Random Thoughts on Five Soaps

I’m back, gentle readers, and not a moment too soon. Since we were last together, real life has provided more plot twists than an episode of Lost, but I’ve still managed to faithfully watch the stories day in and day out. While there are a few larger topics that I’ll be addressing in the next few days and weeks, it turns out a little time and distance provides the opportunity for a bit of clarity and perspective on issues that one might have been previously too close to appreciate. In that spirit, here are a few completely random observations about the five soaps I normally watch that I’ve noticed in the little over a month since I last posted. These observations generally are not a part of the usual list of talking points, but just a number of things that have popped in my head. Without further ado…


In dealing with Kendall (Alicia Minshew) and her latest emotional tilt-a-whirl, Erica (Susan Lucci) finally has turned into her mother, Mona (the late, great Francis Heflin). To newer viewers this might not mean anything, but long-timers who remember Erica and Mona’s many tussles over Erica’s love life and choices will recognize the mother/daughter dynamics instantly.

There is something really "off" about Jesse & Angie (Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan) these days. The issue isn’t the performers, who are fantastic as always. However, one gets the distinct impression that their interaction with the rest of Pine Valley’s citizens is less integration across the canvas, and more of them turning into something resembling caretakers of the whole town. Just ask "Little A."

On the plus side, I loved, loved, loved the call back to Les Baxter, Angie’s hard-ass father, played by Antonio Vargas back in the 80’s.

Why is the set design and color pallette of Pine Valley so relentlessly brown? I saw some green apples on a table in Ryan’s house and I nearly jumped for joy!


If there is one story being done absolutely right on ATWT it has to be Carly’s descent into alcoholism. Intended or not, the building blocks for the character’s meltdown have been slotted into place for months, including but not limited to, the pressures of running Metro and its near loss to foreclosure, the rebellion of her kids, and Jack & Janet’s marriage to name a few. Throw in Craig’s machinations and their newest venture selling designer vodka (love the name Midnight Sun!) and you have a recipe for disaster! Maura West‘s performances of late have been absolutely revelatory in their complexity, nuance and emotion.

Making Henry the odd man out in the surrogacy storyline was extremely smart. Given his background and family history, it makes perfect sense for him to have the heebie jeebies about Vienna’s little Sven or Inga and her extremely hot oven (although we know exactly where this storyline is going in the short term). The awesome Trent Dawson finally has something else to play other than Katie’s lovesick lapdog or semi-reluctant diner owner and he’s doing a fantastic job. Props also must be given to the luminous Ewa Da Cruz as Vienna, who has come alive during the story.

West gets all of the praise these days, but Michael Park (Jack) and Julie Pinson (Janet) have been freakin’ fantastic during the fallout of Parker & Liberty’s marriage, with Mick Hazen and Meredith Hagner doing great work in the story too.

In this day and age of incredible shrinking sets, did Brad and Katie’s house actually get bigger the last few days?


It occurred to me one day that while One Life to Live and The Young and the Restless are the soap equivalent of a five-star linen service restaurant and ATWT is like an overcrowded, but understaffed Applebee’s, GH comes across like a cocktail party where all of the guests are milling around waiting for the servers to bring the food out to the buffet table, also known as "sweeps."

Mark Pinter (Agent Raynor) is just what GH was missing: a strong character actor who can go toe to toe with the show’s heavyweights and whose character is a member of law enforcement hellbent on bringing down the criminal element in mob-infested Port Chuckles. While the relentless portrayal of Raynor as the villain is unfortunate, the show has needed its own version of Inspector Javert for a long time and Pinter’s Raynor is just the ticket.

Damien Spinelli is one of my favorite characters; Bradford Anderson is one of my favorite actors on daytime right now. However, too much Spinelli really can be too much. Just tone it down again. I beg of thee.


30 Responses

  1. Profile photo of SoapSnob

    Welcome Back, J. Bernard! You (and your thoughtful insight) have been missed.

    I generally agree with your assessments of GL and OLTL, but I hate the Stacy character. I see no way that she can be a viable long-term character. And it is so nice to finally see GL get it right 90% of the time.

