Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quarterly Report: Best of October to December, 2007

The final quarter of 2007 was (to put it mildly) inconsistent. The long awaited return of the amazing David Andrew MacDonald as Edmund was a bitter disappointment-- not in the acting, but in the story. The Reva/Jeffrey gigglefest continued to gloss over important hanging plot threads for each character: his quest to connect with the daughter he just found out about and her unpunished victimization of Lizzie. Dinah's journey back from brain damage was sabotaged by truly lousy event-driven plotting, when it was shown at all. The front burner story of the secret paternity of Beth's baby inexplicably featured very little Beth. Most unfortunately, GUIDING LIGHT apparently joined AS THE WORLD TURNS and GENERAL HOSPITAL in the "killer kid" club as Will Winslow was revealed as Alonzo's murderer and Edmund's assailant, although this is something that can still potentially be reversed (as GH did) and really should be reversed since no soap has ever made this "killer kid" device" work the way they imagined it would.

A lot of these things combined to create a feeling of disjointedness and aimlessness throughout the quarter, which is why I'm always glad to undertake the documentation of the things the show gets right. So what was good about the last three months of 2007 on GL? As I am every time, I was surprised by the sheer volume of truly affecting and involving material that GL put out, so without further ado, let's get on with the best!________________________________________

10/8/07: It's always a pleasure when Justin Deas is put to good use. I tend to run very hot and cold on his work because he too often goes for the "BIG MOMENT" instead of just playing the scene. As the seeds began to be sown for the Buzz/Doris connection, Deas demonstrated admirable restraint and took full advatage of the rich chemistry he shares with the amazing Orlagh Cassidy. For her part, Cassidy fairly glows with all the right kinds of intensity as she brings her Doris to living, breathing, scraping life. Her interactions with Caitlin VanZandt as Ashlee vibrate with the secrets and subtext of a real dysfunctional family.

Protection-- clip 1, clip 2


10/10/07: Marj Dusay. I almost don't want to say anymore than those two words because she very nearly defies description, but I'm a wordy guy, so here goes! The scenes depicting Alexandra's awakening from her coma (taken from one of the myriad Cyrus ITL's this year) were immensely satisfying, coming as they did at the peak of Dusay's first front burner storyline in years. It was wonderful to watch as this consumate actor known so well for her outrageous characterizations careened from emotion to emotion, all played with realism and subtlety. She shatters every preconception that people have about her, playing each and every moment with such precision and and detail, cutting loose with the abandon of a child and the control of an artist with decades of experience. In these five minutes alone, she moves from the funniest of truly humorous comedy to riveting intrigue (with the woefully misused Darnell Williams as Griggs) to heartbreaking human drama-- all without skipping a beat and all at the highest level of quality. This is Marj Dusay at her finest and it's pretty damn fine.

Alive and Kicking


10/15/07: Daisy's abortion storyine was a "social issue" (a catch-all term that's less helpful than you might think) plot that provided a wonderful showcase for the unstoppable Bonnie Dennison. This scene from the day of the actual abortion is a truly lovely exchange between Daisy and Kim Zimmer's Reva. Dennison does her usual amazing, true-to-life work in this scene and I think it's to her credit that even Zimmer dials down her standard pathos to become a participating partner in the material.

A Girl In Trouble Is a Temporary Thing


10/16/07: Very little about the most recent months of Dinah's brain damage storyline has not been botched beyond repair. Too much of it has been played for laughs and too much of it has been overdressed with unecessary plot points. The day Mallet and Vanessa had Dinah committed stood out because it went right to the heart of the characters and gave viewers the insight we so desperately need into what these characters are actually feeling. Gina Tognoni gives a standout performance here, her trademark bloody vigor bringing Dinah's fear, horror, and disappointment right up to the viewers face with no opportunity to look away. Sadly, the ball was dropped on this scenario and these characters were not featured for almost two weeks after this scene.



