Marlena Says: Take Me Home to Pine Valley

All My Children

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 16:  James recalls shopping and dining in old Pine Valley … Kel agrees it’s too soon to judge the new headwriter … Brandon opines even bad Pine Valley circa 1997 beats today’s incarnation …and more. See Comments below.


By Marlena De Lacroix

All My Children was always my favorite soap, from its premiere (1970) until the time Meggie McTavish made her disastrous, gimmick-filled  return (1996-97) and later when Ryan and the Fusion girls took over the show. Bimbos! I hated them — Kendall, Greenlee, etc., etc. — girls who were obsessed with make-up and wearing sundresses year-round, who giggled about men and acted like cats while they were pretending to work. 

Intelligent women with real hearts and authentic female wisdom had been what AMC specialized in until then (best example: Brooke). Like so many Thinking Fans, I used to love AMC for its humor, heart and real intelligence (three qualities which actually belong to its creator and longtime headwriter, Agnes Nixon.)  For the last decade, however, I’ve watched the dumbed down AMC  only for professional reasons,  and I’ve been rarely happy about it.Fusion Girls

Lately I have been watching with more interest, anticipating the arrival of headwriter Chuck Pratt.  The bimbos (Kendall, Greenlee) have gotten a bit smarter and Ryan (I know the fans love him) has more muscles (in his head.)   But there’s still so little there there in our beloved town.

Pine Valley is rife with action and plots, yet there’s no real feeling of community, which is what I always loved about the show.  Erica exists in a timeless bubble, kind of like Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, her mind focused eternally on herself, depite interaction with her children and grandchildren.  Even though we’re given glimpses of cherished faves like Opal and Myrtle, and the presence of the always real Angie and Jesse (those terrific actors Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan),  I’ve found it still a chore to get through the hour.

My way of coping is to focus on an aspect of the show that has only become more valuable over the years: AMC has the most authentically talented and versatile  male line-up of actors of any of the soaps. The twin acting geniuses of  David Canary and Michael Knight, IMO have carried this poor show on their shoulders for theThorsten Kaye last ten years at least. Canary still has such strong  acting chops and so much energy, he could stay on the show for the next 100 years.  And now, Vincent Irizarry, a real soap superstar for a reason (he’s naturally magnetic and has grown infinitely more skilled as an actor over the years) is back as evil/sexy psychopath Dr. David Hayward.

Also in the last few years, AMC has had in its stable but has never featured the best of a titanically-talented and theater-trained actor, Thorsten Kaye. Oh Thorsten, how Marlena loved you (from afar!) as the literate Patrick on One Life to Live!  How bored you have always looked as what’s-his-name with Kendall on AMC.  I’ve always maintained that, with the right material, Kaye could be daytime’s Richard Burton. But he hasn’t been given that material.

With this line-up to work with — these dynamic and versatile male actors, plus some truly wonderful actresses like Melissa Claire Egan  (Annie:  I liked Egan all along!),  Bobbi Eakes (Krystle) and the newly transplanted Beth Ehlers (Taylor) — Pratt certainly has an edge in devising plots for everyone of both sexes.  But will he guide the show to become more serious dramatically  and more watchable?   I hope so. But I’m not going to review Pratt’s material until he’s been writing AMC for a while, and I’m trying not  to pre-judge him by his work on other soaps, as so many fans do,  So he worked as a writer with Guza on an empty-headed, violent General Hospital?  Honey, he’s not the first person to consort with the Devil and survive.  

So I’m watching.  I just heard about the CGI Tornado that will hit Pine Valley during November sweeps!  Oh gee, I covered the first tornado in 1994 on AMC and it gave me the great pause.  Despite the then leadership of the invaluable and ever down-to-earth executive producer Felicia Minei Behr, I had a feeling while I was doing that story that Pine Valley was never gonna be the same.  It seemed so non-Nixonian.   That tornado was a harbinger of the gimmicky and less cerebral storylines that were to arrive a few years later with 1996 McTavish debacle.Pine Valley    

But I’ve never given up. All these years, through all the cheap cocktails served at Confusion, through the tastelessly despicable rape of Bianca, the un-abortion and endless danger to and kidnappings of Kendall and Bianca’s kids. I’ve always wanted my old intelligent AMC back. Let’s see if Chuckie can spark an AMC renaissance.


  1. Patrick Erwin says:

    Great critical analysis from the pro! This is how soap journalism SHOULD be done. Thanks for looking at AMC as a whole — it’s had a bumpy last decade or so, to be sure.

  2. I’m not holding my breath.

    Marlena says: Oh Esther! You have never been more divinely Esther-ish.

  3. Marlena, I think AMC has been very bumpy since 1998, especially when Megan McTavish returned. My favorite AMC team was Behr/Lorriane Broderick. Those days AMC was so wonderful. Nixon was Broderick’s mentor. The days of Liza’s return, Maria’s plane crash, Erica’s pill addition, the wonderful Janet redemption storyline, the gay storyline, and so many wonderful AMC moments.

