Despite gloom and doom about the state of daytime in almost all of its aspects, fans have been treated to some good soap opera lately. The Young and the Restless is the Must See Soap right now. One Life to Live has regained it's glory and Guiding Light is steadily improving. Some of daytime's best actors are giving some of the performances of their lives. With that in mind, there are three performers new to their respective shows deserving of special mention who I think are doing a bang up job.
JR MARTINEZ (Brot Monroe, All My Children)
Introduced amid a publicity blitz, JR Martinez came aboard AMC with a fascinating, real life backstory: an Iraq War veteran seriously injured and disfigured by explosives, eventually becoming a noted inspirational speaker for and on behalf of veterans coping with their life altering injuries. His addition to AMC's canvas was purposeful and deliberate. The show wanted a real life injured vet to play Brot, former love of newcomer Taylor (Beth Ehlers).
AMC has received much justly deserved praise for casting Martinez, but make no mistake, this was as much a bit of stunt casting as it was groundbreaking decision. READ MORE
My grandmother always said if you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't say anything at all. But then she also yelled the occasional obscenity at drivers who cut her off in traffic and at bill collectors who called a second time after she had already told them they would get their money on payday, I digress.
In the spirit of my late grandmother, as well as CBS Vice-President for Daytime Barbara Bloom-who recently said critics of GL's new production style should "lighten up" in an interview with TV Guide's Michael Logan-I will try my best to make this particular blog post about Guiding Light as positive as I possibly can without turning into a wooden little boy whose nose has a penchant for growing. All I ask is that you just don't cut out in front of me or ask me when I'm gonna pay the balance on my Sprint bill. After all, I am my grandmother's grandson. So here goes, the following are 10 good reasons for viewers to turn the 'Light back on.
1.) Kim Zimmer: This woman is hands down the best actress in daytime. I'm sure this statement will cause a huge amount of debate, but someone please name another actress who has consistently brought it even through the most ridiculous of storylines and unbelievable of scenarios. Guiding Light has killed Reva, made her a ghost, an Amish amnesiac, a clone, a princess, a time traveling Nazi slayer and most asinine of all, a woman who decides to keep her breast cancer from the man she's loved since she was a little girl because it might mess up the project he was working on. Other actresses in daytime have been handed stories that were stinkers, no doubt, but usually their boredom and lack of commitment to the work can be readily noted on screen. That's never been the case with Zimmer. She never shortchanges the fans, even when she herself thinks the story she's playing is a turkey. And that is what makes her daytime's ultimate actress extraordinaire and a good reason to keep braving bad lighting and alarmingly intimate close ups set to elevator music. Okay, back to being positive!
2.) Dinah taking down Alan: After months in Storyline Siberia, Guiding Light's second best actress Gina Tognoni has been given a front burner storyline that allows fans to live vicariously through her as she does what we've all wanted to do for years-kick Alan Spaulding where it hurts. I am loving Dinah's vicious assault on the Spaulding coffers and hope this storyline has major legs. I don't want Alan to somehow figure it all out and get the best of Dinah in time for May Sweeps. No, I want to see the snarky Miss Marler rule Springfield for quite some time. And how great is it to see Mallet (Rob Bogue) and Dinah back together? Of course we know the eventual revelation that Dinah pretended to be Philip in order to steal Alan's fortune will probably cause a bit of tension between the do-gooder cop and his slightly sociopathic lady love, but that's what makes this couple so great. Tognoni is one of the best actresses of her generation. It's a smart move for GL to finally give her something to do before she decided to bolt to ABC like Ricky Paull Goldin.
3.) Ashlee and Coop: This has to be the most realistic and touching couple on daytime right now. Coop's provision of the unconditional love that Ashlee was never able to get from her cruel and overly critical mother Doris is what gave the young woman the strength to go forward with her lap band surgery. Caitlin Van Zandt (Ashlee) is a courageous young woman to allow this story to be told, and the love scene between Coop and Ashlee this week was everything a good soap love scene should be, sweet, tender and yes, hot. I also like Coop's excitement over his first book deal. It is very authentic and consistent with the character's throughline. It would be nice if he could spot Harley some of that advance cash, you know, so she and her Aussie boytoy don't have to keep eating Ramen noodles. Come on Coop, hook your sista up!
4.) Rafe, Natalia and Remy: Wow, who knew all it would take was Gus dying for me to feel empathy for his insta-family? I am totally buying Rafe's anger and Natalia's sorrow over losing Gus. Stepping outside of the fact that these people came between one of the show's top couples, it is easy to understand the loss this woman must feel after managing to reunite with her childhood sweetheart and the father of her son, only to lose him while he was trying to play Captain Save-a-Ho for Olivia. Jessica Leccia's quiet performance is in perfect contrast to E.J. Bonilla's intensity and regret. I am also finding myself intrigued by the addition of Lawrence St. Victor's Remy to the mix. If there has been any character on GL that has been without an anchor for years, it's been Remy. For the first time I am seeing potential for the character. I could totally get on board with a Natalia/Remy pairing, especially if they bring back his meddlesome parents to disapprove of his relationship with an older, widowed mother.
5.) Bill and Lizzie: I'm sure a lot of people (Luke) are perplexed by how far down this couple is on my list, and while I do definitely consider them a reason to tune in, I just don't like how this couple is currently being written. It is no slam to the couple's popularity or the actors. Marcy Rylan and Daniel Cosgrove drip with chemistry from their every pore, but who really wants to see them lie around in a dishelved bed all day talking about how some of their body parts don't get clean when they shower together? Can you say a little too much reality? Bizzie could electrify this soap if they drop the dopey Ava as a distraction and bring on a valid foil for the couple. Since Tom Pelphrey can't commit to a long time contract, why not recast Jonathan with Chad Brannon(ex-Zander, General Hospital)? Or bring Brannon on as the son of the man Lizzie killed in defense of Beth when she was just a kid. He could come to town to settle the score and ultimately fall for the heiress, causing Bill to really have to step up to the plate.
