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Critical Condition by P.K. Waddle

More Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly Articles


I see OLTL as the new AMC because the pre-Culliton AMC was also a raging dichotomy. Before AMC was whipped into completely dandy shape by Mr. C., everything that was good in Pine Valley was truly excellent (David and Dixie intrigues, Adam/Liza issues), and everything that wasn't good was shatteringly awful (the misuse of Anna, etc.).

And now we have an OLTL that is part fantastic story and part embarrassing farce.

I am not sure how the Asa's death/Max/Gabrielle business could have been any more convoluted. Ironically, I think the only thing that can fix this convolution is, well... another convolution. I hope it comes to pass that Asa had always planned that Gabrielle would double-cross him, so that his entire plan was to get them both framed for his "death" from the beginning. If this isn't the case, this plot has more holes than the Swiss cheese some folks got in their Hickory Farms holiday pack. Asa's revenge for a "family" disloyalty is to put his real family through turmoil by pretending to be dead? Just to get back at non-family member Max? This plot does feature some entertaining twists, but the shaky logic at the core is disturbing.

Same for the Viki/Jessica/Natalie baby switch. The glory in this plot is that no matter how bizarre the circumstances, the acting is brilliant. But once again there is the wail of the "Missing Logic" siren. Why on earth is Natalie so mean to Jessica and her new "family"? They didn't give her away; Allison switched the babies - yet Natalie is Allison's ally. For a show that is slowly regaining its intelligence, this plot flaw is glaring.

SUNSET BEACH refugee Sherri Saum is giving a wonderfully low-key yet gripping portrayal in a story brimming with brilliant irony. Her Keri comes to town to indignantly indict her supposed father, good guy Hank, only to find out that Hank's bad brother, R.J., is really her daddy and Hank has been supporting his niece out of nobility. Not only is this dynamite writing, it gives the always wonderful but usually misused Timothy Stickney.

(R.J.) a real, human plot, and has given his character a previously unseen soul.

Which, unfortunately, leads to the other R.J. spin-off, the dire embarrassment known as the Keith/Jen/Cris massacre. What exactly was Cris finding out about R.J.'s criminal activities that made R.J. send Keith after Cris? And when Keith's attempts to do dire harm to both Jen and Cris failed, what was his stake in being so diligent after R.J. called him off? If I'm supposed to feel anything for this ill-conceived Jen and Cris romance, well, I don't. As for Sam/Nora/Troy, while I am thrilled that Sam and Nora are now actually portrayed as intelligent adults and not merely stick figures on which to hang ridiculous plots, as in the last regime, why are their attempts at reuniting falling so sadly flat? Ty Treadway tries very hard, but not only does his contact with Nora still give me the willies ("Hi, I am sort of attracted to the doppelganger of someone who tortured and kidnapped me"), Treadyway's appeal eludes me, and I am flummoxed as to why the OLTL powers that be jumped through hoops to get him back on the canvas.

"Blair and Todd are hands down the most brilliantly complex couple on daytime."

And, finally, the story that could drive all of OLTL even if the entire rest of it was horrid: Blair and Todd are hands down the most brilliantly complex couple on daytime. What is making their "love" story one of soaps' best stories, period, is that this is a tale with no "love redeems all" silliness. She may no longer be an immature girl marrying for money just as he may no longer be a rapist, but these two still are such screwed-up people that they can't help faking babies' deaths or shooting people when under emotional duress. Their love doesn't help "fix" the other's flaws, it exacerbates them, making their love story all the more pained and completely engrossing.

Now, on to the rest of our formula: the old "if our competitors are doing it, let's do it too." Lorraine Broderick brought her baby-switching stories from ATWT (where she wrote the Hope/Faith story) to OLTL with decidedly mixed results. OLTL even has Barbara Garrick and Keith Coulouris (Allison and Keith) from ATWT along with Little Orphan Eddie (Nathaniel Marston) now being a new and exciting, if initially jarring, Al. And then, from whoever might have suggested to Gary Tomlin that some PASSIONS whimsy might be in order, we have the absolute idiocy of a male actor playing a woman for no story reason, a Keystone Kops-style chase around a room involving said useless transvestite, and urns of not-dead people flying in the air for the length of three commercials - breaking all known laws of physics.

Again, for a show trying to re-establish its intelligence, these incongruous bits of "whimsy" are not funny, they are ludicrous and jarring to the tone of the whole show. OLTL has Todd and Blair to be funny and pained at the same time; this show doesn't need shenanigans that are beneath even Tabitha and Timmy's low-water mark. Formula results: OLTL is becoming a wonderful soap force of story on its own, even with its glaring faults. My advice to the show's top brass: Don't let anyone tell you that in order to beat your time-slot competitors, you have to join them.

This article originally appeared in Soap Opera Weekly on January 29, 2002.

© Soap Opera Weekly, 2002
Photos used with permission from ABC MediaNet, Soap Opera Weekly and Soap Opera Digest. Permission is NOT granted for use elsewhere. All Rights Reserved.



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