I toyed with the idea of making this the shortest Two Scoops column in the history of soapcentral.com. It would have gone something like this:
The Worst of AMC 2013: The show was canceled. Again. The end.
It's understandable to not see the forest for the trees in a situation like this. With apologies to Yogi Berra, this is déjà doodoo all over again. We've come to the end of another year, and once again, we have no idea if and when we will ever see another episode of All My Children.
In last week's special year-end edition of Two Scoops, I took a decidedly more rosy approach to the first online season of All My Children. The truth is, the series was pretty solid. There were some characters and stories that didn't quite work. And, sure, there were some continuity issues that reared their ugly heads because of the show's frenetic pace of production -- but those were not to blame for the state that we're in. We're talking metaphysical state, not a physical state. Physically, we're in Pine Valley, Pennsylvania: America's Forgotten Oceanfront.
As is always the case, when you love something, you want it to be the best that it can be. And while I was over the moon that All My Children returned, there were some nagging issues that I wanted to see resolved. The show wasn't around long enough to get its sea legs, or whatever the Internet equivalent of that is. So it's entirely possible that some these kinks would have eventually worked themselves out.
But since we weren't afforded the luxury of time, I have to weigh in on what we got. So get ready for the second-ever "everything must go" edition of the Worst of All My Children.
The appeal of the storyline was supposed to be -- and I am just guessing here -- that a buff, (kind of) bad boy was interested in the beautiful, timid uptown girl. It's the kind of thing that Billy Joel songs are written about. In reality, Pete wasn't a backstreet bad boy. He was a player, and he crushed a lot. Sorry for all the pop music references, but that's just where my mind went.
Pete and Celia were to be this generation's Jenny and Greg or Tad and Dixie. In reality, they were this generation's Becca Tyree and Scott Chandler. Cue the crickets.
I got zero in the sparks department from them. Even when Celia's loins were supposedly on fire, there was no need for an extinguisher. While fans indicated in their emails to me that Robert Wilson had them ready to spontaneously combust, my Krollmometer pegged the Pete and Celia relationship as lukewarm at best.
Nearly everyone that we last saw whooping it up at the Chandler Mansion at the conclusion of AMC's run on ABC was missing in action for the reboot. Some of the missing were mentioned, even if it was in passing. The others were outta sight, outta mind -- and not even the Pine Valley Dairy cared enough to post their pictures on the side of a gallon of milk.
Erica was off in Hollywood and had just one mention in all 42 seasons. Perhaps not mentioning Erica was intentional so as not to draw unwanted attention to the fact that Susan Lucci was finding success in primetime and not a part of the series that made her a household name. But what about the others?
Tad was off in parts unknown, working on an equally unknown case. Kathy/Kate didn't merit a mention. I sure hope that Dixie didn't forget about her during a trip to the Pine Valley Walmart. Poor Kathy is sitting in the shopping cart, waiting for Dixie to return. Actually, none of the littlest kids were anywhere to be seen. Spike, Ian, and Emma were also missing.
Krystal was never mentioned, even though another of her daughters had died. Not so much as a "Krystal had a breakdown and was committed to Oak Haven" or "Krystal needed to put as much space between her and Pine Valley as possible." Jackson had one of the most epic lines of AMC's final weeks on ABC, but he was gone and, frankly, no one seemed to give a damn.
Randi and Frankie were referenced once when the Koslovs threatened Jesse and his family. Jake and Amanda were, I believe, brought up in a throwaway line by Dr. Joe. Ryan and Greenlee? Scott and Madison? And where was Stuart? It was the festivities surrounding his resurrection that led to the madness that ended AMC 1.0.
Not everyone was available for the reboot and not every character was needed. However, that doesn't mean that a catch-up gossip session couldn't have been written into the show somewhere. Perhaps when Pete returned home, Opal could have chattered on and on to Pete about what he'd missed since he left Pine Valley. Pete probably wouldn't have been interested and could have told his mom to hush -- but at least we'd have been clued in as viewers.
Francesca James is a multiple Emmy winner. She's received acclaim not only as a performer, but also as a behind-the-scenes creative. With her extensive history with All My Children, getting her to sign on with the reboot was quite a coup.
