What’s the best way to write characters back into the canvas? Check out what Digest columnist Carolyn Hinsey has to say about what’s happening across the daytime dial.
Good returning characters need a proper build-up, as opposed to the sudden “Oh, hi” approach.
B&B chose the latter with Ridge and Brooke’s son Ridge, Jr. who hadn’t been heard from in over five years until one day…
Brooke: “When is the last time you talked to your brother?”
Hope: “The other day. We text all the time. We video chat. I know you talk to him, too.”
She does? It didn’t make sense that the kid would appear on screen on the same day he got his first mention when clearly a casting call had been out to recast the pivotal role for awhile.
RJ: “Hey, dad.”
Ridge: “Ridge, Junior! Welcome home.”
Awkwardness ensued as Ridge launched into Brooke’s “sadness below the surface” about missing R.J. so much (which we also never saw) and there were way too many “Talk to your half brother” and “Hey, little brother!” convos for my taste.
Taylor: “He’s Ridge’s son, your brother.”
Thomas: “Dad and Brooke created him together.”
We get it. Instead of portraying R.J. as a flighty teenager traveling the world, it would have made more sense for B&B to tie his return to Sheila’s incarceration — saying he didn’t feel safe coming home until now — because the Forrester fear of Sheila is legitimate. Now, there’s a character who always gets a proper entrance (back from the dead, sporting a disguise, turning up in someone’s bed, you name it).
Taylor: “Then there’s you: Deplorable. Shooting Steffy and Finn to save yourself. Gunning your own son down in an alley.”
Sheila: “That was an accident.”
Taylor: “Because you meant to kill my daughter.”
Bill: “You’ll die in here and no one is going to care.”
GH’s Holly is another one kept relevant even when she isn’t on the show. After months of references to her son Ethan being held captive, he burst onto the scene in chains at a European auction where he was being bid on by Holly, Felicia and … his stepmother Tracy Quartermaine.
Felicia: “I can’t get over you showing up at a black market auction.”
Tracy: “I couldn’t let Luke’s son get executed.”
Tracy’s return made perfect sense (she lives in Europe), as did her coming back to PC with the gang on their private jet. GH stayed true to her curmudgeonly nature right down to her eye mask on the plane so no one would talk to her.
Felicia: “You need your family around you now.”
Tracy: “Have you met my family?”
Next up: Her family!
Tracy (storming into the Q mansion): “What on earth was Monica thinking planting daffodils all the way up the drive? It looks like the Easter bunny threw up.”
The Qs exchanged nervous looks as Tracy took aim at Carly (“What is she doing here?”) while making herself at home before Michael and Willow’s wedding.
After 45 years, Tracy needs no re-introduction so they wisely plopped her right into the action calling Carly “A.J.’s worst mistake,” Obrecht “that Frau from hell” and Drew “another one of Alan’s illegitimate offspring”.
For those of us who watched Tracy withhold Edward’s heart medication in 1980 it was like a warm hug.
DAYS “kills” way too many characters who then come back to life, but give them credit for Hope’s reunion with the prodigal Bo, which was a full six weeks in the making. The big moment had tears and ocean breezes and fantasies and so many flashbacks it was like a gauzy jaunt to the 1990s. Too bad the brainwashed mess pulled a gun on her.
Hope: “No, dammit! You’re Bo Brady. The best man I know. You’re the love of my life. Your heart is the truest part of you and it knows you belong with me, your Fancy Face.”
Bo: “Fancy Face!”
Bang. Shot by his son at the very moment his memory was returning because Shawn spied the gun Bo was holding and he wanted to protect Hope.
A key ingredient to a good soapy return is making us want to watch the newbie. Y&R didn’t do that with Tucker, having him screw over his son Devon and relentlessly court his ex-wife Ashley (after cheating on her their first go-round) while having sex with Audra on the side.
Ashley (re: Devon): “It meant a lot to me that you were going to be redeemed.”
Tucker: “I don’t need to be redeemed by you.”
Ashley (leaving): “You’re right.”
Tucker: “This is what you do to me.”
Ashley: “What, make you say mean, stupid things?”
He’s a classic abuser: See what you made me do to you?
Contrast Tucker’s fizzle with Diane’s sizzle, brought in with the perfect tease of that real estate/Allie ruse and fortified by her ability to push every one of Phyllis’s buttons until Phyllis lost it. Yes, Jack’s a sucker for falling for Diane again but she sure did shake up the Abbott house.
Jack: “Diane is coming back here.”
Ashley: “This is my home, too. Why don’t you find yourself a nice little house next to whatever prison Diane is sent to once she’s convicted? Diane is going to cost you everything that ever meant anything to you.”
Playing the villainous Diane with Michael is smart because we love him.
Diane (in prison): “You look like hell.”
Michael: “I’m too much of a gentleman to return the compliment.”
It strains credulity that it didn’t occur to Diane that Phyllis faked her death when Diane did it for over a decade, but the toxicity is riveting — especially since we knew Phyllis was alive. As returns go, appearing to your daughter as she mourns your death is up there. That’s the one situation where the less-is-more approach can actually work: “Oh, hi!”
Hey. It’s only my opinion.