Let me tell you, I have been in a great mood this week. It's one of those rare times when the stars seem to be aligning and the soap gods have answered my prayers. We'll get to what's exciting me in Pine Valley soon, but first I want to address a major story that broke this week - the long-awaited firing of the now former AMC head writer, Megan McTavish. Wow, that's nice to see in print: former AMC head writer Megan McTavish. It sends chills up and down my spine!
Now, it's natural for soap fans to criticize the head writer, especially when your faves are being butchered or backburnered. It's easy to throw stones from our living room couches or computer desks (I know, because I've lobbed quite a few in my time). In this case, however, the criticism was more than justified.
The backlash against McTavish wasn't just about fans who felt their favorite characters or couples were being given short shrift. This wasn't a vocal minority stirring up trouble to push a narrow agenda. This was about fans who have watched this show for as long as they can remember, who have been forced to watch it fade into a mere shadow of its former self. This was about walking abortions, the disappearance of veterans and ridiculous plot-driven storylines intended to prop up certain characters. It was time for change - the fans wanted it and, I dare say, the actors did too.
Of course, in situations like these, there's always a chance things might get worse. No one knows for sure whether McTavish's replacement will really improve matters. In fact, the new head writer could come in and say "You know what this show needs? More Colby!" Sometimes, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. But it's long since time to take a chance and hope for the best. Hopefully, with advisor Kay Alden (of Y&R fame) and talented writers like Amanda Beall, AMC can restore itself. I know I feel very optimistic.
Now That's What I Call Sweeps!
That optimism has been bolstered by a very entertaining week in the Valley. The serial killer storyline has had its ups and downs, but the conclusion has been so much fun to watch. And no, it's not just because I got to see Zach punch Ryan in the face… though that was a definite highlight.
When I first heard about the killer's identity, I was a little skeptical, mostly because I didn't consider Alex Cambias Sr. as the murdering type. I'm sure we all figured out months ago that it was likely Alex who killed Amelia, but I wasn't sure I could make the leap from a crime of passion to a full-on killing spree. Of course, I had every reason to believe that Alex Sr. was much worse than I remembered him, given Zach's stories about his childhood. And I think AMC made good use of its recent history to make this storyline plausible. Ryan never did see Alex Sr.'s body and it's perfectly reasonable to assume that a man with Cambias resources at hand could engineer his own "death."
The acting is what really sold this story for me. Alicia Minshew showed all the sides of Kendall - scared, manipulative, feisty, seductive (she's now kissed three generations of Cambias men, which is a little creepy) and downright defiant. She had me in tears as Kendall declared her love for Zach even after his father forced him to humiliate himself to save her life. Thorsten Kaye was brilliant as usual, his voice cracking and his rage barely contained as her fought for his wife's life and confronted Alex Sr. about killing his beloved mom.
Just as important to the scenes was the actor playing opposite them, the wonderfully evil Ronald Guttman. Even though I hate what he was doing to my two favorite characters, I couldn't quite hate Alex Sr. Like Michael Cambias before him, he was a great villain, something sorely lacking in modern soaps. Unapologetically ruthless and cruel … but almost charming. There were even brief flashes of humanity in his eyes. I almost believed that he loved his son in his own definitively twisted way (emphasis on almost). I hope AMC finds a way to keep Ronald Guttman around, in flashbacks or (hopefully) imprisoned. Can you imagine Janet and Alex Sr. shooting the breeze at Oak Haven? "I killed my spouse." "So did I!" Of course if the topic of Ethan ever comes up, things might not end well for Janet.
The only downside of the serial killer story this week was watching the hapless gang of Tad, Ryan, Aidan, Jamie and JR try to catch up to Alex Sr. in Vegas. It was kind of like watching Pine Valley's own version of the Keystone Cops. I did love watching Ryan and Tad get arrested (after Zach knocked Ryan's lights out! YAY!), with Jack refusing to bail them out. And watching Jackson posture to the arresting officer was a hoot. Also, watching JR shoot a would-be assassin in the leg without blinking an eye was hilarious. But in general, I could have done without Tad and the Gang. I'm sure they'll show up to save the day… but knowing them, they'll be fashionably late.
Back In The Valley
The other major story brewing this week centered around Babe, who finally figured out that she wasn't in the hospital after all, and that her family thought she was dead. I guess in their haste, Josh and his accomplices didn't think to remove the rental stickers from the equipment in the painstakingly recreated hospital room. I guess they were too busy recording fake announcements - on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, no less! No pesky digital devices for these guys! Or maybe they were too busy preparing gourmet food for Babe to eat. Hospitals are known for their haute cuisine, after all. Here's a thought - why not post a guard at the door, in case Babe tried to leave (which she did). Or better yet, LOCK HER IN!
But no, Babe was left free to wander out into the non-existent hospital hallway, forcing Josh to spill the beans about the plan to keep her alive. For good measure, he lied to her about JR. Well, I guess he didn't exactly lie. He told Babe that JR never asked to see her body, which is technically true, and that it was JR's own fault that he wasn't in on the plan, which isn't a straight-out lie. But he definitely led Babe to believe that JR was happy she was gone. Josh has officially crossed the line from admirer to stalker. That whole triangle needs to implode, quickly. I could care less what happens to Babydoll, but I really want to like Josh and JR. Save them now, AMC!
Josh let Krystal in on his little secret, after Babe insisted, so we'll be treated to a Mama/Babydoll reunion next week. Of course, now that Erica has accidentally stumbled upon this information, who knows how fast the word will spread. Erica promised to keep quiet in some touching scenes with Josh, but this is La Kane we're talking about. If she can use this info for whatever she determines to be the greater good, she will, children be damned. Erica was quite ticked off at both of her men this week, each of whom kept the truth from her, but at least she got in a good old-fashioned smack at Barbara. It seems Ms. Kane wasn't too happy that Babs openly accused her of sleeping with Jeff, a charge she couldn't deny to Jackson. Honestly, typing all of that up made my head hurt. Thank goodness this is all happening on the backburner.
Bianca and Zoe shared more scenes this week, this time with a decidedly more romantic feel to them. Binks convinced Zoe to stay in Pine Valley while beginning her journey into womanhood and Zoe agreed. I've been pretty non-committal about the possibility of a Binks/Zoe romance, but I have to admit, at this point, I don't think I want it to happen. I love the characters and I do have a feeling they could sell me on this very out-of-the-ordinary pairing. Plus, I love the idea of a transgendered character. But truthfully, I can't help but think this is just ABC's way of giving Bianca a relationship with a woman without it technically being a woman. They don't have to worry about the controversy that could surround lesbian kisses or love scenes, because the actors are still male and female. I want to be wrong about this, I really do. I want to give the network credit for introducing a transgender character. But given their track record of late, I can't help but be very skeptical. My mind is open, but it's also very suspicious.
A Final Note
I'd like to mention one other thing before I leave. I've gotten some emails in the past few weeks asking me why I hate a particular actor or actress. I can't stress this point enough - I don't hate ANY of the actors or actresses on AMC. When I rail against Ryan Lavery, I'm not going after Cameron Mathison. When I bash Babe, I'm not attacking Alexa Havins. From what I've seen, Alexa and Cam are wonderful people who care about the fans of this show. I have nothing against actors who are just doing their jobs, but that doesn't mean I have to like the fictional characters they portray on television. The residents of Pine Valley are fair game, but the actors who bring them to life are off-limits.
Thanks for reading. See you in two weeks.