Monday, October 01, 2007

Quarterly Report: Best of July to September, 2007

The third quarter of 2007 was an interesting time for the show. It featured quite a prolonged lull where there was very little to cheer about, especially at the very beginning of the period, when it became clear that the lovely Olivia/Jeffrey/Mel triangle had been completely scrapped in order to foist the grating, screechy, self-indulgent Reva/Jeffrey "romance" on viewers. This distressing, depressing development threw a sizable portion of the show into a tailspin as GL frantically catered to the demands of one vocal fanbase at the expense of the rest of the canvas.

Also complicating matters was the waning quality of the Coop/Ashlee romance as the writing staff fell further and further down the rabbit hole of trying to make Ava into the devil incarnate (paralleling similar attempts to do the same to Olivia as the Reva/Jeffrey storyline appreared to gain popularity). Seemingly failing to realize that the three characters were interesting enough as it was (especially with the incredibly realistic, but rarely seen on television, aspects of their particular triangle) , the show pushed poor Michelle Ray Smith and her character toward the outer reaches of "spurned lover" caricature in order to create story for Coop and Ashlee.
But what was good about the third quarter of 2007? As always, quite a bit, actually. Constructing these reports is always a great way of reminding myself (and hopefully others) why I still love GUIDING LIGHT and there really was a lot to love in this quarter, especially as it drew to a close.
7/2/07: One of the best things to come from GUIDING LIGHT in 2007 has undoubtedly been Bonnie Dennison's deceptively simple, disarmingly honest portrayal of Daisy. For the record, I remain saddened and horrified that headwriter David Kreizman chose to completely obliterate the beloved character of Susan in order to reinvent her as "Daisy," but that has nothing to do with Dennison or her sublime work in the role. What has always struck me about what Dennison does is that she really makes Daisy into a real human being. She so perfectly encapsulates her character with such naturalism and honesty that it often seems like CBS is just filming a teenaged girl for a documentary, as opposed to filming an actor playing a part.
This clip from the beginning of July contains no explosions, no nervous breakdowns, no screaming fights or births or deaths or evil twins. It's just Daisy being Daisy-- and Dennison being alternately hilarious, tender, romantic, goofy... and human.
When She Was Good


7/4/07: This year's Bauer Barbecue was a mixed bag. It was one of a (too) long string of events held on GL's Main Street set and came with the announcement that the show's set for the Bauer home would likely not be seen again. This was not good news for a lot of fans who were (a) growing frustrated with the lack of variety in sets and (b) aghast that the Bauer home and the potential for its future use were being eradicated from GUIDING LIGHT.
Having said that, the day was not without merit and featured a pair of truly lovely performances from Nicole Forester and Beth Chamberlin as Cassie sought comfort from Buzz over the loss of Tammy and Beth poured her heart out to Rick during their impromptu wedding ceremony. These two performances made the day worthwhile and still stand out among the best from the third quarter.

7/10/07: The immediate fallout from Dinah's shooting in June was unquestionably superb. Her coma carried through into July and when she woke up, it was a changed Dinah that greeted the world. Gina Tognoni was a revelation playing Dinah's confusion, fear, and frustration as her own mind seemed to fail her. The first day of Dinah's recovery seemed to promise a truly heartbreaking and beautifully human story of physical and spitual redemption. That's not what viewers ended up getting unfortunately, but the beginnings of this story were definitely some of the most compelling watching of the third quarter. The sensitive writing combined with Tognoni's stunning performance to form pure GL gold.
Everything-- clip 1 , clip 2
7/26/07: The story of Alexandra coming between Cyrus and Marina had a lot of things wrong with it, not the least of which being that the Alexandra/Cyrus half of the triangle was far, far more interesting than the primary, "rooting value" couple of Cyrus and Marina. Criticisms have been leveled at how desperate and stupid this story makes Alexandra look and I don't necessarily completely disagree with that, but what I cannot overlook is the gusto and passion that Marj Dusay has injected into her portrayal of a lonely woman with an agenda and the means to fulfill it. Dusay has consistently made this questionable plot into riveting television by keeping the viewer guessing about Alexandra's feelings and motives. Her work over the last three months is the textbook definition of "making lemonade from lemons" because she's made what was a disaster on paper into one of the best things GL has offered all year by simple virtue of being Marj Dusay.

The wedding of Alexandra and Cyrus was involving, humorous, and truly fascinating. It's also noteworthy for featuring some of the only Cyrus/Marina moments that have actually worked and making (atypically) great use of Mandy Bruno's Marina. This episode also features some wonderfully tender and lively scenes between Alexandra and Buzz and demonstrates the still-potent chemistry between Dusay and Justin Deas.
Here Comes the Bride-- clip 1 , clip 2
7/30, 8/6, 8/13, 8/27/07: This particular quarterly report features an avalanche of Gus/Harley material, not because I belong to the GusH fanbase (I don't), but because their story has been very heavily featured on the show (perhaps too much) and because it has benefitted from some of the best writing as well a quartet of stunning performances from Beth Ehlers (still riding the wonderful wave of naturalism that she began during January's anniversary episode) and Ricky Paull Goldin, as well as Bonnie Dennison and the continually brilliant Jessica Leccia. Every combination of actors and characters works like a dream and the passion and soul in the writing of this story has made every single relationship vitally important and frought with complication. These four episodes from July and August deal with Gus and Natalia making love and the fallout therefrom, culminating with Gus, Harley, and Natalia confronting Alan about his role in the indisrection. Powerhouse scene follows powerhouse scene as the events play out, not just in shouting and arm flailing, but far more often with a look, a touch, a whisper.

