Jump to content

Article about Michael Malone and Josh Griffith


Recommended Posts

  • Members

I've never been an OLTL watcher but since so many here on SON frequently discuss the workings of Michael Malone on OLTL here is a lengthy column written on Malone and Josh Griffith work in 2003:

CATCHING UP WITH ONE LIFE

Written by Tom Smith July 12, 2003

Now, to kick off the first installment in a special series of "Catching Up with..." Today, the column finally catches up with One Life to Live. This is the first in-depth piece I’ve written about the show since the "work" of Llanview’s Dream Team, Head Writers Michael Malone and Josh Griffith, and new Executive Producer Frank Valentini began airing. I use "work" loosely because I can’t believe that the garbage that has appeared on screen since February 3’rd is the work of an acclaimed novelist, a veteran soap scribe, and a first-time executive producer. It’s no secret that I rooted for and defended Malone, Griffith, and Valentini, and looked forward to great things from them. Well, I’m still looking. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement of epic proportions. The current goings-on in Llanview are about as bad as I’ve ever seen them; in some ways, they’re WORSE considering whose at the helm. I never expected an overnight miracle, but I did expect noticeable improvement.

I planned to go through each storyline blow by blow, and explain my dislikes (and, in some cases, my likes) of where the stories are going. But, as I began formulating my list, I came to the stunning realization that since the "new" crew took over Llanview, there’s only been two actual storylines. There’ve been plot twists, plot threads, plot revelations, hints, fits, and starts, but only two storylines.

Well, we all know what the first storyline is, what most would argue the only storyline is: MITCH. Mitch this. Mitch that. Mitch, Mitch, Mitch. Mitch. MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTCCHHHHH! The Mitchster. Mitch-O-rama.

Mitch.

Did all that annoy you? Well, it is not one billionth as annoying as seeing Mitch every day, month in, month in, (cause he’s never out!), not so slowly wrapping his tentacles around Llanview. Out of nowhere, Mitch Laurence returns from the dead, and takes over every story. What was Viki trying to block so hard that Niki came out last Summer? Mitch raped Viki, and is Jessica’s father! Who’s that man Natalie married? Mitch Laurence. Who is suddenly evil Jen in cahoots with? Mitch Laurence. All of this happened before Malone/Griffith/Valentini took over, and there were already screams of protest by a tortured audience that had had enough! Anyone who had thought bringing Mitch back from the dead was an even remotely good idea had abandoned hope. The easy solution: Kill that sucker dead, and maybe wring a murder mystery out of the deal.

Yet, for some reason M/G/V took Tomlin’s bad movie of a Mitch storyline, and turned it into the worst kind of film: one that doesn’t know when to end. We were already insulted beyond belief by the notion that Mitch is Jessica’s father. Now, suddenly we learn that all of Mitch’s manipulating is part of some bizarre plot to literally steal Natalie’s heart, so it can be transplanted into...Victor Lord? Yes, friends, we’ve been treated to a lot of "secrets" about Victor Lord over the years. He was an adulterer, a baby taker, a builder of secret cities, and, of course, a child molester. In fact, it wouldn’t have surprised me to learn he was a child eater at some point down the road. But, the one thing I always thought I knew about Victor was that he was DEAD. Forget who did it, how, or why. I know that’s up for grabs. But the man was D-E-A-D. Now, right out of the gate, in M/G/V’s first major storyline, we’re asked to believe that Victor somehow survived Dorian his wife withholding his medication AND his daughter smothering him with a pillow, and managed to hide out for a quarter-century, in an estate not terribly far from Llanview. And, even though he’s lived in seclusion for decades, and was apparently going to stay secluded forever, he was willing to take his granddaughter’s heart just to live...and do nothing. Huh?

