Soap fans across all three networks are gearing up for the big November Sweeps storylines. You know, Sweeps is a period when the networks trot out their best storylines in an effort to increase ratings and thereby have a chance to charge advertisers more money. It wasn't until I was getting ready for the special "November Sweeps Preview" on last week's Soap Central Live that it really hit me: there would be no November Sweeps preview for All My Children. There will be no family feuding over Thanksgiving dinner. There will be no Christmas miracle involving Father Clarence.
At least not this year.
Truth be told, I think I've always been more of a May Sweeps kinda guy. It may be six of one, half a dozen of the other, but May Sweeps always seemed to have more oomph. But, I've decided to be open-minded. So for this week's column, I am going to start a look back at 16 years of November Sweeps to see what was going on in Pine Valley over the years that Soap Central has been online.
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 1995
Trevor learned that his brother-in-law, Michael Delaney, was gay. I remember this was all intertwined with the Kevin Sheffield storyline, and attempts to "de-gay" him. It's interesting to see how storylines involving gay and lesbian characters have progressed in the last 16 years. There are still some soaps that haven't done major storylines with gay characters, and some shows have done better than others. All My Children remains the only daytime soap opera to successfully integrate a gay character into its canvas. Bianca has been a front-and-center character for more than a decade.
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 1996
Erica was arrested for killing Jonathan Kinder. This came shortly after Erica, Janet, and Skye rolled Jonathan into a carpet and buried him in the backyard. That unlikely threesome still holds a special place in my memory. Erica, Janet, and Skye were characters on different paths, and the fact that they ended up in the same orbit made for great storytelling. Need proof? Look at how successfully the same scenario was repurposed earlier this year with the shenanigans at Oakhaven. Erica, Janet, Annie, Marian, and Dixie -- you can't come up with a more diverse swath of Pine Valley residents than that.
This was also the year that Myrtle Fargate befriended Red Kilgren (otherwise known as Santa Claus). Hokey? Perhaps. Endearing? Yeah. This is a storyline that I remember not being that fond of at the time. Although, Myrtle's backtalk of "And I'm the Easter Bunny" does still echo around in my head from time to time when someone tells me an unlikely tale. I think what maybe mellows me to this storyline is that I wish Eileen Herlie was still around to be part of any storyline. It's been just over three years since we lost Eileen, and she is still missed terribly by fans.
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 1997
There were several hot plots taking place in 1997. The first was the aftermath of the Transglobal plane crash that killed Maria Santos. We'd find out a bunch of years later that she hadn't really died -- and the show that she left AMC for (Head Over Heels) died a much more painful death. That's all beside the point. Edmund learned that he, not Dimitri, was the father of Maddie. And Tim Dillon locked himself in a meat locker to make it look like Janet had reverted to her evil ways.
I still think that the Transglobal crash was one of AMC's better stunts. It happened when budgets were bigger, but it also happened before the fancy computer-generated graphics were available to daytime producers. Now that I am thinking about it, it also reminds me a lot of the most recent tornado in some ways. In the plane crash, Maria pleaded with Brooke to save her daughter. Brooke was able to save little Maddie, but when she returned, it was too late for Maria. In the 2009 tornado, Babe put her child's life ahead of her own.
The Tim Dillon story worked. I never liked Tim, but I thought what he was doing made a lot of sense. He had great reason to hate Janet, and teenagers lash out. I do have to wonder, though, where is Tim? He didn't come home to watch his sister get married, to visit his nephew, or even to wag his finger at Janet for all of her wrongdoings. Maybe he'll pop up in the web-based AMC.
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 1998
I'll admit that Ryan is a character that I don't particularly root for. I did at times, but as an overall rule... he's not up on my list of favorites. (Cameron Mathison, however, is a swell guy, and I do like him.) That may be one of the reasons that I wasn't taken in by the storyline where Kit Fisher (a.k.a. Christine Montgomery) accused Ryan of sexually assaulting her on Halloween while wearing a werewolf mask. I didn't like Kit, and I didn't really care for the idea of having someone falsely accused of rape. That's just one of those things that isn't entertaining and didn't have a payoff. Ryan was eventually cleared of all charges, but it didn't change the fact that Kit had been savagely attacked.
Also in 1998 we have Raquel Dion -- the woman Mateo Santos had fathered a child with. I really, really disliked Raquel. Remember that random scaffolding accident that left Raquel "injured?" I also wasn't a fan of whiny Max.
Again, as I asked with Tim Dillon... where are Christine and Max? AMC made the misguided decision to kill off Travis Montgomery, so why not have Jack's sister return to help him through his relationship woes with Erica? I'm sure Jack would like having a family member to turn to. And I know that the chances of Hayley and Mateo returning to Pine Valley are slim to nill (unless the roles are recast), but why can't Max return to see where his mom and dad met? Certainly Max could mix things up with the Chandler family.
Read the weekly summaries of November Sweeps 1999
There were a lot of Janet-related Sweeps storylines over the years. In 1998, Sophie, Janet's old cellmate, resurfaced and threatened to upend Janet's life. Janet eventually bashed Sophie over the head with an oversized candy cane, but it didn't kill her. Sophie returned and "haunted" Janet, which did make for a very creepy Christmas.
This was also the year that we learned the true identity of Vanessa Bennett's supposed secret love, Leo. Do you remember how Palmer planned to have Leo killed and frame Vanessa for the crime until Vanessa blurted out that Leo was her son, and Palmer ended up taking the bullet instead? Whoo! That's a whole lot to follow, but I'm sure my veteran viewers know exactly what I'm talking about.
Gillian also had some really powerful story. Following a car accident, Gillian suffered some complications that made it hard for her to speak. Ryan's willingness to be there for the woman he loved and help make sure that she was nursed back to health helped redeem Ryan in my eyes. There was just something magical about Ryan and Gillian's relationship that hasn't been replicated elsewhere. It didn't happen with Kendall, and it hasn't happened any of the squillion times with Greenlee. I almost feel that Ryan needs to be taken in an entirely new direction. What that direction is, I don't exactly know.
Adam ended up imprisoned in his safe room. Ironic, huh? The idea behind the storyline was actually pretty good, but I remember that this dragged on and on... and on. It wasn't until mid-to-late December that Adam finally crawled his way into an air duct and out of the safe room that the storyline ended. There were some amusing bits that stemmed from this storyline, though. Stuart had the chance to impersonate Adam on more than one occasion. David Canary has always shined as Adam and Stuart -- but when he had the opportunity to play one of the twins pretending to be the other, he was even more amazing. You could always tell who was who, and that's the mark of a truly talented man.
Over the next four weeks, I'll tackle the remaining November Sweeps periods as part of this special Sweeps flashback. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to use the links that were in the column to go back and relive some of the Sweeps moments that I talked about. It's a great way to keep All My Children relevant, and to give your memory a little nudge so that it's ready for action when AMC does return in 2012.
I'd also love to hear from you regarding the Sweeps stories that I've discussed this week. Which were your favorite? Do you have any personal comments on any of them? Have you changed your mind about any of them? You know the routine: click here to send me feedback. I'll post your comments in a special column that will be posted after I've finished my Sweeps columns.