Green Guide 4 Dec 2008
The bold and the comical
December 4, 2008
WHERE else on TV can you see a woman tied to a chair being smeared in honey to entice a grizzly bear to eat her? This was the plot of Tuesday night's episode of The Bold and the Beautiful, where Pam (Alley Mills, formerly the mother in The Wonder Years), the unhinged sister of Forrester matriarch Stephanie (Bold stalwart Susan Flannery), attempted to murder Donna (Jennifer Gareis), the current wife of Stephanie's three-times-ex-husband Eric (John McCook). Murder-by-grizzly, bearicide or whatever you would call such a plot development is proof that Network Ten may not be as silly as they seem slotting Bold into the prime-time 6pm slot once held by surreal animated sitcom The Simpsons.
While its title might suggest it is a dry BBC documentary about typefaces, The Bold and the Beautiful is in fact the most-watched soap opera in the world. It centres on the Forrester and Logan families, who have been intermarrying for more than 20 years. Due to a quirk of fertility in the world of daytime soap, there are some five or six generations in the intermixed clans; when a child is old enough to deliver dialogue, at the age of five or six, they are swiftly replaced with an actor old enough to become romantically entangled with one of their second cousins. Their confused lineage and cross-generational romances can sometimes be hard to follow. For instance, Rick, the son of Brooke, is engaged to his mother's nemesis Taylor, the ex-wife of his half-brother and step-father Ridge.
The plots on Bold are both dramatic and hilarious. The actors deliver all their dialogue with carefully measured gusto, rarely tipping out of melodrama into parody, even though the situations are clearly ludicrous. The character of Katie, for example, is played with remarkable restraint by Heather Tom (formerly Victoria Newman on The Young and the Restless), even though she is going through a difficult pregnancy, due to the amount of medication she is taking to prevent her body rejecting the heart she had transplanted from her brother, Storm, who committed suicide after accidentally shooting her in the chest, thereby necessitating the need for the heart transplant in the first place. The scene at Storm's memorial, where Katie tearfully rips open her blouse, revealing to her family the enormous scar on her chest, while sobbing "Storm lives here now!" is not only moving, it's hysterical.
The core cast, the actors playing Stephanie, Eric, Brooke and Ridge, have been with the show for 22 years, and barring the odd stint in a coma, they are never away for more than a fortnight. Some characters, such as Thorne, have been there since the start, but their faces are not what they once were. They don't have spurious plastic surgery on Bold (not as part of the storyline, anyway), they have a polite voiceover that informs you "the part of Rick will now be played by Kyle Lowder", and you just have to accept that this guy is Rick now. I do think that they need this voiceover to explain the visages of some of the female actors on the show, especially Hunter Tylo, who plays Taylor; she has had so much work done, she is starting to look like Cher. Perhaps the announcer could gently remind us "the part of Taylor is still being played by Hunter Tylo, even though her face is pulled so tight she looks like a piece of paper with eyes drawn on it".
My favourite actor on the show is Katherine Kelly Lang, who has portrayed Brooke Logan since the Pleistocene era. I was fortunate enough to meet her in 2005 when I took a set visit in Los Angeles. Lang is the most skilled sook on television. She has a hyperactive tear duct in her left eye that expels fluid with alarming reliability. Even if she is just distressed at the low lighting not showing off the recent renovations to her head, a single tear will pop out and trip down her cheek. Her skill is breathtaking. On speaking to her, I found that, unlike her character, she understood how ridiculous the scripts were and that the need to be crying for 75 per cent of her screen-time was perhaps excessive. She was, however, philosophical about the whole thing, exhibiting the jaded enthusiasm of anybody who has been employed for such a length of time they've been eligible for long-service leave twice (cue another coma).
B&B is escapist nonsense, and thigh-slappingly funny with it. Any production where actors remain stony-faced as a squeezy bottle of honey makes that inevitable farting sound, scant minutes after an on-set encounter with a live grizzly bear, is one you cannot help but admire.
The Bold and the Beautiful screens weeknights at 6pm on Ten. The Matt and Jo Show with the Fabulous Adam Richard airs weekdays from 6am-9am on Fox 101.9FM.