The Problem with Liza Colby



By now, it should be a shock to no one that the near unanimous consensus among most of us who watch All My Children here at Daytime Confidential, the casting of Jamie Luner as Liza Colby Chandler has been a huge bust as of this writing. We know that opinion could change in the future with a knockout performance by Luner, an engaging storyline for the character, or a relationship of any kind that could revitalize Liza and make us see her with new eyes. Unfortunately, none of those three things have happened yet.

The collective criticism of this "new" Liza has centered mostly around the (mis)casting of Ms. Luner, an actress who has her fair share of fans from her days on Melrose Place, Savannah and other shows. On AMC, however, Ms. Luner is delivering the kind of performance that might described as, if I may be permitted to coin a phrase, pseudo-catatonic. Sure, some of the dialogue sounds a little like what Liza might say, but not after three tablespoons of Nyquil.

As a result, at first I was convinced that the problem with Liza was mostly the fault of the actress. That opinion changed with a couple of scenes that aired on Monday's episode that revealed the fundamental reason this character isn't working is because of head writer Chuck Pratt's fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of Liza.

Let's get back to the actresses for a second. To be perfectly fair, original portrayer Marcy Walker has an acting style that is very similar to Ms. Luner's: carefully modulated line delivery in a slightly husky voice. Both Ms. Walker and Ms. Luner have a Lauren Bacall-esque doe-eyed look that go a long way toward conveying a certain kind of permanent emotional wounded state that Liza has always been in regardless of her villainous machinations as a young teenager or her emotional vacillation as a grown woman.

This is where the similarities between the two actresses end. If there was a single undercurrent that Walker consistently brought to Liza during her many off and on years playing the role, it was that underneath all of Liza's "stuff" was a little girl of intense pride and defensiveness borne out of the fear of becoming just like her mother, Marian (Jennifer Bassey). This imbued Liza with a kind of recognizable vulnerability that allowed viewers to love to hate her one minute, detest her without writing her off the next minute and then turn around root for her when it was all said and done.

Luner is still relatively new to the role, but none of these traits have been evident. The "new" Liza is a manipulating shark, almost cold-blooded in her interactions with every one with whom she has the slightest connection. This approach serves her well in Liza's fractious interactions with Erica (Susan Lucci), but is unwise when it comes to Liza's daughter Colby (Brianne Moncrief) or best pal Jake (Ricky Paull Goldin), the only person in the cast with whom Luner shows any semblance of emotional connection.

However, as tempting as it is solely to blame Luner, the fundamental problem with this new version of Liza revealed itself in the aforementioned Monday episode where Liza, Colby and Adam (David Canary) had a little family chat. The divorcees were trying to explain to Colby (as if the nearly grown Colby was five years old, mind you) why their marriage failed. During this chemistry-free conversation, Liza said that the reason her marriage to Adam failed was that they both wanted control.

At that point, I spit out my Minute Maid Pomegranate Lemonade and did a triple take in an effort to digest what I had just heard. Suddenly, it clicked that other characters in Liza's orbit have recently been talking with great regularity about how tough Liza is, how devious Liza can be and how Liza doesn't like to "lose." As Liza's words sank in, it finally dawned on me that the root of this misfire is that Pratt thinks that Liza's motivation has been and is about "control" for the sake of being a controlling person, not unlike Adam to whom she was never equal in terms of background, money or power. All of those things are true on a superficial level, but control in and of itself was never Liza's deepest motivation nor her defining characteristic. From the moment Liza Colby burst onto the screen in Pine Valley in 1981, she has always wanted to be free.


Comments

Member since:
27 February 2009
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49 weeks 3 days

for me the problem is not just the writing, it's the actress as well. She will just never be Liza to me.

Member since:
18 August 2008
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I think you hit the nail on the head. Liza was snooty and snobby but never sassy, that would have been beneath her.

Also, she had a psychological core that was due to her father's infidelity, so she never trusted men; but that is as forgotten as Jake's real name.

