All My Children’s Tornado: “Look at Me, I’m Chuckie P!”

AMC tornado 1

Thinking Fans contemplate the Big Wind(s):  Marlene opines the strong wind is meant ”to sweep away the stench of E&B” … while Tom Casiello is exhausted by the ”piling on of plot points” … and NancyJo has just one word for Thorsten Kaye: “MAGNIFICENT!” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

All My Children‘s latest tornado was amusing to watch for more than a week as a soap special event. But I’m going to use a word for it I’ve never used in decades of watching or writing about soap opera.  I have never seen such a overly contrived piece of soap opera in my life.

The whole aim of any drama is to make the audience believe.  Do I believe that one tornado stuck most of Pine Valley, and then  a second one conveniently struck what

(The tornado) was showy, it was exciting, but when you calmly thought about it all, the likelihood that all of it could happen this way to real people in a real place was just plain ridiculous.

was left, namely the Pine Valley Hospital where, as luck would have it, most of the show’s characters had gone to seek refuge? How cooperative of Mother Nature! Maybe she came to the writers’ meeting and offered to lend a hand when the new headwriter said he needed to extend the story a few more days.

But little in this tornado sequence felt like an act of God that could almost happen in real life.  Instead, to me it felt like a new headwriter saying, “Look at me, I’m Chuckie P!”  (Chuck Pratt recently took over the show.)

Consider all the silly, unimaginative coincidences, like: Bianca’s been gone for ages, living in Paris with a new lover. Then, one minute before the tornado strikes Kendall’s beach digs, Bianca shows up with no warning.  Not only shows up, but shows up pregnant.  Nine months pregnant.  And about to pop.  With her brother-in-law Zach’s baby, which Kendall doesn’t even know about.  AAMC tornado 2nd Kendall doesn’t even have time to deal with the fact that her sister is pregnant before she gets knocked out by her crumbling tornado-struck  house and later needs brain surgery.   

“AMC fans, look at the six plot twists I weave can together with one pen stroke,” says the clever Chuckster.  “And for my coup de grace, I am going to have Bianca go into labor and have ZACH deliver their baby, all in the wreckage of Zach and Kendall’s beach house. Just how it would happen in real life, no? Can I spin a yarn, or what?”

Talk about contrived!  If you liked the way Pratt  pulled a rabbit out a hat by returning beloved character Bianca back to Pine Valley, here’s another: the return of sexy Dr David Hayward.  Isn’t it interesting he finally found her in the hospital at exactly the moment Babe died in J. R’s arms?  After they had schlepped the injured Babe all over the place, isn’t it convenient how Pratt finally made her die in the hospital’s chapel?           

Of course, soap operas are supposed to be full of exciting, dramatic and suspenseful stories. But all these things happening at once?  It strains even the most enthusiastic soap opera fan’s effort to believe what he or she is viewing is real life.   This is a tornado in a small Pennsylvania town, not Hurricane Katrina!

But  the plot twists kept on coming, at least one major one for each Pine Valley personality.

Jake did brain surgery on Kendall and with all his physician’s bravado continued onward when the hospital’s lights went out. (How convenient!).  Natalia was seriously injured and she revealed  to Jesse’s wife Angie and son Frankie that she, Natalia is Jesse’s daughter by another woman with whom he was involved while everyone thought he was dead. (This angered me. Jesse made many mistakes when he was a teenager, but the mature Jesse who came back to Pine Valley would never be so stupid as to continue to conceal from Angie the existence of another family.) Oh, and let’s not forget that Annie and Ryan’s daughter Emma was kidnapped from a movie theater just before the tornado hit.

I won’t even comment on the numerous Ryan and Greenlee confrontation scenes. I have never liked either character. But for the heck of it, just to finish off this week-and-a-half of plots, Pratt had Taylor accidentally fall down the stairs during an argument between Jake and Zach over Kendall’s operation.  The minute I saw that Taylor was doing a scene in a “hospital” (a.k.a. the AMC  studio) staircase I knew what was going to befall her.  Didn’t you?

Now, I’ll admit a lot of good came out of the tornado, even one as storyline-oversaturated as this one was.  Thorsten KayeAMC tornado 3 was magnificent with this tragic material, finally giving the kind of heroic and deeply touching performance he’s been capable of all along. So were Bobbie Eakes and  Jacob Young  and just about all the AMC veterans, like Darnell Williams, Debbi  Morgan, Eden Riegel,  Michael E.  Knight, Susan Lucci, David Canary, and especially Vincent Irizarry. Give this cast  meaty  material and they deliver superbly.

But as amusing as this tornado “event” was, to tell you the truth I’m worried about Pratt being head writer.  This clearly wasn’t a tornado that actually happened in Pine Valley as much as it was an engraved announcement that a New Headwriter Had Arrived.  It was showy, it was exciting, but when you calmly thought about it all, the likelihood that all of it could happen this way to real people in a real place was just plain ridiculous.  I love exciting stories but this “event” was terribly overstuffed with too many plots,  even for a daytime soap opera.  “Look at me, I’m Chuckie P.  Look how many plots I can spin at once!  I can manipulate anyone and anything, no matter how unrealistic, all long as it goes boom and will get me ratings.” 

Darlings, I’m afraid there’s something very frighteningly Guza-like in the wind in Pine Valley!

Comments

  1. Tom Casiello says:

    Hey Marlena!

