Psst! Yeah, you. Slide a little closer to your monitor. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Ready? I see dead people! Please don't tell anyone because they will think that I've lost my mind.
The roof at Oak Haven wasn't the only thing on fire last week -- the entire show was red hot. The writing was spectacular, the editing was well done, even the musical scoring was great. What I've liked about the recent storytelling is that it very much reminds me of what I consider the "heyday" of the mid-to-late-1990s, yet there has been very much of a 2011-in-the-now element to the show as well.
For example, the same characters are not being featured day after day after day. We've been getting little breaks in the action. Now, a storyline may be featured Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and other stories will be featured on Tuesday and Thursday. It's a great way to keep the audience's interest -- and it's not like it takes any special skill or stunt to make it happen. As much as I love (fill in the blank with a name of your choosing), I don't want to see him/her/them on-screen every day. I also like that viewers have been required to make up their own visuals. We didn't see Oak Haven burning down -- and I don't know that we needed a chintzy, quick flash of a room being filled with fake smoke.
It's my job to analyze what's taking place in Pine Valley here in this column, but first and foremost I am a fan of the show. After I've written this column for the past squillion years, you'll know that I have no problem talking about the things that I think are not working on the show. Lately, though, I think everything has been falling into place.
Nothing represents that more to me than the final segment of Thursday, August 4's episode and the entire Friday, August 5 episode. This was All My Children at its best. As I mentioned last week, I don't know if ABC is allowing Lorraine Broderick and Julie Hanan Carruthers to do what they want without interference or if there is something else in play, but I haven't wanted to miss a single second of AMC over the past few weeks. Between you and me, there's nothing worse than reaching for the remote to skip through a commercial break and realizing that you're watching the show live and can't! Ack!
So let me get into what made the Thursday and Friday shows so magical. Typically, viewers will roll their eyes at musical montages at the end of a show. I thought Thursday's show made up for that. It was crafted in a way that was very primetimey, if that's a word. The music's introduction ("If You Only" by Deborah Ellen) started softly and then swelled at just the right time. Let's not forget that it kicked off with Janet telling Erica that they needed to escape from Oak Haven. After producing the guard's car keys, Janet quipped, "I put my hand in his pocket, and he thought I was getting fresh."
I also thought it was ingenious to have Thursday's and Friday's show end exactly the same way... well, with one or two big differences. I am going to get a bit out of sequence here, but having Greenlee see Leo and then, in the following episode, to have her see Zach in the exact same spot. Oooh, great stuff. I wish I could have had a big viewing party for that episode to hear what people were saying when they were talking to the TV screen. How many thought that Greenlee would see a very dead Leo? Or maybe a totally different, unknown person?
Josh Duhamel has said in a few recent interviews that he was "nervous" about returning to All My Children. Why would the star of a billion-dollar movie franchise have the jitters over stepping back into a role that won him an Emmy? According to Josh, he said that he worried that he and Rebecca Budig (Greenlee) might not be able to recreate the on-screen chemistry that they'd had. From the moment Leo's eyes fluttered opened and he mumbled the word "Greens," there was no question that the chemistry was there. I loved the banter about Greenlee's haircut and the "one or two" that didn't quite work. And the flashbacks... don't get me started on the flashbacks!
What I also liked about Friday's episode was the "eat crow" factor involved. There have been a lot of people who've griped about all the back-from-the-dead people that are being resurrected for AMC's finale. Friday's show seemed to prove that not everyone will be alive after all! Truthfully, I am expecting there to be another twist -- but for the moment, I hope that some of the vocal critics will just sit back and enjoy the show.
Back to the escape from Oak Haven saga: How great is it to see Erica and Janet teamed up again? When they teamed up before -- with Skye Chandler -- to "bury" Jonathan Kinder, they were the unlikeliest of allies. Now, they are back at it again... a match made in soap heaven.
When Erica denied the assertions that she had burned down Oak Haven, I loved Bianca's sassy little reply. "It wasn't... Jane?" Bianca asked, obviously questioning her mother's sanity. Then, after Janet appeared and revealed that she'd been the firebug, there were more zingers.
To help defend the plausibility of Erica's look-alike abductor, Janet offered this gem. "In 1991 -- or was it, well, maybe 1992? -- My sister, Natalie... I relocated her to a well and I presented myself to Trevor as his blushing bride," Janet gushed. When Kendall tried to poo-poo Janet's victory lap by noting that Janet had been caught and placed in jail, Janet quickly noted, "Excuse me?! Who was my cellmate? Did you forget that part?"
