A Runaway Train
This is what has been happening on As the World Turns:
A dangerously jealous and reckless Paul hired an unwitting young woman and her small son to impersonate Lucy and Johnny, both of whom Dusty is looking for after inheriting James Stenbeck's fortune. Emily, now reunited with Dusty (who recently returned from the dead), did major detective work and unearthed Paul's involvement, which in turn prompted Dusty to track down the young woman in New York and return to Oakdale to confront Paul. Meanwhile, All About Eve played out out as new WOAK talk show host Spencer McKay developed a huge crush on Brad after they exposed a negligent toy manufacturer on her inaugural broadcast. Smitten with Katie's husband, Spencer cried wolf about an intruder being in her room to get Brad closer as a supportive, yet suspicious Katie tried to act non-threatened. Margo continued her dogged investigation into the circumstances surrounding Dusty's fake death and resurrection, this time zeroing in logically, but wrongly on Emily, who recently broke Casey's heart.
If you haven't been watching ATWT recently, you might think these individual stories and developments played out over the last couple of months. Or perhaps a few weeks. What if I told you this all happened in one single episode?
Compressed storytelling is quite possibly As the World Turns' greatest weakness bar none. To be completely fair, the show is blessed with a talented and attractive cast. The actual stories are more interesting than not; even when a clunker or two in the bunch rears its ugly head like Putin over Alaska, others take up the slack. Though the budget constraints on the show are more obvious by the day, Executive Producer Christopher Goutman has kept ATWT looking relatively fresh and vibrant despite the massive downsizing. But for the love of God, I want to make a direct appeal to Goutman, Head Writer Jean Passanante, Senior Vice President of CBS Daytime Barbara Bloom, and the good folks at Telenext Media:
Slow this freight train down!
We understand competition is fierce in the daytime arena, not just from other soaps but also from the judges Judy and Joe Brown, telenovelas, as well as the political and stock market soaps operas dominating cable news networks. We also understand it is harder than ever for soaps to compete against the ever-expanding array of entertainment and lifestyle choices viewers have to make. We understand that above all soaps are not mere entertainment vehicles; they also are economic engines driven by commercial revenue and ratings. Therefore, reasonable and reasonably informed viewers can pretty much understand the necessity to push stories moving forward at a steady clip in order to keep those eyeballs you have and maybe entice some new ones as well.
The problem is there exists a difference between a maintaining steady clip and ramming story through like a screaming locomotive. All of the stories mentioned above are to this viewer fairly entertaining, perhaps much more so over the last few weeks than in a long time. Events move along at such an accelerated rate that many defy logical explanation (such as Dusty's round trip to New York in the space of three or four scenes) and others require a massive suspension of disbelief (Spencer's ridiculously sudden antics one episode after her introduction).
The result of this increasing reliance on compressed storytelling is that it has rendered ATWT schizophrenic: one day the show can be brilliant in its economy or with a story like Stenbeck's just-the-right-length return and on other days the show can turn into a near incomprehensible, choppy hot tranny mess. Popular couples get split up, actors are hired and then summarily fired, recasts fill their places and then don't see the light of day for weeks, jump cuts in time are jarring and stories with potential come and go seemingly with whichever way the wind happens to be blowing. This is not a new phenomenon either, as ATWT has been employing compressed storytelling for what seems to be the last couple of years. Now it is out of control.