Busted to Blissful ~ December 2007 ~ Days and Y&R

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Days Continues its Decline While Y&R Shows Why it's on Top


I hate to slam Days of Our Lives again, especially after my critique last month about the direction Head Writer Hogan Sheffer has taken the show.  However, I can’t help it - the show continues its rapid decline.  Of all the soaps - and I watch all eight network shows on a regular basis - Days is by far still the worst and most frustrating.  It’s sad, really, considering the show’s proud history.

Last month, I lamented Days’ stupidity for killing beloved fan favorite John Black (20 year show veteran Drake Hogestyn).  To add insult to injury, the show has now performed a character assassination on his daughter, Belle.  Belle Black has always been the show’s heroine, a sort of moral compass for the rest of the characters.  Until now.

First, a little background.  Belle’s one constant on the show has always been her love for Shawn Brady.  They’ve loved each other since high school, and at one point, even wore purity rings to pledge their love and faithfulness to each other.

Several years and circumstances later, Belle found herself married to Philip.  Keeping with the history of the character, it was clearly established that her heart still belonged to Shawn.  In fact, the only reason Belle married Philip was because she thought he was the father of her child (she and Shawn couldn’t remember the one time they were together due to amnesia they suffered in a fire the same night).  Again, the good girl did the “right” thing by marrying her baby’s daddy.  Or so she thought.

Of course the truth that Shawn was really the father was discovered.  Belle tried to deny her feelings for Shawn, but ultimately realized the one reason she’d stayed married to Philip no longer existed.  Philip, not one to stand by and watch his wife long for the man with whom she shared a child, left Belle and returned to active military duty in the Marines.  Belle was finally free to be with the man she always loved.

Fast forward another year, and Philip returned to town albeit with facial reconstructive surgery from war injuries (soap opera speak for the original actor returned to claim his role from the recast).  The new and improved Philip decided he made a mistake by leaving “his” child and wife, and fought unsuccessfully to reclaim them both.

Eventually, Belle began to soften in her feelings toward Philip, and that gave way to passion.  Recently, the “good girl” strayed and just before her wedding to Shawn, she slept with Philip - in the bed she shares with Shawn no less.  At least she changed the sheets.

As has been outlined by her history, this little development completely ruined the character of Belle.  She spent the entire time she was with Philip pinning for Shawn, and wishing they could be together.  Now that her life long wish has come true and she and Shawn are finally married, she decides she really wants to be with Philip and is only remaining with Shawn out of pity and misguided guilt?  Huh?  Where did this selfish, whiney and immature Belle come from?

It’s like the writers have decided to trash the integrity of the character just because the current actress playing Belle (the delightful Martha Madison) has better chemistry with the original Philip (the adorable and suave Jay Kenneth Johnson) than she does with the nuShawn (the dull but sexy Brandon Beemer).  Chemistry or no chemistry, the show needs to respect a character’s history.  Fans aren’t calling her Dumb-Belle for nothing.

I suppose one way the show is incorporating history into Belle’s sudden change of heart is by Belle repeating the history of her mother, Marlena.  In fact, Belle herself was conceived during an illicit one night stand between Marlena and John, while Marlena was still married to Roman.  I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in this case did the show have to turn a sweet apple so sour?

Melody Thomas Scott, Nikki, Y&REric Braeden, Victor, Y&RBLISSFUL: THE BATTLE OVER VICTORIA ON Y&R

The Young and the Restless is known as one of the more realistic soaps.  This distinction has become further apparent with their recent storyline of Victoria’s coma.

Victoria was struck on the head by a falling piece of  debris (I’ll overlook the fact it looked like Styrofoam) as she exited the collapse of the Clear Springs parking structure, and fell into a coma  At the time, she was 23 weeks pregnant.  Her doctors said she should have an immediate C-section to increase her chances for survival since her blood pressure was so high, and she was suffering from preeclampsia.

In a case that could have been ripped from the headlines, her father wanted the operation performed immediately, while her mother wanted to wait in order to give the fetus more time to develop.  Since her parents were her guardians, and Victoria had no written wishes as to what she would want, it was up to her parents to come to an agreement.

This led to weeks of riveting television as daytime greats Eric Braeden (Victor) and Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) faced off.  Victor’s only concern was for his daughter, while Nikki tried to argue for what she thought Victoria would want, which would be to save the baby’s life over her own.

The case went to court, and since this is a soap opera, the two men who could be the father were on opposite sides of the situation, without any say in the matter.  Victoria ended up taking a turn for the worst, and  both sides agreed to the C-section.

Even though Amelia Heinle (Victoria) is pregnant in real life and going on maternity leave, (which means Victoria probably won’t wake up from her coma for awhile) the writers and actors managed to leave us on the edge of our seats from day to day.

Melody Thomas Scott was mesmerizing and never played a false or hysterical note during Nikki’s ordeal.  She deserves an Emmy for her agonizing performance, as well as for her bravery.  Most women on daytime are slathered in makeup even in bedroom scenes when their character is waking up in the morning.  For at least two weeks, as Nikki argued to save the life of her unborn grandchild at possibly her daughter’s expense, Thomas Scott wore no makeup.  Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, and her hair unkempt.  For viewers, it was difficult to watch her transformation from polished to raw right in front of our eyes.  Nikki was going through one of the worst things a mother can go through, and you saw it on her face.

In this day in age of Hi-Def everything, there are not many actresses bold enough to put it all out there like Thomas Scott did.  Maybe Eric Braeden has rubbed off on her - Braeden is legend in the industry for insisting his photos never be airbrushed.  If only more actors had the courage to be real onscreen and off.

This storyline was full of top notch writing, acting, drama and suspense from start to finish.  The anguish and realism Braeden and Thomas Scott brought to their roles should be remembered at Emmy time next year.  Likewise, the show’s talented writing staff deserves an Emmy nod as well.


Lesleyann Coker is the co-author of Boob Tube, a forthcoming
novel that goes behind the scenes of the soap opera industry. 
She was previously a reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine.