An Open Letter to Christopher Goutman


Dear Mr. Goutman,

If ever I was convinced there is a real world application of the phrase "an exercise in futility", this letter might qualify as proof of that concept. After all, you have been quoted in at least one now infamous interview that you do not listen to what fans have to say and that you follow your gut instincts about what you feel is best for As the World Turns as its executive producer. In many respects I applaud you for it. Vision, however forward thinking or flawed, indicates what might be called passion, which itself implies a belief in something. I think, in your own way, you really do believe in your show.

Savvy viewers (including those of moderate intelligence like myself) more than appreciate the fact that Procter & Gamble/TeleNext soap executive producers like yourself arguably have tougher rows to hoe than their counterparts. You have your corporate bosses at P&G to answer to, as well as another set of head honchos at CBS. Reports from the war front regarding the recent cancellation of ATWT’s sister show Guiding Light exposed that often these two factions have differing agendas, which can only make your job that much harder to do in a climate of increasingly draconian budget cuts and free falling ratings amidst an ever shrinking — some openly say dying — genre with roots that can be traced back to Charles Dickens and beyond. No wonder you tune out the noise, if I may, to concentrate on one of the hardest jobs in all of television: producing 350+ hours of television every year.

So why write this letter though you may never read it? Partly because while fans and critics alike often offer criticism form the sidelines, I feel somewhat compelled to make a more direct appeal. The other answer is that I have a feeling someone on staff at ATWT, TeleNext, or CBS reads Daytime Confidential and other soap blogs and against all odds someone there will take some of what I may inarticulately say here and pull your coattails to let you know that whatever your accomplishments with this grand show in the past, your current vision for As the World Turns is not working now.

We fans tend to discount the pressures associated with producing a daily dramatic serial. There are viewers who often proclaim that they don’t care about budgets, ratings and contracts; they merely want their favorites on screen everyday or that nebulous thing known as a good show. History; characters we love; don’t insult our intelligence, etc. all regardless of cost. Sometimes it seems to me that some of my fellow fans are using the same kind of logic that says if they themselves only have $100 per week to spend on groceries, they would eat at five-star restaurants every night because they want their favorite food served by their favorite waiters and tip them 30% all the time. So, Mr. Goutman, to paraphrase one of our most recent presidents, I kind of feel your pain.

With all of that in mind, it is not my intention to discount or dismiss the hundreds of challenges you face every day in order to bring fictional Oakdale, Illinois to life in these difficult times. It is also not my intention to define for you or anyone else what makes a good show. After all, for all of the widespread praise that One Life to Live’s Ron Carlivati receives, there are many who do not like his intricate, chess-like manipulation of intersecting plots and narrative hopscotch. For all of the bellyaching about how horrible Chuck Pratt at All My Children or Dena Higley at Days of Our Lives have been writing, ratings for both shows are — marginally — up.

That, sir, is part of my point in writing to you in this open forum: you don’t listen to the fans, but you do pay attention to the ratings. Even moderately intelligent fans like me understand that much. Unfortunately, As the World Turns has neither critical praise to counter its floundering ratings nor rising ratings to mitigate its floundering writing as I compose this letter. Despite all the pressures you face as an executive producer, you are ultimately the captain of that ship, and you are grievously piloting it toward the rocks.

12 Responses

  1. Profile photo of sudsmuffin
    sudsmuffin

    J Bernard, that was a spot on, eloquent, well thought out account on why ATWT is a ship sinking faster than the Titanic. If anyone has CG’s e-mail address, please send this to him ASAP. He, himself, acts like an island no one can touch. He’s going to do what his “gut” tells him, critics, fans, whomever be damned. This show is now unwatchable for me. This past week of Eliza’s third kidnapping in less than six months, Dusty and Damian throwing themselves off a cliff to help Meg, the propping of Meg (even Nuke, yes Nuke is going to be propping her next week), Vienna losing the baby (thank you Jean “the baby killer” Passanante), and Carly boozing it up (only saved by the acting of MW), has done it for me. If they want to save this show with CG at the helm, he needs to do a complete turn around, and I mean ask himself what he thinks is working and then do the complete opposite. They need better writing, more overarching storylines involving more character interaction, use of the vets and people of color, character driven stories instead of villians of the week, and at least three month story arcs as opposed to four weeks or less. I cannot get invested in the storylines or characters when they’re played out in less time than it takes to get a package in the mail. What happened to romance, too? Oh yeah, CG has been quoted as saying he doesn’t believe in candles and romance and all that romance business. Ugh, this is a soap Chris–love in the afternoon? Forget about the Friday cliffhanger–it doesn’t exist either in CG’s contained episode theory of storytelling.

    And for the love of God, stop the Paul and Meg hamster wheel. RH looks like he is sleep walking half the time, as is Grayson McCouch. Meg is the most loathed character on the show. For God sake, get her on the backburner if nothing else. Also, they need to stop with hem-hawing around with Nuke. They need to do a real love scene in a bed and a real, organic triangle and pimp the hell out of it. The first all male gay love triangle would certainly be something different for daytime. I’m afraid it may be too late for this show with CG and JP not going anywhere. Babs Bloom needs to run, not walk, and beg Sri Rao to save this show.

