Thinking Fans Comment Update: renee wnts a long-term storyline for Brot, but is certain there will never be one … Kristen thinks Bianca and Reese “are more in lust than in love”… while Kasey thinks Angie “has just the right blend of steel and magnolia” … and more. See Comments below.
By Marlena De Lacroix
In Part 1, I explained how I recently began watching All My Children every day again after being mostly alienated from the show I loved for a decade and a half. The main reason I’ve returned is the nicely intelligent work of Charles Pratt, who appears to be a thinking headwriter. He seems to want to revive the very elements of the Agnes Nixon-created show I valued the most, choosing characters and storylines that are both smart and have heart. And he’s continuing to do thoughtful Nixonian social issue stories in an era when many soaps have abandoned them in favor superficial exercises in momentary chills and thrills.
I got really excited when I heard AMC was doing an Iraqi war veteran story. Remember, not terribly long after the show’s 1970 debut, when missing-in-action-and-thought dead Philip came home from the hated Vietnam war as a veteran, only to find his “wife” Tara married to his best friend Chuck? We were told AMC would bring on a non-actor who was a real life wounded Iraq war veteran named J.R. Martinez to play a soldier whose face was seriously scarred in combat. He was to play a character named Brot, who had been engaged to fellow soldier Taylor. Brot is believed to have been killed in action. He wasn’t, and comes home – to find Taylor involved with Dr. Jake Martin.
I thought, “How can they do that? This is a soap opera where every actor and every character is judged by the perfect beauty of his or her face!” Well, I watched as Martinez made his debut on the show, and I was thrilled to discover that whoever cast him in the role knew exactly what they were doing. The ongoing story is a few months along now, and nonprofessional actor Martinez is improving daily. A career motivation speaker since returning from Iraq, the charming and persuasive Martinez brings to the role an authenticity that would be virtually impossible to fabricate. He’s quite simply the real deal. He received his scars in the service of his country, and, in a new career that places him daily in the spotlight, as a speaker and now as an actor, he shows us that such scars are only skin deep.
To me, Brot has turned out to be the most compelling soap opera character in ages. Brot is all heart — heart being about 95% of what all soap opera characters are missing these days! BTW, did you see Martinez on The View a few weeks ago? He was wonderfully positive and passionate in talking deals with his war injuries. What a spokesman for all who have overcome disfigurement and want only to be accepted for the strong, valuable individuals they are!
And so, when my old friend pjs, another diehard AMC fan, told me at the end of Part 1 that Pratt had not found the heart of Pine Valley yet, I said, “Oh yes, he has. And Brot is a big part of it. He represents the afflicted and misunderstood characters Nixon, out of a loving and liberal heart, loved to do stories about. I started reciting the show’s credo Nixon wrote for the premiere in 1970: “The great and the least, the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor …” It left pjs speechless. After all, what true AMC fan would argue with the credo?
But pjs, true to form, wasn’t speechless for long. He countered that the other heart of the show now is Debbi Morgan‘s Angie Hubbard.
“She’s the new Kate Martin,” pjs declared, and I quickly agreed. (The late Kate was Joe Martin’s mother and the show’s “good” matriarch for years.) Dr. Angie accepts everyone, no questions asked, and showers them with her womanly wisdom To date Pratt’s most surprising storyline has been Angie actually accepting and bonding with Rebecca, a cancer patient who turned out to be the woman Angie’s husband lived with (and had a child with) all the years everyone thought Jesse was dead. In a medium where women still have cat fights, this rare and rich female friendship has been a revelation. So has the wonderfully mature performance of Laura Koffman, whose whiny Cassie Callison on One Life to Live I could never stand. I love the Hubbard family, if only Pratt would write better and more sophisticated stories for them.
But, as good as Pratt’s work has been in the months since he arrived, he has many, many other plots and characters still to address:
I wish the show had more humor in it, as the old show did. Michael Knight sorely needs a new storyline or love interest (plus a brunette dye job.) Beth Ehlers’ soldier Taylor character still seems very out of the place on the show, and her Guiding Light and now AMC co-star Ricky Paull Goldin is too obnoxious as the former nice guy, Dr. Jake Martin. The so far undeveloped plot in which Zach secretly donated sperm to his sister in-law Bianca, resulting in the birth of a daughter Gabrielle, (named after longtime SOW AMC editor Gabrielle Winkler?) without either of them telling their wife and sister Kendall respectively is just sadistic. Why would they hurt her this way? What a thing to wake up to after months in a coma!
All things considered, I’m still liking Pratt. But who knows what the future will bring? And why should I trust him? To me it’s a great relief that AMC is again one of the few soaps with a capacity to be ethical and humanitarian. But this is happening in the context of the otherwise sleazy ABC Daytime (credo: “Anything for ratings”) I’m enjoying AMC because it’s free of the violence that plagues General Hospital and the despicable sexism of One Life to Live.
Someone is guarding the door against the quintessential male chauvinist network VP, Brian Frons, and the sensationalism, sexism and exploitation ABC Daytime seems to delight in injecting into its soaps. I theorize that someone is a certain octogenarian who invented Pine Valley, who still actively consults on the show and who never abandoned it to tastelessness and the mindless male boorishness that is so common on the other ABC shows. I once asked Agnes Nixon in an interview, ‘Whose children are they?” and she said, ” Well, dear, they’re mine, of course!”
P.S. Today’s memorial episode for Myrtle (the late Eileen Herlie) was wonderful, full of so many clips. Erica beat me to it, when at the memorial service she called Myrtle “the heart of Pine Valley.” And so she was, one of many in the long history of this very heartful show.
P.S.S. Thinking Fans will recognize the affectionate illustration of AMC‘s Brot above as the work of our own Norn Cutson. Check out his other amazing work at Norn’s Island.