Monday, January 01, 2007

The Best of 2006, part 4

We’re in the home stretch here! Let’s soldier on through the end of the year!
October 5, 6, 9 & 10: The lead-up, reveal, and fallout of the reveal of the Beth/Rick affair was so wholly engrossing partly because it featured longtime characters that weren’t being overexposed to the point of irrelevance. The feeling of vibrancy and freshness and excitement that accompanied the closing montage at the end of the October 9 show with Rick, Mel, Beth, and Alan all shown in various states of despair and/or anger was like lightning in a bottle (a television screen-shaped bottle!). It’s interesting that the intertwining of this story with the drama surrounding the Lizzie/Jonathan/Tammy triangle was probably done because the kids’ triangle story was seen as the stronger, higher profile plot. I find it so interesting because what these episodes very clearly show is that the Alan/Beth/Rick/Mel scenario was the weightier, more resonant, and in all respects better executed half of the material.
The sequence of scenes in this section includes a lot of unforgettable moments: Reva’s pot smoking and subsequent stoned dinner with Alan, Jonathan’s petulant temper tantrum (#1,705,036, for those keeping count of his tantrums) as he scolds the Bauers and Spauldings because Tammy won’t play with him anymore, and the charming Bauer football game with Tammy, but the super-high voltage, standout scenes really come crashing through when the any of the four principles are in scenes together. Beth Chamberlin, Michael O’Leary, and Ron Raines are three of the usual suspects for quality, to-the-bone performances, but it’s Yvonna Wright’s inclusion in this group that turns the chemical dynamic on its ear and lends everything a fresh, vital, and irreplaceable group vibe. Wright is rarely given a chance to really dive into the deep end of the pool with the rest of the cast and she seizes this opportunity with palpable gusto, giving as good as she gets at every turn.
As I was given cause to do many times during 2006, these episodes made me wish that the writing team would really invest in the entire cast.
For Love Aloneclip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5 , clip 6 , clip 7

October 23: Michelle Ray Smith (Ava) is in a very strange position. She’s relatively new to the world of acting and has, as her first real gig, the job of portraying a character about ten years younger than she actually is. As a result, Smith’s natural talent (but not her ebullient charisma) is often buried beneath her not-always-successful efforts to “play young”. Ava’s story with Olivia has given Smith a chance let go of a lot of the “young girl” affectations that have sandbagged some (but certainly not all) of her performances. This scene from October was a flash of what this girl can really do if given the right material.
Off the Hook

October 25: One of Reva’s many, many, many, many, many ITL’s dealt with a party that she threw for herself before her intended suicide. This particular ITL of hers was special because it took Reva outside the bubble of the exact same five scene partners that she’d been dealing with all year and reminded us (or at the very least, created the illusion for us) that Reva was part of a community of characters and not the star of her own private show.
Having said that, the two best things about this episode are the exceptionally tender and sensitive performance of Jordan Clarke (Billy’s karaoke scene is absolutely heartbreaking!) and the beautiful montage at the end with many of Springfield’s residents laughing and singing and dancing together. Zimmer also gives an eminently capable and committed performance.
Landslideclip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5 , clip 6

October 26: Kim Zimmer and Tom Pelphrey serve a certain function on GL. They deliver very big, deeply committed, crowd-pleasing performances that illuminate and humanize their rather difficult characters. They share a chemistry that fairly leaps off the screen as they feed off of one another’s seemingly limitless energy. That energy, commitment, chemistry, and humanity are all on display here as Jonathan says goodbye before Reva’s suicide.
Howling At the Moon

October 27: Caitlin Van Zandt strikes again, bringing light onto GL’s sometimes too dark storyboard. Here, Ashlee decides to give Olivia, Buzz, Ava, and Coop her take on their situation.
My Dinner With Ashlee

November 3: The final segment of this episode was pure genius on every level as Josh, Cassie, and Billy huddled by Reva’s bedside as she seemingly lost her battle with cancer and Lizzie and Jonathan saw their unborn baby for the first time via a 3-D sonogram. The action cut back and forth between the two settings, highlighting their inextricable interconnectedness with phenomenally good performances from everyone involved. An absolutely perfect moment in these two very long and often frustrating stories.
Circle of Life

November 14: The blogger storyline was filled with holes and suffered from an embarrassingly obvious and inexcusably conspicuous lack of any real commitment from the writers (Hmmm… No Reva and no Jonathan and the writers don’t seem to really care about it for any length of time… Where have I heard that before?), but the scenes of hospitalized Blake explaining her reasoning for her actions were surprisingly effective due to Liz Keifer’s disarmingly vulnerable work in the scenes.
Invisible--clip 1 , clip 2

November 22: Alan’s Thanksgiving ITL was a great hour of television because it gave Ron Raines a wonderful opportunity to stretch outside his comfort zone and show quite a few new colors for his character. It was a real pleasure to get a look at the holiday dynamics of the little seen Spaulding family as a group. The second half of the episode that took much of the focus away from Alan and his family and mainly showcased his reactions to (wait for it!) Reva and Jonathan was a little less satisfying, but still entertaining. Alan’s joke telling to the servants and his suggestion of the name “Gasolina” for a spawn of Jon are highlights!
Count Your Blessingsclip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5

November 29: To say that the Olivia/Ava/Jeffrey story has been up and down in quality is an understatement of epic proportions! All of the actors are wonderful (although it wouldn’t kill Justin Deas to dial it down a hair or three), so it’s not their fault. It’s the plotting of this Byzantine and, in certain respects, openly offensive story has often been far-fetched, muddled, and rushed. As I said, it’s not the actors that are at fault here, as this heartfelt, powerhouse performance from Crystal Chappel during Olivia’s most recent ITL.
The Persistence of Memory

December 15: One of GL’s most often overlooked treasures is Tina Sloan. 2006 saw her screentime increase dramatically as Lillian returned to more of a prominent place on the Springfield canvas. This incendiary confrontation between Lillian and Alan is an eye-opening reminder of Sloan’s power and presence and untapped ability to make Lillian a lot more than she currently is.
Try Me

And that’s it, gentle readers! My take on the very best that GUIDING LIGHT gave to us in 2006!
Feel free to respond to this entry with your own choices. Tell me how wrong I was or acknowledge my inherent brilliance as you see fit!

Happy New Year! Keep the light shining!
We'll return to GL from yesteryear with the next entry!



Blogger alanspauldingfan said...

Well done Ivn! I am glad you included "Count Your Blessings" in the list. There really was some great stuff in there...Alan and Reva, wow! It was an emotional roller-coaster ride!

9:38 PM  

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