AWARDS CENTRAL: Mid-year handicapping!
2009 Daytime Emmy Awards Countdown — Outstanding guest actor
Thanks to One Life to Live’s guest star-infused 40th anniversary celebrations, last year’s best soap should easily dominate this category — should NATAS re-introduce this race.

—Patrick Duffy (Stephen Logan, The Bold and the Beautiful)
—Kin Shriner (Scotty Baldwin, General Hospital)
—Tom Pelphrey (ex-Jonathan Randall, Guiding Light)
—Gil Rogers (Hawk Shayne, GL)
—Jordan Clarke (Billy Lewis, GL)
—Montell Williams (Clayton Boudreau, GL)
—Phil Carey (ex-Asa Buchanan, OLTL)
—Mark Derwin (ex-Ben Davidson, OLTL)
—Hunt Block (ex-Lee Ramsey, OLTL)
—Peter Bartlet (Nigel Bartholomew-Smythe, OLTL)
—Stephen Markle (ex-Mel Hayes, OLTL)
—Tuc Watkins (ex-Large David Vickers, OLTL)
—Chris Stack (Michael McBain, OLTL)

Editor’s Note: Since a NATAS rep asked TV Guide.ca if there were enough names to fill out this proposed category, I’m including more than the usual five nominees to illustrate the abundant choices available (for this race to work, recurring and cameo roles would have to be combined). 

THE NELSON RATINGS
Can’t watch all the soaps this week? No worries — here’s a cheat sheet!

>>FF: SOAP MALFUNCTION CURRENTLY IN PROGRESS
OLTL: Raping Marty softly with his kiss 
What a difference a year — and a kiss — makes!

In what’s becoming an increasingly unhealthy habit, Daytimeconfidential.com’s Jamey “Giddy” Giddens and I talked into the wee hours of the morning one night analyzing the current state of emergency One Life to Live finds itself in creatively (though to be fair, the soap is showing signs of improvement lately — as long as a certain couple isn’t airing).

And we’re not the only ones. Lately, many pundits, critics, and fans are scratching their heads asking the same question: Is James E. Reilly pulling a you-know-who and rewriting Emmy winner Ron Carlivati’s once brilliant and perfect soap?

Let’s review: cartoonish villains; trips to mythical countries; bare-chested, shackled hunks; characters talking to themselves almost every day; secret rooms; the arrival of Rebecca Hotchkiss Crane; one-dimensional split personalities; pregnant teenagers; fantastical plots; and paternity stories gone awry. And let’s not forget the trademark Days of our Lives and Passions staple: rape victims falling in love with their rapists. I guess we should be grateful there isn’t a transsexual running around town pregnant with his daddy’s baby.

Three weeks ago, Carlivati's risky and oh-so-reckless decision to turn the gold standard of rape stories — Michael Malone’s 1992 Emmy-winning gang-rape storyline — into a soap cliché culminated in a shocking, controversial and highly publicized kiss. Sidebar: Apparently, promoting gay kisses is a platform; but rape and violence are kosher. Got it. Thanks.

Sure, past regimes contemplated career suicide by plotting the taboo Marty and Todd love story — which has been proposed by almost every OLTL writer at one point or another. However, they all wisely backed off mainly because Emmy winners Susan Haskell (Marty) and Roger Howarth (ex-Todd) refused to act it out.

In fact, many assume the creepy desire to tell this rape-mance is what finally scared Howarth into jumping over to As The World Turns.

Instead of focusing on the inspired karmic thread of Todd and Marty’s children, Starr and Cole, falling in love Romeo and Juliet-style, Carlivati opted to parasitically rape Malone’s storyline for another notch in his re-Ron marathon. Now that Starr and Cole are expecting a Manning-Thornhart bambino, the teen pregnancy acts as the perfect catalyst to keep conflict brewing between Marty and Todd without having to resort to the characters falling in love.

But I’m afraid, it’s too late. After witnessing Todd play tongue hockey with Marty, I felt betrayed, hurt, and disgusted as a viewer. This storyline no longer resonates nor engages me. As Emmy-winning soap scribe Tom Casiello noted recently in one of his blogs, had Marty kissed Todd, and not the other way around… oh, what am I talking about? In my eyes, it wouldn’t have made an iota of difference.