    AMC and ATWT still need some serious work. The sad thing about both shows is there are glimpses of really good drama; but overall, they are a mess. And that is so sad because there is so much potential for both shows.

    And, finally, I do not/can not watch GH – I have tried many times, but that show will just not stick. It is just not my taste.

    Again, welcome back! And I look forward to your further ruminations over the next several days.

  2. Profile photo of GossipGirl

    I agree with a lot of what you said, but I still cannot get behind Stacy. This has actually suprised me because she is the type of character I usually love the most on a soap. The main problem I have with the character is her reasoning. I cannot buy that she would withold bone marrow from her nephew just because of a crush she still has on Rex from many years ago. Plus, it’s so ridiculous that Gigi wouldn’t just tell Rex and have him string Stacy along until they get the bone marrow. But if they did things the simple way it wouldn’t make a very good soapy storyline, would it?

    I also am in agreement with you about Spinelli. I have aways liked Spinelli and Spixie, but he is on so much and his actions have been way over the top recently that I fast forward through it, epecially if it’s a scene with just him and Winifred! Ugh…the two of them annoy the hell out of me!

    GL still continues to shock me! I am still able to watch the entire show without fast forwarding one part! And OLTL is still great too, but it is getting a bit depressing. Glad you’re back!

  3. Profile photo of yllianos

    Yeah, GH should share with AMC on some of the major set redesign. I mean you’re right, BROWN BROWN EVERYWHERE!. PV Hospital is a nice mahogany brown with stainless steel, while Ryan’s place is a beech brown, Frankie and Randi’s place is brown… the Chandler mansion is brown… the Hubbard apartment is brown… it’s kind of nauseating.

  4. Profile photo of ghaddict

    totally with you on Spinelli JBJ……and I would go further and say Maxie as well….even though I love her, she is on a little too often as well……and I guess we don’t have to mention the usual suspects…cough* cough* CLAUDIA cough*…….

  5. Profile photo of Carol2

    Janice Frame spiraled into madness over a period of several years. Janice tried her best to win Mac’s love, and realizing Rachel would always have his heart snuffed out the last bit of her better nature.

    Stacy? She just showed up, evil and crazy. Why does she do things? I have no idea. The writing doesn’t make an effort, because we’re just supposed to go, “Poor Gigi! Stacy’s mean! She’s crazy! Poor Gigi!”

    As for Erica/Mona, I don’t believe Mona would ever cheerlead for as vile a man as Zach Slater, put him above her daughter, or allow him to treat her in the rude way Zach treats Erica. I don’t see any of the love for Kendall that Mona had for Erica.

  6. Profile photo of bonobochick

    Stacy’s back story was rushed so there has been no build up or anything intersting about her reasons for hating her sister nor her obsession with Rex. It’s just a badly written mess I want to go away. I don’t mind a devious, hard-hearted villian but Stacy is flat and irritating more than EVIL. Crazy in an uninteresting way.

    Stacy reminds me of Liz on Passions who hated Eve for the flimsiest reasons and went about trying to destroy everything in Eve’s life. It could have been good but the writing was bad and the motivation incredibly stupid. Just like with Stacy.

  7. Profile photo of maxsmom

    Spinelli is to GH as Urkel was to Family Matters. A supporting character who was never intended to be a lead becoming a lead. It’s another mistake on this rudderless show. That Mark Pinter is a good actor is irrelevant as he plays the slightly altered versions of the same scenes with slightly altered dialogue each day. The FBI with no security, Sonny’s house which anyone can enter and move around within, the 4 star hotel with 2 staffers, the international style magazine with 4 staffers, this show is completely ridiculous.

    As for OLTL, I had my first child at 16 and though it was 24 years ago, I hate the lack of realism in the handling of Starr and Cole, this story could be about any couple on the show. It is not specific to teens and I hate all the praise heeped on Ron Carlavati. Both teens should have been in counseling a year ago.

