State of the union
For the Week of September 8, 2008
For the second time in as many years, All My Children has undergone a changing of the guard.
For the second time in as many years, All My Children has undergone a changing of the guard. Out with head writers James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten, abhorred by many due to their affinity for writing oftentimes absurd storylines; in with Charles Pratt, Jr., formerly the head writer for General Hospital and a man with plenty of primetime television experience. Pratt's work on AMC began airing on August 27, with many fans able to recognize his style of writing, that of dramatic cliffhangers and a slightly greater emphasis on off-screen events, almost immediately.
Regardless of how you felt about Brown and Esensten's work, or whether you're excited or nervous about the direction in which Mr. Pratt chooses to guide Pine Valley, AMC's constantly rotating door for head writers is nerve-wracking for fans. Brown and Esensten did send AMC, one of daytime's most beloved soaps, to record lows during the later part of 2007, but might they have been able to turn things around if given a longer turn behind the wheel? And while popular, many justifiably associate Charles Pratt with General Hospital's transition into a darker, more mob-oriented show, with anti-heroes such as Sonny Corinthos and his mobster lifestyle taking center stage.
What will Pine Valley look like one year from now? Will it thrive as it did in the 1980s and mid-90s, or will appear as it did after 1994's infamous tornado: ravaged, devastated, and scarred?
Only time will tell if Charles Pratt will be AMC's savior or destroyer, but that doesn't mean viewers don't have opinions concerning what a new writing regime should do with individual characters, couples, companies, and storylines. I've compiled an analysis of every significant character dwelling in Pine Valley to examine who they are and where they need to go under the guidance of Pratt. Whether in a relationship or as single as Erica Kane after one year of marriage, each character is discussed both individually and as one half of their current pairing in order to provide a thorough examination of that character's strengths, weaknesses, and potential for growth.
After reading, please feel free to weigh in with your own opinion regarding AMC as the 38-year-old Pine Valley Express moves inexorably toward the future.
Zach and Kendall
Once a personal favorite, Kendall has recently inspired me to yell at my television screen more than any character, ever. Her recent behavior has seen the character revert to her juvenile, meddling ways that defined Kendall Hart pre-Zach Slater. Rather than her marriage to Zach lessen her to a lapdog housewife, marriage to a partner who trusts and respects her has helped Kendall mellow out, as did motherhood.
Now, Kendall is fixating on Greenlee's, Aidan's, and Ryan's personal lives to the point of obsession, leaving both Zach and Kendall on the outside of their marriage. How can these two repair the damage? Communication. Though undeniably sexy, this amorous couple all too often employs sex as a way to brush unresolved issues under the rug. Instead of rolling around under the sheets, both individuals need to keep their pants on and have an old-fashioned sit-down to determine where things went wrong and how their marriage can be fixed.
As much as I would love for "Zendall" to have some peace and quiet -- don't they deserve it by now? -- I have to say that a couple who fesses up to their faults and works toward a stronger bond is infinitely more refreshing than the end result of most soap opera relationships.
In regards to Kendall's incessant interference, I think there's more going on here than meets the eye, and not everything is being revealed on-camera. For those who have not heard, Alicia Minshew (Kendall Hart Slater) is currently undergoing intense contract negotiations with ABC. If both parties are unable to reach an agreement, it's likely that Minshew will exit Pine Valley in the near future, leaving the role of Kendall either unfilled or open to a recast, which many fans might not accept.
It is my belief that Kendall's immature behavior might be used as a way to express her discontent with domesticity. Do I believe that Kendall really feels that marriage and motherhood are cramping her style? No. But I do believe that such reasoning could be used as a way to usher Kendall from the canvas if Alicia Minshew opts not to renew her contract.
It would be a darn shame, too. Kendall has made significant progress since embracing a more mature, adult outlook on life. However, even if Kendall were to depart in the manner I've predicted, there are worse instances of character butchery.
Speaking of butchery, enter (or more appropriately, exit) Josh Madden. I usually strive to keep my Two Scoops columns spoiler-free, but the hack writing being applied to Josh needs to be discussed. By the end of this week, Josh will have confessed to embezzling over 20 million dollars from Zach's casino and will have fled town with his sister's help.
