READ: Dan offered up his picks for the Best of 2011 in last week's Two Scoops column.
MORE YEAR IN REVIEW: Check out our Year-in-Review columns dating back to 2005.
January 5, 1970. The cover opened on what would become one of the most entertaining page-turners of all time. More than 400 Emmy nominations later, All My Children has become a part of the lexicon. Rapper Drake included an AMC reference in one of his recent hits, "Headlines." In denying pregnancy and divorce rumors (that latter of which has since turned out to be true), singer Katy Perry quipped, "What am I, All My Children?!"
It's somewhat fitting that this, the final Two Scoops column for All My Children, falls in the same week as the show's anniversary. I'd honestly not even thought about it until after this column was written and ready for posting. This column is a look back at the Worst of 2011. Oddly, though this column wags its finger at the things that didn't work... I think you'll still be able to feel the love for Pine Valley.
So clear your throat and get ready to boo, and if you're so inclined, you may also want to get some popcorn to throw at the screen. For one last time, let's look at the Worst of the Year.
WORST STORYLINE: Bianca and Reese's off-screen divorce
Bianca Montgomery has been involved in some groundbreaking storylines. Bianca came out in 2000, and it marked the first time in soap history that a main character was revealed to be gay or lesbian. A couple of years later, Bianca's on-screen kiss with Lena was the first same-sex smooch in soap history. Bianca was involved with rocker Zarf as he transitioned to Zoe, another first for soaps. Then in 2009, Bianca married her partner, Reese Williams, in daytime's first same-sex wedding.
So it was a phenomenal disappointment that their relationship fell apart -- and did so mostly off-screen. I would have preferred that Bianca and Reese stay together. I suppose that their relationship was being given equal treatment, since no heterosexual wedding seems to last more than 72 days, but more honor would have been done to All My Children's commitment to social issues by having Bianca and Reese stay together.
I am sure there were logistical reasons -- Tamara Braun may or may not have been available to reprise her role on AMC. Maybe the storyline was no longer needed since AMC's lesbians had already been proclaimed to be "cuter" than those on other programs.
Still, the off-screen divorce was lacking. I wanted to see Christina Bennett Lind get a meaty storyline. I wanted to see Tamara Braun (or a recast Reese if it was absolutely necessary) involved in a nasty, all-out custody battle. In the real world, I would not want to see this sort of nastiness, but this was a fictional story. I think that a team of capable writers would have been able to make this one of the most memorable storylines in recent AMC history.
WORST STORYLINE THAT I LIKED: Maya and the baby
I understand why Maya and her unwanted baby had to be introduced into the mix. Angie's baby was going to be stillborn, and adding another baby to the canvas that could take the physical place of their baby was necessary for dramatic story purposes.
From the moment Maya plopped her baby into a cardboard box and placed it into the back of Brot's squad car, you could almost hear the stopwatch ticking in the background. It was almost like watching 60 Minutes. Tick... tick... tick... How long until Maya wants her baby back and breaks the Hubbards' hearts? From the time I first wrote about Maya's wanting her baby back in "Putting all the pieces together" (April 11), it seemed like Maya never quite knew what she wanted.
I so wanted Angie and Jesse to have their happy ending. I understand that having their biological baby die was probably the furthest thing from happy. However, allowing the Hubbards to raise a child as their own would have been perfectly fine for me. It also would have been a good message to the masses: Adopted families are very much as "real" as biological families. Look at Tad and the Martins.
There was also the convoluted mess that was Mookie, the abusive boyfriend whose very existence caused Maya to want to give up her baby. Abusive relationships are very real and shouldn't be marginalized. However, their relationship became something out of an Afterschool Special. To me, it seemed like the writers needed to come up with a reason that Maya might not want her baby. Why couldn't Maya have been an honors student who didn't think she could succeed at Harvard with a baby?
So here's where I become conflicted: Had it not been for this storyline that I didn't really like, we never would have gotten to see the Emmy-worthy performances of Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard) and Darnell Williams (Jesse Hubbard) at Ellie's gravesite. Seeing Debbi Morgan claw away at the ground... was absolutely heartbreaking. And while Darnell Williams didn't display hysteria, there was such strength in his restrained performance; his silence and the pain on his face spoke volumes.
I still wish a pox upon Maya for changing her mind and taking her baby back much in the way that I dislike the way that Bailey Wells took her baby back from Liza a few years back. These young kids need to understand all of what goes into being a parent when they are having their unprotected, underage sex. And now who's an Afterschool Special?
