Saturday, June 7, 2008 7:37 PM | By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — Ron Carlivati helps “One Life to Live” rise from the ashes and return to its former glory.
Hello to all you fellow “One Life to Live” fans out there in TV land. I am finally writing this column about a week late again, as usual. However, one thing that is different now is that I am going to actually write a column, and not just copy and paste some random “OLTL” article from the past. I am so very thankful that summer vacation has arrived. I finally have the opportunity to catch up on things “OLTL,” including writing a meaningful column again. So without further delay, here are my latest thoughts and rants on “One Life to Live.”
For starters, I remain in shock and awe from the past week’s events in Llanview. From corporate takeovers to family squabbles, “OLTL” seems to have it all these days. Head Writer Ron Carlivati has nearly completely won me over after these last five episodes. This is the “One Life to Live” I fell in love with as a child, which I thought was gone forever after the past few years under Dena Higley’s tyrannical, botched reign. We would have never had storylines like this under Higley’s poison pen. I think that it is safe to say that Ron Carlivati is arguably one of the best soap writers of 2008. And here are a few reasons why….
First, as the old saying goes, ‘you can’t live in the past.’ But don’t they also say that ‘the past never stays buried?’ The latter of those two quotes seems to fit “One Life to Live” nearly perfectly these days. In my opinion, a good soap is one that embraces its history instead of ignoring it. That’s not to say that a soap can survive solely by regurgitating old storylines or by focusing entirely on past characters. However, it does mean that any soap writer worth his or her salt should thoroughly research the history of the daytime drama they are writing for, in order create new storylines out of past events. The trick is to find the correct balance between the two. And Ron Carlivati seems to have found that delicate balance. For instance, earlier this week, Jessica became a widow this week following the death of her husband Nash. While the focus of this storyline will center on Jessica’s grief and anger toward Natalie and Jared, it also creates an underlying storyline that eerily mirrors that of her mother, Viki. Longtime fans of “OLTL” can recall how Viki’s husband Joe Riley died when Kevin was a young child and before Joey was born. Aside from a casual comment made by Viki to Clint about Joe, nothing was said to connect the two events. However, viewers noticed the connection, and appreciated the subtle nod to history. Notice how Ron Carlivati connected the past to the present without unnecessarily dwelling on it? That’s how to you a soap’s history the right way.
While the Joe Riley mention was the most memorable to me, it wasn’t the only history reference made this past week on “OLTL.” There was Dorian looking up to heaven to ask her deceased ex-alcoholic lover Mel to forgive her while she poured elixir down Charlie’s throat. There was also Adriana angrily reminding Dorian that she had loving parents (her adoptive parents) before coming to Llanview and accusing her mother of only loving her inheritance (from dear ole Aunt Betsy). We also had Jessica, in a fit of rage, telling Natalie that she was no different than she was when she first arrived in Llanview, and how much Natalie’s behavior and actions hurt Viki and Jessica, both then and now. And who could forget Sarah’s periodic mentions of Tina, Clint’s of Kevin, Joey, and Cord, Dorian’s comments about Cassie and Kelly, or Starr’s reference of River and Zane? While all these nods to the past may appear in writing to be overdoing it, they all served a purpose. They weren’t just randomly thrown out to impress longtime viewers; they actually were tied to various current storylines on “OLTL.”
Second, it’s never too late to go home again. Since Ron Carlivati took over the reigns from Dena Hackley (I mean Higley) last August, we have been treated to the returns of a number of former characters and actors to “OLTL.” While some of these returns have been limited to only a handful of episodes, others have turned into indefinite engagements. The list of short returns includes Ann Hamilton (Aunt Corinne Balsom), Tari Signor (ghostly Margaret Cochran), R. Brandon Johnson (Chuck Wilson III), John Rue (Moe Stubbs), January LaVoy (Noelle Ortiz), Dan Gauthier (Kevin Buchanan), Nathan Fillion), James DePaiva (Max Holden), John Loprieno (Cord Roberts), Phil Carey (Asa Buchanan, for the reading of his will), Janet Hubert (Lisa Williamson), Jason-Shane Scott (Will Rappaport), Timothy Adams (Ron Walsh), and Christine Jones (Pamela Stuart). The list of returns with extended visits in Llanview includes Andrea Evans (Tina Roberts), Susan Haskell (Marty Saybrooke), Thom Christopher (Carlo Hesser), and Christopher Cousins (Cain Rogan). Also we have been treated to recurring visits from Tuc Watkins (David Vickers), Tonja Walker (Alex Olanov), and Barbara Garrick (Allison Perkins). I grew up watching many of these characters and actors on “One Life to Live,” and it was/is wonderful to have the opportunity to see them again.
Third, seeing things in 3-D is always more lifelike. One thing in recent weeks and months about Ron Carlivati is his ability to write three-dimensional characters. Under Dena Higley, most of Llanview became one-dimensional cardboard props to characters such as Spencer Truman and John McBain. They lacked personality, depth, and emotion. Most characters were written in such a way as to revolve around a handful of core characters that viewers were unwittingly subjected to day in and day out. The majority of these characters quickly became predictable and boring. Now, however, the characters have regained their depth and composure and showcase their human characteristics. Jessica and Natalie are two such characters that immediately come to one’s mind. Both exhibited powerful, emotional scenes last week following the death of Nash Brennan at the hands of Jared Banks. Another example is Dorian Lord, who showed, in classic form, just how big of a bitch she can by publicly destroying and humiliating the entire Buchanan family at their annual shareholders’ meeting. One other example is Marcie’s breakdown following her realization that she may never be a mother again. The raw emotion Kathy Brier exhibited in those scenes really tugged at the heartstrings. If nothing else, it demonstrated how much being a mother truly meant to her. The viewer is able to feel and sympathize with these characters because of the depth to their characters.
