Wednesday, April 15, 2009 2:07 AM EDT | By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — A critical look back at the successes and failures of recent Llanview returns.
Since becoming Head Writer of “One Life to Live” in 2007, Ron Carlivati has brought back for than his share of former cast members and characters. Ranging from Tina Roberts and the original Marty Saybrooke, to Jackie McNaughton and Madam Delphina, Carlivati has interwoven both major and minor past “OLTL” characters into various storylines. However, not all of those returns were met with widespread success.
Being able to lure an actor or actress back to their old Llanview home is one thing, but penning a sensible storyline for their character is another issue entirely. Long-time “One Life” fans were amazed and delighted a year ago when news broke that the show had forged a deal with Andrea Evans, to bring the actress back to the show she had fled from eighteen years earlier while being stalked by a crazed fan. We were promised a beautifully written storyline that would make it seem as if the character of Tina hadn’t gone MIA for nearly a dozen years. But that promise and hope, soon turned to bitter disappointment.
Relegated mainly to interacting with Tess, Natalie, and Jared, Tina was reduced to a bumbling idiot. While she was not always the most intelligent person in Llanview, the Tina of old did have more common sense than this latest incarnation. She was portrayed as overly dramatic, spoiled, and immature. Where was the conniving, hardheaded Tina that fans fell in love with? The one that tried to blackmail Niki Smith (who was pretending to be Viki) into divorcing Clint Buchanan, worked to gain control of the Buchanan fortune by marrying Cord, and passing off Gabrielle’s baby as her own son with Cord? At least, Carlivati did bring back Tina’s old flame and former partner in crime, Cain Rogan, for her to interact with. But still, more scenes with sister Viki and brother Todd would have been nice, as would have been scenes showing Tina going around town visiting with old friends and adversaries, and realizing just how much Llanview had changed while she was away. There was not even one scene with Tina and David Vickers, whom she slept with, while mistakenly believing that he was her half-brother. True, she did have a dog named after him, but still it was not the same as having David and Tina together having a confrontation or, at the very least, a civil conversation. Instead, however, most of Tina’s time was spent either in Llanfair, Cristian’s loft, or in Mendorra, as part of that over-the-top homage to the past during “OLTL’s” 40th anniversary episodes last summer. But on the positive side, at least Tina did interact somewhat with her daughter Sarah, even if another child, her son CJ, was not even referenced. And at least Tina got to share some brief screen time with ex-husband (and quite possibly true love) Cord Roberts. But after six months, Tina was gone almost as quickly as she had arrived, but hopefully it won’t be a dozen more years before she returns.
On the heels of Evans’ return as Tina, came one of lesser importance–Janet Zarish as Lee Halpern/Janet Ketring. No offense to fans of either the actress or the character, but her place in Llanview history is small compared to heavyweights like Evans, Thom Christopher (Carlo Hesser), Roscoe Born (Mitch Laurence), and James DePaiva (Max Holden). But still, bringing Lee Halpern back was a nice nod to the show’s history. At first, it appeared to be just a coincidence that “OLTL” had brought Zarish back to the canvas as a seemingly unrelated character nearly two decades after exiting Llanview. A few months later, however, it became clear that there was no coincidence, but that she was instead a miraculously returned from the dead Lee Halpern. But why? What purpose did that serve? The writers did have her interact with her old ‘boss’ Renee, who ‘employed’ Lee back in her Nevada brothel days. But the trip down memory lane stopped there. There were no scenes with other characters that she may have interacted with back in the ’80s (Viki, Clint, Dorian, Bo, etc…), nor was there any hint of Max Holden returning to settle the score with his old lover.
If there is one thing I hate, it is bringing back an old character just to kill them off or have them go insane. They did it with Lee Halpern…murdered by the KAD serial killer. And it looks like they are going to do it to Zach Rosen too. “OLTL” brings back Joshua Phillip Weinstein as Todd’s old frat buddy Zach, who was part of Marty’s gang rape back in the day I might add, only to have him stir up a little trouble and then send him back to jail? Hmmm… ok. That makes perfect sense. No trying to redeem himself (whether genuine or fake) or anything. Zach returns only to demand money from Todd and hold Starr hostage and then gets arrested and disappears into the night? I know, I know. The show is trying to throw viewers off by making them think that he is the serial killer that has been terrorizing Llanview recently, but even that is nothing more than a red herring. Just wait and see, in a few months, Zach Rosen will be nothing more than a footnote again. And that is disheartening, because I hoping that “OLTL” would tell Zach’s story, the way they did for Todd and, to a lesser extent, Powell Lord III (the third rapist). But they ruined that opportunity, in my opinion.
