I haven't had a lot to say since CBS announced the cancellation of As the World Turns last December. But then, it seems, neither has anybody else. Thus far, save for a nice little piece in last week's Time, what little mainstream press coverage there's been can be charitably described as perfunctory, at best. The blogsphere, not much better: no repeat of last year's Guiding Light Project here at Red Room, for example. If the past eight months are any indication, little will change before ATWT leaves the air on September 17th, a fact driven home last Sunday, when 60 Minutes noted the passing of ‘World Turns by rerunning last year's feature on Guiding Light's cancellation.
There are so many reasons why GL's departure generated a virtual tsunami of media coverage, both mainstream and on-line, and ATWT's almost none. While no one expected CBS to pull the plug quite so soon after GL left the air, few were really surprised. But the announcement, coming when it did, left me not just sad for the second holiday season in a row, but numb. Chronicling the final months of GL was draining; it's taken me this long to pull together enough emotional, physical, intellectual and psychic energy to figure out what I wanted to say about arguably the most influential soap opera of all time; that ‘World Turns was the show through which soap opera's single mother, Irna Phillips, both explicitly and implicitly, played out her deepest secrets and unrealized hopes and dreams, makes the scant media attention all the more disheartening.
But draining as GL's final months were, they were also exhilarating. Grant Aleksander had returned as Phillip Spaulding, and the show was just starting to hit its storytelling stride when the cancellation was announced. There was so much excitement and discussion on the boards, with posters arguing about what should happen with Otalia, and speculating about which actors would return before the end.
With ATWT, there's been precious little to offset the apathy and alienation I, and others, have been feeling as we watch the storytelling continue to decline because Executive Producer Christopher Goutman has been absolutely relentless about keeping the story focused on relatively new characters not connected to core families - Janet, et al. "We still have exciting stories in the works and we're sticking to them," he told TV Guide back in December.
Goutman went on to say, "We're not ready to start inviting back old favorites and do the nostalgia thing...There will be plenty of time to bring in whomever we want from the past." It's statements like these that makes the recent run of well-written episodes - in which an umbrella story, however short and contrived (Barbara's disappearance), is finally bringing characters together, including a few returning favorites - all the more bittersweet for viewers. It is impossible for me, and if the boards are any indication, many others, to watch theses episodes without wondering what might have been were it not for Goutman's intransigence.
I'm not suggesting that the show could have been saved once the decision was announced; insiders believe, and I agree, that ‘World Turns' fate was sealed when CBS canceled GL, but the network didn't want to take both shows off the air at the same time (which, of course, meant that ATWT would get short shrift when it comes to media attention). Nor do I think that bringing the show back to its roots would have increased the odds of a cable pickup since that hadn't worked for GL. As for "the nostalgia thing," well, I do know of at least one long time fan who would have appreciated a little nostalgia.
Between now and September 17th, I'll be posting pieces ranging from how irna's world turned..., a look at ATWT's creator, Irna Phillips', deep - some might say obsessive - emotional investment in As the World Turns to i'm pretty sure marx wasn't talking about soap opera when he said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce..., an in-depth consideration of the differences between ATWT and GL's cancellations.
First up, a five-part series, 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities..., examining the decisions leading to the increasingly segmented, as opposed to integrated, and superficial, as opposed to fully realized, storytelling that has marked Oakdale's final years:
Part one: welcome to oakdale and 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities...
Part two: carjack: the beginning of 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities...
Part three: katie and everybody: the next chapter of 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities...
Part four: nuke: 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities continues...
Part five: invasion of the ciccones: the sad, inevitable conclusion to 15 years of faux family ties and squandered opportunities...
© 2010 Lynn Liccardo
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