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Ally is dead! Killing off soap-opera legacy characters for shock value

Last week, The Bold and the Beautiful pulled off that rarest of rare 21st-century feats: a surprise plot twist (that hadn’t been spoiled on blogs and social media months earlier). B&B killed off the character of Ally, who’d spent her past few weeks unspooling mentally, including seeing her dead mother floating above her in a bubble, urging Ally to scrub her family’s company of sinners (good luck with that, Ally).

Ally’s response was to try to run down her cousin, Steffy, in the same spot where Steffy’s mother, Taylor, once accidentally killed Ally’s mom, Darla.

Instead, Steffy defended herself by, rather reasonably, wielding a tire iron, and Ally was the one who ended up dead. (We think. It is a soap, after all.)

Ally’s death was a surprise for two reasons. One was the unspoiled shock value already mentioned above. And the second was the fact that she was a legacy character, born onscreen (in 2004, and she’s in her late teens now, but, you know, soaps). She was the granddaughter of the show’s patriarch, named after another beloved character, and exactly in the young demographic that soaps are allegedly constantly chasing. (In 2008, Steffy’s twin, Phoebe, was killed off in a similarly shocking and potentially needless stunt.)

Soap-opera fans are notorious for hating newbies—new actors, and especially new characters. They want their shows to focus on the core characters already onscreen, or, at the very least, the children of characters they already know and love.

Ally was all of those things. And now she’s (presumably) dead.

Short-term shock: 1

Long-term storytelling potential: 0

But B&B isn’t the first (or likely last) soap opera to sacrifice years of possible story for a buzzworthy cliffhanger. Sometimes the move is triggered by a popular actor leaving the show, and producers believing they’re irreplaceable. But why default automatically to dead as a doornail? What’s wrong with just leaving town?

We talked last week about the folly of killing babies and young children. General Hospital apparently decided to rectify knocking off little Jake, who was related to practically everyone on the canvas, by bringing him back from the dead earlier this month. The same happened with Jake’s biological uncle, AJ, a character whose birth and paternity was one of GH‘s top stories when it first put daytime TV on the pop-cultural map in 1980. AJ was killed off as an adult, then brought back from the dead. Then killed off again. (I didn’t say GH learned its lesson.)

The Young and the Restless, in recent years, has made a habit of killing off legacy characters, then changing its minds and turning handsprings to bring them back in one form or another. First, there was Phillip, presumed dead in 1989. He returned none the worse for wear in 2009, justifying having broken the hearts of his mother, guardian, wife, and friends, not to mention allowing his toddler son to grow up fatherless, by claiming he’d faked his death because he didn’t believe his family would accept his being gay. Yeah, I know … lame.

Y&R also killed off Cassie (played by Camryn Grimes, who was the youngest winner ever of the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress, at age 10) in 2000. Four years later, Grimes returned—as Cassie’s heretofore unknown twin sister).

So far, the main Genoa City legacy character waiting for that sort of convoluted resurrection is Colleen. Claiming she (or someone else) faked her death will be hard, because Colleen’s heart was donated to Victor. Then again, on GH, Jake’s kidneys went to Josslyn, and he’s still back, presumably with all his organs in their appropriate places.

Perhaps Y&R and B&B should take a lesson from the show that used to come on right after them. As the World Turns killed off legacy character Bryant in a car accident, then, years later, killed off another legacy character, Jennifer, via a virus that managed to leave her wan but beautiful, and still strong enough to share a last dance with her deathbed husband. (Maybe it was karmic payback. Bryant died driving erratically after learning that Jennifer was cheating on him with his cousin. And Jennifer died in the midst of fighting Bryant’s dad, Craig, over their son, Johnny.)

Or they could learn from All My Children. AMC killed off little Laura, regretted it, and brought on another character named Laura. She, coincidentally, got adopted by the first Laura’s mother. (She also ended up needing a heart transplant, because living in a soap opera makes people medically fragile.)

Then there was Guiding Light, which knocked off Ben by turning him from smug frat boy to romantic lead to suicidal serial killer. And he was played by Matt Bomer! (Matt Bomer!) Is no one safe?

Guiding Light isn’t on the air anymore. Neither is All My Children. Neither is As the World Turns.

Killing off legacy characters wasn’t the sole reason for their cancellations. But it arguably didn’t help.

How do you feel about killing characters with years of storyline potential for short-term shock value? Let us know!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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