Complete and utter tripe, I say. Since finally accepting his true paternity and maternity, Josh has taken great steps in becoming a member of the Martin, Kane, and Slater clans, especially bonding with brother-in-law Zach. Tell me, do you honestly believe that "Uncle Josh," the man who helped Zach through Ian's premature birth, who was watched over Spike and Ian numerous times, who played a Fisher Price keyboard in an elevator to alleviate Greenlee's growing fear of claustrophobia, who walked away from his attraction to Greenlee because of what she did to Spike, who bought a birthday cake for Spike on his most recent birthday, who helped Zach run Cambias Industries...
Would this man really steal from a family who loved him, accepted him, and helped him through what his surrogate father had done to him? No he would not.
Despite Megan "McTravesty" McTavish desecrating soap history by re-writing Erica Kane's ground-breaking abortion, Josh and portrayer Colin Egglesfield had made significant progress with viewers, especially after (FINALLY) letting go of his attraction (obsession) to Babe and becoming a family man to his nephews, trusted confidant to big sister Kendall, and a close friend to Zach.
Congratulations, AMC -- you've released yet another talented performer. Colin was recently moved to recurring status, but that wasn't enough, was it? You had to cut his ties to his family and have him run away with his tail between his legs. Why? What was the point?
Aidan and Greenlee
Greenlee's starting to worry me. For the past couple of months, the fiery co-Fusion owner has been almost tolerable. A nice change, given that for awhile, I couldn't decide who I despised more: Kendall, or Greenlee.
Could it be that Pratt and his writing team listened to the complaints centered on Rebecca Budig's bitchier-than-usual portrayal of Greenlee Smythe? Or, are the writers toning her down to make us warm up to her in the hopes of coming to accept her inevitable reunion with Ryan?
Fat chance. For all of Greenlee's insistence that she's committed to her marriage to Aidan, I haven't bought into their love since Budig's return this past January. This storyline would be so much easier to accept if it weren't so bloody obvious.
In regards to Aidan, I predict portrayer Aidan Turner leaving AMC as soon as possible. Why stick around? He lived life on the backburner before Brown and Esensten decided to pair him with Sabine Singh's Greenlee in 2007, and once Greenlee dumps him for Ryan, he'll once again take his seat on that ever-cool burner. In fact, my prediction is that Aidan is not long for our mortal coil. You heard it here, folks.
Would it be so bad to keep Greenlee and Aidan together? I don't think so. Rebecca Budig and Aiden Turner have shown great chemistry since finally sharing so many scenes together, thus dispelling the myth (for this viewer, at least) that Budig only had chemistry with Josh Duhamel's Leo du Pres.
Yep, there's chemistry there. Too bad it was never meant to last. Need proof? Surf over to YouTube and look for the scenes from Greenlee and Aidan's Las Vegas wedding. Notice Ryan's grief-stricken eyes? See the way Greenlee is gazing at Ryan in her widding photo? Hear the music during their ceremony? They may as well have played a funeral march.
Annie and Ryan
Her marbles may be disappearing one by one, but it was still fantastic to see Annie stand up to Ryan. I'm not impressed with how she's using Emma and her on-board baby to manipulate her husband, but with the way things are going, I'm wondering if something's going to happen to firmly settle Annie back in reality.
Yes, that's right, I'm changing my tune: maybe Annie won't die after all. Maybe. There's still the consequential matter of Richie's murder to deal with, as it seems Jesse is getting closer to pinning the crime on the guilty Mrs. Lavery. So, she may not die, but jail is a possibility.
Yet I don't think jail, if that does happen, will keep Annie out of Pine Valley for long. Her abuse of her pregnancy, albeit unintentional, does seem to be leading to a miscarriage. All the signs are there: Annie being advised by Dr. Jake to seek bed rest yet ignoring doctor's orders; hustling and bustling at the Bella launch party; agonizing over Ryan; obsessing over Greenlee's every move...
A miscarriage seems to be in Annie's future -- but then what? I predict the horrific event being enough to scare her straight, though she'll probably lose Ryan for good in the process. Amen to that; Annie deserves much better. But again I ask: then what? What will the future hold for the newest ex-Mrs. Lavery if she manages to stay alive and out of jail? Who would you like to see her paired with? What career would you like to see her take on, since Fusion probably won't be an option for much longer?
While I'd love to see Annie stick around, Ryan should have left town years ago. Why is this character still here? What does he offer? Sorry, writers, but I'm not buying this noble, self-sacrificing family man garbage. Even Cameron Mathison has complained about his material, so one could presume that the pay must be great if he hasn't moved on to greener pastures by now.