No, Janet, we didn't. That's what makes everything so damn good. There are all of these overlapping stories, these... nods to history. In 1991, we may have thought that the Natalie-in-the-well saga played out a little too long, but somehow framed with Erica's kidnapping... it all seems totally believable. And even though neither Kate Collins nor Alicia Minshew were with the show at the time, it was nice to see someone acknowledge that Janet and Kendall also have a history.
Just as a quick aside, Kate Collins must have had a field day with the material she was given for this story. I've always loved Kate's work, so I may be a bit biased, but her timing and delivery are still spot-on, and I am so glad that she agreed to return to All My Children to help it say goodbye.
The other Oak Haven escapees also had great payoffs. Annie and Marian have now both been redeemed. Marian was carted off to Oak Haven like she was a serial killer. Let's call it what it was: the show wanted to ditch the character so that it didn't have to worry about coming up with storylines for a character over 30. Now, the show has revisited that, and allowed Marian to admit that she was grieving Stuart's death when she tried to shoot Kendall.
I was also very, very pleased with the way Annie's breakout was handled. Ryan didn't start his flapping and squawking and calling Annie a horrible person. Instead, Ryan and Annie had a well-thought-out discussion. Hell, it was heartfelt. All of the loose ends were tied up. Annie got to see her daughter, and Ryan was forced to admit why he hadn't taken Emma to see Annie at Oak Haven. The way this was written, neither of the characters were given excuses or allowed to "look good." I think Internet fans call it "propping." The slate is now clean for Annie to eventually return full-time to story without the need for it to be done via a "psycho" storyline. I don't know if Melissa Claire Egan would ever consider returning to AMC, but I hope she will. I miss seeing her wonderful work.
I'm also very excited that Sarah Michelle Gellar is set to return to the show in September. It's wonderful to know that AMC vets want to be a part of the show again, and to celebrate 41 years of broadcast excellence. Gellar is also an AMC fan, reportedly watching every day. To hear someone who has left daytime and found success elsewhere say that they are grateful for their daytime beginning is refreshing. And for the millions of daytime fans who are told that their soaps are a lesser form of entertainment or a dying genre, it's also vindication that our soaps still do matter.
I have to wonder if these high-profile returns might continue once All My Children starts broadcasting under the Prospect Park masthead. The entire post-cancellation saga has been far soapier than anything Dr. Hayward whipped up in his secret Orpheus laboratory. The 41-year-old soap was declared dead in April -- but it came back to life in July thanks to the licensing deal with Prospect Park. Now there is talk that Prospect Park has been chatting up the idea of airing AMC on cable.
Can you imagine All My Children airing on Lifetime or TNT? What if it aired in primetime? I know that I am getting ahead of myself here -- and that nothing has been set in stone -- but that doesn't mean that I can't do a little daydreaming. Shoot, all of us were fantasizing about someone stepping in to save All My Children after ABC canceled it. How many people back then said that no one would want to save a dying genre and to be quiet and let the show ride off into the sunset?
Is it wrong that I want to see AMC move to a cable channel and draw even more viewers than it did on ABC? Some of the cable channel drama series get three to five million viewers per episode. It's not the 20 million that American Idol gets, but it's still more than the number currently claimed by the Nielsen ratings.
At the end of the day, Disney/ABC isn't hurt in any way by any future AMC success might have. In fact, they have more of an incentive to want to see All My Children succeed. Since they've licensed the rights to All My Children, Disney/ABC gets paid and they don't have to do anything. It's win/win for them. Sure, they may look foolish for canceling a show that found success elsewhere Even if AMC tanks in its new format, Disney/ABC still gets paid.
I've been asked a lot over the past week if I plan to continue my Two Scoops column once All My Children moves to the Internet. I'm not going anywhere any time soon. I'd write a Two Scoops column for All My Children even if it required me to make finger puppets and put together the shows myself on YouTube. Hmm... that gives me an idea of how to follow up my recent video about cooking breakfast on the sidewalk. While I head to the craft store to find just the right yarn to use for Erica's hair, I hope you'll take some time out to drop me a line about this week's column -- or your thoughts in general about All My Children. I love reading from you. I'll be back next week with more Two Scoops.