    When Lorriane was axed in 1997 to bring back Megan it was just bad. Megan had three runs on the show: 1992-1995, 1997-1998 and then 2003-2007. The first run was great with Behr, the second run was horrid and the third run was mixed. The rape of Bianca, Michael Cambias and the baby switch were Megan’s strongest stuff. The ratings went up at this time but after Eden left, Megan started tanking.

    I think Pratt is doing good but too soon to tell. I am glad he sees the mass potential of MCE who IMO is a superstar waiting to happen. I really wish, though, Lorriane Broderick could come back in any form. IMO AMC never was the same without her. She is old school AMC.

    Marlena says: Thanks for the AMC history lesson. When I see things like “The baby switch” and “The rape of Bianca” my mind hurts as if it is yesterday! I knew Lorraine, who was a very intelligent, down-to-earth person. I don’t know if her Guiding Light-All My Children-As the World Turns head writing progession was always pleasant for her. The last I heard she had returned to academia. If anyone knows where she’s teaching please write me.

  4. Hey Marlena, great column as always! However, I feel the need to correct your timeline a bit. McTavish returned to the show in November 1997 and her material didn’t hit the air until January 1998, with the introduction of the shirtless wonder Ryan Lavery, the “surprise” appearance of Mateo’s theretofore unmentioned first wife (Raquel?), and that godawful storyline about the rape of Kit Fisher (or, as she was infamously termed online, “TKFP” — “That Kit Fisher Person”).

    The years of 1996 and 1997 were largely penned by Agnes Nixon and Lorraine Broderick (and if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t ’96 the year that Nixon and Bill Bell both won the Outstanding Writing Emmy as the result of a tie?) and, for the most part, they were pretty good ones for the show, with the triumphant return of Marcy Walker as Liza Colby; the riveting storyline about Michael Delaney’s homosexuality (God bless the gorgeously angelic Chris Bruno; he wasn’t the best actor by any measure, but DAMN was he a sight!), which spun out into a story about Kevin Sheffield’s sexuality and the attempted “cure” of same (what the heck is Ben Jorgensen up to these days?); Julia and Noah’s wedding, and the shoot-out that involved Noah’s family (set to the strains of Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life,” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more compelling, more thrillingly stylized sequence on daytime television); and ANYTHING played by the fabulous T.C. Warner as that young spitfire Kelsey Jefferson, whose baby (Cliff and Nina’s grandson!) was adopted by Edmund and Maria.

    True enough, ’97 was marred by that ludicrous plot in which Erica stole Maria’s baby and tried to pass it off as her own, but — and I speak for myself only here — I’m pretty sure I’d take that storyline back over ANYTHING that’s playing out in Pine Valley nowadays.

    Marlena says: More memories, some great (the Michael Delaney homophobia story), some awful (Kit!) I basically flipped out when Erica stole Maria’s baby because I had always idolized Erica and swore she’d never do anything like that. Somewhere out there is an SOW from that era in which Ms. Nixon herself rebutted my severe criticism of that story. Oy! Things were really changing then backstage at all soaps as more racy, high stake stories came into fashion. Thanks for correcting me on my dates, Brandon dear. 1997 was the year in which is I met my Moos-ey so my mind was elsewhere. LOL!

  5. Oh, and Good Lord, I forgot the epic plane crash that supposedly claimed Maria’s life (and earned the magnificent Julia Barr a well-deserved second Emmy)!

    Marlena says: Outside of Julia Barr’s performance, I hated that story. More grandstanding on AMC’s part to be as showy and ‘tragic’ as other soaps. Yuck!

  6. Very interesting article. I think Pratt is doing a good job so far. He could integrate the storylines a little more, but overall the show is entertaining.

    You’re right about Thorsten Kaye. He does look bored, but who wouldn’t playing referree to Kendall and Greenlee? Maybe he would enjoy having a story with Beth Ehlers. They could be an interesting match.

    Marlena says: LOL on your Thorsten remark! And Thorsty and Beth — that’s a great idea!

  7. I love Kendall and Zach together because they are a couple to root for. AMC has only two couples Zendall and Jesse and Angie.

  8. I as usual, can’t agree more dear Marlena … but you know the irony? While I too am waiting to see what Pratt’s plotting does in the long run before I judge (but I WILL say this … HARLEY (Taylor) is a borderline right wing War junkie … BE could act the phone book but I am sorry, I am not buying it. AT ALL. And I don’t see one iota of chemistry between BE and RPG in these new roles AT ALL. I will give it time … ) but for what a wildly uneven (to say the least) past several months after so many MM debacles have happened … still if someone said … you MUST name THE moment in ALL SOAPS this past 12 months — I STILL would say it’s Angie seeing Jesse at the Train station. My God what acting, I get chills TYPING about it much less recollecting it.

