Sunday, April 01, 2007

GL Quarterly Report: Best of January to March, 2007

So, with the first three months of 2007 out of the way, what can we say about the state of GUIDING LIGHT? In discussing this with the posters at the GLMP message board, most of us agreed that the show was in a lot better shape this time last year (Isn't that saying something?) If you ask one segment of the viewership, they'll tell you that GL is a mess without Jon and Tammy and that's pretty much true, but not for the reasons some fans might think.

It was pretty obvious that headwriter David Kreizman was deeply, deeply in love with his custom-made supercouple and he wrote very heavily for them... and he wrote and wrote and wrote for them. And when he wasn't writing for them, he wrote for Reva. There were some other plots going on in 2006, but they were sandwiched in, when time permitted, between luxurious Reva and "Jammy" featurettes and seemed very much like tacked-on afterthoughts or halfhearted, begrudging concessions. By 2007, he had given up even the pretense of writing for anyone else and devoted the show almost entirely to his chosen three characters. The worst of it came right at the beginning of the year, when the show decided that it would be a capital idea to feature three solid weeks of nothing but Jon, Reva, their stories, and their problems, with only one day set aside to celebrate the on-air history of GUIDING LIGHT for the anniversary. The anniversary must surely have been seen by Kreizman as a great inconvenience, falling as it did right at the climax of his long goodbye kiss to Jon and Tammy.

Once the young couple departed, we were left with the story of the fallout from their departure and the introduction plot for the criminally de-SORAS-ed Daisy/Susan. Aside from those two stories, everything else was just a slapped-together game of "catch up" as the Kreizman feebly flailed about trying to write for a canvas of characters that had largely been ignored to the point where decomposition had set in.

But what was good about the first quarter of 2007? That's the weird thing: plenty, actually. Not enough, mind you, to say that it was a rousing success, but there were more than few high points during the last three months, including the genuinely inspirational humanitarian efforts of the show's Find Your Light Program.

1/15/07: Oddly enough (given everything I've said so far), the first full episode that I want to single out is the very first day of the aforementioned three-week marathon of Jon and Reva. This Monday episode featured a very small cast and dealt (surpise!) with only one storyline. However, the script was filled with reveletory, lyrical dialogue and the episode maintained an eerie, gothically looming tone. Tension-filled, dramatically potent encounters between Reva and Alan, Beth and Tammy, and Tammy and Remy (yes, Remy!), and other pairs all played together to create a genuinely creepy "oncoming train" feel. Unfortunately, the story and the group of characters were, over the course of the following three weeks, pounded and overplayed to the point that they became little more than white noise, but that first day was incredibly effective.
Forboding-- clip1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4

1/24/07: The story actually did regain quite a bit of punch and relevance at the point of Tammy's death, no small feat, considering the imposing amount of damage done to the character over the last year. The death scene was enormously moving, despite the fact that Tom Pelphrey's large, emotional performance lost any uniqueness due to the fact that his character offered similar reactions, over the course of two and a half years, to everything from the death of his father to breaking a nail and everything in between.
Death In the Family

1/25/07: While I'm not at all happy that only one episode was set aside to look back at the on-air history of GUIDING LIGHT for its milestone 70th anniversary, I take comfort from the fact that the one episode we did get was nothing short of a masterpiece! The narrative device of having the current cast play the actors (and other participants) who put the show on the map was a stroke of genius. I'm just as pleased as can be that GL sent out this wonderful love letter to fans interested in the history of the show. I could go on and on with a very long list of the many, many virtues of this episode, but instead I'll sing the praises of the central performance given by Beth Ehlers as show creator, Irna Phillips. I haven't tended to be a huge fan of Ehlers' work, so you can well imagine my profound shock at her brilliant, restrained, detailed, intelligent portrayal of this woman so very different from herself and from Harley. The rich, complicated inner life that Ehlers communicated in every scene was captivating and left me wishing that we could have Ehlers play Irna from now on instead of Harley.
The episode boasted a sea of immensely entertaining and wonderful performances, but Ehlers' was the crown jewel.
Happy Anniversary-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5

