May 29, 2006

Greg: "First, do no harm."

David: “Harm, huh? You see, that is such a relative concept. Endless interpretations --"


My love for the sexy but evil Dr. David Hayward is fairly well known.  I love him when he’s sexy. I love him when he is evil. I love his notion of situational ethics. Mostly I love him when he is shoving someone’s hypocrisy right back in their face.  Greg thinks David killing him is going against the Hippocratic Oath.  Why? Because Greg will be hurt. Greg certainly does not think he has ever broken the Hippocratic Oath because he has helped so many people. The people Greg has hurt mean nothing to him because they have been sacrificed for his interpretation of the greater good. From David’s point of view, he is willing to sacrifice Greg for his interpretation of the greater good, helping Dixie find Kate. Does that make them the same? Nope, because David admits he does bad things, he knows the harm he has caused.  I suspect that David has experienced many “dark nights of the soul.” Greg? Not so many. Other PV residents may swear their allegiance to the “Hypocritic” Oath, but not David.

All that David love and this column is mostly not about him. The Greg/David exchange got me thinking about AMC.  The notion of “first, do no harm” has certainly eluded TPTB at AMC over the past several years.

We all know what makes a good soap: intelligent stories featuring characters we have enjoyed for years. We will even follow an illogical story if it makes sense within the framework of “our show.”  We will follow our favorite characters through an illogical story if those characters remain true to who they are.  We will even accept new characters if 1) their arrival makes sense and 2) their arrival does not consume most of the storylines and screen time.

I have this soap theory. Hell, maybe it’s even a soap conspiracy theory. I do not think we will ever see a new soap. A writer will never see her own soap creation appear fully realized on screen. That is sad. What happens next is even sadder.  The writer gets a job on an existing soap. The writer, perhaps consciously, perhaps not, tries to turn that show into her aborted soap. History be damned, characters be damned and viewers be damned.

I have had the unfortunate but educational experience of watching Megan McTavish “transform” all three ABC soaps.

What have I learned from this nightmare?  That Megan McTavish has written the bible for her unproduced soap. An unproduced soap called “Purgatory.” 

Given Ms. McTavish’s propensity for showing unending misery on screen, I would never watch “Purgatory”. Yet I experience it every day while watching AMC.

As I have said before, Megan McTavish can start a good story. Telling and finishing a good story are not her strong suits. Her skills at respecting characters and their history are also sorely lacking.

During her tenure, harm has been done to AMC, but can it be reversed?

Let’s begin with Jack and Erica. Since the moment they met, Jack has loved Erica. Erica loves Jack, as much as she can love anyone who isn’t her.  After almost two decades of dancing towards and away from each other, Jack and Erica had a wedding. It was a very romantic wedding. Yep, it was a great wedding. Too bad that wedding did not lead to a marriage for Jack and Erica. We never really saw them living together. Reggie and Erica have great chemistry, wouldn’t seeing them try to share a bathroom have been hysterical?  Erica, a fashion icon, has a stepdaughter with a strong aversion to red. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to see Erica accept her stepmother role by donating all her red clothes to charity? Wouldn’t it have been heartwarming to see them having a family dinner? At a table? At a table not in a hotel dining room?

 Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Erica spending time with Jack instead of Ryan?  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see Erica support Jack instead of Ryan? “Ryan, I know you think Jonathan is no longer a threat to anyone. However, Jack is Lily’s father. I must respect his feelings and decisions about Jonathan and Lily” and “Jack, thank you for offering to help Kendall with her legal struggles with Ryan. I disagree with her decision, but I admire you for supporting my daughter, your stepdaughter.”  Has Erica committed adultery with Ryan? Yes, she has, except for the sex part.

It is hard to imagine a more difficult time for Erica and Jack. Two children are in trouble. Two children need attention. Neither parent can be in two places at once. That’s understandable. What I don’t understand is why Jack and Erica have not had a scene together in weeks. Imagine the two of them sitting in a PVH waiting room talking about how hard the situation is for them both. How it breaks Jack’s heart not be there, physically, for Erica. How Erica wishes she could be helping search for Lily. A simple emotional scene between a married couple.  Yep, the story of Jack and Erica’s marriage had a great beginning. The follow through has been nonexistent.

How to reverse the damage? Show some true communication between Jack and Erica. Create stories where they just do not merely fret over their children, but really interact with them. Lastly, have Erica remember she is a Kane/Montgomery and not a Lavery.

