More ConFused Than Ever
I have been a loyal All My Children fan for 14 years now. I have never stopped watching for more than a few days. Even when I had long stretches where I tuned out One Life To Live and General Hospital, I remained faithful to my first soap love. Palmer as an art-hording maniac, Haley’s poison tattoo, Gillian the ghost, Juan Pablo, “Proteus” & “The Dragon” …none of this has made me walk away from my beloved AMC. Honestly, I’ve never even considered it for more than a minute or two over the years.
However, when I came home from work on Tuesday, July 25, 2006, what I saw when I popped in my tape of that day’s episode (yes, I still use a VCR to get my fix!) was enough to make my heart sink. And, it was enough to make me seriously reconsider the longest love affair I’ve ever known. Everything about the opening of “ConFusion” was a sign that the writing of this show has gone further downhill than ever before. The following is laundry list of my complaints with the episode – and the few shining moments that saved the episode from being a total disaster.
#1 – The name of the bar is dreadful. ConFusion? Really? I’m sure I’m not the only one to point out what a tragic name this is, but it bears repeating. I have tried for weeks to think of a reason that this word could be construed as a positive name for a bar or club, but I have just come up empty. Seriously, I must have missed the episode/scene where Kendall & Co. justified using a name that basically means “I don’t get it!” Then again, maybe it’s completely appropriate….
#2 – The whole thing just reeks of “trying too hard”. As much as ABC is in denial, their daytime lineup is not MTV, or primetime. This is just another blatant, misguided attempt to try to appeal to younger viewers. When are they going to learn? This is not going to draw people to a soap, because this is not what people want from a soap. We want characters we can identify with and root for. We want stories about family and community, about relationships, mystery and intrigue, and maybe a little melodrama every now and then. We are not here for flash, for style over substance, for cheap gimmicks and stunts – there is plenty of programming for people who want that sort of thing. Even the way the episode was shot was a stunt, made even more obvious by the fact that the non-club scenes had to be shot the same way, so as not to make the whole episode look inconsistent and silly.
#3 – The opening of ConFusion being “covered” by real correspondents from real entertainment news shows made the whole thing look stupid. On a soap, we accept that newsworthy events happen all the time – but within the context of the show. Murder trials, concerts, and other big events are covered by fake journalists, from fake newspapers and fake “local” networks, and we accept them just as we accept the other characters on the show. Having real-life media pundits from the likes of Extra and BET showing up and treating an event like this as if it’s worthy of national coverage in the “real world” creates a jarring incongruity. The result is not a reaction of “oh how cool!” but rather, “gimme a break!”
#4 – Where the hell was Simone? Why on earth would the writers decide that Simone had SHINGLES, of all things, and leave her out of this event? Did Terri Ivens have some sort of scheduling conflict that prevented her from being a part of this? Honestly, that is the only acceptable answer for yet another missed opportunity to make use of this gem that AMC is letting go to waste.
#5 – There were little inconsistencies all over the place. First, WHY did they not have any food at the last minute? Was there some explanation that I missed, or was this just another manufactured plot point? Second, if Kendall and Amanda were discussing when to open the doors to let people in, why were there so many people already inside? And not that I don’t love him, but why was David, of all people, allowed inside before the general public? Despite what TPTB think, the little things DO matter, especially on a soap.
#6 – JR being given yet another opportunity to create a disaster of epic proportions, simply to satisfy his juvenile impulses and fragile ego, is unacceptable. The only other Muse column I have written was about the scene a few months ago when JR apologized to all of the people in his life that he had been raging against for so long, and asking their forgiveness by giving it himself. I applauded the writers for allowing this character to actually GROW and LEARN from the events of his life. Sadly, they have decided that such things are not important, but rather, events that damage people’s lives and are designed to shock the audience is what maters most. Silly me for thinking otherwise. Equally unacceptable is the extra push JR was given by Krystal a few days ago. I listened in disbelief as this woman advised him to inflict emotional pain on another human being in order to make his own life better. This was done sincerely, earnestly, and without a hint of rage, villainy, or irony. We were just supposed to believe that Krystal was calmly and rationally giving JR the best guidance she knew how to give as a concerned mother-in-law, and that what she was giving him was good, solid advice.
The two redeeming aspects of this episode were:
#1 Amanda being given a smidgen of respect and dignity. This character (and the actress portraying her) has come a looooong way since first returning to Pine Valley in the role of Poor Misunderstood Bad Girl (the spot now being unfortunately occupied by Colby…. but that’s another article altogether!) It’s about time Amanda was given a break by someone other than scheming Greg Madden.
#2 The scenes between Aiden and Di were an unexpected treat. Aiden is a character worthy of leading man status, and deserves more than an instant romance (they were in love?) and subsequent breakup with the personality-challenged Erin. As for Di, it was fantastic to see her in an episode where she wasn’t playing second fiddle to Dixie and tripping all over herself apologizing to Tad and JR.
So… will this be the straw that finally breaks this camel’s back and causes me to tune out? In truth, probably not. I have stayed faithful for all these years, and when it comes down to it, I keep tuning in day after day, hoping and praying for more of the kind of moments that got me hooked in the first place.