WORST STORYLINE THAT I LIKED, PART TWO: Jane
I admit it: I like most of the look-alike storylines that All My Children has done over the years. That also includes the ones that involved real twins. Janet and Natalie were great. Who doesn't like Adam and Stuart?
Then we have the Jane and Erica storyline. I had to put this in its own paragraph because, to be quite honest, it is not deserving to be lumped into the same realm as Adam/Stuart and Natalie/Janet. It was, however, entertaining in pieces.
As I explained in "That's the fronsiest thing I've ever heard" (May 23, 2011), the main plus of the storyline was that Susan Lucci (Erica Kane) was able to do things as Jane that she'd never be able to do as Erica. And that's saying a lot since, as Erica, Lucci has stared down bears, hosted a television talk show, been a model, staged a prison break or two, and countless other Ericaisms. Who would have thought we'd see "Erica," sprawled out in a hotel room, tipping back a bottle of beer.
In the end, though, the storyline had all sorts of holes, which I suspect were brought on by the show's cancellation.
WORST STORYLINE THAT NEVER HAPPENED: Pigeon Hollow flies the coop
In last week's column, I applauded the Orpheus storyline as an excellent way to help wrap up All My Children's run, and to give us a plausible reason to bring back all the veteran actors. One of the drawbacks of that storyline, however, was that it ate up so much airtime that it left the writers unable to properly focus their attention on other characters and stories that were not part of David's resurrection storyline.
One of those characters was Caleb Cooney. For whatever reason, Caleb didn't have a place in All My Children's denouement -- in spite of having several promising storylines. Then again, you might be able to argue that Caleb didn't have much of a place after the whole grouchy mountain man saga wrapped up.
With Dixie's return, suddenly Caleb -- who by then had changed his last name to Cortlandt to honor his Uncle Palmer -- suddenly had ties to Pine Valley. Only... Dixie and Caleb never shared a single scene together. I could be wrong, but I don't think Dixie so much as uttered Caleb's name. Did she even know he existed?
Cady McClain (Dixie Martin) explained to me that Dixie and Caleb's reunion had to be scrapped because the show simply didn't have enough time to delve into the storyline as it ended its run. That's a shame. I'd have been happy with even a 30-second face-to-face between the two. Maybe Caleb's icy exterior could even have thawed just slightly as the two together mourned Palmer's death.
For the finale, the writers obviously had to keep Erica and Jack in each other's orbit. That took Caleb out of the love triangle. Still, there was a potential love interest in Caleb's orbit for months: Krystal Carey. Krystal sort of flitted in and out of the Erica/Jack storyline for quite some time, but again, she had to be taken out of that equation once ABC announced that All My Children had been canceled. So that left Krystal and Caleb open for something. As the show wrapped, Caleb wasn't paying any attention to Krystal's pies, let alone any of her other goodies. No, Caleb then had what appeared to be a burgeoning interest in Liza.
Would Liza, Caleb, and Krystal have been involved in a love triangle had AMC moved to the Internet as planned? I haven't a clue, but I'd like to think that they would've. They do in my finger puppet theatre version of the show.
Here's a bit of behind-the-scenes information that has never been revealed: When ABC held All My Children's final press junket in early September, the entire cast of contract players was invited to take part. Michael Nouri (Caleb Cortlandt) flew back to Los Angeles from Europe to be a part of the junket even though he had not worked on the show in months.
"I wanted to be here because this is important," Nouri told me. "All My Children is a part of television history, and it should not be going away."
WORST STORYLINE EVER: The danceathon
No, the danceathon didn't take place in 2011, but for some reason it just popped into my head as I was thinking of storylines that I absolutely have despised over the years. I think that nonsensical weeklong dance-for-charity "plot" was the worst in AMC's 41-year history.
WORST VILLAIN, FICTIONAL: Ricky Torres
The premise had all the makings of either a classic love story or an epic swindle: A grieving Kendall Hart finds comfort, and later love, in the arms of a local minister, Ricky Torres. I have no issues with that at all. Then the writers added in another layer: Ricky wasn't a man of the cloth; he was an evildoer who'd been responsible for the death of Kendall's husband, Zach. Still sounds pretty good to me.
So where did this storyline go wrong? Pretty much everywhere else.