    But still so many holes … is the whole Frankie/Mia/baby/filmed OD stuff going to be totally ignored? Why connect Cassnadra to Jacob off screen and bring her on just to ditch her??? Why do I finally CARE about Annie when Ryan is no longer all that into her?

    I remember AMC as my pre-school self, too, watching from DAY ONE and still remembering Phil and Tara’s wedding alone in the snow before going to Vietnam, when Kitty died, so many things — I will give Pratt a chance to try to attempt to get SOME sliver of all this magic and grandeur back — but except for the excellent Annie transformation and the undumbing of some of the women — overall I am def. not super impressed.

    Marlena says: I agree Kel, it’s too early to definitively judge Pratt. And we know because we (wink, wink) are the most experienced critics, no?

  9. Chere Marlena,

    You and I are so on the same wavelenght about AMC. I agree completely with everythign you said.

    Thorsten Kaye has been completely underutilized since arriving in Pine Valley 4 years ago. I keep waiting for them to give him something to. do. He’s supposed to be the richest man in town, but all he seems to do is hold Kendall’s hand. Why import such great talent and not use him?

    And speaking of rich men, why have so many of them flocked to a tiny little town like Pine Valley?. When the show premiered, the Tylers were the richest family in town. But they were supplanted in 1979 by Palmer Courtlandt’s arrival, which was then supplanted in 1983 by Adam Chandler’s move to town. Then Travis Montgomery came town in 1987 with his fat bank account. But he was outdone in 1991 when Dimitri Marrick (aka Count Androssey) moved from Budapest to Pine Valley. And then in 2002, the Cambias family took the mantle as richest.

    These have all been interesting characters, but my point is, as the rich ones move to town, the poor ones seem to be forced out of town. Consequently, Pine Valley seems disproportionately rich compared to when it first began.

    And as you mention, the sense of community is long gone from Pine Valley. The town used to have wonderful little shops like the Boutique run by Ann Tyler Martin and then Myrtle Farrgate, the Glamorama with Opal and the Serving Spoon run by Monique Jonville/Daisy Courlandt. And they had restaurants where the owners came to chat with the patrons as they dined — Nick Davis at the Chateau and later Tom Cuddahey at the Goal Post. And they went out of town to Sea City and Center City, and occassionally Llanview, plus New York City too.

    All those little things really served to make Pine Valley feel like a real small town where people knew each other. It made Pine Valley a place I wanted to visit every day. I hope Pratt can restore the sense of community to Pine Valley because Fusion, ConFusion and a casino are poor substitutes for the the Boutique, the Goal Post and a trip to Sea City.

    Marlena says: Phew! Thank you for saying you are on my wavelength about AMC. When I wrote the column I thought no one has more of an emotional attachment to the old AMC than me. Everyone is gonna think I’m weird. But James! You’ve vividly recalled the Pine Valley I love just by naming all the stores in Pine Valley and the way restaurant owners (the oily Nick, Tom the all-American football hero) used to stop by everyone’s tables. Pine Valley was the only “small town” I ever ‘lived’ in — I grew up in Queens, N.Y.

    Pine Valley was a magic place, because Agnes is a magic person, and through doing lots if interviews I was very lucky to get to know her and many other first-rate writers, actors, producers and casting directors who made AMC the best soap going. As I wrote, all these years later, I want to go home. But “home” ain’t there anymore.

    I think there were so many wealthy men in Pine Valley, because like every soap in the 80s and 90s AMC mimicked the big primetime soaps of the 80s like Dynasty and Dallas, where big rich daddys like Blake Carrington and J.R. Ewing were always the main leads. (Think Asa Buchanan and his boys on One Live to Live.) Originally, Pine Valley (and Llanview) were drawn to resemble the suburban towns of the Main Line outside Philadelphia where Agnes really lived. Those towns are luxe, as are the residents.

  10. The first few paragraphs accurately and succinctly describe why I can’t bear to watch AMC anymore. But all I can come up with is, Kendall — blech. She really does dumb down Zach. I saw Thorsten Kaye and what he could do on PC as a vampire fighting that impulse. To pair him up with a bimbo dimwit character on AMC is an absolute crime.

    Marlena says: Coggie, when it comes to the non-subtle put down, you have your ol’ pal Marlena beat everytime! LOL!

  11. Chere Marlena,

    It’s your longtime fan, Steve, here to say brava for this column! I had quit watching AMC for a few months after Dixie’s death by pancakes and started again when former headwriters Brown & Essensten took over, only to tune out again after a few months.

    I’ve been watching fairly regularly again since Jesse & Angie’s return to Pine Valley and while I know it’s way to soon to judge a new headwriter, I like all of the changes Pratt has made thus far.

