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It Was a Dark & Stormy Night...


Even if you do not follow literature, you are no doubt aware that the title of this post is a phrase associated with the worst kind of lazy, pedestrian, obvious writing imaginable. "It was a dark and stormy night..." is, to put it bluntly, synonymous with the word "bad."

Bad in and of itself isn't always a bad thing, as there are varying degrees of badness from which to choose. For example, there are things that are "so bad they are good," like The Pussycat Dolls and RuPaul's Drag Race. There are other things that are really bad, like white people dancing to "Push It" and Julie Chen hosting Big Brother. Then you have things that are so atrocious, inspiring more WTF moments than a Samantha Harris post-performance interview on Dancing with the Stars that you question your sanity for sitting through it without clubbing a baby seal.

By "you" I mean "me," and it might not take too much of a stretch of the imagination to guess how I felt about Friday's abominable, lobotomized episode of All My Children that climaxed with the shooting of "a legendary character."

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There is no end of suspects: Miss Scarlett in the study with the gun, Mr. Peabody in the kitchen with the candlestick, and Waddsworth in the study with the fireplace poker. In fact I was laughing so much at the manic goings on that it didn't dawn on me until about 30 minutes in that I was watching the soap opera version of Clue. I half expected Eileen Brennan and Tim Curry to pop up in cameos as Little A and Emma's mysterious caretakers.

When I say the episode reminded me of Clue, I also mean it reminded me of Micheal Jackson's Thriller or Michael Jackson's Ghosts, whichever Michael Jackson horror show outside of his plastic surgery that has the most unnecessary and cliched thunder & lightning, only more so than or just as much. It was a dark and stormy night...minus the storm, as it seems the rain effects budget was cut along with other actors' salaries. CGI, where are you when we need you? This state of affairs did not stop the editors and director from shoving every bad horror movie/murder mystery cliche (there's that word again) down our collective throats. Odd camera angles to evoke scary atmosphere? Check. Dark shadows (ha!) to evoke danger? Check. Lots of "boo!" moments? Check. Perhaps I would be more forgiving if there also were not shots of stone gargoyles (yes gargoyles!), that cringe inducing moment when the lights of the Chandler mansion went out with the cut to Little Adam whimpering "What happened?," topped off with the gasp-inducing hilarious shot of a woman's legs running in the dark that evoked memories of the Zuni doll in 1973's Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black. All that was missing was a Vincent Price voice-over and zombies. Speaking of the latter...

Everyone kind of skulked around appropriately, but I honestly don't think I've seen a less motivated group of actors lumbering about en masse on a soap in many years, including those who sleepwalked through Megan "Maddog" McTavish's second go around on Guiding Light in the 90's. Bobbie Eakes, a fine actress who it seems is struggling to put her finger on whatever motivates Krystal as of 45 minutes ago, is seemingly being pulled into a One Life to Live Stacy Morasco-like swamp of one-note drudgery. While there was absolutely nothing different about Thorsten Kaye's monotony (it's getting increasingly difficult to tell the difference between when Zack is happy, angry or constipated), even Alicia Minshew played a comatose heart transplant patient with more energy than her character's conviction to see Adam bite the bullet. Speaking of biting the bullet...

David Canary, stellar as of late, appeared to be chewing down on a hollow point practically screaming "Let's get this shit over with" in scenes as both Adam and the clumsily directed ones featuring Stuart. Nice bit of subtlety there, having Stuart carrying a backpack when he ran into nutter butter Annie (Melissa Claire Egan), wasn't it? Gee, what could have been in that bag? A change of clothes? Hmmmm, whatever could that portend? Even worse, the excrutiatingly long slo-mo of Adam (or Stuart) turning around as the main suspects pointed their guns at the victim-to-be simultaneously just made my head hurt. And the multiple voiceovers! I would have thrown my tv set out of the window if I didn't live on the first floor. The way that scene was set up, it would have been better to have stolen a page out of Falcon Crest's first season and pulled the camera away from the exterior of the Chandler mansion as a gunshot rang out than the one they went with, an overhead shot that immediately nullified at least two potential suspects in Krystal and Opal (Jill Larson). Of all the actors trapped in this twisted grand guignol mess, only Jacob Young (JR's gun pull on Adam), Vincent Irizarry (David's creepy-tender talk to Little A) and Michael E. Knight (virtually every scene he was in) came out relatively unscathed by the cornball writing and direction.

I love a good mystery, especially a soap whodunit. Among the very best of the genre are "Who Killed Channing Capwell, Jr.?," a two year opus that kicked off Santa Barbara; "Who Murdered Will Courtlandt?" on All My Children itself; and the most ingenious and legendary one of them all, "The Death of Wade Meecham," a masterpiece of the form on the late, great The Edge of Night. On the oher hand, the list of craptastic soap mysteries are too numerous to mention, although perhaps the worst of all time is As the World Turns' "Who Killed Carolyn Crawford?" which is notable for its insufferable awfulness only because it was penned by the writer now nearly hailed as a soap god, Douglas Marland.

The hot mess that stunk of up the screen on Friday's All My Children may have its defenders, but I thought it was in terms of staging, direction and editing one of the most awful and unintentionally funny turdtastic episodes I have ever seen in my three decades as a soap viewer. Dixie's death by pancakes still ranks as probably the worst soap death of all time, outshining Irna Phillips' killing ATWT's Liz Talbot by having her die from falling up a flight of stairs (you read that right) and Mary Capwell's death by a falling letter "C" on SB. Though the actual killing of Adam/Stuart on AMC was more "traditional," the way it was staged and filmed was an ignoble exit for as beloved — nee "legendary" — character as has ever been on daytime.