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Daily TV Serials - The Return of The Best & The Worst


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Names were kept as they were spelled/misspelled in the article.

The Return of The Best & The Worst

Those Who Came Out on Top...and Those Who Hit the Pits...

Daily TV Serials – July 1977

by Jon-Michael Reed

Readers of this magazine have repeatedly requested the return of the critical review feature which hasn't appeared on these pages for several months. There are a numbers a reasons why this column was temporarily abandoned – mainly because it became a strain to make enemies of nice people whose only flaw was that they occasionally suffered from a lack of talent. It's a sticky situation for a magazine to criticize those people with whom it must maintain cordial relations. But, what the heck. Let's give it another shot, and do a swift survey of the best and worst that's been seen on the daily TV screen this past year.

The golden moments that occurred on the various serials were, unfortunately, few and far between. In fact, it has been a rather rotten year. More shows than I care to remember dragged their story feet. Of course, this was a year of great, sweeping changes in cast and story emphasis on most of the serials. And whenever a show decides to alter its focus by eliminating longtime familiar characters in favor of new ones, there is usually a tedious period of adjustments. The theory goes that the new folk must be slowly established in order to gain an identifiable and familiar rapport with the audience. The best example of this process is the new serial, Lovers and Friends, which spent several months establishing characterizations before much action or plot progression took place.

This drawn-out period of character exposition is acceptable for a show that's just getting off the ground. But on a show which already has a core group of familiar people, it's another matter. Since the writers are anxious to get their new characters moving, there is often a noticeable neglect of those other folks who have been around the story for years. This situation occurred on Guiding Light , The Doctors, General Hospital, and to the late, but not-so-great Somerset, which is better off dead and buried than alive and struggling to find the soul of it's story.

The problem of plotting was compounded by frequent emphasis of major attention on one storyline to the exclusion of all others. Guiding Light was the prime offender, but One Life to Live ran a close second.

For the longest time on GL, just about the only active story involved Hope Bauer and Ben McFarren. If you weren't interested in following this tale of complicated young love, there wasn’t much else to attract ones attention. It might have been helped if the actors were more suitably mated. STEPHEN YATES (Ben) was a much more interesting actor than ROBIN MATTSON (Hope). One could never quite believe in the attraction between a bubbly boy and a bland baby girl, even though this kind of matching is quite common to soap opera lovers. Even if one were forced by routine to become interested in their fates, the story was suddenly moved to a back burner, with inconclusive threads dangling all over the place. It was as though the writers got bored with a boring story and decide to shift into another storyline – the Rita Stapleton-Ed Bauer romance, which was snarled with a murder charge against Rita.

By the time Rita came to trial, the writers should have been charged with murder in the first degree. The victim was the storyline, which was so heavy with repetition that it sunk with usually fine actors aboard ship. MART HULSWIT (Ed) didn't have as much of a struggle as LENORE KASDORF (Rita), She had little to do but replay the same scene of nervously guilty hand-wringing. But Lenore is such an exciting, gifted, actress that she was able to hold head well about water.

One Life to Live was also deficient in the story quantity, and the story quality was practically zero. Th e introduction of a new family in town, the Vernons, didn't fill the existing void. And the kidnapping of Joe and Vicki Riley's newborn baby, Kevin, by Joe's mentally-unbalance former lover, Cathy Lord, was not a particularly original story. But is might have been interesting if it wasn't so smothered with attention and so strung out that all interest was lost whether the infant was found or not. As if that weren't enough boredom, the writers had the further gall to keep the audience in tedious waiting until the incident caused the split up of Joe and Vicki. Despite the repetitive odds against her, ERIKA SLEZAK (Vicki) was able to survive with her professional skills in tact. But barely. Unfortunately, LEE PATTERSON (Joe) wasn't able to sustain the heightened emotionality. Lee has always been better in scenes of light frivolity or firm authority. But this year it became obvious that he can't hack the breaking-down-in-tears bit.

The other major storyline on OLTL, involved Pat Kendall's revelation to Tony Lord that her son was also his son. The only thing that saved this hackneyed plot was JACQUIE COURTNEY’s (Pat) talent, stamina, and fresh reading of stale dialogue. It also helped that she's the best afternoon weeper. GEORGE REINHOLT (Tony) grew annoyingly coy, mannered, and affected. Often, it seemed as though he could care less about what was going on around him – which, admittedly, wasn't much.

