Murders Most Foul

Hot on the heels of my admittedly scathing review of Friday’s ultra-campy, Scooby Doo meets The Munsters inspired episode of All My Children which culminated in the murder of Stuart (Not Adam) Chandler, I finally had the opportunity to catch up with Guiding Light, which had its own less heralded "Who Killed Edmund Winslow?" whodunit kick off.

Since I received a little bit of blow back for my harsh (and well-deserved) criticism of AMC, I’d like to take the opportunity to explain why Springfield’s simultaneous murder mystery is infinitely superior to Pine Valley’s.

First, let’s get some semantics out of the way. While most people think a "whodunit" and a "mystery" are synonymous, within the confines of the mystery genre there are distinct differences. In a mystery, the audience is presented with all the suspects, clues, and motives necessary to (eventually) unravel the case, sometimes ahead of the fictional investigating authority. Think Agatha Christie. On the other hand, a whodunit is more of a guessing game in which the above mentioned elements of a mystery are revealed over time, as the audience is often asked to go along for the ride as the investigators themselves uncover the clues. Think Law & Order. Mysteries are not superior to whodunits and vice versa. All that matters is the quality of the story being told, whether all the pieces line up in the end without too many plot-holes upon which the whole shebang might fall apart and one’s personal taste. Sue Grafton, Jeffrey Archer, Walter Mosely, Ellery Queen, Mickey Spillane, or Elizabeth Gunn. Pick your poison.

So how do daytime’s newest murder mysteries add up?

AMC’s "Who Killed Stuart (Not Adam) Chandler?" is in many ways a mystery in the classic mold of the genre. Despite that awful Friday show, the murder of Stuart (Not Adam) is a throwback to the sprawling tales of Agatha Christie. It is a touch of Murder on the Orient Express meets Death on the Nile with a dash of Evil Under the Sun: a baker’s dozen of suspects with multiple motives, multiple opportunities and multiple weapons. Standing in stark contrast to Freaky Friday, the subsequent use of a 24-style scrolling multi-screen to show what happened that fateful night as various participants recount their whereabouts and actions has been both original for daytime and a brilliant visual flourish. This would all be high praise in the story so far if it were not marred by a liberal sprinkling of the worst by-the-numbers excesses of Murder, She Wrote and a bit of narrative clumsiness borrowed from the Keystone Cops.

From chief of police Jesse Hubbard (the usually dependable Darnell Williams occasionally tripping over his lines) accidentally shooting best friend Tad (Michael E. Knight) in the head resulting in prime suspect Dr. David Hayward (Vincent Irizarry) having to perform a risky surgery that conveniently may affect parts of potential witness Tad’s memory to Ryan (Cameron Mathison) leading insta-police officer Natalia (Shannon Kane) around like chickens with their heads cut off in the passageways of the Chandler mansion…well, a lot of the elements feel like unnecessary overkill (pun intended) in an already dense plot.

Making matters so much worse, there is little to zero subtext or nuance anywhere in AMC’s heavily hyped story. Suspects have things to hide, secrets to keep and alibis to nurture but that’s about it. While the mystery itself is turning out to be better than I expected, much of it in its short story life is mired in cliche and is far too heavy handed to give the story the kind of gravitas the death of beloved Stuart Chandler deserves.

38 Responses

  1. Profile photo of myworld

    Oh if only Guiding Light could be the winner in ratings. I watched both shows and I must agree GL is doing it its thing.

    AMC looks good, but I admit i enjoy the production on GL because the actual scenes of Edmund in the river and one the bank of the river looked so real, and very well done.

    I did like the split screen on AMC, and agree I am thinking on GL, on AMC not so much. Jessie is too much for me, Mallet is too much, this would be a great case on GL for David Grant and for AMC Dereck.

  2. Profile photo of angelkitty

    Thank you very much for this amazing article. I love seeing your columns on DC because I know they will be articulate and insightful. The GL murder mystery really has me intrigued. I can not compare it to AMC because I have long left that show behind but to me GL is simply classic soap with a mondern twist right now. I love the cast of suspects and agree that there could be more that we don’t realize yet. Thank you for pointing out the Shayne and Mallet conversation. I loved it because you really could not tell the source of Shayne’s anxiousness. Was it the murder or the baby? This mystery has so many directions. They all seem guilty.