Fourth, history is not rewritten, but is built upon. As I mentioned toward the beginning of this edition of the column, history is very important to a soap. However, what is even more important is to use that history to effectively build upon current stories. It is disrespectful to both the soap and to the viewers, for a writer to take that history and twist it into something unrecognizable for his or her benefit. While I have never been a fan of rewriting history, I have to admit when there are a few instances on “OLTL” when it actually produced a powerful storyline and positive outcome. The best example of this was the transformation of Victor Lord into a child molester. While it did demoralize the old man’s character, it also created some powerful, compelling drama for Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser, and the other actors involved. It revealed a fact that “OLTL” fans have long known, that their soap has the best cast of actors and actresses in daytime. And that remains the case today. With a few exceptions, the cast of “One Life to Live” is arguably the best group of performers of any daytime drama. For the last few years, they have been forced to turn horrible material into gold, which they did extraordinarily well, considering what they had to work with. But the viewer was always left imagining just how great the show would be if these wonderful performers had great material to work with. Well, after this past week, that speculation became a reality as “One Life to Live” confidently reminded of us of the definition of a classic soap opera. And Ron Carlivati did that, not by rewriting history, but by building upon it. On the flip side, there have been some horrible storyline decisions over the years, most notably bringing Victor Lord back in 2003 when he and Mitch Laurence attempted to steal Natalie’s heart. But I’ll save discusion of that for another day.
And fifth, and perhaps the most important, Ron Carlivati has a genuine love and respect for “One Life to Live.” After all he has been a member of the “OLTL” writing staff in one form or another since 1996. In those twelve years, he has had a hand in helping to write some of Llanview’s most memorable storylines. Those dozen years have also helped to give him an understanding of the personalities of all the characters on the soap, as well as their respective histories. And Ron Carlivati appears to understand this perfectly.
With all that said, here are a few random thoughts I have on last week’s episodes. First, I may be in the minority, but I like the episode titles. They are unique, creative, and relevant. I enjoy seeing how each one relates to its respective episode. My favorite so far is “Cramer vs Cramer.” Second, I liked the nod to “OLTL’s” upcoming 40th anniversary at the BE shareholders’ meeting when Clint announced it was the company’s ’40th annual meeting.’ On the flip side, to those critics who claim, “I like everything ‘OLTL,’” here is a list of a couple of things I don’t like right now. I think it’s a disgrace that Nora does not have more of a story at the moment than Clint’s girlfriend. I also didn’t care for the Antonio/John bathroom scenes with John at the urinal doing his business and then not washing his hands (although I did like the fact that the scenes were shot in an actual restroom though). And I’m still wondering where the heck David Chisum has been lately. We have not scene Miles Laurence in a couple of months. And finally, I’m still waiting (although rather impatiently) for “OLTL” to announce that Michael Storm will be returning as Dr. Larry Wolek for the 40th anniversary. With everyone else that is coming back, I personally see no reason why the good doctor can’t return either…. even it’s just for only an episode or two. I would rather see him come back than Marty Saybrooke. Although I am looking forward to Tina and Carlo returning (and Cain Rogan to an extent). On a side note, I wish Anthony Call would return as Herb Callison. After watching Youtube scenes of him on “OLTL,” it made me remember just how powerful his character was and just how much he is missed in Llanview. And, why not also bring back Hank Gannon while they’re at it?
Before I close this column, I would like to include an excerpt from Ron Carlivati’s Wikipedia page. Granted that nearly anyone can modify entries on that site, however, I think Carlivati’s page stands as a testament to his creative ability as a writer.
“Ron Carlivati is an American soap opera writer born in 1968. It was announced in the February 27th edition of ‘Soap Opera Digest’ that Carlivati was promoted to Co-Head Writer of the ABC Daytime One Life to Live alongside Dena Higley. On June 4, 2007, Brian Frons announced that Carlivati would be promoted to head writer effective immediately. The first episode with Carlivati as Head Writer aired September 11th, 2007. In the months that followed, the show experienced a creative resurgence, receiving great critical acclaim for revitalizing characters, routinely incorporating and honoring the show’s long history and improving dialogue. However, the show’s rating continued to slide, a problem that all daytime soap operas have been experiencing in recent years. Carlivati’s work aired until mid-February 2008 when the Writers Guide of America strike forced a new head writer (Gary Tomlin) to take over. Once the WGA strike was settled, Carlivati returned as head writer, with his first post-strike episode airing on May 2, 2008. He is a lawyer, graduated from George Washington University, lives in New York City and has been recommended by Claire Labine.”
And now for a sneak peak at some of the storylines coming up a few weeks down the road. A recent death continues to haunt Llanview. A surprise marriage proposal occurs as an enemy nears the truth. One young woman’s quest to be a mother causes her to reach a difficult decision. A Princess reveals the reason she returned to Llanview. And friction mounts between two young lovers and one goes to drastic lengths to keep an unborn child.
Well, that’s all for this edition of the column. I hope you enjoyed this edition of the column. I would like to personally think each and everyone of you for your patience and understanding these past few months while I was very busy with school and student teaching. I apologize for just copying and pasting so many old “OLTL” articles during that time in order to keep the column afloat until I had more time to devote to it. In addition, I apologize for my ramblings in this column. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am not a writer, and have never claimed to be one. I am simply a person who loves “OLTL” and enjoys sharing that love with other fans of the soap. That is all. I wish I were a better writer, but I’m not. Anyway, that’s all for now; please be sure and join me again on June 15th. I promise to present my next column to you on time Thanks again for your patience. See you next time.
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live” …..