This is part one of a special two-part year-end Two Scoops showcasing the best and worst of All My Children in 2009. This week, Dan looks at the highs of the year gone by. Click here for part two, where Dan looks back at things that didn't quite do so well in the annual Worst of 2009 column.
We've put together a special year-end list of the top ten most-read Two Scoops columns over the past 12 months. To check out the list and see what came out on top, please click here.
Now I can hear some of your sassy thoughts already: "Dan, this is going to be a really short column." Sure, there were some things that didn't fly -- but we're saving that for next week.
MOST IMPROVED CHARACTER
Under Ricky Paull Goldin, Jake Martin has developed layers that I never knew existed. Jake used to be as entertaining as a brick. Let me put it this way: that googly-eyed stack of cash mascot for an insurance company had more personality. Jake has always been the victim and that dark and brooding thing just never worked for him. Sure, life hasn't gotten any easier for Jake: David's screwing his wife in the backseat of a car hardly counts as a highlight. Still, Jake has a new swagger. He mixes humor with actual emotion. Jake has every right to be ticked off - and he shows it. The on-screen chemistry between Goldin and big brother Michael E. Knight (Tad) is extremely evident. They don't just crack jokes, but they can also have heartfelt discussion. Ditto for the interaction between Goldin and Chrishell Stause (Amanda). Jake has come a long way from his jackassery of the past. It will be interesting to see if he maintains this level or if a new head writer takes him back to the uninteresting shell of a character from years gone by.
Casting Jamie Luner as Liza Colby was a definite head-scratcher. It still might be. While I'd rather see Luner as some other character -- maybe Skye? -- I had to admit that I was impressed with the way the show retooled Liza's presence in Pine Valley. Instead of having Liza go on repeated hookups with married men, the writers gave Liza another child. Liza pretended to be pregnant, which provided some amusing moments that included the basement "delivery." However, when Bailey arrived in town and asked for her baby back, it allowed Luner to show that she can handle drama, too. For the first time in a long time, I actually felt bad for Liza. Add in a possible re-romance with Tad, and suddenly Liza is once again a character with purpose.
Frankie Hubbard and Randi Morgan started the year off not really liking each other. A few months later, they were husband and wife -- and involved in some pretty rough front burner stories. Randi believed that she killed her former lover. Later, she found a baby on the steps of a church and thought that it was a sign from God that she had a chance to repent for her sins. Life wasn't easy for Frankie, either. Injured while serving in Iraq, Frankie's career as a surgeon nearly came to an end. He did everything he could to push Randi away, but still she stood by her man. Frankie and Randi were given one of the few love scenes of the year, and the network wouldn't waste celluloid if they didn't think that viewers would want to see their passion. Taking out the fact that visually Cornelius Smith, Jr., and Denise Vasi are both fun to look at, I think both have done great work with the material they've been given. I believe that their characters love each other and I find myself rooting for "Frandi" to stay together.
KANE AND ABLE
While it may not be the same thing as her infamous squabbles with Brooke English, Erica Kane had her fair share of catfights in 2009. At first glance, it might seem weird that a woman of a certain age is still acting catty of such simple things. For the viewers, Erica's perpetual high school attitude does offer a few chuckles.
Who can forget Erica and Krystal battling the scorpion in Africa? Krystal and Erica's history isn't nearly as lengthy as some of Erica's other former foes, but these two women definitely hate each other. It all stems back to that baby swap debacle. Erica tossed and turned under her mosquito net, lamenting that she wasn't staying at the Four Seasons. Meanwhile, Krystal faced near-death as a scorpion set up camp on her chest. Later in the year, Erica gave Annie Lavery a "swirlie" in a toilet bowl at ConFusion. It wasn't quite an eye for an eye. After all, Annie stabbed Erica at the same club. Still, it was hilarious.
