Ah, Two Scoops. You know why I love this job? Because it combines two of my favorite things: writing, and AMC. I poured a lot of energy into the intro to my first Two Scoops column that was ever posted on Soap Central. For me, the introduction is the most crucial part of any article. Do you remember it?
Soap operas seem to be a perpetual breeding ground for bad parenting. Despite claiming to have only the best intentions for their children, most soap parents are content to love their kids only when it best suits them. Kendall Hart Slater is arguably the latest result of mixing good intentions with bad parenting. Rather than show her love to Spike and Ian by letting bygones be bygones, Kendall has all but neglected her youngest son while dragging her oldest around Pine Valley far past his bedtime, as well as carting around concealed weaponry, all in the interest of claiming vengeance on her former best friend, Greenlee Smythe.
Sorry about that. I just wanted to take a timeout from the present to visit the not-so-distant past. Those of you who have followed my work from the beginning probably recognize that intro. However, those of you who are brand new, who are reading my work for the first time (or who jumped aboard some time after I got started) haven't read that snippet before. For those of you who have, that excerpt could be considered a flashback. For those who haven't, it's not really a flashback, is it? You didn't really flash back to anything familiar, but saw something for the first time even though it's been around for a little while.
I've seen old and new, familiar and different on All My Children over the past several months. Flashbacks are a crucial component in any soap opera's bag of storytelling tricks, but ever since Jesse and Angie's fantastic return to our television screens, AMC has been using flashbacks aplenty, sometimes showing several a week.
Some of the flashbacks, such as those between Ryan, Kendall, Greenlee, and Zach circa 2004, are familiar to me. I watched during that time, and so the flashbacks bring either a smile or a grimace to my face, much as they did back then. The flashbacks between this star-crossed trio are used to show viewers want went wrong in their history, as well as what went right.
Much like Ryan, not everyone remembers these flashbacks. For newer viewers, they're not really flashbacks at all, are they? It's kind of like opening a history book: some of us have read about the events they document, but not many of us have experienced those events firsthand.
On Friday, April 4, 2008, I was privileged enough to open Jesse and Angie's personal history book to their event of events - their wedding. As a viewer who started watching Pine Valley's unique brand of drama in the late 1990s, these clips weren't flashbacks for me; they were more like family videos that I got to watch for the very first time.
The unofficial renewal of the vows between Mr. and Mrs. Hubbard was fantastic. The writers set the stage perfectly by having the couple reminisce about their wedding before Jesse recreated the whole scene. Their original wedding was small, quiet, and personal, just like the couple themselves. But that's hardly the sole reason for the scene's perfection. Twenty years later, Jesse and Angie stood in the same house where they were married and renewed their vows while integrated clips of the original ceremony played in the background.
Just like children who finally take enough interest in their parents to ask questions about how Mommy and Daddy first fell in love, I feel like Jesse and Angie took me by the hand, sat me down, and let me look through their personal album, laughing and pointing at pictures while saying, "This is when..."
A flashback reel used to such perfection is the perfect example of how trips down memory lane can be used to bridge Pine Valley's past to its present - and its future.
Want another example? I present to you: Jackson Montgomery and Erica Kane. Love them or hate them, these two have history that has long since welded their souls together for all time. Seeing early "Jerica" scenes was a real treat and was a thoughtful way to show that no matter how many affairs or attempts at having daughters committed have and have yet to occur, Jack and Erica will always prevail.
How do you feel about abundant use of flashbacks on AMC as of late? For long-time viewers, do you enjoy the glimpses back into yesteryear, into a Pine Valley you loved -- or maybe hated? How about you new folks? Are the flashbacks filling in missing history for you, or do you feel the show is relying too heavily on them instead of focusing on the present?
Speaking of Flashbacks... This week, for the first time in years, I actually cared about Ryan Lavery. Crazy, right? Let me explain.
Like Zach, I believe Ryan is being coddled by Greenlee and Kendall, and needs to be shown who he really is if he wants to regain his memory. Before Zach's push (okay, shove) in the right direction, Ryan was only interested in chasing after Kendall. Meeting with Kendall in L.A. didn't help, talking with / kissing Greenlee at the pagoda didn't help, and attempting to trick Annie into believing his memory was slowly... yeah, that was just a bad idea all around. But when Zach took Ryan into the casino's back room, popped in the infamous "IAMTHATMONSTER" DVD, and pressed play, Ryan's eyes widened, his mouth dropped, and he began to breathe heavily.
I know what you're thinking: he does that all the time. Yeah, okay, I'll give you that much, but this time his caveman-like mannerisms actually caused him to do something he hasn't done in a long time: he acted like a man. He ran into Greenlee and made her tell him exactly what had gone down between them. Greenlee didn't want to do it; of course she didn't. Poor little Ryan can't possibly handle the truth, right? Wrong. Just as I agree with Zach regarding Ryan needing a stiff kick in the butt to make some real progress, I also concur with Mr. Slater that Ryan's current amnesia affliction is rooted in the acts he's committed over the past few years. Back off, girls: Ryan's starting to deal with things, and you're getting in his way.
Because Ryan has finally become proactive in tackling his memory woes, I've taken an interest in this storyline -- which is why it's a darn shame that it can never, ever be saved. Love him or hate him, Jonathan is an integral part of Ryan's life. It could be compellingly argued that Hocket's actions precipitated Ryan's behavior over most of 2005, the year he committed arguably the most worst of his monstrous deeds: he almost hit Greenlee, he faked his death, and he joined a fight club. The way Jeff Branson was written out (or not written out) is a glaring stain on the storyline that can never be removed.
Honestly, ABC Daytime: if you want to get rid of an actor, that's fine; we're mostly powerless to stop you. But would you please spare even a little bit of time thinking about the proper way to write out the character? We, the fans, are not stupid. Jonathan's absence has been noted by viewers and critics, and I'd be very surprised if it didn't end up being a determining factor in this storyline being one of the worst -- if not the worst -- stories of 2008.