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On: The Problem With All My Children

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by thenewserials
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As 2 Dimensional as Mario on the SNES

If you ever watched a dying animal you know what the height of pathetic life is. It’s not something you can really help (other than to kill it) and it’s not something you’d feel comfortable walking away from because it demands your attention.

And thus is the story of All My Children. The soap has been on for decades, winding its way through a cultural maelstrom. From race to aids to terrorism to gay marriage All My Children has always stayed on top of the issues and provided unique and sympathetic stories to the current situations at hand.

Being the most “plain” of the soap operas (no regular super cops, or super criminals or spies and whatever) All My Children has always been propelled by characters. Money grubbers, crooks, murderers, fathers, sons, daughters, drunks, junkies, mothers, philanthropist, moguls, psychotic, storytellers and even a couple of bears here and there. These characters are what have kept All My children unique and interesting.

We’ve watched Erica Kane go from young dreamer, to broken rape victim, to high end model, to addicted fiend, to indignant mother, wife, single, wife, single, wife, single and wife again and in each change we’ve learned something about a woman many of us have know for over thirty years.

But recently the soap has seemed to lose its way. It still has its characters (arguably maybe now they have the best roster of characters) From the sultry and possibly psychotic Annie Novak (Lavery, Chandler) to the plotting and cunning Dr. David Hayward, All My Children has a lot to work with and even could pull from older characters to spice it up a bit.

But when Charles Pratt Jr. took over as head writer audiences cried foul. The most frequent argument being that the female characters had all be degraded to shells of people, subservient and not as clever as their male counterpart.

The end of the Pratt Jr. reign followed the death of long time character Stuart Chandler and a sordid Baby’s Father drama involving nearly every character but, primarily: David Hayward, Jake Martin and Amanda Dillion. Admittedly it was some of the same stuff we had seen before but, it was still intriguing.

After Pratt was released from his duties writing the drama of Pine Valley, many fans thought that a fresh perspective would bring about a new and improved look and feel to Pine Valley (couple with a move to L.A. to shoot what could go wrong?)

Sadly it hasn’t turned out to be what most expected and hoped it to be. The characters of Pine Valley have been reduced to mere talking points, a brief look into a common thought from the character followed by some uncharacteristic actions and then onto the next set of characters before repeating the process for 45 of the 60 minutes.

Characters many of us have known for ten, twenty years are suddenly reacting to similar situations in totally different manners. A painful look at writers testing the waters to see what sounds nice on paper doesn’t always apply when acted on a continuous scale.

A great example of character trampling came with the character Aiden Devane. A private detective/spy like character who at the very core of him was benign. Only in Pine Valley because he cared about some of the women, Devane was written as a raving lunatic at the end of his run.

For weeks audience were subjected to him sitting in a padded room attempting to help (or extort?) a mental ill patient that he was (or wasn’t) in love with. Varying with the day Devane was either trying to uncover evidence against Annie Lavery or uncover a way for her to escape. For the first week it offered us some intrigue not being sure but, then after a little while it became very clear that the writers weren’t sure as to what they wanted to present with the character.

And in the end a character who hadn’t lifted a finger to do anything against the women of his life ever, except to protect them from themselves occasionally, kidnaps his ex-girlfriend and holds her hostage against her husband (whom he had a good relationship with too) before being sent to jail.

The end result served as a slap in the face to viewers who like to be treated more than just cardboard cut-outs sitting in front of a television screen. And as bad as that was, we weren’t expecting what was going to come next after Pratt’s leave.

The show as of late has been reduced to watching one story-line repeated endlessly. It’s not as if there’s multiple components to the story, literally the same thing happens over and over again. In one story Adam Chandler Jr. struggles with a lust (and possible love) for his father’s ex-wife (and cousin’s current fiancée) even though he’s married already. Normally this kind of thing is fair-grounds for a soap opera but, it’s been months of the same dialogue being used over and over again.

The guilt he feels in his heart, the burning he feels in his loins. Every episode serves for Him to say to his mistress: “We can’t be together but, I want to”, week after week we hear him say “We can’t be together but, I want to” without and real clarification of the issue. 3 months ago the show was in the same position as it is now.

The writers have forgotten what drives the story FORWARD. Instead they pick one talking point and talk about it at until the viewer is ripping their hair-out or mindlessly speaking the dialogue of the show along with the broadcast.

The characteristic of the characters have been twisted into mere stereotypes, the blending of unique and intricate qualities of characters have been replaced for blatant moments of characters stressing “I AM THE HERO” and “I AM THE VILLAIN!”. There’s little wiggle room to understand the motives for characters other than: He’s the bad guy, he’s supposed to be that way.

In the past characters of pure evil were introduced, with no motive other than to wreak havoc but, they weren’t trying to live in the society, they attempted to use it and control it. Like Dr. Kinder but, the real joy came in characters like Vanessa aka Proteus who was clearly doing wrong but, had an overbearing love for her sons that lead to the death of one of them.

On one hand you hate Vanessa on the other hand you can’t wait for her to be on screen again to see her rationale. Gone is that feeling once you hear a character admit something it stays that way. Black and white is how the lines are drawn in, no one in Pine Valley is complicated, they’re either: simply good or simply bad.

Some characters don’t even have conflicts. Amanda and Jake stand around having sex whenever they can and helping friends but, neither of the characters have anything to do individually. Sometimes they’re asked to participate in unethical actions but, they show absolutely NO conflict, they just go along with it because it’s against  ‘the bad guy’ and that’s what ‘the good guys’  do.

And so before you watch an episode you know what’s going to happen and for what reason and you can’t relate because surely YOU as an actual human being are more complicated than “I do the right thing all the time and hate everything wrong”.

All My Children is a medium in what many consider to be a ‘dying art’. The characters are treated like Adjectives: “loyal” “evil” “righteous” “confused” but, never as a mixture of one and another. So we as viewers get stuck watching the equivalent of literary stick figures but, we know there’s more. We’ve been with most of these character for ten or more years, we’ve seen them grow up, we’ve seen them do bad and good and we’ve seen them wrestle with which was more appealing to them.

That’s why we still watch because anyone who’s watched All My Children knows that the show was founded in greatness and can still achieve that goal if someone would take some time to think of stories that encompass more than one character and present more than one view-point as ‘right’.

But maybe this is the end, maybe the animal is really beyond saving and we loyal fans are just unable to look away because we love it so much still.

Or maybe someone will go to L.A. and whip some of these ‘writers’ into shape!

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Twitter.com/KeithBCovington