Wow. All My Children‘s Richie Novak really is evil.
I’ll admit I wasn’t sure at first. Despite the clues, I kept thinking there might be some other explanation.
But then he stole J.R.’s car and plowed into Zach on a dark, country road, leaving Kendall’s husband for dead. When Richie found out Zach was presumed missing because no body was found, he actually searched the woods, finally finding Greenlee and Zach trapped in an underground bunker. What did he do? He promptly closed them in, making it virtually impossible for anyone to find them.
Yeah, I think it’s official. Richie’s one crazy, cruel dude.
What got to me most was his treatment of Lily when she came to visit him in the hospital. Sweet, autistic Lily had been taken in by his sociopathic charm and somehow came to the conclusion he was her boyfriend. But he showed his true colors, barely recalling her, much less her name.
She was crushed. And I finally realized just how despicable this character is.
But you know? That’s a good thing. Really.
Too many times on soaps nowadays, a guy starts out deliciously devilish, only to be “redeemed” later because he was a hit with fans. Unfortunately, the whitewashing too often ruins what was initially a fresh, interesting, dastardly character, turning him into just another has-been “baddie” who isn’t a real threat to anyone anymore.
I realize the problem with these villains is that, eventually, they have to pay for their crimes. There’s only so much sinister work a guy can do before the audience, and the other characters, are calling for his head. And rightly so.
But is there some rule that says soaps have to find a long-term fit for the character if the actor or role becomes popular? What’s wrong with having a character be short-term, no matter how well-received he may be?
What makes Richie different (I hope) is that he does appear to have a timetable. There’s no getting around the fact that he has leukemia, and his chances for long-term survival don’t look good.
It’s not that I enjoy watching anyone struggle with a disease, even a soap character. I lost my own grandmother to leukemia, so believe me when I say I’m not rejoicing in Richie’s plight. But I do appreciate what it brings to the story.
Not only is Richie a sociopath, but he’s a sociopath with nothing to lose. He’s a sociopath whose own demise is hovering near and he has a few people he wants to terrorize before time runs out.
It makes him even more dangerous … and even more interesting to watch.
I can understand why some people, like Babe and Lily, are pulled in and fooled by him. He uses charm to manipulate those around him, but then like a switch he flips to his cold, calculating core.
In fact, Billy Miller has done a great job unraveling Richie’s layers. If the higher-ups at AMC want to keep him around, it’s not like I’ll be tuning out. I stuck with Luke on General Hospital, Todd on One Life to Live and Jonathan on AMC, all examples of characters who were softened or redeemed somehow so they could remain part of their respective canvases.
I just think the soap world could use a few more Spencer Trumans. You know, the kind of character who does horrible things, pays for them (either with jail time or with his life) and leaves lasting repercussions on those he hurt?
Richie would fit that niche quite nicely. Or should I say nastily?

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