    First off, things happen every single day. Characters move from one place to another and mingle. The last two headwriting regimes would stretch everything out so long, it got really boring. You could sometimes tune in on a Wednesday and see the same two characters continuing a conversation from Monday. That doesn’t happen anymore. I’m relieved that while picking up the pace, Pratt has also kept longer scenes when called for, such as Frankie & Taylor’s conversation about the war last week.

    Secondly, characters are interacting with each other more than they have in years. Had Annie even crossed paths with Adam before Pratt? These two have the potential become the scheming couple to rule Pine Valley in the future (sorry, fellow Erica fans, she belongs with Jack).

    Thirdly, Pratt’s newest PV residents are fascinating. Pete Cortlandt is the funniest new character to hit AMC in years. It makes sense for Opal’s son to be wacky and for Palmer’s son to be a computer geek and I’m thrilled that AMC has the kind of quirky character it used to be renowned for. I hope Pratt will continue to create characters who are fun to watch. Even though I know Beth Ehlers was set to join the show before Pratt came aboard, it’s my understanding that he helped craft Taylor. So far, I like that she’s a tough female in a town of girly women. I’m interested in learning more about her and I think she has great chemistry with RPG’s Jake (although I also like him with Amanda; finally, a three-sided triangle that’s not tilted by the writers in either direction!).

    I had feared when I heard of Pratt’s experience writing for Melrose Place and General Hospital that he would make the show even more shallow, if possible, and probably turn Zach & Ryan into the new Sonny & Jason. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening yet. I do agree with you that Thorston Kaye has always seemed bored with the role of Zach and his pairing with Kendall has always lacked chemistry, despite their rabid fan base. I hope Pratt can free Zach, find someone he sets the screen on fire with and give him a storyline worthy of the talent he displayed as Patrick Thornhart all those years ago. If Pratt’s evolution of Annie is any indication, I think he’s more than up to the job.

    Marlena says: Thank you, Steve, old soap friend back to the days of Afternoon TV. What an interesting letter!

    I love the new Petey, too. Absolutely love what you say about Taylor being tough in a town of girly women. Psycho Annie works for me because the actress Egan is good enough to make it work! But all in all, I personally need more time to judge Pratt.

  12. Unfortunately, after watching for 20 years, I just couldn’t continue based on the vapid women they have showcased for most of the hour, so I stopped watching 6 months ago. Ugh!

  13. Matthew Cormier says:

    I haven’t even watched AMC since Julia Barr was dumped without a single mention on-screen. I vowed to myself not to watch that show until somebody wised up and brought Brooke and Julia Rose Barr back.

  14. Re the “bored” comment — I’m so glad to see that somebody else sees that but me. When I do post it on the few message boards where I post, I am descended upon with “whose fault is it”.

    Ah — the fault? He looks bored. Period. Bored. I just can’t get excited about an actor who looks bored beyond belief. I read that he is “theater trained”, and he is good looking, but I just can’t get past “bored”. I am so past him going someplace else.

    And all other comments, I agree wholeheartedly — it’s just not the same valley, and it’s not because I’m 30 years older.

    Marlena says: Poor Thorsten. I’d love to hear what he says about his All My Children role so far, unedited and uncensored.

  15. Marlena,

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I’ve been waiting for you to take on my favorite soap, All My Children. I don’t know what to think of it these days. One day, I’m glued to the screen, and the next, I’m bored stiff. Usually, the Fusion “women” with their mean girls antics are heavily featured on the boring days. And the more of the Hubbard family and Jake and Taylor I see, the more I feel like I’m watching *my* show. Taylor feels like an “old school” AMC character already. What a contrast between her and the Fusion set. I like Jake with Amanda better, as Jake so far seems a bit lightweight to me though not unlikeable.

    I am still waiting for Brooke to come home. It won’t really feel like AMC until she does. Dixie also needs to return, and I don’t care how they do it, but they have to do it.. Watching Tad and Dixie’s little girl terrorize Krystal does not make up for the lack of Dixie, it makes it more senseless.

    I think the introduction of the Careys marked the dividing point between classic AMC and cheap imitation AMC. It could revert but not with the current PTB in charge.

    However I’m thrilled that David is returning, but he will always have a Carey shadow over him. The Careys are a plague decimating AMC’s classic men. I love that AMC is so full of MEN, but there are not enough appropriate WOMEN in David/Tad/Adam’s age range, are there? Dixie and Brooke would solve that problem and bring back some heart and soul. Taylor could fit in here as well. I adored Brooke with both Tad and Adam and I believe Tad and Dixie would instantly raise the ratings. Why do TPTB care more about their gripe against Cady McClain (whatever it’s about) than they do about decent ratings?

    Then there are the other couples. WHY is Ryan involved in all of them? Like Zach and Kendall. They have run their course, are now running in place and one of them should be killed off. Since a soap can never have too many interesting men, it should be the childish Kendall who goes. It could be interesting to see Zach with somebody as rigid yet still emotional as Taylor and from what I’ve seen of Beth Ehlers, she can act. He should get a chance to do something else like the other men do. Why isn’t he?

    Greenlee and Aidan, ah poor Aidan, he finally gets something to do *and* it seems to be working. Yet everyone knows what the outcome will be. This is a terrible thing to do to a character, even Aidan.

    That brings me to Ryan. I hate to disagree with you, Marlena, but I don’t know who Ryan is popular with even though the show revolves around him, his bodily fluids, and his panting after other men’s wives. It must be people offline. He is simply awful, and has been ruined beyond all repair, not that there was much to ruin with this walking penis who would have sex with anything that moved. He is as horrible a hero as Greenlee is a heroine. The show would be greatly improved with the removal of Ryan, Greenlee, Kendall, and the Careys. AMC made Annie a killer, then they made her interesting.

    Erica has been reduced to competing with a criminal half her age. Erica works with almost everyone…except prissy Jackson. We rarely see Opal or Myrtle. AMC has no real heart, no emotional center. And the person AMC seems to have chosen to fill that role, on her infrequent appearances, is Bianca, who is not even allowed a love life of her own. Do you think that will change with Pratt at the helm?

    AMC has so many problems that could be fixed but first TPTB have to admit something is wrong. Has there ever been a soap that seemed so unwilling to do this as AMC in the past few years?

    I look forward to many more of your commentaries, Marlena.

    Marlena says: Wow, this letter is so brilliant, so comprehensive, so, so very true. Love the wordings–especially calling Jackson “prissy” LOL! And Ryan and his bodily fluids! LMAO. Everyone sees different dividing lines between the old AMC and the one we see now, but the introduction of the Carey girls works for me. How such bimbo female characters (including Kendall and the Fusion babes) came to dominate AMC, a show where the women were always intelligent and relatable is beyond me. Looking back, this more than anything upended the AMC we all loved and related to. If the yesterday’s rumors about Bianca coming back for good are true, then thank goodness for fans like us TFs, with brain cells.

  16. Oh, Marlena, you summed up AMC perfectly! It’s still “my” show, but it hasn’t been its true self since around 1997 or so. There’ve been patches of good here and there, but for a show that used to be considered the “classy” soap, that’s not enough!

    I am enjoying the show a bit more under Pratt. I still think Ryan, Aidan, Krystal and Babe need to GO!! They have been shoved at us for years, and I don’t feel they deserve a spot in the “new” AMC.

    Annie, Taylor and Petey are my favorite new characters — and yes, to me, THIS Annie is a NEW character. I’ve waited years for a Colby/Petey story — I just wish this new actress had the spark Ambyr Childers brought to the role. I do find it weird that Petey has had virtually no scenes with his family, though. I agree 100% with the poster who said Taylor stands out in a town of flighty bimbos. I am very intrigued by Taylor — even though I don’t really see romantic chemistry between her and Jake. I guess my poor Amanda will be left out in the love cold again!

    It is great that Bianca and David are coming back (HOPEFULLY for Babe’s funeral! I can dream can’t I??), but Pine Valley is still missing Liza, Skye, Scott Chandler, Jamie … and most of all, Erica’s greatest “leading man” — BROOKE ENGLISH!

  17. Marlena, I totally enjoyed your column- thank you.

    I also enjoyed all of the insightful posts from your readers. I guess that Agnes Nixon (1971-2000) &
    Lorraine Broderick (1981-1996) were writing during my favorite time. I was really interested in Dimitri Merrick, and Kendal (played by Sarah M. Gellar).

    I liked Micheal Nader and Kate Collins a lot!

    Totally digged Larkin Malloy! … and Susan Pratt- beautiful and talented, although she wasn’t utilized.

    I’m not sure who liked what (storywise) but one of MY favorite, all time stories on AMC was the story where Janet threw Natalie down that well! It did drag out, but overall it was a brilliant way to showcase the beautiful and talented Kate Collins who carried that show for 4 years!).

    Like James talked about, the Goal Post & the Boutique, that was where characters came together and created community. I liked that! Jill Larson was on a bit with Palmer, and with them we were able to enjoy the recurring (extras?) characters like the butler, Jasper Sloane, and Palmer’s housekeeper (Daisy’s Mother) Myra. I loved the way Myra, Daisy & Palmer were always trading barbs with each other!

    Those extras (recurring characters) including Olga Swenson (Erica Kane’s manager) had scenes with their employers, and provided some input into stories, at least into shaping the characters (and their growth).

    …. and who doesn’t remember Dr Clader??

    Ross Chandler was introduced, he and kate Collins sizzled onscreen!

