Phillip Granville Spaulding Happens Here
Before I get to the main event regarding the much ballyhooed resurrection of the lost Spaulding heir, a little housekeeping is in order.
First, no matter what one may think of the current state of Guiding Light or its prospects for survival, one cannot fault CBS for not marketing the high holy hell out of the return of Grant Aleksander and the character of Phillip Granville Spaulding. GL/Phillip/Aleksander has been everywhere: print ads and a steady barrage of television commercials have been broadcast non-stop, right down to a live interview with Sarah Bibel on Fancast.com. Internet advertising has been almost overwhelming.
Think I'm exaggerating? Consider that the publicity has run so deep and so wide that outlets as disparate as TVGuide.com have featured two video packages to The Wall Street Journal's financial/investment website MarketWatch.com have featured Aleksander/GL related material. Hell, all that was missing was a Super Bowl commercial; given how ubiquitous the marketing has been, no doubt CBS would have run one had it broadcast the game! I don't believe I have seen this much publicity for a soap since the heydey of General Hospital's Luke & Laura or, more recently, Susan Lucci's reported pay cut.
To be clear, this massive push of and investment in marketing muscle is nothing short of a last ditch effort to give the show a much-needed push before the executioner's axe swings to and fro. However, it is far better and far more impressive treatment than a lot of now defunct soaps received from their networks when they were rumored to get the axe. I would even go so far as to say that the kind of marketing prowess that CBS has demonstrated here should be a textbook example for NBC, ABC (long the leader in this kind of thing) and for the rest of the CBS lineup of how to market the genre to the general public going forward.
Second, if we only have to go by what we see onscreen without benefit of knowing that a lot of GL's location footage in Peapack, New Jersey is shot out of sequence and on different dates, Springfield apparently has the freakiest weather and topography in the northern hemisphere!
And now The Main Event: for those who have been reading some of my recent GL postings, it might not come as a shock that I've been thoroughly enjoying the return/reintroduction of Phillip and portrayer Aleksander to the canvas. What might surprise you is that much of that enjoyment has less to do with Phillip himself than you might think.
With all of the hype surrounding Phillip's return, it has been a pleasant surprise how low-key the whole affair has been onscreen. By contrast, TV Guide Canada's Nelson Branco reports that my all-time soap journalism hero Mimi Torchin considers this soap version of the Second Coming "anti-climatic but somewhat enjoyable." I would argue that we look more to recent history regarding big name comebacks of actors in their popular roles for some comparison and clarity:
One Life to Live totally botched the (writer's strike crippled) return of Andrea Evans as Tina Lord, but has scored big with Florencia Lozano as Tea Delgado. As the World Turns has mangled Dusty Donovan (Grayson McCouch) by throwing him in one short-term, unfocused storyline after another and rendered original portrayer Scott Bryce's version of Craig Montgomery — once a nearly flawless merger of performer & character — nearly unrecognizable. On the other side of the mountain, The Young and the Restless has brilliantly been using former cast members and their characters in a nod to fabled history.