Saturday, January 05, 2008

GL 2007: A Year In Review

I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with an angle for this blog entry. I didn't want it to just be a rehash of the four quarterly reports, nor did I want it to just be a collection of "Best Of..." lists. What is it that I want to say about GUIDING LIGHT in 2007? What was the overarching theme of the year?

Well... supposedly, it was "Find Your Light." The first ITL of the year boldly proclaimed that '07 would be a year of "Find Your Light" and I suppose that was true off-screen as the cast (well, most of the cast) participated in a nationwide community outreach program. The Hands On project that sent actors from the show to various cities to literally do manual labor to build houses, repair schools, and other worthy projects all year long was nothing short of a marvel. I think it was a wonderful way to celebrate the show's 70th year and it really speaks to Ellen Wheeler's inherent generosity of spirit that she devised such an endeavor. People are really quick to slough that off on their way to tearing down GL's (and Wheeler's in particular) onscreen output, but I feel that the show and Wheeler deserve a lot more credit than they are getting for this effort.

Having said that, I do agree that there were a lot of rough patches on the show this year, primarily due to the writing. Before I launch into my own criticisms of the year on GL, I'd like to remind readers that I devoted four (quite long) blog entries to spotlighting the good things about GL.

GL Quarterly Reports:

I just want to be as clear as I can be that I am not part of the crowd that takes pleasure in bashing the show into the ground and insisting that it is an awful travesty that should be canceled at once. I'm quite firm in my stance that GL is a viable enterprise that still provides much quality entetainment to those who aren't so wrapped up in their smug adherence to fanbase agendas that they can't see the show for the trees.

Having said all of that, I do have some criticisms to levy--
David Kreizman has displayed a remarkable gift for repitition this year. Troublemaker Daisy's affections were spurned by Gus and so she spitefully and quite magically was able to immediately find Gus' old high school lover to bust up Gus' relationship with Harley. Then, a few months later, troublemaker Blake's affections were spurned by Mallet and so she spitefully and quite magically was able to find the man who used to employ Mallet as a hitman (!) to bust up Mallet's relationship with Dinah. Not content to leave it at that, troublemaker Ava's affections were spurned by Coop and so she spitefully and quite magically found Ashlee's high school guidance counseler to... well, he didn't actually do much of anything, but still, are you seeing a pattern here? I sure did.
Let's talk about the performer of the year. I tried to toss around several possibilities for this, but there's just no way to select anyone else for this honor other than Beth Ehlers. I want to be clear that I began 2007 as I have every other year that I've been watching GL: hating Harley and not being especially crazy about Ehlers' work in the role. That changed on January 25th, GL's anniversary episode. Ehlers was given the unenviable task of portraying show creator Irna Phillips. It would've been easy to just sort of rest on caricature and "act like Irna" in a general way, but Ehlers instead chose to create a beautifully nuanced, breathtakingly detailed, pitch perfect portrayal of this historical character. I didn't know it at the time, but this amazing performance was the starting bell for a marathon that Ehlers would run throughout 2007, leaving behind her a string of blockbuster performances from her searing Harley/Reva confrontation on 4/11 to the beautifully understated 5/22 performance where Harley barely spoke at all as Dylan explained to Daisy how hard it was for Harley to give her up to the anguished Harley/Natalia blowout on 8/6 when Harley discovered that Gus and been with his ex. The fallout from her ordeal in the collapsed church as she deals with the after effects of the trauma has been nothing short of transcendant. It was "stick in your finger and pull out a plum" with this actor throughout 2007 as she experienced what I unreservedly identify as the year of her career.

But, I'll tell you what: It's a damn good thing that Ehlers had such a great year because we saw a lot of Harley-- I mean a whooole lot of Harley. Part of that is a function of the tight focus that Kreizman has chosen to employ on the Coopers and the Lewis/Shaynes. Almost nothing was done independantly of these two families, despite ample opportunity and story potential. There was a half-hearted attempt at a Dinah/Mallet story, which thankfully, yielded Gina Tognoni's jaw-dropping portrayal of Dinah as she lay bleeding on the docks after being shot in the head, but that story really didn't go anywhere. There were good performances from Tognoni and Rob Bogue and Maeve Kinkead and Kurt McKinney, but the story wasn't pursued with any consistency. Viewers went for weeks at a time without seeing the characters and the story shifted radically and repeatedly in its direction and tone.