"But, it’s the drama of the thing, Snark!", I was told. "I mean, my God, Victor Lord is alive! Think of what impact this will have! Think of the meaty scenes between Victor and Viki....or Victor and Todd! And it’s probably not Victor anyway, but a dastardly look alike that Mitch has employed!" People were combing their memory banks, and going through their OLTL history books, with detailed back stories between Victor and Mitch, and bringing up relatives of Victor that were briefly mentioned back in the 70’s, and declaring them the Victor look-alikes of today. And I sat back, expecting good drama, one way or the other.

And I got nothing. Any hope of Victor not being Victor was obliterated at Viki’s first sight of him. Viki would certainly know her father, and she declared that it was him on the spot, without hesitation. At that point, the look-alike angle is sunk, because if it’s not him, Viki looks absolutely stupid for being so declarative. So, does that mean we got great meaty scenes between Victor and everybody? No. The Victor/Todd scene was good, not because it was a great confrontation, but because it brought up the dark issues of Todd’s nature. Spawned and abandoned by a child abuser, only to be raised by a child abuser, Todd’s inner conflict is that he abhors the behavior that his fathers engaged in, yet he’s closer to that behavior than he wants to admit. For the first time in years, somebody got to the root of why Todd’s interesting, and what makes Todd Todd. He’s not JFP’s emotionless sociopath, and he’s not Tomlin’s Capt. Comedy: he’s a conflicted, deeply troubled person.

The brief resurgence of Todd Manning was one of the pitifully few highlights in the past few months. The Victor/Viki scenes consisted of Viki begging her father to admit he’s a molester, and holding his feeble hand while he tried to write a new will. Oh yes, did I forget to mention? In exchange for providing him with a heart, Victor agreed to write a new will signing everything over to Mitch. Forget any pesky legal details about Victor being presumed dead for decades, and how many people would go broke, since Victor’s money’s been divided so many different ways, except maybe Todd wouldn’t go broke, since he should have money from The Sun and business dealings, and etc, etc, etc. The point of course was that Mitch was in, Viki and Co. were destitute, and everything’s topsy-turvy man!

Actually, I think somewhere the point was supposed to be that Viki didn’t need to be rich to be happy, as long as she had the support of her daughters, and newly returned son, Joey, at her side. Natalie used her funds to move everybody into an ugly cramped set--I mean, a new house, filled with love. Well, we already knew that Viki didn’t need to be rich, but needed (and had) the support of her family and friends. It was Tomlin who didn’t know it, with Jessica attacking and walking out on her mother, because her mother had the nerve to get raped! And, despite their claims to the contrary, M/G/V don’t seem to get it either, with Natalie turning against Viki because Viki didn’t answer when Victor tried to force her to pick which granddaughter gets their heart ripped out. Never mind that Viki was standing in a makeshift hospital room, with her long presumed dead father/molester sitting in a wheelchair, and her daughter on a operating table prepped for unscheduled open heart surgery! Natalie’s feud with Viki was as substantive as cotton candy, and mercifully, lasted about as long.

The "Viki’s family loves her" scenario was only valuable in that we restore a much needed balance to the long, dark night that is One Life to Live. After JFP (relentless evil) and Tomlin (relentless evil with a laugh track), to see our much beleaguered star actually getting some TLC would have been appreciated, no matter how contrived or sickeningly sweet. Instead, Viki suddenly, inexplicably dropped to recurring status in her own storyline. And when she was featured, it was only to continue to be tortured by Mitch. Oooh, Viki can still run The Banner, because Mitch lets her! Ooh, Viki’s upset because Jessica’s moving in with Mitch! Ooh, Viki can’t believe that her archenemy Mitch just married her archenemy Dorian!