I'm sure there is a pearl of wisdom or passage somewhere about how you shouldn't trust a good-looking minister who doesn't have a congregation. If there isn't one, maybe there should be. Way back in February, I wrote what may be my best Two Scoops title ever, "Like a bad neighbor, great harm is there" (February 21, 2011), which looked at Ricky's then-just emerging true self. Here's a snippet:
Then-head writers David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski threw every stereotypical, clichéd villain reference that they could think of into the mix. I am surprised that they didn't ask Eddie Matos (Ricky Torres) to grow one of those Snidely Whiplash handlebar moustaches so that he could twirl it dramatically at the end of scenes.
Speaking of Eddie Matos, I enjoyed his work as Ricky Garza on Port Charles. I even like his pitchwork in the commercials for the insurance company he represents. (They didn't pay for product placement.) He just did not, however, work as an über-villain
WORST VILLAIN, REAL: Brian Frons
WORST HERO: Prospect Park
WORST SURPRISE: Black Thursday: AMC and OLTL canceled
There is a definite "man behind the curtain" aura to Brian Frons. Does anyone really know what he does -- or soon did -- at the company formerly known as ABC Daytime? For many years, Brian Frons has been the face of evil to many soap fans. Anything that has gone wrong in daytime -- failed contract talks, crappy storylines, canceled soaps -- is Brian Frons's fault. Heck, if you're that bad that it prompts Susan Lucci to write a chapter about you in her memoir, you know you're a mean one, Mr. Frons.
But is someone else pulling the strings? I don't know that we'll ever know the truth or the extent to which Frons was involved in the destruction of ABC's soap opera lineup. Still, he's as good as anyone to use for our venting purposes. So, in the words of the Human Torch: Flame on!
Canceling All My Children was quite simply a mistake. I don't care how well The Show That Shall Not Be Named is doing in the ratings. Ending AMC was wrong. Here's why -- and please forgive me if I have said this before. I'm sure I have, like in "The fifteen stages of grief" (November 28, 2011). If the wheels were already in motion a few years back to yank AMC from ABC, why not then try to find someone to take over the show? Is ABC that possessive of its property that it doesn't want to share the shows or see them succeed elsewhere even if it means that they can make money off of the programs by doing nothing?
What was even more insulting about the cancellation was the way in which it was done. ABC issued a press release touting the creation of two new "lifestyle" programs... oh, and yeah, there was an asterisk that explained that All My Children and One Life to Live would "sunset in a manner that honors viewers and the shows' creative legacies."
Uh huh. Honor this.
I don't think that anyone expected the outrage that would be expressed when the cancellations were announced. Then, however, suddenly it was announced that All My Children and One Life to Live had been saved. Saved! Prospect Park had emerged with a plan to move both of the shows online.
Talk about putting the cart before the horse! There's a game that some kids play called "That's my car." Basically, a fancy car drives by and a kid proclaims that the car is theirs. It's sort of a fantasy about how rich they'll be in the future. Ladies and gentleman, Zarfs and girls... we have a new spin on that game: "That's my soap."
$80 million is a lot of money. I understand that it's not the kind of cash you'll find tucked away under your sofa cushions. Unless, of course, you're looking in Warren Buffett's house. However, there were plenty of ways that Prospect Park could have secured the money necessary to make AMC and OLTL's online transition a reality. Why not ask the fans to send in five bucks? Some might have given more. If every soap fan had offered $5 a month for one year, Prospect Park could have racked up $180,000,000 for its project.
Shoot, they even could have hosted a danceathon.
WORST COLUMN: The final chapter
It seems hard to believe, but the time has finally arrived. This marks my final regularly scheduled Two Scoops column for All My Children. Please don't anyone get misty-eyed, because it will only make this harder for me to write.
It has been an absolutely amazing run. 17 years is a long time. No, I may not have written the column every week for 17 years... but I've been here every step of the way. With every word that appears on the soapcentral.com site, every graphic, every memory, I'm not that far away. Remember how Helga used to skulk around Wildwind all the time? Well, that's how I am! Hopefully in a less creepy way, though.
When this website started as "The AMC Pages," there really were few other web sites on the Internet. I know that sounds hard to believe. Most everything that had a permanent home was related to academia. I feel like someone's grandfather saying, "Ya know, back in my day..." Who knew that a passion for All My Children would change the way that soap fans could stay in touch with their favorite soaps?
As I've said repeatedly, All My Children will never disappear completely. It will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone that has ever loved it. Just as all of you, who have been there with me in sickness and in health, in joy and sorrow, in tragedy and triumph, will forever be a part of my life.
You will never know how deeply I have been touched by knowing that you want to know what I have to say. And I will have more to say... one day. For now, though, it's time to put one final period at the end of this last chapter... and to close the book.
My love and immeasurable gratitude to you always,