This tendency to come off wearily uninterested and uninteresting was also evident in JUDY BARCROFT (during Anne Martin's interminable pregnancy on All My Children and in TOM HALLICK and BEAU KAYSER (Brad Eliot and Brock Reynolds on The Young and The Restless.)

Y&R developed a disturbing case of the “morbids”. It went to painstaking (and painful to watch) lengths to gradually display Peggy's rape, Brad's blindness, Bill's death. Nancy's mental breakdown etc. etc,. etc,. Just about the only light relief was the wonderful honeymoon sequences between Laurie and Lance, which were gaily portrayed by JAIME LYN BAUER and JOHN McCOOK. JEANNE COOPER (Kay Chancellor) and JULIANNA McCARTHY (Liz Foster) had an opportunity to dash off an occasional scene superbly-played comedy, especially involving Kay's would-be beau Ralph, the plumber, (GREG WALCOTT). But then, Liz was plunged into the depths of despair over her dying husband, which didn't let up for a moment. Even thought the story provided Julianna with the opportunity to show she's one of the best actresses around, it got to be too much pain to bear for this viewer.

As for Peggy's rape, it was a direct rip-off or instant re-play of an already done (and much better) story. Wasn't it stretching the limits of the imagination that two sisters, Peggy and Chris, would both be raped within the span of a year in a town the presumably-small size of Genoa City? And then there was PAMELA SOLOW as Peggy. She shouldn't have been asked to attempt to stretch beyond the limits of her talent, which are sometimes adequate and often quite appealing. But let's face it. She's no TRISH STEWART (Chris).

Over in the town of Oakdale on As the World Turns, things were moving at it's usual small town pace. ATWT always has been and probably always will be the undeniable sluggish champ. In an entire year, events in Oakdale move a quarter of an inch, if that. There is such an amazing amount of detail to the smallest, dreariest details of everyday life that the audience is hypnotically lulled in to watching. But – and this is the big but – the writers and most of the cast are so attuned to their show's particular pace that they carry it off with surprising finesse and professional polish. I can't help but care about the people in Oakdale, probably because they care so intensely about what happens to them – no matter how trivial it may be.

A large percentage of the cast is tremendously convincing and compelling in their performances. KATHRYN HAYS (Kim Dixon), DON HASTINGS (Bob Hughes), JUDY CHAPMAN (Natalie Hughes), LARRY BRYGGMAN (John Dixon), and DENNIS COONEY (Tom Hughes) are some of the most outstanding. Among this year's newcomers, MARTINA DEIGNAN (Annie Stewart) was most promising. The others fared less well, but nearly everyone on ATWT (and associated with it) has the uncanny ability to make much magical ado about nothing.

The problem with General Hospital was that there was much ado about everything. There were a dozen or more new faces who were all embroiled in the most melodramatic complications of the year. But who cared? And they were sometimes just plain ridiculous, to boot. Who can ever forget the tense moment when Jeff Webber lay near death, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head? His wife, Monica, refused permission to operate. Then good ole' Steve Hardy stepped in and announces that since he was the boy's father, he would give the necessary consent. Yes, folks, it turned out that Jeff was Steve's son buy an illicit liaison years and years ago. How convenient.

The new crop of actors wasn't particularly noteworthy, with the exceptions, of ANNA STUART (Gina Dante) and LEE WARRICK (Mary Ellen Dante) who showed a lot more spunk and screen vitality than they had shown in the roles on their former soaps, The Doctors and One Life to Live, respectively. GERALD GORDON (Mark Dante) was no different than he was as Nick Bellini, also on The Doctors. And GEORGANNE La PIERE (Heather) has to be one of the most untrained actresses to appear this year. The old pros on the show were generally wasted or, worse, ignored.

Shows like The Edge of Night, Another World, Love of Life, and All My Children also introduced slews of new characters this year. But they did not fall into tedious traps in a few instances.

Edge spent an unbelievable and ridiculous amount of time trying to get rid of Nicole Drake. That gal had more lives than Carter's has little liver pills or peanuts. What saved it from begin boring, however, was the immense skill of the writers who piled new and compelling complications upon old plot complications. And ,of course, MAEVE McGUIRE (Nicole) is one of those vanishing breed of actresses who is marvelously skilled enough to maintain a limitless amount of screen energy. Like KATE MULGREW (Mary Ryan on Ryan's Hope) and newcomer CINDY PICKETT (Jacqueline Marler on Guiding Light), among a few others. Maeve never allows a word of dialogue to pass her lips that isn't uttered with the utmost conviction and the most inventively colorful tone. JUDITH McCONNELL (Valerie Conway on As the World Turns) also falls into this category – to such a degree that I was rooting for Valerie to win Dan away from Kim. These are the kind of actresses who bring splendor to soap operas.