    I had to chime in and say I totally agree. I had a (mostly) positive reaction to the tornado on that first Thursday and Friday, but last week was positively EXHAUSTING. And not in a Y&R Cassie’s death “Oh-my-God-that-felt-so-cathartic” kind of way either. The plot points piled upon plot points just felt horribly shoe-horned into the CGI, and by the time Taylor fell down the stairs, I had zero emotional reaction, and just an eye-rolling “Of COURSE she gets paralyzed — now where’s the baby switch, long-lost sibling, spouse back from the dead and the horrible rape that are supposed to happen at the same time, so we can REALLY combine twenty years of soap opera stories into a week’s worth of episodes?” This was definitely one of those cases where less is more.

    xo –tom

    Marlena says: Thank you Tom Casiello, experienced and wise soap opera writer! XXXOOO for instantly calming my nerves about how this column would be received.

  2. Gianni says:

    Marlena!

    Reading your post reminded me of another post where you wrote that the first AMC tornado was very UN-AMC. That was my first AMC/soap episode ever and remember thinking WOW. I couldn’t wait to get to know these great characters. Then a few days later Mona died and sad as it was we got that terrifically sad and unforgettable funeral that showed that those writers could do showy AND real emotion. In this case, the special effects really did seem to be a bit much. I kept thinking that this one really had NO heart at all and to make matters worse, the writers may have ruined Zach and Bianca’s characters. Amusing though it may have been at times, Pratt (as a writer) does not seem to possess the subtlety, sophistication, heart or humanity that AMC needs. In a sense, all that is now gone with the wind.

    Marlena says: I am so flattered you remember what I wrote in SOW in 1994. I don’t!! LOL. Will Pratt forget the Agnes formula (as you said so well” subtlety, sophistication, heart or humanity”) and go all plot-driven all the time? I just hope he doesn’t turn AMC into another show, as Ms. McTavish and her sorry successors did.

  3. HipSoCalGuy says:

    I agree with your point that there was a lot going on all at once. However, this is a true umbrella story unlike ones we have seen from previous headwriters, Megan McTavish and Barbara Esensten and James Harmon Brown. The McTavish and B&E umbrella stories like Bianca’s rape and Crash basically involved one group of characters who were shoved down our throats day in and day out while the rest of the cast just reacted to their pain. No one else was given a storyline of their own. With the tornado, however, most of the cast will be spun into their own storylines, i.e. Jesse’s other family, Bianca and Reese’s relationship, Kendall’s coma, Adam and Erica’s love/hate, David and his revenge against the Chandlers, etc. Yes, there was a lot going on, but I think the only way to jumpstart the show and bring back the lapsed viewers was for Charles Pratt to create an event that would serve as the springboard for future stories.

    I’ll admit I was hesitant when Pratt was hired as headwriter. All My Children still has its flaws. But this is the first time in a long time that I’m actually excited about tuning in to AMC on a daily basis.

    On a related note, thank you to Pratt for giving us back two soap opera storytelling devices long absent from AMC: foreshadowing and the Friday cliffhangers.

    Marlena says: Kewl, HipSoCalGuy. This is a well-written, well-reasoned letter even if I don’t agree with you. And I’m glad you are excited about the show again. Maybe because I have been burned too many times by ABC Daytime, but I am very suspicious of Pratt and his sponsor, the plot-oriented, Guza-loving head of the whole she-bang, Mr. Brian Frons. And to think I knew him well in his schmeil days at NBC Daytime, when he at least had taste in writers and some regard for female soap opera fans and their tastes.

    P.S. I wish the soap writers’ term “umbrella story” and the like had never gotten out to the public. I personally giggle everytime I hear a fan talk like they are “in the know” with professional soap opera writers. In all my years as a soap critic, I’ve made it my business to only use words a soap fan at home on the couch would.

  4. Jen says:

    Wow. I disagree with both of you, is that a first?! I haven’t watched AMC since 2004 but tuned in for the tornado because of all the buzz it was getting at the soap boards. I watched the majority of it and though felt no emotion for any of these characters, I thought the drama was very well written and acted.

    IMO this is the first wave of impact this tornado is giving to Pine Valley. The next wave will be the aftermath to Babe’s death, David returning, Kendall in a coma, Bianca’s baby being Zach’s and Bianca’s lover Reese coming to PV. There are more shockwaves coming, and this is far from over for Pine Valley.

    I’m actually looking forward to the Zach/Kendall/Bianca/Reese storyline and I hate Zach and Kendall. LOL! I love that David is back in PV and I can’t wait to see what havoc he reeks on this town for Babe’s death. Hell hath no fury like a father scorned.

    As far as tornadoes are concerned, yes they do touch down in Pennsylvania. (I live in PA and there have been tornadoes touched down within a 50 mile radius of where I live. So yes it’s possible to have a tornado in PA.

    Marlena says: Jen, old friend. I know there are twisters in PA. (I watched the original Pine Valley tornado in 1994!) But what are the chances two would strike in the same night, exactly where the characters were, at home and later at the hospital. Contrived!

    I like David, I love Zach and I’ll watch, too. But down the line … I’m just not hopeful. Remember what eventually happened to Carlivati’s OLTL and Guza’s GH … the latter, always a bee in both of our bonnets, dear!

