Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In honor of Susan Flannery: Soaps best deaths



As ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’ gears up for show matriarch Stephanie Forrester to die next month I find I’m having a hard time focusing on the soap.

Susan Flannery is a tremendous talent – and she will be missed – but the rest of this soap is a convoluted mess.

First off, the triangle that ate the Forrester clan – Liam, Steffy and Hope – is raging on. Ironically, no one really cares because all three of the characters are vapid and irritating.

Brooke is running around feeling sorry for herself because Ridge abandoned her. I find that funny since Ridge abandoned her every six months to run back to Taylor for the past 20 years – so she should be used to it at this point.

Now she and Bill are lamenting Katie’s mental issues and her sudden “departure.” Anyone else see Brooke and Bill getting it on? Between her daughters’ boyfriends and her sisters’ husbands, Brooke just gets worse and worse.

Still, I do like how ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’ is building to Stephanie’s death. Flannery has been heartbreaking, tough and even funny as she gets ready to meet her fate. It makes me realize that, once she’s gone, there really isn’t going to be anyone left on ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’ with any rooting value what-so-ever.

I also thought it might be fun to revisit some of the soap genre’s best deaths. Yes, it’s time for another list – and this list is going to consist of both deaths and “deaths.” Soaps are full of both, after all.

Soaps best deaths are:

10. Gillian, All My Children: Gillian was a spoiled princess. She married the town con man, Ryan Lavery, as part of a forced union that neither wanted. Of course, they fell in love. The couple had ups and downs over the years – but you never really doubted that they belonged together. At a certain point, though, it became obvious that Ryan and Gillian didn’t have any more obstacles to overcome. So the writers crafted a story where she was shot in the head (mistaken for Anna) and her beloved Ryan found her still breathing – but very much dead. As Ryan grappled with having to donate his wife’s organs, fans didn’t realize this was the last time the Ryan character would be likeable in Pine Valley. So it was really two deaths that day.

9. Eden, Santa Barbara: Eden and Cruz were one of my all-time favorite soap couples, so when they were separated I was crushed. Marcy Walker wanted to leave the show for prime time, so when the writers decided on a story to write her out with they gave her multiple personalities. The personalities left town, came back, and then helped Eden get dropped off a cliff. Whatever. It was convoluted, I know, but when Cruz is trying to hold on to Eden and stop her from falling I found myself yelling at the television. I’m still sad they never got their happy ending. They did get one of the best weddings in soap history, though, so I guess that’s something.

8. Maureen Bauer, Guiding Light: This one ranks up there as one of the stories soap writers cite when they worry about making “big mistakes“ that a show can never recover from. This was one of those stories that essentially sacrificed the future of a soap for a momentary bump in ratings. If you ask me, GL never recovered from this particular mistake. However, Maureen Bauer was killed in a particularly painful way. After finding out that her husband, Ed, had an affair with a woman she thought of as a friend, she fled in a rainstorm and was killed. The guilt would forever plague Ed. Fans never really got over it, either.

7. Frankie Frame, Another World: This one is another in the long line of “What Were They Thinking?” story lines.  Frankie came to town to investigate her uncle’s murder and slowly fell for Cass. After getting married, they honeymooned on The Orient Express. Cass and Frankie were fun and lovable. They were never boring. So why the writers chose to kill Frankie off is still a mystery. Actually, Frankie was a victim of a serial killer storyline as a way to slash the budget for the then struggling soap. Most fans argued they would have preferred Frankie just leave the canvas – not get killed off. I bet the writers wished they could take it back when fan backlash hit, too.

6. Laura, All My Children: This was a public service death that worked. It’s always sad when you kill off a child, but when AMC made the bold decision to run down heroine Brooke’s daughter in a drunk driving accident, fans were floored. Not only didn’t they see it coming, but Julia Barr’s powerful performance as her character finds out her child is never coming back is the stuff legend is made of. Brooke may have never gotten the attention that Erica did – but she certainly had the better stories. Brooke never did get over the death of her daughter. Her marriage ultimately broke up because of it (although she and Adam did reunite in the end).

5. Cindy, All My Children: In 1989, sweet Cindy succumbed to the AIDS that her abusive lout of an ex-husband had given her. Cindy left behind her son Scott and her husband Stuart – and it was Stuart that fans were worried about most. Stuart’s reaction as his beloved wife died was what got fans. David Canary  played twins Stuart and Adam – and the brothers couldn’t have been more different. In this storyline, though, bad twin Adam stood by and helped good twin Stuart and the power of their love for each other and Adam’s inability to fix things for Stuart was just as important as the message behind Cindy’s death.


4. Megan, One Life to Live: On a soap with a lot of feisty heroines, Megan was my all-time favorite Llanview denizen. That’s why, when she was diagnosed with Lupus, I felt my heart breaking as she longed for her missing husband Jake – and her family struggled with her imminent death. When Jake showed up just in time, he carried his dying wife to the window and showed her the paper hearts he’d adorned the tree out in the yard of the hospital with. As Megan died, she dropped one of those paper hearts and it slowly fluttered to the floor. Within the next few months, Jake decided to commit suicide and Megan’s ghost managed to stop him. Both scenes were two of the biggest tear-jerkers in OLTL history.

