For the last few months, I've been reading SoapCentral recaps from when they become available (late 1996) onwards. I've made it through 1997 and 1998, and am now about to start 1999. These are the gap years in between the end of the Scrapbook and when I started watching in 2000. I knew the rough outline of what happened, but missed out on a lot of the details. I know the era isn't very popular, and I certainly agree it was messy, but I personally think it's better than what I've seen (and read) from 1995/1996. I always felt that these years laid some of the foundation for the upswing the show experienced in 2000. Anyway, I figured I'd share some thoughts...
Although clearly done for sweeps purposes, I was impressed with the show's two big events. The church fire, in particular, seems very well done. I was on the edge of my seat just reading the episode. I especially like how it reinforced a sense of community by bringing many characters together, and how it played into several different storylines, from Barbara losing the baby and Carly seducing Hal to Ben's dealings with Teague and Holden being blamed. I also appreciate that there were real stakes, with both Kim and Barbara in comas for days and Johnny and Pamela dying. I also love how it led into the return of Jennifer for Kathryn Hays' 25th anniversary. The sinking of the Valetta seemed less meticulously planned out, but it was still nice to have all of Oakdale together throught the tragedy. I wonder how these events were received at the time, because big disasters do admittedly feel out of place in Oakdale.
Carly and Molly
I always believed the re-introduction of Carly and the reveal of Molly as her cousin to be the catalyst for the show getting better again. Both ladies had a spunky attitude, which always seemed a relief to me, following the endless soft porn sequences of the mid-90s. I was surprised by how annoying Molly was written. She was one of my favorite characters when I started watching, but reading through these years, I can imagine she wasn't at all well-liked in the beginning. The character just seems so shallow and empty. Kudos to Lesli Kay and whichever writer is responsible for turning Molly from that into one of the show's leading ladies. I can imagine viewers were also sick of Carly's trust-fund-baby storyline, although I suspect they got away with it because Maura is just so damn good. Another thing that surprised me... I always thought Carly and Molly were like two peas in a pod. But from what I'm reading in these recaps, Carly never seemed very interested in what Molly was going through. It seems like their relationship was rather one way.
Tom, Margo & Emily
It seems like they transplanted Molly's annoying personality from the Lily/Holden/Molly storyline to Emily for the Margo/Tom/Emily storyline. I can fully imagine that Scott Holmes never felt like Tom would have cheated on Margo with Emily, as he said in the Locher Room. Having said that, it's so nice to see Tom and Margo on the frontburner, and the storyline is heaps better than the mess with Doc Reese years later. The marriage had been rocky stemming from Margo being institutionalized, as well as the tension Eddie had created. I know Alec Wallace enters the picture in 1999, so I'm curious to see how that plays out. Sometimes it's interesting to read these things with hindsight. There was an episode were Casey went missing at the mall, while he was really talking to Emily. Flash forward exactly ten years, and they would be married (although that is a criticism of the 2008 writers, not the 1998 ones). I know Emily had a long road of being a not-always-sympathetic character, but it kind of amazes me based on this how likable she was with Hal only a few years later.
Lisa, John, Barbara, Hal
The John/Barbara marriage has always been a strange one to me, so it was wonderful to get some context there. I actually kind of liked them in these recaps. I liked how they bonded while trying to save Lisa from Martin Chedwyn (it was also nice to read the tail-end of that story, conceited as it was, as I had never found much info on that before). The unraveling of that marriage as they couldn't deal with Johnny's death together is heartbreaking. It's a shame how bitter that marriage ended, as if it never happened (John even re-used his ring with Carly). Given how they got together, it's ironic how Lisa and John were on the road back together as she helped him deal with the end of his marriage to Barbara. It seemed believable to me that all these years after John publicly humiliated Lisa, they would give it another shot. I remember seeing Carly trying to keep Lisa away while she married John on that island (you know, the one where EVERYONE in Oakdale spent Thanksgiving), but I was confused about the timeline, as I knew Lisa and John were together in 95/96. You know I love Carly, but it's a shame that her marrying John caused both John and Lisa to be backburnered permanently (well, John had that story about Hope's custody for a bit).
