Monday, February 16 was a potentially huge day for soap viewing. It was a Federal Holiday. America is too broke to get away for the long weekend. The weather was lousy in much of the country. To top it all off, it was “Valentine’s Day observed” on soaps. So, which shows took advantage of the opportunity to get a few lapsed viewers back? Which ones sent viewers scurrying to Law and Order reruns? Here’s my take.
Y&R’s new philosophy seems to be, “Let’s write every week like it’s sweeps.” It seems like something that important is always happening, yet plot seems to be negating plot. The show isn’t burning through story; it’s generating it. Monday was no exception with an episode that focused on both veterans and its most popular young characters. Judging by anecdotal evidence (my roommate’s Mom called her to make sure she was watching the show), fans like the show enough to get evangelical about it. Those who decided to spend President’s Day in Genoa City were presented with a tantalizing question: why didn’t Jill and Katherine’s DNA match? Could it be that they aren’t related after all? If so, the consequences are staggering: Jill, Billy and Cane aren’t Chancellors. Billy and his first love Mac are no longer cousins, though it remains to be seen if Billy Miller and a new actress will be as compelling as David Tom and Ashley Bashioum were. Y&R’s decision to use its history and bring Clint back as Kay’s kidnapper is inspired. The dude is scary, although I could have done without a stunt-cast Marcia Wallace as a campily evil nurse.
Meanwhile, the potential Chancellor great grandchild was making her debut. In classic soap fashion Chloe admitted she was pregnant with Billy’s child not Cane’s moments before her water broke. Billy was forced to deliver her baby, in a cliched moment that worked. Although just once I’d like to see a soap character prove utterly incapable of delivering a baby. I’m not sure whether to add or subtract points for the medically accurate references to what the little bundle of joy was doing to Chloe’s reproductive organs. I think Y&R may have convinced me that I should never, ever procreate. The teens were notably absent from the episode. This show knows to showcase its most interesting characters and stories, not target demographics. 5 Hearts.
ATWT was the only soap to focus on Valentine’s Day this year. Special fantasy episodes have become the show’s Valentine’s tradition. But this years focus on fractured fairy tales seemed geared to actual children with its fairly faithful interpretations of Pinocchio and The Wizard of Oz. It didn’t tell us anything new about the characters. In fact, it highlighted the weaknesses in the show’s long term storytelling, since there was nothing clever to riff on. ATWT’s wardrobe and make-up departments did a great job coming up with modern versions of fairy tale characters. Dusty as a suburban mall goth version of the Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow was particularly funny. The actors clearly had fun going over the top. However, not including the show’s most buzzed about characters Noah and Luke was a major oversight. They could have been hilarious in an all male version of Sleeping Beauty. A viewer who tuned in to the show for the first time in a year would get no sense of what the current storylines are. 2 Hearts.
Taken out of context Monday’s AMC played surprisingly well. Daytime’s first lesbian wedding generated mainstream publicity. Airing it on a holiday was smart. Of course, is regular viewers know everything that’s wrong with the story. My aunt, who never ever watches soaps, stopped flipping through the channels when she noticed there were two brides. Her verdict? Both of the wedding dresses were really pretty. Between the search for Greenlee, Zach taking the blame for sending her over a cliff, and Erica and Jack dancing at the reception as a nod to longtime fans, this episode succeeded at making AMC look better than it actually is. 3 hearts, one of which originally belonged to Josh.
This episode took me back to the 80s. For once it wasn’t because OLTL was doing a homage to an old storyline. The Go Red ball was the sort of gala that used to be a soap staple, with the whole cast showing up dressed to the nines, the denouement of long brewing plots, flirtations and a brawl. The V8 plugs reminded me I was in the low budget present. The Buchanans getting wasted en masse at the family home was an unexpected delight. Dorian’s admission that she not only married David because she knew he was the Buchanan heir, but that she always saw him as a boy toy rather than an equal was unexpectedly poignant. I’m not sure why the show decided Gigi needed a sister. So far, Stacey seems dull. Her story about the death of their parents was unconvincing. The episode jumped forward to the next morning in its final act, cleverly revealing that A) David and Dorian slept together! B) Blair and Todd ended up in the same bed C) Wes is dead D) Nora and Bo woke up together. I knew I’d be tuning in Tuesday to find out how the heck all of those things happened. 4 Hearts.
What the hell was Mia wearing? That circus clown meets Harajuku get up was ridiculous. The show previously established Mia was going to study dance in Japan. Now the teen is upset that the best job she can get is dancing in a nightclub while wearing an entire Sephora store on her face. She’s 15. What the hell kind of club is this? How is she in any condition to dance professionally days after giving birth? My preoccupation with Mia’s clothing says it all about this dull episode. Lapsed viewers might have been fooled by the presence of Bo, Hope, Steve and Kayla in relatively meaty scenes surrounding the police inquiry into Kayla’s shooting. Once they realized that Bo and Hope’s marriage is on the rocks because he didn’t tell her about his psychic vision, they probably weren’t inspired to add DOOL to their TiVo season pass. 1 heart.
The toxic balls fall out is rather boring. Luke bonded with his new man crush Ethan over his shame that his son grew up to be a cop. I agree that Jonathan Jackson’s Lucky wouldn’t have made that choice, but that’s because it was his destiny to fight Skynet. (If you haven’t watched him on Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, you should.) The anvils were falling as Luke decided anti-establishment, cop hating Ethan was more like him than his own son. The scene laid out GH’s central theme for those who don’t watch regularly: cops are bad, criminals are the true heroes. Maxie’s determination to save Spinelli was the emotional heart of the episode. Her inaccurate comic book references were sweet even if her line about Spinelli being her “person” was awfully similar to Grey’s Anatomy. In my opinion the true Emily lookalike is popping up in the promos for The Unusuals, not roaming Port Charles. 2 hearts.
By now, anyone who has ever watched GL has heard that Phillip’s back. Too bad he wasn’t in Monday’s episode. Coop’s deathbed farewells to his loved ones were genuinely moving. However, the hospital continues to be the ugliest set in daytime. The production values detracted from the powerful writing and acting. The show wisely showcased its other buzzworthy storyline, Otalia, with Olivia kissing Bill to prove to herself that she wasn’t attracted to Natalia. This is the story that Bianca and Reese should have been. 3 hearts.