Deep Soap: Y&R’s All Female Episode Is All Good

Sharon Case and Michelle Stafford in Y&R (CBS)

Sharon Case and Michelle Stafford in Y&R (CBS)

The Women
The Young & The Restless’s‘ all female episode on Tuesday was a delightful surprise.  I wish soaps would write more lighthearted, character driven episodes like this one.  Hearkening back to the classic film ‘The Women,’ and a similar episode of ‘All My Children‘ centered around a bridal fair that I believe was also written by this episode’s dialogue writer Amanda Beall, Y&R celebrated all major types of soap female relationships. There were scenes between romantic rivals (Phyllis and Sharon, Chloe and Heather), mothers and daughters (Ashley and Abby), long lost siblings (Jill and Lauren) and best friends (Katherine and Nikki).

Plotwise, not much happened. Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) launched a blog entitled, “The Real Homewreckers of Genoa City” which took potshots at most of the other women on the show. (Given that Phyllis broke up both Nick and Sharon’s marriage and Christine and Danny’s, perhaps she should have called her blog “People Who Live In Glass Houses.”)  By the end of the episode, all the other women were reading about themselves — and ready to kill Phyllis.  I will fanwank that Phyllis, who is an established internet expert, actually knows how to make a site go viral.

The pleasure came in seeing a group of women interact with each other, in ways both expected (Jill and Lauren do everything they can to irritate each other at a spa) and unexpected (Mac sticks up for Victoria when Chloe mocks Billy and Victoria’s relationship).  The characters were, for the most part, relaxing and having a good time.  I liked watching people take yoga classes and get facials and massages. It’s a refreshing change from the ultra serious office settings where we usually see them.

The relationships that women have with each other are every bit as interesting and important as their relationships with men.  Shows from ‘Sex & The City‘ to ‘Pretty Little Liars‘ have become huge hits by focusing on them.  Yet daytime soaps, the genre that is specifically designed for women, rarely focuses on them despite the positive response that almost every female bonding scene receives.

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I think the most interesting relationship in Genoa City right now is the one between Phyllis and Sharon (Sharon Case).  They hate each other, but they understand each other better that anyone else does.  Both have been driven to desperate acts by their love for the same fickle men.  Each has spent years studying the others strengths and weaknesses.   This episode featured a terrific scene between the two of them as they pushed their daughters on park swings.  The presence of their children forced them to pretend to be friendly, resulting in layered dialogue. When Phyllis informed Sharon that Nick was kissing another blonde (how I wish she knew it was Christine) the same night that he asked her to move back in with him, she was not merely hitting her rival where it hurts, she was giving her a heads up.

The episode also featured another soap female staple: the diabolical schemer.  So far Meggie (Sean Young) is a rank amateur. Her evil plan to make Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) fall off the wagon by adding liquor to her drinks does not make a lot of sense. As a bartender, Meggie might know what ingredients mask the taste of alcohol, but when she ordered Nikki a ginger ale and vodka at the Athletic Club bar, wouldn’t Nikki have noticed that something was off?    Second, even if Nikki does start drinking again, I would think Victor would make sure she got the help that she needed, not dump her for Meggie.  But the scenes where Nikki confided to Katherine that she was dreaming about drinking were moving.  They have the most well developed female friendship on the show, and I would like to see it explored more thoroughly.  I would also like to see some more female friendships develop.  Other than Phyllis and Lauren, few unrelated women in Genoa City are close to each other.

This is how a special soap episode should be done.  It did not break the fourth wall, interrupt the narrative flow, or scream Emmy bait. It was just an entertaining change of pace. In the interest of fairness, I would be equally interested in an episode devoted to the men of Genoa City.

Matthew Goes To The Dark Side
I am intrigued by Clint’s (Jerry Ver Dorn) plan to lead Matthew (Eddie Alderson) to the dark side on ‘One Life To Live.’ Alderson is the best actor among the Llanview High set.  He is also the only one that I care the most about, since he is a member of the show’s core family that I have watched grow up in what is close to real time.

Despite the heavy presence of the teen set all summer, Matthew has been mostly MIA.   I was concerned that he was going to be tossed aside in favor of the Ford/Salinger hunks.  Instead, the show is giving viewers a multi-generational storyline that draws on the show’s history.  Clint’s offer to train Matthew to run Buchanan Enterprises — and to be a magnificent bastard like Asa — sets up Matthew to be a three dimensional villain, a rarity for a soap minor.

While I do not enjoy seeing the formerly sweet Matthew lording his money and power over Nate (Lenny Platt), it is a believable development.  He justifiably rebelled when his parents shipped him to England against his will to stop him from having surgery that restored his ability to walk.   He seemed to instantly forgive them after the surgery, but I can believe that deep down he never got over their deception.  He got dumped by his first love on the same day his parents remarried.  He fell under the influence of his cool older brother David (Tuc Watkins), who encouraged him to break all the rules.

While from an adult perspective, Matthew’s anger at Bo (Robert S. Woods)  for hiring Inez (Jessica Leccia) to be his assistant is unjustified, teenagers are self-centered.  Matthew will have both his parents and Destiny (Shenell Edmonds) as the angels on his shoulders, to contrast with Clint’s devil.  There is built in tension since chances are that Matthew will learn that Clint left his beloved brother to rot in a Moroccan prison whenever Watkins has time to return to the show.   This is not a teen storyline. It’s a Buchanan storyline, and it has the potential to become one of the best reasons to watch OLTL this fall.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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