WAIT A MINUTE! Mitch and Dorian just got married?! Mitch, who tried to rape Dorian’s daughter, and Dorian who killed Mitch? (Though it obviously didn’t take.) Yep. In clusterf*** no. 2, M/G/V took the sure fire return of Robin Strasser as Dorian, and doused it with enough water to fill the Grand Canyon. I’ll admit one thing: it does take some kind of talent to take an idea that can’t miss, and make it miss. Dorian, who had made peace with Viki before leaving town years ago, returned to marry Mitch. But why? Did she hate Viki THAT much? Did she just want to get her hands on the Lord estate? Did she want revenge on Mitch for daring to return from the grave? It was apparently some sort of amalgamation of the three. Dorian is a difficult character to write. She’s a bad girl--a very bad girl--but even she has a line that won’t be crossed. Could they have sold us on Dorian marrying Mitch? Yes! But, murky, unbelievable motivations were not the way to go. They got it wrong.

And, of course, other characters weren’t safe from the Mitch hour. Mitch grew tired of Todd’s threats and manipulated Lindsay into killing Sam, so Mitch could frame Todd for murder. (More on Sam’s death later.) Then, Mitch bound up Todd and put him in the crypt with the newly re-dead Victor Lord. Todd subsequently disappeared from the crypt and his whereabouts are unknown. Then, Lindsay confessed, went to St. Anne’s, got embroiled in some scheme with Blair, Dorian, and Jessica to drive Mitch insane, which led to Mitch falling into the river to his death.

Except, of course, Mitch wasn’t dead. He was rescued by Dead Man Walker, Mitch’s brother who supposedly died as a child, but showed up as a full-grown adult at just the right moment! Walker nursed Mitch back to health, and Mitch regained his sight. (Oh? Did I mention that somewhere in here Mitch went blind? Well, he went blind.) Then, Walker agreed to help Mitch, until Mitch tried to kill Lindsay but accidentally almost killed Addie. But, then Mitch turned against Walker and started going after every woman in Llanview, including Jessica. So, then Antonio had to protect her, leading the so-called Antonio/Jessica romance to be nothing more than a prop to have Antonio protect Jessica, and draw in more characters into this mess.

At some point, this all transcended stupidity and became blatant antagonizing of the anti-Mitch crowd. (Which is everybody, except those who depend on Roscoe Born to pay their salaries.) Seriously, you couldn’t write this many logical climaxes to a story, and not take advantage of them by accident. Mitch’s cabin blows up. He’s not there. Mitch falls into the water again, with Jessica in tow. They’re both alive! And now, Mitch is holding Jessica hostage in yet another unknown mansion secretly built by Victor Lord, and located near Llanview though it looks like it’s on a tropical island. There, Mitch does creepy dances with Jessica, and talks to her as though he’s Victor and she’s Viki. The Repulse-O-Meter has now been pushed all the way to Maximum Ick! But, actually, Mitch is being controlled by a mysterious cursed diamond that...wait. Did I not mention the Balderdash Diamond? Well....ah, hell! There’s only so much bad plot I care to regurgitate.

Somehow, Mitch, Jessica, Viki, and Walker all ended up in mystery house #2, where Mitch generally menaced everybody until Jessica made like Cleavon Little in "Blazing Saddles", held broken glass to her throat, and held herself hostage, threatening to kill herself if Mitch didn’t let everybody go. Then, Antonio busted in, beat the crap out of Mitch, and threw him in jail. By this point, it was widely known around fandom that Mitch was getting killed off. He’s as dead as dead can be, Josh Griffith informed Soap Opera Weekly. He’s even autopsied! Yes! Finally! Killing off Mitch and creating a juicy murder mystery was a great idea---five months ago, when I was still mildly interested. Now, I’m just ready to pin a medal on the killer and move on. So were the writers apparently. The week building up to Mitch’s murder was the lamest build-up to a soap murder I’ve ever seen. Those of you that watched Another World, think back to when Grant got killed in 1999. Remember the buildup to that? The buildup here consisted of Mitch comparing Dorian to the Whore of Babylon, Mitch calling Walker Satan after Walker basically conned Mitch out of his money, and Mitch saying his lawyer Evangeline was in cahoots with Satan. Each time he got dragged out of his cell flailing his arms. With all the constant religious allusions through this storyline, it seemed they were trying to make Mitch look like Robert De Niro in Cape Fear. Instead, he ended up looking like Ernest T. Bass.

