There are probably a dozen different pearls of wisdom that ask how something so good can be so bad. In a strange way, that's how I feel about All My Children's performance over the past twelve months. There were things that were bad -- that were good for story purposes.
ABC decided in 2009 that production of All My Children would move to Los Angeles from New York, where AMC had been produced for 40 years. The move, it was said, would allow All My Children to cut its operating costs and thereby remain on the air. And what AMC fan doesn't want to see the show continue for another four decades?
Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
As a result of the big westward move, All My Children lost some of its biggest stars. Long-time AMC vets Ray MacDonnell (Joe Martin) and David Canary (Adam Chandler) opted to retire rather than relocate to Los Angeles with All My Children. Later in the year, AMC decided to write out Zach Slater because Thorsten Kaye had let it be known that he wasn't going to leave his New York-based family as he hopscotched back and forth between the Big Apple and Tinseltown.
Ray MacDonnell was an original AMC cast member. He's Joe Martin, for goodness sake. David Canary has won a squillion Daytime Emmys, so obviously the man can act. We'd already lost the loveable Stuart to a stupid murder mystery, and losing Adam (even though he's still very much alive) was like rubbing salt in a wound that still hadn't healed.
Whether you were a Zendall fan or not, there's no denying that Zach Slater served a purpose on All My Children. The show has always had a brooding man's man, a guy who saves damsels in distress, but is often difficult to be around. Dimitri Marick and the glory days of Wildwind come to mind. Thorsten Kaye's exit meant that there were really no big leading males left on the show -- or at least none that are used properly.
And of course there was the exit of fan favorite Michael E Knight (Tad Martin) from the show. What? Oh... he didn't? So if Tad is still part of the show, why hasn't he had a storyline of note in the past three years?
On top of the departures that could have been prevented, AMC was also hit by the untimely death of James Mitchell (Palmer Cortlandt). This was a man who gave his all to All My Children -- and even summoned the strength to ad-lib material during what turned out to be his final AMC appearance. Even though he hadn't been seen on-screen regularly, Mitchell's death left a hole in the AMC canvas that will never be filled.
That didn't stop AMC from trying. What did they replace these veteran performers with? Too many new faces. 2010 saw the influx of many new characters, characters that I think I can safely say most viewers don't care about. Some have been more successful than others, but let's face it: soap fans want to see characters that they know and love. Rather than trying to lure back veteran performers to reprise roles or recasting roles that were familiar to viewers, fans got stuck with a mountain man, the spawn of a mountain man, and two new doctors that gave AMC more physicians than General Hospital.
AMC's writers get points for introducing new blood into the Cortlandt family, a family that has been decimated in recent years. There are so many Cortlandts out there that it's amazing the writers haven't lured more back to the show. If the show wants to repeatedly mention Palmer in storyline, why haven't more of his relatives crawled out of the woodwork to fight for control of Cortlandt Electronics? At the very least, Pete Cortlandt should have found his way back to say goodbye to his father -- and to try to head his dad's company.
Caleb wasn't a total loss. His cantankerous nature has provided many laughs of the year, but he's no Palmer Cortlandt. He's no Zach Slater. And even though he lives at Wildwind, he's no Dimitri Marick. So it shouldn't be that surprising that introducing Caleb's long-lost son hasn't really worked out. There are oodles of actors out there with a pretty face and some chiseled abs, and while they may be fun to look at -- looks are just not enough.
Such is the case with Griffin Castillo. Who was it that said in a production meeting, "Hey! If we get this hot new actor to do some shirtless exercising, we can get fans to tune in every day!" It's almost as if someone thought that once viewers saw some partial nudity, they would keep watching -- because more skin could be revealed at any time.
Yes, Cara Castillo is a character that viewers met (briefly) a bunch of years ago, but she might as well be a totally new character. Then-Carolyn was on-screen for only a handful of days, and a different actress played the part back then. Fortunately, viewers seem to like Lindsay Hartley... so maybe they'll give the character a chance.
