Tuesday, March 17, 2009 12:29 AM EDT | By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — The top five reasons Llanview is struggling in 2009.
After becoming revitalized and on top last year, “One Life to Live” appears to be running out of gas only one year later. There are several reasons why this viewer believes “OLTL” is trying hard to stay afloat right now; the top five of will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
5. Too many characters, not enough airtime…not to mention overexposure of newbies. While the “One Life” cast has always been rather large, in the past year it has nearly doubled in size. The canvas is crowded with too many useless and seldom used actors and characters. Cristian, Layla, Marcie, Michael, Moe, Noelle, Charlie, tJared…. the list goes on and on. When was the last time viewers saw any of them taking the lead in a front burner storyline, or even playing a major supporting role in plots involving story lines with related characters? The soap currently has nearly three-dozen actors and actresses on contract, and almost two-dozen more on recurring status. And what ever happened to the days of slowly introducing a new character into the canvas? Remember when new characters were gradually introduced to the audience and into story lines, allowing them time to develop a personality and relationship with the viewer? Those were the types of characters that fans were able to root either for or against. Nowadays, a new character is introduced and within a month is placed in a front burner storyline with other recently introduced characters, causing fans to quickly lose interest. A prime example of this is Crystal Hunt as Stacy Morasco. Personally, I couldn’t care less about this character. We know little of her motivation for seducing Rex, other than apparently she secretly pined for him as a teenager. Well whoop de do…. like that means anything to me. Granted she is very easy on the eyes, and I am a man, but the character is totally one-dimensional. And she’s not the only one; there are others like her. Cristian Vega is another great example of what I’m talking about here.
4. Poor storyline execution. Many present and recent story lines on “One Life to Live” have left viewers scratching their heads and wondering, “is that it?” Plots that began with fire and zest often end with a whimper. Take Dorian’s original take over of Buchanan Enterprises for example. When the much-anticipated storyline began last year, it was full of promise and excitement. A major character died, several story lines were interwoven into one, and much of the cast was involved in the story line. But by the time it ended, viewers were left disappointed and angry as Nora offered Dorian a choice between handing BE back to the Buchanans or going to jail. And to make matters worse, Dorian’s decision was not even shown on camera. After coming back from a commercial, Nora informed Clint that they had the company back. That was it. No drama, no fireworks, no fanfare…nothing.
3. Predictable plots. It would be very surprising if there were any “OLTL” fans that were surprised when Stacy went after Rex? Anyone? Didn’t think so. She wasn’t in Llanview a week, and one could already get the sense that she would be causing trouble for her sister. There was no build up or anticipation about what she would do. And what’s worse, Rex appeared to be clueless to the fact that his girlfriend’s sister had the hots for him. It reminds me of another fairly recent, and equally ridiculous storyline where no one in Llanview (and I mean no one) realized that Tess had returned and had she been pretending to be Jessica for months. Even characters that are considered to be rather intelligent (Viki, Clint, etc…) did not even have enough brain cells to figure out that Jessica wasn’t really integrated after all. At least Todd finally figured it out…and we all know how well that turned out.
2. Reality…. what’s that? Soaps have long had a history of outlandish plots and situations in which viewers were expected to visit from reality into make believe, and “OLTL” is certainly no exception. Over the years we have seen numerous characters return from the dead, time travel to the Old West and the groovy 1960s, trips to heaven (Viki…twice) and hell (Dorian…once), mad scientists, underground cities, secret rooms, brainwashing experiments, and the like… which have been meant to entertain and provide us, the fans, with a nice break from reality for one hour a day, five days a week. But somehow, even while being presented with the seemingly impossible, many of those story lines were written well enough so as not to insult the very viewers they were trying to entertain. However, the show seems to have done just that lately…. insult us. For instance, is it too hard to believe that the Llanview School Board didn’t run a background check on Schulyer Joplin before they hired him? Or did he just not feel that being a druggie meant he couldn’t teach high school kids? Either way it seems like something that should have been checked into sooner, but I guess the explanation would be that his mother bought the silence of everyone involved, or something along those lines. Even more disturbing is the fact that Cole has popped a few pills and smoked one joint, and now suddenly he’s a drug addict? Those must have been some pretty powerful pills. And shouldn’t Nora excuse herself from cases where there is a conflict of interest? But then again, I suppose she would have no cases if she did that. And what about the forensics lab at the Llanview Police Department? Why should anyone believe a test they have conducted, given their blunders in recent years? Bribing technicians, regular citizens waltzing in and switching samples, computer glitches, inept employees…the list goes on and on. Maybe the LPD should investigate themselves. That being said, it still leaves doubt that David is really even a Buchanan after all given that it was the latest in a series on conflicting results…. David is Asa’s son, no wait he’s Rex’s, no wait, now he’s really Bo’s long lost son…. give me a break. Here’s another one–Marty as Wonder Woman? I realize that people can briefly develop superhuman strength when faced with overwhelmingly stressful situations, but her lifting the car off of Cole was rather amusing. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat with crossed fingers and toes concerned that a mother may not be able to save her son from a serious car accident, I found myself laughing and waiting for Marty to rip her shirt off, develop green pigmentation on her skin, and turn into the Incredible Hulk…. repeating “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Switching gears, is Michael the only doctor at Llanview Hospital? I guess we can blame that one on the economy. And don’t even get me started on John McBain. How is it that he is always, the hero and able to solve every crime committed in Llanview when apparently no one else can even locate a suspect?
