Oakdale: Two steps forward, one step back

new-logo_332x330OK, here’s the thing:

Since the last time I bitched, I mean posted, about As The World Turns, things seem to be getting better.

I find myself enjoying more of the show these days. It’s a little frustrating, of course, because for every step forward that ATWT makes, there seems to be an equally boneheaded move somewhere else on the canvas.

Here’s my take on what’s happening in Oakdale these days……

Tom-Degnan-JPI-09-PTWO STEPS FORWARD: ATWT finally decides to address one of the biggest mistakes it’s made in the last few years – the character assassination of Adam Hughes. They cast Tom Degnan, an engaging actor (who’s quite easy on the eyes) and craft a believable re-entry story that, despite a few giant holes in the logic department, I’m willing to buy.

ONE STEP BACK: Said story makes Margo look like an ass, because she’s doing something totally out of character: lying to Tom. That falls into the “things that Margo would never, ever, EVER do” category.

TWO STEPS FORWARD: Although he had a rough introduction, Evan Alex Cole is a great addition to evan-alex-colethe show as Hunter. This story actually tapped into history (Emily’s donated eggs) to expand the Stewarts and give Emily a son and Alison a brother……

ONE STEP BACK:……which would have been far more palatable to the audience if Hunter hadn’t kissed both mom and sister and fallen for Alison.

TWO STEPS FORWARD: Luke and Noah seem to finally be involved in a story that isn’t a Very Special Episode of Blossom or an ABC Afterschool Special. (If you were born after 1980 or so, you may have to look that up.)

They aren’t being painted as saints, role models, or one-dimensional figures. It’s great that ATWT is showing that Luke is actually a bit of a vain, selfish bitch and that Noah is ultra-serious, studious and overly cautious. The more defined these characters are, the more organically conflict will happen between them.

hot-nuke-actionONE STEP BACK: Luke and Noah seem, at times, to be playing in two totally different storylines. And Noah burning his father’s Purple Heart was such a bad choice on so many levels, as well as a really big sign that no one is minding the store at ATWT about those kinds of things.

CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC

There are some other promising things happening in Oakdale. The Paul/Meg story has finally been taken off of the front burner, at least for now, and Paul’s unusual medical condition has added a few new layers to his persona. Paul’s scenes with Emily were the most fun we’ve seen that character have in years.

I’ve been completely won over by Jon Lindstrom’s Craig. He’s managed to strike a magnificent balance of the things I loved about Scott Bryce’s Craig and the more Machiavellian parts of Hunt Block’s Craig. He’s also rescued Craig from the ledge of no redemption he was teetering on last year.

And I’m intrigued to see where Lynn Herring’s appearance as Audrey takes Henry and Maddie. I’m not against the influx of new characters that some people have griped about, as long as they (a) make sense and (b) give characters already on the canvas – and by “characters” I don’t mean “the same five damn people you always write for” – something to do.

DEAD ZONES

There are still dead zones in Oakdale. Trying to see Alison as the new ingenue of the show is NOT WORKING. No offense to Marnie Shulenberg, who’s talented and has worked really hard to make Alison her own. No matter what they do with Alison, or how they try to position her, making her the young heroine of the show is just draining the life out of it.

The Casey/Alison pairing is also completely draining the life out of Billy Magnussen. I raved about him last year when his pairing with Emily was the best thing about ATWT. But Casey, and Billy, just look drained and bored when they are on our screens these days.

TEXTBOOK 101 SOAP

ATWT can be frustrating to watch as a viewer, because I know ATWT can still tell the kind of stories we like to3601_1_40665 see. We just saw the best story arc that’s been on ATWT in a few years: Carly’s alcoholism. It worked for many reasons, and all of them are classic soap:

  • Carly’s alcoholism was a gradual process, and wove together several seemingly different threads – her feelings for Jack, her need to prove herself, and her alcohol-based businessdealings with Craig, to name just a few.
  • The effect of Carly’s actions on other people were actually shown to the audience, in real time, over a long stretch of time. We saw what it did to Craig, the effect it had on Jack and Janet’s marriage, how it affected Rosanna, and ultimately how it affected her children.
  • It may not have been a two-year story arc, but it also wasn’t thirteen weeks of story in a day. (That’s how ATWT rolls these days.) The story continued to build until it culminated in Carly’s intervention and ultimately, her rehab (to allow for Maura West’s maternity leave).
  • All of the people involved were people that we actually cared about, who had been on our screens for more than a minute. There was no new-character-that-ate-the-show (*sneeze*StacyMorasco*Sneeze*) syndrome happening here.

This is proof that ATWT still CAN make great soap. And it can mix the old and the new to make something that’s both classic and contemporary. It needs to learn from sister show Guiding Light’s errors: filling the canvas with newbies and mumbling teenagers that no one gives a shit about will just drive away the remaining viewers you still have.

I’m really concerned, however, that ATWT will ramp up the gimmicks and the ADHD-fueled pace as former Guiding Light writer David Kreizman comes on board. If you’re not a GL viewer and you’re wondering why this is cause for alarm, I’ll be taking a closer look at Mr. Kreizman in a future blog post.

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