It's hard to believe that we're down to the final week of All My Children episodes -- at least on broadcast television. There's good news and there's bad news as we begin the week of September 19... you'll only have to put up with my column two more times. I'm not sure if that's the good news or the bad news.
Over the weekend, SOAPnet, the all-soaps cable channel, paid tribute to All My Children with two marathons of classic AMC episodes. The first marathon was the Erica-centric "I Love Lucci," and the second featured a look at some of the classic love stories in AMC history. Some of the episodes originally aired before I was an active All My Children fan, so it was nice to see them. I was amazed at how much history I knew... and which characters left crickets chirping in my head.
I don't think anyone really believed that All My Children would end without Angie's eyesight being restored. Still, that didn't stop it from being any less emotional. When Angie saw light, it reminded me of the Christmas miracle in the 1990s when Natalie (then played by Melody Anderson) regained her eyesight. If I recall correctly, the first thing Natalie saw was the angel atop the Christmas tree. I could watch Darnell Williams and Debbie Morgan all day. A few weeks ago when I mentioned how brilliant Debbi Morgan's performance was in the wake of Angie learning about the death of her baby, I neglected to heap equal praise on Darnell Williams. There are those who feel that Jesse is a hypocrite, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Darnell Williams is a brilliant performer.
I did not expect to see Liza try to make amends with Jesse. 25 years ago, she accused Jesse of raping her. Now, Liza is reaching out as a parent who also had to give up a child. Granted, it's not quite the same effect as it would have been had Marcy Walker still been playing Liza.
Liza's moment with Jesse wasn't here only flash of humanity in the past week. I was also pleasantly surprised by Liza and Krystal's commiseration session at Krystal's restaurant. I never fancied Liza and Krystal as friends, but they made for interesting drinking buddies. I'm also interested to see where Liza and Caleb's relationship goes. I suppose that we won't really get a chance to see it play out since there are just a handful of episodes left, but maybe both characters will remain on the canvas when AMC starts airing under the Prospect Park banner.
I do have to ask: why on earth did Krystal leave Tad's place in her pajamas? I know that the kids are wearing pajama bottoms on the streets now -- but Krystal is a grown woman. It is neither fashionable nor very safe to be strolling the streets in sleepwear!
I'm very surprised that Cara told David that she's pregnant. I guess she figured that she's safe from his interference because David is behind bars. Obviously she's got her head in those clouds that she's been looking at. David proved that he can continue stirring things up with that note he passed to Griffin.
I don't think I've ever seen a character unravel the way that JR has unspooled. In last week's column, I linked JR's issues all the way back to his infancy, but the AMC marathon put everything in perspective. I'd completely forgotten that JR lost a daughter in the whole baby-swapping saga that involved the One Life to Live crossover. I hope this doesn't sound glib, but I don't know how one person can lose their mother (twice), a child, and a wife in the course of a few years and still hold it together. JR scares me right now, and I am very fearful of where his descent might take him.
In 1980, Erica skipped out on her two-year wedding anniversary to Tom Cudahy so that she could hobnob with Brandon Kingsley in New York. He promised to make her the face of Sensuelle. Fast forward 31 years, and Erica is postponing marital bliss with Jackson because she wants to star in a movie?
Okay, okay. I will admit that I'd probably jump at the chance to play myself in a movie, though I've always held out hope that Morgan Freeman would agree to play me. He's got great range, and I think he's up for the challenge. Sorry, I channeled my inner Erica and suddenly made this column all about me.
I'm just disappointed that Erica hasn't grown up. I understand that the perpetual teenager is her niche in daytime, but I do think that we, as soap fans, do expect our favorite characters to show some signs of growth. Don't get me wrong. I don't need Erica sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch, crocheting an afghan, and yelling at kids to stay off the lawn in order to show growth. I just want her to stop throwing away the good in her life. Jackson will eventually reach a point where he gets fed up, and then Erica will be left to chase after dead lovers and dreams of stardom... alone.
Erica and Brooke. Where do I even begin? Any scene that features Julia Barr and Susan Lucci going head-to-head is guaranteed to be a winner. Maybe I'm a bit of a hypocrite for saying that I enjoy their bickering, the same bickering that has been playing out for so many years. We can all probably write the dialogue with ease. Erica mocks Brooke for picking up her "leftovers," and Brooke fires back by calling Erica "grandma." Or something like that.
As much as I enjoy the feuding between Brooke and Erica, I also love when they are civil to each other. The moments when these two "rivals" -- and I use that term loosely (hence the quotation marks) -- come together are just as powerful as any of their spats.
"Pine Valley has not been the same since you left," Erica grudgingly admitted to Brooke. And you know what, she's absolutely right. All My Children has not been the same since Julia Barr was shamelessly let go. I am not claiming that All My Children would be in a better place had Julia Barr remained with the show. I don't think that a show's viability rest solely on the shoulders of one person. However, I will tell you that I firmly believe that the systematic destruction of All My Children began when Brooke was shuffled off to parts unknown and never mentioned again.
And why? Because Julia Barr was an actress over 40? We all saw what happened when Cady McClain expressed her unhappiness that Julia was taken off contract -- Dixie was killed off with poisoned pancakes. We then had to endure an unabortion, Charles Pratt's reign of "I don't care about the characters' history," a ridiculous dance-a-thon (which took place two years ago this week), a cross-country move that cost us some priceless veterans, and... cancellation.
I try to keep this column fun and positive -- and to keep the critiquing based strictly on story. I guess I slipped back to the second stage of grief: anger. It's just that watching the classic episodes of All My Children brought back so many memories. Even when the show was at its campy best, it was still something to cherish. If there weren't something special about All My Children, we wouldn't be bombarded with the seemingly endless tributes from the mainstream media.
As a quick side note to the column: we're all sending positive, healing energy to Julia Barr. The Emmy winner was recently injured in a car accident.
I remember bawling my eyes out when Harold, the Dillon family dog, died and was greeted in heaven by Natalie. "Harold! C'mere boy," Natalie called out. I was inconsolable for what seemed like days. I remember Dimitri and Erica's lavish Hungarian adventure. Their waltz was something out of a fairytale. So many memories... Natalie in the well, Helga wheeling out the supposedly dead Angelique, the Will Cortlandt murder mystery, the first (low-tech) tornado, Angie and Jesse's reunion at the train station, Bianca coming out, Erica's Phantom of the Opera mask, Maria Santos collapsing as she had to return Sam to Kelsey (her cries of "My baby, my baby..." will forever be lodged in my brain), and the list just goes on and on.
The sweet part in this bittersweet ending has been that we have a writer in charge who appreciates All My Children's history. Can you imagine Chuck Pratt writing the final weeks of AMC? I think I just assured myself of having nightmares for the next month. I shudder to think.
The symbolism, winks, and inside jokes over the past week have been amazing. There are some that have been blatant, but others have been much more subtle.
I still have a bruise from being smacked over the head with Susan Lucci's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I still thought it was cute, and the fact that it was a thumbing of the nose at a certain network executive didn't hurt either. What was much more enjoyable, though, was Erica looking up and seeing the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. "Pine Valley isn't exactly the corner of Hollywood and Vine," Erica once groused. And there she was... where she'd always wanted to be.
One of the more subtle winks was Krystal's to-do list. She's scribbled "The future" at the top of the pad, but the remained of the sheet was left blank. We don't know what the future holds for All My Children. Certainly we hope that the future is as bright on the Internet as it has been for the last 41 years on broadcast television. And, if you'll allow me to paraphrase Tad Martin, no matter what happens, we will always be family because of our love of All My Children.