After months of speculation, wondering if All My Children would ever truly make it back on the air, Prospect Park successfully launched the series under The Online Network umbrella on Hulu, Hulu Plus, iTunes and FX Canada. But did the continuation meet our expectations? Leaving us asking for more, or put us straight to sleep, wondering why they even bothered to come back?
I’ve missed All My Children. Maybe not as much as fans that have been there from the beginning, but the residents of Pine Valley held a place in my heart, especially after watching the towns of Harmony (Passions), Springfield (Guiding Light) and Oakdale (As the World Turns) be decimated by network executives. To have the opportunity to “come home” again to the place and people to which I’ve grown attached, it’s no surprise I was instantly on-board with the project. Through contract negotiations, ups and downs, supporting Prospect Park’s vision was something of great importance to me. They saw the internet as a viable medium, something I’ve actively promoted since 2005, and I couldn’t be more excited to see their work come to life.
Investment in the success of All My Children doesn’t mean one should be oblivious to its faults, nor does it mean one should soften criticism with kid gloves. AMC deserves be critiqued and analyzed in the same form and fashion that we’d look at any other show on television – daytime or primetime. Let’s face it, AMC’s competition is no longer The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful or some random talk shows. It’s going up against every television show and every streaming entertainment outlet in every genre. In order to succeed, it has to beat them all. Would one review Scandal or Chicago Fire on a curve? Why should we be quiet and gloss over the negatives when it’s close negatives could be keeping it from greatness?
Jumping five years ahead was a wonderful plot device to use. It freed up the constraints of explaining what happened to all of the various residence of Pine Valley, and allowed for characters to deal with these losses through expository dialogue where the situation and exposition fit. Though there were references to previous characters like Caleb, Jake and Amanda, — viewers didn’t have to be hit over the head wondering where Erica, Randi, Scott, etc. all were.
The sets beautifully decorated with a mixture of rich textures and modern colors; an improvement from the sets on terrestrial television. The filming and direction was also an improvement from its time on TV. Executive producer Ginger Smith and supervising producer Sonia Blangiardo did great work in such a short time. Though some may gripe about various elements of editing and the flow of the episodes, I felt it was done pretty well in that regard. It wasn’t quite “Crash TV”; as most of the scenes were long enough to feel any emotional impact intended. The locations scenes were another story. I know TVSource’s executive editor Omar Nobles was complimentary in his review of the premiere, but I have a different take.
The remote scenes, directed by former As The World Turns executive producer Christopher Goutman, really bothered me. It felt nothing like the scenes filmed in the studio. While I love the idea of making Pine Valley feel like a real town – and by extension establishing a real sense of community – the location shots destroyed all sense of continuity within the episode as the aesthetics didn’t match up with the interiors.
As seen in the side-by-side photo above, the outdoor visuals had more of a bluish hue with a white overlay – a lot brighter in contrast to the more neutral shading of the interior sets used for the Hubbard family in the proceeding scene.
This isn’t to say that they need to get rid of the remote scenes altogether, but their integration should be more cohesive towards the actual look and visuals the show is going for. If you’ve watched any foreign soaps, you will almost always see remote scenes, but they look identical to their studio counterparts; so much so that one can’t often tell where it was filmed. I need this for the Prospect Park soaps to survive. It’s not something that should turn fans off, but it is something that causes a disjointed nature which in turn causes a momentary visual disconnect, and if you start to lose the viewers’ attention it’s really hard to get it back.
My next issue, though minor, is about the opening credits. I absolutely adore the theme song, “We Are the Love We Give” by Imaginary Friends. But much like the outdoor visuals, the issue was with the nature of the video portion of the opening. While the B-roll footage and Pine Valley scenic were beautifully done, the integration of the clips and character sections felt rushed. With a little work I think the concept could be really enjoyable as the song encapsulates the true feeling of AMC, but as it stands? I could’ve had a V8 instead.
The casting was a true highlight of the revamped series. Casting director Allison Goodman and assistant casting directors Jill Pettigrew & Michael Morlani selected some incredible talent to add to the cast. While of the acting from the newer stars ranged from impressive to rough, the one that stood out the most was Denyse Tontz as Miranda Montgomery. Not only does she have a great look, but she has the acting ability to back it up. She exudes a confidence and seems to have a grasp on who her character is already. Tontz has the potential to make All My Children her own playground, similar to the way a young Susan Lucci did way back in 1970s.
Of course there’s room for growth with the talent. For many, this is the most high-profile role they’ve had. And like anything, there’s the potential to get better the more you do it. I’ve seen a lot worse over the years and I’m willing to give everyone more time to acclimate to their characters before making any further judgments.
Last but not least is the writing. The dialogue on All My Children has been fairly enjoyable; realistic and effectively captured the voice of the characters thus far. The area that gives me pause is the overall story and pacing. It took four episodes to reveal the character who JR short. Characters continually alluded to “that night” and “what happened” and “it’s been five years,” without actually giving any context as to who he shot. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you want viewers to have a reason to keep tuning in, but with various secrets appearing to be set up – who’s Celia’s guardian; what happened to David and Cara’s child; who has Cassandra and why; what else happened five years ago? I can’t help but worry that stories may move at a ‘classic’ soap pace.
Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully we would have to hear Lindsay Hartley repeatedly recite the lines “He can never know the truth” for another eight years. Dealing with that on Passions (which current All My Children co-head writer Marlene McPherson was part of the writing team) was more than enough to last a lifetime, I don’t need to see history repeat itself. In comparison to One Life to Live, the pace is a lot slower, which in hindsight, isn’t such a bad thing. Also, characters seemed islanded off from one another. Everything felt as if it was off it its separate bubble with storylines briefly intersecting for spurts. That issue appeared to be rectified in today’s episode.
Overall, I really enjoyed the first week of All My Children. My criticisms may seem pointed, but that’s only because I want it to succeed. This a genre I love like no other. It’s affected my life in more ways than one, and made me, in part, who I am today. With the resurrection of these shows, Prospect Park not only holds the future of these two soaps in its hands, but potentially the future of all of television; and I want these groundbreaking shows to be worthy of the praise its received.
Week one had its ups and downs, but as I said earlier, it will hopefully get better with time. The series is currently in the middle of its second batch of tapings, and I’m sure they’ve learned from mistakes encountered in the first round of filming.