As the World Turns: Countdown to the Finale



Wednesday, June 23, 2010 was the last production day for As the World Turns.

There seems to be no more appropriate time to begin the 54-year-old series’ final reviews before the globe stops spinning on September 17.

This first entry in that effort actually is an overview of where I, as a reviewer & fan, see ATWT’s standing first and foremost as a soap opera. The politics, recriminations, ratings analysis, and the business decisions leading to its demise are not my primary concern. Instead, I want to focus on the trials and shenanigans of Oakdale because, in my opinion, this venerable daytime serial — which once held the slot as the number one daytime drama for 20 years! — deserves no less.

To that end, let me answer an unasked question right off the bat about where I stand. If you happen to follow my (almost) daily live postings about ATWT on Twitter, you know that I am quite merciless with my absurdist commentary. This may leave the impression that I do not like the show or think it is silly. Nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to love ATWT right now. Almost everyday there are several elements that make me smile with delight, not derision. This is not wishful thinking or the blinders of nostalgia talking. Like any soap opera, there are some things about ATWT that leave a lot to be desired and, in spots, are even downright awful. However, in my opinion, As the World Turns is in overall good shape with its stories, characters and narrative in its twilight.

Let’s start with ATWT’s final “big” story, The Saga of Gabriel Caras. From comments I’ve read hither and yonder, the tale of Craig’s long lost son has taken up too much airtime and somehow violates “history.”

I disagree. ATWT has a deep tradition of secret, unknown "history violating" children and the Gabriel Caras saga is the final major, old fashioned umbrella story to mix up a large number of characters in a propulsive (final) arc. To that end, it also appears to be an homage to one of the legendary Douglas Marland’s own final ATWT stories:

Almost twenty years ago, Lisa (Elieen Fulton) met her then-grown son, Scott Eldridge (Joseph Breen), who was conceived, born and denied at birth. Marland reached into part of Lisa’s offscreen past during the period between the cancellation of Eileen Fulton’s failed prime time 1965 ATWT spinoff, Our Private World, and Fulton’s return to ATWT. In the pre-internet era, viewers at first clamored in letters to soap magazines that the math didn’t add up and it made a mockery of “establised” history. At the end of the day, however, Scott Eldridge was one of Marland’s final achievements, which galvanized a large chunk of the cast by “bending” history to tell a story rooted less in plot than in character. Though told with less finesse, in the Gabriel story we see a final classic Marland-style tale play out.

Like Scott, Gabriel (newcomer Ben Levin) is appropriately surly and ultimately vulnerable navigating his place in the world. Lucinda (Elizabeth Hubbard, who has been dazzling) has been completely reignited, back to the fearless, snarky, manipulative, hyper-meddling, checkbook gangster roots that made her one of the most unique, powerful female characters in all of daytime. Lily (Noelle Beck) is also back to her roots, misplacing her energies while pining for an unavailable Holden (Jon Hensley). Craig (Jon Lindstrom) is a synthesis of all the character’s incarnations through the years: schemer, penitent father, paranoid, irascible brother, borderline sociopath, blackmailer, and desperate for love. In some ways, Gabriel is a younger version of Paul (Roger Howarth), torn between the promise of romance with Liberty (Sarah Wilson) and following in the footsteps of his father’s dastardly DNA. Even eternal schemer Carly (Maura West) & stand-up cop Jack (Michael Park) have been provided one last blast of conflict that has been less about the plot mechanics of Parker’s (Mick Hazen) near incarceration as opposed to their finally coming to grips with the meaning of “true north” in terms of their family.

Whatever the deficiencies that may legitimately exist in plot in the Gabriel story, or some of the others, the emphasis by ATWT’s final writing team seems to be about who and what Oakdale's denizens love and value most. As September 17th draws near, I’m perfectly fine with that.

