If I didn't love All My Children, I probably wouldn't be writing a weekly commentary about the show. I think that in order to offer a critique you have to care... otherwise it would be easy to just pack it in and move on to something else. Let there be no doubt: All My Children is one of my favorite programs on television. It's just that lately, the show seems to be stuck in that patch of oatmeal quicksand that nearly gobbled up Brooke and Edmund back in the 1990s.
Reading your emails over the past few weeks, it's become painfully clear to me that a lot of you don't like the direction of All My Children right now either. In the past seven days, the bulk of the complaints have been about Thorsten Kaye's impending departure from the show and the "death" of Zach Slater. Another sizeable chunk of the mail came from viewers who are unhappy with the Greenlee and Ryan storyline. Ditto to my question about whether or not David is really dead. There were also complaints about everything from wardrobe -- "What is up with all the brown clothing? Have they never heard of the color wheel?" asked a reader named Liz -- to grumbles about characters that haven't even debuted yet -- "I am already tired of the oversaturation of Griffin Castillo. He seems like a cartoon to me," offered C.J. A few of you even wrote in to say that you are convinced that the executives at AMC are trying to get the show canceled.
I don't profess to be a soap opera storywriter. I only know the general gist of how a story gets from someone's head to our television screens. I don't envision that it's an easy process, but I also can't imagine that it's like splitting atoms either. If anyone at ABC or All My Children is reading this, consider this an offer to either come aboard and offer some storyline ideas or, if you don't like the ideas that rattle around in my head, I'd love to do a special news story that chronicles several months in the life of a soap writer. It would follow the story through the creation process. I think it would be a fascinating read for any soap fan.
Now that I have apparently pimped myself out for another job, let's get on to the part of the column that you guys are here for. I scribble little comments on a notepad during the week when something of note hits the screen. There weren't a whole lot last week, but here goes.
I thought the scenes in which Erica and Jack sparred after Erica loaned her plane to Greenlee were really well done. It was a good situation of "damned if you do, damned if you don't." Of course it was wrong for Erica to aid Greenlee's bail-jumping. On the other side of the coin, I can definitely understand how Erica might think that she was doing the right thing. If Greenlee were to find Nick Pearson and return to town with proof of her innocence, the world would be sunshine and lollipops.
Aside from the fact that I like those "tough choice" storylines, I was also blown away by Walt Willey's performance. After Jack was done expressing his, um, disappointment with Erica, he plopped down on the sofa. Jackson looked beat. In that moment, I truly believe that Walt Willey had just spent days fighting for the life of his loved one. He looked physically and emotionally drained. So while I objected to the on-screen courtroom nonsense, at least the aftermath pulled me in.
One of the biggest unanswered questions seems to revolve around the late Sonia Reyes. If you recall back when JR needed a bone marrow donor, Adam told Tad to find a woman named Sonia Reyes because he had fathered a child with her, Miguel. All My Children's writers have to know that soap fans never forget anything -- and it's not like this mention of Sonia was made eons ago.
There are two possible explanations. The first -- the one that pains me to even type -- is that the writers forgot about that previous mention. After all, it wasn't their story. David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski were either still working on Guiding Light at the time or they had just wrapped things up over there.
The second explanation is that there is a gargantuan twist coming up before the end of Sweeps that will floor every single viewer. So let me offer my opinion. We don't know a whole lot about Caleb. Sure, he's Palmer's nephew... but that's about it. Oh yeah. We also know that he is Asher's dad. So did Sonia get around and sleep with both a Cortlandt and a Chandler? I don't think so. I have a sneaking suspicion that Asher is actually Miguel. How is that possible, since the DNA test Caleb sneakily ordered proved that Asher was his biological son?
Maybe, just maybe, somewhere in the convoluted Pine Valley family trees, Asher is somehow a Chandler and a Cortlandt. I did some research over in our Who's Who in Pine Valley character profiles section and there doesn't appear to be a character that already exists in AMC history that could be Caleb's dad and be that link. As far as we know, Palmer has only one sibling... Bess Cooney, who passed away a long time ago. Could Sonia Reyes be a Chandler that we never knew about? I suppose that is very much a possibility, but why then would Adam claim that he had an affair with Sonia? Or maybe Caleb himself is a Chandler/Cortlandt -- a Chanlandt, if you will. (There has to be a better hybrid name for the families.)
So, you can see that I haven't worked out all of the details -- but it's a start. Hopefully you don't absolutely hate the idea. The goal here is to shake things up and really create some interesting story. Caleb hates the Chandlers, so nothing would be more shocking and appalling than for him to find out that he, too, has the enemy's blood coursing through his veins.
While I am still talking about Asher, how great were the Opal and Asher scenes? Sure, they got a little creepy at times when Opal kept cackling for Asher to stare longingly at Palmer's portrait. However, those scenes showed the tender side of Opal -- that side that the writers seem to neglect. When AMC moved to Los Angeles, the network quickly made sure that Jill Larson didn't defect to another soap by offering her a long-term contract. And they've used her for what exactly? Fans may be tickled by the reading of the tea leaves and the tarot card dealing, but they want to see the homespun wisdom that Opal weaves.
Another scene that I really liked involved the Slater family. There were some really tender moments involving Zach, Kendall, and Spike. I don't think knowing that Thorsten Kaye is on his way out clouded my judgment of the scenes -- because you guys know by now that I dislike cutesy kid actors. The scenes were "real." Parents sit around and encourage their kids. There is discussion about school plays. Partners/spouses do goof around with each other. If you ask me, this is the "reality" that folks want to see on television.
Just a very random observation, but someone in the editing department had a little too much caffeine. In the Thursday episode, there was a random "radar swipe" transition during some of the Ryan and Greenlee scenes. I TiVoed it back because I was like, "Who is playing around at the control panels?" Someone behind-the-scenes must have gotten a new toy.
I'm about to have this week's hypocritical moment. As you know, I don't really have an opinion about the Ryan and Greenlee pairing. I don't dislike it, but I don't really like it either. I think what I disprove of the most is the way that it's played out. That said, something happened last week that really excited me about the story -- even if it was short-lived. I liked that AMC used some flashbacks of Ryan and Greenlee's previous attempts at having a relationship. When you have decades and decades of history, using flashbacks properly is a great way to make something more powerful for the viewers. It gives a sense of connection and nostalgia.
If you are going to try to convey to viewers that a particular couple is the best pairing ever to be put together, you need to do something more than simply force-feed it to the viewers. Another word of advice: not every partner is someone's "true love." Ryan and Gillian. Greenlee and Leo. Ryan and Greenlee. There's nothing wrong with admitting that a previous romance was a character's biggest and best.
And with that, I am ending this week's column -- which was my best column ever! Next week, I will be back with another column that's going to be my best ever! See? It's kind of silly to do that. If you put out good quality stuff, you don't have to tell people that your stuff is good. They'll know that it is.