Exposition Whores

AUTHOR’S DISCLAIMER: The title of this blog entry is solely a reference to the writing styles of the shows mentioned and nothing more.

"The effect of drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick." — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

That description of what is known as the best fictional alcoholic drink in the known universe is exactly how I feel watching a few of my favorite daytime dramas these days. Unlike that improbable drinky drink, this is hardly a compliment. There is something really odd going on all over the soap dial with the ham fisted lack of subtlety and general narrative blundering going on.

In a couple of recent entries, I pointed out how All My Children’s "Who Killed Stuart (Not Adam) Chandler?" murder mystery has been marred by a lack of, well, mystery. As I said, what had the potential to be a great whodunit has been turned into the soap opera equivalent of Clue, one which is losing my interest very rapidly, especially when compared to increasingly delicious and twisted "Who Killed Edmund Winslow?" whodunit concurrently airing on Guiding Light. The latter show is peeling back layers and layers of motive and opportunity, while the former is peeling like an onion: it is making me cry. As it happens, AMC isn’t the only egregious offender of hitting us over the head with the narrative equivalent of a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick these days: the other two are As the World Turns and, shockingly and in some circles blasphemously, One Life to Live.

I’ll keep the ATWT observation and criticism to a minimum, as I am trying to avoid all-out bashing of this show that I really love. Nonetheless, Monday’s terribly uneven Memorial Day episode managed to indulge the worst of ATWT’s excesses under head writer Jean Passanante while setting a new low for the show in unnecessary repetition. For the purposes of brevity let’s ignore the complete tonal disconnection between the stories playing out on screen and take it as a given that watching the weirdly written all-over-the-map Paul/vaguely-confused Rosanna (an all over the map Roger Howarth and a vaguely confused looking Cady McClain) scenes at her co-op/farm vis a vis the the machinations regarding the return of Alison’s (Marnie Schulenburg) father Larry McDermott (Ed Fry) felt like watching two and sometimes three different shows altogether. Instead, let’s focus on the scenes where Meg (Marie Wilson), Damian (Paolo Seganti) and Barbara (Colleen Zenk Pinter) had it out after Paul mistakenly thought Barbara had betrayed him because Meg and Damian followed her:

MEG: You are helping your crazy son! Paul is crazy! Eliza is MY daughter! If something happens to Eliza, I’ll pout in a very threatening manner! (I’m trying to look scary and threatening. Is it working?)

BARBARA: I was trying to help! Paul is MY son and Eliza is MY granddaughter! I thought if I brought him millions of dollars, he’d listen to reason and give Eliza back, you FOOL! (I can sell this, dammit!)

DAMIAN: Call the police, Barbara and Meg. – (grumble, grumble, try not to look confused as to why I came back to this show for this shit) – We’ll get Eliza back, Meg. Don’t worry. – (try to stay awake).

This huffy argument was repeated twice nearly verbatim on location at a slightly tornadic airfield and then inexplicably again once Babs, Meg and Damian had flown from wherever they were back to Oakdale. While repetition of scene dynamics and sometimes even dialogue within any given episode of a soap is nothing new, this dreadful ring-around-the-rosie argument on ATWT was written with a tin ear filled with wax. The words that were said only vaguely sounded like the characters themselves and did not ring at all true.

The writing for Meg in particular made her come off more shrill and completely unlikeable than ever; her tirades against Barbara — while laughable — were completely undone when Meg later admitted to Damian that she felt that Paul wasn’t a danger to Eliza at all! So what the hell was the the previous twenty minutes of shrieking all about? Instead of making Meg look like a frightened mother, she came off just as loony, hotheaded and unreasonable as Paul. Let me just say that given the foul language I used, I could have easily won the Scripps Spelling Bee for Cussin’.

While the cited scenes are examples of ATWT’s ongoing but worsening narrative clumsiness, it is far from alone. Across the dial, One Life to Live has been afflicted with a slightly different strain of narrative swine flu. As with many viral mutations, the primary symptom is a ham-fisted lack of subtlety. In recent weeks, OLTL has felt "off" in a way that I could not quite figure out until the intersection of the denouement of the Baby Chloe Is Really Baby Hope Saga with the climax of the KAD Killer/Crazy Powell/Multi-Kidnapping Imbroglio.

