I was understandably apprehensive when confirmation of Ambyr Childers' (Colby Chandler) departure was made in favor of a slightly older recast in Brianne Moncrief. Given that Colby was born in 1999 and had been aged to 15 when the character returned to Pine Valley in July 2006 (having been five years old in 2004), I didn't think aging Colby was necessary yet again. Oh, and lest we forget, Colby recently discussed enrolling in college immediately after finishing this, her senior year of high school.
Even more confusion resulted in Brianne's first appearance as Colby this past Wednesday, May 7. At first glance, Brianne passed for Ambyr's twin sister. Hair style, clothing, mannerisms, speech... everything seemed reminiscent of Ambyr's portrayal of the young Chandler heiress to the degree that, despite an older actress, the character appears not to have aged at all.
Okay, that's fine. But then, why exactly was Colby recast?
Ambyr Childers portrayal of Colby was not initially met with much enthusiasm. In what appears to be a soap tradition (especially with females), the character returned as a complete brat who stole cars, whined for daddy's money, and wrecked yachts. Given that Amanda Dillon had returned in a similar fashion just over a year before, viewers were not in the market for another sluttish, bratty kid.
After realizing how much grief she was causing her father and especially after playing midwife to stepmother Krystal Carey, Colby did a lot of growing up. Not coincidentally, her maturity also earned her the respect of many viewers. Colby began a summer romance with Sean Montgomery that, in typical AMC Powers That Be fashion, quickly fizzled once fans caught on with it. We mustn't let couples become too popular, eh, Zach/Kendall fans?
Controversy struck again when spoilers revealed that Colby would take an interest in Frankie Hubbard, a man many years her senior. Though this will probably cast me as the odd man out, I was actually quite excited about the romance. Age is a funny thing, isn't it? Let's pick a number... say, five. Two people that are five years apart have to wait a little while to get together. For example, if one is 16 and the other is 11, that just won't do at all. But what if one is 17 and the other 22? How about 22 and 27? Not so big a deal, is it?
Colby may be only 17, but she's had her fair share of trials and tribulations during her short life. Colby delivered a baby, she survived being a hostage, and perhaps most significantly, she's thus far survived having Adam Chandler for a father! Frankie is remiss in thinking of Colby as nothing more than a cute little kid; she's much, much more.
My Frankie-Colby diatribe may seem like a tangent, but I assure you it isn't. You see, the rumor going around is that Colby needed to be recast to be paired with Frankie. Ambyr appeared too young, so someone older needed to be found. Brianne is older, though not by too much; but she certainly doesn't appear that much older than Ambyr onscreen, does she?
Brianne has only made one onscreen appearance so far, and so I think it far too early to pass any judgment, but regardless of whether she flops or becomes known as the Colby Chandler, the need for a recast is not at all apparent. On the one hand, I'm glad that Colby wasn't aged another handful of years less than two weeks after talking about her college prospects with her father; on the other, more cynical hand, I just can't think of any good reason that Ambyr was replaced.
In less than two years, Childers had grown significantly as an actress to the point where fans were rather irritated when the actress' screen-time was diminished significantly last year. Why get rid of an actress who has finally made such a strong connection with her fans? Even further, why ditch a performer who has chemistry with her love interest?
Sabine Singh might know the answer to both of those questions, don't you think?
Come what may with the new Colby, good luck to you, Ambyr Childers. Your work on AMC was excellent, and you will be missed.
I Can't Believe I'm Going to Say This...
I'm not prone to keeping my favorite and least favorite characters to myself, especially not in this column. One thing viewers don't get from ABC these days in honesty, but you'll never have that problem with me (sorry about that). Like: Tad, Adam, JR, Zach, Richie, "Action" Jackson, Annie, and some others. Dislike: Kendall, Erica, Greenlee (a new addition), Krystal, and Babe. Or at least, I used to dislike Babe.
Yes, it's true - Amanda Baker's portrayal of Babe Carey has finally won me over. Don't misunderstand; it's not that I disliked the actress, but I've always thought she was talented. Amanda Baker's take on Babe has always been a bit too intelligent for a character who has always been a bit too dumb. Alexa Havins... well, she would be the reason I loathed Babe Carey. Always smug, always a ditz, always a slut, and always, always with the crying.
This week, during Babe's confrontation with Richie and his female accomplice, Amanda Baker made me smile and laugh. Boom! Down goes the prostitute, and the smugness with which she relayed her knockout blow to JR was perfect - not too much, not too little; just right. I'm also really enjoying the chemistry these two actors and characters have created together. Alexa Havins' Babe was intolerable to me, but much like Kendall with Zach, I could stand her when she was with JR. Baker had a lot to live up to, but I'm really believing in them and hope that their budding romance doesn't bud too quickly. I'm enjoying the ride, but keep it nice and slow.
I won't go so far as to say I'm Babe's number one fan, but for a guy who has never liked Babe Carey, I'm impressed. Keep it up, Amanda. You're doing fine.
