Passions: Haven't We Seen This Before?
How many times can Passions bury someone alive and expect us to care? The idea was novel back in 1993 when James E. Reilly, then head writer of Days of Our Lives, buried Carly Manning alive. It helped goose Days’ ratings and provided stimulating water cooler chatter. However, when Reilly brought the same trick to Passions in 2000 by burying Sheridan Crane alive, it was less effective. By the time he did it again on Passions in 2007, burying Jessica Bennett alive, it was just plain gratuitous. Reilly appears to relish the violent and misogynistic undertones of his favorite plot twist so much that he decides to keep recycling it.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Reilly has resurrected his other favorite storyline - execution. He did it to Sami on Days in 1999, Theresa on Passions in 2002, and now , Luis on Passions is about to be executed. The gruesome nature of an execution aside, I wonder what the rate of executions in Harmony and Salem are compared to the real world? People in Reilly’s world are executed at an alarmingly fast rate.
In addition to macabre burials and executions, Reilly also has a penchant for destroying beloved Harmony heroines. At least when he turned simpery Charity evil in 2000, it was with tongue firmly in cheek. Evil Charity came complete with demon eyes and a deliciously wicked smile to go with her campy style. Alas, Reilly has not afforded Sheridan the same respect.
Once the heart and soul of the show, Reilly has morphed Sheridan into an evil bitch without rhyme or reason. In theory, it’s because she lost her soul mate Luis to her niece Fancy, but this doesn’t work because Sheridan was the one who opted not to reunite with Luis when she had the chance, and not vice-versa. For a character to undergo such a radical metamorphosis, there has to be a reason that makes sense, especially for the character of Sheridan who was arguably the moral lynchpin of the show.
Sheridan knows the identity of the person who committed the crimes Luis is charged with, and hasn’t come forward. This not only doesn’t make sense, but is downright character assassination. All Sheridan is consumed with is not letting Luis go to his grave married to Fancy, so she herself can be reunited with him in heaven someday. Yes, she’s being blackmailed by Vincent (the real murderer) but the Sheridan we have known and loved for eight years wouldn’t let a silly little thing like blackmail stand in the way of saving the life of the man she loves. What Reilly has done to Sheridan is downright criminal, and McKenzie Westmore (Sheridan) should get a substantial raise for signing on to continue playing Sheridan on DirecTV when her character has become nothing more than a one note villain.
For all of Reilly’s repetitiveness, at least blackmailer Vincent is unique. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a hermaphrodite portrayed on daytime, though Reilly certainly isn’t winning any sensitivity points on the issue. Between Vincent’s heinous half male/half female get-up and murderous proclivities, not to mention committing incest with his uncle, any originality for the character has become a moot point. Besides, wouldn’t Chad, who has been having sex with Vincent for over a year, be aware of Vincent’s distinctive situation?
Passions has aired on NBC for eight years. Unlike its three or four decades-old daytime counterparts where repetition is unavoidable, Passions shouldn’t have to resort to repeating itself at this early age. Unfortunately, it appears Reilly has forgotten he’s already used much of this material, and it wasn’t very good the first time around.
Passions: Welcome Reminiscences, Reunions and Returns
Not everything is bleak in Harmony in these waning network days. There has been some needed focus and perspective from much loved vets.
One of my favorite Passions scenes of all time actually occurred recently. Julian (the always delightful Ben Masters) and Tabitha (the consummate pro Juliet Mills) had a meeting of the minds while bonding over their shared adoration and grief for Timmy (the late Josh Ryan Evans). It is a tribute to Evans and a gift to loyal fans that Reilly still finds a way to include Timmy in Harmony five years after his real life passing.
Anytime there’s a Timmy reminiscence, you can feel the actors’ genuine emotions, and it almost feels like you’re eavesdropping on a private conversation. When Tabitha said, “I shall miss him everyday for the rest of my life. Losing Timmy was unbearable,” and Julian responded, “I can quite understand. In the short time I knew him, he changed my life,” it felt like Mills and Masters could have been talking about Evans instead of their characters.
It was a nice nod to the show’s past to have Endora throw a heart at Timmy’s framed picture, have the picture light up, and two MarTimmies appear next to it. Both Mills and Masters became teary eyed as did viewers.
To lighten the mood, flashbacks of Julian and Tabitha during their Tarzan romp when they created Endora were shown. A very flirty exchange occurred between the two powerhouses and Julian paid Tabitha the ultimate compliment by praising her prowess saying, “Compared to you, Rebecca’s a novice.”
The possibility of a Julian/Tabitha pairing has always been intriguing, but they would not only have to contend with the popular “Evian” pairing of Eve and Julian, but also a reunited Ivy and Julian coupling. The scenes with Julian and Ivy realizing they just might make the perfect match after all, were some of the best in recent memory. No one does romance quite like these two. After acknowledging everything they disliked about each other, they determined these things are the very reason they’re attracted to each other - no one else can accept them flaws and all. It was touching to see them finally admit their relationship is based on more than sex, and that in their own strange way, they love and respect each other. Beneath their shallow exterior, there is surprising depth to Julian and Ivy and their relationship.
Another character who has shown growth in her attitude and acceptance of her situation, is a newly invigorated Gwen. A glowing Liza Huber, fresh from maternity leave, has infused Gwen with inner strength and a saucy attitude which has been a long time coming. Gwen is returning to her roots by standing up for herself in the endless Gwen/Ethan/Theresa triangle. She has finally cut Ethan loose and appears to have a mystery man on the horizon. Wouldn’t it be a fun wink to Harmony history if her mystery man turned out to be Hank Bennett, Sam’s long lost brother? Or better yet - Theresa’s presumed dead brother Antonio? What a way to stick it to her rival. Though Gwen is still holding her trump card of Little Ethan’s paternity, and planning on using it on Ethan and Theresa’s seemingly inevitable wedding day. How’s that for payback? It’s a refreshing role reversal to see the newly confident Gwen playing the scheming diva instead of Theresa for a change.
Even with its aforementioned weaknesses, Passions fans still have a lot to look forward to as the show looks to begin its second life on DirecTV. NBC has promised Passions will go out with a bang, and we expect nothing less from the talented cast and crew who have entertained us, infuriated us, and more often than not, kept us tuned in and talking for the past eight years.
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