March 5, 2007
It isn’t often, actually never, that I have used the same words to open two different columns, but this a glorious exception. Last week these words were spoken in jest, but this week they can be taken straight up:
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
Sadly, Babe is still alive. Happily, Megan McTavish has been let go. That’s the most frabjous news AMC viewers have gotten in years!
I am doing my best to keep this news in perspective but it’s difficult. I am fighting the urge to dance for joy! JOY! Unfortunately, Ms. McTavish is not the only severe problem AMC has. Julie Hanan Carruthers is still the Executive Producer and Brian Frons remains, inexplicably, the President of ABC Daytime. The bad news is that a new head writer cannot change the salary budget restraints put on the EP nor does it change Brian Frons’ opinion that what teenage viewers want to see above all else are marginally talented young actors playing stupid characters in ridiculous storylines. In bikinis.
ABC Daytime insults younger viewers by underestimating their desire for complicated characters and interesting storylines. ABC Daytime would insult older viewers, if they remembered we exist. It’s sad really because no audience is more loyal than a soap audience. AMC viewers were the network’s to lose and that’s exactly what has happened. Until the network’s view of daytime changes, we shouldn’t look for any major long term changes at AMC.
That said, there is a lot to be happy about if we get a good head writer, like Claire Labine or Kay Alden or a promoted Amanda Beall. Heck, I’ll even take Michael Malone. What do I think a good head writer could do? She (no offense Mr. Malone) could pay more attention to history. Claire Labine does an absolutely brilliant thing; she interviews the actors about their characters. She is interested in their view of the character’s history.
A new headwriter could see that a certain logic prevails from scene to scene, from day to day and, dare I suggest, from week to week.
She could strive to achieve a character balance on the show. Would I hate Babe or loathe Ryan as much as I do if I could get a freakin’ break from them? I don’t know, just as I don’t know if I would have gotten tired of the sexy but evil Dr. David Hayward if I had to see him every day. The answer is probably yes, because overkill can happen even with the sexiest and most interesting character.
A good soap writer would also bring the color gray back to AMC. A soap populated with characters who are either only saints or only sinners is boring.
A good soap writer would also remember that soaps are really modern day morality plays. Characters who do bad things need to pay for their crimes, one way or another. I am often asked how can I condemn Babe for her actions when I don’t condemn Erica? Easy. Erica has paid one way or another for her misdeeds. For example, her adultery cost her custody of Bianca. For years. Her misappropriating Maddie almost cost her Bianca’s life. Binky’s anorexia kicked into high gear while Erica was in prison. After returning Maddie to Maria, Erica was pretty much the town pariah. And never once, not once, did Erica act like everyone who disapproved of her actions were just a bunch of big old meanies.
A good writer’s stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. And that ending makes sense.
Oh and a good AMC head writer would encourage the dialogue writers to give the characters back their senses of humor.
A good AMC headwriter would realize that AMC’s longevity comes from its reliance on family, friendships and romance. Oh, and socially relevant stories that are actually stories, not stunts.
Most importantly, a good head writer would know that if she treats AMC with respect, viewers will grant her more respect than she can possibly imagine.
Oh well, I can hope can’t I?
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