    I was totally in to AMC during 89, 90 & 91! I dont know who was writing it, but for me it was at its peak… right before it tanked.

    I thought the timing of this column was GREAT!

    I was thinking, today, while watching, “this (AMC) justs gets more and more stupid” when the Fusion scenes were on… AND EXACTLY who the hell goes to work in sundresses day and visits friends in the bar in the middle of the day.

    BTW: I seen a WIDE turn in the Character of Annie yesterday with her confessions to Ryan, the last two or three days, its hard to know where her head is at, as far as her motives go…. is she still playing desparate, is she coming to terms with her losses, she don’t look angry, she just looks *thoughtful* and patient! I Love having her in Adam’s house!

    Like you said and many other posters echoed: I can appreciate a few good things about the show, from watching the last ten days Adam is back. Petey is a trip! (quite enteraining) he looks like a Clark Kent ready to transform! … and Annie is unstoppable.

    Also by reading the media reports I can feel hopeful with Eden R. returning… but for me, and my tastes, i am more excited about her bringing her girl friend with her… in the form of the talented Tamara Braun. To bad they weren’t smart enough to keep Billy Miller!

    Pratt should write Ryan, Kendall & Greenlee off in where all 3, wait, take Adian too, let them live happily ever after, and let US ALL move on to better things.

    Marlena says: Dana, you made me laugh so hard when mentioned Dr. Clader. (She….or was it he….) was the town obstetrician. I think when I interviewed Agnes she mentioned that she got that name from a doctor she knew….

  18. Marlena — I’ve only been tuned into AMC regularly since Thorsten Kaye entered PV as the dynamic Zach Slater. I think he is a fantastic actor and I absolutely love the chemistry and brilliant pairing of Zach and Kendall. To me, Alicia and Thorsten are a breath of fresh air when it comes to soap couples. They have genuine chemistry and they make this couple the best couple on AMC and IMO, in soaps.

    With that said, I agree that Ms. McTavish did a number on this show and Mr. Brown and Ms. Esensten followed up with a horrific encore of their own. I believe all the characters were harmed by the poisonous pens of these writers and Mr. Pratt is left to clean up the mess.

    I’ve thought the return of Greenlee (I don’t care who played her) was a waste. Fusion, Kendall, Ryan, all grew past Greenlee and had to be regressed for this character to fit on the canvas. To have this character come back, commit the crime she did, only to have them whitewashed was poor and unimaginative storytelling.

    This is a problem with the show. Tad buried Madden alive, yet continually gets to judge Adam for his sins. Greenlee kidnapped and nearly killed Spike, yet somehow Zach and Kendall turned out to be the villian, and now we have Annie — she killed her brother and attempted to kill Annie, yet she’s also going to get away with it?

    I liked MCE when she first came on and still do, however, I don’t believe she has the acting ability to pull off the crazy, desperate woman that Mr. Pratt has described her as. All I’ve seen is crazy, manipulative, calculating, and selfish. I’d prefer to see Annie get caught for her crimes and be served some sort of consequence for them. Give some credability to the PVPD with Jesse at the lead.

    Moving on, I really enjoy the banter between Erica and Adam. Ms. Lucci and Mr. Canary are truly delicious together. However, I’d like to see Erica act as the adult that she is and not like the teenagers I contend with everyday in my job. She is a successful woman, has children and grandchildren. It would be nice to see her act that way on a regular basis.

    Like you, I’m thrilled to see VI return as Dr. David. I adored this character and hope that Mr. Pratt utilizes him to his fullest potential.

    So far BeE has failed to interest me in Taylor’s story. I can see the rapport between she and RPG, I’m not yet sold on them. I actually find that RPG and RB have a nice bit of chemistry and would’ve preferred to see that potential, then see Jake toy with Amanda because he has needs. CS and Amanda deserve more.

    Overall, I think Mr. Pratt has his work cut out for him. I want to see the women of Fusion act like mature, grown up and successful businesswomen. I want to see the end of contrived friendships and forced pairings. I want to see characters suffer consequences for their actions, so they can grow and learn from them, and I want to see character driven stories that remain true to heart.

    I believe AMC has an outstanding cast with TK, AM, SL, DC, MEK, leading the way. I know it will be even better with VI, ER, and TB (even though I’m not crazy about her, she’s a good actress) coming to the fold. Pine Valley is full of colorful and rich characters. There are boundless stories that could be told. I remain firmly on the fence when it comes to Mr. Pratt’s work and hope that he is able to do what his predecessors have failed to

    Marlena says: What a nicely-written, well thought-out letter, Kristen. I agree with you — Pratt has the clean-up job of the soap century.

  19. Marlena,

    While I usually believe in giving a writer a chance, sadly AMC has had one too many chances with Megan McTavish (three times) and Brown/Esenstein (what a waste) to give Charles Pratt must leeway in my opinion. I’ve watched AMC since grade school and one of the things that always kept me hooked was the great characters and truly credible storylines.

