ABC’s Misguided “Sweeps” Tries to Feed Off of Guiding Light’s Death

By Marlena De Lacroix

I usually don’t read a lot of previews or spoilers.  But what I’ve seen this week and what I’ve read for the rest of the month of September alarms me.  The ABC soaps seem to think its sweeps month, staging stunts and attention-getting storylines that are de rigueur in crucial ratings-measuring months.  September isn’t one of them.   Dance marathons (All My Children),  a carnival that concludes with a bloody accident (General Hospital), a Russian drug dealer holding citizens hostage (One Life to Live) — these scream, “Look at me, pay attention to me, love me-me-me!”  Kind of like the stunts my little puppy Nigel stages at least three times a day!Guiding Light cast

Now why would ABC Daytime be making all this extra effort now?  Can it be because Guiding Light on CBS plays its last episode next Friday, and  ABC wants to attract their soon-to-be soapless fans.  The mainstream press, such as this Sunday’s 60 Minutes‘ report on the end of GL, is also shining a light on the whole soap world.  Why not take advantage of that spotlight to attract new viewers?

Now, I ask you Guiding Light fans:  what will you be doing in the next week, beside crying? You’ll be remembering 73-year-old show that was mostly [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with All My Children’s Melissa Claire Egan

By Damon L. Jacobs

When I interviewed Melissa Claire Egan (Annie Novak Lavery on All My Children) on SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise,” all I kept thinking was, “courage.”  This young woman has the courage to reach inside herself and expose the deepest parts of her soul every dayMelissa Claire Egan in front of her audience and in front of her peers.  She was even brave enough to stand up to the Soap Shrink and my issues with the portrayal of the psychiatric profession on her show!  Please read on to learn how she brings curiosity, depth, and humor to the role we’ve all come to love.

D:  It is such an honor to speak to you!  A few months back, I wrote a column about Annie and what she has been going through over this past year.  As a performer, what is it like for you to portray someone who is severely mentally ill?
M:  It’s been humbling, it’s been exciting, it’s been challenging.  As an actor it’s your ideal.  It’s your dream to be able play something that is difficult or out there.  Luckily the writers did a good job.  They didn’t just suddenly make Annie go crazy.  The way they did it they showed her loss — Ryan leaving her, Ryan falling in love with his ex-wife, Annie miscarrying.  They showed her transition into this craziness, which was helpful for me.  She slowly got worse and worse.  She felt threatened by Greenlee and she felt many things until it

“I’ve learned to believe in myself as an actor.  For any soap it’s such a hard job.  My boyfriend will come home and say, ‘We did six pages today,’ and I’ll say, ‘WE DID FORTY!’ With soaps it’s really easy to be bad, but really hard to be good.”

came into full chaos where she’s stabbing people and showing up delusional and thinking a party is her wedding day.  It’s been great to read a script and say, “How am I going to do this?”  When I read that script with the wedding day dress I said, “Oh no — this can either be ridiculous and laughable or you can watch and say ‘Shoot, she’s messed up, I feel bad for her.’”  A lot of the fan response has been [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with The Young and the Restless’ Elizabeth Hendrickson

By Damon L. Jacobs 

Combine the beauty of Jennifer Garner and the comic timing of Debra Messing and what do you get?  The hysterically entertaining and insightful Elizabeth Hendrickson!  Elizabeth HendricksonDuring SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise,” we talked about her experiences and life lessons learned from mistakes on All My Children and her current run on The Young and the Restless.

D:  What part of yourself are you bringing to Chloe in Y&R these days?
E:  Humor.  I’d say 98% of her humor comes from me.  When I was on All My Children I got really bored with myself.  I came into this job (as Chloe) as literally a blank canvas.  They had absolutely no idea.  They had seen me in something on stage and brought me in to read and they just created this character for me.  So I knew from being on AMC that  when I started Maggie, I didn’t really take control . I didn’t realize that whatever you bring, they use.  Like if you start to eye roll all the time you’ll see “Maggie eye rolls.”  That’s how I found they would write my character, and I didn’t take advantage of that.  So when I came on as Chloe I said, “The world is my oyster.  I’m going to [Read more...]

Soap Shrink at Sea: On Deck with All My Children’s Bobbie Eakes

Thinking Bobans (Bobbie fans) on Ms. Eakes: Says renee, “I’ve become a Boban because of her insightfulness” … and DSO816, “She’s an unheralded and spirited actress” … and Dana Webb, “She is so down to earth and balanced” … and more. See Comments below.  

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By Damon L. Jacobs

Before meeting Bobbie Eakes on SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise,” I knew she had talent, I knew she had beauty, I knew she had an amazing singing voice.  Bobbie EakesWhat I didn’t know was how much humor, intelligence, and self-awareness had contributed to her portrayal of Krystal on All My Children.  In our talk at sea, she she shared life lessons, reflections on a 20-year career in soaps, and why Krystal’s recent behavior makes perfect sense.

D:  So Krystal has had a very hard past year losing her daughter Babe.  How have you approached this as an actress?
B:  Well, at the point she lost Babe I really had not lost anyone that close to me.  But since then I have.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law died within ten days of each other, that was after Babe died.  We were really close to them … I was really close to them.  Loss of a close family member can be so devastating.  I don’t have any children.  So, as an actor you just have to imagine what that would be like to lose a daughter.  People say having a child is the most amazing experience and if you lose a child it’s the worst thing in the world.  So I go on what people tell me.  You put yourself in a state where you imagine what it’s like to go through that.

D:  It seemed like Krystal was trying to numb herself out with pills so she wouldn’t have to go through that.  
B:  Well, that wasn’t her intention, but David Hayward came along and [Read more...]

Soap February: Blame Executive Malfeasance!

Thinking Fans Comment Update: BL avers, “I have to say the line (on AMC) about how lesbians don’t kiss men was perfect, because why would they?” … Carl posits, “GL has been so much about nasty thugs over the past few years, Phillip’s return is a way to bring a more heroic character back into the spotlight” … while Melanie warns that GH “is on Maxie Overload and needs to quit before there’s a serious Maxie backlash (hello Sonny!)”  … and more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Fans usually blame headwriters when soaps are bad.  But ultimately, the real blame lies with daytime network executives who have the final power of approval over what we see on our screens.  Last month, judging by the very questionable, sometimes downright All My Childrenillogical and nonprofessional quality of the drama I saw on screen, I’d venture to say that these daytime execs (and their publicity and marketing minions) are very sloppy, asleep at the wheel, or just don’t care at all what they put on screen everyday.

She who gets smooched on All My Children

Why present a heavily publicized lesbian wedding if the whole plot leading up to it is going to greatly anger lesbian viewers?  In an earlier column on All My Children‘s headwriter Charles Pratt, I naively got excited over the acting possibilities of a Bianca-Reese-Zack love triangle. I received dozens of letters from female fans who said they didn’t want either gay character to get involved with a man.  D’Oh!  Of course they don’t!

So why did AMC, which knew this already (as proven by having Bianca angrily tell Reese when Bianca broke up the one day marriage that [Read more...]

On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: All My Children’s Annie Lavery

Thinking Fans Comment update: antmuoz doubts AMC will “actually tell a reality-based story with Annie. But if they did, it might be a daytime first in that it doesn’t involve cloning or demonic possession” … while Matthew objects to AMC’s “fear-based portrayal of Bedlam with outdated methods and near criminal activity” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

2008 was a rough year for the residents of Pine Valley.  Murderers ran loose, tornadoes crashed through homes, but nothing or no one had an impact quite like hurricane Annie herself.

Annie Lavery (played by Melissa Claire Egan) first blew into Pine Valley in 2006, on the run with her infant daughter, Emma, from her first husband, Terry.  She was a force to be reckoned with, as she mistakenly shot Ryan (thinking he was Terry),proving to everyone she would do anything to hold on to  Emma.  Eventually she and Ryan fell in love, got married, and lived happily ever, because that’s what always happens on soaps, right?  

Only in Annie’s delusional mind it does!

In 2008 alone, Annie killed her brother Richie and her friend Di, almost killed Greenlee, stabbed Erica, faked Emma’s kidnapping, broke out of an insane asylum,

The Soap Shrink is sickened by the way Annie has been treated in The Oak Haven Institute, and is deeply concerned that this portrayal will scare viewers away from seeking mental therapy when they need it.

assaulted Ryan — and this doesn’t even include losing her marriage to Ryan, losing her unborn baby, losing [Read more...]

Marlena’s “Only the Bests” List 2008

New Year'sEve clip art

Thinking Fans’ picks and pans for 2008: Cherry Ames pans Todd/Marty as “the foulest story ever” … DSO816 picks the Angie/Jesse reunion … while Marlene agrees GHNS2 set the bar higher for all soaps … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Last year I decided I will no longer do “Best” and “Worst” lists for soaps.  After all, there have been so many “worsts” this year (real life deaths, superstar firings, General Hospital limosex and other tasteless storylines, wasted returns of some soap veterans), why would I want to re-inflict the pain on you?

 So, darlings, here are my “bests.”

General Hospial Night Shift 2 — As I wrote last fall,”If they could bottle this show, they could save soap opera.”  This 2008 soap dared to remember that soap opera is supposed to be about love, compassion, close friendships and the importance [Read more...]

The “New” All My Children, Part 2 — Finding the Heart (s) of Pine Valley

AMC logo

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. 

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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 [Read more...]

The “New” All My Children, Part 1 — Lifting the Fog of Stupidity

AMC logo

Thinking Fans Comment Update: EricMontreal22, once horrified by Pratt’s arrival, is now “pleasantly thrilled” … likewise Donna L. Bridges, though still wary of Pratt, yells “Yippeee!” … but Cate disdains the suggestion of a  Reese bisexual romance storyline. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix     

A few weeks ago I realized I was receiving one of my best ever Christmas presents. I was watching All My Children and I realized, after twelve long miserable years out in the cold, I finally want to watch my old favorite show regularly again!

As I described in Take Me Home to Pine Valley, I’d  been alienated from my beloved AMC since 1996, when gimmick-mad, plot-driven headwriter Megan McTavish took over the show and filled it with empty-headed characters (like Ryan, soap opera’s most vanilla hero);  the dorkiest, most repetitive plots (all those kidnappings of Bianca’s and Kendall’s babies, and, worst of all, the dumbest, most superficial 

Although the show is far from great, or even good, after only three months with (Charles) Pratt at the helm, at least we have a headwriter who is actually thinking.

women (Greenlee and everyone else at Fusion.). How I longed for all the years going back to the 1970 premiere, when show was still written by Agnes Nixon, and later by such great writers as  [Read more...]

All My Children’s Agnes Nixon, Always Our Guardian Angel

Thinking Fans on Agnes’ visit to Pine Valley:  renee “cried buckets and emailed everyone” … n69n says she “is the cutest, dearest, smilingest little lady” … while tess remembers the days of 15- and 30-minute soaps … and more. See Comments below.   

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Agnes NixonBy Marlena De Lacroix

Just as I was fantasizing about throwing a cherry bomb at ABC headquarters over the misogynistic, disgusting Todd-Marty redux story playing out  on One Life to Live, along  comes an episode of All My Children which soothed the fires of r age within me. It was the 10,000th episode of AMC, my all-time favorite soap, on Thursday! I’ve watched since its premiere in 1970!

In a world where soaps have grown sensationalistic and emotionally empty, how healing it was to watch an episode which included family scenes of the Martins, the Hubbards and the Kanes.  With parents like Zack and Bianca actually kissing their children, including perpetual ingénue Erica actually kissing her grandchildren!  With family members holding hands, and — get this — actually praying, thanking God for surviving the recent tornado.

Love! Family! Spirit! I began to think I had died and gone to soap heaven, circa 1970!

And there to guide me around Pine Valley was a blithe, ancient spirit named Aggie who, just like Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, mysteriously appeared and

How charming Agnes was throughout the magically written episode … She was wise, loving, funny and bright, everything her All My Children always was and everything Agnes Nixon always has been.

disappeared throughout the episode.  Dressed adorably in antique Victorian garb, Aggie popped up in various scenes to tell residents things she knew about them.

Like, “Tad, how’s your arm?” To which Opal, Tad’s biological mother, immediately shouted,  “Ray Gardner broke [Read more...]