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Michael Malone at AW


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AW: MALONE ALONE by Marlena DeLacroix

As I was finishing the first draft of this column about Michael Malone's rocky head writing tenure at Another World, word came that Malone is out. Now, I'm not clairvoyant. Any AW viewer could see that Malone (a Daytime Emmy winner at ABC's nicely budgeted One Life to Live) brought some magnificently insightful and dynamic ideas to AW when he arrived last spring. But I speculate that one reason Malone's work came off as so tragically half-baked is because the NBC show is so cheaply and unimaginatively produced.

Take last summer's trial of Nick for raping Toni. Here was a bold stroke meant to diversify the show's bland canvas of characters and designed to deepen AW's flat dramatic tone both intellectually and spiritually. And what kind of courtroom set does the notoriously low-budget AW build for this showpiece of a trial? One that's about as deep and as wide as a tuna fish can! Compare this to the vast Palladian trompe l'oiel of a courtroom set Guiding Light executive producer Paul Rauch had constructed for the Reva/Annie murder-of-the-fetus trial early last summer. I rest my case.

It's unfortunate, but maybe AW just couldn't supply the resources needed to meet Malone's dramatic vision. His current front-burner story, what he has called in interviews :The Fall of the House of Cory," is grand and sweeping in its' dramatic intent. By allying Carl's ancient enemy Alexander with Rachel's bitter children Amanda (a.k.a. Hadley) and Matt in a plot to break up Carl and Rachel's marriage, Malone has primed his characters for a classic Greek family tragedy. But who does AW cast to play opposite the classically-trained Vicky Wyndham and Charles Keating (Rachel and Carl), two of the most powerful thespians on daytime television? A girl fresh out of drama school (Laura Moss, who plays Amanda) and a callow young actor who starred in the film Return to the Blue Lagoon (Brian Krause, Matt). Duh!

What's most telling is that what worked best for Malone were stories in which the only resources needed were sets and good, proven actors. Malone gave Lisa Peluso the role of a lifetime in Lila. She has been so good, in fact, that we've barely noticed that she has been given neither a plot to play nor a love interest. In the tragic diet pill story, Malone wrote beautifully for Judi Evans Luciano and Joseph Barbara, the actors who play those rare, middle-class soap characters Paulina and Joe. And, of course, Malone produced the biggest daytime miracle of all-getting me to not only love but fully appreciate the diversified talents of an actor I had long thought of as a soap world cartoon: Tom Eplin. Remember the scenes last summer at the playground in Lassiter, in which Vicky reduced Jake to tears by proposing to him? I never knew that the oft-buffoonish Jake could be so tender, or that the oft-overblown Eplin could absolutely tear my heart out of my chest. Emmy! Emmy!

Malone later said in an interview that he knew if he could finally make Vicky see why she loves Jake, the audience would fall in love with him, too. The ability to analyze, the intellectual curiosity to ask why: That, darlings, is the mark-and the miracle-of a really good head writer.

Conversely, there are many things about the rest of Malone's Aw that I flat-out didn't understand. I turned on my TV last week, and there was the otherwise delicious Kim Rhodes (Cindy) dressed in a Spiderwoman costume grinning at the fertility statue, whose electric eyes were blinking. Huh? And what the hell is that statue anyway? A prop left over from the never-aired, New Orleans-based 13 Bourbon Street? The disembodied spirit of notorious NBC stuntster James E. Reilly (Days of Our Lives former head writer)?

Mark Pinter is so wonderful he can play anything, but why in the world has his Grant morphed into comic relief as Mayor Grant Harrison? In his previous incarnation, when Grant was a haunted Shakespearan villain, Pinter's performance was the most brilliant thing on daytime television! No one was happy to lose longtime cast members David Forsyth (ex-John Hudson) or Kale Browne (Michael). Ironically, Browne put in the best work of his soap career on the way from contract to recurring, as Michael counseled son Nick during his rape trial. I can't make heads or tails of the new comic characters of Cass and Donna (Stephen Schnetzer and Anna Stuart), both of whom seem lost at sea. And what's the deal with RKK (Robert Kelker-Kelly, who plays Shane)? Talk about lost! The actor (who may or may not still be in the cast when you read this) is drowning! I just don't get it.

