Lesleyann Coker is on vacation this month. Instead of a September Busted to Blissful column, a "Best/Worst of 2005" will run with two of Lesleyann's favorite Busted and Blissful columns from this year. Busted to Blissful will resume in October.
January 2005: Busted ~ Another Faux Wedding for Shuis
How many incomplete wedding ceremonies can one couple have? By my count, Passions' reigning supercouple, Sheridan (McKenzie Westmore) and Luis (Galen Gering) are at three (the double wedding with Theresa and Ethan a few years ago, the faux wedding in Mexico and the latest fiasco last week). And that's only their weddings to each other. Let's not forget the double ceremony of Sheridan and Antonio and Luis and Beth, which resulted in a marriage for Sheridan and Antonio, but was interrupted before Luis and Beth could tie the knot. Sheridan must collect wedding dresses like other women collect shoes!
This latest travesty of a wedding was all the more a grievous since the first interruption was caused by a complete stranger to the audience and appeared to serve no other purpose than to have an extra come in and call Father Lonnigan away (to read some meaningless off-screen person their last rites) in order to halt the ceremony. Once the wedding stalled to wait for Father Lonnigan's return, it allowed Beth to continue her manipulations and cause a second interruption. Beth maneuvered the situation to her advantage (because she wants a shot with Luis) so that Sheridan and Luis would learn that not only was Sheridan's presumed-dead mother Katherine Crane alive and well, but that she was really 'Mrs. Wheeler,' the woman Luis' father had abandoned his wife and five children for all those years ago.
With this long awaited secret now out in the open, it appears that the road to 'I do' is once again murky for 'Shuis.' Luis blames Sheridan's mother for taking his father away from their family, and Sheridan will most likely want to try and salvage a relationship with the mother she never knew. This could be tricky since Luis has been adamant about having absolutely no contact with Katherine whether or not she is Sheridan's mother.
Then there's the little matter of Beth raising Sheridan's baby as her own while allowing Sheridan to think her child is dead. Imagine the possibilities for Westmore to emote as Sheridan learns the truth and fights for her son. Both Westmore and Gering are talented actors who deserve a better storyline with a chance to showcase their range, than to always play thwarted star-cross romantic leads, though they do an admirable job with the material they're given.
I wish Passions creator and head writer, James E. Reilly, would give Sheridan and Luis the romantic wedding they deserve, all the way through to the completion of their vows. Then he can send them off on an adventure where they have to work together to overcome any obstacle in their path, instead of constantly reuniting them only to break them up again, and teasing fans with incomplete wedding ceremonies. Shame on Riley for repeatedly falling back on this clich'd soap staple when we know his creative genius could provide us with so much more.
May 2005: Busted ~ Back From the Dead on B&B and Days
I hate stories about characters that return from the dead on soaps, unless a show can put a new spin on it. I dislike it even more when the plot involves digging up a grave, something The Bold and the Beautiful just did and Days of Our Lives did last year.
On B&B, I was so disturbed by the sight of Ridge opening his 'late' wife Taylor's coffin that I had to look away. When I was finally able to sneak a peek at the screen, Ridge was staring at what he thought was Taylor's body, until he took her out of the coffin and realized it was a dummy! I don't know what kind of a dummy Ridge himself is to dig up a grave and open a coffin in the first place, or to think that after 'years' as B&B keeps telling us, Taylor would look exactly the same as when he buried her. The scene was downright creepy on many levels.
However, the sequence then became laughable, which I don't think the writers intended as their desired outcome. Ridge crawled out of the grave, and found himself confronted by Taylor's former lover, Prince Omar, who suddenly appeared out of thin air in the cemetery.
Prince Omar proceeded to fill in the gaps for Ridge by explaining that after Taylor had unhooked herself from the machines in the hospital 'years ago,' and died in Ridge's arms, Omar had had her spirited away and replaced with a double, so he could resuscitate her himself. While Ridge was trying to comprehend this drivel, Taylor magically materialized out of the parting fog, causing me to immediately wonder if she'd been embalmed with collagen in her absence. She didn't look like the Taylor I remember, which was further emphasized by seeing her in flashbacks.
At least if a character dies on soaps and a body is never found, the viewer can make the safe assumption that the character will probably return at some point. I can accept this about soaps, and at times, it can even make for a good storyline, like when Macy returned from the dead on B&B. What I can't stand is when a show gives us an open casket funeral and we watch other characters grieve for the deceased, and then it all turns out to be false a few years later.
Which brings me to another thing that bugs me about this plot. We all know Taylor has been gone for three years, because that's how long her portrayer, Hunter Tylo, has been off the show. During Tylo's absence, Taylor's three kids have been SORASed (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) from children to teenagers. To compensate for the children's sudden growth spurt, the show felt the need to remove dates from Taylor's tombstone, and have all the characters speak ambiguous 'She's been dead years' lines. I feel like I'm being asked to suspend my intelligence on a number of different levels with this plot.
