Rating As the World Turns’ Busy, Busy Summer

Kelley M.

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. 

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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. Mick HazenIt 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 …Scott Holmes

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.”Ellen Dolan 

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.)Emily and Casey

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!

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 Patrick Erwin blogs regularly at  A Thousand Other Worlds …

Comments

  1. Dalia says:

    Yes, we all want to see more of Luke & Noah…

  2. Kristen says:

    So true. We have gotten Drama, Romance and Comedy all rolled up in one out of this storyline. The writers have finally got one right! A character-driven storyline will always win out over that plot-driven junk they have been trying to throw at us. Ellen has been amazing delivering awesome scenes throughout this whole story as well as Kelley, Scott and Billy. Something we fans have always known they could do but haven’t been given the opportunity to do in a very long time. I just can’t figure out why we were only treated to it once or maybe twice a week when all the other dull stories were on 24/7.

  3. Oakdalian says:

    The Rick Decker story was indeed ridiculous, given the fact that half the newcomers to Oakdale this year wound up holding the residents at gunpoint already. Thankfully the character had a deeper history with his victims, and John James was great at selling it. Its about time Kelley Menighan Hensley got her due too. She’s always great at showcasing Emily’s neuroses of the moment. My only problem lately is that the show is almost there in terms of continuity, but TPTB wont go the extra mile. One day Margo is wondering what Emily has over the mayor to make him pull rank on her, and the notion is never brought up again. It’s one thing for Emily’s prostitution to be a big deal at Chez Hughes, but it should have been a bigger scandal that the whole town was in on. Isolating characters in their own bubble is disastrous. I wouldn’t have let Tom cave in on custody of Daniel either. Breaking his heart and breaking the law should be big offenses in his book. What’s going to sustain the Hughes/Stewart conflict besides Margo rolling her eyes about Casey’s love life?
    Unrealized possibilities with the Snyders bug me too. As soon as it was made public that Holden and Carly slept together, Lucinda should have made her life a living hell. Her legendary interference in Lily’s life was sorely needed. Surely La Walsh can juggle a personal vendetta and the pursuit of Brian Wheatley simultaneously. And who wouldn’t love a Maura West/Elizabeth Hubbard pairing? At this point it’s time to move Holden and Carly away from one another, though their affair seemed clever at the time. He’s always pressuring her when she obviously doesn’t want him. Her foreign diversion Neal was wasted and forgotten, too.

    As for Parker and Liberty, I find it odd that nobody once mentioned the convoluted lineage of Holden and Lily when everyone freaked about them having sex. Then again, the Snyders are divided into separate story bubbles and probably ignorant of each other’s history. When Parker was accused of rape, we missed Emma’s opportunity to fear Josh and Iva happening all over again. Oh well.

    There’s something I must give Goutman & Co. credit for, though. This summer ATWT has kicked GL’s butt in the location shoot department. The scouts are definitely earning their keep. The Snyder farm is a gorgeous piece of land, and the houses that represent it match the studio sets so well. I bet TPTB don’t even know this, but many characters were featured out and about at the farm in this manner during the summer of 1986 too. I think of how this process began with sepia toned handicam footage, but the show has refined their technique and made the outside shots a joy to watch. I could stand Aaron leaping atop an ambulance at least once a week.

    James Stenbeck’s comeback is a big risk, if you ask me. The show does NOT need another villain in 2008, so hopefully we’ll see an effort to take him in a new direction (yeah, right). Paul is a grown ass man, and why James is stuck on controlling him, I’ll never know.

  4. Leslie says:

    Luke and Noah are the only reason I watch. I haven’t given up on them despite their infrequent appearances.

  5. matthew says:

    I have been very disappointed with this summer’s ATWT. First of all, Janet & Liberty. They should re-title the show “As the World Turns Around Janet & Liberty”. Both have been walking around Oakdale like two alleycats in heat since they showed up. They have had more screentime than any of the other storylines…it’s a little much. Also disappointing is the lack of screentime of Luke & Noah. This has been one of best soap storylines in a long time, and why they hardly had any screentime this summer, boggles my mind. Also, can they please get an ‘intro’. I know times are tough, but if they can’t afford to put one together- then play the old one. Something is better than nothing.

  6. Michael says:

    The lack of Luke and Noah is truly perplexing. When was the last time ANY ATWT couple generated so much press and excitement? Remember when the ratings actually climbed to 2.4 at the height of Luke and Noah being on the frontburner. Their story had so many aspects of the traditional love stories of soaps from long ago- a couple we could really root for and care about. It’s 2008! Gay couple can even marry in some states now. Soaps have to start appealing to a wider audience to survive. I know they were the reason I started watching…and the reason I stopped- when they were no longer front burner.

  7. Sam Ford says:

    Great post, Patrick, and a nice reminder of all that makes us still believe in this show and that there are so many elements that make ATWT particularly important to keep alive and healthy for years to come. I wrote a piece about part of what sets ATWT apart recently for TeleNext’s blog, here.

  8. Mike says:

    I certainly don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but when you have a couple like Luke and Noah that clearly have a strong audience base, and they don’t have a strong story and they don’t get to show affection with the frequency that other couples do — well, it’s no mystery. It’s homophobia. I mean, obviously the show is trying to do the right thing, but it’s clear they are also trying to walk a fine line between writing an honest story like they do with all their other couples, and not offending homophobic viewers. That results in some long Luke / Noah dry spells until they think they can’t put off their fans any longer, at which point they tweak them with a kiss or a sweet, short story — and then right back to dry spell again. It’s a shame, but it’s what I really think is happening. ATWT wants to be brave, but is just too afraid — and has been too afraid — to fully commit.

  9. Caillou says:

    Today I think Alison and Aaron are the happy couple in
    Alison and Aaron’s Wedding on As The World Turns.

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