As the World Turns: The Death of Dr. Reid Oliver and Endgames



Before I get to today’s stunning episode of As the World Turns, in which Dr. Reid Oliver dies and donates his heart to his professional nemesis/colleague Dr. Chris Hughes, I have a few thoughts about not only the serial's final days on the air, but also —in a broader sense—fan perceptions about what a soap's last days should be like, themes that will be carried forward as we look toward ATWT's final hours.

First, with less than two weeks to go before its final fade to black, ATWT is ending its 54 year history in perhaps better dramatic shape than almost any serial since the cancellation of NBC's Texas in 1982, a specific observation I will expand upon in a few days. Of course, there is lots to gripe and nitpick about the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s of how the show might have wrapped things up. Many of those ideas are quite good and some are downright ludicrous, but in the final turn of events, all of that stuff is moot. The last scenes were shot, the sets have been struck, and the actors all went along different paths weeks ago.

Is it legitimate to criticize elements of the show as these final episodes air? Certainly. However, in my opinion, some of the gripes I have heard and read reverberating around the internet about how ATWT is ending its run strike me as not only a bit of overkill, but also as a case of not being able to see the long-term forest for the daily, episodic trees.

Take, for example, Barbara’s (the brilliant Colleen Zenk) captivity in the storage room by Iris (fantastic Terri Garber) and interaction with Chuckles the Inanimate Clown. Did that whole arc go on too long? Yes, it did. However, that wasn’t the story. Iris’ shenanigans were only a multi-leveled plot device. The real story was that Barbara needed to be alone and isolated, confronted with the potential loss of a second chance at love with Henry (Trent Dawson, just terrific) and a fresh start at life. She required that time by herself (maybe not so much of it, from our perspective) to confront and lay to rest her biggest inner demons, including the spectre of the greatest emotional thorn in her side, ex-husband James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera). [A side note: I thought Barbara’s hallucination of Stenbeck as a malevolent clown was sheer genius, for reasons that should be apparent to those who are familiar with coulrophobia and the criticisms of Stenbeck many fans have had in recent years.] Babs’ disappearance also was the catalyst to bring multiple interfamilial resolutions among her children Paul (Roger Howarth) and Will (an effortless Jesse Lee Soffer) and their respective spouses, Emily (Kelley Menighan Hensley) and Gwen (Jennifer Landon).

Likewise, I think that the many fans who thought the whole arc with Anthony Blackthorn (Billy Warlock) and Ralph Manzo (Stuart Damon, in a really nice turn) was a waste of time missed a similar point. Were parts of it cheesy? Of course. Nonetheless, that whole, somewhat convoluted, saga was built to accomplish several goals: to bring Jack (Michael Park) and Carly (Maura West) together, at last, as a team working with, instead of against, each other and to release Jack from his guilt over Brad’s death; to resolve the Dusty (Grayson McCouch) and Lucy question, (Sarah Glendening, who was was just great) and finally pair him with Janet (Julie Pinson); and—in a turn that made me holler with delight—to address a few nagging questions about Lucinda’s (a stupendous Elizabeth Hubbard) past as Mary Ellen Walters, which was like catnip to viewers who remember when the truth about her real identity came out years ago, but how bits & pieces of that transformation were left out.

We are not supposed to care about Blackthorn or Manzo or even Iris, for that matter. These plot devices are merely framing devices used to provide resolution and (mostly) happy endings, whose purpose was to move our main characters to a place that otherwise could have taken many more weeks, months or years to accomplish had the show stayed on the air. This line of thought brings us directly to the fates of Chris Hughes and Reid Oliver.

In the case of Chris Hughes (Daniel Cosgrove), I read an editorial in a major soap magazine, which I've seen echoed by a number of fans, that mainly rests on one preposterous premise: that we shouldn’t care about Chris or his (yes) rushed romance with Katie (Teri Colombino) because he is the 11th recast. To that I ask, what kind of frack-a-nackle-bull-ish is that? It is not Cosgrove’s fault he was hired to take over one of the most problematic roles in daytime and, if memory serves, he was hired before the show was canceled. By that reasoning, we shouldn’t care what happens to Tom because Holmes was the 13th recast of that problematic role. No matter how many recasts there have been of Chris, the character is a member of the show’s cornerstone family, the Hugheses. Many fans, as well as soap journalists, are always clamoring that the offspring of core families should be respected and given meaty stories. So now, when it happens (even if it is a ripoff of the "Phillip Spaulding’s Dying" story from Guiding Light), with the effect of thrusting the show’s entire main family into the spotlight, we shouldn’t care? Someone needs an enema.


