Falling in Love in a Coffee Shop: A New Viewer’s Thoughts on ‘All My Children’

Photo: Chapman Baehler/TOLN

I was a more than little surprised when I learned All My Children replaced head writers Marlene McPherson and Elizabeth Snyder. I think the show has done a great job overall in its storytelling, and as a new viewer to the show, I’d like to give the former writers kudos for creating intriguing, exciting storylines.

AMC is a lighter show than its sister soap One Life to Live (no two soaps really are the same), with a very different tone.  When the show initially premiered in 1970, one of the original themes featured was that of troubled young love. It’s a theme that’s been recaptured in TOLN’s revival. McPherson and Snyder did a good job incorporating the stories of the younger cast, veteran cast and children with their parents.

The adorably named coffee shop, Jane’s Addiction, is a popular gathering spot for the town. It’s kind of a more innocent version of Llanview’s Shelter in a way. It’s a good focal point for the town to coalesce that works twofold – it works for the multi-generational cast but most importantly, it’s a cute hangout spot for the young folk.

I really like Miranda (Denyse Tontz) and AJ (Eric Nelson) as a couple. Tontz’s Miranda is very likable and seems to fit well with the rest of the show. Nelson’s AJ debuted to some mixed responses from online fans, but I’ve come to enjoy him. He works as the somewhat awkward hothead. Now that the excessive profanity has been toned down, maybe it’ll help others warm up to him.

The idea of AJ & Miranda as a couple seemed a little strange at first, but it didn’t take long for me to find enjoyable elements of their relationship. Who hasn’t had feelings for their friend at some point in their lives? There are a lot of beats to play out between these two, as well as the potential for new, complicated dynamics with their families. It doesn’t feel like these two are on an island, and that’s how it should be.

Another young couple getting a lot of focus is Celia (Jordan Lane Price) and Pete (Rob Scott Wilson). Unlike Miranda and AJ, this pairing just doesn’t work. The potential is there, sure. Pete, the young playboy & momma’s boy, trying to save the family business and Celia, the ingénue with a mysterious benefactor and even more mysterious past, seems like it should be a match made in bodice-ripper heaven. Sadly, the chemistry just doesn’t seem to be there.

It doesn’t help that these two were given a “love at first sight” kind of intro, with their romantic fates presumably pre-destined for coupledom. Maybe Price and Wilson will be able to find their chemistry over time, but the show seems to be relying on the fact that these two are pretty. Pretty is good, but it’s not enough to sell a pairing. I enjoy these two better on their own.

Adding the recently returned Colby Chandler (Brooke Newton) into the Celia/Pete mix does make things interesting.  I’m not sure specifically the direction they have in mind, but gold digging sluts are always a win on soaps. Her self-absorption and could-care-less attitude provide nice escapism. She’s just fun to watch. It doesn’t hurt that Newton and Wilson have a raw, sexual chemistry either.

One fan favorite I instantly loved was Vincent Irizarry as Dr. David Hayward. It didn’t take me too long to realize what all the hype was about when it came to this at times evil, sexy doctor. The character works because ever though he is the “bad guy,” Irizarry infuses so many layers into his performances that you find yourself questioning whether David truly is the bad one.  When David almost pulled the plug on JR, but then stopped himself is a good example. David fought his desire for to seek vengeance for the death of his daughter.

It’s clear David is up to no good and still has plans for revenge, but other things have taken priority. Rebuilding his reputation for one, and supporting his only friend in her time of need. David’s friendship with Angie (Debbi Morgan) provides the opportunity for many tender moments. It’s in those scenes that you see just how big David’s heart is. I enjoy his friendship with Angie and I would love to see that explored more.

The recent tryst between David and Colby reminded me of a Lifetime movie Vincent Irizarry did in the 1990s named Lying Eyes. I say this with affection because that movie was good junk food television. In it, Irizarry plays an older man that seduces and manipulates a young, unsuspecting blonde teenager. David’s motives for striking up an affair aren’t pure, but this time the cheerleader (or in this case, socialite) is perfectly okay with it. The fallout will no doubt be soapy goodness. How will Pete react when he learns his business partner and former stepbrother is sharing a bed with his friend with benefits?

One story that isn’t quite working for me yet is Billy Clyde Tuggle. I think this mostly stems from my unfamiliarity with the character. He behaves in a goofy, harmless manner, but he’s also a pimp who just happens to serve the lord. What? The newfound lottery winner still seems to carry a torch for Dixie Cooney and may be a bit of a psycho. It will be interesting to see if he truly has turned over a new leaf (pimping aside) and will be redeemed or if he’ll revert back into a villain everyone assumes him to still be. I’m hoping for the latter. Why can’t someone more deserving such as I ever win the lottery?

I’d like to Cady McClain utilized more. Right now, Dixie is used primarily in a supporting role. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but given McClain’s talent, it’d be nice to see her showcased as a lead from time to time. I see Billy Clyde’s return causing some mayhem for Dixie, and bringing back memories I’m sure she’d like to forget. Perhaps she can celebrate with the sexy Dr. Anders once she has saved herself from whatever Billy Clyde has in mind.

