When As the World Turn’s headwriter Richard Culliton first pitched the character of Carly Tenney to executive producer Laurence Caso in early 1995, both saw Carly as the troubled girl who would eventually bring the complexity and longevity of Reva Shayne to Oakdale.
Culliton was Guiding Light’s co-headwriter when Reva was created in 1983, so he knew well what it would take to make a character like that succeed over the long haul. A big part of why Reva worked so well for so long was that she was brought on already having a long history with the Lewis family, which was by then well established in Springfield. Then, over the next several years, TPTB slowly introduced Reva’s siblings, parents and illegitimate children, thereby establishing a multi-generational family with a shared and overlapping history.
That never happened with Carly. When she arrived in Oakdale in April 1995, her only connection was to her half-sister Rosanna. Their mother was long dead; Carly came to Oakdale trying to cash in on the death of Rosanna’s wealthy father. Rosanna had been in Oakdale for a while, but was never fully established within a core family.
The nature of Carly’s arrival in Oakdale meant she and Rosanna shared no history. But whatever plans there had been to establish Carly as part of a multi-generational family (one possibility would have been to bring her father and step-mother to town, develop them as a troubled family unit, then link them to any number of people in Oakdale; instead Ray and Lee Tenney were brought on as short-term plot devices) were forgotten – make that abandoned – when less than a month after Carly arrived, Caso was replaced by John Valente; a few months later Culliton left and the infamous Black and Stern took over.
Things were further complicated when, later that year, Maura West became pregnant and left on maternity barely a year after Carly had arrived in Oakdale. So, for most of her first stay, Carly’s sole function was to break up the relationship between her sister and her boyfriend, Mike Kasanoff, also not connected to a core family.
When Carly left town, Rosanna offered her $50-million if she married and had a child within a year. Since the circumstances of Carly’s arrival in Oakdale limited options for adding family members, the show’s priority should have been to quickly connect her to a core family. When West retuned to the show in September 1997, TPTB had a perfect opportunity to weave Carly tightly into Oakdale’s tapestry by pairing her with either Andy Dixon, when Scott Defreitas returned that November, or bring back Lisa’s son (and Tom’s half-brother) Scott Eldridge, played by Michael Park (probably not as an FBI agent, given Scott's history. Then again, who knows? People change:). Or both; after all, this is a soap opera. Consider the possibilities of a “who’s the daddy” story with Kim Hughes and Lisa as the possible mother-in-law and/or grandmother?
But TPTB (by that time Black and Stern were gone and John Valente had been replaced by Felcia Minei Behr) didn’t do that. Instead, they brought on Emma Snyder’s heretofore unknown nephew, Jack, to be Carly’s soul mate. A Snyder on paper, but the direct connection to the core family, his father, was already dead. His older (later reversed SORASED) brother, Brad, was initially involved with Carly, then had a series of short-term relationships (Rosanna Cabot, Lucinda Walsh, Camille Bennett) before leaving town (see below). Their alcoholic mother, Delores, eventually arrived in town to reveal some family secrets that led to absolutely nothing in terms of opening up long term story.
But the pairing, soon known as Carjack, was wildly popular and even though there was no solid, multi-generational family structure in place for either character, the couple occupied more and more screen time. In addition to the structural problems all supercouples create for writers, Carjack brought with them new characters who had only distant, off screen connections to Oakdale: Carly was joined by her cousin, Molly, who had a previously unknown daughter, Abigail, with Holden Snyder. (Giving credit where credit is due, Abigail did eventually have a relationship with Adam Hughes).
Later on, Gwen Norbeck would be revealed to be Carly’s half-sister, And, again, to give credit where credit is due, the introduction of Gwen and her almost immediate attachment to Casey Hughes and Will Munson, both members of core families, was beautifully done. The resulting baby story was all too rare example of great old-fashioned soap opera storytelling in ATWT’s later years.
Of course, Gwen would soon be joined by her bat-shit-crazy mother, Iris, followed by her brother, Cole, and his bat-shit-crazy girlfriend, Sophie. And, not content to leave well enough alone (they really can’t help themselves), TPTB attempted to exploit the popularity of Gwen’s portrayer, Jennifer Landon, when they introduced look-a-like, Cleo Babbitt. But on balance, the introduction of Gwen stands out as one of the few bright spots in Oakdale’s 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities.
As for Jack, he was famously involved with the two Julias (Lindsey and Larrabee), both of whom were previously unknown in Oakdale. Then there was the return of Jack’s now-younger brother, Brad. While the brothers would clash when both pursued Katie (love the one you’re with) Peretti, viewers who didn’t already know the two were brothers would never have known from watching them interact.
The April 2008 arrival of Liberty Ciccone, the daughter Brad never knew he had fathered, and her mother, Janet, would mark the beginning of the show’s final descent into faux family ties. But before we go there, next up,
katie and everybody: the next chapter of 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities…
© 2010 Lynn Liccardo
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