I also hate it when writers either make it seem as if recently returned characters are either still in Llanview or simply do not exist any longer. Case in point. Are we to believe that Madame Delphina is still in town, or has the physic moved elsewhere? The same for Jackie McNaughton. I suppose he still calls Llanview home, even though he is only seen one or twice every couple years. And whatever happened to Allison Perkins? Apparently she is still in a coma in a room somewhere at Llanview Hospital, even though no one in town speculates about her “secret” anymore, not even Jessica, who it was supposed to be about. We were told last year that Allison wasn’t expected to live much longer, but it appears that she is still with us. “OLTL” really dropped the ball on that one. I realize that it was largely due to the writer’s strike and Gary Tomlin taking over as head scribe during that time, but still. Even it wasn’t part of Carlivati’s vision, he should have at least came up with a logical ending for the storyline.
The same can be said for making Talia Sahid the biological daughter of Carlo Hesser. After some initial interaction following Thom Christopher’s brief returns last summer and fall, Talia’s paternity became little more than an interesting side note. Where were the repercussions? There weren’t any. It was more like, okay so we made Talia the daughter of popular villain Carlo Hesser, now what? Unfortunately, “OLTL” never really answered that question. The best we can hope for at this point is that Carlo will return to Llanview to avenge his daughter’s death, after she meets her maker at the hands of the KAD killer next week. Now that would be good. Anytime Thom Christopher is in Llanview, it’s good. Just the sound of his voice still sends shivers up my spine. Carlo Hesser is a classic example of a soap villain; despite the idiotic situation the writers placed him in last fall, making it look like he slept with co-hort Jonas Chamberlin. Carlo is pure evil, and that’s why fans love him. Spencer Truman, Margaret Cochran, and Stacy Morasco are nothing more than very poor imitations of Carlo.
Hank “The Cannon” Gannon. The name used to carry weight in Llanview. District Attorney, ex-wife of prominent lawyer Nora Hanen, best friend of Police Commissioner Bo Buchanan, brother or career criminal RJ Gannon. But then Hank, much like many other beloved characters over the years (Dr. Larry Wolek, Rev. Andrew Carpenter, Miles Laurence) just faded into the background, making it look as if the guy had never existed. But then, he finally returned. I was elated to hear that “OLTL” was bringing Nathan Purdee back to Llanview as the all-around good guy Hank. But now, not so much. While Hank’s return to town was mainly envisioned to escort daughter Rachel back to visit Nora (just when her mother needed her the most), Carlivati could have at least given Hank scenes with his old pal Bo. And I’m not referring to just “catching up on old times.” Not at all. If the writers were smart, they could have Hank help Bo get inside the head of the KAD killer that is terrorizing Llanview. After all, Hank was there when Marty was viciously gang raped, as well as when Nora defended the culprits in court. Hank is already tied to this storyline in that respect. So it would totally make sense for Hank to offer Bo a fresh perspective on the investigation. Then maybe Hank and Nora could butt heads again, and he could run against her to regain his old position as District Attorney. They would be great since his brother RJ is also returning to town this month. I think it could work, and would be much better than the alternative of portraying John McBain as Llanview’s savior. But then again, what do I know? I’m only a long-time loyal fan of “OLTL.”
Not to leave anyone out, those discussed above are not the only former characters Ron Carlivati has brought back since becoming head writer. Others who returned included Asa Buchanan (following his death from a heart attack), Pamela Stuart (Asa’s 2nd and 6th wife), Dallas Jones (Clint’s old flame from London), Colin McIver (as a game show host in Rex’s dream), Jen Rappaport (also in Rex’s dream), Mararet Cochran (to haunt Todd, even in his dreams), Alex Olanov (who needs to return permanently, in my opinion), Kevin and Joey Buchanan (Viki needs her sons around), Rev. Andrew Carpenter (should be seen more than just weddings and funerals), Max Holden (the two 40th anniversary episodes just weren’t enough), Niki Smith and Jean Randolph (the best of Viki’s six alternate personalities), Mel Hayes (whose body was never found, so he could always return from the dead), Ben Davidson (who needs to stay dead), and Megan Gordon Harrison (even it was just an old flashback). And we can’t forget luring back Susan Haskell as the original Marty Saybrooke after getting rid of the mediocre Christina Chambers, and the genius of casting Erin Torpey as a grown-up version of baby Megan Buchanan. What a treat that was for those of us who grew up watching Torpey grow up on “One Life to Live” as Jessica.