Dixie’s son JR (Ryan Bittle) is a walking screw-up but I like him. I love the chemistry between JR and Cara (Lindsay Hartley). Even though Cara is still carrying a torch for David despite herself, I can see these two eventually hooking up a mile away. I suspect JR’s intentions may be vengeful at first, but I’m willing to bet he really falls for her in the end. Is it just me or does JR and David’s plots against each other involve a lot sexploits?  That’s not complaint, by the way.

Having the shady Zach Salter as one of the heroes searching for Cassandra doesn’t quite work for me. Thorsten Kaye is a great actor, but the character’s blatant sexism is overbearing. As a new viewer unfamiliar with his original background, I’m unaware that he may not have acted this way before, but it’s a definite turnoff now. All I have to go on is that his wife Kendall left him and he thinks Lea has a nice ass.

I need to see more vulnerability in his character before I can like him as much as his fans do. He also needs a better leading lady. Lea (Paula Garces) has potential, but she’s really underdeveloped. Garces’ portrayal is strong and confident, but what else is there to Lea besides her profession? That’s what I’d like to see more of.

Despite my earlier comment that All My Children is lighter than One Life to Live, it’s also telling one of the grittiest storyline on all of the soaps.  The sex trafficking storyline has been raw, graphic and at times, very uncomfortable to watch. I was disturbed was I watched Angie’s daughter Cassandra (Sal Stowers) be kidnapped, drugged, assaulted and abused.But that’s the point of the storyline. Viewers should be uncomfortable and disturbed. Stowers is doing a phenomenal job with the tough subject matter and I really feel for the character.

I desperately wanted someone to help her and make the creeps who kidnapped her pay. Angie’s pain over what happened to Cassandra is heartbreaking. One of the earlier episodes featured a beautifully done scene with Angie breaking down in the hospital hallway after visiting a young victim. This storyline isn’t your typical soap fodder – it’s not fun or romantic, but it’s being handled very well. The serious approach taken by the writers underscores just how important it is to tackle these kinds of stories with care.

In all, this new viewer is really loving All My Children. Its tonal balance of light and dark stories continues to be well executed. The use of the multi-generational cast has allowed for a mix stories geared toward new and returning viewers. The pacing allows viewers to get solid storytelling at carefully measured speed. I’m a little anxious as to how the new writing will affect the show, if it all, because I don’t think a good thing needs to be messed with. The previous team has laid out a good foundation though and the new writers would be smart to capitalize on it.

The move to The OnLine Network has proved to be one of the best decisions to revamp the franchise. Well done.

Jenn Bishop
Jenn Bishop was TVSource Magazine's Soap Editor. She's a thirty-something fan girl of soapy television and anything involving Joss Whedon. She began sharing her views on daytime soaps in 2012 with her blog Save Our Suds. A former philosophy major, she loves discussing different view points with fellow TV addicts and aficionados. When not watching television, she enjoys art, live music, exploring the Midwest food scene, and drinking too many lattes. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceJenn.

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  1. I agree with most of the review! Pete/Celia are boring and the most boring part is that we don’t care about them as characters. Sure, he is little Petey C but then play him with Dixie and his other relatives to get us to like him like they did with AJ/Miranda. Celia reminds me of Megan from Madmen. I know I am supposed to care but I don’t have anything to latch on to with the character.The fact that she is helping Brooke does make it easier to like her but still

    The biggest issue I have is the Cassandra story because I find it being mishandled by Sal. I just don’t think she is a good actress and isn’t strong enough for the role. This is Emmy material here and she is way to junior to be handling it. She also looks worse when she is in scenes with the Vets. Recast needed stat. If they wanted a “name” then get Tamyra Grey. I also can’t believe that Angie would keep this from Jesse who is ACTUALLY Cassandra’s father. Especially because the actor that plays Jesse is already on screen as Jacob. It is disrespectful to fans of Angie who followed her to Loving and to
    The City.

    Lastly, bring back the occasional swear.. Yes, it was abused at first but now a little $h!t never hurt nobody.

  2. I’m really interested to see more of Billy Clyde’s psycho side. The fact that he save AJ was interesting. Thank you for commenting!

  3. Billy Clyde has been a hoot, perhaps he has a touch of senility going on, but as an older fellow he just doesn’t seem as menacing, time will tell? I guess its a good thing that Trevor is gone as he was the one that told the good people of Pine Valley that Billy Clyde’s body had been found down or was it up river with a broken neck, a case of mistaken identity? No one Dixie or Joe seem surprised, then death is not as real in soapdom as in life. The show has been great this time around, having watched since the beginning I am just delighted to have it back and hope it hangs around for another 40 years or so! Lets not forget that David and Liza had a fling also, this mother daughter duo is truly unique. :)

  4. Billy Clyde Tuggle is hysterical! I LOVE to hate him! He was a pimp from way back who fell for Donna, married Estelle to make Donna jealous, sired a daughter, met and became obsessed with Donna’s friend Dixie. That led to years of back and forth between Billy Clyde, Dixie and Tad. His southern colloquialisms are definitely part of his charm. Now that he’s won the lottery he is trying to become a ‘civilized’ gentleman, like Palmer was. I too, see another attempt at winning Dixie over. LOVING THIS SHOW! :)

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