  5. Marlene says:

    Dear Marlena,

    It was an ill wind that blew into Pine Valley last week and I was afraid that the soap critics would all fall under the not so spellbinding CGI effects. I’m glad they didn’t.

    I’ve been watching soaps, and AMC in particular, for years and never was there ever a natural disaster on a soap that served as the plot, until now. I think it served only as a metaphor for Pratt ‘s clean sweep of Pine Valley. He wanted this wind to sweep away the stench of Esenten and Brown to allow his own odiferous stench to permeate over Pine Valley.

    With one fell swoop of his poisonous pen he destroyed two beloved characters, Zach and Bianca, with one of the most distasteful and sleaziest storylines ever to disgrace Pine Valley, that of Zach being Bianca’s baby’s father. Pratt never read the history of these two characters, dids he? Zach and she would never do this to Kendall. I guess he didn’t read Doug Marland’s 10 Rules for Soaps. He has made it impossible for me to even look at Bianca anymore. I want her gone. She has become that vile to me all because Pratt wanted to shake things up.

    Jessie never mentioning his daughter to Angie is just as appalling. So rarely do we see the kind of honor paid to a wife or husband on soaps that we saw with Zach and Kendall and Jessie and Angie, but Pratt has destroyed two very honorable characters, Jessie and Zach, and for what? Even lower ratings?

    Do the executives in charge even care about the utter destruction that Pratt inveighed upon PV ? Do they care enough to make the changes that fans are calling for before more destruction can be done?

    I feel very fearful for AMC.

    Again, I appreciate your very honest and thoughtful critique of our soaps.

    Marlene

    Marlena says: Great letter, Marlene. Did you know my REAL middle name is Marlene (as in Constance Marlene)? So SWEET of you to call me honest and thoughtful!!

    I agree with you — it’s a very bad omen for Pratt to destroy the trust and honor seen between husband Jesse and wife Angie. I just cannot BELIEVE besotted husband Zach would donate sperm to Kendall’s sister Bianca without telling his wife. Let’s touch base, Marlene, in four months when Kendall wakes up from her coma!

  6. Hi Marlena!

    For me the tornado simply kept bringing up the question, “Why am I supposed to care?” Pine Valley needed another tornado at this point as much as GH needed another flying bullet.

    I’m not opposed to using a disaster to serve as an exciting umbrella story. But I would have preferred for Pratt to begin his tenure by writing good material for his characters FIRST, then bring on the cyclone! I have so little connection to anyone left on this show— the twister didn’t change that. Good character-based storylines will get me excited about the disaster, NOT the other way around!!

    This was polar opposite to the 1994 tornado. There were few special effects then, but the emotional impact was far greater. And please, was anyone impressed with those computerized images in the background? I would have been happier if they had spent the cash getting Julia Barr back on contract.

    Marlena says: Damon, I thought I was mistakenly watching the Weather Channel during a lot of the CGI. There were huge waves crashing near Kendall’s beach house—hey, isn’t Pine Valley INLAND on the Main Line in Pennsylvania? Love your line comparing AMC and GH, land of the flying bullet!

  7. Nancy Jo says:

    I agree with one thing you said — Thorsten Kaye was MAGNIFICENT! He’s always amazing IMO, but Fri just showcased this awesome talent of his and immense range and layers. He is a captivating actor! I didn’t mind the tornado and actually found it compelling. The thing that messed my brain up was the whole Bianca twist with Zach as the father! Come on, Chuckie! Way to ruin one of the most beautiful love stories ever!

    I keep listening to Bianca tell this story of Zach’s donation (while vowing to keep it secret) and none of this makes one iota of sense! Does Pratt realize we were there the past year and we KNOW what Zach has gone through and he never had time to go to Cambias or the Casinos much less to Paris and especially without Kendall’s knowledge and after all the grief he gave her the past year over secrets and meddling — that was beyond ridiculous! There are no words!

    Marlena says: Here are my words, Nancy: I absolutely adore Thorsten, too! I interviewed him once back in his One Life to Live days and professional reporter that I am, remained ga ga ga for weeks afterward. And I too think this twist with Zach secretly impregnating his own sister-in-law without his wife’s knowledge is the dumbest soap plot twist of 2008 (so far.)

  8. Femina says:

    I have to applaud you Marlena for opening the current on the great wizard, Charles Pratt, Jr. Yes, that is indeed sarcasm. As a long-time AMC fan, the entire tornado left me speechless. Not because of spectacular special effects or incredible acting, but because Pratt clearly decided to rewrite virtually every character, his/her histories, and recreate AMC in his own image.

    I wouldn’t mind his new vision if he considered that long-time fans are the ones currently watching the show. Believe me, the ratings support my statement. While AMC is clearly attempting to recruit new viewers, after the dust settles from the tornado, the storylines on the show still suck. I agree that AMC has probably the most talented group of actors on daytime, but even the talents of Thorsten Kaye, Darnell Williams, and Bobbie Eakes simply served to remind me that AMC has lost its identity, heart, and soul.

    For me, Pratt is picking at an open sore and dousing it with alcohol. I’m sure that he believes that the alcohol will cleanse the bad memories of B&E and McTavish as headwriters. Unfortunately, Pratt’s tornado event ,and subsequent fall out, iadd another nail in the coffin that began with Megan McTavish’s obession with Ryan Lavery and B&E’s obsession with babies in peril storylines. I guess the “first do no harm” rule does not apply to soap writers.

