September 23, 2009By Marc Wilkofsky Posted: Sep 23, 2009
Did you make it through GUIDING LIGHT viewers' toughest day? I don't mean Friday, Sept. 18, but Monday, Sept. 21, the first official weekday without the soap. If so, congratulations to you and all the viewers who were able to handle going Springfieldless. It was a challenge for me, but I believe the advance notice of GL's conclusion, along with the powerful finale, helped me deal with not having my favorite show on the air. Tuesday proved to be somewhat easier...but that might have been far from the case for many people.
Well, we can always reminisce, and the soap's final week floored me. The double wedding of Billy and Vanessa and Buzz and Lillian was beautiful, and the character returns, from Bridget to Holly, heartwarming. If it wasn't scripted, Lisa Brown's choice to have Nola blow Company, her former stomping grounds, a kiss as she left the building was one fantastic ad-lib.
The sudden passing and memorial service for Alan were stunningly produced, and it was fitting that Alan's last scene alive was with his old friend Buzz, as Alan's machinations inarguably led to Coop's death. It made sense that Olivia and Jonathan, who often spoke their minds, were both blunt when they informed people of Alan's death.
Other heart-pleasers included Phillip and James finally becoming close as father and son (even though it partly took Alan dying for that to happen), and Jonathan and Reva ricocheting from tears to laughs and back to tears in front of his new home; Tom Pelphrey and Kim Zimmer were outstanding in that scene. Also, who knew we'd be sad to see the once dull, now likable Rafe go? The soldier's farewell to his mom and friends by the bus was moving, and his telling Olivia to take care of Natalia but not hugging her hinted (appropriately for his character) that he still didn't completely accept her.
Congratulations to Yvonna Wright and Murray Bartlett (Mel and Cyrus) for performing the series' final love scene. I found them to be an exciting couple with much chemistry and potential, so at least we got a taste or two of what might have been.
I honestly did not like everything the last week offered. Several scenes sped by far too quickly, and Olivia and Natalia didn't get a true closure scene as a couple, although their love story was superbly told. On the other hand, the Jeffrey storyline needed worlds more suspense; "NCIS: S.O.S. (Somewhere Outside of Springfield)" might have been more enthralling, if, say, Edmund held someone — such as Jonathan or Sarah — hostage, or even if Jeffrey chased him through a mall (there are plenty of those in New Jersey). But "LL Cool Jeffrey" left the show a hero, and the penultimate episode did explain his whereabouts, as his fate was to keep chasing Edmund.
The lack of flashbacks, apparently due to a dearth of time, was unfortunately jarring. The show has told many "life stories," and those of characters such as Bert, Meta, Mike, Hope and Roger could have been briefly spotlighted.
Aside from all that, I was very pleased and satisfied by the Sept. 18 finale. It shared sublime grace with tremendous depth, just like the show has done for decades. There were many standout moments, but Mindy announcing she's staying in town was the first scene that made me misty, as I loved the Four Musketeers from their 1983 introduction, when those four characters solidified my devotion to the show. I was delighted that Fletcher returned to spirit away his former flame, Alex. Her telling her family, "I'll be back for the damn wedding," was hilarious, and pure Alex, while Fletch and Bill mentioning the late Ben, Fletch's son and Bill's good friend, brought me a huge smile. Finally uniting love-starved singles Frank and Blake was ultraromantic, as was James literally breathing, "I...love you" to Daisy before her road trip.
As GL battled to beat the avalanche of time constraints, the show cleverly rolled with its own limits by bringing us a year later. I was beyond thrilled that former lovers Rick and Mindy were engaged, and later got just a touch "verklempt" when Danny and Michelle clinked glasses with the Four Musketeers, in a manner that appeared to create the Six Musketeers (which makes sense, since Michelle is Rick's sister). It was good to see Lizzie expecting her second child, and all the kids at the softball game, from Henry and Sarah to Francesca and Clayton, effectively represented Springfield's next generation. And talk about sublime; in the church's light and seemingly free of worries, Mallet and Dinah were at their engaging best.
Plus, that music! I appreciate and applaud independent songwriters, but over the past year, I had occasionally asked, "What is that song?" and "Why are its lyrics almost as loud as the dialogue?" The instrumental that played during the softball game gathering was amazing. Then, finally, a mainstream song ("Together" by Michelle Branch) was used, and included the fitting line: "When darkness awaits you, I'll be there to be your light."
I'll look at more of the last episode, including the wrap-up to a certain supercouple's storyline, in my next blog entry. Just like wrapping up 72 years in one hour had to have been difficult, so is giving that hour the review it deserves in just one entry. For now, I feel for the many people who have watched the show regularly for years, and those who view it as their grandmother's story or one of the last keepsakes they have of a dear relative who passed away. While it's not a loss of a family member (although, as I've noted in this blog, the characters do feel like family), it is still a saddening loss, one that's hard to put into words.
But we should be grateful to have seven daytime soaps left, and we should help to save them by watching them; that's extremely important. I'm still trying to decide which one will be my new top soap; recent changes to one that I thought was a shoo-in and current developments in another might change my mind. And as for what to do with that extra hour, the question that's likely on many GL-missing minds, other than trying a new soap or two, there's always talking a walk outside, calling a relative and seeing a friend, because you only have one life to live.