The crowning jewel, not just of this set, but of the entire report, comes in part 2 where Harley confronts Natalia about being with Gus. We read quite a bit about the "chemistry" of romantic couples, but that sort of electricity that leaps off the screen can occur in any type of pairing and Ehlers and Leccia have it in spades, as evidenced by the astoundingly good second clip in this series, which is probably the best scene of the entire third quarter. The scene contains its fair share of raised voices, but is more notable for the rock solid relatability of the material, the clear positioning of the characters, and the pitch perfect acting of Ehlers and Leccia.

Heart's Desire-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5 , clip 6 , clip 7 , clip 8
8/14/07: Another lovely day from the Alexandra story came in mid-August when GL showcased two (or is it three?) sides of the character as she dealt with her Cyrus situation. Dusay is fun and funny and warm as she catches up with old friend Lillian (in a return to a friendship that is as welcome to viewers as it is to the characters) and alternately vulnerable and manipulating in dealings with Cyrus. This episode is more evidence that, for all its problems, the Alexandra/Cyrus/Marina story is worthwhile if only for the heaping helpings of Alexandra (and Dusay's exciting work) that viewers are treated to.
8/15/07: GL finally allowed hard luck couple Josh and Cassie to wed... almost. Of course, the ceremony took place on Main Street and could not be completed due to Reva's simultaneous victimization of Cassie, Josh, and Olivia (and Reva's the "heroine" of the show why again?), but what we did get, especially in the vows section, was really beautiful. Robert Newman and Nicole Forester gave outstanding performances as their characters declared their love. Cassie's vows were especially touching in light of the traumatic year that the character has experienced and Forester informed her work in that section with all the loss and hope and love that Cassie was feeling at that moment. These vows are filled with the sweeping romance and genuine love that soap weddings should all be made of.
9/12/07: The best whole show of the entire quarter was the INSIDE THE LIGHT episode surrounding sex. Gus, Harley, Natalia, Dylan, Daisy, and Rafe each were featured in interview-style segments giving their feelings about sex, specifically the first sexual experience, as Gus and Harley careened toward a "final" break-up and Daisy and Rafe prepared for their first time together. The dialogue was expertly crafted and the performances were of the high quality that we've come to rely on from this group. The episode as a whole flowed beautifully from start to finish and was emotional and entertaining throughout. The interview framing device was a stroke of genius and the advancements in the story were given all the weight that they deserved and presented in an inventive and highly appealing package.
First Time's the Charm-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4
9/17/07: So much of what the show creates these days for the character of Reva is nearly unwatchable due to the unmistakable reek of fanbase pandering as well as the comfort that informs Kim Zimmer's work as her position with the show becomes progressively cushier. For these reasons, I'm always pleasantly surprised to catch moments of true honesty and involvement in Reva material.
GUIDING LIGHT published a book about Jonathan's "adventures" (Our "hero" has sex with a ghost and then kills someone with a hammer! What a great guy!) and dovetailed that story into events on the show as Reva and Alan cover up their involvement in the murder. As expected, this scenario has quickly found comfy spot on the garbage heap, but there was one scene at the beginning featuring Zimmer and Ron Raines (Alan) that exploded with palpable tension and power. If only this quality had been maintained...
9/21, 9/24, 9/25: The third quarter ended on a very high note as GL finally gave viewers a large group event of the sort fans have been clamoring for all year. In this era of disappearing sets and small cast lists for each episode, it was thrilling to see so many Springfielders in the same place at the same time. The characters interacted variously, plots interwove, events dominoed! All the things that make soaps interesting were included as the show advanced several stories while bringing the Alexandra/Cyrus/Marina/Griggs scenario to a furious boil. Virtually the entire cast is used here and the list of great moments is long and varied. Over the course of three episodes packed to bursting with drama and intrigue dealing with Alexandra's diabetes fundraising gala, the show repositioned itself a real town again filled with people who know one another and have long histories together. It's been longer than I can say since GL did something like this or had three episodes in a row that were so good.
9/26/07: The final noteworthy moment from this quarter came during Dinah's ITL. In this clip Vanessa confronts Dinah about her indiscretion with Matt. It's wonderful to see Maeve Kinkead sink her teeth into really emotional material again and she seizes this opportunity and plays it for all it's worth. This is a blazing reminder of who Vanessa is and of what Kinkead could still be contributing to this show.
And that's my report on the third quarter of 2007. I apologize that it's a bit late, but I, of course, don't apologize for my opinions. I call 'em like I see 'em and my feelings come from love for the whole show.
Come right back here for the next entry as GLMP continues its exploration of historical GL!
Cheers and happy watching!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home