As the year draws to a close, it's time for what has become a yearly tradition here on Soap Central: the annual Best and Worst of AMC. If memory serves me correctly, I think this might be the very first time that I've been the one to write the Best and Worst column. Hey, it only took me 13 years to do it.
This week, I am going to sum up some of the highlights and lowlights. Next week, I'll hand out some awards for the best and worst in a variety of areas. Plus, you'll get your chance to do the same when the nominations phase of the Dankies opens.
Oddly, many of the storylines on the show were ongoing. There were not many storylines that had distinct beginnings and endings. Still, there were a few that were more than inspiring.
Twister: It was a story unlike any in daytime television history: the march of the killer tornados through Pine Valley. All My Children must have looked under the sofa cushions for spare change because I know the special effects must have cost oodles and oodles of dollars. It's not an easy task considering how the daytime's budget is steadily shrinking. Okay, so this might not have been on par with something like Twister or Independence Day, but those movies had multi-million dollar budgets - and they then charged people $8 a pop to go to the theaters and see the special effects.
GI Jane and War, Interrupted: Tough-as-nails Taylor Thompson showed up in town between tours of duty in Iraq. She bad-mouthed anyone who dared to hint that the military operations in Iraq were unnecessary. All My Children had previously addressed the Vietnam War in the 1970s, but this time around things were decidedly different. The storyline took an interesting twist with the introduction of Brot Monroe, a soldier believed to have been killed during the war. The role was played by real-life war vet J.R. Martinez and the soldier-turned-motivational-speaker-turned-actor brought with him his real-life story of how he nearly died in Iraq.
The ghosts of pancakes past: All My Children fans rejoiced when it was announced that Cady McClain would be reprising her role as Dixie Martin. Unfortunately, Dixie was still dead. For several weeks, Dixie tormented Adam. It was just like old times... except Dixie was still dead. Watching Adam thinking that he was losing his mind (and seeing a devilish side of the otherwise sugary sweet Dixie) was a lot of fun, even if it wasn't the story fans had wanted to see. The highlight for me came during the wedding day massacre in which a ghostly Dixie first prevented Kate from possibly ending up in the line of mad man Robert's fire and later tryied to shield Tad from a bullet.
Cuckoo and going nuts: Boring little Annie Lavery sure took a sharp turn off the deep end. As a regular, sane person, Annie was positively boring. Honestly, I can't even tell you what she did between the mess with her abusive ex-husband and her going nuts. I'm sure she did something. Sure, there are some fans who think Annie is over-the-top now, but that's part of the fun. Watching Annie skulk about town with knives, tire irons, revolvers, candlesticks, and a lead pipe was both entertaining and amusing all at the same time.
No, this is not the area where we discuss Zoe or Zarf. This is where storylines that could have been good, but never lived up to their potential are dissected. Conversely, there are also some storylines that started off bad, but ultimately came into their own.
The littlest hellion: Kathy-then-Kate did not at all like the idea of Krystal being Tad's new lady. She was so jealous of the relationship that Kathy/Kate actually tried to kill Krystal. Just when things were starting to get good, the demons were exorcised from Kathy/Kate and she became a well-adjusted child. By this time next year, she'll be in high school.
I was a teenager hooker: Though I like the character now, Randi Morgan's introduction left a lot to be desired. She came across as snotty, unsympathetic, and very unlikeable. She's since been dubbed the "hooker with a heart of gold" (not by me, I'd like to say). She landed a plum job at Fusion and then became the Face of Fusion. Of course, that was taken away from her when Greenlee found some nudie pics of Randi on the Internet. Throughout the mess, Randi and Frankie grew closer as Randi wanted to save the one gift for her new boyfriend that she'd given away to many men in the past.
Lesbi-friends: Bianca Montgomery returned to town (unfortunately during a tornado) with a new life partner. Rather than shy away from the issue of same-sex love the way that the show had done in the past, Bianca and Reese were very much front and center with their love for one another. While primetime shows were nixing gay storylines, AMC pressed ahead with one of the most progressive gay storylines in history. And it didn't involve anyone being unsure about their sexual identity or someone wanting to "deprogram" their gay child.
Not every storyline can be a winner. In fact, some never made it out of the starting blocks. Here's a look at storylines that just didn't move me.
We elect to bore you: It could very easily have been a topical issue, but the Samuel Woods storyline failed miserably on so many levels. The casting of Mario Van Peebles was seen as a huge coup for All My Children. Samuel was the thorn in Erica's side -- and he even had her arrested. That's one heck of a thorn! In true soap style, Samuel ended up enamored with Erica and the two even found time for a fledgling romance. For good measure, Samuel had an estranged son, Dre, who was still very much mourning the loss of his mother in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Where is Dre now? He's in the show's opening credits, but that's about it. Meanwhile, Samuel left Erica to focus on his Senate campaign. Did he win? I haven't a clue. It seemed to me that once AMC was able to get Debbi Morgan (Angie) and Darnell Williams (Jesse) to return, they didn't have enough room in their cast for a second African-American family.
