As The World Turns in 2008: The “World” at Warp Speed

Thinking Fans Comment Update: James wonders, “Where’s the happiness in Oakdale?” … likewise, Steve says Oakdale has become “a bitter, mean-spirited place” … and more. See Comments below. 

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ATWT logo

By Patrick Erwin

As The World Turns may be the second oldest soap, but this year, the show burned through storylines at warp speed. There has been a tremendous amount of action onscreen, as well as behind the scenes, in 2008 at ATWT.

But interestingly enough, the general mood of the show seems to be back to where it started in 2008 — in a cloud of darkness.

Back in February, I shared my opinion about how incredibly dark the mood on the show had been. It was almost a chore to watch at that point, with classic characters who had lost their balance (Dusty, Paul and Craig, to name three) who had been painted into a dark corner.

Shortly after I wrote about the dim mood at ATWT, the darkness seemed to move on and the show focused on other stories. Though there were other catastrophes that we saw on screen — like Margo’s fatal fight with Gray Gerard and the mess with Ameera, Luke and Noah — they seemed much more relatableLuke and Noah and much less depressing than the previous stories, which included forced miscarriages (!) and other gloomy plotlines.

And we saw some brighter stories on our screens. I’ve said before that one of the brightest, and one of my favorites, was the charming Emily/Casey coupling. It took the queen of suffering (Emily) and put a smile on her face. It also galvanized so many favorites around the couple — Tom, Margo and Emily to name three.

That’s one of the most frustrating things about ATWT‘s dual-sided identity — because when ATWT gets it right, it can be the best and strongest show on the air. Stories like Emily and Casey underscore generations of family history (on both sides) and inject fun into what’s been an increasingly dark and misogynistic genre.Emily

The show added touches of humor and fun several times this year, with the pairing of Brad and Katie and the introduction of Janet and Liberty. I love Julie Pinson’s Janet, the kind of relatable character that I love to see on screen. (Though I agree with most ATWT fans that Janet and daughter Liberty were overexposed when they first came to town.)

ATWT has also had some of the most interesting plot twists of the year. I was especially encouraged by the Brian/Lucinda storyline, and the subsequent forbidden smooch between Brian and step-Caseygrandson Luke. It’s an old-fashioned storyline with a modern wrinkle. It’s messy and soapy, with no villians. And it shows, in dramatic fashion, what happens when people are forced to deny their own feelings.

But with the year coming to a close, we’ve been pushed back into a fog of darkness. The character of Dusty returned, and with him came the darkness that surrounded him when he left.

The monochromatic version of Craig has also returned. I have to say that thus far, I have enjoyed Jon Lindstrom’s take on Craig — this Craig reminds me a bit of Frasier Crane! But onscreen, Craig is still coming across as an unstable force, instead of the man with clay feet we loved so much.

And worst of all, we’ve been forced to sit through Paul and Meg front and center on our screens. The show has been committed to “Peg” as their money couple, and I’m at a complete loss as to why. These two characters have been mired in misery since day one.Janet

And both Paul and Meg have strayed so far from who they were originally. With Barbara and James Stenbeck as parents, it might be understandable that Paul would cross over to the dark side, but this version of Meg is hard to believe. The Meg we knew before was hardly a damsel in distress — she was a player who worked with Holden to break up Lily and Dusty and took on big fish like Tonio Reyes.

Marie Wilson and Roger Howarth are certainly talented performers, but after two years I still can’t buy these two. Wilson is miscast and Howarth seems to be stuck playing a variation on his previous role, One Life to Live‘s Todd.

It’s no mystery why ATWT and other shows like these dark, dramatic storylines — they bring in eyeballs and ratings. I just read that ATWT‘s ratings rose when Craig returned,Dusty and we know that shows like General Hospital are bathed in misery and misogyny, which translate to high ratings.

But as a longtime ATWT fan (22 years), I wish the show could reconcile its schizophrenic nature and balance its canvas between darkness and light. With so many veteran actors and familiar characters, ATWT is a show where I can still recognize the town, people and characters at least some of the time. I hope that neighborhood is around for years to come.

Comments

  1. William Joseph Reynolds says:

    Not one word on the colossal mistake of letting Martha Byrne go?

    Patrick says: William, I agree that Martha’s departure was a colossal misstep. But this particular assessment about ATWT was more about the speed, and the general tone, of their stories. Incidentally, Marlena herself wrote a pretty comprehensive piece on Martha’s departure when it happened. You can check it out here.