Francesca's return to All My Children wasn't announced in a traditional way; the actress simply showed up as a press junket during an AMC photo shoot and left members of the media with their jaws agape. When she revealed that she'd be playing schoolmarm Evelyn Johnson, everyone whispered that the name was nothing more than a red herring.
Turned out it was more of a red hair-ing. Evelyn really was Evelyn.
Every now and again, the overprotective Evelyn popped up to tell Celia of the dangers of getting cooties from boys or venturing outside the walls of Bramwell Hall. I suppose there was to be a certain mysteriousness about Evelyn. Why did she care so much about Celia? Was she related to Celia? Could she have been related to Kitty Shea and Kelly Cole? Eh, at the end of the day, we didn't get any answers, and Ms. James's talents were, in my opinion, wasted.
Still, Evelyn somehow was not the worst character of the year.
Brace yourselves, Pine Valley fans -- the worst character of 2013 was not Celia. That honor goes to Jane McIntye, a character that had maybe ten lines in the entire run of AMC 2.0. It would be even less if you take out the "Can I take your order?" coffee shop formalities.
Jane immediately raised eyebrows with her last name. Was she in some way related to Alec McIntyre, who was last seen being carted off to jail in 1996? Possibly. He might have been the mystery person that Jane talked to on the phone during one of her ten lines.
I thought the character had promise. Heather Roop certainly seemed like a good actress. In real life, she was quite pleasant and energetic. But we never got to see it, and in reality, Jane wasn't really needed. AMC could have had any of the characters that I mentioned in the "Worst Disappearing Act" as the proprietor of the coffeehouse.
Of course, then the writers wouldn't have been able to use the clever Jane's Addiction reference.
Technically, All My Children's hasn't been canceled. It is just no longer in production. Tomato, tomahto. After a social media leak fueled speculation of another pre-Thanksgiving let down from Prospect Park (the first was the 2011 announcement that they would be suspending their efforts to relaunch AMC and OLTL online), fans braced themselves for the worst.
Instead, several All My Children performers took to social media to break the news to fans: AMC wouldn't be coming back any time soon. Jill Larson questioned if the online experiment was ahead of its time. Cady McClain assured fans that the decision wasn't made lightly.
More than likely, Prospect Park's ongoing lawsuit with ABC -- for which I am secretly hoping that I can providw color commentary on Court TV -- is the reason for the silence. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
Silence isn't always golden. Then again, there were times when perhaps saying less would have been saying more…
I would never profess to understand the ins and outs of running a multi-million dollar Internet series. I will, though, step up and humbly admit that I do know what it takes to create an Internet-based presence. I've been doing it now for just shy of 19 years.
In that time, I've learned that some things work… and some things don't. When you realize that something isn't going as expected, you explain why and move from there. I'm reminded of a "Rhyme Tyme" contest that we used to feature here on the site. It was fun, but there just wasn't enough interest at the time to justify the time expenditure involved in keeping the feature.
Since this column is somehow not all about me, I'll get to the point. There came a time when Prospect Park's TOLN arrived at the realization that broadcasting/uploading four new episodes of AMC (and One Life to Live) each week wasn't working. A decision was made to cut the number of new episodes per week from four to two. The announcement was made less than a month into the series' return, so the decision must have been made even sooner than that.
No doubt the decision was reactionary and, quite possibly, driven by the fear of revenue not being in the anticipated range. I get it -- who wants to lose money? I think the decision was made too soon -- at a month in, there were still people who didn't know that AMC and OLTL had returned online. Truth be told, as recently as last week, I received an email from a fan who still didn't know that the soaps had returned.
Where the mistake was made, in my opinion, was in the explanation of why the schedule change was made: the blame was placed on the fans. Paraphrasing the press release, the powers that be determined that watching four episodes of a 30-minute soap per week was "too much" for fans to handle. From that point on, the relaunch lost its steam.
There was a group of fans that were insulted that they were being told what they did and did not want. It was reminiscent of an interview in which then-ABC Daytime president Brian Frons said something to the effect that fans don't know what they want and have to be trained to know what they like.
There was also a large number of fans who suspected that the cut-down meant that AMC and OLTL were in trouble and would again be canceled. Many of those fans, which spread words of the soaps' imminent demise unchallenged on social media, were no longer actively engaged in the reboots because they didn't want to get attached to something that would again be yanked away.