Autistic license: Thankfully, AMC never went through with its rumored plans to "cure" Lily's autism. Yes, there was talk that she'd eventually become "normal." So to flaunt actress Leven Rambin's Emmy-nominated talents, the show decided to bring in Ava, Lily's never-before-seen sister. No one cared. Ava was forced into storyline for much of her stay in Pine Valley before she headed off to... somewhere else. No one cared.
She even makes prison jumpers look good: Martha Kane, I mean Erica Kane had to do a stint in the pokey because of some insider stock tips. On the good side, at least there wasn't another instance of someone skirting the law and doing no jail time. On the bad side, Erica was fully made-up with her designer shoes and prison jumpers. She befriended the sharp-tongued Carmen Morales in jail - and the pair even had a short stint handcuffed together when they went on the lam. Actually, Carmen wanted to off an ex-lover, but that's neither here nor there. There was even a concert to rally support for Erica! A gang of her fellow inmates became the subject of another of Erica's talk shows, and by the time she was released, Erica was the most popular woman in Cell Block A. Well, not popular in that way.
Old Mother Hubbard: As a viewer who wasn't actively watching AMC when Jesse and Angie first strolled around Pine Valley, I was very excited to learn that they'd be returning in 2008. So much about their return has been less than thrilling. Don't get me wrong, Angie and Jesse returning was a highlight of the year. It's just some of the subsequent stories that made their storybook reunion at the train station somewhat tarnished. The entire debacle of Tad's long-lost uncle, Robert Gardner, was very contrived. What are the odds that one family has two nasty brothers-slash-criminals in it? Then there was Cassandra's appearance in Pine Valley was mired in whining. Later, Angie was forced to cohabitate with the woman that her husband had been shacking up with for 20 years. Oh, yeah, and the woman he'd fathered a child with.
Breaking it down...
Hey there. Pleased to meet you: Guiding Light refugees Ricky Paull Goldin (Jake Martin) and Beth Ehlers (Taylor Thompson) joined All My Children and eventually found their way back to being potential lovers. Randi Morgan gave up turning tricks, but her past continued to haunt her. Brot Monroe rose from the dead and lied about his true feelings in order to protect the woman he loves. Rebecca and Natalia Fowler tracked Jesse down in Pine Valley. A much-older Peter Cortlandt decided to forgo Harvard so that he could woo Colby Chandler in between poisoning batches of perfume. Colby Chandler got a new face, a face that looked every much like her old face. Reese Williams arrived with plans to marry girlfriend Bianca. David Hayward, Jesse Hubbard, Angie Hubbard, and the "real" Greenlee Smythe all returned to town. Charles Pratt, Jr. took over as head writer and brought a distinctly different feeling to All My Children.
You are now leaving Pine Valley, Pennsylvania: Sean Montgomery left Pine Valley to return home to Seattle after sleeping with the revenge-minded Hannah Nichols. Word on the street is that Sean will return to town in the upcoming months, but with a new actor in the role. Jonathan Lavery mysteriously disappeared without much fanfare, but he showed up in a hospital on CBS's Guiding Light. Well, at least actor Jeff Branson did. Cassandra planned to flee from the law and return to her ailing dad in Paris, but the charges she faced went away and her flight from justice turned into just another first class transatlantic flight. Josh Madden had to runaway after embezzling millions, but he'll be back in Pine Valley soon. He will wish he'd stayed away. Carmen Morales got out of jail, landed a job as a Chandler maid, hooked up with Jackson Montgomery, and then... she vanished. No one appears concerned that she's nowhere to be seen.
Gone, but not forgotten: There were a lot of deaths this year in Pine Valley -- possibly the most on record. Hannah Nichols became the latest victim of the treacherous Pine Valley waterfall (she'll be back in four years with Leo duPres and Vanessa Bennett). Julia Santos Keefer was cut down at Angie and Jesse's wedding, pretty much decimating all that was left of the once-thriving Santos family. Babe Carey Chandler lost her life during the tornados that ripped through town, giving one of the most heart-wrenching mother-son storylines in recent memory. Di Henry lost her life during Annie McDermott Lavery's oddball scheme to "kidnap" her daughter, Emma. Evildoer Richie Novak was clubbed over the head with a tire iron and then run over by a car full of tipsy teens. And most notably, beloved actress Eileen Herlie (Myrtle Fargate) passed away in real life. Her death was addressed on-air with a special stand-alone episode.