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 Two Scoops: January 7, 2008 columns
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Alicia Minshew
The best and worst of 2007
For the Week of January 7, 2008
A special look back at the best and worst that All My Children had to offer in 2007.
There's something magical about the month of January. The calendar turns over from 12 to 1, a brand new year pops into existence, and the world's population drinks it in like a breath of fresh air--or a long swig from a bottle of New Year's Eve champagne. New Year's resolutions are made in earnest before being broken minutes later, but that's fine--it's the thought that counts, right? This is our "New Beginning," a time to sit back, breathe easy, and vow that this year will be better than the one that came before it.


Not so for Pine Valley fans. Like a supermodel walking away from below the mistletoe only to be replaced with your sweet-but-ugly-as-sin Aunt Mildred, All My Children fans were spoon-fed serving after serving of bittersweet storylines, comings, and goings in 2007. Tad and Dixie shared a kiss, their first in over four years, only to see the beloved heroine killed with poisoned peanut butter pancakes. The Satin Slayer saga reached an exciting boiling point and finally gave Zach Slater fans a front burner story for their favorite leading man, only to have the writers jump the shark by resurrecting Alexander Cambias, Sr., a dastardly villain who not only died, but was cremated. Talk about picking up the pieces and starting anew.


Was 2007 all bad? No. Was it mostly bad? That's more like it, but there were occasional pots of gold at the end of Pine Valley's twisty, curvy rainbow. Join me as I take a whirlwind tour through AMC 2007's best and worst storylines, controversies, and more.


The Good

Despite bouts of poor writing and backstage mistreatment, I tune in to AMC each and every day for one important reason: the talented roster. From Michael Knight, Thorsten Kay, Billy Miller, Walt Wiley, Jeffrey Carlson and Susan Lucci to Sabine Singh, Jacob Young, David Canary, Leven Rambin, Ambyr Childers and Jeff Branson, All My Children's superb cast was given some rough material over the past 12 months, but no matter the dialogue or scene, the cast rendered even the worst viewable, and the best was always knocked clean out of Pine Valley's ball park.


Blissfully oblivious to the horror that the end of January would bring, I spent the first few weeks of the New Year basking in Zarf/Zoe's angst. Like many viewers, I anticipated this storyline as being used for nothing other than pure shock value, a way to make people tune in to watch, hoping for a glimpse of the man in women's clothing before laughing and changing the channel.


Not the case at all.


I stared wide-eyed, my hands clenched, as Zoe took her first big leap and came out to the woman whom she considered her soul mate, Bianca Montgomery--only to have "Binx" all but spit in Zoe's face, leaving Zoe utterly heartbroken. This was but the first of Zoe's obstacles to overcome, and her victory over each and every one was thrilling. Jeffrey Carlson, by far one of the most talented actors ever to grace a daytime screen, took what could very well have been the most laughable story on AMC or any other soap and made it compelling, emotional, and my personal favorite storyline of 2007.


ABC Daytime's Powers That Be must have reached a ripe old age where hearing is a perk rather than a convenience. What else could account for the apparent total disregard of fans' pleas to see more of legacy characters and less of new blood with little to no tie to any core families? Annie McDermott Lavery had been around just over a year before her brother Richie "Wes" Novak came waltzing into town, not-so-fresh out of a seven-year prison stint, shouldering a supposedly incurable bout with leukemia, and an unquenchable thirst for his sister's soul.


Though his time posing as a laidback bartender at The Comeback was rather boring, things picked up immediately upon the realization that this handsome, happy-go-lucky stranger was in fact Annie's trouble-making brother, scourge of the universe by night, and mixer of drinks--um, also by night. Regardless of his overbooked nightlife, Richie's story kicked into high gear when Ryan and Aidan decided to have a private chat with Annie's little bro. Determined to get answers, Aidan decided it would be best to slip a noose around Richie's neck and balance the poor guy on a chair, with nothing but those four stout wooden legs between him and the mother of all stiff necks.


Just as the police broke down the door to the trio's romantic rendezvous location, Richie kicked the chair away and let himself hang, painting a rather thick cloud of suspicion over the Dynamic Duo in the process.


