A Runaway Train


Brad & Spencer

This is what has been happening on As the World Turns:

A dangerously jealous and reckless Paul hired an unwitting young woman and her small son to impersonate Lucy and Johnny, both of whom Dusty is looking for after inheriting James Stenbeck’s fortune. Emily, now reunited with Dusty (who recently returned from the dead), did major detective work and unearthed Paul’s involvement, which in turn prompted Dusty to track down the young woman in New York and return to Oakdale to confront Paul. Meanwhile, All About Eve played out out as new WOAK talk show host Spencer McKay developed a huge crush on Brad after they exposed a negligent toy manufacturer on her inaugural broadcast. Smitten with Katie’s husband, Spencer cried wolf about an intruder being in her room to get Brad closer as a supportive, yet suspicious Katie tried to act non-threatened. Margo continued her dogged investigation into the circumstances surrounding Dusty’s fake death and resurrection, this time zeroing in logically, but wrongly on Emily, who recently broke Casey’s heart.

If you haven’t been watching ATWT recently, you might think these individual stories and developments played out over the last couple of months. Or perhaps a few weeks. What if I told you this all happened in one single episode?

Compressed storytelling is quite possibly As the World Turns’ greatest weakness bar none. To be completely fair, the show is blessed with a talented and attractive cast. The actual stories are more interesting than not; even when a clunker or two in the bunch rears its ugly head like Putin over Alaska, others take up the slack. Though the budget constraints on the show are more obvious by the day, Executive Producer Christopher Goutman has kept ATWT looking relatively fresh and vibrant despite the massive downsizing. But for the love of God, I want to make a direct appeal to Goutman, Head Writer Jean Passanante, Senior Vice President of CBS Daytime Barbara Bloom, and the good folks at Telenext Media:

Slow this freight train down!

We understand competition is fierce in the daytime arena, not just from other soaps but also from the judges Judy and Joe Brown, telenovelas, as well as the political and stock market soaps operas dominating cable news networks. We also understand it is harder than ever for soaps to compete against the ever-expanding array of entertainment and lifestyle choices viewers have to make. We understand that above all soaps are not mere entertainment vehicles; they also are economic engines driven by commercial revenue and ratings. Therefore, reasonable and reasonably informed viewers can pretty much understand the necessity to  push stories moving forward at a steady clip in order to keep those eyeballs you have and maybe entice some new ones as well.

The problem is there exists a difference between a maintaining steady clip and ramming story through like a screaming locomotive. All of the stories mentioned above are to this viewer fairly entertaining, perhaps much more so over the last few weeks than in a long time. Events move along at such an accelerated rate that many defy logical explanation (such as Dusty’s round trip to New York in the space of three or four scenes) and others require a massive suspension of disbelief (Spencer’s ridiculously sudden antics one episode after her introduction).

The result of this increasing reliance on compressed storytelling is that it has rendered ATWT schizophrenic: one day the show can be brilliant in its economy or with a story like Stenbeck’s just-the-right-length return and on other days the show can turn into a near incomprehensible, choppy hot tranny mess. Popular couples get split up, actors are hired and then summarily fired, recasts fill their places and then don’t see the light of day for weeks, jump cuts in time are jarring and stories with potential come and go seemingly with whichever way the wind happens to be blowing. This is not a new phenomenon either, as ATWT has been employing compressed storytelling for what seems to be the last couple of years. Now it is out of control.

6 Responses

  1. Avatar of ghaddict
    ghaddict

    The same thing that happened to SusieQ happened to me as well….I missed one episode and got totally lost….I actually had to look for the clips on you tube so that I could fill in the blanks…..The only time this works in their favor is when their is a sucky storyline that I hate….such as the Ameera fiasco and Parker’s murder trial…..other than that, I totally wish they could stretch things out a bit so that I could enjoy it more…..I mean is the new girl totally obsessed about Brad already???? they could have at least given it a week….lol…

  2. Avatar of season1217
    season1217

    Please, don’t bring up Ameera! It only reminds me of the piss-poor job they did on the writing for that character! Jesus should have taken the wheel and ran over the people who wrote that poor girl the way they did!

    ________________________

    //**It’s the writing, stupid!**\\

  3. Avatar of BellaDonna
    BellaDonna

    “All About Eve” and the young ingenue pretending that she has a stalker in order to get closer to the older (and married) object of her affections, where have I seen this all before? That was all part of Hogan Sheffer’s early days, only back then it was Katie trying to steal Molly’s job and Lily’s husband. That would be one storyline I’d love to see play out just to see Katie squirm as someone tries to use her tricks to take her job and her man.

  4. Avatar of Mike Jubinville
    Mike Jubinville

    Bernard, you’re in my head again. Time alone might make the stories more enjoyable. Instead, we are treated to dumbed down versions as if we could not figure out where things were heading. I don’t really need to know where they are going…just give me a good ride.

    Do I really need to listen to several minutes Vienna and Katie talking about all Spencer’s angles as if I couldn’t figure it out for myself? Does Spencer have to amp up her game in her second episode as if I couldn’t figure out that maybe ATWT hired yet another female 13-week psycho?

    You could never convince me otherwise: If you write a good story, all those folks will tune out the judges, the news or other cable repeats. Why do people keep watching Andy Griffith reruns for the umpteenth time on TVLand? Because they aren’t lured away by anything better.

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