Sadly, that single kiss erased 16 years of story and character motivation/back-story from my soap-viewing history. In that depressing yet shocking moment, I realized I had wasted almost two decades investing — and believing — in this epic story. FYI: The rape storyline won Emmys for Haskell, Howarth, Malone, and Hillary B. Smith (Nora).

In the end, art was destroyed and sacrificed to sell detergent. This soulless decision to sell out a sacred storyline has me feeling depressed, angry, and insulted.

Giddens pointed out Ron Carlivati’s not pulling a James E. Reilly, but a Megan McTavish. Bingo! In that single moment, I swear, I added 10 years to my life after I spotted grey hairs popping up everywhere — and I mean, everywhere. It’s worse than any of us thought, kids. 

Giddens said: “To be fair, even James E. Reilly didn't come on to DAYS and dismantle their historic storylines. If anything, he honoured them by revisiting the Bill/Kate affair making Lucas their son — and he never had [rapist] Jack and [and his victim] Kayla fall in love on DAYS. OLTL feels a lot like Reilly these days, but I worry Ron may be going down the same dead-end road [former AMC head writer] Megan McTavish travelled by erasing Erica Kane’s historic abortion storyline. And, we know all too well AMC has never recovered from that colossal blunder.”

Here’s some back story before I continue this sad rant, and trust me, I take no pleasure in writing this — at all. It’s probably why I’ve been holding off on this review forever.

Last year, I heralded Carlivati as one of the most talented finds in daytime history. I still stand by that statement. Soaps need Carlivati. OLTL needs Carlivati. Screw love; Carlivati can save this dying world. But RC is going down the wrong path, and he needs some tough love. Like Wall Street did eons ago.

Having said that, RC’s missteps are not unique. Unfortunately, this happens a lot in prime-time TV. My other writing idols, Grey’s Anatomy’s Shonda Rhimes, Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball, and Lost’s J.J. Abrams have all struggled during their sophomore years. Critics call it the second-year curse.

Listen, even the most revered and talented artists lose their way and make huge errors in judgment due to a combination of buying their own publicity, and the oh-so-mighty rating point/dollar. In her new song, “Voices,” Madonna sings: “Are you walking the dog, or is the dog walking you?”

To answer that question we need to remind ourselves what happened last spring. Reportedly, ABC Daytime President Brian Frons almost replaced Carlivati with OLTL’s fi-core writer, Gary Tomlin, because the new DAYS co-exec came up with the brilliant — not! — idea of Starr’s teen pregnancy (to Ron’s credit, he’s writing the story he’s been burdened with brilliantly). Apparently, reading the tabloids certifies you as a head writer these days. Or hosting a reality-TV show on NBC.

So, could this be the reason why the Italian word master appears desperate to prove his metal by resorting to the reactive tactics employed by other series to boost ratings? Or is Brian Frons really writing OLTL and/or dictating which stories RC tells? Or to be more specific: Is Llandfill the new Port Murder?

Either way, Frons is to blame. In the end, the man who claims over and over again that he doesn’t want his soaps to look bad, approved this obscene chapter in the otherwise enthralling story of Marty and Todd’s tormented and cursed relationship. But hey, maybe The Fronz was off golfing with DAYS’ “producer” Ken Corday when the story pitch was faxed to his office.

Tragically, with crap like this airing on a smart show, I would be stupid to defend this industry to my peers any further. Without a doubt, the “biz” is addicted to and obsessed with digging this once beautiful, soulful and passionate genre into an early grave. And when an artist like Carlivati is behind the shovel, it makes me want to pull a Vivian Alamain and bury myself six feet under — without an ‘80s soap hero nearby.

Especially when ABC tried to feed me this propaganda: “The story you thought we’d never tell,” screamed a shameful promo. Memo to soap writers: You’re not talented enough, nor skilled enough to mimic Gone With the Wind’s infamous marital rape between Scarlett and Rhett, so stop this madness NOW.

It would have been more accurate if the promo said: “The story you wished we never told.”

But spin is the new truth — and the alphabet network is guilty as charged. Like General Hospital’s Luke and Laura wasn’t enough to deal with.

