As the World Turns: Finally Getting It Together



Perhaps someone passed along my Open Letter to Christopher Goutman. Perhaps Barbara Bloom took a good look at the plummeting ratings and decided that everyone should not lighten up after all. Perhaps head writer Jean Passanante took an extended vacation to Buenos Aires. Whatever has been happening over the last few weeks, let me step out on a limb and utter the words that many fans thought might not ever be said again or even believe: As the World Turns is, at long last, improving.

I fully expect the comments section to be full of invective and angry fist shaking about how ATWT is still "the worst soap on the air," how the vets are misused, and how the "Vortex of Suck" continues to, well, suck. In addition, the now well-documented list of the show’s biggest defects remain stubbornly in place: warp-speed storytelling and the soul sucking semi-episodic structure continue to test the rapidly waning patience of the show’s dwindling audience.

Having said that, it bears repeating that fans are a stubborn breed. We will praise shows, actors and performances we like, but we are quick to make our displeasure known when we feel things are not up to speed and falling apart. Once the latter narrative has been established it is very hard to turn the tide of opinion, even when a show starts to address its critics and make changes. Therefore, though the longstanding criticisms of ATWT are still valid, I think it is time to once again give credit where credit is due.


The first sign that positive changes were afoot involve the now-infamous Vortex of Suck. Lest we forget, the VoS was originally coined to describe not Paul or Meg as individuals but rather what had become the insufferable Paul/Meg romance. A classic soap love story of a wounded man’s body and heart nursed back to health by the love of a good woman steadily, alarmingly devolved into a morass of incomprehensible character motivations and endlessly repeated storyline beats; ergo, "vortex."

However, through a series of crazy, forgettable plot twists the VoS was broken up. The much-hated Meg (Marie Wilson) was spun off from both of her masochistic relationships with the equally hated Paul (Roger Howarth) and the increasingly-hated Dusty (Grayson McCouch), and into a burgeoning relationship with Damian (Paolo Seganti). For his part, Dusty has been launched into a new Moonlighting-esque romance with Bonnie (Chauntee Schuler), a woman who isn’t simpering after him and who doesn’t suffer his mysoginistic impulses lightly.

While many fans have groaned about the Meg/Damian development, the pleasure of their pairing is that it has stirred a cauldron of long dormant interfamilial complications and threatens to rip open a multitude of relationship wounds that have not yet healed! Lest we forget, Damian is not only Lily’s (Noelle Beck) ex-husband but also the other true love of her life, with whom she shares a son (Luke, Van Hansis) that Holden (the underused Jon Hensley) raised and is in rivalry over to this day for biological dad Damian’s affection and esteem. Though smitten with Meg, Damian is still drawn to Lily. The closer Meg & Damian have grown, the more Lily (whose marriage has been on shaky ground for years) has been unable to hide her consuming jealousy until she and Meg had a wall-shaking, history-laden, character-eviscerating verbal brawl on Tuesday’s episode that brought the stakes of these romantic entanglements past and present to the fore.

The character who has most benefited from these changes is Paul, or as I call him, Paul 8.5. For the longest time I advocated that Paul move to "the dark side" after the character (and viewers) had been made crazy by inconsistent writing. What I did not count on was just how bad Passanante would botch the 30+ year on-air history of the character by driving him insane and practically ignoring mother Barbara (the criminally underused Colleen Zenk Pinter), rendering Paul nearly without any redeeming qualities or rootable value. Then something remarkable happened: a stupid bomb plot, a newly discovered microchip in the cranium and a case of amnesia later, Paul was rebooted into a funny, brutally honest, devil may care horndog without a past who has been a breath of fresh air. No longer burdened with having to play an uneasy mix of former portrayer Scott Holroyd’s Paul and One Life to Live’s Todd Manning Lite, Howarth seems to be having a blast, whose newfound enthusiasm has rubbed off on ex-love/new lover…

Emily (Kelley Menighan Hensley), who drifted about the canvas so long at some points it felt as if one needed the Hubble telescope to locate her. Thanks to still great chemistry with Paul and the discovery her poached-egg son Hunter (the wonderfully quirky Evan Alex Cole), Emily has purpose, spark, sassiness and sexiness again. She also has a family. For all of the wacky twists involving Emily’s powdered eggs (which is rooted in the show’s history), the Stewarts — once pillars of Oakdale society — are back. The aforementioned Hunter, an exasperated Susan (Marie Masters) and her shady ex-husband Larry (Ed Fry), along with Alison (the wonderfully improved Marnie Schulenburg), are all present, complete with their own twisted backgrounds and family dymamics. (continued)

21 Responses

  1. Profile photo of curacaoman
    curacaoman

    Hooray, hooray! They woke up in plenty of time to avort what was beginning to look like an almost certain cancellation. Now if only the folks at ABC would wake up as well!

