One of my biggest pet peeves has to do with people griping and complaining about something, yet offering nothing in the way of a solution. You know, it's like people who complain about the government, but don't vote.
So a week after sharing my picks for the worst of All My Children 2010, I thought it would be best to offer my thoughts on how to fix the things that I grumbled about. I don't profess that my solutions are any sort of magical elixir that will rocket All My Children to the number one spot in the ratings... but I've been watching this show for at least 20 years, so I have a feel for the history and ways to use that history to advance story. In this week's column, I look at AMC's major characters and families and offer my thoughts on what the writers can do bring back the AMC that we all know and love.
I have always loved Erica's legendary sparring matches with worthwhile female opponents. Her battles with Brooke have provided some of the most entertaining highlights in the past two decades. Now, it seems that Erica is feuding with women half her age, yet still carrying on as though she were a teenybopper. I don't have as much of an issue as some viewers do with the fact that no one can call Erica "grandmother." I think that so many people have made an issue of it, that the writers are now intentionally avoiding it just to stick it to fans.
Erica's dad wasn't the best father in the world. I am sure he had some sort of secret life outside of what has already been said. The writers could introduce another half-sibling to shake things up for Erica. If all else fails, have Erica settle down with Jack. These two have been in each other's orbit for so long... it's time to finally let them have their happily ever after.
Susan Lucci has the chops to play meaty, grown-up roles. I thought the New Year's Eve episode (which aired after January 1 because of previous preemptions) proved this perfectly. Susan was nominated for a squillion Emmys for melodramatic episodes, but she finally won for a subdued, powerful performance during Bianca's anorexia intervention story.
To me, it is a huge disservice to have Bianca find a "flavor of the day" lover. I get that soap opera romances don't last forever, but let's look at some of the pairings that the writers have given Bianca over the years. Maggie Stone. Fans loved the couple and even labeled them "BAM" (Bianca and Maggie). Then there was Lena. Next on board was Zarf. Most recently, Bianca became involved with Reese.
In each of these situations, Bianca and her love interest left Pine Valley with the hope of starting a new life together. A few months later, Bianca returned... alone. Then it was on to her next, great once-in-a-lifetime love.
I understand that casting plays a part in all of these failed romances, but why not recast a role? As much as I love Tamara Braun and enjoyed Olga Sosnovska's work as Lena, neither Reese nor Lena were legacy characters. I'd prefer to see the original actresses return. But, you know what? If they cannot, the show must go on. How many other characters have been recast unnecessarily in recent months?
The message being sent to viewers is that there is something inherently wrong with Bianca's relationships -- or maybe with her being a lesbian. If that's not the message that the writers want to send, then I suggest that they come up with a way to stop the revolving door. Fans will take drama between Bianca and any of her partners, but to have each and every one of them vanish is insulting.
It's too soon for Kendall to even think about moving on. In a past column, I offered a suggestion about how to work around Thorsten Kaye's exit from the show. If you missed it, here's the short version: Kendall learns that Zach isn't really dead; he's having to lay low because some goons are after him. Kendall is forced to keep the secret, but as days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months, she starts to miss having someone in her life every day. Kendall finally moves on, and Zach returns. Everyone else is stunned, but not Kendall -- which then causes trouble for Kendall because people are ticked off that she kept quiet about knowing that Zach wasn't dead.
If that scenario doesn't work, come up with something that prevents Kendall from being the perpetual victim. There is certainly the idea of exploring Kendall's life as a single mom. Yes, she has a slew of relatives to help her, but Kendall is headstrong and stubborn. I think she would fear having her kids get close to anyone out of concern that that person might die. It might not seem rational, but I don't think Kendall is thinking clearly right now.
GREENLEE and RYAN
Short of having Leo return from being presumed dead, Greenlee doesn't have any current story prospects. So let's have Leo return and force Greenlee to admit that Ryan is not the one true love that she's been twittering on about for the past few months.
If Leo can't be resurrected, Greenlee needs to focus on her business -- be it Fusion or the hospital. Will Greenlee find that her feelings for David aren't really completely gone? What if David regains consciousness and needs someone to care for him? Will she feel guilty enough to return to his side?
Ryan was originally written as a con man. After being dumped by Greenlee, perhaps Ryan questions if his transformation was worth it. He'll see that Annie, a woman who tried to kill people, is happy and entrenched in the Chandler family... and he'll slowly revert to being a bad guy. He shouldn't be villainous like David Hayward, but he becomes a little less squeaky clean. Maybe he'll try to undermine whatever business venture Greenlee sets her sights on. As a Cambias exec, Ryan could easily torpedo anything that Fusion tries to undertake.
