If you thought "love in the afternoon" was dead and gone, you've never seen the perennial holiday classic film 'Christina Comes Home for Christmas.'
What's that you say? You've never heard of it? Neither did I until Wednesday's episode of One Life to Live.
Before I explain, let me explain. I was planning to write about something completely different. In fact, the piece is nearly completed and I was in the middle of fine tuning it when I found myself swept away by what must be one of the most purely romantic episodes I've seen on daytime in at least ten years or more.
As far as plot-heavy OLTL is concerned, the episode was light on anything really happening besides Viki happily reuniting with Charlie and Lola planting a huge kiss on Christian while a suspicious Sarah fumed. Antonio & Talia made out. Rex & Shane bonded; Roxie embraced her inner grandma. Natalie & Jared celebrated normalcy while babysitting not-Jessica's-but-Starr's-child. Blair & John had sex, as usual. Jessica & Brody (who have red hot chemistry!) grew closer. Even Leyla went on a mystery date, offscreen. There were no new earth-shattering secrets. There were no psychological meltdowns. There were no vows of vengeance. It was the kind of episode that soaps used to do back in the day when they weren't trying to hold one's attention with outrageous stunts every episode or racing through storylines at breakneck speed.
What elevated this episode to sheer soap nirvana was the 1930s/40's era-styled 'Christina Comes Home for Christmas,' a fictional analogue to It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Story mixed with just a touch of Douglas Sirk in the Llanview universe. Many characters lovingly referenced their love for the film, which is apparently shown on television every year. The movie is so popular that people gather around their sets to watch it alone or with friends and family; it is so well-regarded it is even screened at the local movie house. The film brings up good memories for some, melancholy feelings for others. How realistic is that, huh? And before you ask, I've never seen or heard of this fictional movie referenced on OLTL before Wednesday; but you know what? The whole enterprise was so well written and lovingly crafted, it doesn't matter. Had OLTL stopped there, the episode would have still been a treat, but they didn't. (continued)
OLTL produced/created "the ending" to 'Christina Comes Home for Christmas,' complete with two new actors, an impeccable 40's era style set, and presented it in grainy black-&-white as various characters viewed the fictional classic. We watched as the characters watched (or listened to) "Christina" reunite with her one true love after many obstacles had threatened to keep them apart. The dialogue of 'Christina's' fictional characters echoed the lives, travails and loves of the featured residents of Llanview as the fictional movies' melodramatic score swelled in the background. It doesn't stop there, either!
The period costuming for the two actors in the fictional movie was spot on and the actors themselves vaguely resembled composites of the men and women of Llanview featured in the episode. The "movie" itself played like an old fashioned soap and was played briliantly straight, not for laughs. Even more amazing was the fact that 'Christina Comes Home for Christmas' felt as if it might actually exist and is playing every year on a tv station somewhere just out of our reception range.
Last but certainly not least, the touch that truly warmed my heart the most was how 'Christina's' musical score directly echoed Jack Urbont's famous OLTL theme from the late 1970's!
There were nice moments that added to the verisimilitude of it all. Blair mouthed 'Christina's' fictional lines while nestled next to John. Natalie & Jared were passed out in each other's arms, exhausted as the tv watched them. Rex & Gigi made love in front of the fireplace. Charlie & Viki kissed under the mistletoe. My personal favorite was Brody fighting back tears with a smiling Jessica sitting next to him.
The whole thing was schmaltzy, a tiny bit maudlin, slightly over the top, melodramatic, romantic and absolutely glorious!
I realize this kind of thing might seem hopelessly out of date to some and won't be appreciated by others. However, I have no superlatives available other than to express my heartfelt thanks to Frank Valentini, Ron Carlivati, the individual writers and the actors responsible for producing a classic soap opera, a fictional movie within a soap that faithfully echoed the classic film style of the 30's, 40's & 50's, and an episode of modern daytime drama that paid tribute to the heart of what Soap Opera is all about.