Last week, for the first time in a couple of weeks, five full-length episodes of All My Children were broadcast. But let's face it, AMC fans, only one of those episodes really mattered. That episode, of course, was the episode that aired on January 5 to fete the 40th anniversary of All My Children.
If my in box and the Soap Central message boards are any indication, that episode may have been one of the most-talked about episodes of All My Children in years. The episode certainly was hyped heavily -- and how often does a 40th anniversary come around? There was something for everyone -- humor, tears, flashbacks galore, and the return of prominent former cast members.
Unfortunately, it seems that I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed the celebratory installment of our favorite soap.
As I watched the episode the first time -- I had to watch it twice because I wrote the recap that day -- I sent an instant message to a colleague and told her that it would only be a matter of time before fans complained that Alexa Havins wasn't shown in any of the Babe flashback sequences. Within about three minutes of sending that message, the first complaint thread appeared on the AMC message board here on soapcentral.com.
Next came grumbling that there weren't enough flashback scenes.... or enough Palmer and Brooke segments... or that there was too much Erica and Ryan.
Could it be that the trouble plaguing the soaps isn't ratings -- but the soap fans themselves? It's so rare anymore to read feedback from soap fans writing in to say that they actually enjoyed something. It's become commonplace to say that a storyline "sucks" or that a particular actor or actress is "ugly" or "can't act." Maybe soap fans can never truly be happy with anything.
Getting back on topic, let me answer the question that is probably foremost in your head at the moment: Do I think that the 40th anniversary was a Mary Poppins episode? You know, "practically perfect in every way." No, I don't. I think that there were definitely some things that could have been tweaked to make the show even better than it was.
The first time I watched the anniversary show, I really wasn't aware of the volume of flashback material that was used. Because most of those flashbacks had commentary running over them instead of the original audio, it was easy to miss the fact that the scene was actually from a "classic episode." Would I have liked to hear Erica scream when confronted by that "filthy" grizzly bear? Well, maybe I could have done without the scream -- but the original dialogue would have been fun to relive. Actually, for me it wouldn't have been reliving anything. That grizzly bear sequence aired long before I became a soap opera fan.
Part of me wonders how many other "me"s are out there, wanting to see old AMC episodes from before we were fans -- or even from before we were born. Soaps don't air reruns unless there's some sort of holiday pre-emption, and even then, those repeats are usually episodes that aired only a few months earlier. Soap fans need anniversary shows (or grainy, wobbly videos transferred from old VCR tapes to something like YouTube) to be able to take any kind of lengthy stroll down memory lane.
While it was nice to see current characters recall their past in the documentary, I think most AMC fans are smart enough to realize that some of the current roles have been recast. Would anyone have been outraged if the show had aired a scenes or photographs of Marcy Walker as Liza Colby or Alexa Havins as Babe? Or what about one of the dozens of other actors who've played Jake Martin? Because of the decision not to use those flashbacks, Scott pretty much was left with no purpose in the documentary except to be a big old sourpuss. C'mon! We saw a scene with a different actor playing a young Tad and we all somehow managed to survive.
It was also interesting which long-gone characters the show chose to feature. Gillian Andrassy, for example. I'd love to see Gillian written back in, but the character is dead -- and has rarely even been mentioned since her death. Dixie Martin was also featured rather prominently. In fact, Tad even remarked that Dixie might not really be dead. Is that some sort of preview for viewers? The decision to show Noah Keefer and Julia Santos in the wedding montage also came as a surprise to me.
This is just a random interjection that doesn't really go with the flow of the column, but until Maria's breakdown, I had completely forgotten that Julia had died. I'm not sure why that was stripped from my memory, since the episode in which Julia was shot featured Jesse's "big leap" and Dixie's ghostly return. Speaking of Maria, Eva LaRue has earned huge points in my book. I loved her when she was on All My Children, but I was really touched by her wanting to be a part of the anniversary show. She was originally told that she could be -- but only after begging to be included -- only to be told later that her character couldn't be written into the script. LaRue has moved on to primetime, and many former daytime stars don't even like to talk about the fact that they were once on a soap. So the fact that she fought to be a part of the anniversary show makes her A-okay in my book.
Here's another random blurb from my stream of consciousness: How was it that Hayley managed to film Zach and Kendall when the pair supposedly left town before Hayley arrived back in Pine Valley?
I found Adam's attempts to name his many brides in chronological order absolutely hilarious. We also got to see photographs of people we haven't seen in years, like Gloria Marsh and Natalie Hunter. Erica, of course, had no difficulty naming her many grooms. Show off!
Rather than offering reflection on 40 years of memories, some of the characters offered monologue that only served to set up their current or future stories. Need an example? How about Erica and Ryan discussing their potential romance? I'd rather have seen more of Erica and Mona. Tad and Liza also teased a possible (renewed) relationship, but it would have been nice to see some of the old Tad and Liza scenes from the 1980s and 1990s. The Tad-Marian-Liza love triangle is still one of the most-talked-about plots, but it was absent from Tad's scenes. Brot and Natalie, both of whom have little Pine Valley history to discuss, were also featured with foreshadowing of a future relationship. It was a nice touch to show JR Martinez's personal photographs from his childhood. Brot is a new character, so having Martinez's real-life photos offered credibility to Brot's "memories."
Was there anyone who wasn't shown that I would have liked to have seen? Sure! Dimitri Marick, Janet Green, Skye Chandler... and many others. I would really have liked to have seen flashbacks to David dealing with the death of Leora, not just Babe's death and his chattering on about why the people of Pine Valley need him. Granted, I did chuckle as David made himself out to be the only person who makes the residents of Pine Valley strive for greatness.
One Two Scoops reader wrote in to ask why ABC executives didn't extend the anniversary celebration. Noting that AMC doesn't exactly have a slew of gripping storylines at the moment, perhaps several episodes could have been devoted to commemorating the special milestone. This is, after all, the same show that stretched a dance marathon out over two weeks' worth of episodes just to save money.
Meanwhile, I spoke to some of my offline friends (those are people I've actually seen in person), who used to watch All My Children and tuned in to the anniversary episode at my behest. Oddly, every one of these lapsed viewers thought that the anniversary episode was clever, entertaining, and like a long-overdue visit from a good friend.
What did you think of the anniversary episode? Did you enjoy it? What was one thing that you would have liked to have seen added? I want to hear about it, so please click here to send me an email with your thoughts!
For as much as I thought AMC succeeded in putting together a great anniversary show, I couldn't help but feel that the documentary concept would have worked better as a final episode for a series. But I don't even want to think about that.