Thursday, July 3, 2008

My irrational anger at the Bold and the Beautiful

At Soap Opera Network, someone printed a blind item from SOD about a youth oriented "revamp" coming to Bold and Beautiful. I have watched B&B from the beginning, and that just made me angry! This summarizes a few of the thoughts I put down about this. Can B&B be saved? I love the show, and I really hope it can...

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Let me apologize in advance for this rant.

I share everyone's concerns. Is this going to be shaky-cam? Is this going to be filmlook? Is this going to be new 'edgy' sets with loud music? Is this going to be played by lots of pretty, vapid people with few skills...and little tie to history? (Hey, the vapid-and-pretty defines this show since 1987 smile.gif ).

Clearly, this is not going to give us more Lesli Kay or Winsor Harmon on our screens.

ON THE OTHER HAND...I have been unable to watch for weeks. I simply can no longer watch grizzled, angry Ronn Moss. I loved Kelly Lang, but goodness is her schtick old. Jack Wagner looks old and tired. Flannery is being phased out, and her absence is felt. The main story now is about DEMENTIA using an actress we never saw before (and character who has not been a viable onscreen character since the 80s). This is after a long run of terminal abdominal cancer, drunken hit-and-runs, alcoholism, meltdowns of key characters, confronting one's elderly mother about one's abused childhood, rape, shooting, insanity, suicide, and terminal heart conditions. This is darker and more melodramatic and more eye-rolling than anything. The endless litany of 40- and 50-somethings playing characters with adolescent sensibilities, morality, and capability for commitment are.... Promising entertainers (Lesli Kay, Heather Thom, and Eileen Davidson) languish or are mis-used in high-concept stories that are reminiscent of 1930s/1940s women's films. That's fine--but you can't build a whole show unendingly on this dreck.

I sit here, in my 40s, and even _I_ feel this show is stagnant and over-populated with the older generation. The show has failed to bring along a viable younger generation in forever. There WAS promise with Sean Kanan and Adrienne Frantz...but shockingly this was squandered when the creative team got bored.

So, I _do_ feel the show needs reinvention and new characters/stories. On the other hand, every single "reinvention" at B&B has failed. There was the "diversity" experiment, where Paulo Bendetto and Lilly Melgar and George Alvarez were introduced. How long did that last? There was last summer's "Boldface Records" undending tripe. Appealing performers have been introduced throughout history (most recently, folks like Ben Hogetsyn and Mykel Shannon Jenkins), only to wither on the vine. Stellar infusions by the likes of Lesley Anne Down and Joseph Mascolo have been allowed to fade out with whimpers, not bangs.

This show has been as lost as any show on daytime. It has been held afloat only by its' lead-in and its international sales and, yes, its pedigree. But, as the lead-in and the international sales decline, and the pedigree grows older and colder (we miss you, Bill Sr.!), I find B&B has less and less to offer.

So, yes, re-invention is needed...more here than anywhere else in daytime. BUT...if they do not change their EP and they do not change their HW, and they do not listen to their experienced consultants (Jack Smith and Kay Alden have left NO imprint on this show; I find NO improvement due to the Y&R writers who were added)...then there is no mechanism to bring about change or improvement.

You'll think I'm nuts here...but if any show needed Wendy Riche and Claire Labine, this is it. SERIOUSLY. For B&B has lacked a soul, an identity, commitment to characters and stories, and a direction forever. There is a reason I DVR this show nightly but cannot bring myself to watch. It is too painful. There are brief and grand glorious soapy moments (Sally weeping over Darla's dying body; Storm's suicide and the resulting transplant), interspersed with unending sap played by largely unlikeable characters.

It is time for change. I embrace it. But I am afraid if a "youth-quake" is what is going to be offered. That misses the point. PLEASE give B&B a soul.

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Now, I'm kind of hung up on the idea that I think Judith Chapman's Gloria Abbott should come to B&B and pick up the reins at Spectra? By all accounts, Gloria needs to be "rested" at Y&R, and B&B needs her camp fabulousness. With Eileen Davidson at B&B, Ash and Glo could revive their feud. Since Gloria's signature is perfume ("perfume on the Glo") and Ash designs fragrances for Forrester...it could be a whole new era in the Spectra-Forrester war. I REALLY REALLY REALLY think Gloria could front Spectra and make it great (in story) again. [Leslie Anne Down probably could too...but B&B seems to have no interest making her anything other than a hand-wringing mother].

Now, what about this revamp? I think it debuted, in part, on July 2, 2008 in the US. Until July 9, for US viewers, you can see the episode on Youtube. Click the episode link here (CBS will not allow the video to be embedded).

For critical moments, watch at:

0:01, 3:16, and 4:19 to get a sense of what people are talking about--exteriors and rocky fast cuts. That this coincides with Beemer's arrival is likely not an accident. This is actually a highly appropriate style change for an LA-set soap...I am definitely down with that.

You know what...if the writing is good, and the show is still rooted in its' history and core families, I can go with this. But, it will not give the show a "soul".

But I realized something today...if B&B wants to continue showing us (as it has since 1987) people with adolescent romantic behavior...the least they can do is feature adolescents behaving thus. That. already, is an improvement over the aged mess (and I'm a gerontologist!!) we have been getting.


