I'm back to deliver another special Two Scoops column. Suellen was originally scheduled to write this week's column, but she has been sidelined because she is now a proud new grandmother -- albeit it a little earlier than she had expected. In sort of an odd twist of fate, I am writing this column on the week that marks the 10th anniversary of The AMC Pages, the web site I first started back on March 23, 1995 to share my love of All My Children with an unknown internet audience. While I won't make the claim that I invented the Internet -- The AMC Pages debuted when much of the world still hadn't even heard of the World Wide Web. During the first few months that the site was online, a whopping 50 people checked in every other week or so. I was overjoyed and soon found that there were many other folks out there with a love of daytime dramas -- the soap opera. Now here we are a decade later. The site has grown to include eight other current soaps and a handful of soaps that are no longer in production. The number of soap fans that visit the site has exploded from about 50 per week to several hundred thousand per week. I'm also very pleased to say that many of those 50-some folks that visited The AMC Pages back in 1995 are still loyal visitors today.
I don't want this entire column to be a trip down memory lane. One, it really might bore the hell out of a lot of people. However, there does need to be some addressing of this really impressive milestone for reasons that will be explained throughout this column.
One of the major storylines at the moment is the hunt for Braden Lavery. Braden wasn't exactly the world's most fascinating character during his initial AMC run. In fact, he is a pretty tiny blip on the radar. However, the thought that Braden may have returned to off his brother, Ryan, and sister-in-law, Greenlee, has proved pretty interesting. There is talk that Braden isn't really returning at all. ABC has not released the name of the actor playing the role of Braden and some savvy and creative fans have come up with the idea that Jonathan is really Braden -- or at least that he thinks he's Braden. Would giving Jonathan a split personality provide an interesting twist to this storyline? I think it might. Honestly, Jonathan doesn't really hold my interest, but that doesn't mean that I'm all for showing the character the door.
While on the subject of Internet rumors, I have to share something that I read on our AMC message board. Someone claiming to be in-the-know said that Diana Cole (Krystal's jail mate) is actually -- no, not Dixie! -- Ted Orsini after sex reassignment surgery. As you may recall, Ted Orsini is a Tad Martin look-alike that holds a grudge against Tad. According to this far-fetched plot, Ted became a woman to find a way into Tad's life and after, um, being intimate with Tad, Diana will reveal that she used to be a man. Gosh, I hope you were able to follow that. I have to admit that I was cracking up when I read the post. But then I stopped. Yes, the storyline is pretty over the top, but it is so crazy that it just might work. If nothing else, EVERYONE would be talking about that storyline.
The big news of the past week is the mystery surrounding the death of Edmund Grey. The rumors of John Callahan's impending AMC exit circulated for about a year before his exit was actually a done deal. Maybe it's this lengthy prelude to the exit that has made the farewell slightly anticlimactic. If the inside sources that I talked to are correct, Callahan was cut mainly because his high salary was no longer feasible in this belt-tightening budget woes of daytime television. Reportedly, two to three newcomers could be hired for a total of less than what ABC was paying Callahan per year.
I'm not necessarily upset that Edmund was killed off, but I am disappointed in the way that it was done. Many fans have been asking "Where is Dimitri?" It is a huge disservice to AMC viewers to not have Edmund's brother at his funeral. There are some very reasons why Dimitri might not be seen on-screen, not that that makes it any better. Michael Nader (ex-Dimitri) filed suit against ABC a few years back for firing him. At the time, Nader was having personal problems with drugs but he was under the impression that if he received treatment he could return to work. Without getting into any sort of legal mumbo-jumbo, I am thinking that Nader was not asked to reprise the role because of some still-bad blood. However, it is also entirely possible that Michael Nader was unavailable to return or that he declined to return. No one would comment on the record. It would not have done anyone any good to recast the role of Dimitri for a single episode. Fans would have been furious -- or confused. While on the subject of who should have been at the funeral, I must say that I still very much miss Socorro Santiago as Isabella Santos. Ms. Santiago, in my opinion, was an extremely underappreciated member of the AMC cast. Also missing is Edmund's favorite housekeeper, Peggy Moody (played by Anne Meara). Mateo and Hayley were no-shows, but at least they called Maria to explain why they couldn't be in Pine Valley. I really would like to think that Hayley and Mateo could have been easily written into the show for at least one day -- budget crunch or not.