Ryan ceased to exist to me a long time ago. Find a way to install a new heart in Gillian and reunite Ryan with his princess, or get rid of him already.
Jake, Amanda, and Taylor
After hearing so much about Ricky Paull Goldin's incredible performances on Guiding Light, I was nervous that the hype machine would bring him crashing down once he arrived on AMC, but I've been enjoying Ricky's take on Jake and am eager for more. One question, though: didn't Jake return to Pine Valley with a whopper of a secret? He was bitter and reserved until bedding the carefree Amanda Dillon, but I'd still like to know what had him so disturbed.
Equally engaging has been Beth Ehlers' portrayal of Taylor Thompson, whose rough demeanor was explained this past week with only a month to wonder and speculate as to why her edges were so rough. Her fiance's horrific death in Iraq is certainly good reason for her attitude, and the rather quick reveal was well-timed, as it didn't give her character too much time to brood without good reason, which can be a turn-off to some viewers.
Beth and Ricky's pairing on Guiding Light seems destined to happen on AMC in the form of Jake-Taylor, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. I've seen the chemistry that Guiding Light fans have shouted about from rooftops, but the ads pushing Jake and Taylor have me worried that the union will be shoved down our throats.
The chemistry is there, Mr. Pratt, but don't force it on us.
I'm enjoying the Jake-Amanda pairing, but I haven't seen enough to buy into them as a couple. This is a trend I've noticed with other pairings as well: Jake and Amanda are predominantly shown together pre- or post-lovemaking. It takes more than sex to make a couple, so can we see them in other surroundings besides social functions and the bedroom? Couples need to establish special places, go on memorable dates, keep dark secrets, and the like. Jake and Amanda, so far, seem to be enjoying one another's bodies, but will there be more to their relationship than sex?
I hope so for Amanda's sake. I'm tired of this character only receiving screen time as either a background prop at Fusion or to have sex.
Angie and Jesse
Since their reunion in mid-February of this year, Angie and Jesse's story has become a highlight of any AMC episode in which they're featured. I'm looking forward to exploring Jesse's lost years, as Angie was bound to wonder about Jesse's time on the run at some point.
Given the way Jesse was ripped from his family's arms, the necessity of constantly running to survive, and the knowledge that he'd likely never see his wife and little boy again, a mental breakdown seems realistic and even expected. The heart wrenching scene was expertly delivered by Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams, but what else happened to Jesse while he was away? Angie eventually moved on with another man, so did Jesse find solace with another woman? He mentioned that there was sex while he was on the run, but one wonders if the belief that Angie was forever lost to him might have spurred Jesse toward attempting to build a new life with someone else -- perhaps even siring another child.
Spin your yarn, Mr. Pratt. This story has my attention.
Tad, Krystal, and Kathy
While I'll never accept Tad and Krystal as an authentic couple, their troubles with Kathy are making for a compelling story with which many families can surely identify. Many on SoapCentral's message boards have written Kathy off as a little imp, a problem child whose behavior stems from the devil himself. Not only is such an opinion narrow-minded, it is far from the truth.
Kathy is an innocent child who last lost her foster parents, her Aunt Julia, and unknown to her, her biological mother. Now, after learning that her best buddy Tad is her real father, she's afraid that something beyond her control will occur to take him from her as well. Isn't that more than a little understandable? Kathy wrongly sees Krystal as an obstacle standing between her and her father's affection, but rather than discuss the problem with his daughter, Tad has chosen to ignore Krystal's concerns.
Though misguided, it's hard to argue Tad's point of view. Tad is also desperate to believe that life will be perfect because he was finally able to track down his long lost daughter. Be that as it may, Krystal is right: Kathy is home safe and sound, but she's not of sound mind. Take her to a therapist with your wife and, as a family, work with the counselor to help Kathy move past her fears.
I hope that Pratt and his team don't drop the ball on this story. Serial killers, sordid affairs, and Erica's inevitable eleventh wedding are interesting in well-spaced chunks of time, but Kathy's troubles and the rift she's causing between father and stepmother are a throwback to the AMC of yesteryear, an AMC that tackled topical issues with intelligence and guts.
Oh, and Mr. Pratt? Please bring Dixie back. Just do it already.
