All My Children: 2008 In Review
I learned three major things from All My Children in 2008:
- Randomly reading Wikipedia articles in lieu of sitting down and watching AMC has totally educated me. I'm all set if I am ever called on to be someone's lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire or if I need to defend my reigning Trivial Pursuit Goddess crown. Sure, those of you who watch good TV show are rewarded with payoff and great stories, but I know that Agatha Christie based Murder on the Orient Express on the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, so suck on that!
- The question of what kind of underwear an actor wearsis far more intriguing than any of the storylines taking place on the show.
- It doesn't matter which particular head writer is writing for the show--the show is going to be awful regardless.
That last lesson is the saddest lesson and yet the most obvious: I mean, if the show couldn't manage to get better after canning Megan McTavish, what hope is there, you know? The writers who succeeded McTavish, Barbara Esensten and James Harmon Brown, were terrible! And the current Charles Pratt era is no better and I want to know why. I demand to know why. WHY? The cast is fantastic, the characters are amazing--hello, you have Adam Freaking Chandler, and Erica, Erica Kane, you should be winning Emmys left and right, not floundering around--and yet...even "mediocre" is a lofty goal.
2008 in Pine Valley was much the same as it has been for the past few years: poorly written; lacking in sense; more than a little bit depressing on several different levels; and boring. There were some highlights, to be sure, but each of those highlights were canceled out by stories that left the "bad and boring" realm and shot way up to the level of "what in the name of all things holy was that dreck I just sat through?"
The year started with AMC and ABC making some of the boneheaded mistakes that they have become known for, starting with the obnoxious "Return of the REAL Greenlee" campaign.
I had remembered it being classless and offensive, but I had forgotten about the COUNTDOWN CLOCK. Touches like a COUNTDOWN CLOCK are a reminder that you're not dealing with run-of-the mill people who are bad at their jobs, but actual lunatics.
Aside from being crass, Rebecca Budig's return completely overshadowed the truly awesome return of Jesse and Angie. I love Greens and Rebecca Budig, but come on, in no way is she more important to AMC than Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan. Debbi Morgan's perfect skin and the fact that she looks to be in her mid-30s continues to baffle me and, even though what happened with Jesse and Angie over the course of the year was stunningly bad, the moment when Jesse first appeared in the hospital to see Frankie was seriously great. And that's to say nothing of their actual reunion, which still gives me goosebumps.
Dreamy sigh! The shrewd decision to bring them back and therefore keep nostalgic suckers like me watching despite the carnage going on all around them led me to publicly admit defeat and tell Brian Frons that he got one over on me. I'm not proud and I feel especially duped since the good writing for them stopped a few months later...
Kendall, while going crazy with grief over her presumed dead husband who was actually trapped in a hole, wrote a book and got herself a stalker and I have to say, that stalker must have had some mighty big instabilities because nothing about that book was good enough to drive a reader to stalk the author. I recapped the beginning of the book and then had to stop because I could feel my brain collapsing on itself after a while. I am heartily sorry, Charm Exclamation Point readers!
The writers continued to pit Tad against Adam, with Tad as the white knight and Adam the tying a damsel in distress to train tracks kind of villain, even though both characters are way too complex for that kind of shoddy storytelling. The complicated criminal histories of Tad, Adam and Krystal made their feud and the one-sided presentation of it obnoxious. Yes, Adam tried to sell Jenny and that's not good, but Tad and Krystal aren't innocent when it comes to kidnapping and keeping children away from their parents. And also, Tad? Kind of a dick, or, at the very least, in need of an etiquette lesson.
Remember when there was a stripper pole at Fusionand the Fusion employees needed to pole dance as a bonding exercise? And we thought that would be the most cringe-inducing part of AMC this year? We were so adorably clueless.
Much was made about the big coup of luring Rricckkyy Ppaull Ggollddinn and Beth Ehlers away from Guiding Light, and, despite their history as a popular couple on that show who were not afraid to remind you of that popularity in their interviews, they displayed more chemistry with everybody else on canvas than they did with each other.
Yaya, the famed ANTM Cycle 3 runner-up (perhaps just famed in my mind...), joined the cast briefly as Angie's daughter Cassandra and her stuffed elephant got more screentime than a lot of the cast. The elephant was more interesting than Cassandra and a better emoter than Yaya, which is probably why Yaya only lasted a few months.
Ever since the sadistic decision to kill Dixie off via poisoned pancakes (poisoned pancakes! And then a shared funeral with Babe! The injustices never ended!), the audience begged and pleaded with AMC to bring Cady McClain back and brought her back they did...as a ghost. For a very brief run. Way to kick us when we're down, AMC.
The ghost of Dixie did manage to help reunite Kathy and Tad...at the expense of Julia Santos, who was unceremoniously killed off and not even given a funeral. She didn't even get a chance to share a funeral with a babynapping skank, she just died and then was never mentioned again. JULIA SANTOS. Member of the SANTOS family. The Julia of NOAH AND JULIA. Killed off and then never mentioned again. Effing AMC...
Erica's stint in jail was pointles, boring and confusing because she already went to jail once! Continuity, writers! Look it up! Also, jail is bad! Which she already should have known from the last time she was in jail but also from Oz and episodes of any cop show where a cop goes undercover. Hell, the episode of The Golden Girls when Blanche, Dorothy and Rose were arrested for suspicion of prostitution taught us that jail is bad, so this expose was more than a little silly.
I don't know when or why it happened, but I eventually became a big supporter of Colin Egglesfield and Josh, even showing the ultimate sign of respect and not calling him Aborted Fetus anymore. That was a huge step for me! I didn't know why Erica's hot, young, [fill in a career here, because it changed every day] son was never given a real story, or why he was written off in the most bizarre way for no real reason.
