All My Children: Daytime’s Brigadoon (But What Happens Next?) Part 1

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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.  AMC2Listen 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, AMC3who 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 AMC3from 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?Brigadoon  

And what can be done so that THIS Pine Valley lives on every day — not just once every ten years like Brigadoon?

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All My Children Photos by ABC

Comments

  1. Bob says:

    As always, a great column.

    I don’t regularly watch AMC. However, everything that you wrote so deftly speaks to issues all of our shows have been facing. I know you’ve said it before (as have others) but I am perplexed as to why the people in charge choose not to implement these solutions, which seems so easy and sensible.

  2. Jonathan Reiner says:

    Lovely column, Marlena.

    Thank you for the point about fathers and sons; I immediately thought of such disparate soap dads as Johnny Ryan and John Dixon, complicated men with complicated relationships with their sons. Those were the days… when even MEN could relate to the familial conflicts on soaps.

    Also worth noting: James Mitchell was in the original Broadway production of Brigadoon! You were certainly tapping into his spirit when you used Brigadoon as a jumping off point for this column.

    JR

  3. Great column – I am at a loss to understand why Lorraine’s stay is only temporary.

    But then again, we live in Upside Down Opposite Land, where what seems logical to us viewers never is to TPTB.

    Marlena says: Thanks, dear. Lorraine’s temporary stay is her choice.

  4. Vince says:

    Hi Connie,

    This column reminded me of your previous great columns that I used to love reading in SPW during my college days! Of course, this is better because now I can reply. In the spirit of those enjoyable Critical Condition columns where you’d structure the entire column in the form of questions, and since I agree with everything you wrote, I’d like to comment by asking questions that you, hopefully, have the answers to!

    First off, why was Lorraine Broderick, a great writer for AMC, hired on a temporary basis only?

    Marlena says: Thanks as always! (This and other questions from my dear old friend Vince will be answered in Part 2 of this column)

  5. Roman says:

    What a lovely and insightful review. I have great admiration for Broderick’s style, and it’s always so satisfying to read an assessment that truly “gets” and reflects an accurate description of her writing.

    What we’re seeing now on our screens is indeed a return to the heart of All My Children. Sure, more recent viewers may not get that…. They may not even have a fix on what AMC is supposed to be about, considering the numbing story developments of the last several years… But I hope even those newer viewers are giving this a chance.

    I will try to be optimistic about AMC’s future. But depending on where the incoming writing regime takes us, this may be our last chance to have a taste of the real All My Children. We can only hope that Broderick’s influence will have some lasting effect with her successors.

    As well, it’s unfortunate that the mainstream press – and ABC itself – have not really handed Broderick the level of open credit she deserves for putting AMC back on track. But I understand the machine, and the message is, “HERE are our NEW head writers, look at them, love them!” (Thankfully, we have certain journalists who make up for that!)

    Marlena, I very much look forward to your follow-up on this entry!

    Marlena says: By coincidence my column broke the same day OLTL confirmed they were axing FKish. So I don’t think the mainstream media noticed AMC and Lorraine. I too noted that Swajeski and Kreizman’s interview was on ABC sponsored Soapnet–obviously a PR thing. I knew Donna years ago, and she is an extremely nice gal. Her Another World was very well-written!

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