There are certain things that have become known as soap opera staples over the years. The back-from-the-dead storylines, amnesia, the dramatic organ music from the "olden" days, and the stares into the camera when something suspenseful takes place. In more recent years, though, there are other things that have become commonplace enough to be lumped into the staples category: flashbacks, video montages, and musical finales are just a few of the elements that come to mind. Sometimes these seem like throwaway gimmicks to take up time. But when done well, these things can really improve the quality of an episode.
I enjoyed the montage of Annie's transgressions while Adam read a portion of Annie's diary. The voiceover coupled with the flashbacks of Annie bludgeoning Richie, struggling for a gun with Di, aiming a gun at Greenlee... it was well thought-out.
It wasn't until Annie's daydream wedding that something in my head clicked: Annie Lavery is the new Leslie Coulson. It came to me when I saw loony Annie in that wedding daydream of hers. It reminded me of a few years back when Leslie dolled herself up as a creepy bride in order to marry Tad. Look at the photo embedded into this paragraph if you can't remember how off-the-wall Leslie was during her neurotic pursuit of Tad Martin.
Something else that I like about the Annie situation - and this may make me a bit of a flip-flopper considering what I said last week - is that I am actually enjoying this vacillation in the way the show is painting Annie's state of mind. Just when you think she's lost her last marble, she does something that makes you think that she's very aware of exactly what she's doing. Is she using Adam for his money? Who knows? One moment she is daydreaming about hitting the Chandler jackpot and the next she is professing how much Adam's devotion to her has "saved" her.
But you know I like to keep it real, so let's discuss that wholly unbelievable shucking of Annie's ankle monitor. Annie took off her ankle bracelet in order to run off to see Emma. I liked the little in-passing comment Annie made to Scott about having a "friend" who told her how to jam the signal on the ankle monitor. I wanted to google "how to jam a monitoring device" as part of my research for this column, but I was afraid that it would land me on a government watch list -- so I didn't. I'm sure there is a way to get around every situation, but this just seemed so over the top that it annoyed me.
I also loved JR's zinger to Scott when Scott professed that Annie has the potential to put her unstable days behind her. "The only potential that Annie has is to expand to mass murder," JR quipped.
Speaking of Scott's defense of Annie, does this mean that he will soon make a play for his uncle's houseguest? I think I might be more entertained by an Adam-Annie-Scott triangle than one involving JR, Marissa, and Scott. Just a thought.
My little Emma took another step towards the dark side this week by stealing Erica's phone. Usually, this is the type of crime that might be called a "gateway crime." You know, the little infraction that eventually builds and builds to something much bigger.
I even loved the creepy little music that was playing while Emma was quietly stealing Erica's phone. They also played similarly creepy music when Annie went off on Jesse.
I like that Madison is screwing with Randi. Sending her that bookend in the mail was so spot-on. If you recall, I wished a few columns ago that we could do an I Know What You Did Last Summer storyline where Henry wasn't really dead and returned to haunt Randi (and possibly Jesse). I also like that Frankie has been having some reservations ever since that mystery text message arrived on his phone. Yes, we're led to believe that when you love someone, you are supposed to never, ever doubt them. In the real world, I think almost all of us have had at least one moment of hesitation when dealing with a spouse/lover/partner. It makes the storyline ring a little more true to me.
So are you ready for me to keep it real twice in a single column? What's with all this first-time daddy hoopla surrounding Frankie. Has everyone forgotten that he already has a child - a son named William that he fathered with Liza's half-sister, Mia Saunders? Will he ever seek him out? Do Jesse and Angie know that they have another grandchild somewhere out there? More importantly, do the writers remember that?
I like that the funny business has returned to All My Children, at least in some degree. Let's face it, Tad has always had a campy sense of humor, and a lot of Amanda's past storylines have also involved slightly comedic twists. So making the game of keep-away-from-David a little lighter compared to some of the soap's previous depressing stolen baby stories is smart. It also starts to integrate Beth Ehlers' Taylor into the show a little better. I didn't necessarily envision Beth as a comedic actress, but I didn't picture her as a hard-ass Army lieutenant, either. I suppose that the new efforts to get Taylor into the mix could be called forced, but I can't think of another way the show could have gotten more play out of Taylor. Charles Pratt hasn't completely forgotten that Taylor is a tomboy - she didn't magically become maternal and all-knowing about babies overnight. I think that makes me more willing to accept this character tweakification. But her singing? That had me howling - and some of the dogs in my neighborhood. Just kidding! I thought the scene was hilarious.
Also funny was Tad's suggestion that they pretend that little Trevor is actually a little girl in order to keep David off their trail. "You want to turn my son into a girl?" Amanda asked, her eyes about ready to pop out of their sockets. "Not permanently," Tad deadpanned in a shout-out to Zarf.
From my mailbag last week, the biggest question was, "Where did Jake get the baby that he gave to Liza?" Some viewers thought they missed an episode where that answer was revealed. No, as of the time this column was written, we're all still in the dark! Do you mind that we don't know? Some readers have said that not knowing bothers them because it looks like the storyline was altered at the last minute.
I also want to revisit the "repeat" segments at the beginning of each show. They were done very well last week... particularly on Thursday's show. The show began with a new scene of Randi and Frankie, who hadn't been seen all week, then transitioned to a "repeat" of Liza talking to Zach and Kendall. Then, the show incorporated a new scene of Emma using her stolen phone to make a call that transitioned to a "repeat" of Annie and Jesse's tense discussion with the mystery phone call ringing through. I didn't mind this at all. If you are going to use the flashback segments at the start of the show, fill them in the next day with something new and creative to make it work. Whoever pieced together the beginning of Thursday's show did an excellent job.
Soap opera fans are not a bunch of venomous malcontents, but we are demanding. We don't expect the world, but we do want it to look like the writers care about a show as much as we do.
In a quick programming note, this week on my Internet radio show, I am going to be asking fans to call in and discuss the most drawn-out storyline in their show's history. I'd love for you guys to listen (and even call in) since AMC will always be my first love. If you are unable to listen Monday night at 7:00pm Eastern, you can also email me your thoughts. For more info on the show (it's free!), click here.