So many of those complaints are minor, petty ones, especially compared to the SHEER HORROR of the two big storylines that have eaten the show and also my sanity: The Ryan/Annie/Greenlee/Aidan/Kendall/Zach Sextet and Bianca's Baby. I get horrified all over again just reading those words.
The year started with Ryan's struggle with amnesia, a handy plot device to get him away from Annie and into Greenlee's orbit without the show's "golden boy" leaving her or cheating on her or doing anything to sully his alleged perfection.
Greenlee and Zach, having bonded during their time in the bunker, became close, but not as close as Kendall and Aidan, who had ill-advised grief sex when they thought Greenlee and Zach were dead, meaning that these four collided head-on with Ryan and Annie in a terrible story arc that isn't over and has made me crazy from the get-go. I have always loathed the Greenlee/Kendall/Ryan dynamic, and throwing Zach, Aidan and Annie into the mix just made it worse, which I didn't even think possible, but is more evidence that AMC can ruin everything, even things that were bad to begin with. Just...ugh. That's the most eloquent thing I can say. Just...ugh. The airtime for this group started to eat the showafter a while which, again...ugh. The lowpoint, obviously was when everybody hung out at the hospital waiting to see the status of Ryan's vasectomy. It's a fitting metaphor for AMC in general, actually...
Watching Ryan waffle between Annie and Greenlee was maddening, partly because we had to sit through Annie trying to get Ryan to remember their blissful love, including the immortal words
It's kind of like a third-rate ripoff of Danielle Steele...
And partly because it ruined two...if not likable couples, than at least two non-sucky couples and necessitated character assassinations up the wazoo to make it work without Ryan and Greenlee looking bad. Aidan became dark and in cahoots with Annie and also tried to act, while Annie went from bland to bitchy and wound up crazier than a shithouse rat. The character arc is terrible but at least Melissa Claire Egan has been outstanding; she went from a nonentity to one of my very favorite AMC characters, so she's got that going for her...
There is no earthly reason that Kendall and Zach had to be a part of this story AT ALL. When will the writers learn that we'd be okay with a happy Kendall and Zach? We don't need any of these shenanigans, and we certainly didn't need to see Kendall become completely obsessed with Ryan and Greenlee getting together, driving Zach insane in the process or, for that matter, Kendall being in another coma (although, again, Alicia Minshew totally deserves this vacation of hers). But, maddening though it may be, that's not even the worst story Zach and Kendall have been involved with this year...no, not by a longshot, because
I type that sentence quite often and each time, I become more confused about this show, about the writers and about the world in general. It's just ludicrous, so ludicrous that it defies reason. What kind of a twisted mind even dreams up something like that? And if you're insane enough to come up with that kind of plot, at least make it believable: as it stands, Reese and Bianca know nothing about each other and decided to have a kid with Bianca's brother-in-law's help after, like, five minutes of dating. Way to go, lesbian stereotypes! What is especially galling is that none of the characters involved seem to think it's a big deal. Bianca is barely concerned and Reese thinks Kendall will be totally cool with it. More proof that she and Bianca know nothing about each other because Kendall is cool with very little.
There were, however, some gems throughout the year, though, the most obvious being Jesse and Angie's wedding. It was an absolutely perfect ceremony for this legendary supercouple that still makes me swoon. It was perfect from start to finish and Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan are an astoundingly gorgeous couple, made all the more so in formal wear.
Aidan: I was going to bring you a rope. I thought maybe you wanted to play that little game that you did last time where you kicked the chair with a noose around your neck.
Richie: Well, you're the moron who saved my life that day. Blame yourself for everything I did after that.
I was crazy about that sociopath, even when he was kidnapping people (meh, only Babe), and emotionally manipulating kindergarteners. His love of Babe actually offended me far more than any of his crimes did...
Alexa Gerasimovich is adorable and hilarious as Kathy. I wish that the writers had kept the demon seed storyline going, because I would have loved to see Krystal be tormented by her stepdaughter.
I love Petey Cortlandt to an unreasonable degree, and I seriously feel like he is one of the show's best new characters in recent years: geeky, charming and adorable all at once and Daniel Kennedy is a major find. LOVE him. I didn't quite understand why he and Adam went into cahoots, because I think Adam has better, um, cahooting options than a kid, but it led to him describing Petey as "the son of a fossil and a fruitcake", so all was forgiven.
Speaking of Mr. Chandler: the writers' decision to put Adam and Erica back in each others orbits was inspired; I could watch them flirt, spar and bicker all day long. Susan Lucci and David Canary are awesome anyway, but something about Adam and Erica interacting makes me giddy. See, writers? Using the show's history can be good! Keep doing it!
There was, of course, a 2008 moment that overjoyed thousands of people: killing Babe off. It was a stroke of genius. GENIUS. And a richly deserved gift for the audience who was driven mad by her existence for so long. I mean, yes, they ruined the impact of her death by constantly rewriting history and eulogizing her more than Princess Diana, but still. Not having Babe around anymore is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Nearly as good as Jesse and Angie's wedding was the beautiful, heartfelt tribute to Myrtle and the late Eileen Herlie. It was sweet and devastatingly sad and one of the best hours of television this year.
Since the end of the year is all about optimism for what's to come, I will just hope that AMC will improve in 2009. Right? Maybe if enough of us hope, that will happen. Maybe. Unlikely, but in the realm of possibility. Right? I should stop before I depress myself...
Still to come this week: a look back at the years on Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless!