Friday, July 13, 2012

50 Greatest Soap Couples: #43 Olivia & Natalia From GUIDING LIGHT

COUPLE: Olivia Spencer & Natalia Rivera Aitoro
RANK: 43
Olivia: Crystal Chappell
Natalia: Jessica Leccia
YEARS: 2007-2009

Olivia was suffering from a heart condition and needed a new heart.  After the death of Natalia's husband, Gus, Olivia received his heart and a new lease on life.  Olivia moved into Natalia's farmhouse where she recuperated with Natalia becoming her assistant and helping to take care of Olivia's daughter, Emma (fathered by Phillip Spaulding).  The two women slowly grew closer.  It was Emma's "My Two Mommies" report for school that finally made them realize how others were perceiving them and how much they had grown to love each other.

The outpouring of passionate fan support was huge, and from all over the world.  Similar to Luke and Noah from AS THE WORLD TURNS, the story felt incomplete because viewers only got to see it go so far, but unlike that story, "Otalia" was a slow burn, an old school, falling in love tale that took a year to develop.  It epitomized the best of GUIDING LIGHT's new production model and brought new fans to the soap (and daytime television), although sadly not many that were part of the Nielsen sample.  Despite the Nielsens, the show did garner a lot new media coverage due to the storyline and was suddenly near the top of the Yahoo Buzz TV Rankings.  That's one thing GUIDING LIGHT had not had in years: buzz.

By the time this played out in 2008 and 2009, daytime soap operas had long done away with taking time to play out nuances of a love story, and obviously it had never been done with two women who were previously only with men with this level of detail.  This was the best-written same sex story in daytime soap opera history.  By the time GUIDING LIGHT went off the air, Olivia and Natalia were firmly established as a loving family accepted by Springfield.  The impact on people watching the show and being personally affected by the story is immeasurable.

Crystal Chappell gave the performance of her career during this storyline, and it inspired her to create VENICE, which has set the indie soap world on fire since late 2009.

From Patrick Erwin (A THOUSAND OTHER WORLDS):  We can talk about the fact that this couple was controversial and provocative because they were two women falling for each other. And we can complain about the lack of a kiss or any real affection (with network interference the likely culprit).  But at the end of the day, this was the most classic of all soap stories: two people falling deeply in love and struggling to come to terms with the conflict between their hearts and their heads. For one brief moment, soaps dropped the insta-romance and gave us a beautiful slow burn of a love story.

- Emma's "My Two Mommies" stirs up controversy at school
- Olivia kisses Natalia
- Natalia's non-wedding to Frank
- Olivia confesses her true feelings at Gus's grave

Share your thoughts on Olivia and Natalia in our Comments section below or on our message board.

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  1. Too bad CBS never allowed them to be intimate with each other onscreen!

  2. Hands down, the best written love story I have seen in decades on soaps. I miss Otalia and GL.

  3. How can Olivia and Natalia from GL rank higher than Noah and Luke from ATWT when Nuke were at least be finally allowed to have scenes of intimancy and Otalia couldn't even share a kiss onscreen?

  4. Thank you!

    Chris, it's not all about intimacy for me, although I wish Olivia and Natalia had more. What they had was much better writing than Luke and Noah. We understood their emotions and saw every beat play out. For me daytime soap operas are only as good as the writing and I believe that Olivia and Natalia was the better written story.

  5. The fact that Otalia even made it to this list without ever having shared a mutual, romantic kiss (or any other intimacy) is a testament to the exceptional writing, acting, and chemistry involved with this storyline. It was such a great slow burning love story. Soaps need to return to this kind of storytelling.

  6. Unknown, love your comment. I think many of us daytime soap diehards feel that way. I am amazed at how the current shows get any emotions out of viewers these days with the actors mostly doing one take of scenes, quick blocking with no real rehearsal, and doing more than one episode in a day completely out of order. And to your point, no one (producers, writers, networks) seems to have any confidence in their ability to tell stories so everything happens quickly and there is constant stunt casting just to get a quick ratings bump (which rarely happens). I would love to see an investment in some long-term stories but I don't think the shows feel secure enough to do it, other than B&B (which can be tedious at times but I do appreciate their focus at others).

    I personally got emotional over Otalia almost every single day and it was quite surprising and wonderful because it had been a long while since any story made me feel that way.

  7. Wonderful. Reminds me why Otalia brought me back to soaps, and why I have no emotional connection to any of the couples or soaps left on tv. It really was a uniquely believable love story that kept me on the edge wanting to see it unfold. Even without the kiss, there was so much to love and fall in love with. Kudos WLS for making sure they made this list,

  8. It's not my intention here to diminish Luke and Noah or any other same-sex soap couple. That said, of all the same-sex couples on US daytime soap operas, Olivia and Natalia resonates the most with me (and I'm a gay man and was never a fan of GL). Part of it was the slow buildup. Another – probably bigger – part was that these two were older and had more experience and history. They (and the viewers) couldn't necessarily blow off the relationship as youthful hormones or experimenting.

    It reminds of a time back in the day when RuPaul told Trisha Yearwood that Trisha's version of “How Do I Live” impacted and resonated more than LuAnn Chimes' version. Ru said LuAnn was a young kid but Trisha was a grown woman, so she really knew what she was talking/singing about.

  9. Todos los capítulos que conformaron la historia, fueron de una gran carga emocional y perfectamente escrita y mejor actuada. Pasión sin besos, ni intimidades, crecimiento en el amor, luchas internas por la aceptación de sus sentimientos, lucha por ser aceptadas, mezcla de conflictos existenciales en medio de conflictos religiosos y sociales. Todo esto percibido, sentido por el público, gracias a las magistrales actuaciones de Jessica Leccia y Crystal Chappell, una pareja única e irrepetible.

  10. Best couple ever... Sweet, passionate, heart vs culture, religion issues well presented in tv.. A great love story and wonderful performance by CC and JL.

  11. All chapters that made up the story, were emotionally charged and well written and better acted. Passion without kissing or intimacy, growth in love, internal struggles for acceptance of their feelings, struggles to be accepted, a mixture of existential conflicts among religious and social conflicts. This perceived, felt by the public, thanks to the masterful performances of Jessica Leccia and Crystal Chappell, a couple unique and unrepeatable. Otalia for ever.

  12. Thanks WLS. You are very brave to tackle an all-time couples list. I had so many mixed feelings over how GL ending up treating this couple, and one can only imagine where they might be in regards to history, had they been allowed some real intimacy. That combined with GL's cancellation mess, gave their story an unfortunate truncation that undermined the tremendous build. But looking back, it still was an entralling love story at its height that never seemed to have a wasted frame - it showed the best of what a soap opera could do to tell a great love story, even if never could be completely fulfilled.

  13. Friends became family, and then became the loves of their lives. You can’t get more epically romantic than that. A slowly developed story with very real issues and pacing… the likes of which we will never see again. After Otalia and GL were gone I could no longer watch daytime drama. They were the best this genre had to offer, and the executives rejected it. They could have been the model for the future, but alas, no one has the balls to follow through. Daytime is dead to me. Sad.

  14. As a long time GL fan I would not rank them above Manny, Gush or Jammy. Olivia is such a flakey and deceitful character and based on her history, who knows how long this would have lasted if the show remained on the air. I would say that putting them together did make them much more likeable as individual characters. Before they became a couple, I couldn't stand either one of them.