Daytime Confidential’s Nakeeta Borden has already posted a must-read entry about Why ATWT’s Ruke Rocks, a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Couple this with the well-deserved Emmy wins this past Sunday for West (Oustanding Actress), Park (Outstanding Actor) and Julie Pinson (Outstanding Supporting Actress as Janet) and the fact that ATWT is the last of Proctor & Gamble's daytime dramas, it will be bittersweet as a 25-plus year viewer to reflect on the World’s final turn. 

A Correction: In an earlier version of this piece, I mistakenly referred to Joseph Breen as deceased. Mr. Breen is, in fact, very much alive. I was thinking of the late, great Terry Lester, who played Royce Keller on ATWT from 1993-1994 and passed away in 2003. Lester and Breen's respective characters were heavily involved one of ATWT's stories at the time. My apologies to Mr. Breen and his family.


Comments

craigcp's picture
Member since:
6 May 2009
Last activity:
1 year 37 weeks

Thank for the trip down memory lane It's the years of recasting, downsizing and dumbzing that was it's down fall. I've been watching old clips on youtube, seems like a totally different soap; just when ATWT made some improvements, they went down hill with the chip in the head storyline with Mick and the rip off Ghost storyline of Brad. They slowly pissed away fans. I'm liking now, just hope they give the fans what they want. They did to me with James Steinbeck and John Dixon coming back.

inspiron's picture
Member since:
21 February 2009
Last activity:
41 weeks 4 days

I was blown away this week by ATWT. The farewell to Meg episode was incredibly sad and heartbreaking and I didn't even like her. RH and KMH were knockouts in this story.

alstonboy4315's picture
Member since:
12 February 2010
Last activity:
6 weeks 2 days

Quoting Florida Evans:

"Damn, damn, damn.................."

I don't want it to be over with!!!!!!!!!! Gosh, I wish there would be an 11:50 reprieve.

Soap_Stud's picture
Member since:
28 November 2008
Last activity:
4 weeks 34 min

ATWT will be missed. I have watched it faithfully since the demise of AW in 1999. I always enjoyed the P&G soaps because they seemed to have the stronger actors. It is sad to know there won't be any more P&G soaps. So many insanely talented actors out of work- I mean Victoria Wyndham (ex-Rachel, AW) hasn't worked in daytime since 1999...that seems SO crazy.

ATWT has given me endless hours of entertainment. My highlights as a fan include discovering the amazing Colleen Zink Pinter, Molly/Jake's romance, Emily shooting Paul, and Martha Byrne in a dual role. I will forever be a fan of Jack & Carly...and wish the world could continue to turn so we could watch Mick Hazen grow into a solid actor..he has so much potential.

Soap_Stud's picture
Member since:
28 November 2008
Last activity:
4 weeks 34 min

Do you know who is just amazing on ATWT? Kathleen Widdoes!

Soap_Stud's picture
Member since:
28 November 2008
Last activity:
4 weeks 34 min

I think the producers and writers (and some less than talented actors) did GL in, but with ATWT, I get the feeling no matter what stories were told (And the Mick one was horrible), CBS would have canned it. They don't like working with P&G anymore.

CGat's picture
Member since:
23 July 2008
Last activity:
43 weeks 5 days

Oh lord, i'm starting to tear up. P&G Soaps have always been special to me, and they have always felt like home. No matter what soap i watch, I have always been a true resident of Oakdale and Springfield at heart. The P&G soaps seem so much more personal, and the characters on them are so much more defined and rooted into their shows than the rest of the soaps. They balanced all these characters that were all so different and powerful in their own aspects, and knew exactly how to mingle them together to tell a story. They offered so much variety, and just made characters that you felt like you were close too, not just actors on a screen. No other soap can create characters like those in Springfield and Oakdale. When September 17th rolls around, the other piece of my heart will be gone with the first half that left me on Septemer 18th, 2009. I never would havr thought that this is what it would come down to on that one day I turned on the t.v. afterschool to discover the world of ATWT & GL. My oh my. And thanks JBJ, for always caring so much and giving us so much review and detail to these wonderful legacy shows. My heart saddens as I think about it ending : (

Member since:
2 October 2009
Last activity:
10 weeks 1 day

J Bernard,

You referred to him as the late Joseph Breen. When did he pass away? I know that he was diagnosed as HIV+ at the time he appeared on ATWT & Loving. Thanks!

