AS THE WORLD TURNS has been a constant in my life since birth. My mother passed it on to her children and then it was picked up by my nieces and nephews. On holidays when we all get together it was on the television and we talk about what was happening. It's hard to believe that after 54 years this television institution is ending. Such a monumental occasion in TV history would surely warrant weeks of wrap up, flashbacks, sentimental moments and many former characters returning, right?
The past few months and weeks haven't felt like the ending of a beloved show. It's been mostly business as usual - fast-paced stories, short-term plots full of new characters, bad pacing, mini-arcs introduced and wrapped up in one episode, and some fun and brilliant moments mixed in here and there. As an eternal optimist, perhaps I expected too much from the final episode. GUIDING LIGHT's finale wasn't perfect a year ago, but the weeks leading it up to it felt like one big goodbye. Springfield felt like a real community. As AS THE WORLD TURNS leaves the air, Oakdale does not, and did not today.
Most characters on ATWT have been isolated in their own story lines for years now. For much of the show's history, everyone in this little town knew each other. Viewers understood their relationships. Now the majority of the characters inexplicably live in the same hotel but rarely cross paths.
Let's focus on the best parts of the finale first.
Without Helen Wagner, the obvious choice to end the show was Don Hastings and the character of Bob Hughes so Dr. Bob's retirement was a good decision. Hastings' narration was perfect. The episode also featured all our beloved veteran characters, except Emma Snyder. And what a treat it has been to see two daytime legends - Elizabeth Hubbard and Larry Bryggman - reunited in the final weeks of the show as Lucinda and John. Along with Bob and Kim, they were the best part of the finale. John wanting a jacuzzi was a wink to fans about the infamous hot tub scene in 1987. Their zest and spirit added so much to this "ordinary day."
The ending with Bob saying, "Goodnight," was a nod to the opening line of the series in 1956 when Nancy said, "Good morning, dear." After seeing Helen Wagner's photo on Bob's desk at the beginning of the episode, I was hoping Bob would pick up the photo at the end and say, "Good night, dear," to her. But at least the the writers acknowledged that well-known history. The dialogue for Bob and Kim was also very good.
Luke listening to Reid's heart in Chris was cheesy but just proved what a fine actor Van Hansis is to have made it work. Carly and Jack deserved their happily ever after and it was nice to see them in their "normal but not boring" life.
Even though the "world" stops turning for fans today, the spinning globe at the end let us know these fictional character's lives will continue on in our minds.
Unfortunately for me, a longtime viewer, most of the episode was just as I expected based on recent trends, and that wasn't a good thing. If you enjoyed ATWT in the past few years, you probably liked it today. It was a perfect summation of what I saw as the flaws of the show with new plots introduced and resolved in the episode, and a lack of sentimentality or true acknowledgment of the impact this show has had on television.
Margo seemed the most "out of character" today with her sudden empty nest syndrome. This is the same woman who let Casey go to prison, and today she acted as if he had never been away from home. Margo and Katie decided to swap houses and apparently did in the same amount of time it took Bob to pack his office.
The writing for Lily and Holden was wonderful but unfortunately without Martha Byrne in the role of Lily it didn't make me feel anything. And while it was wonderful to see Barbara Ryan totally happy and fulfilled finally after so many trials and tribulations (she deserved it!), the whole Barbara and Paul dissolving their partnership in BRO bit sort of fell flat. That decision wasn't really anything special or meaningful. Perhaps a scene with just Barbara and Paul alone would have been better.
Some of the interactions between characters didn't ring true. Susan hugging Kim, and Margo and Emily playing nice felt false to me as a viewer who has seem them be at war for years. Yes, it was a finale, and most want to see these characters happy, but I wouldn't have minded at least a glare from Kim or Margo at their longtime rivals. And perhaps Emily and Tom could have mentioned their long lost son, Daniel, since they were together.
I knew this wasn't going to change today, but as a site that writes a lot about diversity, I can't write this review without mentioning that ATWT left the air with an episode full of all Caucasian characters, the same way it started in April 1956.
While we did see a picture of Helen Wagner, it was sad that there wasn't more of a nod to her today.
Some of Bob's narrations and some of the dialogue, such as Margo and Tom talking about Casey's birth, just screamed for flashbacks, yet there were none.
The most disappointing part of the finale was the lack of respect to the actress and character that helped keep AS THE WORLD TURNS at the top of the ratings for years, Eileen Fulton and Lisa. She was hardly more than an under five in today's finale. Perhaps the show felt they had given her a 50 year anniversary episode earlier in the year and didn't need to today, but I disagree if that was the thinking. No offense to Janet and Dusty fans, and I love Julie Pinson and Grayson McCouch, but if something needed to be cut today it was their story. They had their happy ending yesterday. The time spent on them today could have been used to give Lisa something significant to do, and a final goodbye with Bob.
To be fair, I'm not sure anything could have satisfied me today as a single episode. When the show was canceled in December, giving producers more time to wrap things up than any soap had ever had before, I was hopeful the final months would be one big celebration of the show and a big nod to fans who have spent many years watching. That's not what happened.
All I said before the today's episode was that if I didn't cry, someone was doing something wrong. I am a sentimental fool and it doesn't take much for me to go there. I cried yesterday at Chance's wonderful flashback-filled funeral on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS (and he's not even dead!). But I didn't today. I wanted to feel something that would help tie up all my emotions and feelings about losing this show, this constant in my life. But it never happened. It wasn't a bad episode, and some of the dialogue was terrific, but as someone with a history degree, I wanted to see more attention paid to the entire run of the show, not just recent history.
With all that said, I will miss AS THE WORLD TURNS. It has been a dear friend to me and my family for decades. It has meant a lot to fans since Dwight Eisenhower was President of the United States. It has influenced pop culture and told groundbreaking story lines. It has introduced many amazing actors to the world, and it brought families and friends together to watch. The influence of this show can probably never be underestimated. It's very sad that on Monday at 2 p.m. it won't be there. Goodnight, dear.
Now that you've read my thoughts, please share yours in our comments. Did you enjoy the finale? Did you watch with family or friends? Did you return to the show or watch for the first time today? Let us know.