Heartless

If you guessed that an old-school, wish-it-were-the-70s-again soap traditionalist like me disliked the death of Stuart Chandler on All My Children, you’d be right.

But it’s not, perhaps, for the reasons you’d think.

Stuart’s death certainly has some seriously dramatic potential, and there will be many who will mourn his passing. AMC has hinted that Stuart’s death will lead to a metamorphosis for Adam, and it will no doubt affect Scott, Stuart’s son. I’m not sure I trust that Chuck Pratt’s cliche-ridden, stunt-filled writing can do Stuart justice, but the potential is certainly there.

stuartIf we’re talking abut budgetary issues, Stuart is a character that certainly seems expendable. He was rarely featured, perhaps a dozen times a year. AMC may have just renegotiated Canary’s contract, and as we all know, everyone’s salary is being cut.

Having Canary play one character instead of two probably makes business sense. It may also be that Canary, who’s now in his seventies, wanted a reduced workload.

These all seem like logical reasons to say goodbye to Stuart. You wouldn’t think the audience would miss a character we rarely see.

But I hate that it’s happened. Stuart had heart, and gave Pine Valley heart. With his death, AMC continues, little by little, to lose heart.

AMC used to have an embarrassment of riches in terms of characters with heart. It was one of the best things about Pine Valley.

But in just the last few years, here’s what’s happened:

  • AMC lost Phoebe Tyler, and even more devastatingly, her niece Brooke, who for many was not only the heart of the show but the audience’s eyes and ears.
  • Dixie, who at one time gave Pine Valley a lot of heart and warmth, was subjected first to a personality transplant who rendered her nearly unrecognizable, and then she was senselessly murdered (in one of the show’s worst stories).
  • Bianca, one of the few younger characters on AMC (or any show) that wasn’t drowning in her own navel-gazing narcissism, was turned into a paranoid, pouting simp on her last visit.

And last winter, AMC viewers lost Myrtle Fargate, a character who defined heart and affection on an increasingly cold and dark canvas.

As we lose heart and soul in Pine Valley, the show has pushed heartless characters like nuLiza, Kendall and Greenlee to the front burner. They may be watchable characters, but at the end of the day, I have a hard time finding the heart in many AMC characters.

The ladies all seem to have emerged from the Erica Kane School of Bitchery. (Ironically, Original Flavor Erica is becoming one of the most consistent sources of warmth and heart on the canvas.) The men aren’t faring much better; Tad and Jake may supply some heart and humor, but we’re more often subjected to the travails of Ryan Lavery who, despite a decade of definition and a dozen personalities, still has all the depth of a penny.

I’m sure there might be compelling business reasons, or personal reasons, to lose Stuart. It may make for must-see TV. I just think that Stuart’s humor and warmth and, indeed, Stuart’s heart, is something AMC can ill afford to lose.

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4 thoughts on “Heartless

  1. I couldn’t agree more. While I wouldn’t call Liza, Kendall and Greenlee heartless (especially Kendall) I don’t think their type of character has the kind of warmth that AMC desperately needs. Unfortunately Chuck Pratt does not seem at all interested in giving AMC warmth or heart. He’s all about nastiness, misery and darkness.

    Agreed, Anon – those characters aren’t heartless, per se. But the balance of bitchery to heart on AMC is off-kilter. One or two characters like Kendall or Greenlee can be fun to watch. Four or five is overkill!

  2. I still remember when Stuart was first introduced, and it seemed that Adam had a split personality if I’m remembering correctly. Then it was revealed that Stuart existed. So sad that they’ve killed off his character after so many years. And I wasn’t aware that Brooke was no longer on the show. She was always one of my favorite characters years ago. It doesn’t sound like “All My Children” is the same show that I loved long ago.

  3. Patrick, I have so much to say about this. For one thing, it was really cheesy and predictable. I don’t even watch AMC on a regular basis, anymore, but happened to watch on the day they found the body. My first reaction was “That’s not Adam, it’s Stuart. You don’t kill off Adam Chandler, just like they didn’t kill off Marlene on DOOL all those years ago…not when there’s a rarely-seen identical twin.” Maybe it was a shocking twist to 20 year olds who haven’t watched soaps much, but I think few seasoned viewers found it to be anything more than a predictable gimmick.

    You are dead on about Stuart having heart. In so many ways, Stuart IS Adam’s heart. IMO, Adam has only ever really loved two people: Stuart and Brooke. With both of them gone, I can’t imagine Adam will have any dimension. Soap opera villains are most effective when they have vulnerabilities that make us care for them, in spite of ourselves. Jr. Ewing and James Stenbeck’s vulnerabilities were their children. Roger Thorpe’s was Holly (and a little bit of Blake…but who are we kidding?) And, forget about Opal…Palmer Cortland’s weakness was always Daisy. Adam Chandler has always been a stone, cold bastard whose Achilles Heel is twofold: Stuart and Brooke. They fleshed him out and made him human. What’s left to him, now? What is there to like or care about?

    The death of Stuart marks not the departure from Pine Valley of one ray of light, but two: Stuart’s own warmth and heart…and the humanity he brought out in Adam. This is a cheap shot the writers of AMC will no doubt regret.

  4. While I definately agree Adam will be less human without Stuart I do think that for all his flaws as a father he loves his children too. I particularly like his relationship with Colby. Anyways, I think it was precisely because Stuart had such heart and humanity that Pratt killed him off. Apparently in one of the magazine he said he killed Stuart because he was the conscience of the Chandler family or something like that. Pratt clearly does not see the value of having characters with a conscience around.

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