    Call me a snob, but I like intelligent soaps and intelligent characters. Kidnapping babies, bedhopping, and natural disasters are far too predictable. Watching Greenlee Smythe and Annie Lavery play b**** and psycho respectively, makes me miss the days of Phoebe Wallingford, Enid Nelson, and Janet Green Dillon .

    I’ve never been much of an Erica Kane fan, but at the very least she always seemed connected to other members of PV. At least Pratt seems to be getting that right. But the “true love of the week” storyline involving Ryan Lavery is just unwatchable. I lost interest in Ryan when Gillian Andrassy died. In fact, anything involving Ryan Lavery generally bores me to tears.

    And yes, Bobbie Eakes is an incredibly talented actress, but Krystal is far from a sympathetic or likeable character for me. Personally, I’d rather see and Babe both leave Pine Valley for good. The same is true of Beth Ehlers. I loved her on Guiding Light as Harley, but I’m having a really hard time warming up Taylor. The Philip Brent Vietnam War story was compelling storytelling. Taylor, the Iraqi vet, just doesn’t inspire the same level of interest in me. Besides, I just don’t see this great “chemistry” between her and Ricky Paull Goldin. I see more chemistry between her and Cornelius Smith, Jr. (Frank Hubbard)!

    But the show’s cavalier attitude toward crime in Pine Valley is the worst! While the babies in peril has been down to death on AMC, I’d like to see somebody actually punished for a crime. Greenlee Smythe kidnapped a child; crime unpunished. Tad Martin buried Greg Madden alive, crime unpunished. Babe Chandler kidnaps Miranda, community service. Annie Lavery kills her brother, crime unpunished. Sure, Annie lost her baby but does that mean that she is not a murderess?

    What’s the point of the plot-driven crime spree in PV if nobody is ever going to be punished? I like Annie, and I think that Melissa Claire Egan is quite talented. But Annie Lavery killed a man as did Tad Martin. So are we supposed to pretend it didn’t happen? Whether the deceased is good or bad is irrelevant. I guess the only people who serve any jail time in Pine Valley are Erica Kane, Zach Slater, and Adam Chandler. Until Charles Pratt demonstrates that he understands that crime and punishment are as much a staple on daytime as bedhopping and natural disasters, then I’m afraid that All My Children missed the bus again.

    Marlena says: First of all Femina, I love and adore your name. (Marlena is really Italian, and I am singing that old home favorite –” Femina” meaning “woman” — as I type this.) Secondly, this is a great analysis of AMC, and I have to agree that what may be its most aching problem is that it has two killers on its canvas who still haven’t paid for their sins, Tad and Annie. Starting sometime in the 80s, (perhaps with Joe Mascolo’s megavillian Stefano on Days, or James Stenbeck on As the World Turns) characters and criminals in particular on many soaps somehow stopped being made to suffer the consequences of their actions, so that they could be kept on the canvas of their shows or repeat the evil over and over again. It’s one of the things that annoys a lot of people, like you and I, who believe in right and wrong and crime and punishment — and it made soaps more unrealistic than ever.

  20. Oh Marlena, I’m at home in bed with the flu and yet I still could not put myself down for the night before I finished reading your column for the week. It is sheer joy when you and your reader bring back such memories that just remind me why I had 3 VCR’s taping all 3 channels for oh so long so I wouldn’t miss the hey days of the soaps. Sigh oh sigh of my.
    Now let’s dish on All My Children, but I’ll just stick to today.

    I’m watching it everyday, and I haven’t for such a long time. That says something. Ansee (Angie and Jesse) bought me back. He’s just such a tall cold drink that heats the screen. Then there’s Tadee (Jesse and Tad). Their friendship is rich and ripe and comedic and I love them. Thorsten Kay – Zach. I’ll take him if he just stands there and says nothing, because his eyes smolder. And sorry, I love Ryan and Aidan and Jake and Frankie also. Face it, when it comes to men AMC does it up right. Heck I even still love Dr. Joe and Jack. LOL

    Sadly, off the top of my head I can’t think of too many women that just make me want to turn in. I do love Angie. Carmen makes me scream. I’m glad Rebecca Buddig is back. She’s turning in a great performance putting Kendall back in her place. Thank goodness. I’m so sick of Annie I’m ready for her to go off the show, but what does she do, confess all her sins but killing Richie to Ryan. Now I’m not sure if I should let her stay or not since she is one of the few who can act. And who does grow on me – Amanda. She’s such a sweetie. But take Beth Ehlers off. Ugh.

