Yes, I know. The title of this column may have caused a few double-takes, a couple of eye rolls, and one or two out-and-out belly laughs. It's true, there hasn't been much to praise in Pine Valley this past year, but I have managed to pick out a few of my personal highlights. Next week, I'll cover the worst of 2007. Needless to say, there will be a lot more to discuss. But for now, let's try to abandon the negative and focus on the things that worked in the 2007 version of AMC.
There was many a day this year when I would come home from work, stare at my DVD player, and try to come up with reasons not to watch All My Children. As hard as I tried, there always this little voice in my head that convinced me to press play. Maybe Zach and Kendall will be on.
Now, regular readers will know that the Slaters have pretty much had a permanent spot on my best of list in the past couple of years. This year, however, I felt the need to expand their slot to include the entire Slater family. Of course, there are Spike and Ian, future Red Wings fans in the making, that add warmth and hope to the Slater clan, while also achieving something I would have thought impossible - making Thorsten Kaye even more attractive. But it's not just the Hart-Slater kids that make this family so endearing. Zach and Kendall's support system finally expanded this year, making it a little easier to bear all of the crud they threw at my all-time favorite couple.
Josh became Zach's business associate, confidant, and brother this year, giving Madden more ties to the canvas and finally giving Zach a supportive male friend (who, I might add, will never try to steal his wife!) All Uncle Josh needs is a real love interest and he might actually get a worthy storyline. Of course, Zach has always had Myrtle by his side, and I'm glad that despite Eileen Herlie's unfortunate absences from the show, the writers have continued to showcase that friendship.
The most impressive addition to the Slater family this year, though, was the one-time mother-in-law-from-hell, Erica Kane. Watching Erica come to the realization that Zach and Kendall were truly meant to be was a joy to watch. If Erica's truly on your side, you couldn't ask for a more fierce or loyal defended. And just think - less than two years ago, La Kane was literally praying for Kendall to dump Zach and take up with Ryan again. Plus, even though the show doesn't dare use the words 'Grandma' and 'Erica' in the same sentence, I love watching Erica interact with Spike and Ian. In fact, one of my favorite moments of the year was when Erica first held Ian, and gave him that stirring Kane baby speech. That is the La Kane that I love.
Of course, none of this would be possible without Zach and Kendall themselves. This year, they were once again run through the gamut. It was pretty much non-stop danger, pain, and suffering. Luckily, there were those few precious moments when the madness stopped and we got a little bit of joy - Kendall telling Zach she was pregnant, his impromptu baby shower at the casino gazebo, the couple storming the Chandler mansion, and watching Kendall strut around in her NHL-sanctioned lingerie, to name a few. Whether they were fighting, laughing, or (god forbid) actually having a love scene, they were often the only reason I cared to watch. Zach and Kendall not only carried the show this year, their portrayers, Thorsten Kaye and Alicia Minshew, have the ability to salvage almost any storyline, no matter how ridiculous. That's not to say I don't hope for better, but it's nice to know that even the worst of storylines can't stop the magic of 'Zendall.'
Introducing Richie Novak
I've said it before and I'll say it again - every soap needs a good villain. In my opinion, the best villains actually have an element of sympathy to them. You love watching them be bad, but there's a glimmer of goodness that dangles redemption in front of you. AMC has had some great ones over the years. Adam Chandler is exhibit number one. He does horrible things, sometimes for the right reasons, but we cheer him on every time he swears he'll change.
Now, Richie isn't exactly the most sympathetic villain ever, but he's a step down from your run-of-the-mill psychos like Billy Clyde Tuggle or Alexander Cambias Sr. If all of the accusations leveled at him are true, Richie's a monster, a boy who drowned his playmate for a baseball card, pushed his father out a window, and, in essence, goaded his mother into suicide. And yet, there's a kernel of truth to his moral outrage that put his actions into a bit of perspective. He's doomed to die of a terminal illness and was, in fact, framed for a crime he didn't commit. Whether or not you feel Annie's actions were justified, Richie's incarceration was a miscarriage of justice.
I also love my villains to have a good sense of humor, which Richie has in spades. He delights in torturing his sister and baiting Ryan into confrontations. His interactions with Janet were downright classic, and the maniacal laugh he let loose upon realizing he's stolen enemy JR's car was priceless. He also has a softer side, which shows in his scenes with Babe and Lily.
Bottom line, Billy Miller is just fun to watch. A charming villain with nothing to lose always is. As I've said before, I hope that Richie doesn't shuffle off Pine Valley's mortal coil anytime soon. Anybody who has that much fun at so successfully tormenting Ryan Lavery is worth keeping around.
Zarf Becomes Zoe
In any other year, this may not have made my 'best' list, but after grading on the 2007 curve, this one is the best of the rest. Was it over the top? Definitely. Did the storyline have its flaws? No question about it. There are still many people out there who can make the convincing argument that the whole Zoe story was just a way to get Bianca in a relationship with a man without rewriting her sexuality. But all in all, I actually enjoyed this controversial storyline.
Most of the credit goes to Jeffery Carlson and Eden Riegel, who took what could have been a cartoon-style joke of a story and gave it some heart. As I mentioned at the time, I didn't expect to like Zarf/Zoe at all. It's just not the type of character I tend to gravitate towards - a new-age preachy type who spouts off about auras, and soulmates, and other spiritual mumbo-jumbo. But I found Zarf humorous, genuine, and sweet. The scenes Zoe shared with Zach were excellent, as were her scenes with her mother, trying to explain what it was like to a be a transgender.
The romance with Bianca may have been a bit rushed and buying into the whole 'falling in love with people's souls' idea may have been difficult for some people to grasp, I think Zoe's story was worth telling. I would love to see her come back, if only briefly, and see how her story continued off screen. She would at least bring a little life back to a canvas that been drowning in sorrow for the past few months.
So that's it. Scarce as it may seem to some, those are the things I honestly enjoyed most in the Valley this year. Agree or disagree, that's the way I saw things. Here's hoping that next year brings an embarrassment of riches for AMC fans. There's definitely some potential, with the return of Angie and Jesse on the horizon, but as I said in my last column, I'm honestly more anxious than excited. I hope against hope that I'm wrong.
Next week, we'll get down and dirty with The Worst of 2007. Until then, have a safe and happy new year. Thanks for reading.