While I was never a big fan of the character of Edmund Grey, there was something that Edmund offered that many of the characters on the show's canvas don't currently offer: a link to the past. When I started watching All My Children about 15 years or so ago, only a handful of characters that are on the show now were on the show then. There was Erica, Jackson, Adam and Stuart, Joe, Brooke... and that's about it. I don't count Tad because at the time Michael E. Knight was actually on break from the show. I think that it is very important to infuse new characters into the show -- the show wouldn't progress if there were not any new characters. However, having too many new characters just doesn't do justice to a show with 35 years of history. In covering all nine soaps for the Soap Opera Central web site, it seems to me that the CBS soaps have a better grasp of what it means to mine the show's history. Guiding Light, for example, has been on the air forever (Okay, just short of 53 years) and under the show's recently appointed head writer (Emmy winner Ellen Wheeler, formerly AMC's Cindy Parker Chandler) the past year or so has been about revisiting the show's past. Characters from the past have been brought back. These characters are not just passing fancies or characters with cursory presences that aired for a few months in the 1990s; these are major characters. More importantly, these already-established characters have ties to veteran performers that are already on the show and have been on the show for, in many cases, several decades.
This is again where I have to strongly -- very strongly -- dispute the notion that network executives seems to have about needing hot, young twentysomethings on the screen 90% of the time in order to draw in a bigger audience. Do younger viewers want to see characters their own age? Absolutely. Are younger viewers the key demographic that advertisers want to shill their wares and services to? Yes. However, in the 10 years that I have been maintaining the Soap Opera Central web site, I have found expansive evidence that these same twenty-something viewers want to see veteran characters and characters that are over the ripe old age of 30. As an aside, I turned 30 earlier this month and I've honestly never felt more alive -- there is so much more that I am enjoying about life now that I wasn't even aware of at 20. Should I be put out to pasture now that I have a digit higher than two starting off my age? I would like to think otherwise. But according to network executives -- particularly ABC Daytime President Brian Frons -- I am well past my prime, uninteresting and not a truly valued soap opera viewer. If this is not the way Mr. Frons feels, it certainly seems that way from the outside looking in. Yet here I am devoting hours upon hours of my day to promote the shows that I love with little thanks from the network. In fact, whereas the publicists for NBC's Days of our Lives and Passions, and Procter & Gamble Productions' As the World Turns and Guiding Light would do anything in their power to provide access to stars of interviews or to provide statements and photographs, the folks at ABC pretty much shun anyone associated with the Internet and they would prefer that the Internet not exist. The network holds a misguided notion that the Internet's sole goal is to wipe out the soaps.
If I didn't truly, sincerely love the daytime drama genre, this site would not exist. It would not have existed for the past 10 years. Like anyone who visits this web site, I am foremost a fan of the soaps. Like with our parents, children or friends, we may occasionally feel let down or disappointed by our soaps. For many people, watching the soaps has been a part of their lives for years. To invest an hour a day... five hours a week... 1200 hours a year... to anything is a huge commitment -- a commitment that should be celebrated with something more than a yearly gathering at Disney World or a weeklong series of so-called special episodes. Celebrate all that is soap opera and all that has gotten soaps to where they are 35 years later. Don't be afraid to embrace the new generation of soap fans, even if they are 20-something Internet savvy fans. Don't feel that the same storylines need to be recycled over and over just because they worked ten years ago... and 20 years ago... and so on. The possibilities are limitless, but refusing to acknowledge that there is a problem won't make it go away. Slightly a huge segment of the soap-viewing audience because they are no longer "the big fish" isn't the way to expand your business.
I apologize if much of this column seemed like a rant. The column only partly expressed my frustration -- the part on which I discussed the network's resentment of new technology. The rest was actually the result of collecting hundreds and hundreds of pieces of email from soap fans wandering why they should continue to invest in soaps that they feel no longer care about them. Please know that for the past ten years the purpose of this site was to be a fan-friendly place -- a place to celebrate soap operas. I have no plans to change that any time soon and hope that all of you will continue to visit the site, share your views and also proclaim proudly your love of the soaps.
PS: Before leaving -- here is a "homework assigment" for you. As I mentioned, other shows have been reaching back into their past -- in some cases over 20 years -- to bring back relevant characters that have ties to current characters and stories. If you could bring back someone from the past (not just because you like the character -- that's not what I am looking for here) in order to create new stories while still honoring AMC's past, who would you have return and why? To share your thoughts, please click here to visit a very special discussion thread on our message board where you can share your thoughts and ideas with me and other AMC fans.
Dan J Kroll