Carlivati, a former Washington lawyer, has defended his controversial and obscene decision to cowardly flirt with a romance between a convicted rapist and his rape victim by pointing out he would never allow Marty Saybrooke to fall in love with Todd Manning if her memory were intact (she lost it due to a car explosion last winter). Translation: Lipstick. Pig.     

Ostensibly, RC is admitting that pairing these two characters romantically is wrong, but under the right conditions, “it’s OK, folks.” Todd and Marty didn’t like each other to begin with, so even if he hadn’t raped her, they still would still hate each other. Period. End of story. 

Soap writers always side with the rapist, not the rape victim — and that needs to stop. The best thing that can happen to a rapist — next to a bullet in the groin — is for his victim to fall back into his lap with a convenient case of amnesia, so he can torture her and victimize her from scratch once more. Fun, huh? What are the chances of Marty falling into Todd’s lap with amnesia? Seriously.

I hear this is all leading to a sensational faux murder mystery (welcome back, Téa), which finds Todd dead. If Todd really dies, Cole would be my pick as the murderer. But even if this storyline is the best thing daytime TV has ever penned in its 70-year history, it doesn’t matter. No one will care because the set-up was contrived, insulting and offensive. Moreover, the cost would be immeasurable — especially if no one ends up dead. This disaster reeks of plot-driven madness. None of this is rooted in character or heart. 

Let me clarify: I’m not necessarily saying this Todd-Marty pairing can’t be done. It would have to start with a carefully planned and organic friendship first, and it would need to unfold over years, decades even. Also, gauging viewer reaction would be instrumental in determining if this risky story should go forward.

 Funnily enough, I’d be much more accepting of a Marty and Todd rape-mance — if Saybrooke’s memory was intact.

Of course, if Marty had her memory, this Todd-loves-Marty thread would never unspool. And Carlivati knows this. The man may appear foolish and careless right now, but he’s not stupid. Far from it. At this point, I wish someone wrote me an amnesia story.

Which is why Claire Labine’s protégé is banking everything about this entire story on a convenient case of memory loss. This amnesia crutch is akin to putting a Band-Aid on cancer. Essentially, this “plot twist” is ineffective because it’s just another lazy and brainless ratings strategy to shock and awe an already paralyzed audience. And that’s the real crime here.

Malone’s critically acclaimed gang-rape storyline truly resonates and engages the daytime community because the umbrella arc — which consisted of three acts: crime, justice, and atonement — wasn’t mined from a place of desperation, nor a desire for ratings. Malone’s opus was solely inspired with pure intentions and social purpose. The novelist boldly penned a character-rich story that was rooted in telling an honest and emotional study of a woman’s right to sexual freedom juxtaposed with a patriarchy destined to destroy it.  And that’s why it worked.

But let’s forget the ethical questions and professional motivations for a moment (I know it’s not easy). This plot has another major problem: It makes absolutely no story sense whatsoever. This storyline has more holes than Sarah Palin’s political platform and legwarmers.

The Todd Manning I know is the former jock who is always out for himself yet is haunted by the gang rape he initiated with the campus “slut,” because she rejected and humiliated him. He would have immediately seen the win-win situation in heroically saving Marty and giving her back to her friends and family.

You see, Todd would have been hailed as a hero and that’s worth more to him than having a clean slate and kidnapping his daughter’s baby like Marcie did.

Given the fact that we were led to believe that Todd was remorseful and haunted by this life-changing event, this simple human act would have inched him further towards a realized atonement for his past actions in a very loving and organic way. This action would have assisted Todd in achieving what he really wants: Starr’s baby.

By giving Marty her life back and returning her to her son, the self-serving villain would’ve immediately seen this sacrificial offering as another huge step towards redemption. After all, it's the one true thing that has always alluded him. And will continue to from now on.

Instead, Todd decided he needed a daily therapy session with Dr. Saybrooke. The Lord heir, who inherited the rape gene from his father, Victor, later bravely tempted Marty’s memory recall by recounting the gang rape moment by moment as a huge storm was brewing outside, just like on that fateful night. As if living through it once wasn’t enough for Marty. The irredeemable coward, of course, left out the fact that he was the rapist. Just like AMC’s suicidal move to undo Erica Kane’s historic feminist decision to have TV’s first abortion, daytime’s most complex and entertaining villain has been completely destroyed. The most glaring missed beat in this story? Todd was raped by Margaret, people! He of all people should know how unfair this situation is to Marty.

