Some of you have indicated to me that you were unable to read last week's column. If you missed the column called "Better the devil you know (with an accent you can identify)" click here.
For the second time in just four months, my Two Scoops column has been shaped by real-life happenings at All My Children rather than the action that's been playing out on-screen. In August, All My Children's announced move to Los Angeles prompted a special column about what we might witness once the show settled down out west. Now, the dismissal of head writer Charles Pratt prompts another special column. It's a look back at Pratt's tenure as top scribe for AMC and the good, the bad, and everything else. I try to be as candid as possible in this column
It's been about 15 years since I started this website. During that time, as I am sure you can imagine, I've read my fair share of hate mail. The mail ranges from hatred for characters to dislike of actors to the total panning of storylines. I've seen it all and read it all. So it's a pretty big statement for me to say that the animosity that AMC viewers have for Chuck Pratt has surprised even me. Many of the things that readers have sent me can't even be reprinted in this column.
It's no secret that AMC is my first love. It's the soap that got me hooked on soaps -- and the one that led to this web site. I don't know if I have a higher tolerance level or if I am not so emotionally invested in any one show, but I have not been as upset by the storylines of the past year as so many of you seem to have been. That is not to say that I haven't disliked the storylines. Trust me when I say that we'll get there in a few paragraphs. What I'm talking about right now are comments from fans who say that they don't "recognize" characters any more. Sure, there are characters that might not be behaving the same way that they had in the past, but I tend to let that slide. Unless someone used to be sunshine and lollipops and they are now kicking puppies and murdering children, I don't mind some artistic license.
Recently, it's become harder for me to get myself amped up about watching All My Children. There are moments of the show that I truly enjoy, but the overall body of work... doesn't get me excited. There's only been one time in my love affair with AMC that I stopped watching. That was back when Greg Madden was trapped in his box, Josh Madden was unaborted, and the show was just a hot diggity mess. I couldn't convince myself to watch the show. That questionable story-telling came at the end of Megan McTavish's most recent reign. I don't know what got into her because I've always liked her work. Towards the end, McTavish either no longer cared, she was being told what to write, or maybe she stopped taking her medication. I don't think it's the latter option, and quite frankly the first two options make me a little sad.
I had to actually use a cheat sheet -- the Daily Recaps Archives here on the Soap Central site -- to remember what was taking place in Pine Valley under James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten. They were at the helm under the "real Greenlee returns" debacle and they penned Kendall and Aidan hopping into bed when Greenlee and Zach were presumed dead. They did, however, craft the beautiful reunion of Jesse and Angie in early 2008.
Charles Pratt arrived in June, but his material didn't really start airing until somewhere around the beginning of September. His original ideas took even longer to air because of the leeway soaps need in putting together their stories to accommodate their tape schedule. He seemed to start off with such promise. Whereas many of Pratt's stories were great conceptually, the actual on-screen delivery left a lot to be desired. So let's break it down.
In October 2008, Pine Valley was leveled by tornados. The special effects were great, but the accompanying story was hit-or-miss. I thought that Babe's death was heartbreaking. Did she have to die? Well, no, but it made for some good follow-up material. During the tornado we also had the big reveal that Bianca was pregnant -- with Zach's kid. This was apparently one of the worst decisions in the history of daytime television. At least that's what you've been telling me. I think the idea of Bianca and Zach having a secret kid was a stupid idea, but I wasn't enraged by it. This kind of dumb decision is made every day -- just watch some of the talk shows. Nevertheless, the plot twist made Zendall fans hate Bianca and even some Bianca fans hate Bianca. What I liked about the storyline was that it provided for some powerful story between Bianca and Kendall. These two sisters had gotten so close over the years -- and now they were wedged apart. In the real world, many of us have a falling-out with someone that we can't imagine not having in our life. So that aspect of the storyline appealed to me. Again, conceptually -- good. Actual delivery -- not good.
Speaking of Bianca, her mnarriage to Reese was a farce. I am glad that the couple was treated like any other couple on daytime. However, you cannot hype the first same-sex marriage on daytime and then have it fall apart in the blink of an eye. That's really a crappy thing to do. Then there was the explanation from Pratt that he didn't know that Eden Riegel was leaving the show, so he wasn't able to craft the storyline appropriately.
