One Life to Live's "Who Wants to Be Shane Morasco's Father?" may have been a stunt but they were also episodes that managed to do right just about everything the 40th anniversary episodes got wrong.
In the bargain, they did everything the anniversary episodes did right just a few notches better. I know this kind of thing is not everyone's cup of tea, but I'll take this little detour the way Star Trek's Captain Picard likes his Earl Grey: Hot!
Borrowing the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? set, OLTL took what was rapidly becoming a hoary cliche — the near death out of body experience — and instantly breathed new life into it. While Viki's latest visit to "heaven" here and the shared Chris/Allison/Aaron Fellini-esque versions on As the World Turns were done very well, the staging and production of Rex's game show experience lent the entire sequence an air of immediacy that a cheesy in-house set would have been unable to accomplish.
From the studio audience to the graphics to the questions, every aspect of the producton seemed so on the money that it really felt that the Millionaire set fit in with the wonderful work that OLTL's production staff has been doing under executive producer Frank Valentini. What raised the bar even higher was how the game show aspect was played mostly straight. What could have been way over the top was performed, staged and directed just right! As an extra bonus, the conceit allowed a creative, concise and effective review of Rex's history without the use of flashbacks. Bravo!
OLTL has been on a roll in the last few weeks in terms of linking various story lines together and structuring many episodes thematically. This approach to storytelling when done right ties the canvas together more realistically for what is supposed to be a close knit community. Rex's shooting and surgery tied Tess' capture of Natalie to the revelation of Shane's paternity to Adriana's impending return to the long gestating mystery of Rex's own paternity. This is how intergration of storylines is done: organically and in such a way that it helps the audience invest in the show as a whole, not merely those storylines that can be cherry picked in large part because they are isloated from others. There were so many subtexts from everything that was going on in the hospital, it is a miracle the scripts were able to integrate them all. Most important of all, these episodes paved the way as a defining moment for what one hopes will be a giant leap of maturity for Rex.
In other developments, Bo's talk with Shane had great resonance vis a vis Bo's own struggles over his troubled relationship with Asa. Roxy gathering everyone for her vaguely inappropriate, but genuine prayer was just the right mix of humor and gravitas that never lost sight of her character. And there were other little moments, like the reactions among different background characters, that felt very right indeed.
Jessica Morris was stunning as the late Jennifer; it is regrettable she only had a few lines and was basically used as a Deal or No Deal girl. Ty Treadway was simply awesome as Colin MacIver, game show host. These brief returns were so much more interesting and, yes, organic than a few of the more recent high profile returns. No names need to be named. *cough* Anyone connected with Mendorra.*cough*
Standouts: Mark Lawson's performance as Brody, whose post traumatic stress meltdown continued, displayed his growth as an actor. Was this one of Ilene Kristen's finest moments on the show yet? I think so. Robert S. Woods continued to bring new dimensions of sensitivity and pathos to Bo. Austin Williams was fantastic as an angry, confused Shane; this young actor has come a long way since Michael Clayton. And John-Paul Lavoisier, who I previously criticized for being way too over the top in the 1968 time travel story, hit all the right notes during his character's time of crisis. Catherine Hickland looked fantastic! The return of Adrianna? Masterful! Welcome back, Melissa Fumero!
Oddly, I'm not sure how I felt about Farah Fath's performance as Gigi. I thought she was excellent in terms of communicating Gigi's fear and distress over the possibility of losing Rex, but once again I thought that Gigi's scenes with Shane lacked a certain subtle touch that would have sold it completely for me. But what say you?
At the end of the day, very nice work, Mr. Carlivati and Mr. Valentini!
Very nice indeed!