J Bernard Jones's picture
Member since:
9 September 2008
Last activity:
1 hour 33 min

 Greebeb2,

Thanks for catching the error on my part. I have amended the piece and added a correction.

Member since:
8 April 2010
Last activity:
3 years 13 weeks

(I posted this on another thread, but I feel so sick at heart about this whole thing that I just have to repeat myself. I hope whoever has read it there will forgive me for being repetitive.)

I completely understand why Guiding Light had to go. There really was no more story to tell or interest in the show after people like Ellen Wheeler had completely ruined it. But I think ATWT has once again become one of the top shows when it comes to good storytelling, sparkling dialogue, and great performances.

At one point there were EIGHTEEN soap operas on the air at the same time. Each had something for everyone. Now we're left with soaps that rehash and sometimes outright steal storyline ideas from each other. I'll never care about any websoap the way I cared about my stories on TV. Once they're gone, I'll be catching up on my reading.

alstonboy4315's picture
Member since:
12 February 2010
Last activity:
6 weeks 2 days

Kcgeban-

I agree wholeheartedly with your post.

As far as writers getting brain freezes or writer's block, I think there is ALWAYS story left to tell for ANY and ALL characters on ALL soap operas, even when the writers try to pretend that their wells are dry. Whenever writers fallback on the whole "We have no more storyline to tell" excuse, I always find it to be a copout. Laughable and ridiculous. Writers get paid MILLIONS of dollars a year to come up with storyline ideas. Hell, if they do run out of inspiration, why not go on some of these websites and steal ideas from the many hundreds and thousands of bloggers on here who CONSTANTLY come up with ingenious story ideas?? If they did that and used them on the shows, who would know?? Well, we'd know, but as long as they are giving the audience what they want to see, what would be the harm???

Any writer who can't come up with story for it's characters doesn't deserve the title, as far as I'm concerned. But then again, as Agnes Nixon said..."A lot of people in this industry THINK they're writers, and they're not."

And as far as the actors involved in stories, more often than I can count in the past, good stories have been ruined by crappy actors. That's why God invented casting directors. And if the casting directors are crappy, fire them and start from scratch!! LOL!!!

I refuse to believe that there is a SINGLE character or show that can not be changed or revitalized for the better, granted that the right writers and producers are at the wheel to institute that change.

As you eloquently stated, Kcgeban, GL seemed to be lacking in both areas, but I also believed that if they'd had more knowledgeable and creative people behind the scenes, and if P&G wasn't hellbent on kicking it's soaps to the curve, it could have been saved.

dellygrim's picture
Member since:
25 August 2008
Last activity:
4 weeks 5 days

Thanks JBJ. I agree that ATWT is in good shape especially for a soap in it's twilight. The first soap I watched that was canceled was Santa Barbara and there have been too many since then.
But ATWT is so much easier to watch the tail end of than the others.
I'm mainly drawn in by Reid/Luke and Barbara. I've always loved Barbara and even by loose association she has made Chris/Katie, Casey/Alison and of course Henry/Vienna far more interesting.
I'm enjoying ATWT more than I have in at least a couple of years. I'm even optimistic that they are going to get the upcoming character returns done right.

Parrothead's picture
Member since:
11 January 2010
Last activity:
2 weeks 1 day

The problem is they recycle writers. A writer will work on a show & they'll have writer's block, so they leave & go to another show & use the same storyline there, then leave there & go to another show..........
I've been reading alot of fanfics that are written way better than some of the storylines that are being written. I hope they'll stop reusing writers that bring down the shows & hire writers that can actually write without recycling plots from their show or another show.