The murder? Mitch was let out of his cell, by an unknown person, then found dead on the docks. As already pointed out by a number of readers, Mitch, king of a thousand goons, could have easily gotten one of his brain-dead followers to get plastic surgery, killed said follower, and planted him on the docks. After months of relentless torment, we got no blood, no screaming, no Mitch begging for his life, not even a startled look. We needed an emotional catharsis, we got an ambiguous, unsatisfying "ending". In a twisted way, it’s a fitting ending to the bad horror movie that won’t end. Stay tuned for "MITCH 3: Return of the Return"

The other story, of course, is Flash. To be frank, I was way too wrapped in the hideousness of Mitch on my screen to pay attention to Flash. Yes, Flash was contrived as Hell, equally as annoying , and her little singing/hacking cough storyline re-defined "dead air". But, Malone/Griffith’s track record on new characters was always 50/50, so I chalked up Flash to being a pest. I was annoyed with the circular references to Flash’s past with C. J. Roberts. It became apparent that whatever this story was, it was being stalled for one reason or another. I assumed that they were having a rough time casting C. J.

Then, Flash, who romantically pursued and kissed Joey, and claimed C. J. was her ex-boyfriend that she was trying to track down, turned out to be Sarah Roberts. Yes, THAT Sarah Roberts. C. J. ’s sister. Joey’s cousin. Kids, it’s like Billy and Mackenzie on Y&R; it doesn’t matter that they never had sex, or that they’re only "cousins". It’s incest. The difference, of course, is Y&R’s writers understood all the ramifications of their decision to make Kay and Jill mother and daughter; There was no thought whatsoever into making Flash Sarah, beyond the possibility of trying to salvage her worthless character by making her someone the audience cared about once upon a time. Instead, I’m more repulsed than ever by this absurd, offensive, plot twist from Left Field, which has made Flash less palatable, not more. There is no good spin on this one. The Flash story went from bad to "Moron Plot of the Year" Contender. Now, instead of wanting Flash to die, I want Sarah Roberts to die. Yeah, big improvement.

OTHER STUFF

--Out of the few bones that the current staff has chosen to throw us, none has been tastier than the long overdue, always anticipated, often prayed for death of Sam Rappaport. And using Sam’s almost as hated psycho bitch of an ex-wife to do the deed was even better. But, even this was fraught with problems. The other bone was that, after all the years of DNA hijinks, it turned out that Bo, not Sam, was Matthew’s father after all. While I hate to look a slap to JFP’s face in the mouth, I had two problems with this: 1) Sam as Matthew’s father defied good sense and decency; Bo as Matthew’s father, after years of him not being the father, defied all logic. And with Sam dead, it was highly believable and even touching that Bo would be Matthew’s father figure. The belated epilogue to the DNA saga was not necessary. 2) If M/G/V were bent on having Bo be Matthew’s father, and bent on having Sam know this for years, but keep it hidden, why in the hell didn’t they reveal that BEFORE they killed off Sam? We were denied the joy of watching Bo and Nora kick Sam’s ass for keeping such a heinous secret. We were denied of seeing Sam once and for all confronted with what an obsessive, possessive little psycho he was. For those who say "Sam was so honorable, and would never..." Please. Let me have a hit off that pipe. The current story revolves around Bo’s growing closeness with Matthew, and, by proxy, Nora, which leaves Bo’s current girlfriend Gabrielle out in the cold. This might work if they played it more than five minutes a week, and I gave a damn about Bo/Gabrielle, which I don’t.

