; and my particular favorite, the vagina no penis can resist. I expect the original incarnation of that last one was less clinical and more, shall we say, colloquial.)
Yet Katie’s never been portrayed as a femme fatale or heartbreaker. Nor does she possess the fragility or emotional neediness that can attract men like moths to a flame. Of course, had they explored the emotional impact of her growing up without a father… And while Terri Colombino is certainly a beautiful woman, hers is that wholesome kind of beauty, not the devastating drop-dead gorgeous that has men falling all over themselves. It wasn’t until I read Christopher Goutman’s description of Katie (nee Peretti, Frasier, Coleman, Kasnoff Snyder, Snyder Hughes?) as “the sweetheart of our show,” that the pieces fell into place, and I understood why this character has never worked for me.
It seems as though Goutman and head writer, Jean Passanate, must be the kind of parents who don’t like to hold their little sweetheart accountable for anything, or have her experience any pain in her life, much less expect her to suffer the consequences of her misdeeds. Too numerous to list here, but two of Katie’s most egregious: interfering in BFF Henry (more on him later) and Barbara’s relationship. Trent Dawson absolutely sold Henry’s fury, but almost immediately, Henry forgave her – no long term consequences for our Katie.
Even worse: convincing Nancy Hughes – Nancy Hughes! – to say she was the author of a scandalous book that Katie had actually written. For this, Nancy didn’t raise so much as an eyebrow – and Nancy wasn’t a woman in the habit of suffering fools or indulging bad behavior. (Roger Newcomb at We Love Soaps discussed fans’ issues with Nancy and Katie’s relationship: “The actress's [Helen Wagner] rare appearances over the past decade have been spent [some might say wasted] on frivolous conversations with Katie so to the writers that relationship apparently was more important than the ones longtime fans might appreciate more.”)
What made the Nancy/Katie relationship particularly irksome to fans was how TPTB used it to compensate for their failure to fully develop an emotionally layered relationship between Katie and her siblings, and the fact that their mother, Lyla, was off-screen, which limited inter-generational storytelling. For long periods on the show, new viewers would have had no idea that Katie, Margo and Craig were related. In an interview, Scott Bryce, who had played Craig for ten months in 2007 (he also originated the role in 1982), noted that, “Craig had only one scene with his sister Katie [Terri Colombino]. He basically ignored her.”
Of Katie’s long list of suitors, none came with families. The first was Simon Frasier, a former con man whose only connection to Oakdale involved Lily and a diamond necklace. Then there was Mike Kasnoff, who had been involved with Carly and her half-sister, Rosanna, but again, not tied to a core family. Eventually, Katie wound up with Brad Snyder, but only after marrying his brother, Jack. I discussed the Snyder brothers' lack of a solid, multi-generational family structure here.
The most interesting character connected to Katie was Henry Coleman, who but for the “e” in his last name, could have been the son of Lisa’s ex-husband Grant Colman, and thereby connected to a core family. Instead, after the arrival of his bat shit crazy mother, Audrey, it was revealed that Henry was the son of James Stenbeck, which brought Henry into Barbara’s orbit and the two eventually married. Notwithstanding strong performances from both actors, the absurdity of Henry’s parentage exceeded my capacity to suspend disbelief.
In a recent interview, Trent Dawson talked about how the character of Henry evolved. It’s pretty clear that for far too long, TPTB had not a clue what to do with him. So they made it up as they went along. There was a lovely relationship between Henry and his sister, Maddie, who was later connected to Casey Hughes. But, as for the rest of the Coleman’s, in addition to the BSC Audrey, there was the murdering sister married to the pedophile brother-in-law. This had become the show’s modus operandi; rather than creating family relationships with depth and complexity, easier to bring on a sociopath or two.
The character was popular with fans, and not just because he was BFF with the show’s sweetheart, Katie (the two were married for a time, but really do work better as friends, since he’s the only one willing to call Katie on her shit). Eventually, Henry hooked up with Vienna Hyatt (a play on Paris Hilton), who had blown in from Sweden. While it would have actually made sense to make her a Stenbeck, of course, they didn’t. The couple developed a devoted fan base, and soon two more characters not connected to core family were getting a lot of air time.
In the meantime, Katie had married the love of her life, Brad Snyder, and just as she was about to give birth to their child (after her infertility magically reversed itself. Before that, Vienna was going to be their surrogate, but it was really Henry’s baby and then she had a miscarriage… Oh, never mind), Brad died after being accidently shot by his brother, Jack. Reportedly, the actor playing Brad, Austin Peck, was fired because he was having an affair with Terri Columbino. Of course, back in the day, if TPTB had started firing actors who became involved, they would have been left with not much more than Helen Wagner reading the phone book, but that’s another story.
Jack felt so bad for his sister-in-law (and ex-wife) that he took a road trip to convince another one of Katie’s ex-husbands, Mike Kasnoff, that Katie needed him back in her life. Thankfully, Mike was married to someone else, because, Lord knows, what every grieving widow with a newborn needs is to hook-up with an ex – especially when she hasn’t even had her six-week post-partum checkup yet. But the show’s sweetheart can’t be without a man, even for a minute.
It was about this time that the show was cancelled. Rather than use the opportunity to let Katie grow up, and assume the responsibility of raising her son on her own, TPTB looked around for a man, because, according to Chris Goutman, as "the sweetheart of the show," Katie "deserves a little happiness after all she's been through." And so they brought back Chris Hughes, played by yet another actor. The son of Kim and Bob Hughes, Chris is the ultimate legacy character. On paper, it was an inspired choice. Chris and Katie had been friends shortly after she had arrived in Oakdale. And Chris had been delivered by Katie's father, Casey. However…
Of all the show’s lapses, the failure to fully develop the character of Chris Hughes is perhaps the most difficult to understand, and frankly, forgive. Here’s a link to what he’s been up to over the years. The fact that I had to look it up, and remembered almost nothing as I read through it, speaks volumes. The character’s been recast numerous times, and each time he returns to the canvas, he and his father clash. Damned if I know why. I know Bob says he’s disappointed in Chris’s irresponsibility, yet abroad, Chris is said to be a great humanitarian. It simply doesn't track. Don't tell me, show me. This TWoP poster said it all:
I feel nothing towards this character at all. I've watched this show since 1980 and I feel nothing at all toward a legacy character. How the hell is that even possible?
I don’t know either. But, I do know the real deal when I see it. And watching Chris and Katie thrown together these past few months, Chris, like Katie, never held accountable for his misdeeds (maybe it's a sign of the times), with TPTB clearly expecting viewers to believe that the couple will carry on the legacy that began with Nancy and Chris’s grandfather, Chris, then Kim and Bob, and Tom and Margo, leaves me pining for what might have been, if only…
© 2010 Lynn Liccardo
Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lynn Liccardo and for non-commercial purposes only. Lynn Liccardo
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