Inherit the Wind


I would be willing to bet that the most terrible words for daytime executives is "lapsed viewer." One might think that "cancellation" would be at the top of that list, but when a show goes off the air it is essentially a period at the end of sentence with everyone eventually moving on to something else. One also might think "lost viewers" might rank high, but the top brass is keenly aware that the television world has changed; viewers who have exited stage right have either different things to do or are far more selective with their viewing choices, two things that often go hand in hand.

As it turns out, the "lapsed viewer" is the elusive "independent" or "undecided" voters of the daytime world. Not unlike presidential hopefuls, network executives, producers and head writers stumble all over themselves to reel these people in to a new show or back into the fold of an old one. Their efforts vary from sincere to misguided to empty lip service depending on their audience or agenda.

They will try anything: lure back popular stars for meaningless guest stints, create huge event stories with no repercussions, generate fake controversy, revisit storylines of the mythical days of yore, resurrect the dead and reinvent the living. Or not.  At the end of the day, their objective is to capture the fickle, jaded heart of the lapsed viewer and perhaps recapture the high ground or, at the very least, hold the center.

Soap fans are knowledgeable enough to discern who is shoveling bullshit talking points compared to what appears to be a genuine effort at outreach and a sincere attempt to write good story. As in politics, the soap viewer has heard many a pledge made only to watch them be broken, not followed through or emerge as something different from what was promised. Therefore, genuine shock sets in when someone comes along who says they will make things better and lays the groundwork to deliver on that undertaking. Soap viewers sense when real change is in the air.

After watching Friday’s episode of All My Children, I think we’ve witnessed the beginning of the promise of a new, stronger show rise from the wreckage the old. There are many obvious metaphors in that last statement. My intention is to avoid them in favor of deconstructing some of the most important and exciting elements of what I think has been one of the most successful  soap "reboots" since Hogan Sheffer took over as headwriter of As the World Turns in 2000 and, interestingly enough, The Young and the Restless this year.

Fans have every reason to be jaded, but I think it would be a grave mistake to underestimate what Chuck Pratt accomplished with The Pine Valley Tornado of 2008. For months, Pratt (with a reported assist from Agnes Nixon) has been laying the groundwork for both redefining AMC and returning the show to its roots as a character driven, au courant, socially conscious, progressive daytime drama. Friday’s episode demonstrated why AMC fans have reason to be hopeful about the direction of the series in Pratt’s hands:

EVERY STORY IS DEFINED: The best that can be said about Megan "Maddog" McTavish’s storytelling is that things are always happening. The problem with her writing is that those things are usually the wrong things, so erratic, out of focus and plain misguided that even when one knows what is going on, it is very hard to figure out why it’s happening at all. James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten tried to improve on McTavish’s toxic, tangled knots of Zarfy, unaborted craziness, but it was a little bit like what might have happened if the Carpathia had reached the Titanic just before the latter went down: a lot more lives would have been saved, but the ship would have gone down anyway.

Pratt took a look at the situation and decided to not simply to level the town with a series of fictional tornadoes, but to refocus existing characters and his new ones. From the whimsical (Pete’s pursuit of Colby) to the melodramatic (David’s vow of revenge against half of Pine Valley for Babe’s death) or the short term (Emma’s kidnapping) to the long term (the fallout from Jesse’s newly revealed "secret" family), not only are the possibilities nearly endless, but from nearly every angle and about any direction these stories may go should have the kind of clarity of purpose long missing from Pine Valley. More…

11 Responses

  1. Profile photo of GiJoe8

    You just said everything I have been thinking!!!! Finally theres a way to watch AMC and not be bored to death. Never in my life did I think I would prefer AMC over Days, but I do now. The characters have become so interesting, the dialogue smart, and the over-acting (screaming Greenjeans or Coyoye Kendall) have died down a bit.

    You really hit the nail on the head with your article and I hope the show continues on this upward trend. It does remind me of the good ole days when there were many stories going on, in case you got sick of one – there was always two more to get wrapped up in.

    One of the ones that needs pointing out is the Taylor, Jake , Amanda triangle. I am so enjoying the dynamics of this. It really makes me want to root for Taylor and Jake. Taylor falling on the floor realizing shes paralyzed was so superb. it was almost like watching a primetime show. If AMC keeps up this innovative storytelling, Im going to enjoy the winter months. And

    I cant help be be glad Kendalls in a coma, we all needed a break…

  2. Profile photo of season1217

    How about “Three Sheets To The Wind”? Because that perfectly describes the person that wrote the dialogue between Erica and Bianca, yesterday! When she said that she felt guilty about not forgiving Babe sooner and wasting all that time angry at her I could have projectile vomited (sorry, for the imagery) Then she said that her new daughter would never know Babe! And?! I think that would be a good thing. Maybe then she’d get the chance to actually take care of her baby for the first year of her life! If ever there was a jump the shark moment that could have been it.


    //**SIZ FOR LIFE**\\

  3. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    I have to say that I missed yesterday’s (and most likely today’s) AMC episode because of a medical emergency in my family. But I have them on DVR, along with a couple of eppy’s of ATWT and close to a week’s worth of OLTL. So I can’t speak on it yet, but I’ll get to it as fast as I can.

  4. Profile photo of atirllorrac

    You state that Pratt has “character driven, socially conscious, progressive drama”. While some of these may be true. Not all.

    The character of Zach is being decimated with this sperm-donor, secret-keeping story. TK is a fabulous actor and says more with his expressions than with words. He’s a joy to watch no matter how bad the writing.

    Greenlee is suddenly a “saint”? She is still a baby stealing, child endangerer, stalking, selfish b****. No amount of halos will change that.

    Kendall is suddenly a busybody who doesn’t care for her family? The Kendall we all know and love, loves Zach and family more than anything. Who did she put first when the tornado was coming?

    ITA with season1217 about the scenes with Erica and Bianca. The talk of “wonderful Babe” was ridiculous and Erica should have been more upset over the “baby-father”.

  5. Profile photo of atirllorrac

    I forgot to add. I haven’t liked the character of Bianca since she took Babe’s side a few years back.

    Kendall stood by her after she was raped and was willing to go to jail for her.

    Bianca going behind her back and keeping this secret shows how spoiled and selfish she is. I don’t even feel any concern for her sister’s life. I wish she never left Paris. She is DTM.

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