It's no big secret that the Writers Strike and the lack of primetime and film work that resulted from it helped facilitate the return of several big names to daytime this year. All My Children managed to lure back Darnell Williams and Debbie Morgan as legendary 80's supercouple Jesse and Angie, as well as more recent fan fave Rebecca Budig who reprised her role as Greenlee Smythe.
Over at sister soap General Hospital, multiple Emmy winner Sarah Brown returned to the show, but not in her signature role of Carly Corinthos, instead she created the new role of Claudia Zacharra. Days of Our Lives managed to land another GH alum who also had played the role of Carly to huge success, Tamara Braun, who they brought on as unstable mafia princess Ava. Meanwhile Guiding Light somehow managed to convince the stellar Daniel Cosgrove to return as Bill Lewis, fresh from a stint on Dirty Sexy Money.
All of these returns received heavy PR and grabbed industry headlines, but except for a brief bump for Days, the ratings haven't budged. In fact as of last week, most soaps were hitting record lows. That isn't a slam on these talented daytime returnees. They were after all dealing with soaps that for the most part were already struggling pre-strike and were by this point being written by scab writers.
The return of Williams and Morgan was one of the best reunions in soap history and as gripping as Erica Kane on the run with Maria from West Side Story has been, the Jesse and Angie redux is the only real reason to watch AMC these days. Ditto for Cosgrove's romance with Marcy Rylan's Lizzie on Guiding Light. Budig's return as the "real" Greenlee caused major backlash from fans and of her talented replacement Sabine Singh, which of course wasn't Budig's fault, but the fact that the storyline they brought her back to play out was as asinine as the one that was going strong when she left didn't help matters.
Note to writers, doing a storyline where we have to re-live the lackluster Greenlee/Ryan/Kendall triangle isn't exactly a good plan for moving forward. Rumors are buzzing that several AMC leads are on their way out, could Budig be asking for a get out of Pine Valley free card? Or maybe Williams and Morgan are already growing wearing of carrying the whole show?
Unlike the "real" Greenlee marketing nightmare, General Hospital's campaign to promote Sarah Brown's return was liquid hot. They even managed to intrigue this jaded soap fan, despite my intense loathing for actors returning to their old soaps in new roles unrelated to their original roles.
Brown and Maurice Benard crackled with chemistry and heat in those ads with both mobsters claiming they wanted to "own Port Charles". But what we got on the show wasn't a bad ass mob mama who is an equal to Sonny, instead it was much more of the same, a shallow, emotionally unstable woman who is so caught up in her quest of getting another taste of Sonny's pesto sauce that she lets it control her every move. Wouldn't it be refreshing to, I don't know, have a woman arrive in Port Chuck who can resist the Dimpled One? I can't imagine Brown, who has had moderate success in prime time, is feeling stimulated by doing the same old "You Must Love Me" song and dance from Evita with Sonny.
Tamara Braun looks like she's having a ball as cuckoo Ava on Days of Our Lives, but given that her very first storyline on the show had her killing off the Brady patriarch, I can't imagine there's much of a future for Ava in Salem. On the other hand the show has been known to keep even the most unhinged of villains around for years (Stefano, Vivian, Kristen). The show is definitely on an upswing creatively, so maybe Tams will stick around for the ride? What do you think? Who among the recent crop of high profile returnees do you see bolting for primetime or film first?