  2. Profile photo of josser
    josser

    I agree. I watched yesterday and was struck by how much I liked on screen. The acting was good and the writing seemed improved.

    Maybe GL’s impending doom has finally sunk in with TPTB?

  3. Profile photo of jsg03jd
    jsg03jd

    I agree with certain of the author’s observations but much still needs to be fixed with ATWT. I would hate for this show to go off the air, but a sea change truly needs to occur and should begin by displacing Chris Goutman and Jean Passanante. Their “work” is more miss than hit, and this show cannot afford any more misses if ATWT is to survive and hopefully outlast sister soap GL.

  4. Profile photo of josser
    josser

    J. Bernard,

    Doesn’t ATWT have a new co-headwriter, Lucky K.? What influence do you think his work has had on the show’s turnaround?

    I’m happy to see faux-Todd Manning disappear! Daytime only needs one Todd. For now, that’s Trevor St. James. I’d rather see Roger Howarth return to Paul Ryan to his more heroic, devil-may-care days.

    Now if the writers could just give poor Meg a more meaningful, slimmer storyline, I’d be happy. The show needs to highlight other actresses.

    BTW, what the heck happened to Jade and Derrick? ATWT has a bad habit of picking up black characters and then losing them.

  5. Profile photo of bonobochick
    bonobochick

    BTW, what the heck happened to Jade and Derrick? ATWT has a bad habit of picking up black characters and then losing them.

    This. :exmark:

    I have seen some improvements on the show as well – though if they write Meg off the show for several months, I would be very happy and maybe Alison… aka Meg Jr… could go with her – the lack of diversity on the show is still very disturbing. Why bring on Derek, make Jade – who has ties to a core famiy too! – Derek’s daughter then put him in a relationship with Bonnie only to then put them all in minority closet until GMC got Goutman to rip Dusty from the Vortex of Suck and put him with Bonnie?

    Where are the Black people in Oakdale? :quest:

    I agree with you about the obvious double standard with Noah & Luke’s intimacy vs Emily/Paul and Meg/Damian.

  6. Profile photo of sudsmuffin
    sudsmuffin

    J Bernard, I do agree ATWT has made some improvements. I am liking the return of the family interaction, the Stewarts, the Snyders, and the Hughes. Paul 8.0 is fun to watch, and I love Em and Paul. It’s about time the talented KMH had a storyline. The newbies I could take or leave, but at least the vets are coming out more. However, as bonobochick said, the diversity on this show is lacking. Bonnie is the only non-Caucasion character shown (and I don’t think she has much chemistry with Dusty–they should revisit her and Holden). I’d love to see an African American or Latino or Asian family. They could bring back Tom’s daughter, Lien, and build a family around her. I’d rather see that than Teri (who is completely unnecessary when they have Jade who could serve the same purpose). And they just need to get rid of Meg. She is the most hated character on the show and has turned Damian from a suave, edgy businessman into a whipped dog. Marie Wilson’s painful acting doesn’t help.

    Where the show has really dropped the ball is the Nuke storyline. The show pimped out Forbes March to all the mags prior to his arrival, hinting at a possible love triangle. I, being a Nuke fan, was excited this could breath fresh air into their lackluster storyline. Instead, Forbes has barely been on in only scenes with Noah (Jake S.). Instead of integrating Forbes in with the cast (like Teri and Audrey got in their first few days), Forbes has languished in the shadows (I wouldn’t even offend those on the backburner by calling it the backburner). If they’re going to do a triangle, which could be good soapy fun, then they need to invest some time into the Mason character and Noah and Luke’s relationship, which includes real love scenes and intimacy. It burns me to no end that Nuke get an eskimo kiss now and again while they have turned up the heat for Meg and Damian (puke) and others. This is a popular couple, and quite honestly, I started watching the show because of them (but like other characters). If the writers don’t get with this storyline and decide where they are going and start telling it, the Nuke fans are going to tune out in droves.

  7. Profile photo of Worldturner
    Worldturner

    While the show has had some improvements in character interaction and using the vets a little better, I still think the show has major problems. I think pacing and balance are really problematic. The cast is so bloated with newbies and with only telling 2 stories a day some stories are lucky if they get one day a week. Wasn’t it last Monday that Tom thought Margo was having an affair with Riley and wanted Riley gone. Here it is Wednesday of the following week and we have seen no follow up. And that type of thing is typical.