    Femina

    Marlena says: Brava, my friend Femina. You know I’m now suspicious of Pratt, but personally I want to see more of what he will do until I write more criticism.

  9. n69n says:

    Well, as the TV Network guy said to ERICA (in a storyline that seems to have just disappeared), “You have until sweeps to save your show!”

    I suppose they think “this” will save the show.

    Instead of rooting down and telling us stories, they want to flash some effects in our faces.

    I dont think Pratt has read the history of any of these characters … and the dialogue is at a 5th grade level.

    And it is a shameful waste that BIANCA’s big romance all takes place via EXPOSITION, robbing us of the chance to bond with Reese, to grow with them as they grow closer together.

    I’m very unhappy with the show now. Its no fun and there’s no emotional payoff.

    Marlena says: Norn, perhaps they will give us the Bianca-Reese romance in flashbacks? I can’t wait to see Tamara Braun debut as Reese. What a casting coup for AMC!

  10. JONNYSBRO says:

    Okay I have to say I liked the 1994 Tornado better. It was McTavish but it had all the Behr touches. It was very well put together but remember all the stories. We had Janet-Kendall, Gloria-Adam reveal, Julia getting scared meeting Noah, and alot of great points. I loved the 1994 tornado. IMO Behr was the only one who could reign McTavish in. This tornado was a bit over the top and I think Marlena in Chuck Pratt’s case it is more about his ego. Chuck Pratt is a very well known primetime writer/producer who has been with Melrose Place, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty and a variety of other shows. He probably could be making a bigger fortune at another primetime show but he is at AMC because Frons begged him. I am sure Frons is giving him full creative control, he has the producing credit and the whole shabang. Pratt probably was VERY VERY expensive. I think it was overdone but I do think Pratt is doing much better then the wrectched Esensten/Brown tenure. I really think this the whole Pratt ego thing going here.

    Marlena says: I don’t know anything about Pratt, because I never watched any of his primetime shows. (Oh, yes he co-wrote GH with Guza for time.) So Jonny, thanks for his backstory. I said in a previous column I was going to keep an open mind about him, and indeed I still want to see what happens with his post tornado work on AMC. I guess you are right that we can assume he was very expensive. Well, I hope we longtime AMC fans get our moneys worth!

  11. Matthew Cormier says:

    I haven’t watched AMC in nearly two years because I really don’t care about any of these characters anymore and the few characters I care about were being so neglected that I had no reason to watch. But with Chuck Pratt’s arrival and the returns of Bianca and David I am going to be watching day in and day out. I feel this is the most compelling story AMC has had since Bianca was raped.

    Susan Lucci and David Canary have never been better and this story has given Bobbie Eakes a new life. And isn’t it great to see Vincent Irizzary back at home at ABC Daytime where he belongs and not being wasted at Y&R in a thankless role?

    Though I do understand your concerns and share some of them myself — I still think we are seeing far too much Zach, Greenlee, Ryan and Annie, but this is a vast improvement on the state that Megan McTavish left the show in and what B&E did.

    I’m not myself a huge fan of Chuck Pratt’s work in daytime but have been impressed with a lot of his work in primetime on shows like Melrose Place, Desperate Housewives, Models Inc., and other shows so I know he is capable of writing compelling drama.

    Marlena says: Well Matthew, you are the kind of viewer ABC Daytime wants to lure back to the show. I’m sure Vincent is happy to be home in Pine Valley, too. The tragedy of B&E is that all they did could have been avoided if certain producers or network vice presidents had just read what we soap critics (specifically, me) had said about their awful past work (The City,Guiding Light) before they decided to hire them. But that’s all water under the Pine Valley Bridge right now.

  12. EricMontreal22 says:

    To be fair there have been several tornados–the hospital one wasn’t the second but at least the third or fourth–it was a different tornado that struck the beach area and the Comeback for instance. I’m not sure how realistic this is (I survived the Edmonton tornado when I was 7 and just remember that one touched down and the other two seen never did) but Pratt and all did make a big point that they were going to show *several* tornados.

    But I do agree with most of the rest you say. I also missed that we had NO reference to characters like Myrtle (RIP Eileen but shouldn’t Erica at least have worried about Myrtle?), Stuart and Marian, even Jack got no mention from greenlee or Erica. Surely characters should have been worried.

    That said… Despite all the probs it, oddly, came off a bit better than I expected. I’m still (yes still) willing to give Pratt the benefit of the doubt–he gets some of it already for finally bringing back a regular element of humour to his version of Pine Valley, something that’s been missing, and for having more than one story going on at once (which is how AMC has felt for the past few years…) But I am already annoyed that we have YET another baby story. For the past 5 or so years AMC has been WAY too baby crazy, title aside.

    Marlena says: Hi, dear Eric. Did Pratt say there was more than one tornado in a magazine or on-line interview? I must have missed it. But I do agree with you that it’s good he’s doing more than one story. As far as Jack never being mentioned and other obvious screw-ups, we all know that ABC Daytime hasn’t especially been strong on continuity for … years! Pratt’s brought humor back? I’ll have to listen more closely. And I know how you feel about baby stories! However, babies are a mainstay of soaps. Now that soaps are in the business of doing high stakes or superduper emotional stories, baby stories are more popular than ever. For me, it always helps when they cast a beautiful one!

