Thinking Fans Comment Update Aug. 30: Kristen says ATWT writers finally got one right … while Oakdalian found the summer a mixed bag … and more. See Comments below.
By Patrick Erwin
What’s been happening in Oakdale? It’s been an interesting summer for As The World Turns as the show has been finding its balance after the departure of Martha Byrne (Lily) and several other high-profile departures of other characters earlier this year — including the losses of Jennifer Landon (Gwen), Jesse Soffer (Will) and Scott Bryce (Craig).
Here’s a look at some of the show’s front burner stories from this summer:
Parker and Liberty: The Internet message boards have indicated that fans have mixed feelings about this story. And I’ll agree Liberty and mom Juicy Janet have
I really want to spotlight Kelley Menighan Hensley for praise. As Emily, she’s sold us on every single story she’s ever been in. (And that’s a tall order!)
been overplayed. They’ve only been on for six months, and both characters were thrust to the front-burner almost immediately, first as Brad’s instant family and then in this story.
But I’ve found this young love story to be moving and realistic. Much of the credit for that has to go to Mick Hazen, who is a great young actor. He’s done a great job at playing Parker’s confusion and the anger he’s had about the messiness of his parents’ personal lives. It may seem shocking that Parker is having sex at such a young age, but it’s a reality, and the discomfort of his parents and of Liberty’s parents comes across as a more relatable story to me than the story of One Life To Live‘s Starr and her pregnancy. Dealing with nosy, well-meaning parents and the embarrassment of growing up happens far more frequently than Starr’s challenges in coping with Todd, who is an unstable force in her life and whose treatment of Starr is borderline abusive.
Holden and Carly: I still am not a big fan of this story, but I will eat some very public crow here, folks: ATWT has done a great job with the aftermath of the revelation that Holden and Carly slept together. It had an effect on everyone in the couple’s orbit — their exes, their children and their family and friends. And that’s exactly what a good story does (and what we don’t always get to see anymore). All of the reactions made sense: Lily was enraged, then sorrowful. Emma threw up her hands in exasperation. Luke was disappointed in his dad. And both Holden and Carly had regrets and doubts about what happened. The repercussions of this affair will continue for a long time, which makes for great story!
Dr. Rick Decker redux: This was a completely ridiculous storyline, but my educated guess is that this was done with one goal in mind – to counter-program against the Olympics ratings juggernaut. (NBC had the 2008 Beijing Olympics playing in daytime for two weeks, and garnered high ratings doing so.) Despite featuring a few vets — Tom’s heart attack and Emily and Casey’s poisoning brought Tom, Margo, and Emily into the fold – the climax of the story showcased some younger characters that still seem to be searching for definition — Alison, Aaron and Chris. Still, I don’t blame ATWT for going all action-adventure for a week or two in order — as long as they don’t make a habit of it …
Tom/Margo/Emily/Casey: This has been my favorite ATWT story of the summer — and perhaps of the year. Any story that brings Scott Holmes and Ellen Dolan to the forefront is fine by me. And unlike some recent Tom/Margo stories, their storylines this year have drawn on their history — Margo’s rape and the repercussions with Gray Gerard and Matt, and then the reveal that Emily was sleeping with Casey. (And then there is the Hughes’ 25th anniversary — nearly unheard of in today’s soapland.) The Margo/Emily rivalry is fantastic and reminds me of Kim and Susan, another Stewart “bad girl.”
Dolan has had some hilarious lines that just dripped with sarcasm when Margo railed against slutty nemesis Emily. (“We’ve shared my husband … my son … I’m glad we don’t have that dog anymore!”) And Billy Magnussen has been such a find as Casey. He’s an engaging (and handsome) actor, and his warmth endears Casey to the audience, which helps the rooting value for the slightly twisted Emily/Casey combo.
But I really want to spotlight Kelley Menighan Hensley for praise. You know, I’ve always like her as Emily, but I admit, as a longtime ATWT viewer, I’ve often taken her for granted. I think it’s taken me this storyline to realize that as strong as Martha Byrne and Maura West have been over the year on the show, Menighan Hensley is every bit the talented actress and star that those actresses are.
And the main reason ? As Emily, she’s sold us on every single story she’s ever been in. (And that’s a tall order!) She’s gone from publisher to prostitute with many stops in between. Emily’s been paired with so many men (she and Margo share a past with James) and if you think about just the last few years alone, there’s been Tom, Paul Ryan, Dusty, Chris and Casey. Menighan Hensley has guided Emily through sleeping with Tom, his younger brother and his son and has kept her from looking like an absolute fool. I think it’s great work rooted in a deep understand of Emily’s past history. Well played!
This summer ATWT has been far better balanced than when I wrote about the overall state of the show earlier this year. At that point, the show was a nearly unwatchable mess of dark, utterly depressing plotlines. Well, the gothic darkness isn’t completely gone, but it has for the most part been balanced by romance and family conflict. The focus has been a little too intense on a few story clusters (Holden/Lily/Jack/Carly, Meg and Paul, and Brad/Katie/Janet) while ignoring other characters. (I’m still not sure why Luke and Noah remain mostly on the back burner.)
But the last six months or so have shown some very positive trends. We’re seeing a lot more of the people we love acting like the people we love, and interacting with their families. We care about the Emily/Casey story because it has repercussions on so many characters we know (Tom, Margo, and Susan, to name three.) I’m encouraged that we may see more of Lucinda, with the introduction of Brian Wheatley (played by All My Children and Another World vet Laurence Lau.)
I admit I am a bit concerned that James Stenbeck has returned to town this fall for another go-round. I hope if James brings his customary gothic darkness back to Oakdale, it will be balanced by love and laughter — and not take over the whole show! And of course, we always want to see more of Luke and Noah — in all seasons!
Patrick Erwin blogs regularly at A Thousand Other Worlds …