It's easy for amateur soap analysts to speculate that Days-happy NBC was forcing Malone to do this, and P&G was forcing him to do that. But who realy knows what happened behind the scenes out at AW's studio in Brooklyn? Maybe Malone was in over his head from the start.

All I can see is that Malone's vision never fully made it to the screen. That's a waste, because he is a gem of a head writer. Literate and humanistic, he's a natural heir to the intelligent writing tradition of Agnes Nixon and Claire Labine. In an era of shallow, dum-dum (think Sunset Beach, The Bold and the Beautiful!) soap writing, he is sorely needed. Let's hope that by the time you read this, another show will have hired Malone-one with an imaginative producer. I never thought I'd live to see the day I'd miss (Malone's OLTL executive producer-and Marlena's old punching bag) the ever-grandstanding Linda Gottlieb.

(Soap Opera Weekly, November 18, 1997)

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Some of the problems with Malone's stories that Marlena praised:

- The tone of the Toni rape story was poorly handled. Toni was the victim. Toni was raped. Yet, by choosing to accuse Nick, who, as played by Mark Mortimer, was basically a sweet guy until some sort of weird attempt to muddy the waters by having him become angry or have blackouts or something I don't remember, they put the negative onus on Toni and her family. It did not help that there were scenes like various Bay City residents giving Cass the cold shoulder for even representing Nick.

- Trying to make Toni's rape a mystery. It was clumsily obvious that the cop Rayburn was her rapist. They should have just shown him as her rapist from the beginning and had the story focused on Toni trying to get through the blue wall to get justice. Nick never should have been involved.

- Too much of the story with "The Fall of the House of Cory" was based on rewrites. I LIKED Laura Moss, and I don't think her work was the problem. The problem was that even if I believed that Amanda had suddenly turned against Carl, I could NEVER believe that not only would Amanda hurt her mother by pretending to be Carl's secret mistress with a bad wig, but that she would actually ENJOY causing her mother pain. Because that's what the story told us. It told us that Amanda got a giddy thrill out of what she was doing. And there was so much melodramatic goth, like Rachel being locked in a sarcophagus and being in a building that was about to be demolished, which was simply out of scope.

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Her random comment on 13 Bourbon St is correct, isn't it? Didn't we basically hear (maybe from Malone himself?) that some of the wackier story remnants were from there? (Maybe some of the over the top Gothic stuff when he went back to OLTL were still based on story ideas too ;) I guess we won't know for sure cuz no voodoo witches ever showed up...)

I still think that Malone kinda sucks as a soap writer without Josh Griffith as his co-writer (and, just to be fair, I don't think all that much of Josh's writing I've seen without Malone ;). In the 90s the best stuff was when Griffith got co-headwriting credit (even if the poor guy was often not mentioned by the soap press) and when he left in '96 Malone's stories became an utter mess of Irish mob action, etc. (Wiki, for what it's worth says that Malone wrote March 95-March 96 solo before he left). And then again, during Malone's less successful 2000s run at OLTL, the quality got even worse when Griffith left (after publicly saying he couldn't work under Frons' interference) for the last 8 months. Malone has been the first to give Griffith full credit--especially for helping him in terms of how to pace the stories and other more rudimentary soap stories (it seems Malone came up with most of the actual characters and stories, yet I remember him giving one of his major stories--I think it may have been Vicki's DID--credit to Griffith).

I did love Lisa Peluso on his run, and I wish i had seen that wacky Fertility statue (did anything become of it? lol) and I think she does make a good point that AW simply was not well produced at the time. (I know many int he soap press were turned off by Gottlieb, but I didn't know Marlena hated her so.)

Still, surely they shoulda given Malone at least a full year at the show? AW had a bad bad history from the 80s on of replacing their headwriters every other month, and it didn't seem to get any better in its final years...

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There was so much writer roulette at AW. I think Richard Culliton, who replaced Malone, made the show a hell of a lot better, especially in regards to reviving Cass, but then he also ran into some rough patches and was dumped, I'd say too quickly.

A lot of the crazy elements were obviously from somewhere else, not just 13 Bourbon Street, but also OLTL. Grant running for mayor was a knockoff of Alex Olanov running for mayor. It was a bizarre storyline for Grant, to say the least.