10/17/07: People still decry the ITL's (the "special Wednesday episodes") as the coming of the apocalypse, but I still maintain that a fair portion of them are among the best whole episodes that GL offers, primarily because David Kreizman seems to be more inspired by the tighter focus.

This particular ITL, dealing with the reveal of Daisy's abortion was a masterwork, pure and simple. The acting, writing, and direction were all of the highest calibre. Bonnie Dennison, Beth Ehlers, Kim Zimmer, E.J. Bonilla, Jessica Leccia, Brian Gaskill, and Justin Deas are all flawless here as they play scene after gripping scene as the information ripples through the lives of their characters. From Harley, Reva, and Natalia all going at each other variously like tigers, to Rafe's horror and fury over the decision, to Harley, Natalia, and Dylan's feelings of helplessness, to (most affectingly) Daisy's anguish over the whole situation. Not one one false note, not one word or gesture out of place-- just several perfectly placed pieces combined to form a beautiful, crystalline whole.

Choices-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5


10/29/07: The creation of genuine tension on a soap opera is a very difficult thing to do these days in this age of spoilers and ultra-jaded viewers. The collapse of the church where Harley and Cyrus were being held was a unique event in that, even though we all knew they were both alive, GL managed to create a very desolated, forlorn atmosphere in the wake of the disaster. As Alexandra learns from Griggs that Cyrus is "dead" but keeps the truth from an increasingly fearful Marina while Gus and Natalia wander the wreckage of the church unaware that Harley and Cyrus are trapped just beneath them, there's an ominous, palpable, and almost inexplicable feeling of dread that grows despite the fact that we viewers know that they're going to be okay. This a really nice bit of storytelling from the show. Also, special recognition must go to the transition between Harley and Cyrus' horror as the church "explodes" to Ava popping a balloon and erupting into peels of screaming laughter, a moment that caused more than a few of us to jump in our seats.

All Fall Down-- clip 1 , clip 2

10/31/07: GL's Halloween episode centered on multiple sets of characters jetting off to an island psychiatric clinic to visit either Edmund or Dinah, both of whom were being treated there at the time. Eerie music played and a convenient power outage left our merry band wandering variously around the mostly abandoned, red-lit halls of what suddenly seemed like a gothic "Home for the Homicidally Deranged" as they experienced a series of frightening scenarios, not the least of which was a reminder of the worst of the San Cristobel storylines in the person of Jim Davidson's Alonzo (yikes!). The episode is generously peppered with comedy (courtesy of Dinah, Lizzie, and Marina), romance (Dinah and Mallet's almost-reconnection), and spooks (Cassie's run-in with a knife-wielding psychopath and Alonzo's grisly death). It works on a number of levels in that it forwards several plots and also succeeds as a stylized bit of Kreizman-era experimentalism. This episode is actually a great deal of fun, mainly because of winking nods to the holiday and to the horror movie genre. This is also probably the best day of David Andrew MacDonald's return as Edmund.

Trick or Treat-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5

11/2, 11/5, and 11/9/07: Beth Ehlers did some truly brilliant work as the fallout from Harley and Cyrus' ordeal in the collapsed church impacted the dissolution of her marriage to Gus. Ricky Paull Goldin matched her perfectly in the quiet, mournful scenes that marked the end of "GusH", but these episodes belonged to Ehlers as she played the hollowness, numbness, and complete rudderlessness that followed her near death experience. In this year of absolutely transcendent performances from this actor, these three episodes stood near the top of her already astoundingly impressive pile. The delicacy, humanity, and specificity of what she does, especially in the "spinning" speech in clip 3, is nothing short of breathtaking. Goldin's work, as previously stated is also quite good as is that of the always exquisite Jessica Leccia as Natalia.