Under Pratt, boring Annie became interesting. She certainly stopped taking her medicine because she went cuckoo. For the first time, I enjoyed her. However, her zaniness turned out to be too much of a good thing because the craziness went on too long and no one stepped in to stop the insanity. What I find strange, though, is that Annie's shenanigans in the aftermath of Stuart's murder all made sense when it was "revealed" that Adam killed Stuart. She didn't want to marry Adam to save herself -- she wanted to save Adam. So the beginning and end were good, but everything in between wasn't. Think of it as eating a sandwich with great bread and lunch meat that is spoiled.
Pratt helped to develop the story of Brot Monroe, one of the most interesting characters of the past year. This story had the potential to go very badly. The back from the dead stories are always hard to swallow, but when you weave in a real-life war where thousands of real-life men and women have been killed? It could have been rough. The way that Brot dealt with his reality rang true to me. It certainly was helped by having JR Martinez on board, a veteran-turned-actor with a charisma that somehow manages connect with viewers every time he's on screen. Beth Ehlers, the other half of the trouble relationship, was outspoken about the story and critical of Pratt's storytelling. The storyline wrapped up quickly thereafter... and so did Ehlers' time in Pine Valley.
Pratt did pair up Taylor and Tad and there was great potential there for comical mischief. For whatever reason, it was scrapped. Maybe Beth Ehlers expressed that she liked it and Pratt decided to change the storyline to punish her for previously questioning his work. I have no idea. Beth Ehlers is gone -- Taylor is probably still sprawled out on the bathroom floor at ConFusion -- and I've given up on any interesting love stories for Tad.
Erica and Ryan were matched up as part of some much-hyped "cougar" storyline. It might not have been so bad if Ryan hadn't been knocking boots (do we still use that phrase or am I still stuck in the 90s?) with Erica's daughter. If this were an X-rated column, I'd have lots of zingers about the storyline, but since this is family-friendly-ish, I will refrain. I don't mind that Erica has a younger man in her life. From my emails, a lot of you do mind. Weeding out the inappropriately mean and ageist letters, it does appear that you, too, object to the man that was chosen to be her lover. After the shock and awe of the mainstream media headlines died down, the show didn't do enough to make anyone really care about Ryan and Erica.
The Hubbards got a lot of story over the past year -- Jesse's on-the-run wife showed up and announced that she was dying. Frankie fell in love with a hooker and then made her his wife. These are the types of stories that soaps tell. I'm not mad about that. I don't like that Jesse has decided not to enforce any laws in Pine Valley. Had he kept to the letter of the law, his involvement in hiding Henry North's body would have been more riveting. You'd have an upstanding cop who protected his new daughter-in-law and risked going down as an accomplice in a murder. Instead, we had a Keystone Kop who was just like everyone else in town -- a rule breaker.
No, I have not forgotten about the Who Killed Stuart storyline (but I am trying to).
Promises were made, but never delivered. Remember when he gave an interview and said that he was going to finally make some sense of Fusion and explain how inexperienced women could helm a squillion-dollar cosmetics company? What happened to that? Is Fusion even still in business? When Greenlee awakens in her mystery room, will she have on some lipstick and mascara?
In a bizarre bit of irony, the now-fired Charles Pratt will see his tenure end with the penning of All My Children's biggest milestone: its 40th anniversary. In fairness, I have no idea exactly when the last Pratt-penned show will air, but I know that the anniversary episode will certain come near the end of his resume. It will be interesting to see how Pratt handles a show that is bound to be filled with history.
I have no idea who will be in charge of writing All My Children come next year, but I can only hope that it is someone who will respect the history of the show. More than that, the writer needs to respect the viewers. We don't tune in every day because we're forced to, but we will tune out if we're forced to.
Now it's time for you to put your fingers to keyboard and send me your thoughts on the good and bad from Pratt's time as head writer. I don't really want a gripe-fest of emails, so try to frame it either by definitely telling me about a storyline that you liked or, like me, frame it in what could have been good. Of course, I also do want to hear your least favorite storylines as well!