  8. Profile photo of nOva

    I think the Stacy character would work better if her campaign against Gigi was sparked by something a little less infantile. If Gigi had stolen HER boyfriend in the past, or was responsible for an accident or something that irreparably damaged Stacy’s life, then I would enjoy watching her a bit a more. But harboring a 10-year-long grade school crush because some dude picked up your backpack? And then using YOUR OWN NEPHEW’S MORTALITY as leverage?

    Sorry, but TRUE soap bitches don’t work like that.

  9. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    Everything you good people have said about Stacy is absolutely true. I do not disagree with any of the well-reasoned arguments against the character and Hunt’s portrayal.

    I suppose I like Stacy in the same way that other people like drag racing in school zones in the middle of the day, Grease 2, the spinoff of The Golden Girls or old Milli Vanilli songs: there is nothing remotely redeemable about any of it, but some things are just are. LOL

    Thanks for the warm welcome back, everyone!

  10. Profile photo of siomonstuart2003

    Angie and Jesse needs a good s/l, Maura West is the only reason to watch that dread of a show, ATWT, Spin is too overexposed, Stacy is a good bitch, but the writing and the direction of the character is not there, it not the actress fault, Otalia is hot.

  11. Profile photo of Lily Taylor17
    Lily Taylor17

    [It occurred to me one day that while One Life to Live and The Young and the Restless are the soap equivalent of a five-star linen service restaurant and ATWT is like an overcrowded, but understaffed Applebee’s, GH comes across like a cocktail party where all of the guests are milling around waiting for the servers to bring the food out to the buffet table, also known as “sweeps.”]

    Great read. This quote is a thing of beauty.

  12. Profile photo of n69n

    i’m not so quick to write off the SKANKY character all together, but i am *so curious* about how they could possibly redeem her!

    do they even intend to?

  13. Profile photo of sueboo54321

    There was a spin-off to Golden Girls? Where the heck was I?

    I think Stacy would have been accepted more if we got to know her. I like those bitchy characters too. I think the problem with Stacy is a combination of very wooden acting and a silly back-story.

    Rex picked up her backpack? How old was she? What is the age difference between Gigi and Stacy? I guess I could understand the anger towards Gigi more if there was an incidence of sexual or physical abuse in their home after Gigi left home. That is a classic tale, isn’t it? Daddy is paying too much attention to Gigi and she runs off so his attention turns to Stacy? That would bring about the kind of crazy anger that would cause this girl to use Shane. The backpack? No.

  14. Profile photo of lilyredd

    What a great read.

    Mac, Rachael, Mitch and Janice –that was some great drama. Stacy should not be considered in the same sentence.

    While I cannot stomach what has happened with the once amazing ATWT, I am glad Maura West has been able to rise above the mess and entertain. I remember a time when Marland wrote the show, I never missed an episode, I miss those days.

    Yes, I am chagrined, Dorian and David are love. I, however, was not impressed with Marty and Ray.

  15. Profile photo of THEBEST

    Welcome back, JB!

    I have given Pratt the benefit of the doubt for 6 months, but it’s over now: AMC IS HORRIBLE! It’s like a train wreck. Frons has pretty much turned AMC & GH into travesties over the last decade.

    I also blame the writers. Guza & Pratt can take the lemons that they have and give the fans sweet lemonade, but they would have to be talented for that. The two of them are far more suited for Primetime. Pratt for a weekly sudser, while Guza can give it a go with a mob-related cult show.

    Ron C. deals with Frons’ demands and weaves them together perfectly. You have the typical ABC Big Four (Todd, Marty, Blair, John), but the rest of the show doesn’t suffer because of them. He pays attention to the favorites of the brass so he can pretty much do what the hell he wants with the rest of the canvas. Good writing makes all the difference…

  16. Profile photo of daisyclover1938

    ITA with you regarding Mark Pinter. I absolutely love him and hope he stays on at GH. And I like BA but I’ve been on Spinelli Overload for months now and I feel the same way about Maxie. Someone needs to tell TPTB at GH that there *is* such a thing as too much of a good thing.