Member since:
18 August 2008
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One more thing, has anyone ever realized that Jake Martin was born only two years before Liza first accused Jessie of rape?

SoapSnob's picture
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I LOVE Minute Maid Pomegranate Lemonade!!! Smile

As always, GREAT post, J. Bernard. And one has to wonder who is minding the store when Jamie Luner, though a capable actress, is so HORRIBLY mis(re)cast in a (somewhat) legendary role as Liza Colby. AMC really dropped the ball on this one. And, unfortunately, it is the longtime fan who is suffering the brunt of this very bad, and in no way funny, "joke."

dsrbroadway's picture
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With the exception of the Hubbards, most of the re-casting and/or returns to AMC have been huge debacles, usually because of bad writing, and occasionally the wrong casting choice. I have no qualms about Jamie Luner, as she's a likeable and compelling actress in the right role. But it was clear from her casting that, even before a minute of screentime, they were going to fundamentally change our visions of who and what is Liza Colby.

THEBEST's picture
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I will be glad when we can look back on this and laugh...

luverica's picture
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Great article J. Bernard Jones. Here’s the personal tipping point for me regarding Chuck Pratt’s Liza Colby:

I don’t appreciate Chucky Doll Pratt writing it so that trailer park Liza got away with slapping my girl Erica like that. Now mind you, it’s not like I love Erica so much that I don’t think she deserves of a slap from time to time but not from some fake Liza Colby wannabee. Brooke English…fine. Maria Santos…fine. Liza Colby as played by Marcy Walker…fine. This Amazonian drag queen looking wench…hell to the no. Plus, quite frankly, Liza was never really much of a slapper as she was a slappee who could just laugh it off. That seemed out of character for her and the scene just reek of Chucky propping up his Melrose Place pet and based on the responses I’ve read on the SOAPnet message boards alone, it has backfired miserably. Jamie Luner arrival wasn’t well accepted from the get go and now, people want her gone.

toytoy74's picture
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I went through this whole phase where I just thought Charles Pratt,and Bob Guza were monsters sent from hell to destroy daytime. What I know realize is that this is PURELY BRIAN FRONS FAULT. Is it Charles Pratts moral obligation to turn down a job on a show that he has no knowledge or history of simply because he may alienate longtime viewers...NO,it is not. I dont watch ESPN,but if somebody offered me a job making good money to do it and NEVER seemed to mind when I screwed it up what am I suppose to do? Quit? Frons is in charge of ABC Daytime which means the buck stops with HIM! It is HIS job to hire writers and staff who have knowledge and history of the shows they're gonna be working on. It is also HIS responsibility to fire them when they REPEATEDLY show they have ZERO talent in their field. The writing is all wrong for the character of Liza,sure...But tell me ONE character on AMC or GH that IS being written to character right. Guza and Pratt will continue their reigns of terror on our favorite shows until that Daytime Killing Machine named Brian Frons is escorted out of the building. That's the truth!!! We can bitch all day and get our blood pressure up over what they've done to our shows the last few years,but bottom line until Frons is gone it would be more productive to hit your head up against a brick wall.(Maybe a mild concussion would make these two shows more entertaining.) Brain Frons has consistently showed us over the years that not only does he thoroughly not give a damn what viewers think,but is spiteful enough to do the EXACT opposite of what the fans want...just to prove he can. IF Disney and ABC don't have the balls to kick him off the property than they deserve everything he does to their network....Me, all I watch is Y&R and OLTL(only once a week for OLTL though) Gh and AMC are lost causes until they chop off the monsters head and start from scratch.jmo.

DavidsMuse's picture
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I didn't like Liza in the first place, but now all I want is for David to engineer her going to prison for Stuart's murder AND stealing his son!

