Deep Soap: Summer School

by | May 29, 2009 at 9:30 AM | Deep Soap

School’s out for summer, which means that daytime’s teens are headed for the front burner.  The prospect of teen storylines tends to turn adult viewers into grumpy old men screaming, “Get off my lawn.”  At their worst, they are the perfect storm of underdeveloped new characters, newbie actors and banal insta-love stories.  But at their best, stories about the under-21 set have universal appeal.  The teen years are inherently dramatic.  At sixteen, everything seems like a matter of life and death.  The innocence and passion of a first love is appealing to those of us who have grown more jaded about romance.  That’s why so many of daytime’s greatest storylines have focused on young people.  Holden and Lily’s romance on As The World Turns, General Hospital’s  Luke/Laura/Scotty triangle, and Guiding Light’s Four Musketeers were at teen storylines.  Will this year’s crop of soap teenagers turn out to be similarly iconic?   Here’s a speculative report card on each show.

All My Children

There are currently only two teens on AMC, Colby and Pete.  Given that Daniel Kennedy, who plays Pete, has taken a second job selling real estate, it’s safe to assume the show isn’t going to use him much this summer.  That’s too bad because Pete is both a lovable underdog and a legacy character.  If written properly, the show could strike gold with the love story that was foreshadowed for he and Colby.  Colby should have plenty to do with the return of the woman who claims she’s her mother.  (I’m still having a lot of trouble accepting Jaime Luner as Liza.  It’s a textbook case of miscasting a talented an actor.)  She’s also been set up to play a supporting role in the Stuart whodunnit.  In other words, the show that hit it big with teen supercouples Jenny & Greg, Jesse & Angie, and Hayley & Brian isn’t even attempting a first love storyline.

Predicted Summer School grade: D

As The World Turns

Oakdale has separate high school and college scenes.  Both actual teens Parker and Liberty and the numerous college aged characters have had substantive storylines all year.  Parker and Liberty are played by talented actors.  Their teen marriage plot should echo ATWT’s classic young-lovers-struggling-against-parents-who-just-don’t-understand stories.  But I’ve never rooted for the couple.  Parker and Liberty are almost too realistic.  They’re immature, awkward and self-absorbed.  During one of their scenes I’m usually mentally yelling at them to grow the hell up.  As for the college set, Luke and Noah have managed to become a supercouple without every having a truly good storyline.  Will the introduction of sexy Forbes March as their film professor change that?  Given the show’s track record, I’m skeptical.  Casey and Allison have negative chemistry, despite Billy Magnussen’s charisma.

Predicted Summer School Grade: B-

The Bold & The Beautiful

When teen Rick hooked up with slightly older Amber, B&B struck gold.  The repercussions of the unplanned pregnancy that resulted became a major umbrella storyline.  All their subsequent teen storylines have paled in comparison.  Pheobe and Constantine’s musical romance was borderline unwatchable.  Perhaps that’s why the show doesn’t currently have any teen characters on the canvas.  The resident young people, Steffie and Marcus, are twenty somethings with jobs and adult storylines.

Predicted Summer School Grade: Incomplete

Days of Our Lives

Will likes Mia.  Will’s mother Sami is, unbeknownst to everyone but Nicole, raising Mia’s baby.  It’s the set-up for a potentially great storyline.  Unfortunately, the actors who play both teens are incredibly bland.  I have no sense of who the characters are beyond their situation.  Sami and Lucas’s son should be smart, sarcastic, and wise beyond his years.  Dylan Patton has yet to imbue him with any of those qualities. Taylor Spreitler’s Mia is a blank slate.  Other than her interest in dance, she has no personality traits whatsoever.  In my opinion it would behoove DOOL to consider recasting these key roles, or at least hire an acting coach to work with these real-life teen performers.

Predicted Summer School Grade: A- potential, C-execution

General Hospital

Casting director Mark Teschner is known for discovering future stars including Jonathan Jackson and Vanessa Marcil. His latest find is Drew Garrett, who has hit the ground running as the newly teenaged Michael Corinthos. The actor faced the difficult task of creating a character who has experienced a traumatic brain injury.   From day one, he has more than held his own with the show’s heavy hitters.  Many actors twice his age could not pull off the complicated mixture of rage and confusion.  Since Kristina is also being SORASED, GH is clearly building a new teen scene.  I hope that the show doesn’t attempt to pair the half-siblings via adoption romantically.  I am actually more interested in seeing Port Charles’s next generation than anything else on the show right now.

Predicted summer school grade:B+

Guiding Light

I love James Spaulding.  He’s got daytime’s most original, topical teen storyline, as the unlikely mastermind of a Ponzi scheme.  Zack Conroy nails James’ arrogance.  Yet he also makes James seem like a real teenager who got in over his head out of naivete.  No matter what happens to GL, Conroy has a bright future.  He has even made me tolerate his annoying love interest Daisy.  There have been numerous Spaulding/Cooper romances on the show, but the Romeo and Juliet dynamic always works.  I hope the show miraculously continues so I can see how James’ story plays out.

Predicted summer school grade: A

One Life To Live

Am I the only person who prefers Langtson and Marko to Cole and Starr?  Brittany Underwood and Jason Tam are true talents.  I wish they had a major storyline.  I enjoyed their sensible approach to their first sexual encounter, especially because it resulted in Dorian giving her adopted daughter designer French condoms.  Cole and Starr have driven story for the past year.  I have never been a big fan of the couple.  The premise of a rapist’s daughter and his victim’s son falling in love still grosses me out.  In my opinion, Kristen Alderson and Brandon Buddy don’t have much chemistry. While I have a lot of quibbles with the execution, the overall structure of their baby switch storyline was clever.  However, I’m not sure what the payoff will be once they’re reunited with their baby.  OLTL has become the most teencentric soap, with high school freshman Matthew’s paralysis. Eddie Alderson’s doing a great job with depressing material.  I do wish they’d write his peers more realistically.  I find it hard to believe that even the meanest kids would mock a recently injured classmate.

Potential summer school grade: B+

The Young & The Restless

Y&R’s teen set has long been the show’s farm league for its future stars. Lauren (Tracey Bregman) , Nina (Tricia Cast), and Sharon (Sharon Case) made their debuts in teen storylines.   Unfortunately, the current crop is the weakest part of the show.  Eden is a whiny brat.  Noah is boring.  They had sex way too soon, without any payoff.  Abby’s tendency to use Victor’s sudden interest in hands-on parenting to her advantage is interesting.  But she has yet to have a story of her own.  I thought she might plot to ruin Eden’s life because she blames her for Brad’s death.  But she has been AWOL for the past few months.

Predicted summer school grade: C-