By Marlena De Lacroix
When I was a young girl my mother took me to City Center in Manhattan to see a revival of the 1947 Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon. In it, two American men on a trip to Scotland stumble upon a strange town, the Brigadoon of the title, from a
Can Agnes Nixon, who brought us this revival of Pine Valley as Brigadoon, continue to ward off Fronsie and the callow macho-ness of ABC Daytime’s boys club? What can be done so that THIS Pine Valley lives on every day — not just once every ten years?
past century, which disappears into the mist and reappears only one day every ten years. It’s a mythical throwback community full of good, charming people who like each other, where characters have real hearts, and where it’s easy to fall in love.
For the past two months, we’ve had the Pine Valley equivalent of Brigadoon as All My Children‘s creator-mother-genius Agnes Nixon used all her clout to temporarily bring back 90s headwriter, Emmy winning Lorraine Broderick. She’s a former college professor, and was Nixon’s protégé back in the day. She’s a great writer (remember the well-before-its-political-time Michael Delaney story?), not to mention a down to earth family person — and a woman.
What makes the Brigadoon-like AMC we’re seeing on our screens these days so wonderful? Well, it didn’t happen because of the move to California, or the move to HDTV, or splitting up of Erica and Ryan or (yuck!) bringing back Greenlee. Listen up, fans too young to remember class soap: the reason the show works again is not because of stunts and externals, but because of good dramatic, humanistic, realistic writing. The characters again have character and the scenes again have unusual depth.
Check out the writing craftsmanship here. Specifically, I’m talking about J.R.’s leukemia crisis, in which he needs a bone marrow transplant to live. To re-establish and delineate these classic Pine Valley characters, Broderick used the crisis primarily to illuminate the true depth and humanity of all involved in that plot: J.R.’s father Adam, step-father Tad, wife Marissa, bone-marrow match crazy Annie, and even Dixie, J.R.’s dead mom in Heaven., As in old AMC. we see them expressing their feelings and living their real relationships.
There are scenes of Tad lovingly comforting his desperately ill step-son, while J.R. tells him he has always considered Todd his other father. Yes, the former Tad the Cad, now as full of true caring and support as his dad Joe Martin. And loving scenes of J.R. and his own son Adam Jr. (now so realistically called A.J. “because I’m a grown-up boy”). And those between J.R. and Adam, who will do anything to save his son. Not the evil, conniving Adam of McTavish/Pratt, but the real human Adam, acting from the heart as a real life father would. The chain of fathers and sons, generation to generation. How real humans draw strength from one another.
Have you ever been in a family crisis? I’ve known my own in the past few years, from my own parent’s illnesses and deaths. Notice how all these characters — formerly battling over stupid things — suddenly say “I love you” to each other in face of death. As J.R. began a crucial operation today, we saw his whole family grouped together, watching over him. This is authentic daytime soap opera, about real people, about love and family. Soap opera the way we loved it — Brigadoon rising once more out of the mist.
Notice, those too young to never have seen classic soap opera: no rushed stories or scenes, no incoherent storylines. No Frankenstein villains or perpetually unpunished mob murderers. And absolutely NO misogyny.
And there is so much more to this brief oasis of real soap, which I will talk about in my next column. Full in-depth writing that makes us understand why and how legendary actors and characters became so. Such as Michael E. Knight’s Tad, David Canary’s Adam, Debbi Morgan’s Angie and on and on. How at long last, these actors are being given the tools and material to reclaim their former brilliance. How All My Children again demonstrates how soap opera can be derived from the strengths and hearts of real women. Relish the new writing and the acting behind such characters as Erica (Susan Lucci) and the thankfully returned Brooke (Julia Barr.)
Next time I’ll discuss the many problems AMC will face when Broderick leaves her temporary writing stint. Can Agnes, who brought us this revival of Brigadoon in what I sense is a publicly untold story (she didn’t deal with 50 years of network suits for nothing!) continue to ward off Fronsie and the callow macho-ness of ABC Daytime’s boys club?
And what can be done so that THIS Pine Valley lives on every day — not just once every ten years like Brigadoon?
All My Children Photos by ABC