Photo: Errol Lewis/SON
Monday, March 15 2010 12:07 AM ET | By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — Cast firings, on-set injuries, actress meltdowns, and legal issues have made for a busy start to the month of March in Llanview.
It may seem difficult to believe now, but exactly one week ago I stared at my computer screen trying to come up with a topic for this edition of my “One Life to Live” column. I debated doing yet another rant on how much the show sucks right now, or about the continued lack of continuity, or even how the soap is making a mockery of its own history (yet again). Needless to say, I choice to wait a few days to see if I could come up with a better idea. Then it happened.
The proverbial poo has hit the fan. Not once, not twice, but several times over. This left we with a similar, yet different problem. I still wasn’t sure exactly what topic to focus on, however, this time it was because there were too many things I could write about. So, instead of focusing on only one or two, I thought I would try to touch on as many as possible. So indulge me and my ramblings for a moment, if you will.
This past week proved to be a busy one for the Llanview revolving door. Several cast members were either given their pink slips or demoted. Those on the chopping block included Scott Clifton (Schuyler) and Brett Claywell (Kyle). In addition, a recurring cast member, Scott Evans (Fish), learned his character will be phased out as well. Also, Austin Williams (Shane) and Tika Sumpter (Layla) were bumped to recurring status (the latter reportedly due to her own choosing). And rumors ran rampant that nearly all the Evans family might soon be wiped out with a stroke of the writers’ pen.
While some have referred to this as a bloodbath, I choose to look at it more like “One Life to Live” doing a little spring cleaning. True, at least one of those who will soon be saying farewell to Llanview (Scott Clifton) has been involved recently in a front burner storyline. However, most of the cast demoted/fired this week have largely been backburnered for some time, and can be only be considered as supporting players, at best. With the exception of Tika Sumpter (who joined the show in 2005), all of those mentioned in the preceding paragraph have been with the show for no more than three years. So it’s not as if “OLTL” has been firing veteran cast members left and right. Had that happened, then I think this cast purging could legitimately have been called a ‘bloodbath.’
Furthermore, aside from Clifton, none of those listed appeared in more than 30% of the 250 new episodes that aired in 2009. And, if you think solely in terms of airtime, it makes sense to get rid of some of the dead weight among the show’s already bloated cast. Specifically, demoting Austin Williams from contract to recurring status is logical, considering his age and his character having very little importance when it comes to advancing storylines. Let’s face it, no matter how could of an actor you are, no one needs to be on contract with a soap opera when they are thirteen-years-old. And I happen to like the little guy, but I have to agree with “One Life’s” decision on this one. As for Tika Sumpter, she’s practically been recurring for the past few years anyway, so this news, too, should not come as that big of a shock. Same with the infrequently used Evans clan. With regards to Scott Clifton I think the writing has been on the wall for his character for a while now. Schuyler seems to have no viable options left for a love interest, since Stacy is dead, Kim and Rachel will both soon be leaving town, and Gigi is hooking back up with Rex. That leaves him the odd man out.
This brings me to Brett Claywell and Scott Evans. Again, on paper, writing out the characters of Kyle Lewis and Oliver Fish makes sense, when speaking strictly in terms of airtime and ties to the canvas (outside of baby Sierra Rose). But of course we can’t always go by how things look on paper. It’s one thing to say that all of those fired/demoted last week were just simply dead weight. However it’s a whole another issue considering that nearly all of them represented a minority (black/gay) in Llanview. That shifts the focus entirely to speculation as to why all of show’s minority characters were reduced to “supporting characters” and “wallpaper” to begin with.
Moving along, none of these cast changes have resulted in quite the backlash as the firing of Claywell and Evans have had. Known as ‘Kish’ they make-up Llanview only same-sex couple. As one “OLTL” fan, ‘J’ tells me “The only reason I started watching ‘OLTL’ was Kish and after both Oliver and Kyle’s (Brett and Scott) storyline is over, I will not be watching ‘OLTL’ anymore. It’s nice to know that the Mitch character, a religious nut job who electro shocks and wants to have a baby with is own daughter ‘resonates with the mainstream (‘OLTL’) audience’ more than a committed gay couple, is just startling to me. I could keep going down the line to other ‘resonates with the mainstream (‘OLTL’) audience’ like Todd the rapist (how many kids from different women does he have?) but I’ll save my time. Signed, a hocked off viewer.”
Those opinions are shared by many in the gay community. GLAAD issued a statement urging “OLTL” to reconsider, and ABC sent out a press release trying to do a little damage control. And to add further insult to injury, “One Life” won the GLAAD Media Award for Best Daily Drama in the same week they fired the actors who play the only two gay characters on the show, which has a gay man as both its Head Writer (Ron Carlivati) and Executive Producer (Frank Valentini). Talk about irony. And, while not gay myself or a huge fan of ‘Kish,’ I still feel that the soap made a very bad move by phasing the popular couple out. One that they will probably soon regret. We tend to forget that “One Life to Live” was born out of diversity. In 1968, Carla Gray passed herself off as as white woman. And when she kissed a black man viewers (who didn’t realize that she was, in fact, a light-skinned African-American), jammed the ABC phone lines with comments. One Texas TV station even dropped the show for a time. But where is that “OLTL” now? Nothing more than a distant memory I’m afraid. It appears now that the best we can hope for is a recurring police department secretary and a virtually dayplayer jack-of-all-trades doctor at Llanview Hospital. If anything, we have moved backward, instead of forward.