1. What ever happened to ‘Love in the Afternoon?’ Is anyone in Llanview happy these days? Not that I can think of? Between dead babies, paralysis, leukemia, drugs, serial killers, multiple personalities, and countless flawed DNA tests…is there anyone experiencing joy and love in 2009? Bo and Nora are concerned about Matthew. Rex and Gigi are heartbroken for Shane. Jessica mourns Nash. Natalie resents Jessica for Tess’ actions. Marty has amnesia and must be a mother to Cole. Starr mourns her baby and is worried about Cole. Marcie wants to know why Hope died. Roxy is keeping a huge secret from Rex. Stacy is an evil man-stealing, gold digger. Dorian is bent on revenge. Blair is fighting for her life. And Todd is, well Todd. None of them are happy. Perhaps Viki and Charlie are the only happy couple in Llanview…. but no one knows since they haven’t been seen together in over a month, and even then it was only a couple of scenes in one episode. Even worse, there are currently only two married couples on “One Life to Live.” Know who they are? Even I had to stop and think about that one for a moment. The two wed couples are Marcie and Michael, and Moe and Noelle. I suppose one could count Dorian and David as well, even though he is currently in Hollywood, looking for his big break. But that’s it. There are a few other couples either engaged or living together, or both, but only two are married at the moment. And furthermore, where is the romance? The last couple I remember being intimate with one another was Cristian and Vanessa…. and we all know how that one turned out. I suppose you could include Stacy and Fish as well, although technically they aren’t a couple. And John and Blair don’t count because they are not a couple, but instead part of a triangle.
Well there you have it. My top five reasons for being disappointed in “One Life to Live” at the moment. I could have expanded the list to include things like ‘Wasted Opportunities’ (David being a monk for months, and having only a couple of scenes with newfound father Bo), or ‘Miscalculations’ (Vanessa’s sudden demise due to little fan support), but I think that five is more than enough to make my point. I have watched “OLTL” long enough (most of my twenty-nine years) to know how great it can be, and just how low it can go. And while I don’t feel that the show has reached either extreme so far this year, it has become stagnant, or mediocre. “One Life to Live” is in no way, shape, or form as good as it was in 1977 (before my time) when Karen Wolek admitted on the witness stand that she was a hooker, or even as it was in 1995 when Viki learned that her father had sexually abused her as a child, splintered into six other personalities and wreaked havoc on an unsuspecting Llanview. However, it is miles above the ‘days’ (no pun intended) of former head writer Dena Higley when Llanview High broke out in song at the prom; former pro-baseball player Tate Harmon became an underwear model/white surpremist/Tom Cruise wannabe on “The View”; Margaret Cochran kidnapped, tortured, and raped Todd before giving birth to his baby following a twelve month pregnancy; Spencer Truman began God; and John had to rescue Evangeline and Natalie from being burned at the stake, with the ladies dressed in cheerleader outfits and carrying pom-poms. So, yes “One Life” has been better, but it has also been worse (much worse actually, as noted above). Agree? Disagree? Give me your feedback by posting your comments and opinions at the end of this article. I may include some of your responses in future columns.