--Antonio/Jessica. Yet another pairing that I neither root for, nor am distraught about. Again, story is key. And this one is your classic Man loses woman, man falls for another woman, first woman comes back from the dead story. There are several weaknesses, however. For one, don’t you think Antonio and Jessica would have noticed each other before now? Also, there’ve been a lot of screams over the chemistry/lack thereof of their portrayers. I’m pretty neutral on this as well. Antonio and Jessica’s relationship has consisted of bonding over dead children (yeah, that just SCREAMS romance, doesn’t it?) and protecting Jessica from a murderous psycho. The only heat that’s been generated occurred in jailed Jessica’s wet dream. Kids, if you have to write a soap script in the morning, don’t watch Cinemax the night before. Antonio and Jessica don’t have a relationship, they have a series of plot devices. First, it was all a prop for Antonio to play Supercop. Now, it’s the cliche "Wife Back from the Dead" story, except Antonio and Keri aren’t even married.

And about Keri: Everybody knows that in order for these stories to have a shot at being effective, the "spouse" needs to be dead at least a year. The obvious was to have the plane crash, leave it alone at least for a year, and then have Keri show up out of nowhere. That would have been more interesting and potentially better than blowing the big secret right away, and having Saum appear for two minutes a month. But, in an industry that thinks they have to shock the viewers daily into watching, buildup and subtlety are out the window.

--Cristian/Natalie: The chronically bored, lethargic David Fumero needs to be removed from the role of Cris ASAP. But, I still like the idea of this couple.

--Al/Marcie: Speaking of liking the idea--I think there are a lot of born romantics in the audience who like the idea of a psycho, spastic, drug addict and an overweight, isolated, lonely person falling in love better than they like Al and Marcie. A hackneyed Afterschool Special of a drug story followed by a whirlwind courtship equals....nothing. But, in the sea of Mitch and Flash, Al and Marcie=any port in a storm.

--Clint: Nice to see you. Come back more often.

If there’s anything else left to say about Llanview, I’ve blocked it. All I have left to offer is my sincere shock and disgust at the train wreck OLTL has remained, and my utter puzzlement at why. Is it that Malone and Griffith have lost their talent? Or that ABC continues to push their agenda? I suspect the latter, but that is not any more comforting than the former. Promises were made. The writers were going to be allowed to do their thing. OLTL wasn’t going to continue as an amalgamation of other shows. Character was going to return. Shootings and kidnappings would not be the order of the day. (How many times has someone been shot or kidnapped on OLTL in the past five months?!) This is not the Malone/Griffith I remember. This is essentially the same show as Tomlin as Tomlin was essentially the same show under JFP. Any changes made have been few, and even fewer of those have been for the better. If anything, OLTL is even more pretentious now than in recent years. What a shame.

COMING SOON: Frons. Lesbians. Conboy. Patriotism. Port Charles' cancellation. Murder.

God, I love my job.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

It is more complicated to read. Onscreen it was so stupid you just gave up paying attention very quickly.

To this day I still don't know why anyone thought pairing "Flash" and Joey was a good idea. Then they stuck him with Jen. They painted Joey into a horrible corner and he never recovered. He is now MIA for nearly a decade, aside from a brief cameo that was about Nathan Fillion being a nice guy and being one of their more famous recent alumni. If Nathan had said no, then we probably would have just heard, "Joey broke his leg."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

That whole Antonio & Jessica storyline was so wrong in so many ways. & that's including them not having chemistry.

From their very first scene -- Jessica is kicking a soda machine, she's tough!! -- they were awful. In hindsight, the attempt to make Bree's Jessica seem tougher is hilarious, considering she's spent 7 years being tortured.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

From their very first scene -- Jessica is kicking a soda machine, she's tough!! -- they were awful. In hindsight, the attempt to make Bree's Jessica seem tougher is hilarious, considering she's spent 7 years being tortured.

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

OMG! Carl, I LOVE IT! I totally remember that and that was exactly the first impression I had: "Oh, boy. NuJessica is supposed to be kick ass now!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

It is more complicated to read. Onscreen it was so stupid you just gave up paying attention very quickly.

