Requiem for a Daytime Drama, Part Four
The fourth in a highly personal, non-objective series highlighting various aspects of the last episodes of Guiding Light, which will end its 72 year run on September 18th
The penultimate episode of Guiding Light was light on story, but extraordinarily high in emotion and closure — and there was one bit of ridiculousness about which, at this late date, I could ultimately only laugh.
Jill Lorie Hurst & Ellen Wheeler threw in so many twists, turns and delightful surprises that it was hard to keep up! Danny (Paul Anthony Stewart), Michelle (Nancy St. Alban) and Robbie moved back to Springfield! Remy (Lawrence Saint-Victor) found out that he and Christina (Karla Mosely) really weren't married — again, only to be informed by the not-Mrs. Boudreaux that she is pregnant! Mel (Yvonna Wright) & Cryus (Murray Bartlett) burned up the well-worn sheets at the Beacon! Even Daisy (Bonnie Dennison) got accepted to college, which was a delightful shock, given that not only did I have no idea she had applied to a university, but was more shocked that she actually could read!
In some ways these developments were mere appetizers for two of the biggest, most emotionally satisfying payoffs Guiding Light could have ever delivered for its long time, faithful fans!
Let's get some of the other lovely bits and moments out of the way first. After a funny bit at Cross Creek where Reva (Kim Zimmer) needled Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey) about drinking out of a carton, she wound up giving him — with Cassie's permission — the house Cassie had bought for him and Tammy so that he can raise Sarah. Jonathan had a final chat with Tammy and, as a result, Pelphrey got the opportunity to do one of his famous shoulder-shake-cries before accepting it. There was such love between Zimmer & Pelphrey in those scenes that it radiated through the screen.
In the wake of Alan's death, Josh (Robert Newman) changed his mind about moving to Venezuela and impulsively decided to "kidnap" Reva and marry her all over again. When Billy (Jordan Clarke) balked at the idea, Josh ran over to Reva's and was quickly reminded that she is only just beginning to move on with her life and not ready for anything, much less a fourth marriage. Dejected, Josh decided to move from Springfield anyway, this time back to Tulsa. The good natured ribbing between the Lewis brothers underscored the obvious deep affection between the two actors, who have been on top of their respective games these last days.
Alan's memorial was a quiet affair where his ashes were spread along the shore. It might have seemed odd that it was Buzz (Justin Deas) who gave the late Spaulding patriarch his final sendoff, but for the show it was fitting. Buzz paid tribute to Alan without cheap sentimentality or mawkishness. After Alan's ashes had been released, Phillip (Grant Aleksander) and James (Zack Conroy) played a bittersweet game of frisbee, which James had been teaching his grandfather before his passing. When James ran in the sand, spread his arms and "flew," I got terribly choked up. Perhaps the curse of the Spaulding fathers and their sons will be broken after all.
Speaking of curses, Jeffrey (Bradley Cole) and Edmund (David Andrew MacDonald) continued playing cat & mouse, jacks, hopscotch, tiddly winks or whatever the hell they were doing. The set up: Jeffrey had apparently tracked Prince Eddie to a rooftop above Barbara Bloom's penthouse and was planning to kill him, but one of Eddie's poorly trained goons jumped Jeffrey in what had to be one of the most laughably choreographed fight scenes with bad "pow" sound effects since the old Batman series starring Adam West. Boom! Pow!
I was a little peeved that this foolishness was taking away time from some of the other developments, but then I surrendered to it all. Every scene of Guiding Light has been filmed; every bit has been edited. What's done, as they say, is done. So I laughed at it all, and I genuinely delighted in how fully committed Mr. MacDonald was to Edmund's moustache twirling villainy! I always loved Edmund Winslow as a second rate Roger Thorpe (the late, great Michael Zaslow), and I maintain that even a second rate Roger Thorpe is still high praise.
The mention of Roger brings us to the two momentous developments involving two of the most important women in Roger Dodger's life that made me literally stand up and cheer! I will put them in the order of importance to me, fully realizing that for many long time fans these events will be tied or even switched.
The first involved Alexandra. In the previous entry in this series, I praised Marj Dusay for her deft handling of Alex's grief over losing her beloved brother Alan. Spaulding or not, Alexandra has never been more genuinely true to life. I've known many women of Alex's age whose reaction to the death of a sibling mirrored Alex's: profound sadness leavened with clear eyed pragmatism. When Phillip saw the cup of coffee at the breakfast table and immediately assumed she had poured it for Alan, Aunt Alex gently told him it was for him — a brilliantly subtle way to "pass the mantle" of Spaulding patriarch to Phillip. At the lake shore, Alex could barely hold back tears as she gently grabbed a handful of her brother's ashes. Back at the mansion, Bill (Daniel Cosgrove) asked her if she was doing alright and Alex answered in that voice I have heard a hundred times over, "I will be."
It was at that moment that Hilda announced a visitor and, in one of the most gloriously emotional entrances that GL has ever delivered, Fletcher Reade walked in. Fletcher (the much missed Jay Hammer) had a little more gray, but he was wearing that same fedora. Fletcher also had that same look of undying love in his eyes when he took in the sight of his grieving Alexandra and said that he had come — from parts unknown — just to see if she needed anything. Alex jumped up, grabbed onto the one true love of her life and finally let out in an awful wail the heavy pain that she had held so closely inside. With a few lines that would not have qualified him as an "under five," Hammer was awesome. Dusay was extraordinary. I was a mess.
However, at the end of the day, the scene I least expected made me literally jump up from my chair and run around my house like a mad man: Ed (Peter Simon) finally stepped up and claimed Holly (the extraordinary Maureen Garrett) by asking her to go away with him on an open-ended trip around the world.
More than practically any other GL character over the years, I think I have loved Holly the most. Through her neuroses and emotional fragilities, I loved her. When Roger raped her during their ill-fated marriage and she worked up the courage to take him to court, I loved her. During all the times when I — like millions of other fans — yelled at Holly to get a clue and leave the toxic Roger alone while at the same time being mesmerized by their twisted chemistry, I loved her. When former head writer Claire Labine did her damndest to resurrect a then long-neglected Holly as a comsopolitan sophisticate, I loved her even more. Even when she was driven insane by bad writing and tried to kidnap all the children of Springfield, still I loved Holly Margaret Norris Bauer Thorpe Lindsey Reade. Like the old tortured soap heroines of old, Holly was the one character who I deeply felt deserved to find happiness.
Longtime viewers know that Roger was Holly's twisted constant, but Ed was always her true north. When Ed knocked at her door today and issued a gentle invitation for them to go away together and she accepted, I could barely contain my happiness! For this long time viewer, this was the ultimate payoff of a story and a character almost 40 years in the making!
Of this week so far, I cannot complain. Yes, more Spauldings should have been in attendance at Alan's memorial. Yes, it would have been nice to see Holly reunite with Meg with Fletcher back. Everybody will have their "I wish" this and "they should have done" thats. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. At the end of the day, there were 74 minutes of Guiding Light left on the clock and the extraordinary highs of today's show far outshone any quibbles at this late date in the game.
Tomorrow — Friday, September 18, 2009 — there will be 37 minutes left of a 72 year legacy and the light will fade for the last time.