Compounding the problems was that by cutting the episode delivery in half, storylines that otherwise would have been zipping along were not dragged out over the course of weeks and months. It killed the momentum and, quite possibly, killed the two shows.
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), otherwise known as the folks who oversee the Emmys, made a rule change that would allow All My Children (and One Life to Live) to be able to compete in all soap-related categories in next year's Daytime Emmys. Great news, right?
Well, only partially. Debbi Morgan announced in early December that she would not be throwing her name into the Emmy ring. The reason? The sting of being canceled twice -- after being misled about the show's future.
"The many months of being told we're on hiatus but [would be] coming back & then snatching the rug from under us & the fans has been very emotional. So right now the head space I'm in is just completely distancing myself from AMC [with] regards of an Emmy consideration," Morgan informed fans via Twitter.
Debbi Morgan is a wonderful actress, and her work certainly warranted Emmy consideration. With AMC no longer in production, one could argue that there is no need to give a canceled series any sort of glory. Still, it seems a shame that some behind-the-scenes shenanigans sort of drove Debbi to this decision. She and the rest of the cast and crew did deserve better. I hope that Debbi doesn't come to regret the decision later. She is, however, right when she said that she and her colleagues have the love and admiration of the fans. They do -- and isn't that what really matters?
If I were the drinking type, I would have created a drinking game for every time that someone referred to Celia's "guardian." I hate that I feel like I am picking on Celia. I just feel like there were too many eggs placed in this basket.
A comparison could be made between this storyline and the human trafficking storyline. Both stories featured newcomers with actresses that were unknown to the audience. Both could have flopped big time, and AMC would have been sunk. Or sunk faster.
The Cassandra storyline wisely involved characters that viewers knew: Angie, Jesse, and Zach, for example. The Guardian plot didn't. The storyline is a good example of the damage done by cutting the number of episodes available each week. If the original four-episode format had been kept, the gala would have taken place ten weeks after AMC's launch -- so somewhere around the beginning of July. Instead, it took until September before there was any indication that we might learn the identity of the mysterious benefactor.
There was definite interest: fans suspected that the Guardian might be Dimitri or Billy Clyde Tuggle. There were almost as many suspects offered up as there were mentions of "the Guardian." But the storyline became watered down and even more convoluted because Celia became involved in a misguided love triangle with Colby Chandler for Pete Cortlandt's affection. Celia became too front and center, and fans didn't seem to latch on to the character. And instead of there being a quick resolution, fans were left waiting… and waiting… and waiting…
By now, you are probably waiting for this column to come to an end. I promise I won't keep you for too much longer.
Joni Mitchell once sang that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. But we do know what've got -- or had -- because we lost it once before. Does that make this parting less of a sweet sorrow? If it feels any different, it's probably only because many of us are still numb from the first nonsensical cancellation back in 2011.
For me, though, there is an even greater loss. With this column, it is entirely possible that I will never again write a Two Scoops column about All My Children. I wrote the first one way back in 1995, and the column was called Through My Eyes, if I remember correctly. That was almost 19 years ago.
I have enjoyed every word that I've written about All My Children the past 980-some weeks. A quick numbers crunch tells me that I've written more than 5.5 million words about AMC in that time. Being able to share my passion for a bunch of wacky soap opera characters has provided me with a connection to millions of other fans around the world. It's been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
If you find yourself missing AMC, you can relive All My Children memories right here on soapcentral.com with archived recaps, Two Scoops columns, character profiles, and more.
If you'd like to keep up with me and my non-AMC doings, I am always writing articles here on soapcentral.com, and of course I host the weekly live Internet radio program, Soap Central Live, every Friday at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific. I'm also on Facebook and on Twitter (@danjkroll), sharing the craziness of my everyday life.
The magical make-believe world of soaps has taught me that anything is possible -- even if it seems impossible. We could very well meet again one day to once again pick up where we left off, but in case we don't, I wanted you all to know how I've valued every read, every email, and every message over the years.
But for now, it's time to close the book and put it back up on the shelf.
To read Dan's column for the Best of All My Children 2013, click here.