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For the Week of August 8, 2005
When AMC decided to reintroduce an aged Amanda Dillon, I was intrigued.
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Hello all! I just wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, seeing as this is my first contribution to soapcentral.com's AMC Two Scoops column. I've been watching All My Kids since pre-K, and like many of you, I laugh and cry along with all of my favorites. I also know the singular pleasure of yelling at the TV when a character does something stupid or the powers-that-be script a less-than-stellar story. I hope you can identify (or even disagree!) with some of the things I have to say, and I hope I'll get to share my thoughts with you again. In any case, thanks for reading!
When AMC decided to reintroduce an aged Amanda Dillon, I was intrigued. After all, Amanda was a central figure in AMC storylines for years, and it's always interesting to see how the writers will play the history of a character who returns. My hopes were high - but the reality has been very disappointing, largely because the two people that connect her to the AMC canvas are nowhere to be found.
Since she's arrived in Pine Valley, Amanda has been little more than an oversexed, money-grubbing, pain-in-the-butt, used mostly as an accessory to the ongoing JR-Babe-Jamie feud. I understand that AMC needed to throw a wrench into the Jamie-Babe relationship, but why use an established character who we all used to love to do what any day player could accomplish? And why leave out the parents - the people who made us care who she was to begin with?
The writers have played the "Janet From Another Planet" card once in awhile. Amanda has alluded to her "crazy" mother on several occasions, and her recent arrhythmia-inducing OD came courtesy of Janet's medication. This week, Amanda even received a phone call from Janet, complete with a reference to "the mirror" (a nice nod to longtime fans).
Incidents like these go a long way to humanizing Amanda, giving us a reason to feel badly for her and understand why she might have made some of her more recent choices. Without these sympathetic elements, Amanda has come off as nothing more than a one-dimensional spoiled brat.
It makes no sense that Janet - who was basically obsessed with her daughter since she was conceived - and Trevor would ignore Amanda to the point that they wouldn't even call an old police buddy (Derek, anyone?) to keep an eye on their wayward daughter.
Where's Uncle Porkchop?
I can understand that Janet may be too far gone to follow her daughter to PV (although she never let her insanity get in the way of what she wanted before). But Amanda says that Trevor is too preoccupied to even notice that she's gone - that certainly doesn't sound like the Uncle Porkchop we knew and loved. Then again, I never thought Edmund would turn into a cruel, pretending-to-be-paralyzed revenge junkie - sometimes the writers throw you those character assassination curveballs...
Imagine the stories that could play out if Janet returned to the canvas. Picture the confrontation between Janet and the new Dixie: don't you think the crowbar killer would have a few choice words for the woman who once gaslighted her back into insanity, especially considering that Dixie herself has come off of her own plastic surgery/prison stint?
And what about Janet's other past relationships? What if an aged Petey returned from whatever attic he's been hiding in, only to get involved with Amanda? He's rich and powerful, which would be very appealing to the broke and desperate Amanda. I think Palmer and Opal would have a few words to say about their son dating Janet's daughter, given that Palmer's chicken shack rendezvous with "Jane Cox" contributed to the Cortlandts splitting up all those years ago.
Adding Trevor to the mix would help a lot too - and this might be the best time to do it. With Mimi, Derek and Danielle back on the frontburner, and the increased presence of Laurel's daughter Lily, there are plenty of connections open to Trevor. Imagine Derek, Jack and Trevor commiserating over their mutual daughter problems. Imagine Lily interacting her one-time stepfather - who married a woman who tried to kill her mother! And what conflicts would arise if Lily and Amanda were at odds, like if Amanda made a play for Sam?
At the very least, Amanda should have more interaction with old friends and foes of Janet, like she had with Dixie, and Palmer. (Her warning to Palmer about staying away from wells was great!) Instead, we're given Amanda in the skimpiest one-piece bathing suit in creation, posing for a suddenly brain-dead Aidan on the beach? We deserve better than that!
Is this the Right Time for Julia?
While the timing for a Janet/Trevor return is the best it's been in a while, I'm a little more skeptical about Julia Santos' comeback. Aside from her mother, Sam, and the soon-to-be-returning Anita, Julia has no ties to any current PV residents. Her older sister Maria has fled town with Maddie, Mateo is still in L.A. with Hayley, and her brother-in-law is dead. To boot, Julia appears to be returning - at least for the time being - without Noah. I understand that Sydney Penny was available and willing to return, but why bring Julia back when there's no family for her to connect with?
I'm all for bringing back fan faves, but part of the reason we love their returns so much is that we get to watch them interact with other characters we love all over again. Given the lack of Santoses on the current AMC canvas, it will be as though Julia has to start over. Don't get me wrong, there are some possibilities - not the least of which would be the return of Keith Hamilton Cobb's Noah. But let's just say that I'm not too optimistic.
That said, I'm hoping that Julia can make a place for herself in PV again. I like that the writers kept her character in the dark about all her family's recent problems - her return to a Santos-free Pine Valley makes more sense if she thought she had family waiting for her. And Sydney is definitely talented enough to reinvent Julia.
Besides, she doesn't have memory problems, or any desire to go run around the Bahamas with a bomb strapped to her ankle, so it's already better than Maria's return! (I just hope that they don't draw her into a triangle with Zach and Kendall - or worse, a quadrangle with Zach, Kendall and Ryan. Ugh! Leave Zendall alone!)
The recent reintroduction of Dixie is a good example of a perfectly timed return. Granted, she may not be the real deal - especially if Adam has anything to say about it. But whether or not she is a tried-and-true Cooney, the re-establishment of the Dixie character came at just the right moment.
All of her major connections were still there - JR, Tad, Adam, Jamie, Palmer - and the storyline cried out for a calming influence on JR. This week's scenes at the cabin were excellent and started to reveal the JR we knew before Babe wreaked havoc. But if Dixie had been brought back in between JR recasts, it wouldn't have had anywhere near the impact.
Character returns are tricky. If the timing is off, writers run the risk of ruining a once-loved character and wasting a great opportunity. It's funny that, in a medium where the writers have all the time in the world, soap scribes still feel the need to rush these things, usually for short-term ratings grabs. But it when it comes to bringing back old faves, writers should beware: don't bring them back until the time is right.
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