Member since:
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The problem with the chuck pratts and lynn lathams of the world is,they dont know the history of the show.Jamie wouldve been a great skye .I jus t dont know whats going on with judy blye wilson csa because beth ehlers would've been fierce as hayley santos

dellygrim's picture
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Deep breath of courage.

Maybe it's that I had expected disaster when I heard about Jamie Luner being cast as Liza but I have been pleasantly surprised by the character in the last week or two.
To further qualify my opinion I will say I generally only watch 2-3 eps per week. I have however been impressed. I'd still take Marcy Walker back in a heart beat but I've adored her since childhood. I didn't catch Liza's original run, only her stint in the 90s, which I immensely enjoyed.
I'm not quite won over by Luner's Liza but am on track to totally accepting her in the role. My impression of the family moment on Monday was that Liza wasn't being entirely truthful. She knows that it wasn't as simple as her wanting control but presenting that version to Colby was the best choice for everyone. Colby doesn't need to know the specifics of the Adam/Liza relationship, arguably she already knows too much. My impression was that Liza was trying to make peace. Both Liza and Adam made decisions that were perhaps not what was best for Colby. I saw the family conversation as Liza offering an olive branch and the two parents deciding that now they will try to put the past behind them and do what is best for their daughter.
Regardless I'm glad that I'm able to enjoy Liza. As I said it's a pleasant surprise. The last thing I needed was one more thing that bothered me on AMC.

Member since:
3 June 2009
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I am going to be the voice of the minority. And not just on here but on message boards all over the net.

I am absolutely loving Jamie Luner as Liza Colby.

I was weary at first but I think she is smart, sexy, beautiful, and is giving first rate performances.

If the writing lets her down on occasion, that can be blamed on the powers that be. But Luner is amazing.

I give thumbs up to this recast and hope that she sticks around Pine Valley for years to come!

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11 April 2009
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It's so funny to read people who hate Ms. Luner demand that she be fired. She's an actress. Someone gave her a script and someone else tells her how to interpret the script.

_____________________

J.Bernard,

Just the other day, you admonished me for dropping a spoiler (one which I hoped would not be true). I've been thinking about that. What bothered me about your criticism was the hypocrisy of this site.

First, I reported what I read on Nelson Branco's site. Didn't Daytime Confidential do the same thing and cite Nelson Branco, who wrote that Adam Wilson would kiss a man based on report? How was that not a spoiler? You and others form this site also proceeded to discuss the spoiler on your podcast. To date, the scene still has not aired.

Second, yesterday on this site, there was a HUGE posting on the identity of Rebbecca on GH. Wasn't that a huge spoiler to a mystery?

Can you clarify the rules here? I'm just a bit confused.

J Bernard Jones's picture
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 Dellygrim and Dcclegal,

While I clearly don't share you enthusiasm for Ms. Luner, I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, either. Where you both are enjoying Ms. Luner's performances, I see potential and room for major improvement that is is not being realized.

As I took great pains to point out, I feel the writing and interpretation of the character that is at fault for most of the problems that many of us have with the character for which Ms. Luner is getting the brunt of the criticism. I have no wish to bash her and, all things being equal, want her to succeed. If anything, regular readers of my pieces know that in my soap world, hope always springs eternal.

Dellygrim, to your point in particular about how you interpreted Monday's scene, I agree that is how it was likely to have been played. I believe it would have been perfectly fine if that was all it was (Liza trying to take the easiest road in explaining things to Colby), but it became problem for me — as I explained in some detail — in that it underscored everything about how Pratt's more simplistic version of Liza is supposed to be seen now as opposed to the character's long established history on the show.