    GL has become art in all of their stories as of late. As you said they are trusting the viewers and count them as intelligent. Thats how you get fans invested.

    Thank you! Help Save the Light! Its worth it!

  3. Profile photo of THEBEST

    Another thing: what makes these 2 different is that AMC is writing their whodunit as a sweeps stunt. GL is writing theirs as a story. That prick, Chuck Pratt, is totally doing the fans and the character of Stuart a disservice with this BS….

  4. Profile photo of SoapSnob

    Thank you, J. Bernard, for another in a looooooong line of great post. Of course, GL is becoming superior, must-see daytime drama – second only to Y&R – as it hurdles toward its possible end date. And AMCs growing appeal can only be attributed to something that I cannot quite name or understand. Perhaps because there is nothing really there?

    Thanks for the shout-out to Veronica Mars. I LOVED (and miss) that show.

  5. Profile photo of chelehel74

    Complete agree and when you add in the rumors of the characters joining the GL fold when it comes to Edmund’s death (BRING ON THE BETH ANN BONNER!!!!) I am excited for what is to come.

    Once again (like the Emmy’s and dare I reference tonight’s Idol finale) sadly the true talent doesn’t win in the end. GL faces it’s end on CBS and AMC sees one misstep after another be applauded.


    People wonder why the genre is DYING!

  6. Profile photo of sara31tx

    I agree with you on that..There are several of us fans on Robert Newman’s Board who are trying to figure it out..anyone could be a suspect right now. It reminds me of the game Clue. This is the best writing that GL has had in along time.

  7. Profile photo of BasicBlack81

    GL is really on fire right now. It’s murder mystery is enthralling and encompasses the viewer, while AMC’s is so blunt and in-your-face it’s almost insulting to your intelligence. GL has been one of if not the best soap on tv for the majority of 2009 yet it needs a new home, while AMC keeps going on, the hot mess that it is

  8. Profile photo of chris345

    You just don’t know, they all could have done it, they all had motive.
    Thanks for the post and I have to agree, I’m loving new production model and it fits so well with this storyline and I want to note, GL’s actors and actresses rock the house.

  9. Profile photo of DocT

    I absolutely love the comment you’ve made that GL is setting this up like an Agatha Christie novel. This storyline is sooo good right now. I love how all of the characters on the show will be involved in some way.

    The opening scene to the 5/18 episode was just brilliant – no dialogue from Remy finding Edmund’s body to alternating between the prime suspects was perfect.

    Jill Lorrie Hurst and Ellen Wheeler are crafting some of the most compelling and must see TV right now.

    Let’s continue to fight to find GL a new home!!!

  10. Profile photo of goyankees

    Great Article, but I don’t think you even needed to explain why ANYTHING in Springfield is superior than anything going on in Pine Lavery.

    As a former viewer of AMC, who basically gave up during the Satin Slayer/Zarf debacles, and was officially finished with the show by the time Reese gave her marriage exactly 12 min. before going straight for a week, it appalls me AMC might be fooled into thinking they are a good show w/this Nom.

    And it’s appalling they believe they can trot out unbelievable Crap and think the public is buying it.

    I love seeing their rating sink like the titanic…

  11. Profile photo of wildwoman

    I haven’t watched AMC in a while so I can’t comment on that story, but your description sounds much like their style of TELLING a story and not presenting one.

    GL’s production model has really made this story possible in this way – from the real shots at the river, to the positioning of everyone ‘out for a walk’ and the intimacy and subtly of the new shooting style which can lend itself to more understated acting and quiet moments (much more dramatic than a split screen). Plus, big kudos to JLH and EW for writing and doing this right. I’ve been noticing the extremely plotted chapters of each episode with choreographed timing and dialogue from one scene overlapping the stories in the others. The writing is like an ongoing work of theater with multiple levels and story arcs criss-crossing.

    And, as always, any story that can pull in all of the characters is really exciting to see.

    Should we created a guiding light clue game? What would our weapons of choice be?

