584 days. If this were a game of Jeopardy!, the correct question would be, "How long were All My Children fans without their favorite show?"
Okay, so this isn't a game show, but fans were hit with one big ole "Zonk" in September 2011 when All My Children went black. Now, the curtain his risen on the biggest prize in soap opera history: the return a program with more than 40 years of history. Or you can make that 80-plus if you count the return of another of our beloved soaps, One Life to Live.
Back in February when we learned that All My Children was going to be leaping ahead five years in its storytelling, I wrote a Two Scoops column that called the idea brilliant. My biggest argument in favor of that decision was the belief that those missing five years would provide far more story options than if the show picked up right where it left off. And, at the risk of sounding like I am tooting my own horn -- and I'm probably too old to do that anyway -- but I was right.
I don't know about you, but I have absolutely no idea what is going on in Pine Valley. Well, let me correct that. I kinda sorta know what's going on now, but I couldn't begin to tell you what's happened in those five missing years. And to be honest, I like it. I like it a lot.
I'm about to contradict myself -- and I'm fully aware of it.
Perhaps the only thing I don't like about the five-year skip was the repeated references to "that night five years ago." I'm sure that someone, somewhere was crafting some sort of drinking game around the mentions. Just to be clear, I fully understand that for the sake of spinning a yarn, those references had to be made -- for a couple of reasons. First, it made everyone wonder what had happened. Coming right out and spilling the beans in the first episode (which they sort of did with Brooke's nightmare) would have been anticlimactic. Second, it's possible that the writers hadn't fully decided what happened. They had only a limited amount of time to get story together, so maybe they made the decision to leave the events of that night somewhat vague. Either way, by the end of the first week, we found out at least some of what took place on the night of Brooke and Adam's party. Or did we?
Another of my queries about the Pine Valley time machine was something that I hadn't thought about until just this past week, and that involves some of the other, unthought-of implications. Marissa's tombstone revealed that she died in 2011 -- the last day of AMC's run on ABC. Now that we have jumped five years into the future, does that mean that it is technically 2016 in Pine Valley? If so, does that mean that there can't be any sort of "real world" references, since the show is in the future? For example, you couldn't talk about who was recently elected president, since that would have already happened long ago in Pine Valley time.
My other biggest complaint has to do with the on-demand, online viewing. I don't know about you, but being able to watch All My Children any time of day has really messed up my sense of time. The other day I watched the show around 10:45 a.m. Afterwards, I saw messages on Twitter about what was coming up on The Young and the Restless. How, I wondered, was that possible? My mind is so trained to think of All My Children as airing between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. that I thought it was much later in the day than it was. I think I may have to watch AMC in its old timeslot, just so that I don't confuse myself. Don't get me wrong -- after the past 18 months, this is a great problem to have. It just makes me look like a crazy person.
So let's get to the storyline analysis because I know that's what you guys and gals come here to read.
Cassandra's kidnapping is like something taken right out of, well, the movie Taken. To the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been a storyline like this before on the soaps. I love a story that involves Darnell Williams (Jesse Hubbard) and Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard). Everything these two are involved in turns to gold. Need some recent reminders? The reunion at the train station, the death of their baby... doesn't get any better than that.
I'm also interested in seeing how Sal Stowers handles this storyline. I remember her as the bubbly girl from America's Next Top Model, but in the few scenes that we've seen her involved in so far, she's been on the money. It's easy for a soap newcomer to go over the top in these types of "held hostage" plots, but I thought there was great restraint displayed in the scenes. Certainly Stowers' background as a model will help in scenes where she won't be able to speak and will have to convey emotions through facial expressions... or "smizing."
This is a really great umbrella story, in that there is a lot of potential to involve multiple characters and to give those characters stories other than just the abduction story.
For example, we've learned that Kendall and Zach are either separated or divorced because the Russian mob tried to horn in on his casino business. How did Zach get his casino back? Where did Kendall and the kids go after she left?
Why did the mob target Cassandra? Are they ticked off at Jesse because he's in law enforcement? Did Angie treat one of the mobsters at the hospital? There is also that rumor that Dimitri Marick might somehow become involved in all of this. How else would you explain the appearance of Michael Nader (ex-Dimitri Marick) at the Red Carpet premiere? (Someone please tell me that David found a way to Orpheus, my dear, sweet Helga.)
Marissa was killed the night of the party at Chandler mansion. I guess that sort of makes the most sense, considering which characters were brought back to the canvas for the reboot. It explains David's purpose on the show, and it gives a storyline to Bianca (can this poor woman catch a break in the relationship department?!). But where is Krystal? Why has no one mentioned her name? I know that Krystal has her detractors, but the woman has now lost two children in the span of a few years. Did Krystal pack up with Jenny and flee Pine Valley, which has been one huge black cloud for her?
And David has also lost a lot. First there was Leora, his daughter with Anna Devane. Detouring slightly, I would love to see Finola Hughes somehow cross over to do a brief AMC stint. I know that will never happen -- especially in the wake of Prospect Park's lawsuit -- but it's a little dream that I hold onto. That and the return of Helga. Moving on... then David lost Babe, and now Marissa. And it appears that his child with Cara is also not with us. There is still that big question mark over what exactly happened to the baby. It's heavily implied that Cara had an abortion, but it's never been said outright. Like the "that night five years ago" references, Cara only refers to her decision regarding the baby as "what I did." Her re-enrollment into Doctors Without Borders could have been a convenient cover to go somewhere, have her baby, and then give the little one up for adoption.