It is not my intention to tell readers how to feel about a story, actor or character. So no disclaimers are necessary to qualify your enjoyment of any of those elements. Hell, I still get a kick out of crazy ass Stacy on One Life to Live and if that's not a minority opinion, nothing is. LOL

toytoy74's picture
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18 November 2008
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Jamie Luner is not the problem. Not getting Marcy Walker back is not the problem. Hell,it's not even the re-writing of the history of Pine vallry that is the problem. It IS the writers who cant even take the five minutes it takes to google or youtube the history of the characters they are writing for. The people writing for Kendall,Erica,Zach,Liza,and Tad very clearly have NO clue the CHARACTERS they are writing ofr. It does not matter how well Jamie Luner tackles the role,or how well the public accepts her if EVERYTHING they write for her character resembles NOTHING from the character prior to leaving the show. None of the characters even resemble who they once were. I loved Jamie Luner on MP,but I think they have done her a great diservice throwing her into this ridiculous who-done-it storyline. I do hope her the best though.

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It is Ann Sweeney for letting Frons destroy ABC soaps and blowing money like it toilet paper when we are in a recession and she isn't doing anything about it.

uofmichgrad99's picture
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11 November 2008
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The reintroduction to Liza Colby has been rocky, but I'm not going to throw in the towel yet. There should be a soap opera recast law to not judge until after at least a 6 months period. It takes time for an a new actor to grasp a hold of an already established popular character. Futhermore, it takes time for a writer to understand how an actor portray the material being written. Trevor St. John wasn't initially loved as Todd, Tamara Braun as Carly, etc.etc.etc. A mark of a talented actor is to add a new dimension and not necessarily employ the act of mimicking (who can forget Jennifer Bransford mimicking Tamara Braun!? If you have please call me and share your secret). We all change in real life, why can't characters change in reel life? Liza has been off the canvas for quite some time, so I don't mind the settle changes in her personality. At the end of the day, Liza was never a saint and she wasn't even really liked unless she was with Tad (IMO). I have seen improvements from JL and the writers in making "see" Liza. I love her scenes with Erica and we need a good foil for Ms. Kane (thank god it isn't Brooke).

On another note, even though the execution of the actual murder of Stuart was kinda cheesy, the aftermath has been stellar. AMC is the most improved soap and while it is easy to say Pratt sucks I think sometimes we need to focus some of the dialouge on the positives (Stuart's funeral, Jesse front & center, David/Krystal, Erica is back, etc). In fact, for the first time in years, I'm actually watching AMC at 1 pm instead of having it on while I clean and wait for OLTL (Now I am cleaning at 3 pm...I'm sure you know why).

Member since:
8 May 2008
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uofmichgrad99, LOL, yeah, I can't watch GH because it is horrendous and Guza and Frons and phelps needs to lose their jobs.

J Bernard Jones's picture
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Josstheguy,

I do not make up the "rules" for this site, nor as far as I know are there any specific rules regarding spoilers. As a blogger, I give my opinion about various issues or thoughts about daytime and occassionally the broader television landscape as it relates to soaps. In that vein, let me address your "question" about spoilers from my personal perspective, first with a highlight of what I already said:

1. I have no problem with spoilers for those who want spoilers. Not everyone does; I — like many other fans — try to avoid them as much as possible. On the other hand and as a matter of full disclosure, I am no spoiler virgin, either: I don't seek them out but they are awfully hard to avoid, especially if you follow entertainment with any regularity.

2. Spoilers are a part this website's DNA. If you come to DC, there will be spoilers-as-news, which should be no surprise to anyone. This is no different than if you read any of the entertainment reporters like Ausiello, Mitovich, Kristin, or even the printed soap press, which is getting more spoiler-y by the issue in order to compete. It comes with the territory.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, for me I don't read every single story posted on this site or any other, especially if they have "Spoiler" in the title as you will find with most individual spoiler posts for shows. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the fine bloggers here at DC who work hard to bring these spoilers to people who want that information, but as much as possible I skip them.

Now when a spoiler is posted as the news itself on a specific website, then discussion of that spoiler and its implications are fair game within the context of that story or that site/venue. So, in my opinion if a blogger here posts an item that spoils the storyline in question, by all means discuss it at length.