SCENE OF THE YEAR
It may have taken nearly twelve months to get there, but the episode that aired on December 2 was, perhaps, the best episode of the year. It featured the highs and lows that soap fans want from their shows. Zach Slater isn't the easiest character to like. He's often grumpy and stubborn. That all changed when he saw a shattered photo of Myrtle Fargate lying on the floor of his casino. It wasn't just that the photo had broken, but more so that he'd been responsible for breaking it. He said nothing, moved to tears as he looked down at Myrtle's face. Jill Larson wasn't a second or third fiddle in the scene, even though she had little face time on camera. What this scene did show was that you don't need high-tech computer graphics or fancy camera work to make something work. Nearly a year later, and the death of Eileen Herlie and Myrtle Fargate is still emotional. It's not a farce and has been handled with great respect.
SCENE THAT MOST INSPIRED AN EVIL CACKLE
Krystal kept a secret from David for nearly 20 years -- make that two secrets. The first was that they had a child together. The second was that they had twins! You might not like the evil Dr. Hayward, but the scene where David learned that Marissa was his daughter was amazing. David leaned into an embrace with Krystal and instead of telling his former fling that they shared a daughter, he let it be known that they had children. There was even a menacing tune playing as David dropped his bombshell on Krystal.
BEST CAMEO OF THE YEAR
Stuart's death definitely will not make the "best of" section of the year-in-review, but there was some good that came out of it. Can you believe that? I thought that Jennifer Bassey's one-day appearance at Stuart's funeral was absolutely amazing. How hard must it have been for Marian to see a man who looked just like her slain husband standing at the front of the church? Of course, we all know that Adam and Stuart were twins. Still, that must have been one of the most painful things imaginable. Bassey turned in a stellar performance -- even when she was seated in a pew and had no lines. Her subsequent appearance when she tried to kill Kendall was just as gripping. You could see Marian's heart breaking over and over. I don't know about you, but I truly believed that Marian had lost touch with reality. If this is the only good thing to come out of Stuart's death, then I will forever be grateful to Jennifer Bassey for hitting this one waaaay out of the ballpark.
I don't think that I've ever given a villain the distinction of being the best character of the year. Well, there's a first time for everything. David Hayward somehow manages to keep things interesting -- even when he's being a horrible human being. I don't condone his behavior, but there's just something about David that makes him fascinating to watch. He goes to such extremes to get what he wants. I guess I admire that aspect of his warped personality. He's so good at being so bad, and I think Vincent Irizarry's Emmy win earlier this year was well deserved.
The question now becomes how do you keep a villain from becoming too cartoonish? I don't know that there's an easy answer for that. At some point, if a villain becomes too bad, you either have to write him off or kill him. Didn't we all spend the better part of the year wondering when someone would pull David's proverbial plug?
Now, it will be interesting to see how David gets out of his biggest scheme to date: his supposed impending demise. Will we once again get to see the sensitive side of the dastardly doctor? I guess we'll just have to tune in to find out.
There are only a handful of scenes from the last twelve months that really stick out as being great. One of the best took place when Amanda Dillon gave birth to her child in a remote location in the Caribbean. Those scenes were to have been the last we saw of Chrishell Stause. Some last-minute wheeling and dealing kept Stause around -- and that was one of the best things to have happened. Stause has gone a long way from being the trampy slut that we first saw when an aged Amanda returned to town a few years back. Stause has chemistry with almsot every other performer that appears in scenes with her. Certainly Amanda has done some bone-headed things recently, but the character is entertaining on a lot of levels. Stause can deliver one-liners about Amanda's cooking and break your heart by giving up her baby. She will definitely be missed if and when she finally does step away from AMC for good.
DING, DONG, THE... WELL, YOU KNOW THE REST
I don't like the idea of dancing on someone's grave, but I'm very content that ABC Daytime president Brian Frons realized that things on the AMC writing front needed some help. Honestly, I think that's all that needs to be said. I hope that next year, we'll all still look back on the removal of Charles Pratt as head writer as a "best of" decision.