3. Stone, General Hospital: This one everyone saw coming a mile away – and for months on end – and yet it still broke our hearts. Stone Cates was a street kid taken in by the local mobster with a heart of gold. He fell in love with Robin Scorpio – a character everyone had watched grow up for a decade. I think most fans thought Robin would lose Stone and yet somehow escape from an HIV death sentence – which was essentially what the diagnosis was at that time. Instead, Robin contracted HIV, Stone found out about it and he died in her arms – but not before briefly regaining his sight and laying his eyes on her one last time. Robin then climbed into bed with him and pulled her dead lover’s arm around her as she mourned. Robin continued on the show for years. The actress left and came back (and left again) but Robin still survives – with her HIV. Stone’s legacy changed the entire landscape for her – and we’re grateful to him for it.

2. Cassie, The Young and the Restless: In some of the best acted scenes ever done on soaps, a teenage Cassie is laying in her bed with her parents on either side of her. Cassie was in a car accident and the subsequent brain swelling was about to take its toll. Cassie knew what was happening to her – and she was okay. It wasn’t her death that was heartbreaking as much as it was her parents’ reactions. Her father Nick sang her a lullaby. Her mother, Sharon, cuddled and cradled her. Viewers were treated to a music montage of the girl – who had grown up on screen – as she interacted with everyone who loved her. Then she flatlined – and her parents’ lives were never the same. What’s interesting about Cassie’s death is that it’s still a major plot point on Y&R – as Sharon and Nick have never fully recovered from losing her. That’s a great death.

1.  B.J., General Hospital: GH made the list a few times – but they do death so well. This is the one story, though, that still makes me cry even thinking about it. Young B.J. was in a bus accident, you see, and when she was taken to the hospital following the accident she was declared brain dead. Her father, Tony, a renowned brain surgeon, thought he could fix her. When he realized that wasn’t possible, though, he donated her heart to save her ailing cousin Maxie’s life. B.J.’s death was such a punch in the gut because, for months, viewers had been watching Maxie’s life drain away. To have B.J. snatched when were weren’t looking stunned everyone. Two scenes from this saga always stick with me. The first is Felicia, Maxie’s mother, sinking to the floor with B.J.’s mother Bobbie and sobbing “Not Barbara Jean’s heart.” The other is a despondent Tony placing his head to Maxie’s chest – where his daughter’s heart now beat – after surgery is the other. The great deaths reverberate for your years. This is one of the great deaths – and cousin Maxie still brings up her cousin B.J. from time-to-time.

Honorable mentions go to:

Michael, General Hospital: AJ faking young Michael’s “death” wasn’t groundbreaking. It was riveting, though. This is the only time during Tamara Braun’s tenure as Carly that I didn’t hate the job she was doing as an actress. I still didn’t believe her as Carly, but as a mother mourning the death of a child she was solid. I would still like to see Laura Wright in that scene, though.

Lucky, General Hospital: I know that he didn’t really die, but the week following Lucky Spencer’s “death’ was some of the most heartbreaking stuff I’ve ever seen. From a broken-hearted Elizabeth crumpling in Sonny’s arms, to a devastated Laura blaming her husband for teaching Lucky it was safe to trust mobsters, GH delivered. When it was revealed that Lucky was alive, I know a lot of fans were relieved (myself included). Still, his death doesn’t lose its power.

Leo, All My Children: Josh Duhamel captivated hearts the minute he stepped on screen. That his beloved Leo died to protect his wife Greenlee from his demented mother, only made fans love him more. Rumor has it that Duhamel filmed a scene that was set five years in the future for All My Children’s end – one that would have supposedly resurrected his character. I’m still bummed we didn’t get to see it.

Jenny, All My Children: It’s hard to believe a death by jet ski would be anything but funny on a soap. Jenny’s death, though, broke many a heart – including her beloved Greg's. While I think the scenes were handled well, I still can’t help but think the character deserved a more dignified ending.

Jeremy, Loving: When ABC was shifting ‘Loving’ into ‘The City,’ they launched a serial killer storyline. Jeremy was a character that we’d grown to love on ‘All My Children’ and still loved on ‘Loving.’ Having his character die when a bucket of plaster was dumped over him – essentially making him a human statue – was actually a kind of fun way to go on a soap. I know I’ve never forgotten it.

Lily, General Hospital: I didn’t care about Lily. I did love the way GH handled the Clink/Boom episode, though. Just as Sonny’s true love moved on and toasted her new marriage with a clink, the woman he had decided to stay with, even though he didn’t love her, was blown up in a car bomb meant for him with a big old boom. Sonny’s still moping about it to this day.

Maria, All My Children: This was another “death,” but I’ll never forget Marie falling from the cliff after a plane crash (just as Brooke found out the true paternity of her child). One of AMC’s biggest mistakes was ruining Edmund and not sending him and Maria off into the sunset. That’s one slight I won’t forget.

What do you think? What are soap’s best deaths?

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