    Mary Clay Boland states in the latest SOD that ATWT is not bringing on these ABC actors in order to attract ABC viewers and claims it isn’t stunt casting but rather they are all good actors (who all happen to know TPTB.) She says viewers have network loyalty and while a few viewers followed Roger Howarth to ATWT most don’t and the actors have to win over the viewers. That leave me wondering then why so many newbies at once? That’s a tough order to win the fans over when they feel inundated with newbies. So far the only newbies that have won me over are the unknowns Tom Degnen and Evan Alex Cole. I’m unimpressed with the “names” and Lynn Herring to me is like fingernails on a chalkboard and I can’t reach for the remote fast enough when I see her. Her acting is too over the top for my taste. And I hate that it is pushing favorites to the side and not just the vets. Most of the stories now feature the newbies or recent returnees. What happened to our lead actors? I think the show is getting a backlash and trying to justify it but in the end I’m guessing it hurts more than helps. Many of us have a lot of loyalty to actors that have been on the show and more and more they are ignored. Heck even the soap media concentrates on interviewing the newbies, especially the ABC transplants.

  8. Profile photo of daisyclover1938
    daisyclover1938

    Thanks so much for this J Bernard!! I’m so happy to read that ATWT is making improvements. I started watching the show again several months ago, but soon quit. The acting was wonderful of course, but I found the show so…well, dumb. The women were idiots and the men were jerks. Who wants to watch that??

    But you’ve given me hope that the show is on track. I’m going to DVR it today, and I look forward to watching. I just hope it’s not too late to save the show…

    Thanks again!

  9. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    Josstheguy,

    I don’t know if David Kriezman’s work has started airing yet (sometimes a writer’s influence is seen on screen before they actually get screen credit), but when it comes to Kriezman I think he’s a fine dialogue and even breakdown writer. Unfortunately, his skills at long-term storytelling is what failed Guiding Light. It’s possible that Kriezman’s day to day skills might balance out Passanante’s great but often badly executed story ideas. None of this will mean shit if Goutman or Bloom aren’t on board, though.

    Bonobochick and Sudsmuffin,

    I was going to bring up both of your points about Mason (who I don’t think needs to be integrated with a family) and Jade/Derek (where he hell are they?), but there are certain word count limitations here at DC that I’m trying to adhere to. LOL

    Daisyclover,

    ATWT is definitely worth a look, but the structural problems still remain. But I do like the emphasis on families that is coming to the forefront again.

  10. Profile photo of rocki345
    rocki345

    Whats kind of sad is that even if it improved greatly in the coming months , it still wouldn’t matter to CBS because all they care about are ratings. With GL gone in Sept, ATWT will be the lowest rated soap out of them all and if they still have low ratings in the future, CBS will cut the cord regardless of improvement. And that just sucks.

  11. Profile photo of ghaddict
    ghaddict

    Great read J Bernard……

    I agree with everything stated….Yesterday’s episode was great and I’m glad that you acknowledged Marnie Schulenburg’s improvements….I LOVED her yesterday in her scenes with Paul….the looks she gave him were classic….and the Lily/Meg argument was great…..I hope this continues into Maura West’s return because we know what she can do with great material….

  12. Profile photo of Purple Haze
    Purple Haze

    ITA. I had taken ATWT off my DVR for a while because it had become so excruciatingly painful to watch.

    I’m liking the slow introduction of Forbes March. I’m sure this is a very unpopular view, but I hate Luke and Noah together. They have nothing in common other than sexual orientation and age. Mason challenges Noah intellectually whereas Luke is all emotion, and I can see Noah being more comfortable in Mason’s company than he is in Luke’s.

    As far as ratings go, with the exception of Y&R and B&B, the remaining shows have very similar (if low) ratings. It wouldn’t take much to go from 6 or 7 to 3, as I remember ATWT was when Scott Bryce returned. ATWT also had high ratings a few summers ago when it did that summer teen slasher story.

    I am thrilled Alexandra Chandro is returning because I found her to be a very fresh and compelling performer.

    Meg and Lily’s catfight was reminiscent of classic Krystal/Alexis (without the physical stuff). WOW!

  13. Profile photo of Willow99
    Willow99

    Personally I think this show has progressively gone down hill. There are no more story lines and no real good characters with charisma. Does anyone remember that Inturn show? I did not see that this year for auditions or anything on the internet for the 4th season. I thought that boy Michael Derek would have been a good cast on ATWT.The sailor thing was dumb, but he would have been a good cast I thought. At least he had charisma and energy. These characters and plots are all washed up. I am not caring anymore if I miss some episodes on TVO. Whats up with this Chris Goutman and placing these actors for this show?

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