    I just recently ended my boycott of OLTL and started watching again, so I’ve only seen a little bit of Stacy. I don’t know…I like totally b*tchy characters (especially if they’re funny), but I’m not always of fan of the really nutty ones. I guess it just depends on how a story plays out and so far I’m not very impressed. The scenes where Stacy is blackmailing Gigi – oh they were horrible! I might get shot for saying this, but in those scenes I really felt Farah Fath was heading into Charity Rahmer territory.

  17. Profile photo of TV Gord
    TV Gord

    GossipGirl, while I agree with you that OLTL is a bit depressing lately, haven’t the performances been stellar? Hillary B. Smith alone is showing the anguish of a mother watching her son go through an agonizing fate and a bleak future. I can’t wait to see the range of emotions Jessica and Starr will go through when the truth comes out about the baby. Brandon Buddy has emerged from a struggling newby actor into a genuine talent.

    I normally despise the teen scene on soaps, but OLTL has managed to create a canvas that is compelling to even a fan in his mid-40s. I understand that some people might think the Starr-Cole baby-drama isn’t true-to-life, but what on soaps is? I’m a news reporter, and if I wrote a show off everytime I saw my career misrepresented, I wouldn’t own a TV. My sister is a heart-transplant recipient. If I ruled out any show that got that wrong, I wouldn’t be watching any ABC soaps. However, within the realm of “suspension of disbelief”, OLTL these days is giving me everything I want in a daytime drama.

  18. Profile photo of Dariclone

    Great writing as usual. I’d never thought of Erica as taking over the “Mona” role but now I definitly see it. Thanks for pointing that out.
    Also thanks for speaking out about Debbie and Darnell. They’re both great actors who deserve better.
    I also like A. Martinez’s storyline with Robin Strasser and I’m a huge David Vikers fangirl!

  19. Profile photo of sueboo54321

    Daisy – I have never seen this Charity person of which so many speak badly of but I do listen to the podcasts so I know that she isn’t supposed to be very good. Farah really isn’t impressing me much either. I didn’t see her on Days very much so I only have OLTL to judge her by. I think she is overplaying it and I believe someone gave her Performer Of The Week on the podcast. I was shocked. There was a scene where Nora just sort of stared on the wall and I thought she was a little wooden. It has been a big letdown for me because I have grown to appreciate OLTL this past few years. Rex has been good, Matthew is awesome, Bo is really bringing it in an understated way, and I have even liked Dorian. Yesterday, Shane was wearing a skull cap that kept creeping up. Most of the show is great so I guess these little gripes will have to be overlooked.

  20. Profile photo of soapoperafan

    I totally agree with what you said about Mark Pinter on GH and Ray n Dorian on OLTL. I’ve always liked Mark as an actor and I think Raynor is his best character since Grant Harrison on AW. I absolutely adore A Martinez and love having him back on my screen. I’m glad I wasn’t the only who saw the chemistry between A n Robin. I feel like I’m cheating on David n Dorian when I say that I wouldn’t mind if OLTL paired them together. We all know that Dorian has a thing for Columbian men! I can’t agree with you about Stacy! I’ve never been a fan of Crystal Hunt and I’m still not. I know she’s a psycho but you don’t use a child’s fatal illness to mess with your big sister. That’s just cruel! I still think she’ lying about their parents being dead, too!

  21. Profile photo of Boobookitty

    Thank you for recognizing Guiding Light in this piece. This is truly one of most remarkable soaps on television, with one of the most mesmerizing love stories of all time, in the story of Otalia. I wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t started watching with my own two eyes. These two actresses have chemistry for days and thankfully the quality of writing to back them up. Its too bad there is so much talk these last couple of days about GL’s survival, because there is a renaisssance of the medium happening right this very moment. Eventually more new viewers like myself will catch on, the show just needs a little time to get them there.

  22. Profile photo of rskuggs

    Could not agree with you MORE! Her rationale is totally screwed and there is NO way to make this character viable. Using the life of her own Nephew to get her sister’s man? That isn’t Classic Soap Bitch,that’s classic Sociopath! I love what Ron C is doing with OTLTL,but he dropped the ball with this character.Using a child’s life as a barganning chip in order to satisfy an unrequited school girl crush? That’s something some crazy stalker might do,not a member of someones family.

Leave a Reply