To this day I still don't know why anyone thought pairing "Flash" and Joey was a good idea. Then they stuck him with Jen. They painted Joey into a horrible corner and he never recovered. He is now MIA for nearly a decade, aside from a brief cameo that was about Nathan Fillion being a nice guy and being one of their more famous recent alumni. If Nathan had said no, then we probably would have just heard, "Joey broke his leg."

Not to mention Bruce Michael Hall was such a bad actor, had ZERO presence, and any he had was as a waxed 80s gay porn style beefcake, that making him a member of the church, into "bad girls" or anything else was a complete joke.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Not to mention Bruce Michael Hall was such a bad actor, had ZERO presence, and any he had was as a waxed 80s gay porn style beefcake, that making him a member of the church, into "bad girls" or anything else was a complete joke.

I didn't think he was that bad. I mean they could have been more subtle about this whole hot guy tempted to break his vows story, but he had chemistry with his family and he had some presence early on. They just lost interest very quickly. I think if they had tried he would have been fine, especially since the last decade has not been an acting haven for OLTL.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Wow,I didn't think we'd disagree on this. I really think he was one of the least talented male actors OLTL has had on contract in the past 10 years--which is saying something. If he had played younger, oddly I would have bought the way he actedmore, he just tended to say every line with this kinda light teen surfer lilt (well or gay--take your pick) so that nothing could be taken seriously.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I guess at the time I was just happy to have Joey back and I thought he was a nice presence in the family, and I liked the idea of Joey working with Andrew. The actor wasn't great but he wasn't the worst I'd seen, OLTL had, and still has, a whole lot of bad actors with blank faces and blank chests passed off as the ideal. But certainly a lot of fans felt the way you did, and I'm sure they still do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Bruce Michael Hall will always be, to paraphrase my own words at TWOP in accordance with this screen name, Vee's Blind Spot. I loved him as Joey and I thought despite his weaknesses he presented the thoughtful, sensitive young man perfectly. He was unique. But the pairing with Jen was awful. He had a lot of chemistry with Marcie, but they dropped that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

HAHAA fair enough, I certainly have blind spots when it comes to soap hunks too. And I admit that's part of it, for some reason his "look" (and that of his twin :P ) really has no appeal to me. Which I know always sounds bitter--when a gay guy says someone who everyone finds super hot, isn't hot to him, but there you are :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I felt that BMH was mentally and emotionally a couple of steps back from Fillion's AND McKenna's Joeys. He would have worked perfectly fine as another one of Viki's sons, the knee baby between Joey and Jessica, but just like the Joey from Wild and Crazy Kids, you just can't regress like that with the character after all of that Dorian era growth. He just didn't feel like the same person to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I felt that BMH was mentally and emotionally a couple of steps back from Fillion's AND McKenna's Joeys. He would have worked perfectly fine as another one of Viki's sons, the knee baby between Joey and Jessica, but just like the Joey from Wild and Crazy Kids, you just can't regress like that with the character after all of that Dorian era growth. He just didn't feel like the same person to me.

The problem with Joey was that even with Fillion in the role, the Dorian-era growth was over quickly. He was soon shackled to boring, frigid Kelly, and spent his last year on the show as her prop, with his main "story" being dull Cameron/Olivia and the Drew who rarely seemed to make a facial expression. 1996-1997 was all about draining the life out of seemingly every man -- I guess Kevin was the "quirky" one at that time, so the others paid the price. Since this was never a properly utilized area for his character, I didn't have a problem with them moving Joey on. It's just that Jeffcoat was so wet, and obviously loathed by JFP, and Bruce Michael Hall was stuck in bad pairings and then backburnered.

The thing about Joey was his earnestness and his humor. Jeffcoat, early on, had some of the humor, although that stopped. BMH had the earnestness. To me those are what defined Joey the most, and what I would want to see again if he ever returned. As much as I loved Dorian and Nathan's Joey, that is never going to be acknowledged or used again. Probably the only reason they let it through the last time was they knew Nathan was making a brief return and it was about the great story Robin and Nathan shared, not actually about Joey himself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy