All My Children: Daytime’s Brigadoon, But What Happens Next? Part 2

AMC logoBy 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. NoticeAMC cancer 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.AMC tied to chair

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. Vincent I. 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 Taddon’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?

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Comments

  1. Roman Seano says:

    Wendy Riche certainly would be a great, visionary producer for All My Children. I believe she is a classic example of one who can successfully balance the concepts of running a business with creating a compelling production.

    Marlena, do you know yet if Broderick will be remaining with AMC in any capacity, or if she’ll be working alongside Kreizman & Swajeski for any length of time? I know, it’s like asking for some reassurance!

    To think that Broderick accomplished so much turnaround, even with the greater creative limitations that are in place on soaps today (i.e. Frons). According to comments made by Carmen Thomas to another soap site, the actress and her character of Hillary’s return to All My Children was being pitched by Broderick to Carruthers. At least for now, it seems like it isn’t happening. But it made me wonder just how much greater good Broderick could have done if given more “free range” with the canvas.

    Nonetheless, I’m so happy, especially for us longtime viewers, that we have been given this experience of the true All My Children – for however long it lasts!

    And thank you for giving us such a careful dissection of Broderick’s effect on AMC! It’s interesting how this review of what is quintessential AMC also feels so much like the heyday of Critical Condition, when you were more often able to write about the ART FORM of a show’s storytelling (which there is far too little of among today’s shows). Isn’t it great to talk about something wonderful that’s happening on a soap?

    Marlena says: First of all, thanks for this note, Roman. I have not heard that Lorraine is staying on. And thank you for anticipating exactly what I was thinking. A critic can only write if what they are analyzing has thinking going into it. Art! That applies to everything — theater, movies, music, etc. Unforturnately, the era has past when soap writers have the latitude (as Lorraine was specially permitted here) to think. All have to write to headwriter instuctions and the headwriters have to write to the instructions of the network. And you know what the formula is today — quick plots, violence, stupid women, criminals go unpunished, etc. Also there seem to be big budget problems. When soaps were still making profits for the networks, they weren’t monitored as much. Headwriters (such as Agnes, Jim Reilly, Douglas Marland) used to be able mostly to follow their own vision. They also have to compete with the other soaps, which has always meant copying one another’s plots and styles. What a mess soaps are today!

  2. Marlene says:

    Marlena, thank you for this column. I eagerly anticipated Part II. It didn’t disappoint.

    Though I am not disappointed, I do disagree with your take on Annie. This character exemplifies what was very wrong under Pratt and is wrong with a few other characters on AMC, they have outlived their time on AMC (Greenlee, Ryan anyone?). Despite the fact that Lorraine Broderick added depth and understanding to Annie,she remains a cold blooded killer who killed either from madness or deliberate fratricide and has never been punished for her crime regardless it may be due to mental illness. In its day AMC would have taken a character like Annie and have her either meet her demise or be shipped to jail or a mental institution after a just trial. Pratt’s obvious favortism towards this character caused many others to be ruined in her favor. I cannot look at this charater without rancor and disgust and despite what Broderick has done for or with her, I still believe she needs to be written out.

    I agree about Wendy Riche. Her production values rivaled those of primetime(how could one forget the on location shoot in Puerto Rico or the wonderful climax to the Ryan Chamberlain storyline in the house of mirrors) This is all pre Frons days. Shame on Julie Carruthers..she trained under Riche and should know better than be yes man(woman) to Frons.

    Marlena says: Thanks for your background on Annie, and I’m glad you liked Part 2. I couldn’t bear to watch the show under much of Pratt’s reign. He didn’t seem to care very much about the show, the fans or logic. Everyone gets away with crimes (like murders) on soaps these days (Sonny, Michael, Jason on GH!) But Annie needs help (or institutionalization) right away. Instead she’s used as a splashy plot catalyst. All the ABC soaps (especially One Life to Live) disregard the seriousness of mental illness these days. (I have written several columns on this.) Since when, though, are soaps realisitic now?