Under Gary Tomlin’s writers’ strike tenure, Todd was so fearful and paranoid that Cole, the son of the woman he raped, had sexually assaulted his own daughter that Todd almost killed Marty’s son! In fact, Todd most likely suffered a nervous breakdown. Why? The newspaper publisher was probably suffering a post-traumatic response either from his own rape by Margaret, and/or the reminiscences of Marty’s gang rape. But who care about details, right? I know most fans are wondering why Todd’s new face hasn’t been addressed, but since Marty does have amnesia that really isn’t an issue in my mind.

According to the FBI, rape is the most violent thing that can happen to a person — next to murder. Although Todd has a new face, any person who has experienced a violent attack can tell you, your body may eventually heal, but it certainly never forgets. When encountered with similar circumstances your body immediately goes into fight or flight mode. Perhaps this is Susan Haskell’s (Marty) fault for not acting out the subtext. Speaking of the Emmy winner, it is suspect Haskell agreed to come back to the soap to play out the one storyline she refused to act out in the past. Who’s her acting coach? Cameron Mathison?

And then, that kiss happened. The animal of prey had his delicious meal marinated, peppered and cooked just the way he prefers it: rare. Rape is all about power. Todd has all the power, and Marty has none. Todd has raped Marty once again, and in the worst possible way.

Luckily for viewers, Marty’s memory appears to be slowly returning. One night, Marty and John, a man she dated for two minutes, had an out-of-body “mutual date.”

Yet, other than one subconscious flashback to her rape, hanging out with Todd Manning 24/7 has not prompted Marty's memory to return — even when he recounted the traumatic event to her. Marty hasn’t even flinched subconsciously or had any kind of visceral reaction to Todd. Another big hole in this story is the fact that Marty has bought Todd’s claims that she has neither friends, nor family in Llanview. If she can remember to play piano, why doesn’t she pick up a phone or Google herself? Surely, Todd can’t keep Marty in the dark forever. Todd isn’t stupid — and this plan of his is suggesting otherwise.

Alas, what distinguished the Emmy-winning Todd-Marty storyline as the best rape tale in daytime history was the fact that Todd was punished for his crime, and Marty and Todd never fell in love. Thanks to Ron Carlivati, Michael Malone’s epic tale can never be referred to as the best rape storyline ever again. Even if this showmance doesn’t go any further than kissing, Malone’s legacy has been destroyed for self-serving interests. Carlivati has a lot of good story to tell, like the un-aired Mitch Laurence plot the writers’ strike prevented. He didn’t need to go here now.

And herein lies the rub: When an actor recently made an inappropriate statement regarding this storyline at a fan club event, ABC requested the soap media bury it because he had apologized. Yet, ABC is doing nothing but promote the sensationalist aspect of this story in their promotional campaigns — and more worrisome, defending it to the press. Even though I feel the actor in question was making an editorial comment on the stupidity of this storyline.

In conclusion, not even the American government can bail out Carlivati from this 700-billion-dollar mess. If ABC forced Carlivati to pen this story, he should’ve quit. There are certain things you just don’t do for a paycheque. It’s bad karma.

Given the stats, how many female OLTL viewers have been raped and are now forced to watch this garbage? Let’s not forget that OLTL is No. 1 in the tween-girl demographic. What kind of message is OLTL sending out?

Throughout her entire career, Lynn Parrish, a RAINN spokesperson for America’s largest anti-sexual assault organization pointed out to TVGuide.ca she has never heard of a rapist and a victim fall in love. Ever. Yet, if we are to believe a medium watched primarily by women and written for women, it’s as common as the winter cold.

Additionally, Parrish revealed to me that OLTL never contacted the organization before telling this storyline (The Bold and The Beautiful was the last soap to seek advice from RAINN when Brooke was raped). However, after our interview,  Parrish informed me that ABC has agreed to air a rape-themed PSA in the near future.

“There is nothing romantic about rape,” Parrish states matter-of-factly. She adds that whoever writes a romance between a rapist and its victim under any circumstances clearly doesn’t understand rape nor violence — and probably shouldn’t be writing about it.

I agree.