Similar to popular characters such as Adam Chandler and David Hayward, Richie's hazy, ambiguous motives legitimately caused viewers to wonder just how bad Pine Valley's newest bad boy really was. Richie Novak: complete sociopath, or a misunderstood lad looking for love and understanding? Other than scenes where viewers knew he was overtly lying, such as the hospital scene where Richie altered the details of his hanging to gain his father's sympathy, most AMC fans were left wondering how much of Annie's charges against her brother were true--until Richie's blatant hit-and-run against Zach Slater near the end of 2007 cleared away a great deal of his gray area.


Continuing 2007's trend of fabulous newcomers is the wonderful Sabine Singh, AMC's one and only "Fake Greenlee"! Fake? Not according to the legions of viewers who have embraced Singh's take on the role. Cited by her fans as a deeper, more human Greenlee, Singh's short-lived tenure on AMC has been quite a ride--literally, as her first major storyline was kidnapping little Spike Lavery and purportedly robbing him of his ability to hear via a horrible car accident.


While reception to the new baby-napping Greenlee was initially cold, viewers thawed as Singh's coupling with co-star Aidan Turner gained a near instantaneous following. Featuring super couple staples such as cute inside jokes, on-the-run lovemaking, and a stuffed animal, Singh and Turner's "Ailee" have become a pairing that many believe can challenge and overcome "Zendall" for Pine Valley's best couple. It remains to be seen whether the returning Rebecca Budig will be able to create sparks with Aiden Turner, but if not, fans have already affirmed that they will always remember the "real Ailee".


2007 drew to a close with Greenlee and Zach finally emerging from a bomb shelter where they spent more than a month reminiscing, trading (terrible, awful) jokes, and nursing each other back to health. "Trapped" storylines such as this one can often drag on far too long, negating the bond viewers could potentially make with certain characters. In this case, new head writers' Brown and Esensten succeeded in properly pacing the duo's struggle. Zach and Greenlee are inarguably two characters who needed some forced one-on-one isolation to get to know each other better and come to understand the other's respective point of view. By the end of their claustrophobic entrapment, both Thorsten Kaye and Sabine Singh had plenty of emotional, revealing material to add to their respective Emmy reels.


Kudos to both the writing team and the actors. Though it had its fair share of plot holes, Zach and Greenlee's imprisonment storyline was engaging and dramatic rather than boring and uninvolved, and stands out as one of the more positive adventures of 2007.


The Bad

As mesmerizing as I found Kaye and Singh while they were trapped in the shelter, they, along with Alicia Minshew and Cameron Mathison, were given almost all of 2007 to be mesmerizing. Starting near the end of 2006 with the Satin Slayer before moving into 2007 with the conclusion of Alex Cambias Sr.'s reign of terror, Kendall's pregnancy (one of the rare happy moments for "Zendall" in 2007), Greenlee's return, Spike's kidnapping and car accident, the revelation that Spike has lost his hearing for one reason or another, Ryan's crazy brother-in-law arriving in the Valley, Kendall setting up her former best friend only to have Greenlee and Zach close the year together in the tunnels....


With all of that action, how could the writers possibly make room for any other characters? Unfortunately, they often couldn't. Many fan favorites such as Jeff Branson, Walt Wiley, Leven Rambin, Chrishelle Stause, Colin Egglesfield, Michael E. Knight, David Canary, Jacob Young, and even Susan Lucci were relegated to the backburners, baffling both fans and industry insiders who understand that soaps require a cast of dozens, not four of five, to create a compelling, diversified story.


While many fans believed that Megan McTavish's exit would bring about a more balanced mixture of love and drama, the announcement of James Brown and Barbara Esensten as co-head writers saw All My Children's dark storytelling, simple-to-fix yet oft-ignored plot holes, and blatant actor favoritism continue. Under B&E's regime, AMC sank to last place in the ratings, a spot relatively unfamiliar to a show commonly associated with fantastic characters and storytelling.


