As the era ends

The end of As The World Turns also represents (as many of us have mentioned) the end of the P&G soaps.

I’m also looking at it as the end of traditional soap opera. Despite the dramatic changes to ATWT and Guiding Light in their last years, they were still by and large traditional soap operas in the same vein that P&G had been producing for decades.

Many people have compared the end of ATWT and the end of GL. They both took two different pathways at the end of their lives.

Both were affected by budget cuts. GL decided to implement the much-discussed new production model, while ATWT shifted to a variation of the telenovela or “chapter” storytelling, minimizing the number of actors and sets used in a given period and thereby making cheaper episodes.

For many who wrote about the end of both shows, ATWT has been reviewed far more favorably than GL.

I ultimately found a level of satisfaction as both ended, but I am not sure I’d place ATWT leap years and miles in front of GL’s ending.

It’s true that GL’s last day seemed very disjointed, as if treading water for its final Josh/Reva scene. And there was the fuckery (I’m sorry, but there’s no other word) of the Jeffrey/Edmund story.

But I thought that the final months of GL – and especially those final weeks - beautifully captured characters as I knew and remembered them. THAT was the show I’d started watching almost thirty years before. (This was, I suspect, largely due to the positive influence of Jill Lorie Hurst, who understood who these people were and knew how to write for them.)

I thought ATWT’s final episode was beautiful – I heard it described perfectly online as something simple and heartfelt. But I don’t think the last six months of ATWT moved and involved me as much as the end of GL did.

There were some wonderful moments – the Barbara/Henry story and the resolution of the whole Stenbeck legacy, Kim fighting to keep Chris safe, the Kim and Bob anniversary, Nancy’s funeral, any part of the Reid story.

And I understand the show wanted to remain contemporary to the end. I respect that choice, but I felt that some of the warmth that would engage us all as long-time viewers – the incredible warmth of seeing so many veteran GL characters at the end of that show – simply wasn’t there, or was fleeting. (Don Hastings and Kathryn Hays couldn’t do it all by themselves!)

I wish we’d have seen more of the on-canvas vets, as well as even the briefest of visits from a few important people.

And though the sets looked nicer, the lights brighter and the look of the show was much as it was twenty years ago, the feel of the show was very different.

If you were, as I was, a fan of both shows, I’d love to hear what you think when you compare the ending of both shows.

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A Thousand Other Worlds - A blog about traditional daytime serialized TV that ran from 2008 to 2010.
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2 Responses to As the era ends

  1. James says:

    Patrick,

    Thoughtful piece you’ve written here. Comparisons between the GL and ATWT finales are inevitable. Since you asked, I’ll share my feelings.

    I started watching GL in 1982 during the glory days of Doug Marland and then Pam Long. I came to the show when it was at its zenith and instantly fell in love. Although I’d seen some ATWT episodes here and there, I didn’t start watching it with any regularity until 1999, well past the golden era of Marland (although some of what Hogan Sheffer did was quite good). Thus, I had much more invested in GL than I ever did in ATWT.

    I felt that GL at least tried to wrap up the history, to give the fans some closure. The veteran characters were used nicely and given material to play. The storylines all seemed to headed for a destination somehow. While I wasn’t a fan of the new production model, when the story was really good, I was completely able to overlook it. And that new production model gave us some fabulous scenes. Some of the scenes in the graveyard felt so real. And then there was Natalie in her wedding dress confessing her love for Olivia in the gazebo as the snow fell. Shades of Dr. Zhivago!

    ATWT just seemed to keep going full steam ahead, cancellation be damned. They focused on newbie characters, told stories at break neck speed and pretty much ignored the vets. Nothing felt like there was a destination in mind. Then about Aug. 15 or so, they seemed to notice the calendar and started trying to wrap things up. And that wrap up seemed to be hastily put together without a lot of forethought.

    As for the finale episode itself, I got spoiled by Texas. It was the first soap I ever watched that got canceled. And Texas only had 6 weeks notice that their final air date was Dec. 31, 1982. Yet they managed to wrap up storylines nicely and gather everyone for a final party. I cried my eyes out.

    In my mind, Texas set the gold standard for how you wrap up a show and let the viewers have a nice farewell.

    Thus, I’ve come to expect a final episode that gathers everyone together so I can indeed say goodbye. With GL, I pretty much got that. Even though they jumped ahead a year, they did gather everyone at the picnic to let us see where they were in their lives. And we even got a Reva/Josh riding off into the sunset ending too. While not perfect, it did feel fairly satisfying for a final episode. And yes, I cried numerous times during that episode.

    With ATWT, I didn’t get that goodbye party and that left me feeling cheated. Even more frustrating is that they had the perfect set-up — a retirement party for Bob. But that is so typical of what’s been wrong with ATWT in the past 5 years or so — not taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

    It was nice to see where the Oakdale characters were a month later, but somehow without everyone gathered together, it didn’t feel satisfying. While I expected to cry as I watched that episode, nothing moved me enough to shed those tears. And without that cry, I didn’t feel I had much closure.

  2. anonymous says:

    ” felt that GL at least tried to wrap up the history, to give the fans some closure. The veteran characters were used nicely and given material to play. The storylines all seemed to headed for a destination somehow….

    ATWT just seemed to keep going full steam ahead, cancellation be damned. They focused on newbie characters, told stories at break neck speed and pretty much ignored the vets. Nothing felt like there was a destination in mind. Then about Aug. 15 or so, they seemed to notice the calendar and started trying to wrap things up. And that wrap up seemed to be hastily put together without a lot of forethought. ”

    It seemed to me that while they both felt a bit rushed at the end, GL started making changes earlier than ATWT and even cancelled a couple of planned recasts and new characters. ATWT probably should have done something similar to what GL did and cancelled the Chris recast.

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