And, as if all that wasn’t depressing enough, who could forget Farah Fath’s (Gigi) online meltdown last week when she gave a virtual middle finger to “95% of the posters at TWOP [Television Without Pity] and SON.” Now, given the fact that mentioned Soap Opera Network specifically, I’m not going to say much about the issue (obviously, since I’m on staff at SON). But I will say this. Public figures (actors, politicians, teachers, doctors, etc…) have to learn how to properly take constructive criticism. It is the price you pay for putting yourself out there for everyone to see. I do the same thing with every article I write, realizing that some people hang on my every word, while others wait for me to make a misstep. That’s just part of the job. Fath just needs to accept that. Furthermore, it is one thing to critique her acting talents, but to personally attack her as an individual (or anyone for that matter) is totally uncalled for, and you will never see that happening in any of my columns. And, while I have never much cared for the character of Gigi, I have always been proud of the fact that Fath and I, along with Kassie DePaiva (Blair), can all call Kentucky home. And, despite how she may have attacked this past week, we are both still Kentuckians, and I am proud of what she has accomplished.
Lastly, Brandon Buddy (Cole) suffered a slight injury to his right hand last week while taping scenes with Trevor St. John (Todd). It should be quite interesting to see those scenes when they air. And Nathaniel Marston (ex-Michael) pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, following a 2007 incident involving several cab drivers and police officers in Manhattan. I can remember writing the initial article for SON the day after the altercation took place. I feel the same way about it now that I did back then. It was quite sad to see Marston blow the second chance ABC and “OLTL” given him when they re-hired him less than a year firing him back in 2003. Granted, ABC was forced to cave in the face of overwhelming fan opposition to the firing, but still it was just an all around messy situation. But I’m glad to see that at least he is getting help for his anger issues, and is trying to get his life back on track again.
What bugs you about “One Life to Live” these days? Be sure and drop me a line…I would love to hear from you, and I just might use your comments in an upcoming column.
Congrats to “Nancy” for correctly guessing the identity of last time’s mystery character. The conman was named Dante Medina and is daughter was, of course Gabrielle (whose native country was Argentina). Her ex-lover was Max Holden, and his new girlfriend was none other than Tina Roberts. And, later Max would pretend to be the son of Asa Buchanan, in order to try to gain control of the oil tycoon’s vast fortune.
In case you missed the clues, here they are: This conman father appeared on the canvas briefly nearly a generation ago, along with his daughter, who would eventually become romantically linked to a suave man that would a decade later pretend to be the son of someone else. When we first met them, the daughter’s old flame was visiting her native country with his new girlfriend. Eventually the woman’s crooked father, who was a drug lord, was murdered, and the girlfriend of his daughter’s former beau was presumed dead following a terrible fall.
Now it’s time to play another round of “Llanview, Who Am I?,” a new feature where you have to use the clues to figure out the identity of a mystery character from “OLTL’s” past, this time with a bit of a twist. See if you can figure it out. Good luck!!!
This real-life country music singer appeared on “One Life to Live” as himself several times in the early 1980s, where he took to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry with a certain young lady (who was involved with both a father and son), made her singing debut.
So who is this mystery music man from the past? I’ll have the answer in the March 30th edition of “My View of Llanview.” Extra credit will be given if you tell me the identities of the woman (and the actress in the role), along with the father/son she was once involved with. Until then make your best guesses and give me your feedback on the column. Also don’t forget to tell me what bugs you about the show these days. I love hearing from fellow “OLTL” fans. And don’t forget to check out my Twitter page for all the latest “OLTL” news and information at SON.
Now, before I wrap up this column, I’m going to look into my crystal ball and give you a quick sneak peek at a few things coming up a few weeks down the road. These are for the week of March 29th. One woman reveals a shocking secret. A second turns to another for help. Someone faces a medical emergency. A young man ventures down a dark path, while other’s world is rocked. A forgotten lover struggles to do the right thing. And a shot in fired on someone in Llanview, but who?
Well that’s concludes yet another edition of the column. My apologizes if this column seems to ramble on more than usual. It’s been a very long day, and I am exhausted. Plus a lot of college basketball action and losing an hour of sleep didn’t help me any either. Hope everyone out there remembered to “spring forward” today. Take care!
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live”…
“One Life to Live” airs Weekdays on ABC. Weeknights on SOAPnet. Anytime on ABC.com and SOAPnet.com. Check local listings.