THE BEST AND WORST ALL IN ONE PACKAGE
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to cancellation must be paved with storylines that were intended to be good. AMC had plots that could have worked... they just didn't. Still, they warrant some sort of honorable mention -- so here it is.
All My Children made daytime history with the first same-sex wedding to be featured in a soap opera. Yes, Bianca Montgomery and Reese Williams tied to knot. It was to have been the happiest moment in their lives. Sadly, their marriage lasted about as long as a snowman on a Miami beach.
JR learned that he had a very aggressive and rare form of cancer. The storyline started off with promise: would the former bad boy be able to muster the strength to fight? The show even roped in a marriage that everyone knows should not have happened. To make things worse, jerky Adam blasted JR as a drunk, unaware that his son was dying.
Taylor Thompson may have been one of the biggest wastes of space in Pine Valley. I have no idea how AMC botched Beth Ehlers' addition to the cast, but somehow they did. In all of that, I really enjoyed the Brot and Taylor romance -- even if I am the only one. The pair felt they needed to be together out of obligation after realizing that they no longer really loved each other. The "goodbye" scenes between newcomer JR Martinez and seasoned vet Ehlers were well acted -- even if there are claims that the material wasn't quite Shakespeare. Martinez pulled from life experience, while Ehlers seized the opportunity to flex her acting chops for the first time in her short stay with the show. It's a shame that Taylor is still sprawled out on the bathroom floor at ConFusion and no one seems to care.
Aidan Devane was a squeaky clean kind of guy. As a result, he's always finished last. So when the show came up with a way to give him a dark side, I was all for it. Who doesn't like a good guy/girl gone bad? If I were Aidan, I'd be miffed that I never got the girl and never had a storyline. Unfortunately, Aidan kidnapping Kendall went a little too far over the edge and went from being believable to something that was just eye-rollable.
Henry North, meanwhile, wasn't a nice guy. So no one mourned his death. It was a great stroke of writing to have Randi think that she killed Henry. No one expected that Madison would pop in and actually be the one to finish off her philandering hubby. It would have been better to have Henry turn out not to be dead and then have him haunt Madison and Randi. Or maybe Madison and Henry rekindled their failed marriage and then set out to haunt Randi together. It would have been much better than having the chief of police push the district attorney over a cliff.
MORE CHAPTERS TO COME
In August, ABC stunned everyone when it announced that production of All My Children was headed to Los Angeles. The move meant that some of the show's stars would not be remaining with the show. Lost in all of the shock and awe was the fact that All My Children would be continuing on the airwaves. It would have been "easy" for ABC to cancel All My Children outright. Well, maybe not easy in the sense of emotional value, but I am sure that there are plenty of cold-minded businesspersons out there that would have had no issue canceling every soap opera on the dial.
It's for that reason that I am putting the Los Angeles move into the Best category. There are plenty of aspects of this move that I am not happy with -- and you can be sure that you'll read more of that next week. I've gotten emails over the past year from fans who've said that AMC "sucks" or is "painful to watch." Many of these letters have said that they wished ABC would just cancel All My Children. It's easy to say that when you're disappointed or angry, but when a network cancels a program... it's not coming back. Never, ever. There isn't a chance to tune in again in a few months to see if they've gotten their act together. Ask fans of Guiding Light. Listen to what As the World Turns viewers are saying.
Well, that brings me to the end of the Best of 2009 column. I'll be back next week with a look at things that weren't so "best." Until then, please be sure to check out the other year-end Two Scoops columns for other soaps. All of the columnists are taking the next two weeks to reflect on the best and worst of 2009. It's definitely a fun read -- even if you aren't familiar with all of the soaps!
Plus, feel free to head over to the Soap Central message boards and join in the discussion about the highs and lows of the year gone by. And, if you're feeling prolific, start your own blog and offer your own take on the Two Scoops' best and worst edition. If we like what you write, you might just see your comments posted here!