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All My Children is the Best ABC Soap
Originally for Bella Online

I recently read an article in Soap Opera Weekly by Mimi Torchin (11/25) about AMC. She complained about a lot of things that were wrong with the show. It was a very negative article. Strangely, while I agree with a lot of the things she said, I don't agree that the things she listed are that important, or that overall it is a bad show. In fact, I think that it is the best of the ABC soaps.

General Hospital and One Life to Live are full of violence; AMC is not. GH constantly has shootings, car accidents, kidnappings, people falling down stairs, etc. One Life to Live now has a serial killer storyline, after having killed off many characters in the past year. AMC had one murder, and the whodunnit mystery afterwards has been very interesting since almost every single character had motive to kill him. It's true there was a rape, but the rape itself was mostly not shown on screen, and there was emphasis placed on the aftermath and how it was dealt with; it was done in a very realistic and sympathetic way. Violence for the sake of "action" does not good soap opera make. Soaps should be about romance, family, and melodrama, not murder and mobsters. Soaps shouldn't try to emulate primetime shows like CSI because they don't have the budget or time to do them properly, and besides, soap fans want to watch soaps, not crime dramas.

Ms. Torchin complains that the characters change direction or motivation many times. I believe what she is really seeing is a combination of two things:
1) the writers are having the characters keep their secrets about Michael Cambias, so they may not be as open and honest to us (or each other), and thus their actions are not clear at all times. Eventually, those actions do become clear and so do their motivations. 2) Some characters, especially Kendall, have trouble making up their minds, so doing something like kissing Aidan one day and going after Ryan the next make sense. Kendall has always been kind of flighty and she is clearly torn between her old love and her new love.

Ms. Torchin admits that the head writer Megan McTavish is making good use of our veterans like Adam, Tad, and Palmer. To me, that is very important and none of the other ABC soaps are doing this. A good writer should be able to use everyone on the canvas and not neglect older people for younger ones. It's been really great to see my favorites, and this is the main reason I am enjoying the show right now. She also applauds the new character Babe and the recasting of J.R. This is the other thing that is great about the show now. If you recall how bad AMC was for the past few years, you will remember that we saw tons of teenagers being put front-burner; they had bad stories and were frequently bad actors. We didn't really care about Laurie, her father Doug, or Joni, let alone J.R. and Jamie. Now that two of the teens are gone and the other two are recast, it is fun to watch. Also, they are not on by themselves every single day; they share the show with the other actors. It's been great to watch the J.R./Babe/Jamie triangle because of the effect it's had on Tad, Brooke, Liza, Mary and Adam. I think Ms. Torchin forgets how bad the show was before. It's way better now; I find it very enjoyable.

I'm sure it's not easy to come in and clean up a mess like the one AMC had been. Fusion was a good idea (uniting several young female characters that had nothing to do) but was implemented poorly. Since Ryan has come back to town, the emphasis has been less on the company and more on the women of Fusion. There are several great stories going on. Ryan's return and the effect it has on everyone; the fight between Ryan, Fusion women, Adam, and Erica over who inherits the Cambias fortune; the murder mystery; Bianca, Kendall, and Erica bonding and Bianca's pregnancy; the triangle between Maggie/Bianca/Lena; and Greenlee finding her way with Jack and the whole Jack-Erica family. McTavish also brought in Juan Pablo and got rid of Carlos. The actors may not seem that different, but Juan Pablo has a certain kind of charisma to him that the other actor lacks, despite his heavy accent.

I disagree with Ms. Torchin that the murder mystery has been endless or been a mess. Some of her smaller points I do agree with, such as that it would have been nice to see Ryan confronting Michael.

I don't agree with her about Bianca. I don't know why everyone is so disgusted with her being raped. First of all, rape is a soap staple, like it or not. Eden Riegel is a fantastic actress and should be given an Emmy-worthy storyline. She couldn't just play the boring good girl daughter forever. Even making her a lesbian didn't make her very interesting. Most actresses who win Emmys have to have their character suffer somehow, such as having a drug or alcohol addiction, an eating disorder, some deadly disease, or a rape. It wouldn't make sense for Bianca to have a drug or alcohol addiction after what happened to her mom. She already had the eating disorder when she was a girl and had been through counseling and beat it. No one wants to see her die, and if you have her almost-die then it becomes unrealistic like Emily's breast cancer on GH. So there weren't many options. The rape storyline has been fantastic not only because it was handled realistically but because Riegel has been fantastic in every way. Also, it had great impact on the relationships with Kendall and Erica (not to mention Jack, Myrtle, Reggie, and several others), and gave both of them a chance to shine as well. The only downside is I hated to see them turn Michael so evil because I really like the actor and was sorry to see him go. I don't see why raping a lesbian is any bigger deal than raping any other woman. People complain that minorities aren't allowed to be bad guys; they always have to be saints. Well, it's also true that they rarely get the good storylines like rape, either, so it's great that they are treating her like every other character, in that sense.

Another thing about gay people on soaps: it is very hard to write for them because, all of the other characters can switch lovers, fall in love with other people, and have couples broken up with the "bad girl" or the other man. For this you would need at least three gay characters, or more. Then all of a sudden you have a gay soap opera. Which is fine, for me, but very few soaps probably want to turn their shows into gay soaps (at least yet). So, having Bianca raped was one of the few things that could tear Bianca and Lena apart. We didn't want to watch them all happy and content any more than we wanted to watch any other couple that way, at least for very long. Having Lena's ex-boss rape Bianca was brilliant because it then made sense that Bianca would shut her out. Then the other brilliant move was having her move in with Maggie because the it becomes a triangle, even though Maggie is not gay. Because we all know that Bianca loves Maggie, so Lena will be jealous. Soap couples need to have forces keeping them apart now and then.

Now, about Bianca not having the abortion. On the one hand I agree that, in real life, she probably would have had it. Especially being Erica's daughter, she would have been raised in a very liberal household, and of course Erica herself had an abortion in the 70's so it would be no big deal. But this is a soap and making the story interesting matters more sometimes than what is realistic. We already saw the whole gets-raped-has-abortion storyline with Julia. So Bianca doing the same thing is kind of boring. I do think that the soaps should have another female character, who has not been raped, have an abortion. Abortions happen all the time to many women and not just young girls or rape victims. But, anyway, having Bianca raise her rapist's baby is an interesting storyline. I don't agree at all that these stories have "desexualized" Bianca. Let's face it, Saint Bianca was not very sexual to begin with. I don't think this romance between Lena and Bianca has been destroyed, just delayed like so many others on soaps. I do think we should see more of the stronger side of Lena and what she does aside from chasing Bianca. But this is a small complaint.

AMC is the most soap opera-like of the ABC soaps and I am really enjoying it. Keep up the good work, Ms. McTavish, and ignore the complaints of people like Ms. Torchin!

The opinions in these articles are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The TV MegaSite or its other volunteers.

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Updated 8/20/14

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