There are now less than 120 episodes of AS THE WORLD TURNS to go before the show leaves the airwaves in September (to be replaced by yet another rehashed "classic" game show). This past week fans saw the schizophrenic WORLD that has made the show difficult to watch every day the past few years. On Monday, fans were treated to the conclusion of the Bob and Kim anniversary "story" as they got legally married surrounded by family, friends, and Bob's ex-wife and ex-lover. Julianne Moore even made a brief cameo. Monday felt like old school AS THE WORLD TURNS, albeit a scaled down version of it. Then we saw the previews for Tuesday.
Tuesday was full of Dusty, Rocco (who?), the new actress playing Liberty, Gabriel (who?), Parker, Ellis (who?), along with Carly, Jack and Craig. Whereas Monday featured actors that had been on the show for decades, including six for more than 30 years, Tuesday featured only a few actors that have been on the show more than a couple of years, and many only a matter of weeks. One day felt like AS THE WORLD TURNS. The next day felt like Jack and Carly living in a strange town.
This is not to say that some of these new faces are not wonderful actors. Eric Sheffer Stevens is a revelation as Dr. Reid Oliver, the most complex gay character ever written on daytime soaps (that we will not get to see actually develop). Ben Levin is a really terrific young actor playing Gabriel, who will likely turn out to be Craig's long, lost son. Sarah Wilson has great potential as Liberty. But really, if you are wrapping up AS THE WORLD TURNS, a show that has been on the air for 54 years, are new Liberty, Gabriel and Rocco characters that need to be included?
There are a number of factors that may preclude fans from getting the ending they want for their Oakdale favorites:
1. Some actors do not want to return. Unfortunately for fans, the show has not treated some of its beloved actors well over the years and those actors do not want to come back. While that's a sad thing for viewers, the writers can at least mention those characters and give fans a resolution for their lives (like recently mentioning Sabrina was working in Haiti).
2. There is no sense of community in Oakdale. We have small pockets of "community" like at Bob and Kim's wedding, but that was only a handful of characters. What is Bob and Kim's relationship with Jack and Carly right now? Lisa and Emma? Dusty and Tom? Whereas GUIDING LIGHT's Springfield established the relationships between all the main characters, ATWT has ignored this for years. I was trying think of a wedding that would bring the whole town together and there really isn't oone. Chris and Katie may be the best option for that.
3. Must-have returns may not happen. We Love Soaps readers have been very vocal about wanting the returns of Larry Bryggman's John Dixon, Martha Byrne's Lily Snyder and Patricia Bruder's Ellen Stewart, among others. John Dixon is my personal all-time favorite ATWT character and I want a resolution for his character (see above), but I have to say that Martha Byrne's return as Lily is the most critical to show's ending. Without Byrne, the eventual reunion between Lily and Holden will be rendered meaningless for me. Any final scenes between Lily and Lucinda won't have any weight to them. Since Lily is currently on the canvas now, I'm debating in my mind which is worse - no ending for a character like John or a completely unsatisfactory ending for a replacement Lily. The show might as well end the character of Lily now if Byrne is not returning. As of the publication of this article, Byrne's return is not in the works other than an outcry from fans. The fact that the show is bringing back meaningless characters like Iris versus John and Ellen is scary, but there is still time to correct this.
4. Some characters will leave early. Marie Wilson has finished taping as Meg so that character will presumably end months before ATWT goes off the air. This may actually be a good thing. If the show can properly end the stories of longtime characters in a staggered way, it may keep the final weeks from feeling false, with a bunch of happy endings all at once. Some actors are already working past their contract and this could factor in as well.
5. Will we actually get happy endings? It is assumed the characters will end in a good place. As a sap, I personally want to see that. ATWT has proven they can write brilliant stories, or at least brilliant episodes, so fans have hope for a happy (and proper) ending. Nancy Hughes as the final scene is a given, and if that doesn't happen, fans will be in an uproar. But in some cases, what would actually be considered "happy" by fans. It seems obvious that Carly and Jack will be together. But there will be some unhappy Jack and Janet fans. Will Luke and Noah reunite for the end? If they do, how will the new fans of Luke and Reid feel? What type of happy ending could there be for Craig at this point?
I suppose there is no way to please everyone who is currently watching AS THE WORLD TURNS. Some fans have watched for two years and may want an ending complete with Parker and Liberty sailing off into the sunset. Other fans have watched since day one and won't be satisfied without Nancy, Bob, Lisa and Kim front and center. Other fans started watching in the '80s and want to see Lucinda in that hot tub with John Dixon one more time. Whatever the case, I hope P&G, the producers and the writers will read Irna Phillips' original story bible to get a sense of what she intended this show to be about when they filmed the pilot back in 1955. ATWT is more than just another television show. It has more history intact than any show in history. GUIDING LIGHT had more years, but AS THE WORLD TURNS has three actors on the show that started when Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States. This history must be honored.