  2. Profile photo of SoapSnob
    SoapSnob

    J. Bernard,

    What a heartfelt and beautifully constructed letter. We can only hope that it, in some way, reaches its intended targeted. As you stated, SOMEONE, with whom Mr. Goutman is familiar, reads Daytime Confidential and will, hopefully, forward it to him.

    NOW is the time to save ATWT. NOT when the notice comes down from CBS.

  3. Profile photo of soapsphile
    soapsphile

    excellent analysis

    what always made atwt great was its focus on the multi-generational family

    even in recent yrs,this set atwt apart

    yet, lately it has not been so, rendering the show w/o emotional depth

    its virtually inconceivable that in a family with the historical focus of the hughes, for example, that the
    problems with casey hughes would not have generated more contacts with tom and margo and bob and kim and lisa and nancy ( outside the police station) with eg comparisons to problems bob,nancy and lisa had with a young tom,… nancy and lisa comforting margo,etc……emma talking with parker and liberty……better use has been made of the lucinda/lilly and holden/luke and noah families

    soon we will not have access to these rich scenes as the performers age
    lets not miss the boat

  4. Profile photo of Soap_Stud
    Soap_Stud

    So very true. This is a letter that could also go to a couple other executive producers. I cannot imagine the amount of pressure these producers and writers get from the guys and gals in the suits, but I still expect a quality soap! I think the key is to get a head writer who has a clear vision for a show that embraces the history of the soap. Once you find a headwriter with this vision, the executive producer needs to dig his or her “heels” into the ground and fight to tell the stories the writer wants to tell! The actors of this genre love what they do, but can only do so much with so-so writing. “If you write it well, they (viewers) will come”

  5. Profile photo of Mike Jubinville
    Mike Jubinville
    problems with casey hughes would not have generated more contacts with tom and margo and bob and kim and lisa and nancy ( outside the police station) with eg comparisons to problems bob,nancy and lisa had with a young tom,… nancy and lisa comforting margo,etc……emma talking with parker and liberty

    I was thinking the exact same thing while I was watching Casey and Alison. Their relationship is meaningless out of the context of the Hughes-Stewart dynamic that has driven this show for so long. Something was missing and it occurred to me that when Tom and Margo were a young couple, they were firmly ensconced in BOTH families.

  6. Profile photo of rista
    rista

    I have often disagreed with DC with viewpoints concerning ATWT, but I wholeheartedly agree to this letter to Goutman. ATWT has NOTHING for it now, and not even a great cast can salvage it with craptastic storytelling. What is the point of having your faves muck thru garbage? No ratings + no hype + downtrodden storytelling over they years = is this why Goutman is so unenthusiastic these days? When I saw that “promo” ATWT did for the People’s Choice Awards that didn’t even promote the dang show, I could tell even ATWT itself couldn’t figure out what to promote to get folks to watch.

  7. Profile photo of Worldturner
    Worldturner

    Outstanding letter J. Bernard! I do hope Mr. Goutman sees this as well as it being sent to TeleNext. You said what so many of us are thinking. The show has truly lost it’s focus. I tend to think with all the budgetary constraints etc. they lost sight of the forest amongst all the tress and it’s time to get back to the fundamentals of what makes a good soap.

    I still think ATWT can be turned around but somebody has to wake up. I thought the cancellation of GL would be a wakeup call and while we wouldn’t be seeing the changes yet, I thought for sure by now we would be hearing behind the scenes rumblings of changes. Don’t these people realize that in a year they will most likely all be out of work if nothing changes? They need to focus on getting back the fans that left and with good story telling that would happen. Tell compelling stories and people will find the time to watch! Continuing the way it’s going now will only cause more people to keep tuning out.

  8. Profile photo of DanMan869
    DanMan869

    Very well written letter. I have only one issue with it; Douglas Marland died in 1993. You said, “You helped create a true post-Douglas Marland renaissance (circa 2000 when Goutman took over ATWT’s EP duties and Hogan Sheffer came on board as HW), which had eluded the show some 20+ years after Marland’s death. The math’s wrong. Marland died in 1993, Goutman and Sheffer came to the show in 2000, and “20+ years after Marland’s death” is 2013 and beyond.

    Still, the other points you made in your open letter were well thought out. I sincerely hope that Goutman reads it, thinks about it, and decides to act upon it to save ATWT. The show has become it’s own little “Vortex of Suck” in the last five or six years. If they could pull a major turn around a la “Young and The Restless,” I might return to watching it full-time. As it is now, it’s unwatchable and I’m not regretting my abandoning it.

  9. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones
    I have only one issue with it; Douglas Marland died in 1993. You said, "You helped create a true post-Douglas Marland renaissance (circa 2000 when Goutman took over ATWT’s EP duties and Hogan Sheffer came on board as HW), which had eluded the show some 20+ years after Marland’s death. The math’s wrong. Marland died in 1993, Goutman and Sheffer came to the show in 2000, and "20+ years after Marland’s death" is 2013 and beyond.

    It was a simple typo. It has been corrected.

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