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Even though I want her to revive B&B, I really want Judith Chapman/Glo to stay on Y&R anyway. (Yup, I'm the only one who does :-) ). But I so miss Darlene Conley and Sally Spectra that I can't stand it. At least when their stories were stupid they were INTENTIONALLY stupid. Now, they're just embarrasingly stupid (dying Katie goes to the prom; dying Felicia in end stage bowel cancer that has metastacized to the liver gets a miraculous partial organ transplant and now looks healthier than anyone on the show).

I have this deep, deep loyalty to William J. Bell...I can't totally explain why. I so want this final baby of his to thrive for a long time. For me, the monstrosity is the creative direction of this show. I personally suspect that B&B is about to plummet from rank 2, and join all the rest at the bottom of the pile. There is nothing to sustain viewership right now.

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Darlene Conley was the soul. B&B was kind of a cold fish when it debuted. Interestingly enough, I really don't think B&B caught fire initially, and succeeded only by being Y&R's follow-up. When Sally joined the show (initially for a short term role, but boy did it explode!), it turned the show on its' ear. Suddenly there was humor and camp. Suddenly there were haves and have nots. Suddenly there was this great ongoing battle. It was fun, and work EVEN BEFORE they brought Macy in for a Romeo and Juliet with Thorne.

Brad Bell's storyline commitment to the Spectras waned fairly quickly, but at least he left them on canvas. And Darlene, bless her heart, was such a force of nature that she was able to steal the show even when she was just quiet in a scene. Like Jeanne Cooper on Y&R, Darlene LOVED her audience and its' adoration, and she projected in back in every syllable and movement. She was the emotional hook for the show.

In those earlier days, Susan Flannery and Katherine Kelly Lang also rocked. Flannery was so cold, so hard...but when she does one of her verbal harrangues--pure reason, little emotion--you can't help but agree with her. She CLAIMS you with her total authenticity. I never really liked Stephanie, never really supported her actions...but couldn't wait to see her.

When Flannery and Conley went at it--all reason versus emotion--it was a perfect ying and yang.

Back in those days, young ingenue Brooke...so sexy, so sweet, so sincere, totally sold me. She often did horrendous things (keeping Ridge and Caroline apart, later bedding Eric), but she did it with such girlish sincerity. She was the opposite of Sally (not loud, not boisterous), but equally plausible as a girl carried by dreams and hopes.

One would think that, despite Conley's death, Flannery and Lang might be able to keep it going. But Flannery is so CLEARLY bored, it doesn't work very well anymore. And her character's relentless clinging to Eric undermines her as a supremely rational being, because her choices make so little sense. She has also been damaged by plot driven messes (like telling Katie she "loves" her, when we never saw that relationship develop on screen). And Lang, dear sweet Lang, is 100% implausible now. A 40-something woman is NOT a girl, and her choices cannot be justified as "clinging to hope and dreams". When a woman does that at her age, we start to see she is sick, deluded, rather like Amanda Wingfield in the Glass Menagerie. Such sickness can be fun to watch...but it cannot sustain the emotional core of a show.

Taylor and Felicia never worked as emotional centers for the show. Taylor used to be so crisp and *always right* (I say that in a good way), and she should have stayed that way. Tylo simply doesn't handle playing "breakdown" well, so now we have our strong and smart Taylor erased, and indelibly replaced with this weeping and shrieking mess. Not fun.

Lesli Kay stole my heart during her terminal illness story, but they should have let her character die. The "rescue" ruined Felicia in three ways: First, it introduced a supreme implausibility, rather like "Josh" at All My Children. Second, we didn't see her go on to make choices IN LIGHT of her death experience...so in the end the dying became irrelevant. Third, the character has been horribly neglected ever since...so we don't have anyone we "root" for. I still love Kay, but (due to the absence of writing for her) she has tended to become this snarky dame in the corner...there is no heart or intrinsic interest.

Suddenly, we have a show at 21 years of age with NO emotional center. There has been a desperate attempt to put Katie there...but the writing has been so schlocky and our history with Katie so brief, it cannot sustain interest.

I honestly believe that unless this show is willing to start over...to build some young generation members who command our emotions...it is dead. I cannot think of a SINGLE outstanding young cast member since Adrienne Frantz. There is not ONE since Amber that just drew us in emotionally. That represents at least a decade of failure.

3 comments:

lesleys1fan said...

I totally agree with a lot of your comments. B&B is my favorite soap and I think they could use more of Lesley to make for better storylines with Steph.

Clamzilla said...

OMG, you couldn't be more spot-on! I never realized how wretched things had truly become until you laid it all out.

As a daily viewer I tend to stick to the current storyline (as bad as it is) and forget how much has crashed and burned in the past few years. Massimo's simply disappearing on business never to return was ludicrous; Deacon's never-ending rehab is another mystery (as is the location of his son). And what has become of young Detective Baker? So much whoop-de-do made in the soap press about his addition to the show and then bupkis!

I love your idea about importing Gloria Bardwell, but losing her at Y&R would be a huge deal for that show, and not one I think they need right now.

I completely agree with your comments about the need for a revamp. I can't bear looking at grizzled old Ridge and Ronn Moss' painfully non-acting acting style any longer. "Resting" the Forresters doesn't bother me in the least, but I could do without turning Nick into the male version of Brooke, having him bounce from Logan woman to Logan woman the way she worked her way through the Forrester men.

FanofAshleys said...

Don't apologize for your rant. I think you're spot on! I'm just glad Y&R is bring Ashley back for good.