Lily. Ahh, Lily. Lily returning to PV was a good idea. Mainstreaming Lily was a good idea for a story. It started out well with the “hot girls.”  Lily and Reggie’s adjustment to being siblings was sweet. Her crush on Aidan was believable (as anyone’s crush on Aidan would be). There were many realistic stories that could have been told. Why not have Reggie resent being held responsible for his sister all the time? Why not have Dani resent Reggie being responsible for Lily all the time? Why not have Lily search out kids at school who could be her friends?  Why not let Jack act like a parent who has a child with developmental disabilities? Why not have Erica resent that Jack is acting like a parent whose child has developmental disabilities? Why not have Lily love someone who was not close to 30 and a murderer? Imagine if Lily and Sam had run off to NYC because no one wanted them to be together. That could be a heartbreaking young love story.

How can this damage to Lily’s story be fixed? Lily comes back to Pine Valley and struggles to accept what she can and cannot do. Jack struggles with not having been better at helping Lily understand her limits. Lily discovers she can be happy in her own unique way.  This story happens in small scenes over the course of a few months. Levin is great but in order to enjoy Lily again, I need a break from seeing her every day. 

There are many other examples to show the harm that has been inflicted on AMC over the past several years. The pontification of Krystal and Babe. The emasculation of the Chandler men. The disappearance of Brooke, Palmer, Opal and Ruth. The glory that is Ryan Lavery. Fusion becoming little more than an infomercial for real life Fusion cosmetics (available now at Walmart!).  Way too much Erin and not nearly enough Simone. Jonathan’s transformation into a poor little lamb who lost his way due to a brain tumor.  Sacrificing Reggie and Dani for no reason whatsoever. “The Dragon.” Dixie’s return usurping Maria’s as the worst return from the dead in AMC history. I could write in greater depth about these examples but it would just make me weep. 

Well then is there no hope for AMC? There is always hope, even under the current regime. On the really bad days, I look at how Janet’s return transformed Amanda into a very watchable character. If that can happen, almost anything can. 

On to shorter thoughts:

“I had pains in my chest and I immediately thought of you. Don’t worry, it wasn’t in a romantic sense.” Well thank goodness for that. We all know that David’s true love is Tad, not Greg.

The more DixieBitch explains her absence, the less sense it makes.  

“Where did this come from? This completely blind self-destructive romantic streak? You certainly did not get that from me.”   Erica has never excelled at self-awarenss. If she did, she wouldn’t be Erica would she?

I thought Lily had been gone just a few days. I was wrong. She has been gone long enough for Jack to not only get a deeper tan but also to let his hair grow back to its natural color.

“Do you believe this marriage was a big plot to steal our son?”   That may not be true any longer, but it certainly was when Babe started down the path to remarriage.

I know Zach is super human but doesn’t he ever need to use the bathroom?

I just couldn’t help it. When Stuart handcuffed himself to JR, I kept waiting for JR to go Abruzzi on his uncle. (Yes, I watch Prison Break.)

Jonathan figured out a way to show Lily the good things about NYC. He figured out how to lead her from her mid-town to Battery Park. Why then didn’t he figure out how to buy her sunglasses?

Di irritated Ryan by speaking up for JR. Will Ryan have an epiphany about how irritating he was when constantly speaking up for Jonathan? Nope, didn’t think so.

“You shot your own mother.”  Too bad this crime will never go to court. “Your Honor, how could my client be guilty of shooting his mother when she was dead at the time?” “Case dismissed.”

“My life started when I met you.”  As I mentioned last week, that is the most important part of any man’s life story.

My god Mom, would you just keep quiet-I’m trying to sleep in here.” Hey, if Kendall can speak while in a coma, Spike should be able to talk in a womb.

Today, for one day only, Tad will be speaking with an accent!  I missed much of the drama in the Tad/Greg scene because I was trying to figure out Tad’s accent. Was he channeling John Lovitz channeling Alistair Cooke?  Was Tad saying to Greg, “Don’t think you’re so special, I can have an accent, too”?

“I have always loved clowns.”  Maybe Stuart and Ryan could open a clown nose rental business. Out of town.

I am confused. All winter the citizens of PV dressed for summer. Now that summer is here, Jack is wearing a suede jacket.

Speaking of clothes, was anyone else disturbed by Amanda being in Greg’s room while he was wearing pajamas?

Stuart had a dog named Cooter. How sweet. Did he also have a cat named Poontang?

And that’s all for this week’s Cynic.

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