Welcome Back, Dr. Jake
Continuing this week's apparent theme of recasts is Ricky Paull Goldin, the fifth actor to play Dr. Jake Martin. I haven't seen enough of his work to make comments one way or the other, but if his diehard followers who have come from Guiding Light to AMC are any indication, watching "RPG" in action should be enjoyable. The character of Jake seems to be intact, as Jake choosing to remain a hostage and save his captor's life rather than escape through his hut's open door was something Jake would have done. His selflessness has caused him heartache, but it's a good quality, one I've always admired in the character regardless of his portrayer.
Now You See Me, Now You Don't
As a Dixie fan, part of me is thrilled to see Cady McClain back in Pine Valley even if it is just to haunt Adam Chandler into doing "the right thing" (good luck with that, Dix). The other half of me is jaded. Here we have the idiots at ABC Daytime who, looking to appease Tad and Dixie fans after the travesty of Dixie's death early last year, have decided to grant our wish and bring Dixie back - as a ghost. Executive producer Julie Hannan Carruthers has been quoted a number of times as saying that this return storyline is intended to give T&D fans the closure they have been looking for.
So you're saying we should be grateful to you for bringing back Dixie as a spirit? Okay, I'll play along - thanks. But you know what? You really shouldn't have killed her in the first place, so I won't be too grateful. Frankly, you screwed up, and if you really want to make things right, bring her back in the flesh. That's what we really wanted, so don't act as if you expect AMC fans to grovel at your feet and pick up the scraps you've thrown us.
You can always bring characters back to life--that's just part of the genre--but there comes a point where you shouldn't return them to the land of the living. A few columns back, I wrote about death in soap operas. Those who read spoilers didn't have to work too hard to figure out that I was talking about this, Dixie's return as Casper the Friendly Parent-and-Child-Uniting Ghost. Dixie died offscreen in 2002 and then came back. Dixie died onscreen in 2007 and may still come back as a flesh-and-blood, corporeal member of AMC's cast.
Hurray! But this storyline has complicated that possibility. I think ABC Daytime's executives have gotten cocky. Well, cockier, actually. They've shown Jesse as a ghost and he's alive and well, so they might be assuming the same thing can be done with Dixie. Yes, it can, but should it? If you kill off too many characters and subsequently resurrect them, death becomes meaningless. Soaps often try to deal with realistic issues, and the death of a loved one (or an enemy) is supposed to be a big deal. If characters die and come back too often, your fans simply won't care; they'll just expect Dixie, or Gillian, or Edmund, or whoever, to come back during the next sweeps period.
Is there a way to do the right thing and bring Dixie back as a leaving, breathing mortal? I think so. Here's my idea: I'd write the story such that Adam was going crazy with guilt, which is what made him see the adoption papers everywhere. He could THINK he's shredding, eating, and burning the same document when in fact he isn't; he just keeps ruining other documents (maybe important ones, maybe not). Same thing with Dixie. He thinks he's seeing her, but he's not.
Truthfully I think that as long as they don't have too many people see Dixie, her return will be much more plausible than Jesse's. Jesse was actually seen in Heaven not once, but twice. The first time, when Tad was unconscious during the tornado of '94, could've been explained as a hallucination. But when Jesse led Gillian to Heaven... well, there's no explaining that, which is why I think it's been ignored thus far.
Dixie, however, has only been seen as a ghost one other time - immediately after dying, she blew a kiss to Kathy/Kate, who waved back. The little girl's physical reaction is a problem, but could be ignored, really. Another explanation: Dixie is being held somewhere in a coma (similar to what the Martins and Josh did with Babe after the Satin Slayer attacked her) and she had an out-of-body experience. Many have claimed to such things when near death. No one can prove it does or does NOT happen, therefore that explanation could be considered both feasible and plausible.
The real test will be the coming weeks. What if other earth dwellers see Dixie? That would make her real return, the one Dixie fans have been waiting for since last year's idiocy, a bit harder to pull off.
It's hard to have faith in ABC Daytime's executives these days, isn't it? I've been accused by a small but vocal minority of readers as being far too cynical. I apologize for that. I confess to being overly critical at times, but in this capacity, I am somewhat of a critic; I'm only doing my job. In truth, I love All My Children. That's what makes the show's big screw-ups, like Death By Peanut Butter-Banana Pancakes, all the harder to swallow (literally).
Whether you love Dixie or hate her, you have to admit that her death last year was complete rubbish. Did you know that Cady McClain was told by the creative department that they no longer had any material for Dixie? That's like saying you don't have anything left for Tad, or Adam, or David Hayward! Oops; that last instance happened, didn't it?
The bottom line is this: thank you, ABC Daytime, for Dixie's current, ghostly return. It is something, after all, and I will admit to enjoying the story so far. But that's not what we really want. To be blunt, you owe us the real deal. You screwed up last year. You did, not us. We can change the channel anytime we want to, and you know what? Many of your former viewers have done just that. Don't screw this one up, too. We've all heard the rumor that if this story goes over well, Dixie could come back. You know it's possible. Do it.