Comments

Member since:
8 May 2008
Last activity:
6 days 2 hours

Killing of Reid was the dumbest decision Goutman ever made. I am so sick of Luke getting the short end of the stick of romance.

Member since:
4 May 2009
Last activity:
17 hours 53 min

This just reminds me of the last days of GL and how it seemed the writers DID NOT care anymore. Tom and Margo travel from Oakdale, to Bay City, and back in the time it takes for the Hughses to walk out of the hospital room. There is absolutely no attention to the realities of space and time.

Everything is so accelerated. And the performances from the actors, who are trying their hardest, just seem fake and forced because of the emotional gear-grinding from one scene to the next.

wjhboy73's picture
Member since:
29 September 2009
Last activity:
1 year 9 weeks

I'm going to have to disagree..... They've had at least 9 months to pen the endgame and it's starting to feel rushed with 2 weeks left. And I'm sorry, seeing a bunch of people who are not core family members come in and muck up screen time is annoying...... Lily and Holden, Jack and Carly, Bob and Kim, Barbara and Henry, Luke and Reid/ Noah et al should've been front and center in reality based story line leading up to end...... But instead, the vast majority of it has been a bunch of guest stars from other soaps running around WASTING TIME.

I'm quite sure that any and all of their former actors would've been happy to do walk-ons like Julianne Moore, to mark the show going off the air.....

Glad Larry Bryggman could bring John Dixon back for a minute... But where is his and Kim's son, Andy Dixon or Lisa Brown's Iva Snyder? These are characters long time viewers want to see one last time....

baycity's picture
Member since:
24 May 2010
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3 years 3 weeks

JBJ, I appreciate that you took the time to write a thought-provoking and well-written piece about our beloved ATWT. However, I most strongly disagree with your take on the wrapping up of this show.

1. The moment news of the cancellation dropped, all the
new-ish characters should have begun taking a backseat to the core families, legacy characters, and established players on the show. Instead, Janet who is OK in small doses became an omni-present force on the show, whining and meatballing her annoying peevishness across our screens. The fact that we were forced to endure those two goombahs (Uncle Ralph and Blackie) because of her just made her all the more intolerable.

2. The way to provide resolution for Barbara, to my mind, was for her to have recurrent hallucinations of James, leading to a health scare (a recurrence of her brain tumor, perhaps, which turns out to be benign). This could have helped to re-unite her family and bring about her union with Henry as much as that awful kidnapping story did. Kim, being Barbara’s aunt, could also have played a major role in such a storyline.

3. Nancy’s death alone should have been enough to bring the Hughes to the forefront, instead of that rushed and badly-done heart storyline that Chris was featured in.

I could go on and on, but I think some of my fellow fans have said what I'm trying to say far more eloquently than I ever could, especially on the Luke/Reid ending which was simply inexcusable. Again, I respect your views. But I just don’t agree with them.

Member since:
7 June 2008
Last activity:
3 years 32 weeks

As I've said before, I've only just returned to ATWT since Julie Pinson came to the show. That said, however, I had developed quite a liking for some of its characters. I used to watch this show with my Mom when it was live at 15-minute intervals; that was when story-telling was at its finest.

I do remember the days when Lisa would wreck havoc about town. The storylines involving the Hughes family were real. Today, it's so much junk, it's sad. It was sad that Helen Wagner did not get to see the end of a wonderful show; but, she was part of history--that I think we can all agree. I don't know abou recasts, stupid storylines (well, maybe I do know about those!), ridiculous plots, etc.; but it breaks my heart that yet another soap will bite the dust in a few days. I thought my heart would truly break with Search for Tomorrow ended its reign. Well, here I go again--ATWT follows...

I did not care for the way Reid was sacrificed (that is the way I thought of his demise). While I do not like gay storylines, I did so enjoy Eric's character. I felt he and Luke had a great future ahead--guess TPTB didn't see it that way. At least Janet will be with Dusty, right...?

Member since:
7 June 2008
Last activity:
3 years 32 weeks

baycity wrote:
JBJ, I appreciate that you took the time to write a thought-provoking and well-written piece about our beloved ATWT. However, I most strongly disagree with your take on the wrapping up of this show.

3. Nancy’s death alone should have been enough to bring the Hughes to the forefront, instead of that rushed and badly-done heart storyline that Chris was featured in.

I could go on and on, but I think some of my fellow fans have said what I'm trying to say far more eloquently than I ever could, especially on the Luke/Reid ending which was simply inexcusable. Again, I respect your views. But I just don’t agree with them.