6.) Crystal Chappell: If there is an actress in daytime other than Kim Zimmer who can make poop into pools of gold it is Crystal Chappell. TPTB ruined her excellent pairings with Grant Aleksander's Philip and Daniel Cosgrove's Bill before they even got started good. Then they stuck her in the most boring storyline featuring the brilliant Justin Deas ever, when they had Buzz and Frank battling it out over Liv. And while there is ready chemistry between Olivia and Jeffrey they had to go and write that he had raped her when they were kids. Can I just say ENOUGH with reforming rapists on daytime. I will admit some of my favorite characters have raped before (Luke Spencer, Todd Manning, Jack Deveraux, Roger Thorpe) but that doesn't mean this trend should continue. Soaps are a genre aimed primarily at women so stop romanticizing violence against your core demo! Olivia's botched pairing with Gus was the latest in a long line of stinkers for the beautiful Chappell. Here's hoping the awesome scenes she's been getting with former leading man Robert Newman (Josh) and rival for his affections Reva Shayne will lead to a redux of those characters mixing it up, with Jeffrey thrown in for good measure. It just might happen with Cassie currently trying to challenge her sister for the Slut of Springfield crown. Which brings me to my next reason to tune in...
7.) Cassie is effing up royally: There are three female characters on daytime who annoy me to no end. General Hospital's Sam McCall, Young and the Restless' Gloria Fisher and that sanctimonious, former pole twister-turned-princess-turned-inn keeper Cassie Winslow on Guiding Light! Reva was determined to find the child her mother put up for adoption, so that poor dead Sarah Shayne could rest in peace knowing her girls were reunited. I bet Reva wishes she had just bought her Mama a nice wreath and had left that ungrateful wench Cassie dropping it like it was hot at the Sugar Shack. Cassie digusts me to no end and always has, so this isn't about Nicole Forester, although I admit my ability to tolerate the character's screen time has diminished since original Cassie Laura Wright left town to dodge stray bullets in Port Charles. Cassie just had to have Reva's husband Josh (much like she had to have Dinah's fiance Hart and Reva's ex-husband Prince Richard) and now that she has him, what does she do? She goes off to bars all day to flirt with random men and drink like a prize fish at the County Bait and Tackle Fair! I am so glad for this turn of events though. Hopefully it means that Josh will quickly find out what a neurotic, skanky mess he's married to and kick her to the curb en route to returning to Cross Creek: The Springfield Edition to reunite with Reva Darlin'! I even don't mind that Cryus (see later on the list), one of the show's best new characters in years, is being sacrificed to make it happen by sleeping with Spazzie. Here's hoping Cassie's latest stunt results in her taking RJ and catching a one-way flight back to San Cristobel, pronto!
8.) Cyrus and Harley: I know I am treading on dangerous ground here because Gus and Harley were so special to so many fans, including me. But I'm sorry, negating the heat between Cryus (Murray Bartlett) and Harley (Beth Ehlers) just because Gus is gone would be like denying that Kirstie Alley rocked on Cheers when she replaced Shelley Long. I can admit it, I Jamey Giddens like Cyrus and Harley. I also love their storyline. Harley is a woman come undone. She's knock, knock, knocking on 40's door, her marriage had just gone kerplooey and here comes this randy, unkempt, sorta dirty guy, complete with an accent who wants to tie her to the bed 24/7. Okay, so she's missed a few of Little Philip's (Isn't that one of the kid's names?) T-ball games and forgot to make brownies for Little Rick's Cub Scout troop, give the woman a break!
9.) Justin Deas: Hands down Justin Deas is one of the top actors in soaps, if not all of entertainment. I hate that GL has domesticated him and basically made him a modern day Papa Bauer. Deas needs a smoldering romance and I'm sorry his current bridge games with Lillian aren't exactly what I am talking about. Why can't GL bring back Fiona Hutchison's Jenna? I know she died on screen but really, who cares at this point? Jenna's death could have been faked by some ruthless diamond smuggler who wanted to utilize her talents for stealing precious gems. Then somehow she escapes and makes her way back to Springfield and Buzz. And if not Jenna, why not have Buzz throw Blake off Coop's scent by having him seduce Harley's best friend himself? Blake and Harley as stepmother and stepdaughter would be almost as good as Jenna and Harley were.
10.) At least its not on NBC: My final reason for tuning back into Guiding Light is that even with the shoddy camera work, bad lighting, dismally cheesy theme song and frustratingly separated supercouples, the show is still much, much better than Another World was during its last six months to a year on air. Unlike when NBC soaps head into trouble, Guiding Light appears to still have the support of its network and not in the form of overzealous execs forcing them to tell outlandish stories and mimic the supernatural tomfoolery that once managed to provide a temporary ratings boon for Days of Our Lives. Barbara Bloom is at least still speaking about GL in the press. When was the last time you heard an NBC exec speak about Days? Oh yeah...that time. Even with Days currently on an upswing, NBC execs are mum on the show's future. At least on GL there has been no mention of the words "Lumina" or the admission that CBS wants out of the soap game, so there's still hope. Let's just hope Wheeler can fix the kinks in the new production model and starts insisting on storylines the fans will enjoy and who knows, the 'Light may stay on for years to come.