I also don't like how Ridge forgot for almost a week's worth of episodes that he married Brooke, not once, but twice, while Taylor was away. You would think from the way Ridge is acting that he's going to kick Brooke out of his house and move Taylor right in. Which I suppose he could do, because now that Taylor's alive, it means his marriage to Brooke isn't valid. Where have we seen this one before? I'm getting deja vu from the last time Taylor 'died' and came back to ruin Brooke and Ridge's marriage several years ago.
Hopefully, this time the writers won't take the easy way out by having Ridge immediately wanting to be with Taylor over Brooke, but will instead explore the conflict Ridge faces when has to unexpectedly choose between two wives.
On Days of Our Lives, Marlena and Roman returning from the dead didn't destroy anyone's marriage -- at least not yet -- but it sure was a bucket of ice water in the faces of their respective spouses, John and Kate, who had just gotten engaged that very night. Talk about an engagement present! I know I'm in the minority, but John and Kate were actually starting to grow on me as a couple. While Marlena and Roman were 'getting busy' in captivity, Kate was helping John through his addiction to pain killers, and they were building a real relationship.
The moment Marlena and Roman 'rose from the dead,' however, John and Kate went straight back to them, without a second thought about each other. You'd think if you just promised to spend the rest of your life with someone, it would mean something. Instead, Kate practically threw her new engagement ring in John's face and said, 'We'll always be friends.' I wonder how that friendship is going to work? Fortunately, after several days of ignoring the situation, the writers finally gave John and Kate a tidy little scene by themselves, meant to give their relationship closer.
It also bothered me that Marlena and Roman acted condescending when they discovered John and Kate were living together and sharing a bed. Marlena of all people shouldn't condone keeping secrets, which is exactly what she and Roman vowed to do regarding their own tryst, after much discussion where they could have easily been overheard. It's tough to act holier-than-thou when you are guilty of extramarital activity yourself.
Thankfully, there were no graves dug up on Days to facilitate this reunion (and when John did dig up Marlena last summer, at least the coffin was empty) which made Marlena and Roman's miraculous return easier to stomach than the unsettling mess B&B presented as entertainment.
April 2005: Blissful ~ Talented Teens on AMC and ATWT
Two of the most talented actors on daytime right now aren't old enough to drive, but their age hasn't stopped them from doing some of the most thoughtful and complex work currently on television.
On All My Children, 14-year-old Leven Rambin is a true revelation as the autistic Lily Montgomery. When Rambin first debuted last year, I was convinced she was much older. Most television programs hire actors over 18 to play teenagers, due to the strict laws for minors which limit the amount of time they can work on set. It's much more cost effective to hire an older actor who happens to look younger (or sometimes not, as in the case of almost everyone on 90210 in the 90's when the 'high schoolers' were all in their late 20's, and it showed).
Not only did I think Rambin was older because of work laws, but because of her maturity as an actress. Since Lily is autistic, any actress playing her would be challenged not to make the character into a caricature. It would be a safe choice to make the audience feel sorry for Lily because of her disability, but only a gifted actress like Rambin could create and explore the captivating individual underneath.
Thanks to Rambin's multi-layered portrayal, Lily is a fully developed and complicated character in her own right. She has an inner strength that shines through any situation, and a frankness that is equally admirable, humorous and touching. She is by turn vulnerable and childlike, but always radiates innate goodness and simplicity.
Rambin steals every scene she's in with her understated presence and delicate beauty. That's no easy feat considering her scene partners are often daytime heavy hitters Susan Lucci (Erica) and Walt Wiley (Jackson).
Rambin really came into her own in the recent storyline where Lily developed a crush on the 20-something Aidan and asked him to be her boyfriend. When she explained she meant someone to hang out with without kissing, he agreed. A few weeks later when Aidan accidentally touched her arm, Lily decided her policy of no touching wasn't such a good idea, and that she wanted to kiss Aidan after all.
When Lily went to tell Aidan the good news and accidentally stumbled upon him kissing his real girlfriend Anita, the pain etched on Rambin's face conveyed more than any words ever could the hurt Lily was feeling. After Aidan explained that he always wanted to be Lily's friend, but not her boyfriend, Rambin made the viewer's heart ache for Lily even more. Everyone can remember having their heart broken for the first time, but Lily's gift of seeing things in black and white -- and Rambin's ability to play it -- made her sadness all the more agonizing and believable.
It looks like Lily won't be heartbroken for long, as I suspect the show is preparing to pair her with Sam Grey (Bobby Steggert). Since they share the common bond of having a parent murdered, it's not too much of a stretch to see them together, and hopefully the less-is-more acting style of Rambin will rub off on Steggert, who has a tendency to err on the side of exaggerated theatrics.
Jake Weary, who plays Luke Snyder on As the World Turns, is a young actor who doesn't need pointers from anyone. Weary must have learned a lot from his mother, Guiding Light veteran Kim Zimmer (Reva), because he appears completely at ease holding his own against power houses Martha Byrne (Lily), Jon Hensley (Holden) and Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda).