I must disagree with your take on Janet. It saddens me that you feel this way about such a talented actress. The truly sad part was that Julie was given cereal for a storyline when she should have been fed filet mignon on which to dine. I especially resent that she was placed in the middle of the Jack/Carly mess I have yet to feel the appeal of these two. On the occasions when I had tuned in to the show over the past years, I just could not muster any sort of feelings for them as a couple.

craigcp's picture
Member since:
6 May 2009
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1 year 38 weeks

Hughes family have been with the show from the beginning, and centered around; other soaps of dropped families; they have kept their vets on the front burner, the long time fans, and the ones that left need to have something, at least they brought John back. They tried to have everyone have a story. They can't have flash backs with Lily and Holden, since they couldn't bring back Martha. We got to have something.

Member since:
8 September 2010
Last activity:
3 years 32 weeks

I created an account in order to applaud Chip88's comment!! Bravo!! You are fabulous. I couldn't say it better or half as well.

On a side note, if it weren't for conservative America or conservative CBS or conservative Procter & Gamble, we wouldn't have seen the build-up of such a wonderful love story as we witnessed with Luke and Reid. It wasn't rushed or superficial. Eric and Van rocked their entire storyline from beginning to the end of the love affair yesterday. And I know Van will rock it until the end.

baycity's picture
Member since:
24 May 2010
Last activity:
3 years 3 weeks

I must disagree with your take on Janet. It saddens me that you feel this way about such a talented actress. [/quote]

In no way do my words reflect my opinion of Julie Pinson as an actress. I liked her character on Port Charles and adored her on Days, defending her even when Lisa Rinna fans refused to accept her as Billie. I just feel that she was not used right on ATWT.

thecourt99's picture
Member since:
30 April 2009
Last activity:
1 hour 10 min

I have to disagree with you on this one J Bernard.

- My issue with the Chris Hughes story wasn't about the recast, but it was about an insta-romance with Katie that turned into everlasting love over night. Because he is a legacy character, I wouldn't have minded him having an illness, but what I did mind was that I was supposed to care about their relationship in a matter of minutes. That took me out of the story. I would have loved if it were more about Chris' relationship with Tom...instead of Katie.
- I understand that Iris and the others were plot devices. My issue is that at this stage, I don't believe that Babs needed another plot device to finally get rid of her demons and have a life with Henry. She could have experienced that same loss if Henry had stayed married to Vienna just a little while...before finding out the truth. Will and Gwen could have come to town to comfort her and those same dynamics would have existed.
- Same for Jack and Carly. They don't need a third party to learn to work together. The writers could have gone the Holden/Lily route and have something go wrong with JJ. They can work together to save him and by saving him, Jack will resolve his loss issues with Brad and also learn that life goes on.
- LuRe v Nuke was another interesting one. Nuke was a storyline that limpingly lingered for years and LuRe was a refreshing change. I would have preferred that LuRe was the endgame to show Luke's growth and confidence in himself..but that is only my personal preference.

To me, there was an extreme overuse of plot devices in the last days that weren't necessary. Since these were usually new characters, precious time had to be spent introducing them and building the story..and we are left with an all to brief payoff.

Its too late now, but it did ruin my enjoyment of the last days of a great show since so much of it was focused elsewhere.

DanMan869's picture
Member since:
15 December 2008
Last activity:
5 days 2 hours

For the record, "As The World Turns" was never a 15-minute program. It was a 30-minute program from the beginning--and was ground-breaking in that it (and "Edge Of Night", premiering on the same day) was one of the first 30-minute soap operas--unlike several (on CBS, anyway) that were 15 minutes up until September 1968. (Such as "Search for Tomorrow" and "Guiding Light".)

As a lover of daytime drama, I appreciate the great sentiment shown for ATWT during its' last days, but when someone claims (and not just here at DC.com) that they've watched it "since it was a 15-minute show", their memories and opinions of the show begin to seem a little less intriguing to me.

While I respect JBJ's opinions in the original article, I think commenter Chip88 certainly had some great opinions as well.

capwell's picture
Member since:
26 July 2010
Last activity:
3 years 4 weeks

Wow! It’s nice to see an ATWT post getting almost as much attention as a post about GH (a truly over-rated show IMO).

Baycity and Chip88, I think you both had expectations that were just impossible to meet. This is only my opinion, but I feel that no matter how the show ended, most fans would have been unhappy. We just don’t want to let go.

dqh257's picture
Member since:
20 May 2009
Last activity:
10 weeks 5 days

There is absolutely no good way to end a soap.

Member since:
7 December 2009
Last activity:
1 day 18 hours

WOW....so much whining Sad and I don't really see the point. Best to just ride it out. Certainly, folks didn't expect the show to suddenly start churning out "top-notch" quality stuff?