Bob's picture
Member since:
22 April 2008
Last activity:
10 weeks 3 days

This sentence:

"Almost twenty years ago, Lisa (Elieen Fulton) met her then-grown son, Scott Eldridge (Joseph Breen), who was conceived, born and denied at birth."

...is so confusing to me. How could Scott have been conceived at birth? I get how he was born at birth (although that too is strange to me). I understand that he was denied at birth (I don't quite remember why Lisa denied him at birth and continued to deny him). However, I just can't wrap my brain around how he could possibly have been conceived at birth...

harlee490's picture
Member since:
6 December 2009
Last activity:
1 day 5 hours

Thanks for such wonderful and thoughtful article JBJ. I have read the other posts and couple of them seemed to come to ATWT when AW (Irna's spin-off of ATWT, CBS passed NBC got it) was cancelled and so glad they got to see how special ATWT really is when it came aboard. ATWT was P&G's "crown jewel" for many years and out of all the P&G's soaps it was Irna's "true north". Personally, mine was GL, I came to AW late in the mid-nineties and watched to the bitter end. Like many others that are P&G babies and always enjoyed their soaps more then any other soaps on the air. P&G had a formula for all their soaps and had their own unique writing style. It was rather easy to figure out characters on P&G's soaps if you started watching one of their soaps. They always had the rich and powerful, schemers, and a tradition of "blue collar" working families, which lacks in all the soaps today. All the soaps today everyone is rich or not having any type of "real" economic problems. P&G is unique in that way, just a few years ago they did story on ATWT about Emma losing the farm because of money problems. This is were I always related to P&G's soaps, you had the Walshes-Snyders, Spaldings-Coopers-Readons, Corys-Frames, then you had the middle class sections Hugehes-Stewarts, Bauers-Lewises, Matthews-Hudsons (John). Irna always wanted the working class families on canvas showing midwest roots, which is where I live and is why my mom, grandmother loved P&G soaps. They were based more so in reality based character driven storylines...the trials and tribulations of family, lovers, friendships, work relationships...the key was about evolving "relationships". P&G's soaps had wonderful muti-generational story telling. They were not always perfect and P&G made horrible mistakes trying to storylines of sci-fi, plot driven stories which was dominating in the 90's and that isn't what they do best or even know how to do that type of stories, they lost their way and they lost their audience. Now that the Mick Dante is over, since Feburary ATWT's went back to what they do best good family story telling and I would like to thank CG, JP, even DK for structuring and weaving us long time viewers, (me since the 1970s) what we grew up with is traditional high quality soap writing and giving ATWT the chance to show what they do right with more character stories for their vets to shine like a mother fu*k*rs!! I been catching up on my AW from the early 90s, never these episodes and enjoying the HELL of out it, Lucas just died! I am waiting of the next week's episodes! Now, being patience because P&G will add GL, and ATWT to Hulu, TeleNext Channel because they are getting eyeballs with AW, or it would been dropped already and I been checking in since they added to internet and that has been 2 years ago...just hope the episodes for GL and ATWT is from the glorious late 1970s or 1980s!!! Innocent

Member since:
25 May 2010
Last activity:
2 years 45 weeks

Excellent analysis and so well written, JB!  As a fan, it is important to constructively criticize as well as congratulate, so I totally understand how ATWT can send you ranting to the Twitterverse! 

The stories of Mick Dante, the poisoned necklaces, and the microchip in Paul's head were dreadful, no doubt.  For these last few months, though, ATWT has returned to it's character-centered roots, though, and that deserves kudos.  I love, lurve, lub Emily and Paul.  As with Ruke, Paul is no longer the perpetual beast to Meg's Beauty, but being loved by someone who knows his faults and doesn't ask him to change.  They're co-conspirators and partners, and each recognizes that little yarn of crazy in the other .  Kim's cabaret was touching. I'm on the edge wondering if CarJack will ever reconcile their moral codes.  I'm actually glad that Lily and Holden are busted up, while hoping Katie and Chris and Ali and Casey hook up.  They've done great with bringing Barbara back to the forefront, too.  This is what I like to see - too bad the world will stop turning in September despite this eleventh hour turn-around.

