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.
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 relatable 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.
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-grandson 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.
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, 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.