Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 16: James recalls shopping and dining in old Pine Valley … Kel agrees it’s too soon to judge the new headwriter … Brandon opines even bad Pine Valley circa 1997 beats today’s incarnation …and more. See Comments below.
By Marlena De Lacroix
All My Children was always my favorite soap, from its premiere (1970) until the time Meggie McTavish made her disastrous, gimmick-filled return (1996-97) and later when Ryan and the Fusion girls took over the show. Bimbos! I hated them — Kendall, Greenlee, etc., etc. — girls who were obsessed with make-up and wearing sundresses year-round, who giggled about men and acted like cats while they were pretending to work.
Intelligent women with real hearts and authentic female wisdom had been what AMC specialized in until then (best example: Brooke). Like so many Thinking Fans, I used to love AMC for its humor, heart and real intelligence (three qualities which actually belong to its creator and longtime headwriter, Agnes Nixon.) For the last decade, however, I’ve watched the dumbed down AMC only for professional reasons, and I’ve been rarely happy about it.
Lately I have been watching with more interest, anticipating the arrival of headwriter Chuck Pratt. The bimbos (Kendall, Greenlee) have gotten a bit smarter and Ryan (I know the fans love him) has more muscles (in his head.) But there’s still so little there there in our beloved town.
Pine Valley is rife with action and plots, yet there’s no real feeling of community, which is what I always loved about the show. Erica exists in a timeless bubble, kind of like Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, her mind focused eternally on herself, depite interaction with her children and grandchildren. Even though we’re given glimpses of cherished faves like Opal and Myrtle, and the presence of the always real Angie and Jesse (those terrific actors Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan), I’ve found it still a chore to get through the hour.
My way of coping is to focus on an aspect of the show that has only become more valuable over the years: AMC has the most authentically talented and versatile male line-up of actors of any of the soaps. The twin acting geniuses of David Canary and Michael Knight, IMO have carried this poor show on their shoulders for the last ten years at least. Canary still has such strong acting chops and so much energy, he could stay on the show for the next 100 years. And now, Vincent Irizarry, a real soap superstar for a reason (he’s naturally magnetic and has grown infinitely more skilled as an actor over the years) is back as evil/sexy psychopath Dr. David Hayward.
Also in the last few years, AMC has had in its stable but has never featured the best of a titanically-talented and theater-trained actor, Thorsten Kaye. Oh Thorsten, how Marlena loved you (from afar!) as the literate Patrick on One Life to Live! How bored you have always looked as what’s-his-name with Kendall on AMC. I’ve always maintained that, with the right material, Kaye could be daytime’s Richard Burton. But he hasn’t been given that material.
With this line-up to work with — these dynamic and versatile male actors, plus some truly wonderful actresses like Melissa Claire Egan (Annie: I liked Egan all along!), Bobbi Eakes (Krystle) and the newly transplanted Beth Ehlers (Taylor) — Pratt certainly has an edge in devising plots for everyone of both sexes. But will he guide the show to become more serious dramatically and more watchable? I hope so. But I’m not going to review Pratt’s material until he’s been writing AMC for a while, and I’m trying not to pre-judge him by his work on other soaps, as so many fans do, So he worked as a writer with Guza on an empty-headed, violent General Hospital? Honey, he’s not the first person to consort with the Devil and survive.
So I’m watching. I just heard about the CGI Tornado that will hit Pine Valley during November sweeps! Oh gee, I covered the first tornado in 1994 on AMC and it gave me the great pause. Despite the then leadership of the invaluable and ever down-to-earth executive producer Felicia Minei Behr, I had a feeling while I was doing that story that Pine Valley was never gonna be the same. It seemed so non-Nixonian. That tornado was a harbinger of the gimmicky and less cerebral storylines that were to arrive a few years later with 1996 McTavish debacle.
But I’ve never given up. All these years, through all the cheap cocktails served at Confusion, through the tastelessly despicable rape of Bianca, the un-abortion and endless danger to and kidnappings of Kendall and Bianca’s kids. I’ve always wanted my old intelligent AMC back. Let’s see if Chuckie can spark an AMC renaissance.