As some of you may know, my new day job is in an industry that talks about how you recruit the best and brightest people, give them some boundaries and guidelines, and then let them be total rock stars at what they do.
In that world, results are a big barometer of success. If you don’t deliver, you lose your job. And though you might be lucky enough to find another job in that field, it’s rare to keep a whole, sustained career path going if you’re a bad apple. Eventually, you get the hook – and a loud message to pick a more suitable career path.
Daytime is different, I know. It is, in many ways, like theater. And theatrical productions sometimes change hands, or change directions. Producers and writers like to switch gears and try new things with new productions. I think it makes sense in daytime to try to introduce new writers and/or producers every so often.
But there are several writers and/or producers whose stories have NOT been popular. Their creative efforts have shown a fundamental lack of understanding as to what soaps are about. They exhibit a complete disconnect to what the audience wants to see. And they have been fired, early and often. But they keep being rehired. Again, and again, and again.
The most high-profile example of this is probably Megan McTavish. This is not meant to be a personal attack on Ms. McTavish; I’m sure she’s a lovely person, an asset to her community and a fine, upstanding citizen. I bet she’s a BLAST at parties!
As a writer, however, she tends to write very plot-heavy stories that are gimmicky. In many cases, she’s written stories and then shoehorned a character into that story – with no connection to that character’s history. (The list is too long to count, though you are welcome to list any of your least favorites in the comments.)
She’s had runs on OLTL, GH and, in particular, GL that I thought were very damaging to those shows. Her first AMC gig seems to have been possibly the best match she’s had, but she has not been good for the show on her subsequent visits.
Which beggars the question: How did she get re-hired? And specifically, how did ABC and AMC come to decide to re-hire her so many times? I wish someone who really has a fundamental understanding of the legal or financial reasons for this would explain it to me. (I don’t believe there IS a good reason for her rehirings from a creative standpoint.)
There are others, including Dena Higley, who’s the eye of a storm that’s raging at DAYS. (More on that in another post soon.) Ms. Higley had an enormously unpopular stint at OLTL, so it was a surprise when DAYS rehired her earlier this year.
I realize that daytime is a different animal, so to speak, than nighttime or film. But it’s a stretch to think that writers don’t understand the format, since nearly every scripted drama or comedy on television has co-opted or completely adopted a serialized storytelling format. (Also the subject of another upcoming post.)
This is NOT a new problem – critics and fans have been complaining about this for years. Hogan Sheffer is one of the few new talents to come through from outside of soaps. We’ve seen Ron Carlivati be promoted from within at OLTL, and he’s been great for that show. (Far more so, in my opinion, than David Kreizman at GL, who was also promoted from within.)
Writing isn’t a simple task, and developing and executing storylines is a complex process with a number of people involved. It ain’t easy (and I’m sure Tom Casiello could tell you more about the process than I could). But when I see someone with Tom’s ideas and energy, I wonder why he isn’t part of a writing staff. You look at someone like Roger Newcomb, who has had two audio soaps to his credit, plus a film, and you have to ask: Why the hell isn’t this man head writing something?
I can’t underscore this enough, but I think this is a huge reason why daytime is dying.
NOTHING is growing. No new writers, no new creative juices, no new ideas or perspectives. And no new SHOWS. Old shows are dying, and no new shows are replacing them.
Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle. And as in the real world, when times are tough and you tighten your belts, you keep the mediocre employees you have and you try not to shake the boat. And the flow of ideas and fresh blood gets even weaker, and so on.