I mentioned a few weeks back that All My Children is walking a tightrope with its current storyline involving Brot Monroe. The meshing of reality and fiction can get shows into a pickle from time to time. If you're going to try to pass something off as real rather than soap real, you have to cross your t's and dot your i's. Soaps have used the "back from the dead" storylines ad nauseam. This time around, however, that resurrection storyline involves a real-life war. It's a very sensitive subject. Claiming that an Iraq war vet faked his death could be seen by many people as a slap in the face to the thousands of real-life vets who have lost their lives fighting in Iraq. It becomes even touchier when you bring in J.R. Martinez, an actor who suffered very serious real-life injuries in that conflict.
Somehow, it's all working.
I reflected back -- albeit briefly -- to Erica Kane's dramatic facial scarring of a bunch of years back and how she wore that silly Phantom of the (Soap) Opera mask for weeks and weeks and weeks. Now, that same show has an actor who suffered serious burns and scarring to his face, head, neck, arms and hands. Martinez admits that he was so horrified the first time he looked at himself in a mirror after the explosion that he stopped eating, refused to speak to anyone and seriously considered killing himself. What a difference a few years make.
The show got things off on the right foot the day prior to Brot's first appearance. On that day, AMC featured a segment with real-life war vets discussing their experiences in Iraq. The scenes were unscripted -- and they were very well done. I found them powerful. Moreover, I received feedback from viewers who thought that the scenes were thoughtful, patriotic, and honorable.
What I have mixed feelings about is the Taylor storyline. When Taylor first debuted, I liked her about as much as I did when another Taylor - Taylor Roxbury-Canon - hit Pine Valley. Then, Taylor tumbled down the steps and ended up paralyzed. Watching her go through her grieving process was very emotional and some great storytelling.
Then she received her fairytale kiss from her magic man doctor and now suddenly Taylor can move her legs. Hallelujah! What kind of doctor is Jake really? He performs brain surgery. He conducts physical therapy. Had he been near the beach during the tornado, I'm sure he would have delivered Bianca's baby. I'm trying not to hold Taylor's choice in men against her. I mean, who didn't know that Beth Ehlers and Ricky Paull Goldin were going to be paired up romantically? That was the whole reason for stealing Ehlers from Guiding Light.
Let's tackle another pseudo-real-life situation: the abduction of Emma McDermott Lavery. Kidnapping is a big deal. Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba in 2005 and her story was still front-and-center on the nightly news for at least two years after the fact. Did Annie really believe that Di would somehow not know what was going on? Turning our attention to the viewers: did anyone think that Di Henry would pull a gun on crazy Annie Lavery? Di told her that she was not having any part of Annie's kidnapping plan and prepared to shoot Annie -- for real. None of this staged gunshot stuff. It was a little jarring to see a new actress playing Di. I really wanted the announcer guy to hit the airwaves with the "The role of Di Henry is not being played by...whoever." Unless there is a reason why the unwitting accomplice had to be Di -- you know, something that is explained in future story -- couldn't they just have come up with some woman Annie knew from back in the day? Heck, they could have brought Taylor Roxbury-Cannon back. Anybody.
They couldn't have used Reese's parents, though. Well, at least not her dad. As we learned last week, Reese hasn't had much contact with her parents since she came out. It sounds like she's more upset that she doesn't get to talk to her dad than anything else. I can only assume that after hearing her story, Zach will try to do the right thing and have Mr. Williams show up for a surprise family reunion in Pine Valley. I'd like to see AMC do something other than the pitchfork-wielding anti-gay stereotypes that we usually see. Can't we see parents who are struggling with having a gay child without them wanting to burn their kid at the stake?
Amanda and David did the do. Did I lie to you when I told you back in September that David would be sleeping with someone surprising? No. I wouldn't lie to my faithful readers! Here comes another storyline involving Amanda that has to do with sex. It was a bit distasteful that Amanda was going to mess with JR's head, a man who just lost his wife -- one of Amanda's best friends. Is she really that driven by money that she'd do something so... despicable? At least she hasn't developed her mother's penchant for talking to herself in a mirror. Yet.
No, I do not know where Carmen is. A lot of people have written in to ask. I am assuming that Carmen has been cut from the cast now that the show has a new head writer. Perhaps she'll be back in some capacity in the near future -- but it doesn't seem that way at the moment, does it?
Mid-week, Pine Valley was visited by a book-toting woman named Aggie. Somehow, Aggie knew everything about the townspeople. It was almost like she'd written their destinies. [Editor's Note: Yes, I am aware that Aggie was played by AMC creator Agnes Nixon.] Maybe she knows where Carmen is. Some quick googling by Pete and Colby revealed that Aggie was a ghost. She was said to have founded Pine Valley back in 1870 (100 years before AMC hit the airwaves).
However, I think Aggie's return would have been slightly more meaningful if any of the current cast members had been with the show for more than 5.2 seconds. All My Children turns 39 in January. Show of hands if you know how many of the show's current cast members have been with the program for 19 or more of those years. Ray MacDonnell (Joe) and Susan Lucci (Erica) are original cast members. James Mitchell (Palmer) stepped into the role of Palmer in 1979. David Canary (Adam and Stuart) joined the show in 1983. Michael E. Knight (Tad) and Debbi Morgan (Angie) debuted in Pine Valley in 1982. Darnell Williams (Jesse) made his first appearance a year earlier, in 1981. The last three stars -- two of them in particular -- have not been with AMC on a continuing basis, so their tenure isn't quite as long as it might appear to be. Walt Willey first popped up in 1987. Jill Larson breezed into town in 1989, but she is no longer a contract player. No one else comes close.
That said, as goofy as the ghost premise might be, the storyline was a cute diversion. The episode's finale with the reading of the All My Children mantra was one of the best episode endings I've seen in recent years. It shows that no matter what, we are all God's children.
"The Great and the Least,
The Rich and the Poor,
The Weak and the Strong,
In Sickness and in Health,
In Joy and Sorrow,
In Tragedy and Triumph,
You are ALL MY CHILDREN"