Six episodes is NOTHING in the life of a soap opera, but here’s my preliminary take on the Internet returns of All My Children and One Life to Live.
First of all, every episode is a gift considering the rocky road from ABC canceling them to Prospect Park reviving them to that reboot falling apart to both shows finally arriving on our computers with a big fat bow around them. The production values are fantastic, the actors look amazing, and it’s so nice to see tons of extras milling about scenes like in the heydays of soaps.
AMC had nowhere to go but up after its dismal final year and violent ending, so the new opening sets a perfect tone for viewers looking to “come home” to the open arms of Pine Valley circa 5-10 years ago. Many of the greats have returned, including Adam, Brooke, Opal, Zach, Angie, Jesse, Dixie and David. I was not a Cara or Griffin fan on TV because they were played in a vacuum and took screen time from my faves, but I am watching them now with an open mind. I can’t blame the characters (or actors) for not being properly integrated on AMC 1.0.
Romance is back, as Angie and Jesse share bed scenes, Petey woos Celia with flowers, and Adam and Brooke look like they’ve been perched on that Chandler living room couch the whole time.
There are giant holes where major characters like Tad, Kendall and Erica should be, but they are doing their best to fill them with stories like Jesse and Zach teaming up to find Cassandra and Adam and Dixie willing nuJR out of his coma. Erica is referred to frequently, which helps – like in that sweet scene between Bianca and Miranda where Binks wished she had a “normal mother” too, after Miranda got bullied because her mom is gay. (She was called a “vagitarian” on Facebook.)
Miranda’s friendship with JR’s son A.J. makes perfect sense, as does his secret crush on her.
A.J. (after Miranda said she wants to transfer to a girls’ school): “I’m going to look like hell in a plaid skirt.”
Miranda (laughing): “I love you.”
That said, parts of AMC feel like a different soap to me. There are entire scenes of strangers interacting, like nuCassandra and the “Russian mobsters” and the kids at Jane’s Addiction. And some of the young newbies’ acting is spotty at best (the exceptions are Celia and Miranda).
A few suggestions: Stop with the regular references to “five years.” The kids are all grown, we get it. There’s way too much talk of apps and B2B and the Internet. Jesse would never say “I checked my app” for Cassandra’s flight status, he would say “I checked my phone” like a normal person. And enough with the gratuitous swearing. It’s one thing for a kid to swear in conversation with another kid (like OLTL’s Matthew saying he “felt sh—ty” after doing drugs), but its another for A.J. to tell Adam that his principal’s “head is up his ass.” Kids don’t talk to their parents like that, never mind their grandparents. It’s not edgy, it’s rude – and the Adam I’ve watched for 30 years would never allow it.
But these are small things when you consider that we could have been left with a blurry shootout as our farewell to Pine Valley.
Conversely, OLTL went off the air at a creative high so the bar is much higher for them. I didn’t love the first episode because it focused too much on Dani and her sudden taste for oxycontin (?) at a club full of extras owned by her stepmom. The club is called Shelter as in “Seek Shelter” which is clever, but Blair is too smart to helm a business overrun with drugs and underage kids (including her own), never mind oral sex being performed out in the open (ew). I don’t buy that sweet Matthew grew up to be a drug-trying deadbeat dad, or that cute little Destiny is now a bitter, pouty model. They’d have done better creating a new character than wrecking that one.
But once the club scenes were over, the episodes hit their stride with the familiar David, Dorian, Todd, Blair, Viki, Clint. Bo and Nora interacting hilariously like no time had passed. I don’t like the swearing on OLTL either, but at least they pick their moments better.
When Blair calls Todd an a-hole it works, because he is one.
David’s reality show is a rioutous premise, giving David the chance to interview Todd on camera. “No comment,” replied Todd to every question after cracking that he didn’t want to be on “The Real Housewives of Llanview.” Todd and Blair stepped right back into their insane chemistry, as did Victor and Tea. They’ve resurrected The Banner which is most welcome, and Viki’s new reporter Jeffrey (played by proven actor Corbin Bleu) is the best new character on either show.
Honestly, every scene with a core OLTL character is gold.
A few suggestions: The continuity needs work. Clint hired Matthew and told him he starts “right now,” but in the next scene Matthew was back in his new apartment telling Jeffrey he got a job. Nora was giving Natalie a pep talk and offering to take her shopping while her son Matthew was moving alone into his new apartment. That would never happen; Bo and Nora would have driven the moving truck. And Victor came back from the dead with little reaction from anyone except Tea.
Tea: “How are you here?”
Victor: “Let it be enough that I am.”
“Oh, okay,” said the rest of the town. Victor’s return should have played out over weeks, not minutes.
OLTL has proven they can do the smaller moments, they just need more of them. Like David to little Sam: “I just got jelly on the chair and I’m going to blame you.” Ha!
All in all, both shows are much better than I expected, and there is something for every viewer – both old and new – in every episode. You really can go home again.
To quote our beloved Viki, “I see the light now. It really is all about the Internet.”