  13. Tasha says:

    I have to disagree I don’t think that AMC has lost its identity, heart and soul. That would be OLTL. But I love the whole tornado storyline and can’t wait to see what happens.

    Marlena says: Hi Tasha. A big LOL about your OLTL comment!

  14. Aaron says:

    I’m willing to give Jesse a break. He tried a NUMBER of times to tell Angie the truth, but each time he did, she’d go off on some tangent about how brave he was, what a survivor he was, etc etc.

    Not saying it was right, but we have to also understand that Jesse’s secret past is a relatively new plot twist, so we have to give a little leeway here and not hold the characters responsible for bad writing, y’know?

  15. Kristen says:

    Hi Marlena..

    Wow, what to say!!! I thought the special effects were well done. There were a few days where I was glued to the television (well, with the exception of the Ryan, Greenlee, Aidan nonsense). I thought Thorsten was brilliant and continues to be as this story continues. There were some things that annoyed me – Annie running all over town looking for Emma was one – but at the same time, I see and understand your point. I do agree with some of the other posters that Mr. Pratt did put a lot in there, but now we have a lot of different stories to tell. I’m still on the fence with him and his work and am willing to see how all of this plays out.

    I will say that I think it is a bad story that Zach is the father of Bianca’s child (all the way around), and if he wanted to finally give Bianca a love story with a female, he’s blown it with the father twist. I’ve heard that Mr. Pratt is known to change to stories mid stream when they are not working – let’s hope he does on this one. I do have a few requests – we need consistency in scripts, for one.

    It would also be nice to have some plausible explanations for a character’s action. Why didn’t Jesse tell Angie the truth? With all that Kendall has done for Bianca, did she honestly think her sister would refuse this request? Why was Bianca and Reese so desparate to have a child? And exactly, why would Zach not insist that Kendall know? Oh…and why isn’t Zach mad at Bianca? He should be.

    I’m willing to give him time – to see how all of these stories play out – I just hope he actually makes sense of them. I’m not worried about a Guzified PV – not yet anyway.

    Kristen

    Marlena says: Even though I made a crack about the special effects looking like the Weather Channel in a prior response, I thought that the set dressing was superb. In other words, the sites of the newly mangled rooms, like Kendall’s destroyed beach home were nicely done. These look like Emmy winning scenes to me for the crafts people.

    I join you in hoping that Chuckie P succeeds, although we will all be carefully watching …

  16. Cherry Ames says:

    I stopped watching AMC when Megan McTavish destroyed the abortion story. It doesn’t matter if one is pro-life or pro-choice, it was a matter of having my intelligence as a viewer insulted. I have not gone back to PV and from reading your critique and the thinking fan(s) responses, I am OK with my decision.

    I am deeply saddned to say that this thinking fan is an ex-fan now altogether. OLTL is just as mindless and tasteless as you wrote in a previous column. All of the ABC daytime lineup is like suffering through a really over the top episode of Springer. I watched for years for love stories but now I am insulted and sickened at watching the soaps.

    My only question is why? Why do the shows have to be so coarse and degrading? Why do the shows, with a predominantly(sp) female audience, objectify women and portray women in such a negative light? I know I am generalizing but I certainly could cite you many such instances.

    I simply do not have the time nor the desire to support a genre that perhaps deserves to die. Soaps used to be like little “morality” plays. We knew that the bad guys would get their just desserts in the end. But now, the shows have no moral viewpoint. The last straw was the “forbidden love affair” promo for OLTL. Enough is enough!

    Marlena says: Cherry baby, thanks for continuing to read the column! Keep in touch as always!

  17. EricMontreal22 says:

    Marlena thanks for the reply!

    Yes, baby stories have always been a huge part of soaps, especially ones so heavy in domestic drama as AMC. But it seems like, comparing when I first watched AMC from 91-2000 or so (then, while away in Europe I missed large chunks for a few years), compared to the last five years, the emphasis placed on babies is staggering. It definetly has gotten more emphasised to my eyes, which seems bizarre given the changes in viewers.

    Either Pratt or ABC Daytime bragged about having several (maybe they even said many) tornados in one of the press releases–saying how that was more realistic, and with CGI they now could do that, unlike in 1994. I’m not personally sure it was an improvement, but…

    I do see a return of humour–and it came almost as soon as Pratt started getting credit for the show. There was one whole episode a month back, set mainly at the Chandlers which was almost completely humorous, we have had far more Opal, Petey has been a hugely welcome addition for me (I know many fans don’t agree), Erica has her wit and fire back (Erica to Carmen when she starts swearing in Spanish, “I don’t know spanish, *I* *learned* *French*!”), tons of fun stuff. Is this anywhere close to the sophisticated character humour and drawing room farce of the early 80s especially (from the hours of videos I’ve been lucky enough to see ;) ) or even the campier early 90s? Hardly–but it’s still a very welcome comeback for me and something I never expected from Pratt.

    Marlena says: Eric, I respect your opinions very much! You are right, there certainly have been more babies and little children on AMC for the last few years. But the kids are cute! The actress who plays Emma is a dead ringer for my beloved step-granddaughter Anna Rose, who lives far away from us, so I go nuts whenever I see her in a scene.

    Seriously, a lot of these kids need to be SORASed and I hope Pratt does that in some semi-believable way. Personally, I’d love to see more intelligent adults, especially career women who are more like Brooke than those dimwits at Fusion. And career men with their own lives! I will listen to the humor and get back to you. And I adore Pete-y. Remember the character of Opal is solid comic gold, and no one else has her or Jill Larson in soapland except for AMC.