There used to be (as if this kind of thing is ancient) a bit of netiquette about revealing spoiler information, i.e. you would insert the word "Spoiler" and then hit the return button several times to put some space between the word and spoiler so people wouldn't accidentally read the spoiler if they didn't want to do so because most readers tend to scan very fast on the net. A great many mainstream entertainment writers and reviewers still give plenty of spoiler notices and opportunities to stop reading before divulging plot points or surprises. Unfortunately, these many of these compromises have been all but abandoned by people who want to lower the boom regardless of how much it might ruin the enjoyment of many fans all because they don't think spoilers are a big deal.

So how does that apply to your question about how this site posted the huge GH spoiler about Rebecca? Well, the title of that entry was "General Hospital Spoilers," with plenty of space between that title and the news spoiled that I and other readers could skip it without being bludgeoned over the head with the info.

What makes what you did so outrageous, Joss, was that you took a spoiler from another source (Nelson Branco) and wesbite (TVGuide.ca) and dropped it in the middle of a post about the lack of subtlety in writing among some shows, a topic that had nothing at all to do with the spoiler in order for you to prattle on about your dislike for Josh and Reva, a couple who wasn't even alluded to or mentioned in my post. Now people go off topic in comments sections all the time, but yours was a particularly outrageous example.

In addition, you could have just as easily linked the URL to Nelson's story or told people to check out his column, thus giving those who didn't want to be spoiled on that particular story point the opportunity to choose whether ot not to access it, especially given the fact that it had nothing to do with the blog entry in the first place!

It's one thing for a spoiler to drop about an upcoming kiss or someone falling into bed with someone else as opposed to revealing the identity of the killer in a major murder mystery. Futhermore, if a columnist reveals the information in another venue, that doesn't mean that the information is fair game. To my knowledge, none of the bloggers at DC have published that specific info as a story as of this writing.

To that end, the good folk here at DC do not publish everything they know either. After a recent podcast, one of the participants revealed to us that they know — barring changes in storyline — who killed Stuart (not Adam) on All My Children. Not one of us asked the killer's identity nor motive, nor has that info been posted on this site as of this writing.

Ultimately, dropping spoilers is a matter of context and all spoilers are not created equally. They are not always simply "scenes that have not aired," but many times contain crucial plot information or twists and turns that are supposed to be surprising to the audience. This brings us at last to your question about those differences:

It's one thing to discuss a spoiler about an upcoming kiss between two male characters on Y&R when that spoiler flowed out of news about why one of the original actors quit the show, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't find the completely undisclosed revelation that Thom Bierdz had returned to that show an unexpected surprise, which made it all that more thrilling for long time fans and quite a few new ones.

These are my personal thoughts on this matter, and does not in any way represent any official policy or "rules" of Daytime Confidential. In fact, many of my compatriots, including our fearless leader Luke, disagree with me about spoilers. There is a faction that believes that spoilers make some viewers tune in to a show in anticipation of an event or plot twist, while there is another faction including myself who believe that some spoilers have the exact opposite effect, i.e. why tune in if you know what's going to happen already?

But that's OK, too. It is not my intent to change your mind or stop you or anyone else from posting spoilers, either. Joss, I would only urge you to consider the context and appropriateness of where you discuss specific spoilers in question.

Member since:
29 April 2009
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3 years 40 weeks

J Bernard Jones,

I don't think Jamie Luner is going bye bye anytime soon and viewers will eventually accept Jamie in this role. I would have loved it if Marcy Walker had stepped back into the role but Chuck Pratt/Brian Frons or whoever, re-imagined Liza Colby. If they decided to re-cast Erica Kane or Adam Chandler - could you imagine the backlash and probably the instant death of AMC.

J Bernard Jones's picture
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9 September 2008
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I don't think Jamie Luner is going bye bye anytime soon and viewers will eventually accept Jamie in this role.

I have never suggested at any time that Ms. Luner be fired, quit or replaced.