J Bernard Jones's picture
Member since:
9 September 2008
Last activity:
1 hour 33 min

How could Scott have been conceived at birth? I get how he was born at birth (although that too is strange to me). I understand that he was denied at birth (I don't quite remember why Lisa denied him at birth and continued to deny him). However, I just can't wrap my brain around how he could possibly have been conceived at birth...

Let me put your grammatically and syntax troubled mind at ease:

Scott's conception, birth, and Lisa's having accepted a huge amount of money from her disapproving in-laws to give her child up and leave said child behind to return to Oakdale only to immediately take up with another man without ever mentioning anything about it, even after the death of Lisa's other son Chuckie (who was conceived and born not too long after the later revealed events surrounding Scott's birth) all occurred within a time frame that some fans at that the time of the Scott reveal felt could not have possibly happened a) within the time frame of said events of Scott's birth (and given the circumstances of Chuckie's conception, life and eventual death) and b) violated history as the events of Scott's birth were neither shown nor referenced on Our Private World or As the World Turns prior to the Scott reveal.

(I know, I know: huge, obese run on sentence, seemingly repeated information, a couple of dangling participles and misplaced modifiers. I may — but very likely won't — address them later.)


The events of Scott's birth are intertwined in terms of plot, but did not have to play out as they did. Scott could have been conceived via Lisa's affair with John Eldridge, but Lisa could have miscarried. Scott could have died at birth (or shortly thereafter) or Lisa could have been told Scott had died at birth or Lisa not realized she'd given birth at all (of which precedent exists not only in daytime in general, but also on As the World Turns itself - see the circumstances involving the birth of Frannie and Sabrina Hughes). Lisa could not have accepted the Eldridge money and/or still claimed her son instead of leaving him behind.

So why did I not say (a version) of all that in the first place to avoid confusion? Why the sentence "Almost twenty years ago, Lisa (Elieen Fulton) met her then-grown son, Scott Eldridge (Joseph Breen), who was conceived, born and denied at birth", although it violated the laws proper grammar and quantum physics? The reason is that in most formal stories & postings here at DC, we have word count limits, as do many other websites, information outlets and the like.

I had to impart the barest of basics of an entire storyline that aired two decades ago spanning two shows that themselves aired briefly concurrently with some twenty-odd years between the cancellation of one (Our Private World) and the continuation of the other (ATWT) at the time of a huge reveal....AND connect the circumstances of that storyline to a currently airing story close to twenty years later to a readership that mostly doesn't know or remember the precedent cited storyline, much less the spinoff show from which it was spawned, though never aired. That sentence is the way I chose to accomplish that task to underscore the connection between the criticism of fans then and now versus the basic similarities between the Scott Eldrige and Gabriel Caras stories, respectively.

I hope that clears up your confusion over and/or your agitation with my manslaughter of the English language, as well as my domestic violence against the proper rules of grammar and syntax. Unfortunately, I will continue to do so for some time to come as I have been committing such crimes since almost around the time Scott Eldridge was conceived, born and denied at birth.

Ryan-Scott's picture
Member since:
4 May 2009
Last activity:
15 hours 18 min

Wonderful article. Thank you.

And yes...I remember Scott Eldridge too....Joseph Breen and Mary Kay Adams (Neal) sizzled together.

damn...damn....damn......you got that right AlstonBoy....Florida knew what she was talking about.

cheryl85's picture
Member since:
22 October 2009
Last activity:
43 weeks 6 days

This will be sad on two fronts for me. My late mother was a fan of this show. She passed when in 1994. CBS soaps were the first soaps I was introduced before watching any other soap. I haven't really watched much of this show since 1997 to be honest. The second reason why this will be sad is because it will be my mother's birthday.

alstonboy4315's picture
Member since:
12 February 2010
Last activity:
6 weeks 2 days

Ryan Scott- Smile Smile Smile Smile