  12. Profile photo of Spauldingfield

    What I really like about this story on Guiding Light is how it’s envolving people you wouldn’t expect. For example, Olivia is the one that sees Edmund and Reva together, Remy finds the body, Phillip and Lizzie bond when she thinks about the good things about Edmund. Edmund has ties to a lot of those residents so it’s nice to see that people are effected by this too.
    I still hope that he’s really not dead though…. but Guiding Light is on FIRE!

  13. Profile photo of troymcclure

    I agree, the production model on GL works very well with a murder mystery. Seeing Edmund dead in the mud has more of an impact then the tradional soap production model.

    I didn’t even think of the fact that Shayne could be jumpy because of the baby or if he did it, thanks for pointing this out.

    I also liked yesterdays show where Lizzie was talking about Edmund and mentioned that he wasn’t all bad since he helped her during her leukemia. Nice nod to history right there.

  14. Profile photo of PinkRomeo

    Love the article, I tried to watch AMC earlier in the year but gave up…

    Guiding Light on the other hand, has surprised me, brought me tears of both joy and sadness and just been FUN. I for one can’t wait to see how this unfolds.

  15. Profile photo of chris345

    My black horse is that Marina killed him.
    She knows about Henry, somehow she found out that Shayne was the blood donor. That is why she has been so crazed with not letting Henry out of her sight.
    I think Edmund met her in the park after she talked with Reva. I think she has been setting up Shayne & Dinah by really loading on the how lucky she is to have Henry and he is my whole world, showing up at Reva’s, showing up and Dinah’s place to offer to help with her and Shayne. She didn’t say anything because she knows she will lose the baby.

  16. Profile photo of Rashmi

    The Edmund storyline is fascinating even to a new soap viewer like me. They are pulling in all the characters and tying it nicely with their history. I love the writing on GL. I am hoping and praying that this show finds a new home!

  17. Profile photo of Shoot4theMoon

    I don’t watch AMC so I can’t comment on their story (and after September 18th I won’t watch soaps at all) but “Guiding Light’s” mystery has totally sucked me in. Like many, I came to the show for Otalia but have found myself slowly drawn into the other storylines, too, and this new mystery of who killed Edmund has got me hooked. What’s even more brilliant is how the writers are using the mystery to bring up so much of the history of Springfield’s citizens along the way, which, as the show approaches its conclusion, is a clever way to walk down memory land without boring the holy heck outta everyone.

  18. Profile photo of wildwoman

    i just wanted to add how nice it is to see GL mentioning its history (which several of you pointed out). Both with Lizzie remembering her time with Edmond as her step father and Beth mentioning Olivia’s drunken scene at Phillips funeral – its great for the show to acknowledge its history (even though Soras and other plot twists sometimes make it hard) both for the loyal fans who remember and for the new fans to catch up. Here’s to soap writers who actually KNOW the show history and strive for continuity!

  19. Profile photo of dmwolf

    Wow…are you in my head? For months, I have been posting on this site and across the internet that GL is getting it right. First, it was with the Otalia storyline and Phillip’s return. Now, it is with the whole show.

    GL gives the viewer little exposition and this allows the viewers to use their intelligence to figure out the scene. The understated performances lend the scenes an incredible intensity. Everything is bubbling below the surface. In turn, the viewer is riveted by the scene. I can’t take my eyes off the screeen because I have to watch the understated performance to glean any bit of information. And the whole show is not overdramatic. It is just incredibly intense television.

    And not only does GL have subtext but it is colored grey. All the characters are in that grey zone. Nothing is black or white. All these supposedly good people could very well have killed Edmund. And Lizzie, Phillip, and Shayne have pointed out the humanity, the goodness, that Edmund had within his his tortured self.

    Right now, GL is the best daytime drama if not the best television show. It appeals to the viewer’s intelligence. It provides understated performances full of riveting subtext. The production model allows scenes to be gritty or beautiful and so intimate that I feel like a voyeur.

    The show must go on! The artistry of the show is too good not to continue past September 18th.

  20. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    SoapSnob and everyone else, thanks for the kinds words.

    The more I think about "Who Killed Eddie Winslow?" the more it brings a smile to my face.

