By Marlena De Lacroix
In Part 1 of this column, I used that great 1947 Broadway musical in which a mythical ancient town full of joy and real human goodness reappears and vanishes once a decade as a metaphor for the brief return of Lorraine Broderick as headwriter of All My Children.
Ms. Broderick’s self-chosen short-lived return represented a short sojourn back into a soap opera world that now exists only in memory: What we’ve seen again in the past three months is the real All My Children — the intelligent, warm, character
My kudos go to ALL the actors of the AMC company who again got to showcase their real skills because they were given great writing.
rich soap we loved since Agnes Nixon created it in 1970 and which existed in that glorious form until 1996. Sadly, Broderick’s new stint as writer has already ended, but she leaves AMC in remarkably good shape — the best turnaround of a soap ever.
Well, let’s stop and savor the last real bit of classic soap opera we might ever see. Foremost, let’s appreciate how deeply skilled and trained writers work, so purposefully with logic, insight and heart, to create drama absolutely authentic to all human viewers. Broderick used what soap writers don’t use these days: real craft. Notice how she brought back Brooke, a warm. loving women of rare intelligence and insight through whose eyes we got a new look at the conflicts of the Chandler family during J.R’s cancer and Adam’s rumored fatal heart illnesses. (Adam is Brooke’s ex-husband.) Family crises reveal the depth of humanity, exactly what AMC needed — and all of daytime needs now to survive.
And Broderick oh so briefly penned the last real women you’re likely to ever see again on daytime — not the whores, hags, walking wombs and whiners we’ve seen on other shows for the last decade. Dr. Angie, a brilliant hospital chief of staff, makes a purely human mistake, blaming herself instead of Frankie for a patient he had accidentally let die. (She’s a mother, and this show is called All My Children, for heaven’s sake!) Look at the depth and understanding added to Annie, whose madness was so specifically written by Charles Pratt to meet splashy plot requirements. I always found this character’s antics torture to watch, and despised her as the utter stereotype of a mentally ill person. Under Broderick, Annie has been given insight and thus made human — she fears her own madness.
And most revelatory of all: Erica, given the real maturity and wisdom of her years by the writing, intelligently and accurately analyzed (a la Freud) the villainy of David. While having him tied to a chair! Finally, Susan Lucci got to show another side of Erica and of her acting, and I think she did a superb job in both.
My kudos go to ALL the actors of the AMC company who again got to showcase their real skills because they were given great writing. Now new viewers can finally understand their legendary status in daytime: Lucci, Julia Barr, Debbi Morgan, Darnell Williams, and many more. In the past few months, Debbi Morgan blew the house down as Angie (did you ever see her amazing performance in her movie Eve’s Bayou?) We got to see Angie and Jesse as real people, as the script gave the usually superficially written characters a nuanced story — a portrait of a marriage and a relationship that has survived everything because of pure love. And in this, a rare chance see what magnificent actors Morgan and Williams’ were — and still are.
Vincent Irizarry has been doing the best work of his entire career, just magnificent as the even more complex and layered David. Every character has been given depth. Even Ryan, a McTavish add-on “hero” character, seems finally to make sense to me. (Greenlee, well, not so much.)
And look anew at Michael E. Knight’s Tad. I initially chafed that Tad was being made old before his time with his add-on biological son Damon making him a grandfather! But his conversations with the very wayward Damon — a young Tad, get it — bring out Michael Knight’s great sensitivity and versatility as an actor. (Interesting — he and the same girlfriend he betrayed as a teen, Liza, are breaking up again at the same time!) And the Damon story gets us to accept that we who grew up with Tad don’t have to be embarrassed to suddenly be old! We older viewers, because of all the mistakes we have made in our lives, have gained wisdom. Wisdom was always an essential component of daytime, traditionally passed down to younger characters by older characters. Of course, older characters and wisdom no longer exist on daytime! That’s another reason daytime is dying!
The impeding loss of the most brilliant actor of all of daytime, David Canary, whose Adam is rumored to die very soon, brings up the all the very, very many problems AMC will face when he and Broderick leave. Canary, an actor so good you never realize he is acting, is really the lead on AMC and his loss leaves a crater the size of the sun. How will AMC make up for his absence?
And how will Broderick’s successors, headwriters David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski, fare? Impossible to know now! No matter how good or bad they may turn out to be, remember they’ll still be working under executive producer Julie Carruthers, who’s been a yes person to Mr. Frons all along.
I think what’s needed instead of a yes person as executive producer of All My Children is a very strong executive producer who always stands up for what she believes while at the same time knows how to deal (diplomatically) with ABC Daytime. At the top of my wish list is Emmy winner Wendy Riche, who was the executive producer of General Hospital for twelve years. With an iron glove — so needed now for AMC to survive — Riche has already shown she can produce great soap opera with rare integrity and heart. Remember on her GH, how hard we cried when B.J. gave Maxie her heart?