    I can tell you that a lot of the AMC humor in the 80s and early 90s came straight from the top. Agnes Nixon, besides being an amazing person, has a wonderful sense of humor and laughed all the time when I spoke to her and interviewed her. As someone who is well read and always aware of current events and pop culture, she has a rich, very contemporary world view and that was evident in the show’s sophisticated, knowing humor for years and years. You may remember that I also said the same of Jim Reilly in my obit for him. His shows were funny, because he was ,but in an ENTIRELY different way from Agnes. Megan had a sense of humor. But B&E — oh my God, the world’s most self-involved, self-impressed people. (You didn’t hear that from me!) I’ve never met or interviewed Chuck Pratt, so I have no idea what he is like personally. But I’m sure we’ll find out!

  18. Tess says:

    My biggest gripe about the whole tornado fiasco?

    Weekend With Babe: the Movie

    How many places did they end up dragging poor Babe’s body to? What a horrible indignity!! And my favorite part is that Babe was DYING (oh yeah, we don’t know exactly why or what her injuries were except that she “lost a lot of blood”) but hey, she’s dying and JR’s gonna carry her down to the chapel, but look — she can SIT UP on the hard pew WHILE SHE’S DYING!! She is indeed a strong young woman. Oh, uh, no, she’s dying right? ARRRRGGHH!

    Marlena says: Thanks for the great big laugh you gave me. As you know, the dragging about of Babe the almost dead drove me crazy too. And wasn’t Babe the healthiest looking dying person you’ve ever seen? I hated that hardly anyone suffered an intermediate injury (except for the bloody gash on Zach’s head) like a broken arm or leg. You either died or went into a coma, like Babe and Kandall, or you emerged from the ruins of your home whole, looking almost….refreshed.
    What injury did Baby die of anyway? I hate when soaps do that. At least on shows like ER, after an grizzly accident they show a steering wheel protruding from the victim’s belly or a spike …

  19. Chris says:

    Hi Marlena Dear,

    OK, not to jump on the bandwaggon here (you know me, I love gimmicks, bells and “plot-driven” whistles, so in that sense, Pratt rules!). BUT I just gotta ask: how come everyone’s homes seem normal again so soon after the tornados? On Tuesday’s eppie, the Chandler mansion looked just fine! I know, I know, very picky. But it’s bugging me in a weird way. I’ll keep watching though. :)

    Marlena says: Chrissie, my dearest, I told you the whole thing is very contrived! Since you personally love to clean, of course you noticed this! LOL!!!!!

  20. Marlene says:

    Dear Marlena,

    So sorry to post again, but I was very remiss in my original post when I failed to mention your praise of Thorsten Kaye’s performance during the first tornado. He certainly is one of the finest actors we have on daytime, and I feel very fortunate to be able to have him on my screen everyday. I love his performances. I have followed him on every show that he has been on and I feel that Zach is probably his best character. However, I haven’t seen any more tremendous acting from him since that day. Is Mr. Kaye as miserable about this storyline as is his legion of fans?

    I feel that this storyline about Zach fathering Bianca’s baby has gone beyond the bounds of decency. I think we all are pretty liberal and accepting here, but I have my limits, and this is it. Why was this storyline allowed to be written, let alone allowed to air?

    I must disagree slightly with your friend Gianni, who posted above and say that I believe that this storyline has already ruined ,and not may have ruined two beloved characters. I agree with Mr. Gianni, AMC under Mr. Pratt has lost all sophistication and heart, two of the many qualities brought to us by Thorsten Kaye along with his beautiful leading lady Alicia Minshew.

    May I ask, by what right do writers get to decimate the integrity of characters like that? It’s like seeing my favorite classic character changed to some unrecognizable thing I no longer want to see

    Marlena says: Well, Marlene you have asked a question that is at the heart of why soap operas have declined in audiences and quality in the last ten years or so: “May I ask, by what right do writers get to decimate the integrity of characters like (Zach?)” Changing characters for the sake of making them fit into inane plot twists is done way too often these days on soaps. Network officials, producers and headwriters do this kind of thing all the time using their own authority. Why? They don’t understand the unique nature of the soap opera medium, in which fans follow characters from year to year, from decade to decade. We love our characters because of their unique personalities and character. Somewhere this has been discounted in favor creating stories which seek to hook audience through plot twists which offer sheer titillation, sensationalism and/or cheesy “excitement.”

    I’m sure the motivation for Zach secretly fathering his sister-in-law’s child without wife Kendall’s knowledge will be explained away by some poppycock in the next few months of Pratt’s head writing reign. I read something in a soap mag speculating that Bianca wanted a child by a person in her older daughter Miranda’s biological family. But I’m sure you remember Zach’s pyscho brother Michael Cambias actually raped Bianca, resulting in Miranda’s birth. Now would the smart, principled Bianca we know would really do something this insane? I hope against hope that Pratt doesn’t dumb down Bianca AND Zach down just to make them fit into this “sensationalistic” plot!

