I have found that I feel much more heartbreak with the "new" All My Children than I did with the All My Children of the past. There's always been at least one story every now and again that presses my empathy button. Right now, I think just about every key storyline makes me feel something.
I felt horrible for AJ when his dad didn't recognize him. Truth be told, the kid doesn't look anything like I remember him looking on the night of the shooting either. AJ has gone through a lot, much like his father did when he was the same age. For AJ, his biological mother was killed, the woman he recognized as a mother was shot and killed, and his father was shot and left in a coma. You could see some of that hurt swell to the surface when AJ pummeled Hunter the other week. I worry that AJ is a tinderbox and the slightest spark will set off something that won't be able to be contained.
There was a great moment of possible redemption dangling before JR like a carrot when AJ entered that hospital room -- and it fell apart like the wooden blocks in a game of Jenga. Would a loving reunion have warmed the cockles of my heart? You betcha, but this was much more powerful... and my heart broke for AJ. I held my breath while he eyed up the decanter in the Chandler parlor and was relieved when he smashed it instead of taking a drink. Maybe the Chandler addiction issues will skip this generation. For AJ's sake, I certainly hope so.
Speaking of genetics, I find it interesting that Cara told David that the reason she'd had an abortion was because she didn't want David's DNA coursing through a baby's veins. I wonder if there is an element of truth in that lie. We know now -- and probably did for some time -- that Cara did not terminate her pregnancy. Do you think there is a part of Cara that fears David's askew moral compass might have been passed down to their child, and if so, why didn't she have an abortion?
I'm surprisingly torn on this. I feel that it was unusually cruel for Cara to make David mourn the death of another child, yet I understand that she fears for her child's safety. We probably won't be debating this much longer because David has a way of finding out secrets. If Cara really does fear David, she is going to want to sleep with her eyes open when David finds out. There is also the possibility that Cara will tell David herself. After all, she did have a very steamy daydream about Dr. Hayward.
I often think that when you live in a large city, there are certain things that, for better or worse, become part of your experience. You're exposed to a great diversity of people, and you're also introduced to some of the perils of folks who've lost their way. That experience can lead to a hardened or jaded outlook on things.
One of my longtime readers, Lin, said that next to the sexual assault against Bianca, Billy Clyde Tuggle's original storyline was "probably the most disturbing" storyline in All My Children history. My adventures in Pine Valley started just after the bridge scuffle that supposedly killed Tad and Billy Clyde, so I wasn't on hand to see Billy Clyde at his worst. And before I became familiar with his dastardly ways, I have to say that seeing him in his pimp getup always made me think his character was something of a joke.
The same thought came to my mind when I heard that All My Children was introducing a human trafficking storyline involving the Russian mob. I figured it would be a lot of "Moose und Squirrel"-type caricatures worthy of a few eye rolls and that it would become quite clear that Cassandra would be in no imminent danger. You know, sort of how you know that any top-billed movie star isn't going to get killed off in an action film.
Okay, I was wrong. While I would say that I am 90% certain that Cassandra will eventually be rescued, I still leave room for the very real possibility that we won't get our familiar, storybook happy ending. To me, the entire Russian mob story is one of the most disturbing, ongoing plots in soap history. And the actors have been phenomenal. I know that the Internet affords for more freedom -- a veritable Old McDonald's farm of colorful language, an "f bomb" here and an "a hole" there -- but for some reason, I never expected the storytelling to get more complex... and darker.
I've heard from a least one reader that feels this storyline is insensitive to the real-life events that unfolded earlier this month in Ohio, where reports say three women were freed after years of being held prisoner. Comparisons aside, the All My Children story was written well in advance of anyone knowing about what was going on in that Ohio home. There are far too many stories that come to light in the real world involving indescribably horrific crimes. Should a work of fiction tackle this type of story? If not, then where do you draw the line? In the 1980s, the nation was awash in fear from a newly diagnosed disease. Should AMC not have written the storyline involving Cindy Chandler dying from AIDS? There are thousands of homicides each year in this country, but so many people love a good murder mystery.
People also love a good romance, which is a far less sinister thing to have to talk about. However, I am still not invested in Pete and Celia. Maybe I have turned into one of those two old cranky men in the balcony at the Muppet Show. I will cede that this coupling really is a throwback to the young love stories of the past -- Greg and Jenny, Tad and Dixie, and even Hayley and Brian.
I think my main issue is Celia's attitude. In my mind, Celia should be more like Blair Warner from the Facts of Life. You know, carefree from not having had to worry about money, but yet a spoiled brat when she wants to get her own way. I suspect that will all change when we really delve into her backstory. There's the mysterious guardian, the man in the mirror, and whether or not her parents are really dead. I'm not sure why Celia is willing to run off to parts unknown with a guy she barely knows (maybe she wants to know him bare-ly). Men are supposed to be the ones that think with their nether regions.
