Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why I'm dismayed by Y&R Diane Jenkings Murder Mystery (Killer "revealed")

This adapted from a twitter-stream in which I ranted this morning. Surely I'm not the only one who feels this way. Ugh...

Structurally, I actually LIKE the murder mystery, and if I'm reading it right (see the section at bottom for my guess about the killer), it's one of the best-constructed for Y&R in yrs.

What I don't like about the murder mystery is the underlying emotional mistruths and plottiness it forces us to endure. To wit:

(1) We KNOW (subjectively) that none of the nine prime suspects is a killer......even Adam, we KNOW--because Muhney's eyes tell us he's not. (He did NOT kill Hightower).

(2) Too many crime stories (Hightower, Patty, mob, murder) have infected Y&R since the latter days of Lynn Latham. What about emotion, love and family drama in small Wisconsin town? That Y&R seems to be dead, eh? (Interesting that GH, AMC, DOOL all seem to be RETURNING to the formula of emotional family-based drama...and B&B is excelling in that category these days...with nary a murder in sight).

(3) Murder derails the show in a single umbrella story. So many interesting tales (Nikki's recovery, Villy, Daniel/Lily rediscovering each other, Tucker's son) are ignored.

(4) The story is ultimately pure plot, minimal character. There are a few actors on this show who can still evoke emotion with their faces and body language (Muhney, Leblanc, Ryland, Braeden [when he cares/is invested], and ... shockingly, Heinle). Strangely, Peter Bergman has been really emotionally disconnected from his scenes for a long while, and all that reads now mostly is coldness. But while this crew is front-and-center in the plot, most of them aren't finding the emotional truth of it at all. That relates to my next point.

(5) Y&R is totally ignoring the emotional HEART of this story. Diane has been on canvas since 1982 and some DID care for her. Only Michael Baldwin, briefly, got to play the emotion. I suspect that owes itself 80% to Leblanc's strengths as an actor--his constrained emotions and tear-brimmed eyes told the story of his outrage.

If I had my way, Y&R would do a two-year moratorium on death and crime, and see what else they could come up with.

Also, it bears noting that while many of us felt Maura West was an odd casting choice for Diane, and the character was scripted from jump (during West's watch) as a lost woman with no sense of her self-worth, no real identity, just money-grubbing man whore, she still thrived in it. West reinvented Diane as utterly broken, and she pulled it off. It is the writers' fault that Diane's successful past as a fashion maven, model, and architect were all fully ignored. (Empowered Diane couldn't have filled the show's obviously much-desired victim niche). Nevertheless, during her brief year on the show, West was a STAR. She captivated attention even in the most throwaway scenes.

My predictions about the killer are below, in white font. I'm pretty sure I'm right. Highlight the text with your cursor to reveal:

I think the killer is Patty. As such, it's actually a brilliant move because it makes sense based on THIRTY YEARS of history.


Motive: Patty's life derailed, basically, when she married philandering Jack Abbott. The NIGHT before his wedding to Patty, Jack slept with Diane...and the affair continued after the marriage (leading to Patty's miscarriage). The show cleverly reminded us of this rivalry in a one-off episode when Haiduk's Patty confronted Susan Walters' Diane during a brief visit.

Opportunity: Patty is missing. No one knows where she is. We have a sense that she may be "around", when Adam talked on the phone to "someone" last week, telling him/her to stay away and that he was sending him/her enough money.

Character: Patty's a killer. Kitty-Kitty, Zapato, endangering Summer with peanut butter. It also seems likely -- although the show introduced ambiguity here -- that Patty killed Richard Hightower. (Adam reminded her that she did it...but we weren't clear if he'd really uncovered the memory, or if he'd implanted it). Let's not forget that as early is the early-80s, Patty went into a fugue state and shot Jack (for revealing, to Jill, he never loved Patty). Remember that Patty shot Jack MULTIPLE times? Just like Diane got bashed in the head MULTIPLE times. Girl's got anger issues.

Rumor: Someone told me, after I guessed this, that Haiduk had been seen on the Y&R set for a few episodes to "wrap up" her character. Plot construction: Suddenly, the criminally ignored Doug Davidson resurfaces. He's sudden the lead local detective (special investigator) on the Diane Jenkins murder. (Negative points to Y&R for ignoring how many years Paul and Diane had intertwined lives, from when she was married to his partner/best friend Andy. Davidson should have been allowed to grieve for what Diane once was). Anyway, why put Paul on the case (rather than, say, Coco from FAME??). So he can react with trademark shock and heartbreak when he realizes HIS SISTER IS THE KILLER.

I must confess, it is this last part of it...rooting this murder in 30 years of history and positioning Davidson to play the emotional beats of it...that makes me hate this story less.

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