Also on Edge, finally, Nancy and Mike Karr had a storyline that involved them in something other than being the guardians of good. FORREST COMPTON (Mike) was able to display an unaccustomed range of emotions, but it was ANN FLOOD (Nancy) who really knocked my socks off. Great, says it all.

The newcomers on this show were generally outstanding, especially PATRICK HORGAN (Ansel), DOROTHY STINNETTE (Nadine), and JUANIN CLAY (Raven). DOUG McKEON (Timmy Farrady) is just about the only afternoon TV child actor who can actually act rather than recite. AND DENNY ALBEE (Steve) is one of those rare, extraordinarily good-looking young actors who can do more than be pretty.

To be continued in next post.

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RICHARD VAN VLEET (Chuck on All My Children) is another all-American face who can emote sensationally rather than merely pose. And his show was uncommonly well-paced with compelling stories that didn't drag. The Phoebe-Myrtle-Kitty plot may have been a bit far-fetched at first (and no one but Phoebe would go to such extremes to get rid of her daughter-in-law). But FRANCESCA JAMES (Kitty) and EILEEN HERLIE( Myrtle) preserved the basic beauty of the story through consummate acting ability of tenderly moving sensitivity. Herlie and RUTH WARRICK (Phoebe) were often deliciously amusing – and a welcome and light-hearted relief. The show lost an excellent talent in PAUL GLEASON(David Thornton) and with his departure MARY FICKETT (Ruth) lost a luminous quality that doesn't exist with RAY McDONNELL (Joe). There were weaknesses in the cast, most obviously, NICK BENEDICT (Phil). And in addition to Anne's laborious pregnancy, there was interminable conflict between Tara and Phil over little Phil. Someone ought to have given that spoiled brat a good swift kick in his asthma.

There were a few plots on All My Children that may have been too controversial for the tastes of some viewers – such as the teen prostitute and the deformed baby storylines. But the most commendable aspect of the show was that it wasn't afraid to forge ahead and unravel its stories with commitment. And AMC knew where it was going, which was not the case with The Doctors and Search For Tomorrow.

The Doctors was a mishmash of General Hospital-confusion proportions. And they ought to consider changing the theme - “dedicated to the brotherhood of healing”. There was more sadistic infliction of pain, as a matter of fact, than there was healing. Poor JADA ROWLAND (Carolee) was reduced to uttering mono-syllables and staring into space. JIM PRITCHETT (Matt) developed a case of lock-jaw mumbling, and remarkable LESLIE ANN RAY (Stacy) would have come off better if she had a responsive actor playing opposite her. GERALDINE COURT( Ann) and DAVID O'BRIEN (Steve) were able to maintain their professional integrity, despite the most outlandish plot developments. After all, it just doesn't make sense that a formerly mentally-in-control woman (Carolee) would go so completely off her rocker by merely catching her husband with another woman (Ann). Just about the only worthy development on the show involved LYDIA BRUCE (Maggie), who was able to display her formidable talent.

Search For Tomorrow floundered around and didn't fully concentrate on any storyline, except the murder of Eunice and the trial of John and Jennifer. ANN WILLIAMS (Eunice) is better off beyond the grave. MORGAN FAIRCHILD (Jennifer) grew to be quite boring and shrill in her limited range of expressions. VAL DUFOUR (John) was first-rate. Joanne (MARY STUART) flunked out trying to find a romantic interest, and couldn't even muster a story with her daughter Patti, who came and left in the blink of an eye. Three young men on the show JOEL HIGGINS (Bruce), KEVIN KLIEN ( Woody), and especially MICHAEL NOURI (Steve) were much better than all the women put together. And it's a mystery why the show decided to dump an exceptional actress, SHERRY ROONEY(Gail) rather than the simperingly affected ANNE WYNDHAM (Amy).

There was nothing much wrong with Days of Our Lives and Love of Life. They simply went casually on their cool way – but without much drive. They were decently interesting enough, and there were the occasional illuminating moments. But there was a sporadic rhythm to the two shows. They chugged along when they had ample opportunity to shift into high gears.