Cara wasn't the only recast. 2011 saw recasts galore. First, we lost all the kids. With the way kids are "rapidly aged" on the soaps, of course no family is going to uproot from the East Coast. It was jarring to suddenly see a new batch of little people parading around town. The biggest loss was probably Lucy Merriam, the little girl who had played Emma.
Christina Bennett Lind was introduced as the new Bianca after ABC was unable to reach an agreement to have Eden Riegel return to the show. Bianca's back... and she's had... zero story. Something happened between Bianca and Reese, but no one has any idea what that was. I don't dislike Lind at all -- in fact, I'd actually like to see her have some meaningful story to take part in.
As the year progressed, we had a new Scott and Marissa. It's never a good sign when characters have to say each other's names over and over in a scene so that viewers will know who the hell they're looking at. Viewers had mixed opinions about the previous Scott and Marissa, but I have to think that some of that dislike could be chalked up to sloppy storylines.
Since I opened the door to talk about storylines that didn't work, let's get right into that. I'll work my way up to the biggest flop of 2010.
I don't understand why Frankie and Randi are friends with Madison. Madison tried to put Randi in jail for murder -- a crime Randi didn't commit. Madison was pretty much responsible for Randi having a miscarriage. Now Randi is excited about Madison having a baby?!
I've so wanted to enjoy Angie's pregnancy and loss of vision storyline -- and I can't say that I haven't enjoyed parts of it. The writers, though, have somehow turned what was, at one point, a Sophie's Choice storyline into something that I no longer care about. Why not explore more of Angie's day-to-day struggles as someone who has lost their vision? Still, Debbi Morgan has turned in some amazing performances in spite of the floundering story.
Liza set out to seduce Damon, but he got the upper hand by taking some not-quite-smutty photos of her on his cell phone. They let bygones be bygones, and Liza hired Damon, a kid who had dropped out high school and suffered from ADHD, to be her worker bee. This was, of course, after she replaced his ADHD medication with some Tic-Tacs. He couldn't concentrate, but his breath sure was minty fresh!
I've already mentioned Caleb's introduction in the column. Erica's plane crash storyline, however, um, crashed and burned. There was no drama whatsoever. Why? Because just as fans were finding out that Erica would be involved in a plane crash, ABC was announcing that Michael Nouri would be the man who'd save Erica from the wreckage. Not that anyone expected Erica to be killed off -- but c'mon. There was no suspense involved.
David's surprise un-death was a highlight, but why bring the not-so-good doctor back from the grave only to snuff his flame yet again? Whose tribe spoke on that decision? Okay, David isn't dead, but he might as well be.
Then there is the Ryan and Greenlee reunion. I thought about writing a paragraph to the tune of the Paul Simon song "Mother and Child Reunion," but Paul Simon has never done me wrong -- and I see no reason to insult him by doing that. Ryan has pretty much become a jerk over the past decade. He constantly yells. He's way too serious. And he doesn't serve a purpose. Does he ever go to work? Did he revive incredibledreams.com and not tell anyone?
Then there's Greenlee. The writers did an ill-advised storyline that paired Greenlee up with the half-brother of the love of her life. That would be Leo. AMC fans know that -- but apparently no one at the network does. Somehow, though, Greenlee and David worked as a couple. Ryan and Madison sort of clicked as a couple. So what happened? Both couples were split up so that Ryan and Greenlee could get back together. Again. I don't get it. I mean, I've really tried.
I realize that it takes some time to gain traction and really work out stories that people care about. So far, though, David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski have failed to generate any stories that have captured viewers' attention. There have been moments -- like David's return from the dead -- but one or two moments out of 200-some episodes isn't such a good batting average. Unfortunately, sparkly new opening credits aren't going to make viewers forget that there's nothing going on on-screen that they care about.
So next week, I will offer up some of my ideas that I think would get All My Children viewers tuning back in to see what's happening in Pine Valley. Until then, I hope that the new year treats you and your loved ones kindly. Thanks so much for reading my Best and Worst of 2010 columns -- your support means so much to me.