I'd also like to know more about Evelyn. Where did she come from? I'm still a little perplexed about bringing the amazing Francesca James back as a third (?!) character. Is Evelyn related to Kitty Shea and Kelly Cole? Will anyone in town do a "Don't I know you from somewhere?" to her? I'll admit that when I attended the pre-relaunch All My Children photo shoot in New York, at first I assumed that Francesca was returning as a director or producer. When that wasn't the case, I assumed she would be Kitty or Kelly. Pete wouldn't know of Kitty or Kelly, and obviously neither would Celia. Opal, however, should have recognized Evelyn if she is really someone other than the mild-mannered headmistress of Bramwell Hall.
I also suspect that over time we're going to become familiar with whatever went on in Pete's life from the time he was struck by lightning and developed superpowers until now. He's been touted as having been a "player," so I'd be willing to bet that there are some women scorned who might pop up in the near future... probably right around the time that Pete and Celia find complete happiness.
I will say that I heard from a whole lot of readers who would very happily have run off with Pete without asking a single question. In fact, there were numerous tweets from fans telling Prospect Park that they could save some money by just not allowing Robert Scott Wilson to wear any clothes.
And speaking of money, let me address the other big All My Children news of the week so that you don't think I have nothing to say about it.
The big news of the week was Prospect Park's announcement that it has decided to cut back on the number of episodes of All My Children (and One Life to Live) that will be made available for viewing each week. I want to say "broadcast" or "aired," but I feel like that sounds old-fashioned.
On my Facebook page, I posted the following message, "While in my perfect world, episodes of All My Children would air every day of the week, I can't help but hear the voices of fans of Another World, As the World Turns, Guiding Light, Passions, Port Charles, Santa Barbara, Sunset Beach, and countless other shows that would give anything to see two episodes per week of their favorite program."
My buddy over at Soaps In Depth, Richard Simms, often teases me about being the Pollyanna to his Wicked Grinch of the West, but I have to tell you that I truly believe what I posted on Facebook. When AMC returned, I was miffed that it was only going to be 30 minutes instead of an hour. Then, as the shows were airing, I realized that their 26-minute length wasn't that much shorter than the 37-or-so-minutes of programming that aired on ABC. My next gripe was that I didn't want the show to air just four days per week. For each of the past three weeks, I've been chomping at the bit for Monday to roll around so that I can see what happens next. I can't even tell you the last time that, for three weeks in a row, I was excited by a cliffhanger.
So here we are, back on the island of Miffed-fit Toys. Am I running through the streets, cheering that AMC has been cut back to two days per week? Absolutely not. But I've seen the dark side -- I've lived for over a year with absolutely no new All My Children episodes. I don't need to break out the old abacus to know that two is way better than none.
I do understand the perception by some fans who fear that the natural order of progression is four to two to one to none. Is that what's happening here? I don't believe so. Imagine moving to a new home and having plans to drive to work via a certain route. In your head, you'll get there in plenty of time. But when you set out on your first commute, you didn't realize that every day a freight train stops traffic for 15 minutes. You leave earlier to avoid the train, but then you get stuck behind a bus that makes stops at every corner. You know that you can't be late to work or you'll be fired, so you make the decision to go a different route.
That is what Prospect Park seems to be doing here. For nearly everyone that is reading this column, you're already an All My Children fan. Watching the show up to five times a week is second nature. But what about the folks who've never experienced an episode of AMC? There's probably a few of you reading this column that said something like, "Screw the new viewers. I've been watching for 20, 30, 40 years." Here's the hitch in that school of thought: it's going to take new viewers to help keep All My Children going for the next 20, 30, 40 years. So we don't want to alienate the potential future for our show.
I don't profess to know what's going on inside the heads of Rich Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz. They've surprised me before, so I dare not try to impersonate Opal and read tea leaves. In the spirit of full disclosure, I often wish that Prospect Park would reach out to me to bounce some ideas. I don't want to sound like I'm patting myself on the back, but I have found a way to monetize the Internet for more than 18 years. Maybe there's something that I've learned that they are not aware of.
I do understand the need to watch the bottom line. While the soaps are a passion of mine, they are also a business. When Guiding Light and As the World Turns ended, the site survived. When All My Children and One Life to Live were canceled, there was a very real fear that we'd all never meet again... and I've admitted that I had thought that I might need to look into a new career.
But this isn't about me. It's about the amazing on-screen talent that we get to see however many times a week this show will air. It's also about the unsung heroes behind the camera. I've heard nothing but glowing praise for executive producer Ginger Smith, who reportedly fuels herself with Coca-Cola and M&Ms. What I see when I watch AMC and hear when I talk to the various performers is a group of people who feel appreciated (in some cases for the first time in a long time). And that's the kind of stuff you want to hear about the people in charge.
AMC's writing team was given -- what, a week or two? -- to craft stories for AMC's launch. Since that time, they've reportedly been working incredibly long hours to put together the scripts for the show. You wouldn't know any of this because the stories have been stellar. Now imagine what they could do if they had the luxury of time, the benefit of a brief period to let their minds rest and cook up all sorts of other ideas.
Non-soap viewers cheer the quality of primetime shows that put out 23 episodes per year. These, they say, are the "good" shows. Not the soaps. I will disagree with that statement until I am blue in the face. That doesn't mean anyone will listen to me. Just like I have no idea if any of the people that I mentioned will ever see this column. For me, it's important to be thankful. Anything in life can be taken away at any moment, and I'd prefer to enjoy and savor every moment.