However, not all the recent returns on “OLTL” have been flops. In fact, at least one has been rather successful. Last December, Florenica Lozano brought Téa Delgado back to Llanview with all the spunk and spitfire that Téa is famous for. Téa has reminded us of her ferociousness in court, passion in matters of the heart, and tenderness when it comes to those she loves. It is the real Téa, and not some watered down version of the character. This is the same Téa who married Todd for $5 million and was pushed out of a window by Todd’s ex-wife Blair. For once, “OLTL” did justice to the character by bringing her back. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most of the others Ron Carlivati has managed to lure back to Llanview for a visit.
While I’m feeling somewhat nostalgic, here is a list of other characters I would love to see return to Llanview in the near future (in no particular order). Dr. Larry Wolek, his son Dan, and ex-wife Karen; Herb Callison; Ed Hall; Carla Grey; Cassie Carpenter; Wanda Webb Wolek; Max Holden; Kevin and Joey Buchanan; Kelly Cramer; and Viki’s brother Tony Lord (who’s to say he isn’t still alive somewhere?).
For those of you unable to figure out the answers to the trivia questions from my last column, here they are (correct answers in bold): Question #1: What seasonally named soap actress was Megan Gordon’s main competitor for the fictional Daisy Award for Best Actress in 1989? Was it a) Autumn Days, b) Spring Skye, c) Summer Shade, or d) Silver Winters. Question #2: On Christmas Eve in 1993, Cassie Callison found a newborn baby, which she would later adopt and name River. But where did she first discover the little bundle of joy? Was it: a) at the mall, b) under her tree, c) in the church manger scene, or d) in the backseat of her car. Question #3: In 1978, what type of show did Pat Ashley host on WVLE? Was it: a) advice to the lovelorn, b) beauty makeovers, c) cooking, or d) talk show. And Question #4: In 1981, what was the ominous name of the Llanivew estate where Asa Buchanan had imprisoned his first wife, Olympia? Was it: a) Widow’s Peak, b) Timberdark, c) Ravenwood, or d) Moor Cliffe.
Hope you enjoyed those questions, and that they didn’t prove to difficult for you. Now, time for this week’s trivia challenge: Question #1: In 1982, Tony Lord and Bo Buchanan attempted to mine an alternate energy source. Was it a) gravitomite, b) buchanium, c) solarmite, or d) llanvium. Question #2: In 2002, “One Life to Live” aired a special Fourth of July episode featuring musical numbers in a women’s prison. What was the title of that particular episode? Was it a) “Jailhouse Pop,” b) “Babes Behind Bars,” c) “Cell Block Party,” or d) “Stars in Stripes.” Question #3: Al Holden became a radio disc jockey in 2003, and referred to himself on air as the Voice of What? a) Romance, b) Choice, c) the Night, or d) Reason. And Question #4: Back in 1970, Vince “Vinny” Wolek was arrested after trying to transport some illegal cargo over state lines. But just what was it that he was his precious cargo? Was it a) alcohol, b) babies, c) cigarettes, or d) drugs. I’ll have the answers in the April 30th edition of the column. But if you are stumped and can’t wait, you may want to consult a copy of The One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Trivia Book by Gerry Waggett. Just a suggestion…. but one you might find useful.
Well that wraps up another edition of “My View in Llanview.” Many thanks to those who regularly read and comment on my thoughts and ramblings concerning “OLTL.” I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter holiday, and that you have nice weather wherever you are today. Take care and I hope you’re join me again soon for the next installment of this column.
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live”…
“One Life to Live” airs Weekdays on ABC. Weeknights on SOAPnet. Check local listings.
Discussion: My View of Llanview: April 15 Edition