Weary energizes any scene he's in with his electric combination of innocence and anger.
Weary makes Luke seethe whenever he's near his father Holden, who, in Luke's eyes, abandoned his family for his girlfriend Julia. Luke's anger is so raw it practically leaps off the screen.
When Julia was murdered, Luke gallantly took the rap, believing his mother Lily had committed the crime. As Luke protested his guilt to anyone who would listen, Weary let us see the pain and fear that simmered just underneath Luke's bravado surface.
When a child of a core couple is suddenly aged on soaps, it's usually a bit jarring. However, after the character of Luke Synder was SORASed on ATWT and Weary took over the role, it was relatively easy to accept him as Luke thanks to his talent. Weary's very first scenes with Byrne and Hensley as his parents flowed naturally. Weary has an especially comfortable chemistry with Byrne, which makes it effortless to believe he really does want to protect her character. In scenes with Hensley as his frequent sparring partner, Weary has also shown an uncanny depth for someone his age.
It's too bad that the mesmerizing Weary and the lovely Rambin aren't on the same show, because that's a love story I'd really like to see!
June 2005: Blissful ~ Dylan Cash and Kari Wuhrer Shine on GH
Ten-year-old Dylan Cash has been playing the difficult role of Michael Corinthos, the biological child of AJ Quartermaine and Carly Corinthos and adopted son of mob boss Sonny Corinthos, for four years on General Hospital. Most of his scenes have involved him reacting to his parents' latest marital mayhem. He has always been a competent child actor, but until recently, never had the chance to showcase his considerable acting chops.
In the storyline where Michael was kidnapped, and then reunited with his father AJ, we were treated to a variety of emotions from Cash. At first he was angry, then disbelieving, and finally as AJ chipped away at his confidence (helped along with altered voice recordings of Sonny saying he didn't want Michael any more because he wasn't his 'real' son), Cash showed Michael's hurt and confusion, and then his growing trust and acceptance of AJ and his 'truth.' Cash held nothing back, and the viewer felt every new emotion right along with him. Most of all, Cash showed Michael's overwhelming need to be loved and to feel like he belonged somewhere.
Of course, AJ was ultimately caught, and Michael was returned to his parents. That's when Cash really turned it up a notch. Due to AJ's brainwashing, Michael didn't believe his parents had been looking for him, or even wanted him back. One by one, every adult in Michael's life explained to him why everything AJ had said was a lie. Michael completely shut down when he realized the truth about AJ. Cash had scene after scene where a sullen Michael stared blankly ahead, with an occasional tear rolling down his cheek. And unlike a lot of child and teen actors currently on soaps, he never over acted or tried to milk the scene for more drama.
Cash shined again when a traumatized Michael smothered AJ with a pillow, though he didn't mean to kill him. In the aftermath, Sonny confessed to murdering AJ to protect his son, and was acquitted. Cash played his scenes close to the vest as Michael slowly remembered that he was the one responsible for AJ's death.
It will be interesting to see where the writers take Michael from here. Cash has just been signed to a contract, so hopefully Michael won't suddenly morph into a happy, care-free kid, whose only concern is reuniting his parents. If anyone can play the fallout of a shell shocked kid learning to live with his actions and his guilt, it's Cash. Michael needs some major therapy and Cash is up to the challenge to play it.
Another member of the GH cast who is up to the challenge of the material she has been given, is Kari Wuhrer. I remember Wuhrer from her stint in the 80's on the MTV game show Remote Control, and she has certainly come a long way.
One of the most challenging roles for any actress on GH to play is Sonny's (Maurice Benard) love interest. The majority of fans are always going to want Sonny with Carly (now Jennifer Bransford) and won't accept him with anyone else. In the times when Carly and Sonny have been apart, he has had a one night stand with Alexis, and a brief relationship with Sam. There was also a blink-and-you-missed-it flirtation with his lawyer/decorator Jordan earlier this year, but none of these relationships were able to hold up over time.
Enter FBI agent Reese Marshall (Wuhrer), whose job was to put mob boss Sonny behind bars. Things didn't go as planned, and she became instrumental in helping find his kidnapped son Michael, as well as becoming one of the few people able to break through to Michael when he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In the midst of all this drama, sparks still flew between Reese and Sonny.
So far, they have attempted to consummate their relationship at least twice, and both times have been interrupted by Sonny's ex-wife, Carly. Sonny has made it clear that he wants a relationship with Reese, but time will tell if she goes the way of his other flings, or becomes a true contender to Carly's throne.
One thing that's certain is that Benard has finally found someone else with whom he has combustible chemistry. Wuhrer can more than hold her own with the formidable Bernard, and their scenes together are wrought with tension, sexual and otherwise. This exciting new duo could go far if given the chance by the writers -- and the fans.
Lesleyann Coker is a contributing columnist for Soapdom.com, and co-author of Boob Tube, a satiric novel currently being shopped to publishers that examines what really goes on behind the scenes of the soap opera industry. She is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine, and has interviewed over 200 daytime and primetime actors during her career.
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