JBJ, this was a brilliant piece which ITA with. Nice one mate Smile

Member since:
26 February 2009
Last activity:
1 year 35 weeks

craigcp wrote:
Hughes family have been with the show from the beginning, and centered around; other soaps of dropped families; they have kept their vets on the front burner, the long time fans, and the ones that left need to have something, at least they brought John back. They tried to have everyone have a story. They can't have flash backs with Lily and Holden, since they couldn't bring back Martha. We got to have something.

They kept their vets around but I didn't see these front burner stories. Most of them have barely had anything to do until the last year. Even now, Lisa has nothing to do, while Katie is on 24/7.

They could have brought many others back too. I think they were reluctant to bring in characters they hadn't created.

capwell's picture
Member since:
26 July 2010
Last activity:
3 years 4 weeks

craigcp wrote:They can't have flash backs with Lily and Holden....

They most certainly could have! It's just that the writers and producers underestimate viewers' intelligence so much that they don't think we will understand what we're seeing when an actor or actress in a flashback is different from the person currently playing the role. That's why we don't see flashbacks in those cases. Personally, I feel robbed of my memories when that happens.

I would have loved to have seen flashback scenes of both Martha Byrne and Heather Rattray as Lily. As a matter of fact, it would have been a stroke of genius for TPTB to show flashbacks of the different Pauls, Craigs, Emilies, Toms, Margoes, Alisons, and Chris. Had they done this, there would have been no need for storylines which proved so unpopular in the last few months.

Member since:
13 September 2010
Last activity:
18 weeks 2 days

I had waited to comment on the episode because I had it recorded and just watched it this weekend.
Let me just say that I have just recently within the past 1- 1 1/2 years, started watching ATWT on a regular basis. I had tuned into it a few times over the years, and read about it in soap mags, enough to know who Carly/Jack, and Holden/Lily were. But about 1 1/2 years ago I started watching it regularly and its one of my favorite soaps. Now, I watch ALMOST every soap on air, with the exception of DOOL and OLTL. I like OLTL and vaguely keep up with it, but not enough time to watch that one too. But I do watch B&B, Y&R, AMC and GH as well as ATWT. I must say, when comparing soaps, I don't undersand why ATWT is being canceled as it is much better material then many of the other soaps on air right now. The past week of ATWT has been FANTASTIC and has reminded me of what an actual SOAP OPERA used to be and SHOULD BE like. It is character driven, emotional, and revolves around family. Watching last week's episodes reminded me of the old days of soaps where family, love, emotions and everyday life ruled the airways instead of gun fights, obsessed lovers and explosive budget breaking chase scenes. J. Bernard put it wonderfully when he explained how the storylines of Manzo, and Barbara's entrapment weren't so much stories in themselves, but plot devices to bring closure to many other storylines. I hadn't realized that before reading his article but after reading, I understood perfectly. There is no way to end a soap opera with this history, that has been on the air this long, and please EVERY fan. Its impossible. I think ATWT has done a WONDERFUL job of tying up the stories, and ending on a good note and showing us all what a TRUE SOAP OPERA should be like. Seeing the writing, acting and emotions in these last episodes make me question why its going off the air at all.

That being said, there are only a few storylines that I feel could've been given a stronger ending, but I may still get closure in this last week. I really feel that more should have been done with Lily/Holden. I KNOW that many are not invested in them as a couple b/c alot of people don't like the Lily recast. I, having just become a regular viewer in the past 1 1/2 years, really like the new Lily. I remember her from Loving, and I like her. So, I think that the Lily/Holden love story that has endured for years, should've been given more of a wrap up. I'm THRILLED with the Jack/Carly marriage and him finally accepting her as a full/equal partner but I think Lily/Holden should've gotten the same closure. I would'nt have even minded a Lily/Craig pairing but do SOMETHING with her please! At the point we are at now, with just a week left, whatever they do with her will seem rushed.

That would be my only gripe so far about the end of ATWT. Otherwise, I think everything has played out pretty well. I wasn't happy about Reid's death b/c I was really starting to like him with Noah, but I understand why the writers did it. Reid finally found love, and finally started to be able to open up and care for others. Then he did the most selfless thing another person can do. He gave his life to save someone else. I personally feel that he did it for Katie and Jacob b/c he loved them like they were his own family. And he knew Katie couldn't lose Chris and go through what she went through with Brad. Luke was able to experience love with someone other than Noah, a more grown up type of relationship. The only other way I could've seen this playing out was if Noah had been the one to die and give his heart to Chris. That would've given Luke his closure with Noah and the ability to fully move on with Reid. But, I don't think the story would've been as good that way. I think that the writers drew us to Reid, and made us love him and the way he had grown and evolved, and then for him to die right when we started to love him, and right when he started to love others, it made the story all that more poignant.