Missed opportunities

Nothing annoys a soap fan more than a missed opportunity.

Yes, I know soap fans always have their own ideas about how a story should go, or who should stay together or break apart. That’s all par for the course, and writers and producers have a challenging job trying to navigate that minefield!

But sometimes, there are threads so obvious, scenes that cry out to be seen, and the narrative just misses them altogether. And viewers shake their fists at the sky, or at their set, or at Brian Frons or Barbara Bloom.

In the late 90s, when Guiding Light had a revolving door of writers and producers, it would frustrate me with missed opportunities all of the time.

Vincent Irizarry’s departure as Nick happened at almost the same time as Grant Aleksander’s return as Phillip. Lujack and Phillip had a lot of shared story – so why didn’t they share at least a few scenes?

And Beth Ehlers (Harley) returned to the show in 1997. Wendy Moniz, who played Dinah, left in 1999, and at no time during those two years did those two friends have a scene together. (Not that I remember, anyway!) I mean….c’mon, Dinah was the one who delivered Daisy!

As The World Turns has missed an opportunity, too. I’ve hinted about this before in this blog, but didn’t spell it out because I thought perhaps ATWT would eventually tell this story. But it’s a year and a half on, and it doesn’t seem to be happening, so I’m going to put my frustrations in print.

Last spring, when Casey returned to Oakdale, his friend Matt returned with him. Many of us were impressed not only by nuCasey (Billy Magnussen) but by Eric William Morris, who played Matt.

We fans wanted there to be a reason for Matt to stay, a way to keep him in town.

After all, there’s a long history of soaps hiring day players who went on to be woven into the show’s history. Vincent Irizarry took Lujack from a menacing day player to Alexandra Spaulding’s son on GL. Days built a family around Patch, originally a day player.

And ATWT fans noticed an obvious, believable way to tie him to the canvas.

nola0Matt, they reasoned, could easily be MJ (Matthew John) Dixon, the son of Iva Snyder Benedict and John Dixon.

Morris has so much chemistry with everyone, and it would make so much sense. Casey would learn that Matt was related to him (his uncle). Margo would have to come to terms with her baby brother. The Snyders would have a clear connection to Matt. Matt would also have a connection to Kim (who was once married to John and who was mother to MJs half brother Andy).

When the writers sent Matt away last summer, I thought perhaps they were reworking the plot to make this happen. But we didn’t see Eric William Morris for a long time. And when we did, for a time this spring, we saw him as a suspect in a dreadful murder investigation, fighting Casey over the dull-as-dishwater Alison (a character who doesn’t have chemistry with either guy).

I don’t understand why this didn’t happen. I’m not the head writer, and perhaps there are dozens of other reasons why it didn’t fly. But this opportunity – landing a talented, handsome, engaging actor like Morris to play a compelling antihero – seems like a golden, missed larry-2004_234x282opportunity for a show that desperately needs a kick in the pants and all the sparks it can get.

I can only guess that the Matt-as-MJ idea may have been overlooked because ATWT is trying to shy away from its complex history. That’s understandable to a degree; understanding the family tree of Oakdale years ago was an art and a science, since so many of the veterans were connected by children and marriages.

The reasoning goes something like this: The more connections a character has, the more likely they are to be related to other characters – which diminishes their ability to be romantically linked onscreen. But MJ would have connections that tie him to the canvas without binding him.

The only other possible concern is his “real” age. He’s a few years younger than Casey in real time, but then again, so is Alison, who was born onscreen in 1994. So I don’t believe that was an issue.

ATWT gets a passable grade for grounding stories in recent history, but there are so many more ways to tap into the richness of Oakdale. I can think of a half-dozen more missed opportunities in Oakdale.

Yet we seem to be stuck in ATWT’s now-customary darkness, filled with mumbling day players, peppered with vaguely incestuous/murderous twins and quasi-criminal behavior, and topped with a splash of misogyny.

I understand ATWT wants to ratchet up the stakes, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to put people in danger or throw them into trouble.

But we’re going to have to start seeing these things happen to people we care about and who are connected to Oakdale. And the way to make us care, the way to give any story context and meaning, is to draw from history. ATWT’s writers shouldn’t miss an opportunity to let the show’s history inform (but not overwhelm) its future.

4 thoughts on “Missed opportunities

  1. Eek! Don’t get me started on this.
    I always wondered why they didn’t have any scenes with Grant Aleksander and Vincent Irizarry. When they were on in 1984 the rivalry between them cracked and you could almost hear a clock ticking as they fought, and we were all waiting for the boom.

  2. when it comes to missed opportunities, “annoys” doesn’t even come close; how about incensed? and disappointing and frustrating. i can’t remember the last time i watched atwt without thinking about all of the missed opportunities — too many to list — and frankly, it’s taking all the fun out of watching.

    I hear you, Lynn. And the shame of it is, a few little changes could give ATWT years of story that would almost write itself.

  3. I sometimes feel as if some soap writers don’t understand how very different a medium it is, in terms of how vested the viewers are. I remember in the 90s they needed an excuse for a big party scene on GL, and the writers decided it would be Ed Bauer’s birthday party. They had to nix that because so many viewers wrote and called in to remind say that Ed Bauer’s birthday is New Years Day. If the fans can remember that, we’re certainly going to remember that Philip and Lujack had serious history, and that there was no way Philip would be in town and *not* have some sort of drama or confrontation or whatever with Nick. I think Y&R is the show that most consistantly remembers its own history.

  4. Even though Vincent Irizarry (Lujack/Nick) and Beth Chamberlin (Beth) never appeared onscreen together (Beth was played by Judi Evans when Beth loved Lujack), GL missed a huge opportunity in never having Nick meet Beth onscreen (or offscreen, to my knowledge). Imagine meeting the twin brother of the love of your life (sorry, Phillip, but you’re #2)…Nick could have really provided Phillip with some REAL competition for Beth. Irizarry should have been snapped off after he left Y&R, and part of what we should be watching now is the battle for Beth. The “triangle” with Alan is creepy, as it has been since Phillip “died,” and boring.

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