    But I disagree with saying there is no tie in with the stories. When Tad was shot, everyone showed up and you realized just how related the whole daggum town is. Recently Zach was gonna kill Josh and we were reminded how Zach helped Ryan disappear, and despite the Greenlee connection Aidan stepped in too. Petey is working with Adam and Opal and Palmer just found out and the itch has hit the fan. I love it.

    Okay so AMC has a lot of dim bulbs but so do all the soaps today. What it does have that so many others haven’t brought back and what pulled me back was some history, and remembrances. And I love it. Stop knocking my soap.

    Marlena says: Renee, do you have a fever? Get well soon, darling!

  21. Marlena –

    Interesting analysis — and I like that you’re hopeful. I wish I shared your optimism.

    I disagree on a couple of points, but that’s just personal. For one thing, while I agree that the writing for both Kendall and Greenlee has been abysmal for a while, I don’t think Thorsten Kaye is bored or annoyed by working with Alicia Minshew. I’m tired of seeing the actress put down subtly or not so subtly. She’s not Meryl Streep, but she’s talented. I imagine, however, that BOTH actors — Thorsten Kaye AND Alicia Minshew — are fed up with their story, which has indeed been stuck in place for months now. They’re both capable of better, even if his heights can go higher than hers. And they’ve both shown it, when TK has rewritten their abysmal dialogue into something watchable (as in their confrontation after Kendall’s ONS).

    As for giving Pratt some leeway … I simply can’t. GH was so abysmally misogynistic, violent, and unpleasant under the Guza/Pratt tandem that I can’t bring myself to hope for better. On top of that, I have read every interview he’s given about AMC so far, and NOTHING that I see on my screen bears any real relation to what he claims is going on. Fusion is like Ugly Betty? Really? Poor, put upon Babe deserves Fusion? Why? Because she actually has to (gasp) work for a living? The horror!!!! He said that Annie is “desperate” but not “dangerous” — she killed her brother and tried to kill Greenlee — twice! How is that not dangerous? And now it looks like Kendall and Zach — who could be dealing with, among other things, the year from hell that Pratt’s incompetent predecessors put them through — are going to be revealed to have a big problem in … Ryan? WHY? They’ve told that story something like three times already. That’s not bold, adventurous storytelling – it’s a retcon, and not even a very good one.

    And, finally, I’m also underwhelmed with Jake and Taylor so far — aka Gus and Harley, the Camo version. He’s a rule breaker! She’s a rule follower! He’s anti, she’s pro! There’s just so little “there” there. So far it seems like an overly simplistic take on a difficult story, and I don’t see the vaunted ‘chemistry’ others do- though, to be fair, I was never a big Gus/Harley fan, I preferred her with Mallet, any version.

    The only thing he’s done right so far is getting Erica out of jail and getting her more involved with Adam. And that one good thing (fantastic though it is) is not enough to overcome the bad, at least for this viewer.

    Marlena says: Did I write anything about Jake ? I put down the character of Kendall , but I did not write anything about the actress, Alicia Minshew, who portrays her. This site is all about the respectful exchange of opinions, so please do not take moi to task for things I did not write.

    Also what is “camo” and “retcon”? Is this internet or industry jargon I’m not familiar with?

  22. The Thorsten Kaye issue—he is portraying a very introspective, closed off, quiet and brooding character—for him to jump around, break into histrionics or otherwise act “excited” (if this is indeed the problem some have with him) would be grossly out of character. I think what some are construing as “boredom” is Kaye’s characterization of who Zach is. Besides, an actor as talented as he is would not stoop to letting his personal feelings about the show interfere with his portayal of his character.

  23. Marlena,

    I believe the “camo” might mean camouflage, Harley in fatigues. The retcon…. I have trying to figure that one out for months!

    According to our trusty Wikipedia:

    Retroactive continuity is the deliberate changing of previously established facts in a work of serial fiction.[1] The change is informally referred to as a “retcon,” and producing a retcon is called “retconning”.

    Always appreciate your columns Marlena, and I will work on writing better responses, I just need to tone it down and get the paragraph, grammar and structure correct. I have had plenty of education, been an avid reader throughout my life and throughout college, and have taken at least one literature class, and required English/writing classes but have got terribly lazy and sloppy since I’ve been online so many years. The internet has really ruined the English language and the art of expression.

    I think I must be ‘mad’ at writing, since I did not have the guts to pursue my dream (Writing). I butcher it at every chance! It is a passive aggressive thing I must do…. Now that I am aware of it (more so lately), I will not allow it to happen.

    Again, love your columns and would love to take a class from you, meet and a meet and greet or a soap event or anything just to meet you or learn from you. I respect the way you hold true to your passion and respect your profession, and the ideals of good, honest journalism.

    Peace out, have a great week!


    Marlena says: Dana, old friend, Marlena cherishes! You write very nicely, and you always incorporate elements that are unique to your own style: honesty, humor and respect. Thanks, dear, this really means a lot to me!

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