It's interesting that Angie was the one to testify on David's behalf with the parole board. David was jailed for five years for manslaughter, if I remember correctly. We know that David and JR struggled over a gun, and David shot JR -- but JR isn't dead. So was David blamed for Marissa's death? Did someone else also die? I noticed that Angie didn't mention Randi's name when she and Jesse were talking about their family. Last we saw, Randi and Frankie were quite happy -- with a baby possibly on the way.
It's too soon for me to decide how I feel about the tricky Miraj pairing. No, not the wild-haired judge on American Idol -- that's what the kids are calling Miranda + AJ. I love that the writers have made the two inseparable. They share the same birthday and have been through a lot. It makes perfect sense, even though we didn't really get to see that play out on-screen. The fact Miranda saw AJ's, um, Little A and didn't bat an eye is cute.
I don't think I'm out of line by suggesting that AJ has developed some sort of feelings for Miranda that go beyond being "besties." At this point, Miranda seems oblivious to that. I know it's only a matter of time before they become linked romantically, but I worry that could irreparably change their friendship. I like the on-screen chemistry of Eric Nelsen (AJ Chandler) and Denise Tontz (Miranda Montgomery) and don't want to see that end should a Miraj relationship turn out to be nothing more than, well, um, a mirage.
As an aside, Denise Tontz looks like a Kane woman. Finding her was a great bit of casting by AMC's new casting director, Alison Goodman. I really hope that we get to see the remainder of the Kane women sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, I've decided that Hunter is a sleaze. I see nothing redeeming about him at this point. His little staged "let's have a threesome" conversation at Jane's Addiction was obnoxious. It reminded me of the scene in Pretty Woman when Jason Alexander's character showed up at the hotel and made inappropriate sexual advances towards Julia Roberts' Vivian. In both cases, the creeps ended up getting slugged.
I haven't a clue who Celia Fitzgerald's mysterious guardian is. With the five-year time jump, I'm not entirely sure I can piece together a list of possible suspects. Is the man someone currently on the canvas -- which limits the possibilities to just two or three -- or is it someone from the past who might be returning in the near future? Why is this guardian so opposed to Celia doing work for the Miranda Center?
Another person whose photo might be appearing on a milk carton is Tad Martin. Where is Tad? And Kate? Maybe he hooked up with Krystal and left town, though that seems highly unlikely, since Tad and Dixie were so happy... and Dixie and Opal seem to speak of Tad as being more than just out of town.
There are just so many questions! So, at my request, one of Soap Central's writers, who was admittedly not really a fan of All My Children, tuned in to the first week of shows to see how a non-fan would be able to follow the reboot. With a few relationship-related exceptions -- he assumed that Cara and Griffin were lovers rather than brother and sister -- he said that he could follow along pretty well. A writer for the New York Times, though, disagrees.
"The new One Life to Live and All My Children did not, from this week's episodes, seem to be trying to make themselves welcoming to the uninitiated," wrote Neil Genzlinger, who said that he'd never seen an episode of AMC prior to the reboots. "If anything, the opposite was true. Every minute or so, it seemed as if the shows were throwing up a neon sign that said, 'Reference Understandable by Longtime Fans Only; Others Should Turn Back Here.'"
I had the privilege of writing the first recap for the "new" All My Children, and I admit that I felt a need to over-explain things in the event that there were new viewers. Things like last names and relationships (familial and otherwise) all seemed necessary. After 18 months in purgatory, it's possible that even long-term viewers needed a little refresher.
There have been various reports that because of the online format and Prospect Park's cost-cutting measures, it would take only about 500,000 viewers to make the show profitable. That's a fraction of the audience that watched AMC when it was on network television, and it seems extremely doable when you consider that a music video by an imaginary horse-riding Korean pop star has garnered over 1.5 billion views in the past nine months.
All My Children placed atop Hulu's list of most-watched shows. At the time that I was tip-tapping this column out, AMC was the fifth most-subscribed to series on iTunes, and each of the four first-week episodes were in the top 40 most-downloaded. Since Hulu doesn't release viewership information, we may never know exactly how many people tuned in to watch All My Children during its debut week.
There has been some debate about AMC's ability to tell some racier stories online. The debate started even before the first episodes aired. Would a web-based All My Children be nothing but boobs, F-bombs, and butt cheeks? Four days in, and I think we have our answer.
Sure, there was a steamy love scene between Cara and David, but it isn't much different than what used to be shown on ABC before the Janet Jackson Nipplegate incident. After that, it seemed like networks were so fearful that they'd be brought up on indecency charges that there was no longer any love in the afternoon -- even between happily married couples.
As for the language issues, over in this week's Two Scoops for One Life to Live, Soap Central columnist Tim Kauffman, weighs in with his thoughts about the use of four-letter words. Like Tim, I quite regularly hear colorful language. I'm not offended by "coarse" language, but I also think that there's a time and a place for everything. Who hasn't dropped a phone into the toilet, spilled grape juice on a white shirt, or been hit by some sort of panic where a choice word or two flew freely from their lips? At the same time, I bristle when I am walking down the street and hear people talking loudly with an "F this" or something similar.
I can't tell you how great it feels to be back together with all of you. So now that I've shared my thoughts on everything that happened last week on All My Children, it's time for you to share your thoughts with me. What are your theories on the missing five years? Which storylines are you most interested in? Have you gotten your time of day confused because of on-demand viewing? There are all sorts of ways to reach out and share your thoughts: You can click here to send me an email, you can scroll to the bottom of this page and use your Facebook account to leave comments, or you can call our 24/7 caller feedback line at 267.341.7627 and record a message that might be played during a future episode of Soap Central Live. You can also feel free to use more than one of those options.
I'll be back here again next week with more of my Pine Valley musings. Remember to spread the word about All My Children's return and to share the positivity. It's all about sharing the light and the love. After all, we are the love we give.