On Love of Life, JOHN ANISTON (Eddie), PAMELA LINCOLN (Felicia) and especially MICHAEL ALLINSON (Ian) were largely responsible for providing the major sparks. On Days, JED ALLAN was totally winning and personably charming as Don Craig, and he was helped tremendously by a charming and animated leading lady, DEIDRE HALL (Marlena). MARGARET MASON ( Linda) did a fine job in her “tea and sympathy” bit with young Mike. But ADRIENNE LaRUSSA (Brooke) was embarrassingly unconvincing and emotionless.

PATTY WEAVER won the lioness's share of heavy dramatic duties on Days as amnesiac, split-personality Trish. This is the kind of role that gives performers ample opportunity to chew scenery. And Patty matured enough in her talents to do it quite well. CATHY CARRICABURU as Nancy on The Young and The Restless, had similar opportunity to act crazy and demented and she, too, did an honorable job. But compare these two performers with JENNIFER HARMON's work as mentally unbalanced amnesiac Cathy Lord on One Life to Live, and you can see the differences between promising novices and as seasoned professional. Mind you, the young ladies have nothing to be ashamed of, but their work pales in comparison to Miss Harmon's, which explored an astonishing array of finely -tuned, wide-ranged, specific, and succinct dramatic emotions. Her's was probably the major acting accomplishment of the year.

Another World succeeded in telling its unusually panoramic scale of storytelling, although the multitudes of characters were often difficult to keep track of. The show's success owed immeasurably to generally outstanding and compelling performances by LAURIE HEINEMAN (Sharlene), BEVERLY McKINSEY (Iris), BEVERLY PENBERTHY (Pat), DOUGLASS WATSON (Mac), VICTORIA WYNDHAM (Rachel), among others. And JOHN FITZPATRICK (as the first Willis) and DOROTHY LYMAN (Gwen) were the most sterling of the bunch.

Surprisingly though, AW and Lover and Friends are both negligent in casting forcefully convincing younger talent. RICHARD BACKUS (Jason), ROD ARRANTS (Austin), and CHRISTINE JONES (Amy), of L&F are fresh, vibrant performers. But most of the other young people on both shows are lack-luster.

AW also had an occasional tendency to run a good thing into the ground – such as Iris's infernal intentions of breaking up her father's marriage; Aunt Liz's infernal interference in everyone else's life and Russ' infernal inability to cope with his wife's sordid past. The repetition was infernally annoying. But not without it's absorbing character declination.

Back to the deficit side, GAIL BROWN wasn’t able to mature beyond her once original and fun-to-watch trashy interpretation of Clarice. And DAVID BAILEY (Russ) failed to carry off his drunken rage scenes with convictions. They were uncomfortably awkward.

Finally, we come to the best of the serials, Ryan's Hope. In a year that must be judged as tortoise-paced for most shows, the tempo on RH, with its well-turned tension, was energetically straightforward. Even with three concurrent pregnancies, there was rarely a pregnant pause or halt to the invigorating story complications. The show's tone and theme remained consistent. The plots were logical and riveting, and there wasn't a glaring weak link in the cast lot.

MALCOLM GROOME (Pat) and CATHERINE HICKS (Faith) projected immense sensitivity and warmth. ILENE KRISTEN (Dee) and DON HALE (Roger) were perfectly despicable connivers, but humanly empathetic. There isn't a more convincingly concerned “listener” in all of soapland as HELEN GALLAGHER (Maeve). And KATE MULGREW (Mary) remains the most refreshing golden talent on the soaps.

As for those shows which couldn't make up their minds which way to go – or whether to move at all - there is a glimmer of promise that they may finally be getting off their rumps. There are lights at the end of the tedious tunnels that the drawn out adjustment period of format and cast changes will lead to new, exiting horizons.

But, let's hope, they do it soon - before we all fall asleep.

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What a wonderful treat, sharing this with us! I don't know how much time this must have taken you. We will never get to see most of this, so it helps tell us what was and also about the strong interesting identities of each show.

It seems like ATWT still had real dividends from their pace of the mid-70s, I wish they hadn't panicked when the ratings started to fall.

So do those who were watching then agree with this or disagree? I don't know a lot about this Gail character on SFT. Wasn't Sherry Rooney on another show?

I have read a little about the story with Katherine and the plumber, but not much.

Edge often seems to have such a sterling cast in the clips I've seen and his comments also say as much. But I thought Doug McKeon was on Alice by this time.

The comment about little Phillip cracked me up.

What he said about the young on AW was similar to what Schemering criticized Lemay's work for.

I kind of thought that would be true about Cher's sister, that she would be green.

I keep forgetting Anna Stuart was on GH. I wish I could see her work.