Before going any further I must admit that writing these columns seems to have become an increasingly difficult chore for me in the last few months. It’s not that the present state of “One Life to Live” hasn’t given enough to write about, as so much as it there just hasn’t really been much of anything that has peaked my interest or aroused my curiosity lately. In other words, “OLTL” has been bored me for most of this year so far. There have been moments where I have enjoyed watching the show, and there have been other times that I have found myself looking at my watch just waiting for the hour to end. And that has made these columns tougher to write, and when I do actually set down at my computer to compose my thoughts, they tend to become all jumbled. But I continue to watch out of loyalty and because I know that someday “OLTL” will be better again.
Moving on…..it seems as if “One Life to Live” has been receiving some prime time exposure this past week. First, Steven Colbert opens the March 9th episode of his hit Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report” reading from Soap Opera Digest and stating his disbelief that Stacy drugged Rex’s drink. Then “OLTL” alum Nathon Fillion (ex-Joey Buchanan) mentions his alma mater in the March 16th episode of his new ABC drama series “Castle.” The scene features Fillion’s character, author Rick Castle, having a discussion about nannies with his mother and daughter. Castle informs his daughter that he had nannies growing up that were busy watching daytime television while his mother was out looking for acting jobs. Then he announces that “I got the plot of my first novel by watching ‘One Life to Live.’” I thought that it was a nice nod to his old stomping grounds. Also interesting is the fact that other characters in that same episode mentioned “The View,” another program on ABC’s daytime schedule.
Now for a few random thoughts…. has anyone else noticed how the words “One Life to Live” seem to change slightly from time to time in the blue justice scales logo? Depending on the week and the promo, the title is sometimes bolded, and sometimes not. Interesting. As is the updated “OLTL” opening earlier this month which appears to no longer features longtime cast member Hillary B. Smith (Nora Hanen). But this isn’t the first time a contract cast member was removed while still with the show. Nathaniel Marston suffered the same fate a few years ago for several months, until the soap finally returned his mug shot (again, no pun intended) to the opening. Hopefully Smith will be back where she belongs soon as well. Also, ABC Medianet has finally removed Andrea Evans’ bio. from the “OLTL” page nearly four months after her departure. Even many of those who have been in Llanview for a couple of years now, still have not had their biographies added to the page. Talk about slow. Even worse, instead of adding more spoiler pictures for upcoming weeks, they seem to have resorted to adding images of scenes from episodes in past weeks. And even those have the wrong dates. For example, the car crash scenes were from the week of March 9th, and not the 16th as listed on the website. And finally, the old images of the Phil Carey and Clint Ritchie have been removed from the “OLTL” gallery page, after they had been posted following news of their recent deaths…at least “One Life” put together short, but touching tributes to both Llanview Legends at the ends of two recent episodes.
Last but not least, pop quiz time. Please put away your textbook and notes. Eyes on your own computer screen. Ready…. begin. Question #1: Llanview Police Lieutenant Ed Hall was introduced in 1972 to investigate someone’s murder. But whose? Was it a) Marcy Wade, b) Dr. Mark Toland, c) Rachel Wilson, or d) Victor Lord. Question #2:
During his many years at Llanview Hospital, Dr. Larry Wolek has done everything from treating the common cold to performing major surgery. But what was his field of medical specialty when the show began in 1968? a) pediatrics, b) proctology, c) plastic surgery, or d) psychiatry? Question #3: In 1992, Sloan Carpenter wrote a biography of Victor Lord’s life. What was its title? a) Dark Victor
, b) Victorious
, c) Citizen Lord
, or d) Lord of
The Banner? And Question #4: In 1999, Viki tried her hand at karaoke by performing this song in a contest at the Crosswords Bar. Was it a) “Ben,” b) “I Will Survive,” c) “Crazy,” or d) “It’s Raining Men?” I’ll have the answers in the March 30th edition of the column. But if you are stumped and can’t wait, you may want to consult your copy of The One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Trivia Book
by Gerry Waggett. Just a suggestion…. but one which you might find useful.
Well, that concludes this edition of the column. I can only hope that, despite my insentient ramblings, you have enjoyed reading it. Don’t forget to make your final predictions as March Madness is here and four basketball tournaments are about to get underway. May the best teams win. Also, I wish you a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day and hope that you enjoy upcoming spring season, which begins early this Friday morning. Perhaps the gentle spring breezes will not only usher in warmer temperatures, but more love, romance, happiness, and understanding to Llanview as well. Stay safe and take care.
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live”…