  3. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    Brilliant take on what’s made AMC so quickly improved, and what lurks in the future. I’ve stuck by, AMC, as you know through the good and the bad–and actually saw elements I liked, and missed, in Pratt’s view of the show. But I agree with you, Broderick has taken half thought out stories and made them gold.

    I think maybe in my young age I’m more cynical than you–I don’t feel the show is as balanced as you do, and I did think some of Broderick’s slowing the pace of the show wasn’t a benefit. But this week, where we’ve had new story and character points introduced (one can only hope with the help of the new HWs?) has made me excited to be a fan all over again. I get home from work, and am EXCITED to watch MY show. Am sad when the last “act” is coming up. The way she took a hackneyed plot (Tad discovering he had a son, and breaking up with Liza over it nad her revenge) and has made it work, in spades, is… soap opera sublime.

    I’ve heard that Broderick will remain with the new team in a capacity. I know that she took this gig largely as a favour to Agnes when the show moved coasts–she doesn’t want to be a full time headwriter anymore (sadly) so I think this is the best we can hope for.

    I do think Broderick has NEVER shied away from the kinda sensationalism that, let’s face it, soap fans love as much as the great character stuff–like Greenlee’s wedding. Bring up past stories of her (ignoring OLTL and ATWT where her work never quite fit) such as Myrtle and Santa Claus (which as much as I hate fantasy plots was cute and fun), Erica kidnapping Maria’s baby, the whole gay storyline with the shooting of Laurel on Cutting Edge, and I think she can mix this in well. As long as we NEVER ever get as awful and mean spirited a story as Hayley and Tanner Jordan (one I’d like to think was forced on Lorraine by the networks)

    Great piece

    E

    Marlena says: Thanks so much Eric! You are the second reader who told me Lorraine is staying on to help the new writers, but I will check on that. I hated Greenlee’s wedding — so cliche on soaps. It’s funny how I’ve selectively forgotten such stories as Tanner and Hayley. I know that Broderick did not have an easy time on ATWT. I think Lorraine (who was also interim co head writer at Guiding Light with Jim Reilly and Stephen Demorest when Nancy Curlee was on maternity leave really doesn’t like sensationalistic stories. They didn’t start on AMC until 1996 or so when McTavish succeeded her as headwriter. Was Erica kidnapping Maria’s baby Lorraine’s story? I called them on that in my SOW column and Agnes Nixon actually wrote a rebuttal (have you ever seen her do that?) It wasn’t a bad experience, however! (Google me and see my 4 hour video ATAS interview with Agnes circa 1997 or so.)

  4. SallyV says:

    Marlene…One little correction. David Canary said in an interview that Adam will not be killed off, he’s just going away. Probably with Brooke. He said he’ll be back to visit from time to time for special occasions. Yeah!

    Marlena says: I respect Carnary and you Sally ! However these days I never believe any news (or gossip) in this soap world unless I see it confirmed in a professional publication.

  5. esther says:

    They have a chance to bring Carmen Thomas’ Hillary back and they aren’t doing it? This is something I have waited for since the character left! Idiots. Absolute idiots.

  6. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    I think we all have selective memories about some of these stories… It’s probably a survival mechanism we soap fans have. Yeah, the baby kidnapping was definitely during Broderick’s 96-97 era. (I’d love to read your column and Agnes’ rebuttal!). A few things I remember (and I was 15 back then so, your mileage may vary)–this was when Reilly’s Days had started to overtake AMC in the ratings, so some stories, like Santa Claus and the voodoo mess were, I think, pressured onto Lorraine. (Tanner was part of the AMC influx of Aussie Hunks that year, though it was a weirdly mean spirited and violence driven story for Lorraine–so who knows). What was best under her was the awesome character interactions, something we’re already seeing back on AMC. I know as a confused gay teen her whole storyline with Kevin Shefield (which came out of the “gay shooting” story), his friendship with Kelsey, her love for him and confusion about that, Opal coming around and seeing that the “deprogramming” shrink he had been sent to was destroying him, etc, was all amazing (and undervalued at the time) stuff.