21 Responses

  1. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones


    This very site traffics in spoilers for those who are interested in them. It’s hard to avoid them here and elsewhere, but I, like many others, try to avoid them at all costs. I had not read Nelson’s column in which reported the possibility of the identity of Edmund’s killer. I feel it is completely disrespectful to those of us who DIDN’T want to know that particular information for you to post it nilly willy, even with the "SPOILER" warning attached, given as how you IMMEDIATELY name the supposed killer.

    Regular readers of this site are very familiar with Nelson’s fine column at TVGuide.ca and know how to seek out spoilers from him and others….if they wish to do so. I completely respect that many people in today’s entertainment universe love spoilers; they are only interested in how spoiled information plays out on screen. But there are many others who do not like them, especially and specifically when it comes to mystery storylines.

    I have tried to limit any news I read about GL to the castings and that’s it. I sure as fuck didn’t want to know who killed Edmund until the last possible minute.

    Personally, I think it’s piss poor and disrespectful to impart that information in the comments section in a way that will SPOIL the enjoyment of people like me who actually ENJOY the SURPRISE of a MYSTERY.

    Thank you for that.

  2. Profile photo of troymcclure

    J bernard. great article as usual and I totally agree with your rant regarding spoilers.

    I don’t even know what that spoiler/rumor had to do with the article.

    I’m a spoiler whore and if it is any consolation, I have read many different things regarding the murder mystery storyline and it is still very much a mystery regarding the outcome.

  3. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

     Troy, I have nothing against spoilers for those people who are into them. If one reads Ausiello, one expects spoilers. If one reads Nelson, one expects spoilers. If one reads a lot of the headlines and stories on this site, one can expect spoilers.

    I get that and I totally respect "spoiler whores" like yourself. LOL

    However, I think SOME spoiler information is like pornography vs. "art": you can’t define it until you see it. In this case, the line was crossed when the spoiler — which had ZERO to do with what I wrote — was imparted as nothing more than a way to express dissatisfaction over a particular couple as if to say, "Look, I know you are loving this mystery but never mind that! This is who did it because what I think is important is this couple I hate." Again, which has nothing to do with the subject of the posting.

    Even I am off subject now! My pressure is up! LOL

  4. Profile photo of bonobochick

    Thanks. I enjoyed reading this. I agree with you about OLTL. Then again, I am annoyed how Jared & Natalie allowing Starr & Cole to continue thinking their baby was dead even if protecting Jessica has been barely commented on by other characters. The KAD storyline was ho-hum for me overall but it flatlined by having McBain be the hero.

    I missed most of the last two weeks of ATWT being out of town. Yet I don’t think I missed much, huh? The only good things I’ve heard and read about from these last two weeks is Maura West was amazing… but then that’s like saying the sun rises in the East and Dusty/Bonnie has potential (which I agree with but I still want to see Derek) :) Most of what I have come across about the show in the last two weeks is the gripe of if being ALL ABOUT MEG. :| Oh, and how lousy the Casey/Alison first sex together scene was.

    I’d be curious what you think is working on this show. I have tried to think about what is good on ATWT and only 3 things come to mind: recent Emily sightings, Noah/Luke and Carly & Craig’s relationship of sorts. Janet is ok in scenes chewing out Parker or Jack. Otherwise… it’s desolate of entertainment.

  5. Profile photo of shmotis

    If I were Cady I’d be confused too. Just how did Rosanna come out of her coma in a ritzy hospital & find herself broke on a communal farm ? No one knew or helped her w/ this ? WTF

  6. Profile photo of Islandof1

    I watched the orginal Spring Fling rape go down and new face or not RH will always be Todd for me. So Marty getting her memory back without showing RH’s face did not work for me. Nor did nuRebecca as Powell’s what-ever. Was she his puppet or pulling his strings?

