It can be hard to dish out criticism – and tough love – to a show that you’ve been a fan of for a long time. I know that there’s a hard working team over at As The World Turns that is trying to turn out the best show they can.
But as I was saying yesterday, the pieces are just not connecting. The show’s been wobbly for a while now. And it’s incredibly frustrating, because the raw goods and talent are all there.
So what can be done to make things better?
Some observations and suggestions:
Give Chris Goutman a vacation. Okay, I know this sounds incredibly strange. But hear me out.
Fans and bloggers (even me) commented during last year’s print interview with Goutman and Barbara Bloom that he seemed to be disinterested or unenthusiastic about the show.
Others have called for his axing, but here’s the thing: Number one, I am wary of suggesting that anyone lose their job.
And number two – more importantly – Goutman is, or has been, a talented producer. He did a great job with the last days of Another World and with much of ATWT.
And this is why I think he needs a break: It occurred to me recently that he’s been at his job, consistently, for a long time – about 11 years straight now. He helmed the last year of AW, and then came over to ATWT shortly after. I don’t think he’s had a break, and during the strike last year, he probably wore two hats. If he’s had a vacation, it hasn’t been a long one.
Let this man recharge his batteries. Tape some shows in advance, let the tape-to-air gap shrink a little, and give the guy a month or six weeks to not think about Brooklyn. I bet that investment would pay off in spades.
Perhaps, with a renewed and refreshed approach to the show, he’ll think about making some modifications in the writing (or the writing team). ATWT needs to learn the same lesson its sister show GL did: no matter how snazzy the pacing, editing and sets might be, it all implodes without good, consistent writing.
Let us see a few familiar faces. I’d suggest ATWT put a moratorium on any more recasts. There are a precious few roles that, if ATWT wanted to reboot them, I could see with new actors: Caleb or Ellie Snyder, Scott Eldridge, and most notably, Adam Hughes.
But beyond that, it would be rewarding to see a familiar face or two in Oakdale. I don’t mean a face from the last year or two; I mean someone with a history in Oakdale. Even if it’s only short-term, it would be thrilling to see a blast from the past. It would reward long-time fans and generate interest in the show.
My personal favorite? Maggie Reed’s Shannon O’Hara, who could cause trouble and stir up mischief for Lisa, Barbara, Lucinda, Margo and Tom. And perhaps Shannon could bring a young protege or relative to town, someone who would be a nice contrast to the current drab young crowd in Oakdale.
Soaps tend to either rely on old stories and actors – or ignore them entirely. Since ATWT has drained the juice out of some of its standard stories, it would be great to do a little “crop rotation,” so to speak, and entertain us with new stories AND with classic stories (with an updated twist).
Tear down the silos. I’m going to make an educated guess that ATWT had to deal with many of the same budget cuts that GL has.
ATWT’s approach has been to break down story into 13-week arcs. They play their A stories all year round (Carly/Jack, Paul/Meg/Dusty) and then slot the B and C stories into the quarterly slots. (This is why we had the Lucinda/Brian story play strong for a few months – and then have Brian vanish (and Lucinda nearly vanish) at its conclusion.)
I can understand the cost-effectiveness of this concept, and it certainly allows for story to be told at a faster pace.
But it’s created “silos” – little islands of story that don’t interact with each other. Roger Newcomb said it best the other day, when he said that Oakdale doesn’t have a sense of community right now.
I understand neither the budget nor the cast is large enough or flexible enough to have people come in a day a week to pour tea or be a listen-to in the hospital or at Yo’s. But the writers definitely need to do a better job at crossing stories and characters, and making people understand the relationships characters have to each other.
I recently saw a post somewhere on the Interwebz (I can’t recall where) that had suggested a few non-Alison couplings for Casey. One of them was Lucy. This means that the show hasn’t underscored that Lucy is Casey’s cousin. (Yes, I know, that’s been done on daytime before!) Lucy should cross with Casey – Lucy will be facing legal issues and could use some advice from cousin Casey, who’s been there.
I think that it’s a matter of degrees; ATWT justs need to look for more opportunities to tie stories and characters to each other, even if it’s only a day here or there.
Let there be light. I know I’ve complained about the darkness at ATWT before, but I’ll say it again here – the stories can be overwhelmingly dark. I would love to see more of a balance. Beyond the stories, the darkness doesn’t do many actors any favors.
Here’s the thing: Billy Magnussen can act, has a great warmth and energy, and is incredibly handsome. If Casey were written to capitalize on Magnussen’s charm and energy, and paired with the right romantic partner, young viewers would tune in IN DROVES. It’s depressing to watch him play Charlie Brown with a roomful of young characters who all look and act like they just got their wisdom teeth removed.
Terri Columbino and Austin Peck have a great repartee going – witty and romantic. And she’s in a baby rabies story, locked into that desperation with ANOTHER witty, romantic couple (Henry and Vienna).
Which brings me to the next point…..
Capitalize on Luke and Noah. I’m glad the story has been (somewhat) consistent, that these two are together and that we’re seeing them onscreen. But there has to be a way to capitalize on their romance and the intense fan interest in these two.
ATWT would be wise to take a page from how GL has handled Otalia – just let them be two people in love. Having them fight homophobic comments not only isn’t a storyline, but it also comes off as way too “after school special/very special episode of Blossom”.
Let the past inform the future. I understand that ATWT has a complex, sometimes mazelike history. But that history is rich and can be a basis for years and years of story.
There is at least one character onscreen right now (Matt) who many of us in the audience have already identified as a possible connection to Oakdale’s past. I’m not sure if ATWT has caught on to that, or whether they would (incredibly) want to ignore or bypass the possible connections for Matt.
Tying younger characters to older vets that we care is half of an outline for a successful character. (The other is giving us at least 3 months to get to know them!)
Over at GL, I keep wishing that they’d bring Peter Reardon on – a character who, despite being offscreen, has connections to half the canvas. Here at ATWT, Hope Dixon is a very similar character; she could stir up trouble at grandma Kim’s place if she stayed there for a while. She has a connection to Faith – and a stronger one to Lily and Holden – and her arrival in town could really impact that household. (For a time, Lily and Holden believed Hope was their daughter.) Her uncle may already be onscreen (!) and her aunt Margo is also in town. And so on…..
Keep the vets busy. I’m sure the current team at ATWT gets very sick of being compared to Doug Marland. But the one thing I wish they’d take out of Mr. Marland’s bag of tricks is to think about the veterans on the show, and try to do what Marland did: give the veterans a new, fresh story that still honored their characters and the history those characters had.
I understand that these characters may not have the lives and front burner stories that characters like Jack and Carly do, but these are people we care about. Lucinda and Lisa should have men in their lives. We should see where Bob and Kim are in their lives; I’d love to see one of them deal with a sense of regret for all of the time they wasted apart from one another. It’s great to see all of these characters interact with their children, but we should see snapshots of their lives, as well. And being over 50 or 60 doesn’t mean their storyline choices are “chronic illness” and “death”.
What do you think? Let me know if you have any specific ideas that I’ve missed.