It's seems like I've spent months lamenting the unnecessary (and unwanted) changes taking place on All My Children at the hands of head writer Charles Pratt. It wasn't such much that his story ideas were horrible as it was that he just didn't seem to follow through on anything. His announced ouster last month had AMC fans dancing in the street. Okay, that might be overstating it, but you get the idea. So how is it possible that a Pratt-penned episode has me thinking Emmy nomination?
I thought that episode of All My Children that aired on Wednesday, December 2 was, perhaps, one of the best episodes to air in quite some time. Sure, the episode may also have been one of the saddest in recent memory, but that's okay. Months of frustration and sometimes questionable story finally had a payoff -- even if you're not entirely thrilled with what that payoff might have been. While typically I try to cover the entire week of action, I am going to focus mostly on that one episode because to me it showed how good AMC can be.
Liza Colby showed us that she's actually human. She rebuffed Zach's kiss, which seems hard to believe since this is the same woman who had anonymous black jack sex with him just a few months ago. In the twisted way that AMC has been written recently, I'm sure many viewers expected a round two -- perhaps somewhere within earshot of the kids' bedrooms. But no, Liza did the right thing and told Zach to buzz off. Blasting Zach for thinking of her as "a warm body" to make Kendall jealous, Liza finally exhibited some characteristics that looked like the Liza of years past. Later, Liza had the heart-breaking realization that her time with her son, Stuart, could very well be coming to an end. Jamie Luner hasn't had it easy since taking over the role from Marcy Walker, but that's not entirely her fault. She has to perform the material that's written for her. Maybe this is a turning point for the character -- and fans can finally get in Liza's corner.
I've made it clear that Marissa bores me to tears. If I haven't, consider yourself informed. The character has been a do-gooder to the nth degree ever since she set foot in Pine Valley. Not to beat a dead horse, but had she showed even the slightest twinge of daddy David's evil tendencies, Marissa would have been far more interesting. That aside, I liked that the writing addressed some of Marissa's memories of the parents who raised her. We never hear Kendall talk about Bill and Alice Hart. I believe Bill is dead -- but what about Alice? I think we all have certain things that we all hold on to in order to remind us of our childhood, our innocence, or maybe just happier times. For Marissa, it was the Christmas tree elves that came to put in the tree in the middle of the night.
Elsewhere, the day before, Tad summoned the wisdom of the ages when Jake was feeling sorry for himself for not being the father of Amanda's baby. He was convinced that he could never "feel" anything for Trevor because he had no blood ties to the child. Tad correctly reminded Jake that JR has two fathers -- something I think the show glosses over far too often. "My son is one hell of a young man," Tad snapped when Jake claimed that JR had turned out to be a chip off the old Chandler block. Unbeknownst to Tad, JR was listening quietly from the foyer. No one on this show ever has anything nice to say about anyone. You have to be dead to get a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t. It's all "she's a shrew" and "he's a bastard" because everyone is being mean all the time.
Just a random aside: are we really still calling JR's son "Little Adam?" Can we give him some other name? How about A3 or TriAd?
One reader wrote in to suggest to me that Tad become the new patriarch of Pine Valley. At first, I dismissed the idea -- there doesn't seem to be any replacing Joe Martin. Then I thought about it for a bit. I think Tad is way too young to be looked to as the town sage, but if Tad is allowed to keep his humor -- it might not be a bad thing to see him have the chance to grow up. It's a much better idea than his lame "lightbulb" jokes.
Jake and Amanda's marital troubles came to a head. Forget about the unbelievable arrangement that Amanda and David concocted -- having a baby with a man to get rid of him? Really? And I think I speak for everyone reading this column when I say that Amanda and David having "backseat" sex was one of the more disgusting things to take place on AMC in recent years. Putting that aside for a moment, the hospital confrontation between Amanda and Jake was not only well-acted, but it was also very emotional. It came off as believable. Jake was justified in telling Amanda that with each passing day she seems to be pushing him further and further away. Amanda, in her own twisted logic, truly believes that she's doing what's best for everyone. Of course it doesn't make sense to us sofa-dwellers watching her. I guess she feels completely hopeless and helpless; her spirit has been broken. But back to the action -- and again, we're taking out the ridiculous and insulting twists that got them there -- the raw emotion was simply incredible.
Remember back when Amanda was just a skimpy underwear-wearing dimwit? At least that's how she was introduced. It's so nice to see Chrishell Stause being given a storyline with purpose -- and the chemistry she shares with Ricky Paull Goldin is the stuff that makes daytime so much fun to watch. It almost makes me forget that I hated Jake for years. I wonder what the show will do with Jake once Stause leaves her full-time gig on AMC next year.
David learned that he was not little Trevor's father, but that wasn't about to stop his devilish deeds. For a minute, you almost wanted to feel for David -- but that sentiment lasted about two-point-five seconds. He quickly concocted a tale that he was dying in order to get Amanda to fall in love with him. The thought of someone doing that is horrible. Hor-rib-bull! That said, I have to sit back and chuckle because when David does dirty -- he really rolls around in it. What I thought was a nice touch was when David agreed to do his "dying video" for his children. How many times have we seen shows overdo the idea just for the sake of trying to make viewers cry. This was a decidedly evil twist on the idea and I have to say that the entire time David was feigning his emotional breakdown, I was just shaking my head in amazement at how far he'd go to get what he wants.
There was, however, a funny exchange between the guilt-ridden Amanda and the not-really-dying David. Amanda made David some toast for breakfast and offered to scramble up an egg for him.
"This is why I didn't want to tell you that I was sick," David grumbled as Amanda doted over him.
"You were afraid I'd try to cook for you?" Amanda replied.
I thought it was a nice comedic touch.
I wonder if the writing team thought that it was clever to have Erica travel to Los Angeles to look for Kendall. How many more "winks" will we get before the show finally settles down out west?
For me, though, the highlight of the week came as a drunken Jake and Zach got into it at the casino. Zach tossed Jake across the room and into a wall. Suddenly, there was the unmistakable sound of shattering glass. As everyone looked downward, they saw that the cherished photo of Myrtle Fargate had been knocked to the ground. Throughout the scene, Thorsten Kaye said nothing. Tears slowly streamed from Zach's eyes -- and you knew exactly what he was feeling. I cannot remember the last time that any male character on daytime -- or primetime, for that matter -- displayed that kind of emotion. Jill Larson also held her own during this scene. While she delivered was essentially amounted to a monologue, Opal wasn't barely shown on camera. Instead, the camera slowly, almost painfully, drew us closer to Zach.
There was also an amusing exchange between Zach and Opal that I feel the need to comment on because it was perfect use of past storyline that shows the viewers that the writers do remember what they've written.
"There's no more tornado coming, so relax," Zach snapped to Opal as she expressed her concern that something bad was about to happen.
It was a perfectly timed jackassy thing to say. It isn't just storylines and character history that needs to be done well, it's also the dialogue that needs to be on point. Attention to simple things is just as important as remembering who's slept with who.
The relationship between Zach and Myrtle may go down as one of the best non-romantic pairings in All My Children history. There was just something… I'm not even sure that I can properly convey how I felt when Eileen Herlie and Thorsten Kaye got to share some on-screen time. It was just magic. I definitely miss not seeing Myrtle on-screen giving advice (solicited or unsolicited) to her boarders, but I think I miss her doubly when I think about how much I enjoyed "Myrtzach" together. It also makes me sad to know that there are no "oldtimers" on the show any more. There are no grandparents, no older residents to which the younger set can go to get those pearls of wisdom. I think that's a shame -- and it makes me a little sad.