Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ATWT: What's the Rush?

Why do so many things on AS THE WORLD TURNS move at warp speed?

Take today's episode, for example. In the course of the hour the following things happened in the Luke/Noah/Casey/Ali/Matt/Jade storyline:
  • Luke and Noah decided to plan a surprise 21st birthday party for Casey
  • Jade agreed to find Casey and bring him to the party
  • Matt told Ali he had a job at Yo's and was staying in town and invited her out for drinks
  • Matt invited Casey to Yo's but he declined because of Alison
  • Jade talked Casey into going with her to Yo's
  • Luke and Noah met Reg (who we haven't seen in months and only a few times ever) at Yo's and Luke talked to Ali and Matt about Casey's party
  • Casey showed up and was surprised by the group
  • Elwood arrived and told Casey he was out of prison
  • Luke and Noah saw Reg and Elwood talking in the alley
  • Elwood made snide remarks to Casey about Ali and Casey punched him, sending Ali out of the bar in a rage
  • Casey and Jade left Yo's and went back to his place
  • Reg collapsed on the floor of Yo's
  • Reg arrived at the hospital, was taken into a room, and pronounced dead about 10 seconds later (this was the most rushed and insensitive death scene ever)
  • Matt and Ali returned to Yo's and heard that someone collapsed
  • Ali decided to go to Casey's to see if he was alright
  • Noah and Luke found pills in Reg's jacket pocked and Luke believed he got them from Elwood
  • Casey and Jade arrived at Casey's and started to make out
  • Ali showed up and saw Casey and Jade on the sofa together
  • Luke and Noah ran into Elwood in Old Town and Luke went off on him accusing him of murdering Reg
  • Casey and Jade decided to have sex
  • Ali returned to Yo's and told Matt things were definitely over with Casey

  • All of these things could have played out over a few days. I could barely keep up today and things were moving so quickly I barely had time to digest one plot point before things had completely changed again. These "rush to get everything resolved in one episode" episodes are really taking away so much of the potential punch to every story AS THE WORLD TURNS is telling. I was starting to possibly become interested in Casey and Ali as a couple but Jade has been interjected before I could care. Now I don't care about any of them. And Reg is dead and only Nuke diehards probably even know who he is.

    I'm not even sure how the script writers are supposed to make things work when the scenes are so short and rushed and there is so much story to fit in each day.

    In contrast, GUIDING LIGHT is slowly playing all the beats of the Phillip returns storyline leaving me wanting more and enjoying every minute.

    A couple of interviews last year were very telling:
    1. Christopher Goutman's quote in Soap Opera Digest: "I don't think there is an appetite in this society right now to watch this show five days a week; they don't have the time or energy." From a fan's perspective, this is the absolute last thing you want to hear from your soap's executive producer. It seems like a defeatist attitude and, quite honestly, it shows on the screen.

    2. In an interview with SID in September, head writer Jean Pasanante said: "We're playing more of a story in a day, and then we're not playing it the next day. We're creating more of a unit within a single episode, so that it feels like it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I've heard a lot of people say they like the pace because the shows have kind of a payoff within the day." I don't know which fans these are because I know hundreds of ATWT fans and not one of them think this is the best approach for a serialized show. I can understand the need for more developments in each episode in today's age of short attention spans and hundreds of other options, but the pacing has gone too far in the other direction. It may work on a limited basis to entice new fans, but it does not work for daily viewers.

    I hate to say it, but when you love what you do, it shows. And lately it doesn't seem like the writers or producers really love ATWT. I'm sure there are a number of factors that go into the making of the show that I do not and will not understand which impact their ability to do their jobs, but all I'm concerned with is being entertained and continuing to care about the characters I have invested decades in.

    Putting on a show each day is not easy. Soap producers and writers go through a grind like nowhere else in television. The enormity of the job is not lost on me. But it's just not coming together on ATWT right now. Of the eight daytime soaps, it is the least enjoyable. Some arcs, such as the current Paul/Meg/Dusty storyline, are right up there with the most boring stories ever told by this show. Then there's the obsession with baby stories that's been going on for years. Fans are worn out. And there isn't enough solidly working to counteract these things. Some days feature a completly different set of characters than the previous episode and the following day it changes again. I can take smaller sets, shakey cameras and even seeing a smaller number of characters day to day, but what I do see needs to make sense and make me want to invest.

    I can't pinpoint exactly who or what or what combination of factors is to blame, but the show is off track. The constant cast turnover, the never ending recasting of beloved favorites and only mildly interesting former characters, and the self-contained episodes has put this show in dire need of some help. A clear vision is missing.

    There are still wonderful episodes when things come together - the dialogue is crisp, the direction is terrific and the entire production is first class. But these shows are becoming the exception rather than the norm. ATWT just picked up the WGA award and I can easily see how three scripts from last year could have won it for them. But viewers need engaging writing and a quality production on a more consistent basis.

    No other soap has the history of ATWT. GL has been on the air longer, but much of the history from the early years is gone. ATWT has actors who have been around for over 40 and 50 years. The building blocks are all there to make this show the great multi-generational family-driven powerhouse it once was. But someone in charge needs to figure out what this show wants to be, where it's going in the near-term and long-term, and what is the best way to get there. Soon.


    1. So much word, Roger. Great blog post. CG thinks he's producing "Desperate Houswives" or something. He needs to realize this is daytime, and we don't want to see everything wrapped up in a neat little package each episode. I, personally, grew up on the days of the week-long reveal and Friday cliff hangers. It kept me wanting more. Now, I'm not saying drag the stories out for a year, but this warp speed story telling needs to stop. It leaves no room for character development, just lazy plot points (such as Reg). It just proves that the show is not interested in telling character-driven storylines, just lame-ass plot points.

    2. I agree about the warp speed. I posted a blog entry about today as well,, and I hope you don't mind I edited to include a link to your entry. The speed of things today was RIDICULOUS.

      What did they call it in Spaceballs when it is faster than warp speed? Ludicrous speed? Cause that was what was going on today.

    3. and all with enough time leftover for katie and vienna to trick brad and henry into knocking them up.

      have to say though, trent dawson was fabulous as henry confronted vienna with her deception. so wish they could get trent into a story worthy of his talents.

    4. Lynn, I really agree about Trent. I've seen him in a number of plays and he has an incredible range. But he pretty much plays the same things over and over on ATWT.

    5. Thank you, Roger. I totally agree as well. I miss the days when a storyline would develop in increments, building and building to an "event" (first kiss, first sex, a murder, a confession, etc.). We don't get that ATWT anymore, everything is rushed to such excessive speeds that I literally don't care. Add to that the failure to recognize and effectively utilize strong actors, whether they be veterans like Marie Masters or even newcomers with great potential such as Mark Sullivan (RIP Reg).

    6. Perhaps they are trying to counteract viewers fast-forwarding through their show by fast-forwarding through it for us?