The comment about Robin Mattson being boring as a heroine - I wonder if that's why she was cast as a bad girl afterwards.

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Fantastic read! I guess OLTL was just starting to head into its classic era. I love when they single out actors like Robin Mattson who are now faves, or ones as early faves like Anna Stuart who still are. And of course love the praise for AMC (though it's funny reading about the controversial storylines--I knew it had some controversy with stories but not that even the soap press thought so--deformed baby? LOL Sorry just the way they phrased that made me laugh)--Nick Benedict was about to leave AMC, anyway. Why was Mary Fickett off AMC? Sounds like George Reinholt's mannerisms were starting to creep in.

On Y&R I didn't know Peggy and her sister were raped in the same year. It's true that I tend to prefer Nixon style soaps over Bell's, but most of his long run at Y&R I find mesmerizing to watch--that said the criticism that it became too morbid does sound fair from some bits I've seen. Would love ot hear more than the breif aside about Lovers and Friends.

Anyway thanks so much for posting this--the kinda stuff I just lap up! Wish there were more.

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Chris was raped in 1973 or 1974. Then a year or more later Bell decided to have Peggy raped. In the Y&R behind the scenes thread, supes81 posted an interview with Bell from around 1976, and I think he said he did this again because he thought the story was important and he didn't think the show had enough viewers when they did the story with Chris for it to have the public impact he wanted.

The part with Nancy, also briefly mentioned, is that Nancy was married to the rapist, Ron. They also had a daughter. They were poor and Nancy was very ill, having been in a coma for some time. She woke back up after Ron was a suspect in Peggy's rape. Chris worked tooth and nail to make sure Ron was blamed, but Peggy herself wasn't sure about whether he was her rapist, and it was suggested that Chris might have been compensating for her own rape. Nancy desperately wanted to clear Ron's name and finally he was either acquitted or charges were dropped. Then it was revealed that he WAS Peggy's rapist, and Nancy realized he was a monster.

I'm not sure what happened after that.

I do agree that these stories could become too much, although it does seem like Bill Bell used rape to genuinely explore the topic, and not as a plot device, as many other soaps did.

It was interesting to hear his panning of Judith Barcroft. I thought she had some weird moments when she was at Ryan's Hope but generally I thought she was very popular at AMC. He didn't seem fond of the baby story at all.

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But I thought Doug McKeon was on Alice by this time.

Phil McKeon was on Alice. Doug McKeon went on to play the teen in the Fonda/Fonda/Hepburn film On Golden Pond.

safe, I loved that! I always liked John-Michael Reed. He was brutally honest in his opinions! I'd love to see more old reviews like this. I have some around. Would you mind if I posted them on this thread?

Please, go ahead and add them.

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Thanks, this was really interesting. It's funny that he lauded Stephen Yates, who I thought was likable but dull as dishwater, and panned the glorious Robin Mattson. To be fair, though, I didn't see any of Mattson on GL, she might have been real green. I pretty much agree with his DAYS and AW comments. Patty Weaver doesn't get nearly enough credit for her DAYS role, IMO, and those AW actors are among the best ever to appear on daytime.

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I remember a bit about the rape of Peggy on Y&R. Ron's wife Nancy ended up having a breakdown and was committed. Chris & Snapper took in Ron & Nancy's daughter for several years I believe. I can't remember what happened to her afterwards. This was around the same time that Peggy had been dating her married professor.

I liked Stephen Yates on GL but I don't remember him being bubbly! I recall him as sort of low-key.

I remember enjoying Adrienne LaRussa as Brooke Hamilton on Days, so the assessment of her is a little surprising.

I agree that Gerald Gordon portrayed his Mark Dante character on GH the same as he played Nick Bellini on the Doctors but I still liked him!

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Great stuff!

I remember a bit about the rape of Peggy on Y&R. Ron's wife Nancy ended up having a breakdown and was committed. Chris & Snapper took in Ron & Nancy's daughter for several years I believe. I can't remember what happened to her afterwards. This was around the same time that Peggy had been dating her married professor.

I would have been nine years old in 1977 but I do remember Peggy. For me she sort of appeared out of nowhere, one of those soap children who was never mentioned until she "returned from boarding school" or some such thing. I am probably wrong, but it felt as if she was a retcon and the Brooks family went from three daughters to four in order to bring a younger woman, a girl really, into the Brooks fray. Really annoying voice that someone in casting must have thought was distinctive.

Was Nancy an older woman about 35 or more, hair usually pulled back? Blonde?

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