  2. Steve says:

    I watched ATWT for almost 15 years and I had to give up during the horrific Hogan Sheffer era, where he decimated Craig beyond all repair, turned rape into a joke and a cheap plot device, spread misogyny like it was free candy, warped history for his own lazy purposes, and turned Oakdale into a bitter, mean-spirited place. The show has never really recovered from him.

    Passante hasn’t been any better. The storytelling is shocking, people jump from bed to bed and pairing to pairing with no real reason or followup. Would new viewers have any idea that Carly and Holden were lovers only a few months ago?

    The handling of the gay story has been of one where I suspect those involved had no idea the relationship would have any fans. What else to make of the fact that we got Parker and Liberty, an underage boy has sex with his older girlfriend (who doesn’t even like him very much) after a few months, while a committed Noah and Luke never had sex even after over a year together? And that Luke has had more affection from his lecherous step-grandfather than from his boyfriend?

    I think Dusty and Paul are both symbols of the new, warped ATWT. This Dusty is the same as Brian Bloom’s Dusty in name only, and to this day I can’t think of any reason why they hired Roger Howarth other than his being popular at OLTL.

    Sorry to be such a downer. I loved the Marland-era ATWT, and even the few years after that. Everything since has been an increasing nightmare.

  3. James says:

    Patrick,

    I haven’t watched ATWT nearly as long as you have. But I have to agree with your assessment. Show tends to be too dark. Where’s the happiness in Oakdale?

    And when plotlines move at such lightening speed, I can’t get invested in them. Feels like they’re just buring through story simply for the sake of buring story. If it was a really important story, seems like they’d give the audience a little more time to invest in those plotlines.

    So, ATWT for me boils down to the characters I like. If it’s a Luke day, I watch. If it’s a Jack/Carly day, I watch. If it’s a Holden/Lilly day, I watch.

    If Paul and Meg are on screen, I fast forward through their scenes. If Dusty is on screen, I fast forward through his scenes. If Allison or Aaron are on screen, I hit the fast forward button.

    Now, Emily, I can take or leave. Same with Brad or Katie. If any of them are on days that other characters I like are on, I’ll watch their scenes. If they’re on days when characters I don’t like are on, I skip their scenes.

    Paul and Meg are especially boring to me. Seperately, both characters bore me. Together, they are torture. The one exception is when James Stenbeck is interacitng with Paul (imaginary or otherwise). Then, suddenly the Paul character becomes somewhat interesting.

    I’m still not sure what to think about Jon Lindstrom as the new Craig. I loved Lindstrom on GH and PC. And he seems to be doing a good job so far as Craig. Except it just doesn’t feel like Lindstrom is completely comfortable in Craig’s skin yet. Hopefully with some time and a few juuicy scenes, Lindstrom will make the role his own.

  4. Hi Patrick!
    I’m glad you wrote this column. I personally don’t find the “dark” tone problematic – people thought that Robin & Stone storyline on GH was “dark” yet it is one of my favorite to this day. I actually think that considering budget cuts and signficant cast losses (including Jennifer Landon) the show has navigated it’s hardships relatively well.

    What I find problematic is the warped speed you describe. Daytime IS a different animal from primetime, in that the five-day structure allows one to tell stories in real time with pauses, beats, and emotional pacing. ATWT has seemed like it’s trying to be more like a fast-paced episode of Ugly Betty instead of a slow moving piece of character exploration. No matter who is in front of the camera, or what money problems are happening behind the scenes, there is no excuse for plot-based storytelling telling.

    That being said, I do think the writing can be exceptional at times, and I appreciate that Margo has been given some sharp hilarious one-liners this year. I enjoy the location shoots, and actually like this NuLily. There is so potential for good show here, and that is why I think I get frustrated.

  5. Tim says:

    What happened to tuning tommorrow? Some of the biggest scenes happened during the show and not at the end of the show. What makes me want to tune in tommorrow?
    It is a dark show and I like Meg but enough already.
    I think it’s time the Hughes had a little more air time. It was a mistake to put Chris back with Emily and then with Allison.
    It might have been more intersting if he had fallen for Meg.
    Christmas was a big disappointment for us long time fans.
    No Bob, Kim, Nancy or Lisa? Come on……not even a crumb.
    Talk of a Nancy’s 90th birthday episode was rumorned with Carly playing an early Lisa but it never happened.
    I am fast forwarding way too much these days. I
    This show has 52 years of history…..they should use that for their advantage. Bring back some obscure characters .
    Why not more crossovers to Guiding LIght or Young and the Restless? The ratings are bad. Now is the time to try anything.

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