  21. DS0816 says:

    Dear Marlena,

    I’ve been checking out “All My Children,” and pretty much nothing else the daytime soaps offer. (A little momentary channel-surfing, I rhetorically ask, “What the hell happened to ‘One Life to Live’?”) Other matters, like the presidential election, are on my mind; but “AMC” has been a surprising diversion. I think it is the year’s most improved daytime drama, and I’m thrilled with the cast—a terrific blend of talents that are, lately, reason alone to tune in. I find myself unbelievably compromising with my suspension of disbelief on the soap’s writing (which may be better than most other 2008 soaps).

    Yes, the tornado was hilarious in all its glory.

    Who doesn’t normally travel from out of state right into a tornado—especially when nine months pregnant and about to deliver? (Welcome back, Bianca!)

    Killing off Babe?! Hey, it was more than likely…budgetary. (Why concern ourselves with the necessity of this terrific character? We know that if “AMC” wanted to do without Babe, for however long, she should still be breathing—while breathing and living in some locale that is not Pine Valley, Pa. Just like “General Hospital’s” Emily, from Port Charles, N.Y. Come to think of it: These two might’ve made good friends. Established off-screen. Cross-pollinated between the soaps after they would be reactivated.)

    For pure soap-opera cliches, I like that Taylor took that fall down those flight of stairs. (Hey, you gotta keep the Iraq soldier in town. A newly established medical crisis does the trick. Request: please don’t paralyze her longer than 30 days.)

    I would like some breathing room with the return of David Hayward. (Vincent Irizarry, so fantastic in the part that copped him a best-actor Emmy nomination in 2002, doesn’t miss a beat; but all of David’s latest plans appear to have been laid to bare in less than 48 hours after his return to Pine Valley. Perhaps a mourning period, over the loss of his daughter, of 60 minutes does not suffice.)

    “AMC”‘s tornado served the following purposes: 1) writing out actress Amanda Baker (and having her character, Babe, die); 2) Babe’s death bringing back her father, David; 3) Alicia Minshew, embarking on a well-earned vacation, sees her Kendall character put on ice (for a while); 4) Beth Ehlers’s Taylor is also on ice (again, we gotta keep her in Pine Valley; suggestion: Can we have Ehlers act with more cast members…in addition to her “Guiding Light” leading man, Ricky Paull Goldin, who plays “AMC’s” Jake? I want her…circulated. This five-time Emmy-nominated great should not be isolated. Get her moving, “AMC”!).

    SIDE NOTE: Yes, Marlena—Thorsten Kaye, as Zach, is a committed, strong actor. (No doubt.) His work in this tornado story was riveting. But I gotta say that I really dig Melissa Claire Egan (as Annie). Her character clearly mental, Egan elevates the material—and is emotionally relatable.

    “AMC,” in 2006 and 2007, was the pits; so in 2008, I’ve been paying more attention, especially to Ehlers and Goldin, formerly “GL’s” Harley and Gus, signing on—and the welcome returns of greats Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams, in Emmy-caliber performances, as Angie and Jesse.

    And a note on Eileen Herlie: A wonderful talent, a pippy voice, and exquisite acting from a vet whose Myrtle Fargate was the ultimate character actor’s “character” (and on a show that has, historically, been filled with them!). Herlie was a blessed talent. And I’m very sorry about she is no longer among the living. (2008 has been a year that has already marked numerous deaths among soaps’ finest veteran players, both onscreen and offscreen. I hope not one more comes to pass.)

    Marlena says: DSO, I have missed you; This letter is priceless; I hope everyone out there reads it!

    DSO, I too have been consumed with the election; at least it holds suspense, unlike the spoiler-plagued soaps. I adore that you call the late beloved Ms. Herlie’s voice “pippy.” I came out with my longtime support for Egan several columns ago, and what’s wrong with my endorsement of Thorsten? I have always loved and adored him above all soap males (except Passions’ Timmy) since he played that poetry recitin’ professor Patrick Thornhart on OLTL.

  22. DS0816 says:

    Dear Marlena,

    A response—and I’m hoping this doesn’t get deleted; it will be my last (to this particular article)—to the following section that was, also, a response by Marlena:

    “I came out with my longtime support for [Melissa Claire] Egan several columns ago, and what’s wrong with my endorsement of Thorsten [Kaye]? I have always loved and adored him above all soap males (except ‘Passions’’ Timmy [the late Josh Ryan Evans]) since he played that poetry recitin’ professor Patrick Thornhart on ‘OLTL.’”

    …Nothing at all. Gosh, Marlena, I hope what I had written was not casting any doubts. Especially on Thorsten Kaye. He is a vigorous, charming performer. Kaye is a romantic actor—brimming with intelligence and sensibility. Just look into his soulful, expressive eyes! (Sorry if you were thinking I didn’t appreciate him; my focus had quickly shifted from Kaye to the beautiful Melissa Claire Egan—who I want on “AMC” for as long as she wants to be—and, perhaps, I was giving you the impression that I am dismissive of Kaye. Never was that my intention.)

    ONE LAST NOTE ON DAYTIME LOSSES: Eileen Herlie was a marvel. A soap-opera viewer for 25 years, I love this lady’s portrayal of Myrtle and found the four-time Emmy-nominated pro (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986) a golden girl with a lot of life in her. Herlie is so valuable to “All My Children’s” history. And I really am sad over losing her. It is a similar feeling of mine with too-numerous players who have also passed during 2008. It should be noted that, while I did not respond to previous (and recent) articles, I did read Marlena’s reflections on Emmy-winners Irene Dailey and James E. Reilly. I appreciated them. Thank you! (And, again, I want no more losses!)

