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Friday, October 17, 2008

Swept Away

Swept Away
Current mood: impressed

Let's get this right out of the way - I think a lot of people in entertainment are a little too trigger-happy with the CGI. I loved the way it was incorporated into movies like The Matrix or Terminator 2, but sometimes they tend to go overboard and it removes all traces of humanity from a project (see: Speed Racer or the last Indy movie)

Which is why I was so surprised in May when the CGI used for Jesse and Angie's wedding on All My Children didn't take away from my enjoyment of those episodes, but added to it. I still remember Jesse's leap off of the roof onto the helicopter, and the way my heart leapt up with him.

So to be frank, I headed into yesterday's episode of All My Children with optimism. So far, Julie Carruthers has managed not to take away from the soul of the show with the computer generated images. And the set-up is solid. JR and Babe facing off with Adam at the Chandler mansion, with Erica stuck in the middle; Annie and Aidan trying to beat some much-needed sense into each other; Zendall locking themselves away at the beach house where they think they're safe and sound, cut off from the outside world; Opal crying doom and gloom before collapsing at the Comeback -- everything's falling apart, so it's definitely the perfect time for a tornado to hit Pine Valley!

It started small - with minor background images of rolling clouds in various sets. And I had high hopes. But then the clunker: Half the universe is flying around Ryan and Greenlee, and Ryan's saying "the heavens are celebrating that he and Greenlee are together" (Wonder if he would feel that way if a stop sign suddenly slammed into his head?) I fear we're heading into the soap opera cliche of "the world falling down around them, so there's nothing else to do but get naked". And I was a little bothered by Natalia thinking Jesse screaming "There's a tornado outside!" was some excuse that he didn't want to go see her mother. Gee, Natalia - do you think Jesse set up those air raid sirens outside in a grand scheme to procrastinate facing his past?

But enough venting - because on the flip side, the reveal of the Chandler Estate Stalker was really well-done (and any scene with Lucci and Canary is gold in my book). And the ongoing transitional moments (the bench, the windchimes) added much-needed suspense to the build-up. This is also one of those times when I can forgive two-page scenes, because you need that kind of fast pacing to build the momentum of the oncoming tragedy.

And then we get to Friday's episode… and if you believed ABC's marketing, all hell was going to break loose.

And they did not lie.

I'll admit it - this boy's got lots of testosterone, and I literally jumped up in awe when Zach's car got swept up in the twister, left the ground, and got slammed back down again. WOW! I don't know where they got the budget for this, but I've got to say, I am impressed. The JR/Babe wedding is a bit much, if you know what's down the line - but I'll forgive it because let's face it - a little bit of cheese used as foreshadowing is a classic soap device. And it certainly got me teared up a little. Across town, we went back to the Ryan/Greenlee lovefest -- and I know this couple has their fans, but I'll never understand this "walk down memory lane" that happens during natural disasters. It worked for DOOL's 25th anniversary in the cave-in, because a character had a concussion, and they were trying to keep them from falling asleep by reliving old memories. But sucking face when the town is literally being decimated around you? It's not THAT romantic. At least as far as I'm concerned.

Thank God for the return of the twisters, because the destruction of the Comeback was devastating, and Zach's rescue of Ian and Spike were just beautifully done. Whatever you think of the character of Krystal, Bobbie Eakes can break my heart with just a whimper. And JR's discovery of Babe - well, it's no secret that I wish the character had been written out when Alexa left the show. But the discovery of her shielding Little A, the little hand reaching out from the rubble? Just extremely well-executed, and really wonderfully acted. Amanda Baker and Jacob Young stepped up to the plate, and really delivered. And then, just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier, Thorsten Kaye, silhouetted against a terrifying night sky, finds a pregnant Bianca.

Congratulations, All My Children! The cast, the crew, the writers, the post-production guys - overall, you delivered a fantastic two episodes. Sure, I could have done with a little less of the sappiness (or at least wished it was done from a more frenetic place, as opposed to so "time-out-of-time") But I think you have two phenomenal shows that both look spectacular and felt like they came from the heart.

Can't ask for much more than that…

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