And... we're back. Over the past three weeks, it's been a lot of fun to bring you some special columns. Of course there were the Best and Worst of 2010 columns, and then last week there was my "How to fix what's wrong with AMC" column.
Your responses to the "fix" column were overwhelming. I am humbled that so many of you feel that I should be writing -- or at least consulting -- for All My Children. I do want to reiterate that I have no illusions that my ideas are 100% foolproof. My goal was to start a conversation, and maybe to show what a little thoughtful research can do. Many of you even took time out of your week to share with me some of the ideas that you came up with, so that makes me think that I accomplished at least part of my goal.
All My Children is at the bottom of the ratings heap. For about six years or so, Passions was the lowest-rated soap on television. Then, Guiding Light had a year or two at the bottom of the pile. After that, it was As the World Turns' turn to bring up the rear. Those three soaps are now no longer on the air. I'm not trying to yell fire in a crowded theater, but you don't need an abacus to do the math.
There have been some really nice moments over the past few weeks that I've been away writing these special columns. So I'd like to get caught up on those and to offer my any-occasion commentary.
I have no shame in admitting that I love watching talented actresses pull off the "crazy soap chick" storyline. In its time, All My Children has had some amazingly talented actresses pull off some great story. In just the past 20 years we've had Susan Willis (Helga Voynitzeva), Kate Collins and Robin Mattson (Janet Green), and Colleen Dion (Leslie Coulson). I'm officially adding Melissa Claire Egan (Annie Chandler) to that list.
Melissa was great as Crazy Annie back when she was clobbered and stabbed people, but after a while it got a little... stale. It seemed that writers at the time had nothing else to work with. Annie was redeemedish for a while, but her underlying abandonment issues remained. She was with Adam, then JR, then Scott, then JR... I think that was the correct order. Now there's a new Marissa in the picture, and Annie is fearful that her place in JR's life will be usurped by the (not-quite) former Mrs. Chandler.
I've read a lot of messages that bemoan AMC's decision to make Annie unstable again, but there's something about Egan's performance that is just magical. I can't be the only one that laughed when Annie accidentally clunked Marissa with the door and then gasped, "Oh, my God! I killed her!"
Of course the danger with having a crazy person on your show is figuring out what to do with them after the craziness has served its purpose. I don't think that's an issue because there is still seemingly a lot of untapped story with Annie.
It looks like Amanda is going to pull herself back from the brink of lunacy. She has to know that calling various agencies and hospitals and pretending to be "Carolyn Finn" is not going to work. Heck, I've had to give my social security number, mother's maiden name, and former street address and have still had people not believe that I was me.
I just find it so odd that none of the writers' intended romantic foils are working the way they planned them. I'm enjoying Lindsay Hartley -- and she is certainly a very beautiful woman -- but I don't really care if she has a thing for Jake. I enjoy Cara and Tad's interaction much more. I don't see romantic interest just yet... but there doesn't have to be. Not everyone has love at first sight. I think Hartley has a nice, fun, comedic side, and we all know that Michael E. Knight's Tad has a legendary shtick.
The same applies to Griffin Castillo. Kendall and Griffin? Just not seeing it. I have to say that it is certainly convenient that Kendall will fall for a cardiologist. Why couldn't Griffin be a gynecologist or a dentist or taxidermist -- or any other -ist that doesn't work on hearts? If the show needed Kendall to fall for a heart doctor, I'd even accept Kendall with David. Let Greenlee and Kendall carry on the "leftovers" feud that Erica and Brooke had through the years. Heck, Kendall and Greenlee pretty much have already bedded the same men.
For months, the writers have been crafting this intricate choreography between Brot and Natalia. It would seem that the story wasn't able to progress as quickly as show execs might have wanted because of actress Shannon Kane's extracurricular activities on the silver screen. Now that Shannon is leaving All My Children next month, I have to wonder what's ahead. This has been a really nice love story. It wasn't rushed (of course, that might not have been the way the writers wanted it to be), and it featured the real world problems that real world people have. That doesn't happen much on soaps. No one ever dumps someone because they have a kid that they didn't 'fess up about -- in most cases the kids pop up and no one knew about them. No one ever falls in love with someone and then learns that they're married -- on soaps, people know full well that they're bedding a married man or woman.
Remind me later this year to get a note from Rebecca Budig that asks that I be let out of jail early. You know, should I ever get locked up for something. Apparently, that's all it takes -- just ask Scott and his cranky new attitude. I'd imagine that jail changes you. For you closet comedians out there, feel free to write your own jokes. Done? Okay. And what kind of jail was Scott in that he could sneak around willy-nilly and text people in that perfectly pressed orange jailhouse uniform.
I know how recasts work. A character goes away for a little while and then comes back with a new face and a new attitude. A lot of fans didn't like the wimpy Scott that we've seen for the past year, but I'm not sure that I like the cunning, crafty Chandler that Scott has become. Is Pine Valley really that hard up for a badass to take Adam's place?
Greenlee is helping Scott get out of jail so that Scott can help get Madison out of Ryan's life. Call me Miss Cleo, but I see Scott developing genuine feelings for Madison -- and then she'll find out that he was just using her. Ryan will find out that Madison's baby is his... at about the same time that he learns that Greenlee wanted to keep that truth from him. Then, just as Ryan and Madison are about to get married, Gillian will return from the dead to announce that she, too, has a child with Ryan. We'll learn later that the baby is actually Leo's because he and Gillian were shacking up whilst they were pretending to be dead. I made that last part up. And the part before the last part.
It was, though, a nice touch to show the old scenes between Daniel Cosgrove and David Canary in that little memory montage about Stuart. That's why it is so important to keep actors around and not recast every five minutes. You miss out on being able to show these flashbacks.
I watch the opening credits and see all these faces... but when I watch the actual show, I feel like there are really only four or five characters on the show. It's weird.
We're going to lose another when Finn Wittrock exits the show. Longtime readers know that I've been critical of the character of Damon. He didn't seem to quite fit. Then when he finally did seem to find a place in story... Wittrock is out -- but not before blasting the ball out of the park.
I thought the Liza and Damon impromptu sex romp was one of the recent highlights on All My Children. Okay, so I recently went on a mini-tirade about soap opera staples. You know, those things that soaps do just because they're soaps. This was different, though.
There were so many layers to play off of. First, there was obvious chemistry between Jamie Luner and Finn Wittrock. A lot of viewers thought that Damon and Liza would hook up for quite some time. Then there was the backstory of Liza and her mother both having slept with Tad -- Damon's dad. Why am I telling you this? You know this! If there was not a history between Tad, Liza, and Marian, I don't think that this plot twist would have worked.
Finally, let's get to the rumor. There are reports that ABC has reached out to Megan McTavish about returning as head writer. Oh, Scoopies, I have such mixed emotions about that. If you take out this most recent run as head writer -- you know, when she killed Dixie, had Bianca raped and impregnated, and unaborted Josh Madden -- she was pretty good in her previous runs. She certainly knows her AMC history, so that's a plus. My other concern is that constantly uprooting writings teams cannot be good for storytelling. There is that period of transition that always comes when writers are swapped out. The last thing we need now is for things to get sluggish because of a writing change.
I'm curious what you think. Do you think AMC needs a new writing team? Should David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski be given more time? Is there someone else out there that should write for AMC? Do you even care? Send me your thoughts when you get a chance by clicking the email link below. If you're not adventurous and don't want to scroll down, click here to do it.