    Take care!

    And a “Happy Halloween!” to everyone!

  23. Dan says:

    Sigh– I had this long rant written and then my computer cut out. Hopefully I can remember everything.

    I agree with you Marlena, of course, like you, I’ve never been much into these big sweeps extravaganzas. (I will never forget Jerry ver Dorn’s comment in one of the magazines that he wishes soaps would just cut to the fallout, especially considering the overall mediocre soap production values.)

    But what I found most troubling about the tornadoes is that not only is it hard to believe that those circumstances could happen to real people, but almost none of these characters acted like real people throughout the events.

    Consider all the scenes with characters schlepping all across town, having conversations with others about their oh-so-dramatic lives while a tornado siren blares in the backround. With a storm that bad, you mean to tell me that NO ONE has a tv/radio on? The Comeback gang had to rely on Jesse to provide the dire news.

    And once they did hear the warning, did any of them take cover? NO! Instead of crowding in the stairwell like Kathy and Krystal, the Comeback gang decided to rally around Babe and JR with a faux-wedding. Kendall was reading to her children in the middle of her LIVING ROOM with big windows all around her. Bianca decides to see her sister at the HEIGHT of the storm. Not to mention Kendall was stupid enough to see who was at the door in the first place.

    Forget about Emma’s kidnapping, why was she brought out in such weather in the first place? Why did Zach decide that the safest place to ride out the storm was in his CAR?! That’s about as stupid as going underneath an overpass. Why did Kendall put her children under a table? Unless it was screwed to the floor, it probably would have been hurled into the air, with the children in tow. Aidan’s spying on Greenlee and Ryan’s kiss kept him so distracted that he didn’t even notice a tornado coming behind him (you mean the train-like sounds weren’t a giveaway?). It’s sad that only Adam and Erica were the sensible ones in the entire town.

    I’ve always thought that soaps should always have at least one foot tethered to reality. Although these characters lead extraordinary lives, if they fail to react to the world realistically, we lose an emotional connection to them. Jean Rouverol wrote in her soap-writing book that character credability was an important part of daytime. Maybe that’s why the entire genre is in such a rut.

    Marlena says: What a great letter, Dan. What AMC is really missing here, besides someone meticulous enough at the show or the network to catch all these mistakes, is a quality called stagecraft. That’s an essential part of any piece of theater (i.e. television) that makes the audience believe the illusion that is presented to them. That’s a lot easier for the AMC company and crew to achieve if they are first presented with a logical, well thought-through script. Obviously, the headwriter here was more interested in making boom-boom than sense-sense. This is one of the main reasons the soap genre is in a rut and has been in one for too many years.

  24. renee says:

    Okay Marlena,

    I’m not sure if I agree or disagree because I don’t know all the soap lingo. What I do know is having gone through a tornado series, it worked realistically for me because they have a mind of their own. So I didn’t beat Pratt up for the convenience of having certain stars in certain spots since ALL the stars weren’t all together (unlike Angie and Jesse’s wedding).

    Now for the plot lines. Yeah yeah Zach and others had some meat to chew, but basically I walked away from that week physically and emotionally wrought (in my mind I kept referring to Damon’s piece on grief). Even more — I HATED ALMOST EVERY CHARACTER because so many were acting out of character, OR getting on my nerves as their character. Major kudos to Zach who did both — donating sperm to Bianca, nuh uh. An arse to Jake, uh huh.

    And all of this added up to MUST SEE AMC!!

    I couldn’t turn it off. My friends couldn’t turn it off. Emails were flying back and fourth. I had Di and my cousin MA lol over my outrages. Friends who I rarely discussed AMC with were talking to me. People I didn’t want to hear from were wanting to chat. AMC is as hot as Grey’s at the watercooler right now.

    Yeah, Pratt has violated some history rules, and I’m (along with others) are anxious to see what he does about that, but WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IT. LOL

    Now if I can just get Gloria and Amber killed off on Y and R my days would be complete.

    Marlena says: You and your friends talking about AMC is precisely what ABC and Pratt want. As far as the rest of your letter, I can’t tell whether you liked the tornado overall or not. But your feeling of exhaustion at the end I think is shared by most AMC fans. The trick for Pratt now is to keep everyone intersted enough in the show to hang around until the beginning of the next stunt.

  25. renee says:

    I loved the look of the tornado.
    I thought the tornado was realistic.
    I hated the destruction it brought and that it killed Babe.
    But I love that it made AMC must see even more TV.
    :)

    Marlena says: LOL Renee! I name you the offical Poetess-In-Residence at marlenadelcroix.com. (Or was this a haiku?)

  26. Raymyman says:

    Hey there it is me your bigest fan of all my children Rachel ann stankiewicz. I like bianca a lot and her lovers like Babe, and Resse and Maggie and more her first lover is Sarah michelle gellar as Marissa when they first meet. And i like the one that she exposed that was gay.

  27. Raymyman says:

    Hey there when reese left Bianca was still in love with someone else. Like frankie stone and more girls that are lesbians. That never stopped at all after the show ended on abc now it is a classic on the soapnetwork right. Hey there Marlena How was your day writing all this down you must be too tired out. I’m a night owl i stay awake until 3:30 am.hey there renee you must be tired out as well huh i’m a night person. But i’ a huge fan of all my children I’m Rachel ann stankiewicz.

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