2/16/07: The introduction of Doris Wolfe into the Spaulding family had all the earmarks of a terrific story and should've been nigh unto impossible to screw up. Alas, Kreizman's powers of destruction and sabotage should never be underestimated. The story played out as a bad joke by reducing everyone involved to insulting, one-dimensional cartoons. (Yes, you read that right. Alan somehow became more of a cartoon.) The actual wedding of Alan and Doris however, was a truly great day of viewing, mainly because of two performance that (in a stroke of genius) were placed end-to-end in a truly jarring and riveting juxtaposition.
Caitlin Van Zandt was gut-bustingly hilarious as Ashlee serenaded the couple before the wedding with musical stylings representing the worst aspects of the THE GONG SHOW and AMERICAN IDOL. What makes Van Zandt's performance here comedy gold is that she makes sure that Ashlee is very sincere in everything she does. In this way, Ashlee is never a buffoon because her actions come from a real place. Van Zandt (who has a very lovely singing voice) plays Ashlee's very enthusiastic approach to a very bad song perfectly. This would be funny enough on it's own, but the camera makes sure to give us copious lingering shots of the stunned, vaguely nauseated reactions of the Spaulding family and the other guests. Marcy Rylan, Marj Dusay, Michael O'Leary, Beth Chamberlin, and Tina Sloan wordlessly ratchet up the comedy ante far past any level I've ever experienced watching a soap. I can't recall ever having laughed that much, for that long in my nearly two and a half decades of soap viewing.
Brilliantly, the comical mood is immediately and violently shattered as Nicole Forester's Cassie charges into the scene, breaking glass and brandishing a picture of her murdered daughter. Forester is a blood red force of nature, sending Cassie's pain, rage, sadness, and frustration out in waves and torrents of feeling as she excoriates those she holds responsible for the death. Forester's visceral, palpably wounded performance in this scene obliterates any trace of the humor that filled the room prior to her entrance, grabbing and holding the viewer by the throat as surely and tightly as she grasps the picture of Tammy. Her work in this scene is a revelation of the like that is hard to describe and it stands out as the best performance so far this year.
Oh and Alan got shot....
Til Death Do Us Part-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5

2/23/07: The show has done truly rotten job of giving Lizzie's grief over the loss of her baby its due. I think this is largely because of the unwanted attention that would then be drawn to the horrific, inexcusable, utterly unjustifiable act committed by show darlings Reva and Jon in making Lizzie believe that her child was killed in a fiery car crash. As a result, we tend (and especially lately) only to see Lizzie express any sadness on this matter when she's about to do something all evil and "Spaulding-like" (The Spauldings are now all completely evil, in case you didn't get Kreizman's many, many memos.) For this reason, the Lizzie/Cassie scenes on Main Street bonding over the loss of their daughters was truly welcome and exceptionally well done.
Marcy Rylan is a tough nut to crack, artistically. Comedy is obviously a comfort zone for her, but she's repeatedly (though not consistently) demonstrated a genuine aptitude for heavier material. Her understated, natural performance here is really lovely, matching well with that of Forester, who had hit a really nice stride that was benefitted by some of the only decent writing going at this point.
A Shared Loss

3/13/07: As the first quarter wore on, there was increasingly less and less to cheer about. The Spaulding section of the "Who Shot Alan?" mystery was little more than a bad, PASSIONS-style sex joke with Beth reduced to running around town trying to get pregnant by a variety of men. This painful and unsavory turn did result in a really nice couple of scenes between Rick and Mel, whose marriage had to end so that Rick could play amoral patsy to Beth. Kreizman devoted a whopping half an episode (not the whole half, mind you. that would be overkill.) to taking down the Bauer marriage. Yvonna Wright and Michael O'Leary are terrific in these scenes. On display here is further evidence of the quantum leap in quality Wright's work took last year during the Bauer/Spaulding quadrangle story, which is actually kind of a shame since we'll undoubtedly now see even less of her than the nothing we were already seeing.

3/28/07: As March dwindled away toward its end, I was quite certain that the month would be devoid of any full episodes worth presenting in a quarterly report. Then the show finally came through with a magnificent showcase for the best romance it has going when Dinah and Mallet finally (and barely) got married. Gina Tognoni and Rob Bogue just sparkled together and separately in every one of their scenes. Tognoni, especially, turned in a real tour-de-force performance, but both of them were just smashing. What I just can't get enough of with this couple is that they do all playing styles so well and the show is not afraid to run them through a wide gamut of emotions and situations in their ITL's. This episode is also remarkable for the inclusion and substantial use of Maeve Kinkead and Kurt McKinney, both of whom have had very little to do since Vanessa and Matt returned.
I love sitting through an entire episode invested in everything and being expertly taken through comedy, drama, and romance. Even though there was inadequate set-up (both in quantity and quality), the ITL itself was pure joy to watch.
A Matter Of When-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5
My final presentation in this quarterly report consists of two "mvids" spotlighting two elements of the first part of this year that I feel worked the best. The first is the "Haunting of Cassie" storyline that came out of Tammy's death. Nicole Forester's gorgeous work in the gothic psychodrama plot was consistently well presented and extremely effective.
The second video bears a bit of explaining. It spotlights the Daisy character, played by the amazingly charismatic Bonnie Dennison. I love Daisy, but I hate the disregard for the character of Susan more than I can say. Kreizman's trampling on that beloved historical character and her history is unforgivable on every level, but Dennison has won me over completely and I'm choosing to think of Daisy as a brand new character. Dennison is a fantastic find and this mvid showcases the infectiously energetic work she's doing as Daisy bulldozes her way through Springfield and Harley and Gus' marriage.
Well, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Our next entry will see a return to vintage GUIDING LIGHT as we spend the month of April celebrating the one year anniversary of my historical clip project!
See you next week!


Blogger sosquare said...

Your quarterly report is excellent! Your commentary and supporting videos made me look at many of the storylines from a totally different perspective yet again. Thanks, IVN!

8:09 PM  

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