When soaps trot out the infamous “a very special episode” it meets with varying degrees of success. This was illustrated perfectly during the recent week when One Life to Live and The Bold and the Beautiful both chose to air standalone episodes.
OLTL used Valentine’s Day as the device for its story which featured heroines Starr, Natalie and Jessica all reading a novel. As they read, their stories came to life with the cast playing parts in Llanview’s own versions of Camelot, The Mummy and Wuthering Heights.
Aside from gorgeous period costumes, there wasn’t anything memorable about this event. The dialogue was terrible and the plots within a plot were cheesy, even by daytime standards. If the purpose of this episode was to lure new viewers who just might happen to be flipping through the channels, it backfired. Anyone seeing OLTL for the first time on Valentine’s Day would either change the channel very fast or stick around for a good laugh, which is not what I think the writers intended.
For an example of how to make a standalone episode resonate for both new viewers and long time fans, look no further than B&B’s 5,000th episode. Written to celebrate that milestone, the entire show revolved around the four remaining original cast members: Susan Flannery (Stephanie), John McCook (Eric), Ronn Moss (Ridge) and Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke). It was a stroke of genius to isolate these four characters together to recall their beginnings.
Not only do the characters share a rich history, but the actors obviously share a deep bond as well, and their dialogue was layered with double meaning. When Eric noted they had worked on 5,000 creations together by saying, “It’s a terrific accomplishment, especially in this field,” you got the feeling the line wasn’t only referring to Forrester Creations, but rather a comment on the current state of the entire daytime industry.
The dialogue writers worked overtime on this particular show, making it humorous, poignant and relevant all at the same time. Unlike the action on OLTL, it didn’t stop the flow of story for a day, but kept everything in context without missing a beat.
The scenes made sense for the characters’ relationships with each other. Was there anything funnier than Ridge and Brooke spying on Eric and Stephanie having a pillow fight which led to lovemaking? When Brooke held up a wayward feather and chortled, “We all know what you did and how you used your body to get what you want, Stephanie,” it actually made me laugh out loud. When Brooke later noted to Ridge that she would see him in the bedroom, Stephanie took her revenge by dryly retorting, “Some things never change.”
In between the witty dialogue, Eric had flashbacks to twenty years ago when the show debuted. We were treated to Ridge and Brooke’s first meeting when she was a waitress at one of his family’s lavish parties. It was amazing to see the changes in the cast over the last twenty years, from a fresh faced twenty-something Lang to a 1987 bejeweled and heavily made up platinum blonde Flannery.
The entire episode was soap opera 101 for how great daytime is when you have the right actors, scenes and dialogue coming together at the same time. It was a real treat to relive these characters’ history and watch them plan for their future. As Brooke said, “The four of us together from the very beginning to the bitter end.”
In this day and age of low soap ratings and networks cutting back on stars’ salaries to save money, it was refreshing to watch true talent on display. It was also a reminder that if shows put good things on the air, the audience will come. In Eric’s words, “We’re creating our art, and the world has accepted it.”
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