Sign My Name-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5

11/20/07: Some episodes are noteworthy for their climactic events or explosive performances or bold stylistic choices. In fact, in this age of spectacle and BIG EVENTS, it seems that a lot of viewers are bored very quickly with shows that don't contain some jaw-dropping element to them. I'm as much a sucker for that kind of thing as anybody else, but what should never be forgotten is that soaps are a day-to-day medium and shows that try to provide a "shocker" every single day are missing the point. The 11/20 episode of GL was glorious in that it was nothing more than a series of beautifully rendered conversations. Sure, Alexandra made a startling accusation to Harley and Beth and Daisy were trapped in an elevator, but there was nothing especially earth-shattering about any of this. The episode served no more spectacular purpose than than to just let us in a little bit more into these characters' lives through well-written scenes and meticulously (but always naturally) rendered performances. This is absolutely one of the very best episodes of the year by simple virtue of the fact that it is the pinnacle of what soap opera should have at its core: not cliffhangers or catfights (although those are great too!), but simple, interesting conversations between people we care about.
Conversations-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5


11/28/07: The story of Olivia's heart condition could have been an incredible journey with a character and an actor both of which have nearly limitless potential. Crystal Chappell has proven again and again (even as recently as this past Spring) what a valuable asset she is to GL. In a grievous and nearly unforgivable misstep, the show has chosen to use Olivia's condition as nothing more than a half-baked excuse to shoehorn her into an ill-conceived and baffling romance with Gus. These gorgeous and powerful scenes from the ITL where her condition is revealed demonstrate the opportunity that has been missed by not allowing this story to stand on its own two feet.

Heart Racing


11/30/07: Beth Chamberlin has been badly misused and largely ignored in 2007 (much like the character of Beth) which is very unfortunate, but we saw a brief glimpse of the spitfire that provided us with so many of the show's best moments in 2006. Most of this year has seen Beth reduced to set dressing for the barely there Alan/Rick rivalry or off-screen topic of conversation for the front burner Reva/Cassie grouping to tussle over. The watered down Beth Bauer was nowhere in evidence on the 30th of November as Beth Chamberlin was allowed to cut loose in hilarious scenes with Murray Bartlett and David Andrew MacDonald. Chamberlin is electric as she treats viewers to the mischievous, naughty, spicy Beth that has been too long absent from our screens.


12/11, 12/13, 12/14, 12/20, and 12/28/07: GL's second run at a mayoral election storyline (and we're all still smarting from last year's still unresolved debacle) has turned out very nicely indeed. Anchored by deeply committed work from Justin Deas and Orlagh Cassidy, this story is interesting and fun with just the right amounts of intrigue and romance and backstabbing and bed-hopping to make it soapy yet still fresh. Cassidy, especially, is a fireball in this story, going for broke every single time with fearless performances that continually stretch the boundaries of what a soap character can be and still be sympathetic. Always good for a deep belly laugh until she unexpectedly exposes a layer of Doris that will break your heart, Cassidy is becoming one of GL's most satisfying pleasures.
This story is also noteworthy for terrific performances from Daniel Cosgrove, Caitlin VanZandt, and a newly invigorated Michelle Ray Smith as Ava.

Mayor Elect-- clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3 , clip 4 , clip 5 , clip 6 , clip 7 , clip 8 , clip 9


12/19 and 12/20/07: While I do not support the decision to break up Dinah and Mallet, whom I maintain are the show's most interesting and viable couple by far, the scenes that led up to the decision to file for divorce were beautifully played by Gina Tognoni and Rob Bogue. Tognoni was allowed to take a break from the weeks of screaming that Dinah was cast into prior to this and Bogue turned in a tender, heartfelt performance as a man exhausted from being an onlooker as the person he loves most in the world self destructs. These scenes offer lovely glimpses of the humor and passion that made this couple so unique before dissolving into a wordless, gut-wrenching farewell.

Giving Is Better-- clip 1 , clip 2


The final offering for this report is an "mvid" created by me for the storyline involving Daisy's abortion. The song is "All For Believing" by Missy Higgins.
All For Believing

Thanks for reading (if you still are! LOL!) and come right back here in just a couple of days for GLMP's year end retrospective for 2007!

Happy New Year!



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