Jack, Erica, Carmen, and Sam
Like Jake and Amanda, I'd have an easier time believing in Jack and Carmen as a couple (regardless of how I personally feel about the pairing) if they shared more intimate scenes rather than only appearing together around Erica. The fact that Jack and Carmen always share the same scene as Erica is an overt attempt to show that Erica still pines for Jack and is jealous of Carmen's closeness to him.
The same thing occurs when Erica shares scenes with Sam Woods. These two had more scenes alone together than Jack and Carmen have had, but the end result is still obvious: a plot device to show fans that Jack and Erica still love each other. When was the last time Erica shared a scene with Sam, anyway? If memory serves me correctly, it was when Erica dropped by to see Sam at the Valley Inn. Since then... nothing.
Pratt has stated his desire to focus more on Erica, comparing her to Gone With the Wind's Scarlett. While I don't disagree with the weight of the comparison, I would like to see significant changes in Erica's infantile behavior. If the flow of time in Soap Opera Land is to be believed, La Kane is in her mid-40s. She's past old enough to start acting her age and settling down -- if settling down is what she wants to do. Erica is a force of her own creation and doesn't need to be with a man. But if she does, she needs to pick one, marry him, and let that be it.
Get it over with, Pratt. Put Jack and Erica together and have them face issues similar to Tad and Krystal's or Jesse and Angie's. These are adults, not teenagers, so please, have them act their respective ages already.
No longer down on his hands and knees to beg Krystal's forgiveness for this or that vile act, Adam has returned to his spunky, devious self, and I'm loving it. Pratt has also expressed an interest in giving Adam more screen time. Nothing wrong with that!
Frankie (er, Franklyn) and Randi
These two are drifting, both individually and together. Like Jake and Amanda, Jack and Carmen, and Erica and Sam, we need to see Franklyn and Randi spend more quality time together in order to get behind the pairing. I see the potential, but it's still a little ways off yet.
Here's hoping Franklyn's redeployment papers don't cramp the couple's blossoming style. What could these papers mean? A break for actor Cornelius Smith, Jr., to pursue other interests? A recast of the character (don't even think about it)? Or will Franklyn be able to skirt the call back to Iraq, something hard to do in reality but probably not so much in a soap?
Stay with us, Cornelius. Your performances have been brilliant, and I'd love to see you stick around Pine Valley for many years to come.
Randi, like many female characters, rose quickly up the Fusion ranks to a semi-prominent position and is now yet another background prop in the Fusion offices. Denise Vasi is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen and seems to have the acting chops to match. I hope the possibility of her new man heading back to war gives her the chance to strut her stuff.
Babe and JR
Though once though to be impossible, I now enjoy the character of Babe Carey, and it's all Amanda Baker's fault. Each performance allows her to show a smarter Babe, one who seems committed to pursuits loftier than bedding a new man and running off with her son. True, Babe's allegations of shouldering a heavier workload than Kendall and Greenlee could be called into question (no one on this show really works), but more than anything, it's her assertiveness that I'm enjoying the most.
JR needs a new storyline, stat. It's time to end the on-again, off-again feud with Father and let Jacob Young dazzle us with his impressive acting pedigree.
I'm loving Babe and JR together, though if they can't make it work this time, they need to call it quits. Soap relationships usually contain more than their fair share of abuse, but this one needs to evolve or wither and die.
Colby, Petey, and Dre
Other than getting drunk off a spritz of perfume, Colby's alcoholism has, not surprisingly, drifted to the wayside. Many viewers believed it was nothing but a quickie plot device to start the Richie Novak whodunit mystery, and it seems those viewers were correct. It's too bad, because even though alcoholism has been tackled on AMC before, Colby's attraction to the bottle could have been used to broach the topic for the 18 to 20-something demographic.
Petey's thankfully lost some of his geekiness and is showing some decent charisma. I'm especially enjoying his scenes with Adam, but dude, back off Colby, okay? The pairing seems bound to happen, but saying you're in love with her? Slow down, big fella.
Poor Dre. Cass left the country, so you may as well have, too. Whatever happened to giving this talented young actor more airtime to properly deal with his alleged part in the Richie Novak murder?
I do have several complaints, but honestly, I'm enjoying AMC these days. It's too early in Pratt's reign to vote yay or nay, so we'll wait a couple of months to see what becomes of certain characters, couples, and stories.
Forge on, AMC. The hill is steep, but the engine is strong, and year 39 is right at the top. Here's to 39 more.
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