The fertility statue story ended when Cindy had sex with Grant without needing the statue's help. She sent it away. I think it belonged to some woman named Titania, which always reminded me of that Marvel character who was girlfriend to the Absorbing Man.

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Grant only married her so she couldn't testify against him. Their sex life ended when they learned she was barren. Then with the statue he became closer to her. When she caught him being nice to her without the statue she let it go.

Cindy was a very strange character. The wonderful actress who played her, Kim Rhodes, is the one who made her coherent. Malone did her few favors. At one point he randomly made her a jewel thief/cat burglar.

http://www.igs.net/~awhp/cindy.html

http://www.igs.net/~awhp/cindys1.html

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I read this article online back when we were having our Linda Gottlieb discussion. Just makes me want to see the real McCoy, 13 Bourbon St. even more. :blush: Someone out there is sitting on it, YouTube it please!

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Lisa Peluso was fun on AW, from what I saw. In a SOD interview, she was really championing the idea that Lila and Vicky would develop a Dorian and Viki-type relationship that would last for years to come. So who wrote the Justine stuff?

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# Carolyn Culliton, November 1994 - August 1995

# Tom King and Craig Carlson, August 1995 - May 1996

That was the Justine stuff. The best part of that was when Victoria Wyndham tore a strip off Michael Logan a few years later because of his criticism of her OTT work in the story (her reaction was basically, "What else could I do with that crap??")

Lisa was great on AW. A classic vixen/money-grubber. She was fine with Vicky but she truly came to live with Cass.

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Thanks, so Malone had nothing to do with it. I don't have all of the writer knowledge like you guys. I was not an AW watcher and I can't recall what holiday break or whatever circumstances had me at my grandmother's catching some of that s/l. I'm beginning to think that her TV didn't get channel 7 because all of my AW memories tend to be from watching at her apartment. But I remember they were doing a lot of flashbacks with a young Justine and Carl (btw, is your sn in his honor? ;) ). I'm not going to hate on VW's OTT work, because 1. Justine was a loon, and 2. having seen some of VW's early work as still-bitch crazy-eyed Rachel, it was right up her alley. I had the pleasure of meeting SS and LP very briefly after the Emmys in '99, I will post pics someday.

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It's for other soap characters, more than him, but he was OK too :lol:

Michael Logan slammed her work as Justine and I believe he called Charles Keating a "ham", and that was the best possible way to get a dressing down from Vicky Wyndham when he interviewed her for her 25th anniversary as Rachel. She immediately confronted him about his comments and put him in his place. I wasn't even that fond of the character of Rachel when I watched at that time but I loved that the very cocky Logan was so clearly flustered.

Here's a rundown of AW's headwriters over its lifespan.

http://www.igs.net/~awhp/credits.html

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Wasn't much of the heavy DAYS/JER stuff under JFP, even though she resisted it? What about the never fully done teen vampire story?

Yes I want 13 Bourbon Street--Logan has bragged about havuing a copy--let's bust in. Can't believe it came SO close to being made :( (of course, as per my theory about Malone only doing good soap with Griffith--Griffith was co HW of that too :P )

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I think Malone's ideas, crazy or otherwise, come off very grand and operatic in his head or on paper, and then often play out very silly onscreen due to the demands of daily soap opera, which he is unable to manage without help from people like Gottlieb or Griffith. Aspects of the wild Mitch story in 2003 could've worked with some oversight, but instead it was a hysterical melange of over-the-top Southern gothic and borderline science-fiction - like Mitch's church in the sewers, or Lion's Heart Manor, or the magical Bahdra diamond. Same with the Santi odyssey with Antonio and his lost brother, Tico, where the tone tried to straddle (bad) hard-bitten crime drama and Brigadoon-esque fantasy at the same time, with Tico hissing things like "you are like a wild bird I have caged" at his pinafore-and-gown bride Jessica, in his thick accent.

The Fall of the House of Cory is similar; it was a good idea on paper, but due to the demands of daily storytelling and budget, it came down to Amanda wearing a tacky wig to screw with her mom. That's hardly Shakespeare. It's Sam's Club trying to do Shakespeare. Which is often what "Malone Alone" is. I admire his ambition, it was always entertaining in Llanview in 2003 and 2004, but it was also often awful. He worked in the '90s because others tempered his wild, experimental impulses by being experimental, but knowing how to still tell down-to-earth stories day to day.

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