    In (unsuccessfully) trying to stay within certain word-count boundaries, I edited out mentioning something many of you pointed out: the effective use of the location footage of Eddie floating in the river/stream, coupled with some of GL’s most effective music choices of late to create a truly unsettling atmosphere. The fact that it all took place during broad daylight made everything even creepier.

    Since I am not privy to spoilers, I’m speculating along with a lot of you about the possible culprits in Eddie’s demise and last night something struck me: where did Eddie get those diamonds?

    My guess: Eddie, who was still prince of San Cristobel when Lizzie was sick leukemia, hid the diamonds in Lizzie’s unicorn when he first gave it to her in case he needed them later!

    And I still stink Olivia’s sudden trip and return to Springfield was timed just a little too conveniently to Eddie’s demise, no?

  21. Profile photo of Blithedale

    “the degree to which the writers and producers trust the intelligence of their audiences without beating them over the head with the obvious. ”

    That sums it up right there — for this story and everything else on the canvas.

    Guiding Light actually trusts their audience to watch, listen, know, and think. GL is proving time and time again that it’s the best written an best produced show on daytime television.

  22. Profile photo of sivonclaire

    Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and insightful article. Guiding Light is doing more than merely ASKING the viewer to think; they are telling the stories in such a manner that the viewer is left with no other option than to delve deeper in to what they have seen, to connect the threads of the story. Guiding Light is currently doing some of the best storytelling on television, both daytime and prime time. The cast, crew, and writers are a talented and dedicated group, and it is clear in the show they put out daily.

    Though Guiding Light will soon end its run on CBS, the light is still shining bringhtly. Loyal fans, not just of Guiding Light, but of television as an art form, must continue on in their efforts to keep this powerful program on the air.

  23. Profile photo of sivonclaire

    Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and insightful article. Guiding Light is doing more than merely ASKING the viewer to think; they are telling the stories in such a manner that the viewer is left with no other option than to delve deeper in to what they have seen, to connect the threads of the story. Guiding Light is currently doing some of the best storytelling on television, both daytime and prime time. The cast, crew, and writers are a talented and dedicated group, and it is clear in the show they put out daily.

    Though Guiding Light will soon end its run on CBS, the light is still shining bringhtly. Loyal fans, not just of Guiding Light, but of television as an art form, must continue on in their efforts to keep this powerful program on the air.

  24. Profile photo of BeautifulStranger103

    Thank you for the thoughtful and brilliant comparison of the two shows. Guiding Light is doing what television does best: Guiding Light is asking the audience to think and is giving us heightened reality with twists and turns that leave us wanting MORE MORE AND THEN SOME MORE! Guiding Light is ART right now and that is not a small thing by any stretch of the imagination. I have EVERY faith that GL will be picked up after September and it will continue to WOW the audience by doing all that it does so very well!

  25. Profile photo of Katiebug9624

    I think the best part about Guiding Lights murder mystery is that they killed an actual villain someone who had done awful things who finally got his. They didn’t do that on AMC.

  26. Profile photo of Aquila1nz

    Word! to GL trusting the audience to think through implications instead of just telling everything. We are getting great storytelling and hopefully this storyline will give people a chance to see why GL fandom has been buzzing lately. Full props to the Guiding Light writers, may the show be around for them to write for for a long time to come!

  27. Profile photo of hippie

    Great article, thank you! Guiding Light certainly is shining. There is no doubt in my mind that they will get picked up. The Endmond story line is a well written who done it. So much care goes into the writing that one can not help but be pulled in. I think we all will be scratching our heads right until the reveal trying to figure it out. I was originally drawn to GL because of the Otalia story line. This is the best love story being told on television in years. However I couldn’t help falling in love with Guiding Light as a whole. The writing, the talent, the new production model being used. I’ve never been fully invested in a whole show before. I will be following GL to its new home. Guiding Light is television at its best.

