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April 19, 2014

TV Squad Soap Report: Heavenly fun on One Life to Live

by Allison Waldman, posted Jul 30th 2008 10:02AM
Logo soapA few weeks back, I enthusiastically reported the plans for One Life to Live's 40th anniversary celebration. Viki was going to have a near death experience and heaven; a classic OLTL moment would be re-created, the Iguaza Falls plunge; and in an elongated mini-arc, Bo and Rex would be transported back in time to 1968, the year OLTL began. It was an ambitious undertaking, but it was still nice to hear that they were thinking big, as opposed to General Hospital which did virtually nothing to commemorate their 45th anniversary in April.

So, now that Viki's visit to heaven -- which did not include Pearly Gates -- has concluded and Sarah and Cristian have gone over the falls -- and look to be dead -- I felt compelled to comment. First, Viki. I really, really like Erika Slezak. She's the Meryl Streep of daytime, able to take on all kinds of stories and make them work. Fortunately for Erika, she didn't have to sing any crappy ABBA songs like poor Meryl in Mamma Mia!

Instead, Viki shared the screen with some familiar actors from her years on OLTL. The inclusion of Erin Torpey as Megan, the baby that died who had been named for Viki's daughter of the same name, was a brilliant touch -- especially when the original Megan, Jessica Tuck, had to drop out at the last minute. So they put Erin in and because she had played Jessica, one of Viki's other daughters, the familiarity definitely worked. Slezak and Torpey created some beautiful, poignant moments on screen.

The scenes with Phil Carey, as Asa, weren't as fluid. I never really thought there was much affection between Asa and Viki, so it didn't work for me. But the appearance of Niki was a kick and played for laughs, although when you think about it, the greatest Viki-multiple personality story involved a much more serious turn than the strident Niki elements.

They saved the best of Viki in heaven for her reunion with hubby Ben Davidson (he was one of five husbands -- she married two of them twice, so she had seven marriages). Of all the hubbys, Viki and Joe Riley were really special, as were her marriages to Clint Buchanan. However, by the time Ben came around, Viki was in a different place in her life and her relationship with him was refreshingly new and romantic and lovely. All those notes were played again when Erika S. got to play scenes with Mark Derwin as Ben. Derwin's guest turn was charming and the chemistry between the two stars was there all over again.

His calling her "Blondie," kidding about heaven being great, but he thought eternity would have returned his full head of hair, the in jokes about the heart they share (his was transplanted to her when he died). It all worked for me, with only the film retrospective on the Crossroads TV clunkly added to the scene.

Speaking of clunky, I liked the idea of Agnes Nixon -- creator of One Life to Live -- appearing as Agnes, the creator of it all, checking a script and watching the action with rapt attention. The execution, however, left something to be desired. And I'm not sure what to make of the breaking of the fourth wall, when Erika joined Agnes in a thank you to everyone out there -- meaning us fans. It was a little jarring and could have been done in a more clever way. Ron Carlivati, if you want my ideas, email me!

Not to be forgotten, the stunt work at the falls was stellar. It was some of the best I've seen in daytime in a long time. How Sarah and Cristian survive is anyone's guess! Also, I liked Mel and Dorian; it's a shame his character is dead. He really knows how to get to Dorian.

My favorite stuff, though, is 1968. I'm digging the Life on Mars vibe with Rex (wearing a perfect 1968 outfit, including paisley shirt, tan cords and a thick belt with a big buckle) and Bo back at the Buchanan ranch with all these current performers re-creating the famous names from the past -- Spencer Truman, Maria, Chuck, Emma. I'm looking forward to how they play out this time travel storyline, as outre as it may seem for daytime TV.

But if there's one show that has really thrived on fantastic -- with emphasis on the sci-fi and fantasy -- flights of storytelling, it's OLTL. Doing time-travel again, now, is really a way to honor their 40th anniversary.

Finally, props to Frank Valentini, executive producer, for thinking big, and ABC Daytime head Brian Frons for giving him the go ahead.

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