What we did get was a lot of emphatic pounding away on the "Cassie bad! Reva good!" drum as the show sucked every last ounce of charm, spark, and lustre that Josh and Cassie had in '06 and replaced it with misery and boredom (with the exception of their beautiful wedding which inexplicably featured yet another bizarre crime committed by Reva for which she hasn't paid, but I'll get back to that in a minute) and a religious story for Josh that I'm sure looked good on someone's paper, but tanked in execution. Meanwhile, Mel was yanked out of her budding triangle with Jeffrey and Olivia, so that Reva could be featured in her place (because Reva is so underexposed, dontcha know!) and then Olivia was dropped from the story as well (although the common understanding is that this was due to negative reaction from fans who couldn't deal with the complicated underpinnings of the Olivia/Jeffrey story). So what we were left with is week after excruciating week of Reva and Jeffrey giggling and drinking and cracking wise and committing an alarming and truly horrific string of crimes, including (but certainly not limited to) the elaborate, calculated assault and kidnapping of Lizzie.
Before this overview gets too long, let's give out some awards!
Best storyline: The destruction of Gus and Harley. Beth Ehlers, Ricky Paull Goldin, Jessica Leccia, and Bonnie Dennison formed an impenetrable unit of brilliant work all year long and they benefitted from the best writing on the show until the incongruous Olivia element was introduced.
Worst storyline: Jonathan/Reva/Alan book tie-in. 'Nuff said...
Best single episode: January 25. The anniversary show was pure joy from top to bottom. Clever writing, inventive direction, perfect performances from (almost) the entire cast. Add to that the sentimental factor and all the historical nuggets for us hard-core soap geeks and you have a truly lovely and enthralling hour of television.
Worst coma: (tie) Blake, Alan, Alexandra, Griggs, Edmund. That's just too many comas in one year, even for a soap.
Best Guest Performer: (tie) Darnell Williams (Griggs) and Allison Fischer (Megan). The vicious kidnapper and the juvie hall "mean girl" knocked it out of the park every single time!
Best Feature for a Veteran: Marj Dusay made delicious lemonade from the questionable lemons of Alexandra's marriage story.
Worst Return: The show trying to get us to think good thoughts about Jonathan returning over the Summer to make sure his theft of Lizzie's baby would remain a secret by violently threatening to kill Olivia. Umm... not such a good thing.
Best Killer Kid: No winner. This is an invalid category because killer kids are not good stories for soaps!
Biggest Waste of Talent: Hmmm... this is a tough one, but I think I'll go with Beth Chamberlin simply because she was responsible for so many of the best moments of 2006 and was used as little more than set dressing in '07.
Best Storyline We Never Saw: So many to choose from in this category, but I think I'll go with the off-screen dissolution of Vanessa and Matt's marriage.
Worst Roc Hoover: Mark Schlereth. I can't begin to imagine a worse one.
Best Comedy Scene: Ashlee singing at Doris and Alan's wedding. I don't think a soap has ever intentionally caused me to laugh so hard as I did on February 16 when Ashlee serenaded the "happy" couple. Caitlin VanZandt's hysterical performance coupled with the reactions of Marj Dusay, Marcy Rylan, Beth Chamberlin, and Michael O'Leary were pure comedy gold!
Best Rivalry: Harley and Reva. These two titans repeatedly clashed this year in scenes that were thrilling and soapy, but realistic and completely character-driven.
Worst Rivalry: Tammy and Beth. Tammy cold cocks Beth on Main Street and Beth just takes it. Tammy slams the door in Beth's face and Beth just takes it. Are you kidding me with this?? Beth would eat Tammy alive and stil have room left over for a big lunch.
Best Newcomer: (tie) Bonnie Dennison and Jessica Leccia showed over and over that they are perfect fits for GUIDING LIGHT with month after month of beautiful work portraying well-defined characters.
Best Recast: Bonnie Dennison, because she is an amazing, inventive actor who made Daisy/Susan her own from the get-go.
Worst Recast: Bonnie Dennison, because the show perpetrated an unforgivable affront by erasing the history created by Brittany Snow as our beloved Susan.
Best "GREAT BIG" Performance: Tom Pelphrey in the scenes of Tammy's death. Pelphrey went all the way there and, for once, it was justified and totally worked.
Worst Character Suddenly Becoming Evil: I wouldn't even know where to begin... Take your pick. Rick drugged everyone in sight. Mallet was a hitman. Josh arranged a murder and then played dumb. Colin participated in Reva's torture of Lizzie. Alan-Michael was just generally evil. The list goes on and on and on...

I could probably double the length of this overview and still not be finished saying everything I have to say, so let me just quit while I am (presumably) ahead. 2007 was a very up and down year for the show. Lots of good to report and a whole lot of bad as well. 2008 promises to be a year of change for GL. Here's to a better year for the show. Let's pray that Kreizman tempers his edgy experimentalism (which has yielded equal parts splendor and trash) with a better understanding of why soap operas are soap operas.
Happy watching and join us here next week as we return our attention to classic GL from years past!



Blogger Lone Palm said...

Ivn, although I categorically and emphatically disagree with your choice for performer of the year, I do thank you for taking the time to do this. I know that it has to be a daunting task.

I share your hopes and dreams for Guiding Light in 2008, and thank you for your time and commitment to not only this blog but the preservation of our favorite Guiding Light memories as well.

3:07 PM  
Blogger ShirlGirl said...

Mark Schlereth is doing a good job of acting as Roc Hoover. I don't understand your criticism of him. He is the best new character Guiding Light has had in a long time.

9:23 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home