  7. JONNYSBRO says:

    Marlena, I would love Wendy Riche to return to daytime and especially at AMC. She is an extreme visionary that IMO doesn’t get intimidated. Riche was very key in keeping those GH divos under control. She also had to combat Bob Guza in such a way that he quit the show in 2000 cause (it is said) because he despised Riche so much.

    Riche is an extreme visionary and the Labines said it all that their GH tenure was so successful all due to Wendy. She had had no problem standing up to anyone above her to get their vision executed. A big reason why the Labines tenures at OLTL was a bomb they had no visionary and GL they were mismatched with Rauch.

    I am not sure Wendy would come back though to the current ABC Daytime. Frons is executive producer of all his showd. Julie is total flaky pushover, Frank executes on limited budget but controlled and who would ever thought JFP the biggest control freak in daytime is now a mere figurehead. Marlena I know Wendy would not return to be a figurehead she is too, passionate, and very agressive executive producer. Her GH had so much heart and soul. No matter what she got Guza to do the best writing of his career at GH at certain points.

  8. Welcome back, Ms. Lorraine, to your devoted fans of, All My
    Children.

    A brilliant writer with a great insight to the characters. I am so
    grateful she is continuing her creative talents as the best
    writer of any soap opera!!!

    Your Fan always,
    Arlene Riker

  9. Nicholas Ryan says:

    Lorraine Broderick’s writing really illuminated brightly yesterday with the Palmer Cortland memorial episode! Multi-generational family, history and heart! Everything I miss about daytime! It is such a shame she isn’t remaining permanently as head writer! I really have no hope for Donna and Dave when their material begins airing! Dave never impressed me either with GL or ATWTs and Donna just badly swiped all of the big plots of ABC from the 80s during her stint on AW. Certainly daytime recycles similar plots but a true brilliant writer can always make the reptitiveness unique! Donna failed miserably in this with AW IMO!

  10. michael guerrieri says:

    Dear Marlena, why don,t you just talk to lorraine broderick in joining Days?

    Marlena says: Michael, thanks for writing. I agree. I think Ms. Broderick would do a fine job on Days or any other soap. With all due respect, critics professionally do not tell anyone in the soap world what their next job should be.

  11. Johnny says:

    It would be SO cool if soaps had NEW writers. If they could hire new fresh writers, daytime might be able to survive

  12. Johnny says:

    I have to disagree. I thought much of Swajeski’s work on Another World was bracingly original and unique. Her tenure at Another World was one of the times when the show was at its best…remember all the awesome couples she wrote for? Ryan and Vicky, Dean and Jenna? The Cass/Frankie/Kathleen triangle? John and Sharlene. Under her tenure the show won it’s most Soap Opera Digest Awards ever. I think her work is very underrated and overlooked.

  13. Johnny says:

    For me, General Hospital under the Phelps/Guza regime is a total wash-out. They have crafted a show where the only two characters who matter are two cold-blooded murderous thugs, Jason and Sonny. Every other character is just secondary non-entity. They decimated the Qurtermaines, destroyed Luke and Laura, and ripped the heart and soul out of the show.

    The hallmark of what soap opera is, and SHOULD be, can be summed up by watching GH circa the Claire Labine years. That was must-see t.v. She took the most beloved veterans on the show and wrote for them, and the ratings skyrocketed. BJ’s death, Monica’s cancer, Stone and Robin…she crafted legendary, legaacy stories that still have ripple effects on the show today, 16 years later.

    Blame the OJ trial, blame it on women working more now…they’re all excuses. The sole reason for soaps’ decline has been bad, repetitive, unimaginative writing. Soaps are SO predictable it’s almost painful. Soaps should ALL take a cue from a nighttime soap like Desperate Housewives where you NEVER know what’s going to happen next.

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