It may be that fans still haven't properly adjusted to B&E's particular form of storytelling. Writing new episodes for a show that airs five days a week, 52 weeks a year (with only a smattering of re-runs allowed) is a tough job for even the greatest writers to undertake. B&E would be able to improve their ratings by leaps and bounds with only two simple steps:


1. Use the entire cast! All My Children has one of the most (if not the most) versatile rosters on television, daytime or otherwise. Don't let all the money you're paying these talented individuals go to waste. Put em to work!


2. Take the time to iron out obvious plot holes. Did Derek Frye, Chief of Police, honestly not think to test Kendall's chloroform-soaked rag for fingerprints? Did Adam Chandler really have his old sofa removed and replaced with a new one without anyone seeing Kate Martin's adoption papers on the floor?


B&E have an interesting and appealing strategy of not wanting to solve all storylines within just a few weeks. Some big events are dragged out to give more time for big reveals, a strategy some find compelling. But these longer storylines will have more impact if many of the rather jarring bumps along the road can be ironed out to make for a smoother, more fun ride.


However, if it is B&E's wish to use certain character and actors as often as possible, at least use them correctly. Soap characters have enormous potential for real growth and self-discovery due to the show constantly moving forward. Moving backward, however, can gain writers the considerable indignation of the fans, such as when Kendall and Aidan decided it was proper to mourn the apparent death of Zach and Greenlee by grinding hips. This event, which I refer to as "The De-evolution of Kendall Hart Slater," took a loving, powerful, independent woman and mangled her, rendering her nothing more than an idiotic, overly-emotional disaster.


What's that you say? Kendall has always been driven by her emotions? Yes, but she also used to have a brain, and it wasn't her brain nor was it her heart that told her it was a good idea to sleep with Aidan. This disgusting "grief sex" was a travesty and was single-handedly responsible for reverting Erica's eldest daughter back to the adolescent, whore-ish Kendall of years past. Congratulations, Brown and Esensten: the coveted "Always, Only You" has now become "Always, Only You--and Aidan, and Greenlee."


While we're on the subject of ruining characters, let's go back to the end of January 2007, shall we? An innocent breakfast between Babe and Dixie turned out to be the latest death of one of daytime's most beloved characters. Just when Tad and Dixie had started to put their newfound animosity behind them, just when SoapNet was airing a commercial exclaiming "The Wait Is Over" in regards to the super couple finally locating their daughter, and just after T&D shared a long-awaited kiss, Dixie is killed--by peanut butter pancakes.


This death was so far out of left field, so entrenched in the realm of the ridiculous, that I have been at a loss for words for... well, one year exactly. Why? Why did The Powers That Be go to all the trouble to lure Cady McClain back to the show only to throw her away? Dixie's return wasn't exactly the landmark event it could have been, but to kill her in the manner previously mentioned is shameful, despicable, and revolting.


But, surprisingly, it wasn't the worst Pine Valley happening to occur this year. That honor rests on the shoulders of ABC Daytime president Brian Frons. To make room for the "Real Greenlee," newcomer Sabine Singh was unceremoniously booted from the set, from her newfound friends, and from a role that she arguably made her very own--and just weeks before Christmas.


What did Sabine Singh do wrong? Oh, that's right, she played the role she auditioned for and won. Shame on her. And I'm curious: how many times was Rebecca Budig asked to return? The answer: one less time than the amount of offers she received. But it gets better. Purportedly, Frons & Co. have traded Singh's four-year contract for Budig's one-year stay. One year... four years. Yep, sounds fair to me!


Oh, and will someone please open the Martins' attic? Brooke got lost, and we really want her back.


2008

Despite 2008 starting sour for many viewers due to news of Sabine Singh's impending final airdate, the New Year does hold prospects that excite Pine Valley's visitors. The return of Jesse and Angie and the diversity being injected into AMC's cast, rumors of Cady McClain's return, the bittersweet departure of Stacey Haiduk and character Hannah Nichols.... It could be a good year. Could be.


Do yourself a favor: be a fan of the show you know you love. Don't tune out just because something hasn't gone your way. Stay tuned, support your favorite characters and couples--but dear God, I beg you, stay away from the pancakes!



-- David




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