If you have been sexually assaulted and need live and confidential help online log on to rainn.org, or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.

Editor’s Note: Want to learn what my favourite One Life head writer Michael Malone thinks of my second favourite head writer Ron Carlivati’s Marty and Todd’s fauxmance? Log on to TVGuide.ca for an interview with the Emmy winner this Wednesday. Malone and I discuss the controversial storyline, working with Agnes Nixon, his botched stints on Another World and One Life To Live 2.0, and most important, would he ever consider returning to soaps.

>>FF: MEDIA MALFUNCTION OF THE WEEK
Next stop in P&G/TeleNext’s desperate publicity tour? Us Weekly, because Caitlin Van Zandt is just like us, ‘yo!

The disappearing Caitlin Van Zandt (Ashlee) is currently featured in the pages of Us Weekly. Shocker — the GL actress discussed her weight loss for the umpteenth time. The issue I have with this latest story is that Us dubbed this interview an exclusive when Van Zandt has talked to everyone and their mother, including TV Guide and Soap Opera Weekly

Top 3 Shows to Watch:
1. General Hospital: Night Shift, SOAPnet/DirecTV 
2. The Young and the Restless, CBS/Global
3. One Life to Live, ABC/A

Top 3 Storylines to Watch This Week:
1. Y&R’s Reinventing the Abbotts One Thespian At A Time
2. OLTL’s Who Wants To Be Shane Morasco’s Father? Um, no one!
3. GH’s Everyone Loves to Shoot Kate Howard!

Top 3 Actresses to Watch:
1. Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R)
2. Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe, Y&R)
3. Kathleen Noone (Patricia, NS)

Top 3 Actors to Watch:
1. Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R)
2. Tristan Rogers (Robert, NS)
3. Chad Allen (Billy, NS)
 
Top 3 Super-Duos to Watch:
1. Victor and Nikki, Y&R
2. Amber and Daniel, Y&R
3. Luke and Noah, ATWT

Top 3 Duos to Avoid Like The Plague:
1. Todd and Marty, OLTL
2. Katie and Nick, B&B
3. Nadine and Nikolas, GH

Top 3 Stupid Plot Twists:
1. Nicole “Magic Ovaries” Walker is preggers on DAYS!
2. Sami “Slutty” DiMera is preggers on DAYS!
3. Nick and Katie move in on B&B!

Top 3 Blogs:
1. J Bernard Jones’ Bailout
2. Sara A. Bibel’s Soldier of Misfortune
3.Jamey Giddens’ Sexist Much?

Top 3 Episodes From Last Week:
1. NS’s Sri Rao cements his status as daytime’s hottest new discovery
2. OLTL’s Mark Lawson (Brody) is drafted into the acting big leagues
3. Y&R’s Billy Miller instantly morphs into Billy Abbott

Top 4 Soap Moments To Watch: Wednesdays are the new Friday!
1. Wednesday: Nikki reams Victor a new one on Y&R!
2. Wednesday: Gigi finally tells her problem child, Shane that Rex is his father on OLTL. “Is that why Rex always suggests bath time with me?” asks Shane.
3. Wednesday: Jon Prescott last airs on ATWT as Mike. “Will someone with a budget please hire me next time?” reads his last line, I’m told.
4. Wednesday: As The Platforms Build — ATWT’s Nuke kiss, so enjoy it while you can, you immoral gay fans!


 

 

 

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Nelson Branco is a Toronto freelance entertainment journalist, who regularly contributes to Hello! Canada, The National Post, The Los Angeles Times' theenvelope.com, TV Guide USA, tvguide.com, Inside Entertainment, OUT, and fab magazine, along with spearheading the soap coverage for TVGuide.ca's popular daytime TV hub. After graduating from Ryerson University in 1997, he moved from Toronto to New York in 1998 to take on the roles as senior news editor at Soap Opera Update. Branco first freelanced for Soap Opera Weekly as an intern in 1994, and after leaving Soap Update to help create and launch Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly in 2003, Branco continued to freelance occasionally for its sister publication, Soaps In Depth. Most recently, he helped create and launch Canada's first celebrity magazine, Weekly Scoop in 2005 as its news and entertainment director. Branco is also a contributor to a new TV show titled Planet Soap to air in Canada and America.