    If the KAD Killer had been someone actually on the current show it might have interested me more. Instead they bring back Powell and Todd’s first love, Rebecca and I am left scratching my head wondering ‘Why” did they do all this???

  7. Profile photo of craigcp

    If they don’t do something about the writing then it’s pointless for GL to go to cable, it will just be canceled the next year. Write to Procter & Gamble and Telenext Media. Tell them to make changes, need to bring back original characters, the real town setting stinks. Head writers Jill Lorie Hurst C/O Guiding Light CBS-TV 51 West 52nd Street New York, NY 10019; The Procter & Gamble Company1 or 2, Procter & Gamble Plaza Cincinnati, OH 45201 newbusiness@telenextmedia.com alan.locher@telenextmedia.com

  8. Profile photo of liason4real

    OLTL – Okay, there were some problems, but, overall I’m glad the story lines for Chloe/KAD are coming to an end. Was it perfect? No, but, that’s okay, I hope RC learned a few things and fixes these issues the next time. I had no problem with Zach and Powell being suspects, there was no need for Rebbecca when the original actress was not available and it was a glaring omission not to have Kevin in the storyline.

    KAD killer? I could be wrong, but, wasn’t the killer suppose to have been Tess/Bess/Jess/Mess and Frons said no?

  9. Profile photo of siomonstuart2003

    Bess should of been the KAD killer; that would of been a better ending to it than the endless Marty being assaulted. Frons is a sick bastard to think that we want to see the same old Marty being always about the rape is insulting to rape victims and needs to end, NOW.

  10. Profile photo of season1217

    The KAD killer s/l has completely turned me off to OLTL. To have Todd tied to a bed and have him act as Marty’s therapist made me sick to no end. And I know I’m in the minority here but Trevor St. John just ain’t doin’ it for me. I find him boring.

  11. Profile photo of maxsmom

    I’ll join your minority, he has never worked as Todd, some actors can’t be replaced and RH as Todd is one of those. I stopped watching during the “rapemance” but have slowly been drawn in again to this show I first watched when I was just seven years old. I am not sure how long I’ll stay though since the plotholds in the KAD s/l were Grand Canyon big. How could the Spring Fling have occured in 93 if Starr turned 16 last year. This means she was born in 1992, long before Todd and Blair met.

  12. Profile photo of dsrbroadway

    Spot on about OLTL. I enjoyed much of this past sweeps, but I knew something was off; your article helped me realize exactly was it was. I first noticed it with the Markko/Langston over-talking about condoms, of all things. I kept saying to myself, “Isn’t this a yes or no question? Did you get them or didn’t you?”.

  13. Profile photo of n0regrets28

    ATWT is really disappointing me. once carly leaves i see no reason in watching this trainwreck of a show. I was hoping Rosanna would fill the Carly-void but it does not look like that is going to happen. They have such potential with Rosanna but instead they write her all of a sudden as weak. First the baby-switching now at the farm with Paul.


  14. Profile photo of dmwolf

    GL has great writing right now. I have been saying for months that GL is not telling us the story (heavy handed exposition) but is showing us the story in an understated way.

    For me, the murder mystery is a fine example of this because it has many characters in it that I do not care for at all. Yet, the understated intensity between these characters is riveting.

    Another example is the Otalia story. Many people have said it has stalled but I see it as an understated and subtle portrayal of internalized homophobia. Olivia and Natalia are comfortable with each other but yet both have said they are afraid? Of what, I ask? Uh…the fear comes from internalized homophobia rearing its head. Then look at how they are struggling to tell family and friends.

    The amazing thing for me is that all these fears rising from their internalized homophobia are revealed to us in short statements uttered between sexy glances. They do not make loud, over dramatic speeches.

    Maybe GL is now beyond daytime drama with its production model and both the understated writing and performances.

  15. Profile photo of crown1231

    As far as OLTL with the KAD flashbacks not having Kevin involved didn’t bother me as much as not showing Todd in the Flashbacks. The change in Todd’s appearance has been completely explained going back to the plastic surgery when the Mitch Lawerance story line started, so Marty would have been remembering Todd the way he looked during the rape. As Roger Howarth

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