  28. Profile photo of Doobiekat

    I just wanna know why “Guiding Light” has not been picked up by another network yet??? Time is running out and unless the CW has bought this show and is planning on announcing that at the emmys this year during the telecast…which I don’t think is going to happen but just a thought. I really thought we would have heard something by now…I’m getting worried because as good as GL is right now I just can’t imagine it not being on anymore after this wonderful turn-around Jill Lori Hurst has done. As for the murder of Edmund Winslow there hasn’t been a murder mystery on this show like this since the Brent Lawrence/Marianne Crane storyline in the mid 90’s….or the Andy Ferris murder in the mid 80’s this story is so awesome…it has sent ripples thru the Springfield community and I for one think Jeffrey did it so he can frame Josh and have Reva all to himself…This would be a easy way to get Reva & Josh back together in the end………..and get rid of Edmund for good. As for AMC that episode last week was awful and killing Stuart was just mean and uncalled for….he was one of the best most loved things about that show..,..I just can’t beleive that AMC will still be on a major network and GL will be off in Spetember…it just sickens me beyond words the unfairness of it all. I know TPTB and network behind GL ignored their wonderful show for so long it got them in this postition,but it’s GOLD right now…I really think it could sweep the emmys next year theres not a catagory they couldn’t dominate in next year : Best Drama/Best Actor – Justin Deas and Grant Aleksander / Best Actress Crystal Chappelle and Kim Zimmer and Gina Tognoni / Best sup Actress Jessica Luccia and Beth Chamberlain and Marcy Rylan / BestSup Actor Jeff Branson and Daniel Cosgrove and Jordan Clarke / Best Younger Actress Karla Mosley / Best younger Actor Zack Conroy and John Driscoll – Best Writing / Best Directing team and the list could go on and on… CBS you still suck ass to give up on GL while seeing this show catch on fire just like it should have been to save it.

  29. Profile photo of tamelle

    As with other current GL storylines, the writing at the Light this year is simply fantastic! The writers and actors say more in their silent scenes with body language and facial expressions than other soaps say in scenes that are drenched with dialogue. I can’t WAIT to find out who killed Deadmond … er … Edmund, and I love that all of the suspects could have logically committed the crime. GL’s writers respect their fans and they are amazingly gifted when it comes to keeping us on our toes and reeling us in moment by moment. Little unexpected surprises (like “Oh, Eddie’s floating in the water!”) are just a part of the reason I keep tuning in. GL is quite simply the best thing in daytime, and the possibility of it fading to black for good in September is not one I intend to focus on. Certainly another network would love to have such passionate viewers tuning in daily … the BPD alone is determined and persistent! Keep the Light shining! Join a campaign today!

  30. Profile photo of rowan1879

    It has become increasingly obvious how well written Guiding Light is. I first had an idea that the writers (specifically Jill H. and Ellen W.) were good when the Olivia/Natalia romantic relationship just kind of crept up on us. It was organic and believable and character driven. They are applying the same kind of character driven action to their murder mystery. And it’s fun to watch! Ladies and gentlemen, we have something special here with Guiding Light. They don’t talk down to their audience. They expect us to pay attention. That kind of invitation from a show, any show, is so unusual I think most people don’t know what to do about it. I for one, am enjoying every minute and I can only hope that Guiding Light gets picked up by another network. Because to lose such a diamond in the rough would be a crime.

  31. Profile photo of Boobookitty

    I love that you mention GL trusting its audiences; that’s been one of the most compelling aspects to enjoying the show. By making you a more active listener and viewer, GL has this way of sucking you in, and feeling more connected with the characters. You add in the realism of outdoor settings, and you’ve got yourself the beginning of one hell of a ride. I admit that I’d like them to start playing up more potential suspects at this point, but I do like how you, as an audience member, are really guessing. How often does that happen? And I love how they’re weaving in so much of the cast – its a wonderful group of actors and nice to see them actively engaged.

  32. Profile photo of egolf63

    GL doing the murder mystery right. Have lots of suspects with motives to do in Eddie. I like the simple murder mystery, not the serial killer type other shows due for sweeps. Didn’t see the demise of Eddie coming, way to go GL.

  33. Profile photo of brtedi

    Eventhough I’ve only been watching GL, since December 2008, I can see that the writers have taken care to draw connections between Springfield’s history and the present. In the tradition of (good)daytime drama, GL has acknoledged it’s past while linking it seemlessly to the present.


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