In the age of millions and billions, 250 doesn't sound like such a big number. But that's roughly how many episodes a soap opera puts out each year. It's hard for every episode to be a knock-it-out-of-the-park presentation, but every once in a while an episode comes along that reminds you why you watch and love the soaps.
For me, Tuesday's episode was that episode. There was humor, heartfelt discussion, and history. It was a winner clear across the board. Again, one show does not a series make, but a single episode can reveal promise -- and remind us what All My Children can be.
You can tell that the show is now being written by someone who not only cares, but knows their stuff. I was particularly tickled by the conversation between Opal and Liza. Opal was laying into Liza for all of her old trickery (there was even a nice nod to history with mention of Jenny Gardner) when Liza assured Opal that she was no longer the same person that she'd been all those years ago. The joke, of course, being that a different actress was playing Liza back then.
The scenes between Tad and Damon in the hospital were also very well done. For newer viewers, Tad's stroll down memory lane offered a snapshot of his character. There may be some folks watching AMC who aren't aware of the evil Ray Gardner and how he tormented Tad. As someone who has watched AMC for about 20 years now, I know Tad's backstory, though I wasn't yet a viewer when it all unfolded on-screen the first time.
Handling all that history is a tough thing to do. It must be tempting to be heavy-handed with the "this is who I am, and that is who I was" story material. With viewers (and Tad) suspecting that Damon might very well be a Martin, Tad's talk served two purposes. It was the aforementioned refresher for viewers, but it also moved story ahead by being a father/son talk. Also important was a throwaway reference to a fling that Tad and Hillary had off-screen. Exactly when it was, I'm not sure -- and I'd like to know how it fits into the timeline of the show to know if Tad was cheating on someone. But that's neither here nor there.
Again, to make sure that the scene wasn't too serious, Tad made a joke about his "Yoda-like wisdom" running off on Damon. Damon replied, "Aye, aye, captain." Tad shook his head and stated that Damon's remark was Star Trek, not Star Wars. That was preceded earlier in the episode by a humorous chat session between Tad and Krystal, in which Tad tried to explain to her "how" it was possible that he could be Damon's father. "Usually when a man and woman like one another, they do this really fun [thing]..."
Two curious bits for you, though: First, why hasn't Tad made a to-do about the fact that he has a grandchild in little Stuart? Second, why do the writers always seem to make the off-screen parent a horrible monster? Remember when Danielle Frye returned and said that Mimi Reed was an evil, neglectful mother?
Often it seems that soaps either try too hard to be funny -- or they overdo the gloom and doom.
Too often when we see television portrayals of parent-child relationships at hospitals, the parent is shown as an unsympathetic hard-butt who has little emotional connection with their kid. Think: Grey's Anatomy. I don't know that AMC has the most realistic hospital depictions on TV, but I can tell you that I believed that Angie was over the moon about Frankie pulling off a successful surgery. Not only did it mean that she probably wouldn't have to fire her son, but I believe that it accurately showed the type of parent that Angie really is. She cares.
Even Madison and Randi have been given extra layers. Madison, who admittedly was "redeemed" way too conveniently in order to keep the character around, suddenly has a conflict of conscience. Who knew she had a conscience?! Now she is forced to choose between Erica, the woman who saved her from an abusive father, and Greenlee, the woman who reminds her of the good old days of boarding school and cotillions.
Another great thing that Lorraine Broderick has done as head writer is to bring characters together that may not have previously shared on-screen time. I am sure that Greenlee and Adam crossed paths in previous story, but I can't really remember it. We know that Greenlee has had story with Ryan (of course), the Fusion girls, Erica, parents Jack and Mary, and siblings Reggie and Lily, but there is a whole other side of town with whom she's had little interaction. I loved seeing Greenlee making herself at home in the recently revamped Chandler parlor. It is true what they say: David Canary has on-screen chemistry with everyone.
Speaking of David Canary, the tense scenes in which Adam served up breakfast to David were a hit. First, who knew that Adam is able to cook?! Secondly, the scenes were wrought with tension. David remarked that his eggs had a little "spice" to them. Adam coldly replied, "Made 'em just for you. Made 'em myself." Then the dramatic background music kicked in and you just knew that something bad was going to happen. It took David a few beats for David to figure out what was going on, so Adam offered the memorable line," I may have pulled the trigger that killed my brother, but you're the one who put the gun in my hand." The music got louder and David froze in place, scramble eggs dangling from his fork.
By week's end, the slow build unfolded -- and it was great timing since some CBS viewers were flipping to other soaps because their shows had been bounced by basketball coverage. Damon spiraled further into trouble, David ratted out Scott and Annie, and Annie dropped a bombshell to JR. See, it doesn't have to be Sweeps to be entertaining television. It just takes someone to give the show a little nurturing. If things are taken one day at a time, fans are more than likely to be pleased.