Jesse and Angie's story needs to take a bit of a breather because of Debbi Morgan's personal leave. I have no issues with that whatsoever, and I continue to send positive energy and prayers to Debbi and her family.
When Angie can be incorporated back into story, I'd like to see Angie deliver a healthy baby -- and as a result of changing hormone levels, I'd like for Angie to regain her vision.
As much as I think it would provide for some emotional viewing, I don't foresee the writers having Angie deal with the challenges of being a visually impaired mother. So let's move away from the story and instead have Angie and Jesse go through the craziness of being parents at an older age. Maybe Frankie and Randi help Angie and Jesse with the baby, and Randi starts to wish that the baby were hers.
I know that we've seen Randi go a little cuckoo over someone else's baby before, but let's face it: Frankie and Randi have zilch in the way of story. Frankie toddles around the hospital like he's an orderly, and Randi is coddling Madison, a woman who framed her for murder. So let's ditch that connection immediately. Short of having Randi being polite to Madison as part of a scheme to make Madison suffer the way that Randi had... I see nothing good coming from this.
Remember when Frankie was injured during his time in Iraq? I really expected Randi to turn to Brot for comfort when Frankie was acting like a jerk and rejecting her. With Shannon Kane out as Natalia later this year, Brot is now untethered romantically -- and he has nothing in the way of story. If Madison is carrying Frankie's baby, as some have suggested, would Randi turn to Brot?
Frankie also has a son that's somewhere out there in the universe. I'm surprised that he hasn't popped up yet.
Breaking up Frankie and Randi would surely upset the "Frandi" fans, but it does bear note that happy soap couples are boring soap couples. The writers could easily opt to write out Frankie and Randi -- and that would surely be more upsetting than having the couple go through some on-screen issues.
If the writers are invested in Randi, then it's time to explore her past. The groundwork has certainly been laid. We know that Randi's mother died of cancer, but where is her dad? There's a belief that when you win the lottery, suddenly relatives that you never knew you had come out of the woodwork. What if Randi's father was addicted to drugs or alcohol and decided to track her down when he sees her picture on the cover of a magazine or in the newspaper? Randi could keep him a secret from the Hubbards because she's either embarrassed by him or because she doesn't want to be judged for having a father who isn't Hubbard-like. I see a hell of a lot of drama breaking out if this guy gets near Angie and Jesse's baby...
Chrishell Stause is technically on recurring status with AMC (that's the reason her photo doesn't appear in the opening credits), but she hasn't let her status change or impact her performance at all.
Over the past few weeks, Amanda has shown moments where she's been acting a little irrationally. I'd love for the writers to craft a story where Amanda feels that she's losing touch of reality and becoming more like her mom, Janet "From Another Planet" Green. Amanda has always harbored a fear that she might have some sort of mental illness, so I think the writers should seize the opportunity to craft a story that's not only dramatic and entertaining, but also somewhat based in reality.
Bring Kate Collins (Janet) back for a week or so and have Amanda grapple with her demons by trying to get answers from her mom. Viewers know why Janet snapped, but Janet has never really been forced to talk about it. Janet wouldn't understand why Amanda was so upset, and, at first, she'd be her typical loopy self and offer no substantive answers for Amanda. Towards the end of the story arc, Janet could become grounded and apologize for instilling these fears in her daughter. For good measure, why not have James Kiberd reprise his role as Trevor and appear in spirit form to help Amanda? If all else fails, have Amanda spin out of control and go nuts. I'd personally like to see Chrishell play that out on-screen.
GRIFFIN AND CARA and THE SANTOS FAMILY
What if Cara and Griffin weren't the people they've said they are? Well, Cara is already not the person she said she was -- but that's a different story point. Maybe these two are long-lost members of the Santos family. A lot of viewers believe that AMC missed an opportunity by having Griffin and Cara not be part of the well-known Santos family. They could easily have been Mateo and Anita Santos -- or something. So remedy the oversight. If it's too weird to change the characters' surname, why not say that Cara and Griffin are somehow cousins of the Santoses that viewers know.
To the best of my knowledge, Isabella Santos' (mom of Maria, Julia, Mateo, Anita, and Rosa) last name was never revealed to viewers. Maybe her maiden name was Castillo. That certainly would embrace existing history. Maybe even Cara and Griffin don't know that they're related to the Santoses -- that's not too far-fetched of an idea.
