As the World Turns: Finally Getting It Together
ATWT's continuing long voyage back isn't isolated to these aforementioned stories. Carly's (Maura West) depature to rehab has provided grist for the mill of the extended complications among the blended Snyder/Ciccone/Tenney-Cabot clans. The sudden, highly coincidental arrival of Janet's (Julie Pinson, giving her all) sister Teri (wonderful new addition Vanessa Ray) further grounds both Janet and Liberty (Meredith Hagner), while providing more friction between her & Jack (Michael Park). In a few short episodes, the debut of Lynn Herring's conniving Audrey has carried more weight than the two months it took to introduce and unmask her son Henry's (Trent Dawson) sister as a serial killer.
(A note about Audrey/Herring: while some fans have noted what they see as little difference between Audrey and General Hospital's Lucy Coe, I don't see this as a bad thing. If the show's plan was to get GH's fans to sample ATWT, then it only makes sense to cast an accomplished character actress like Herring for a role suited to her talents and acting style. She has risen to the challenge admirably, infusing her lines with so much subtext that I consider any comparisons between Audrey & Lucy moot.)
Finally, no less than the venerable but long-neglected Hughes family is bubbling again. Kim (Kathryn Hays) is embroiled in Oakdale Now hijinks. There is something new (or old) going on with Bob's (Don Hastings) health. The Riley/Adam storyline has moved away from its initial plastic surgery-switch setup to be more about a mother's desperation to keep her believed-to-be-dead son with her, the grudging rebuilding of the relationship between estranged brothers, and the suspense of what will happen when the truth comes out. Will Riley/Adam (Tom Degnan) go to jail for his past crimes? Will Alison forgive Casey (Billy Magnussen) for not telling him the truth? What will be Tom's (the awesome Scott Holmes) reaction when he learns of Margo's (the brilliant Ellen Dolan) staggering number of lies?
In addiiton, there have been an unusually strong number of scripts over the last several weeks. Attention is being paid to the show's history. Dialogue is sharper, more focused and sometimes cuts to the quick. Even some of the studio sets seem to have been enlarged in subtle ways that make the actual viewing experience easier on the eyes.
In terms of story, there is a common thread: ATWT has used a number of narrative shortcuts, hoary soap cliches, and outrageous plot twists to build and rebuild the show's families and focus on their relationships. I normally would heavily criticize this decision, but in many ways I don't believe ATWT had any choice. With ratings actually at, and sometimes below those of P&G sister soap Guiding Light at the time of its cancellation, and with comments as recently as a few days ago by CBS' Nina Tassler foreshadowing possibly the same fate for ATWT in the not too distant future, sometimes a show has to do what a show has to do to get its proverbial shit together. If that means scrambled eggs, heretofore unhinted at brain implants, a bout of amnesia, and a little back-from-the-dead action in order to jumpstart what is really important in terms of family, history and getting to the roots of classic ATWT storytelling, then I'm on board as long as the stunts are kept to a minimum and the momentum continues toward human drama.
ATWT is still far, far from perfect. The show needs to figure which Rosanna they want instead of the one who they straddled in the middle between Cady McClain's more glamorous business mogul under Hogan Sheffer's regime or Yvonne Perry's more down to earth version that first showed up at Emma's doorstep. The compressed storytelling and semi-episodic structure, while easing up, still crams too much story into thirty-eight minutes without letting the tales breathe over several shows or allow more natural beats play out. Luke & Noah (Jake Silbermann) barely get to smooch but Emily & Paul and Damian & Meg get to writhe all nekkid and nasty on couches. Most perplexing, the show's best secret weapon not named Maura West — Ms. Zenk Pinter — languishes on backburner hell.
For all of these very legitimate complaints and a few others, As the World Turns nonetheless is making positive changes. Given its precarious chances for survival and the state of daytime as a whole, they could not be changing direction literally one minute too soon.