Holden and Lily
I loved Holden's return in '97 and the reunion with Lily. Am I correct in saying that when he and Lucinda were locked away together by Diego, this is the first time Lucinda actually accepted Holden as the right man for Lily? That is kind of a big deal. I liked the introductions of Molly and Jack, and the reveal about Abigail (much as it does rewrite history). But boy did that story get tedious soon. First the triangle with Molly, then the fear of David and the secret that Holden had killed David. I'm especially getting sick of Julia's fears about David. From the bits and pieces I've seen, I did enjoy the baby switch storyline in '99, so I'm hoping it gets better soon. Interesting how Lily instinctively knew Hope was not her baby when she first saw her after the kidnapping. Perhaps my biggest issue with this era is Lucinda marrying James. I know not many people liked the reveal that David was her son (except he wasn't), but I thought that was well done. But given how she despised James still in '97, in addition to all of their earlier history, it makes absolutely no sense that she would suddenly go and marry him. Am I missing a crucial bit of info in these recaps? Was James blackmailing her? It's really no wonder that Elizabeth Hubbard chose to leave in '99.
Kirk/Sam/Georgia and character exits
As I said, I think this era laid the foundation for the show's upswing in '00. Part of that is the delivery of some speedy exits. When the recaps pick up in late '96, the show is almost unrecognizable. That god the unholy trinity of Sarah Kasnoff, Zoe Crane and T. Jones was quickly written out. The same goes for Diego and Pilar. I still liked Mike, but his storyline was pretty much up. The exits of Mark and Connor in '97 were very much needed, as were, in my opinion, the exits of Kirk and Sam. Theirs has always been brought up as one of the most WTF exits, and I now see it was, but for completely different reasons than I thought. I thought people didn't want to see them go. But throughout all of '98 (and much of '97) they were just around with very little to do. Tom Wiggin is a very capable actor, and I think I liked Brooke Alexander, but Sherri Alexander always seemed right up there with Susan Batten as one of the show's most terrible recasts to me. Having said that, their actual exit, where they literally vanished all of a sudden, did seem somewhat WTF. They had been discussing fleeing Oakdale to hide their part in sinking the Valetta, but the recap seemed to hint heavily at their disappearance not being of their design. One of the most WTF decisions (second only to the Lucinda/James marriage) made by the writing team is making Georgia Sam's daughter. The "big reveal" as the Valetta was sinking was followed by Kirk and Sam's exit. What was the point? Why not make Georgia related to someone else? Or here's a thought... unrelated to anyone in Oakdale?
Much as I liked the use of John and Lisa at this time, it's a shame Bob and Kim were backburnered. I really liked the mundane nature of the storyline about Kim's pacemaker in '97, as she got frustrated listening to the mechanical ticking, but there wasn't much after that. There was a very weird ministoryline where John temporarily took over the hospital, and Kim temporarily took in Molly, but both of those felt strange. The Hughes family deserved more.
From the recaps, I really liked Susan & Cal. It seems like that relationship never ended, it simply stopped being written. A shame, if you ask me. I feel like if better decisions had been made in this era, the vets could have remained much more prominent.
The character of Brad seems so odd to me in this era. I always thought it was due to the recasts in '99, but having finished '98, I know Nick Kokotakis has only about 1 month left, and I still don't feel like I have a grip on the character, not even his version of it. I do appreciate the storyline involving Dolores and the death of Jack and Brad's father
I had to laugh when in a recent recap, Julia reminisced about being friendly in the past with another girl named Julia. I can't help but imagine a young Julia Lindsay and a young Julia Larrabee being friends in an alternate universe. 🤣
I feel like there was a lot of chemistry testing going on at this time. I constantly feel like they are putting characters together, and then they're not. I mean, Brad and Molly were sort of seeing each other for a bit, while Molly was already seeing Andy and still hung up on David and Brad was being positioned with Camille and came out of a weird fling with Lucinda. While Andy and Molly were starting, he was also still with Nikki, who was very clearly infatuated with Jack. In '97, it seemed they were getting ready to put Emily with either Andy or Jack. I get the need to test the chemistry, but this made the show seem very unfocused at times.
Speaking of Andy and Molly, I really like them together. I thought I did, from the bits and pieces I've seen from '99, so I'm glad to find I was right. I loved Molly and Jake in the early 2000's, but Andy is a close second among Molly's suitors.
I am probably forgetting a number of thoughts that I had while reading the recaps and wanted to share, so I might add more later.