THE CORTLANDTS There are oodles of other Cortlandts out there. I think Caleb has gotten off a little too easily with his takeover of Cortlandt Electronics. Let's give him a grace period where everything goes perfectly and he's on top of the world. Shoot, we can even get to a point where he and Asher are even on good terms. Then -- BAM! (No, Bianca and Maggie don't reunite.) Someone attempts a hostile takeover of the company. It's not the Chandlers, as Caleb suspects -- but Pete Cortlandt.
Maybe some of the other Cortlandts can even pop up to help Pete. There's Palmer's grandson, Bobby Warner, who's floating around out there somewhere. Would Brian Gaskill reprise the role -- even for a short time? Plus, Bobby had a younger brother named Michael, I believe.
If AMC really wanted to shake things up, they'd let bygones be bygones and have Dimitri Marick return from parts unknown to boot Caleb out of Wildwind. If the show doesn't want to bring Michael Nader back, why not have Dimitri's son, Anton, be the one to do the eviction? Or how about this one -- have Sam Grey return and shake things up. Sam is Bobby Warner's son (with Kelsey Jefferson, who is part of the Martin family), but he was adopted by Edmund Grey and Maria Santos. So that would allow for some juicy Cortlandt/Martin/Santos/Marick stuff.
Opal also needs a story -- one that doesn't involve tarot cards and tea leaves. People over the age of 50 need love, too. That may seem like a radical idea for daytime television, but it's true. No one can ever replace Palmer as Opal's "love bug," but I would like to see Opal have someone special in her life.
If David Canary is never to return to All My Children -- and head writer David Kreizman said in a recent interview that the show hasn't even approached Canary about coming back for a cameo -- then there needs to be a permanent changing of the guards. Jacob Young has done an amazing job of stepping up and taking over the role of head Chandler. No one can ever take the place of David Canary, but Jacob deserves to know that his work is appreciated.
As with the Cortlandts, there are tons of Chandlers running around out there. It may seem unthinkable to recast Hayley, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I'd also like to see AMC considering bringing Skye Chandler back into the fold.
Scott obviously has a mission. He's drifting further away from the niceness of Stuart and becoming more ruthless. If that's the route that the writers are going, I'd like to see Scott wrestle with the fact that he's becoming more like Adam than Stuart. Personal conflict is always fascinating to watch, and it would make much more sense to see Scott understand that he's changing (or changed) than to have his personality change and not address it in some way.
THE MARTINS The Martins are the heart and soul of All My Children. So it's a huge mistake to have only two Martins on the canvas, and unthinkable to not use either character wisely. Get ready for the broken record: There are oodles of Martins that have been introduced over the years. Where are they?
Jamie Martin appears to be the only member of Doctors Without Borders who has not yet returned to Pine Valley. So let's get him back to town. What if he and Cara had something going after Cara and Jake broke things off? That would be a very interesting dynamic.
Jake has been pretty covered with story, and I don't really see a need to alter the course of his plot.
Tad has had too little storyline in the past few years. It's sad to me. Michael E. Knight has two Emmys. A while back, there was a gentle allusion to the fact that the Satin Slayer didn't really kill Dixie. Maybe it's time for Tad to investigate what really happened to Dixie. It's probably too late to bring Dixie back from the dead, but there needs to be some sort of definitive closure to that story. Having that loose end dangling in the breeze about Dixie just makes her death hurt all the more.
Tad still has private detective tendencies, so maybe he needs to start working more. He could bring Krystal into the mix, and the pair could be Pine Valley's super sleuths. As they solve mysteries, they can fight their growing attraction. Sure, that's a crime show staple, but it's much better than having Michael and Bobbie Eakes sit on the sidelines. If done right, there would be drama, humor, and romance -- all in one storyline.
With Damon leaving, there's a hole in Tad's life that we had no way of knowing would exist a year or so ago. Finn Wittrock has really been on fire the past few weeks, so it's a big loss for the show that he's leaving. However, I think the show needs to keep the character of Damon around.
TURNING THE PAGE
There is so much history to discuss (The Tylers! The Cudahies!), but I don't want this column to become a novel. I have so much more to share, and perhaps I'll do that in future columns over the next twelve months. Again, these are just some of the ideas that I've had about how we can try to turn things around. It pains me to read from fans who say that they've stopped watching All My Children.
I don't have any misguided beliefs that I know what every fan wants. I do, however, think that when you understand a show's history and take some time out to think about future stories, the possibilities are endless.
I hope that you've enjoyed this week's column -- and I'll be back here next week with more thoughts on AMC