I have cited that the fundamental problem currently is in Pratt's version of the character, there is room for improvement and, if you read my statement a couple of comments up, I would like to see Ms. Luner succeed in the role.

I can't be more clear, or fair, than that.

Whether "viewers" accept Ms. Luner as Liza ultimately is a toss up: some will, some won't....regardless of what happens with the writing or Ms. Luner's performances. Only time will tell.

Member since:
8 May 2008
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2 days 18 hours

Pratt set up Lunar for failure of miscasting her in this role. If she was someone else, I don't think many wouldn't be that mad about it, but many see the role of Liza and I do agree with the fans that this isn't Liza C. But it isn't Jamie's fault, but the casting director and Pratt for this blunder of a choice.

bdulski's picture
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5 May 2009
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4 years 44 weeks

Ms. Lunar was 9 in 1981. Enough said.

bdulski's picture
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4 years 44 weeks

Ms. Lunar was 9 in 1981. Enough said.

Member since:
15 May 2008
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1 day 18 hours

J Bernard your letting folks know that you don't mess with you is a strict code like not messing with Texas! *LOL* 

J Bernard Jones's picture
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9 September 2008
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I'm just a humble country boy from Arkansas tryna make it in the big cit-tay, Jillian. Jamie and Melodie hold it down for Texas! LOL

Now you are the one who I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. I know you'd put the beat down on a mofo just for looking at you cross-eyed in a thunderstorm. Like Jill Scott, you'd take your earrings off and get some Vaseline! 

dellygrim's picture
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25 August 2008
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Thanks JBJ, but no need to worry, you've never made me feel like you were forcing an opinion on me. I prefaced my statements b/c I'm not yet fully confident in them and was leaving plenty of room to change my mind in the coming weeks. I can be very wishy washy but always passionate with my soap opinions.

ABC_Faithful_Fan's picture
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17 February 2009
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4 years 39 weeks

People have to remember ... sometimes the original or past actor may not want to reprise or able to reprise that role ... sooo ... someone's gotta do it.

I like Jamie ... though I really miss Marcie Walker.

But .. from my knowledge on reading past interviews .. she was doing work with children and that's what she wanted to do now. So, I'm thinking she didn't want to be Liza any longer. If you have any recent article saying otherwise ... I'd appreciate the update and info.

I personally would like to see a combo of Liza & Jack ... which I would dub ... LI-CK!!

I think that would piss Erica off even if she's w/Ryan. Cause just like the saying "Like Mother, Like Daughter" ... Erica & Kendull don't like the men they were with to be with anyone else.

alstonboy4315's picture
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I believe that Jamie Luner is best when she is playing bitchy characters, so bringing her on to play someone who is--ESSENTIALLY---a good girl is a waste of her talents. Not to mention the fact that Chuck Pratt's writing was so fu***** boring that it was damn near impossible for ANY actor or actress---including Susan Lucci to make it interesting (much less sensible!!!)....

I liken Chuck Pratt's tenure on AMC to rabid dog that urinates all over everything in a vainly pathetic attempt to mark his "territory". Essentially, Pratt pissed ALL over AMC, and tried to make the show his own, but he really ended up almost destroying the foundation of the show, and the new writers have their work cut out for them!!!

Jamie should have been brought on as a NEW character--who was bitchy!! Perhaps she could have been a new love interest for Ryan, which could have put her at odds with Kendall, Greenlee and Erica, and also possibly as a new love interest for David. Vincent Irizarry and Jamie Luner are HOT together...or they could be!!!

I say that they bring back Marcy Walker as Liza, or if they can't, do what Y&R is doing, have Luner play double duty for a few months while they quickly transition Liza back out of town and transition a NEW  character into town for Luner to play!! Maybe it could be a lookalike----not that I would EVER suggest that Liza has an identical twin that we never knew of. Do I LOOK like Chuck Pratt to you???

"Stupid" ain't written across MY forehead, but it should have been written across Pratt's!!!!