Is anybody else surprised by the quality of shows being tossed out by the networks this summer? Last night, ABC offered up not one but two fantastic little warm-weather treats that would be considered great viewing even during the normal season. First up was SCOUNDRELS and, to be honest, I wasn’t intending to watch. But with an hour to kill before THE GATES, which I’d been looking forward to for some time, I figured, “Why not?” Well, forgive me, West clan, because your exploits made this a criminally entertaining hour of television. Featuring an entire cast of “Oh-my-God-I-loved-him/her-in-fill-in-the-blank” actors and a script that zipped along at a breakneck pace, SCOUNDRELS has moved to the front of my summer hit list. Standouts? Leven Rambin, whom soap fans labeled a star-to-watch during her stint as ALL MY CHILDREN’s Lily; David James Elliott, who has gone from pretty boy to rugged since first we swooned over him back on the original MELROSE PLACE; and Patrick John Flueger — whom most remember from THE 4400, but I’ll never forget for his star-making turn as an accidental commiter of incest on LAW & ORDER: SVU — as twins Cal and Logan. While I’m not sure why this was relegated to summer, when viewers traditionally eschew new programming, here’s hoping that ABC’s efforts to bring us shows worth actually watching pays off.
Speaking of shows worth watching, THE GATES lived up to — and maybe even surpassed — my expectations. As a fan of both supernatural programs and soaps, I was thrilled by this bastard love child of DARK SHADOWS and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Vampire and werewolves and witches… oh my! I feared that the premiere would bore me thanks to the endless commercials which gave away what I assumed to be key moments, but instead, the quick-paced pilot managed to circumvent that potential problem by revealing that what we knew and what was yet to be revealed were two completely different things. We came into it knowing that Rhona Mitra’s Claire is a vampire, but not that she and hybby Luke were trying to kick their bloody addiction in order to provide a loving home to their adoptive daughter. And just when we started to think we knew exactly where things were headed, the writers pulled out a wildcard by giving us an unexpected twist of a cliffhanger. All in all, THE GATES proved to be a vampy, campy, high-spirited romp with enough bite for lovers of things that go bump in the night and some good old-fashioned soapy drama thanks to a plethora of dysfunctional relationships. Turns out that what lurks behind these gates is a hell of a good time.
In the “Oh-no-they-did-NOT” category, we have last week’s stunning twist in the telenovela DONDE ESTA ELISA? in which they actually killed the title character! And that twist right there is an example of what makes this Telemundo offering so superior to American soaps. On any American soap, Elisa would have awakened with amnesia so as to prevent her from revealing that Bruno was responsible for her captivity. Instead, ELISA shocked us by pulling the proverbial plug on the young heroine, thus allowing Bruno and his scheming wife, Cecelia, to continue plotting while leaving us to ponder the other big, unsolved mystery of who shot the teen after she managed to escape her captor.
Our friends at Soaps In Depth are hearing rumblings that Stacy Haiduk is out as THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS’ Patty and Emily, leaving us to wonder what in the world is going on at the longtime #1 daytime drama. Between less-than-stellar storylines (did anybody really need a double-dose of doppelgangers?) and beloved characters being overlooked in favor of newbies (can someone file a missing persons report on Nikki Newman, please?), this show is beginning to look more like PASSIONS every day. And that’s not a compliment.