Belief vs. Disbelief

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At the risk of indulging an age-old cliché or perhaps inventing a new one, real life is the soap opera that interrupts our daytime dramas.

BeliefDisbelief

I've been away for the last couple of weeks caring for my partner who was seriously ill for a little while (all is better now); dealing with the challenges of running a business and maintaining my livelihood in a faltering economy; consoling friends over unexpected loss in their lives and reveling in the result of a Presidential election which has left me elated and joyous in an event that I, as a Black man, never thought I would see in my lifetime. This time has been filled with hospital vigils and prayers (all answered in the affirmative), nail biting suspense, and a dash of personal intrigue. In short, the last two weeks have been a period of belief and disbelief.

As a result of the tumult caused by these events, I had to tape all of the soaps I watch and I am just now catching up. I've been reading the daytime press and caught up with all the goings on here on Daytime Confidential, the reporting of our good friend Nelson Branco, and perusing other websites. No less than the soap opera of real life, the world of daytime drama continues to be as fascinating ever.  Therefore as a way for me to catch up with you, gentle readers, here are a few of my thoughts on what is causing within me a state of belief and disbelief on daytime.



ALL MY CHILDREN

Belief:Debbi Morgan is delivering some of the best work of her career. Erica's takeover of Fusion is awesome. Reese & Bianca make a cute couple. Taylor is finally emerging as a truly interesting character and fans of Beth Ehlers' Harley and Ricky Paull Goldin's Gus from Guiding Light are starting to see a hint of that ole "Gush" magic even if the characters aren't nearly there yet. I am far more intrigued by the development of the Annie/Aiden alliance than the actual crazy plot mechanics of Emma's faux-kidnapping. I'm really liking JR Martinez's turn as Brot.

Disbelief: "Brot" is quite possibly the worst character nickname in soap history. Jesse's two families is a story with far reaching ramifications that could have played out for months, if not years and yet is being cut short with Natalia's impending death. Vincent Irizarry has been almost seamlessly reintegrated as David Hayward, but it is way too soon for a grieving and devastated father to be bedding anyone (in this case, Amanda) or moustache twirling so fast, no matter what his plans for revenge are for Pine Valley. Why does Wildwind look like a big ole walk-in closet now?

AS THE WORLD TURNS

Belief: The show is chock full of good stories; even the ones that don't make sense like ultra-rational Dusty's out-of-character & out of the blue two-episode obsession with the Jennifer look alike and the twist involving Spencer's missing body are interesting, although I think it may be pretty obvious who is behind that latter development. The emergence of Sage as a preteen troublemaking villainess in her scheming to break up Janet & Jack has been particularly satisfying; the daughter becomes the mother. Lucinda's developing relationship with Brian and the return of her cancer is meaty stuff. Elizabeth Hubbard and Ellen Dolan have been fabulous the last couple of weeks. I'm loving the Janet/Carly rivalry.

Disbelief: The stories continue to move at such breakneck speed I'm suffering whiplash. The Luke/Kevin election story should have played out for two months leading up to the real life election to allow fleshing out Luke's motives and build genuine tension instead of the herky jerky pace over two weeks. The inclusion of both Alison & Casey in the election arc was clumsy considering how neither are connected to Oakdale University. Can a suspended student actively participate in a school election? Dani Andropolous continues to serve little purpose on the canvas. The murder mystery involving Spencer has Brad caught up with the law once again and it feels like one time too many in too short a period of time.

ONE LIFE TO LIVE

Belief/Disbelief: The entire show, from top to bottom.

Ron Carlivati's OLTL has emerged as a fine-tuned swiss clock of plot schematics, weaving various stories in and out of each other with a dexterity not seen since the glory days of Henry Slesar's Edge of Night. That's the good news. The bad news is in order for the intersection of many of these stories to work, logic often must be upended and belief totally suspended. (continued)

Three appropriately related examples:

First, the recent developments in the baby switch story. The intersection of Todd's scheme with Jess/Tess' premature delivery was a model of plot mechanics that set up a number of ripple effects for many characters and stories that have months or maybe even years of life to play out. Unfortunately, the story required for Jess/Tess to deliver a premature stillborn baby, one which could pass completely indistinguishable by the doctor and nurse compared to a healthy newborn that had been brought to full term just minutes earlier.

Then there is Bess, Jess' "gate keeper" alter. I think Bree Williamson has done great work as Tess, despite the penchant of the writers to have the character chew the scenery. But the creation of Bess creates quite a dilemma in terms of logic: if Tess was copying Jean Randolph, why didn't Bess emerge to copy Jean instead when she built the secret room and locked Natalie inside? It makes no sense that Tess would copy Jean's moves against Dorian to fulfill a revenge plot against Natalie if Bess was lurking underneath the surface all along. After all, Jess = Vikki, Tess = Nikki, and Bess = Jean.

So what exactly did we see happen? Was Bess simply a previously unseen alter who has been there from the beginning as Jessica's gatekeeper or did Tess fracture into a distinct second alter of her own as Bess as a direct result of the trauma of the birth? Confused? Exactly. None of this was helped by the marvelous scenes of Erika Slezak's masterful and nuanced performances as Vikki, Nikki and Jean juxtaposed against Williamson's slightly cartoonish Tess and Bess. Bess' big Mister Magoo glasses made me giggle.

Finally, Todd changing his mind at the last minute about the baby switch is the fourth time in four weeks that a character has done the exact same thing after going way too far. Trevor St. John has been fantastic, but from a writing standpoint all I can say is "you gotta be kiddin' me!"

First it was Clint, deciding to call off his deal with Ray Montez to take Langston from Dorian in exchange for BE. Then it was Dorian deciding to call off the hit man she hired to kill Ray. Then it was Tess deciding at the last minute to save Natalie & Jared. With Todd the square is complete. While I appreciate that the writers don't want to totally compromise these characters beyond redemption, the flip side is that all of these last minute changes of heart so close to one another have taken on the stinky stanky of easy cop outs even if they were the right things for the characters ultimately to do.

Speaking of compromising characters beyond redemption, Todd and Marty will be covered in a separate post coming soon. You might be surprised how I feel about the story as a whole.

GUIDING LIGHT and DAYS OF OUR LIVES

Belief/Disbelief:Grant Alexander returns as Phillip Spaulding on GL and Days is renewed through 2011. Daytime may be down, but the genre is not nearly out. Yet.

What say you, soap fans? What stories, characters or developments have you caught up in a state of belief or disbelief? Am I out of my mind? Will I have to create an alter to deal with it all?