AUTHOR'S DISCLAIMER: The title of this blog entry is solely a reference to the writing styles of the shows mentioned and nothing more.
"The effect of drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick." — The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
That description of what is known as the best fictional alcoholic drink in the known universe is exactly how I feel watching a few of my favorite daytime dramas these days. Unlike that improbable drinky drink, this is hardly a compliment. There is something really odd going on all over the soap dial with the ham fisted lack of subtlety and general narrative blundering going on.
In a couple of recent entries, I pointed out how All My Children's "Who Killed Stuart (Not Adam) Chandler?" murder mystery has been marred by a lack of, well, mystery. As I said, what had the potential to be a great whodunit has been turned into the soap opera equivalent of Clue, one which is losing my interest very rapidly, especially when compared to increasingly delicious and twisted "Who Killed Edmund Winslow?" whodunit concurrently airing on Guiding Light. The latter show is peeling back layers and layers of motive and opportunity, while the former is peeling like an onion: it is making me cry. As it happens, AMC isn't the only egregious offender of hitting us over the head with the narrative equivalent of a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick these days: the other two are As the World Turns and, shockingly and in some circles blasphemously, One Life to Live.
I'll keep the ATWT observation and criticism to a minimum, as I am trying to avoid all-out bashing of this show that I really love. Nonetheless, Monday's terribly uneven Memorial Day episode managed to indulge the worst of ATWT's excesses under head writer Jean Passanante while setting a new low for the show in unnecessary repetition. For the purposes of brevity let's ignore the complete tonal disconnection between the stories playing out on screen and take it as a given that watching the weirdly written all-over-the-map Paul/vaguely-confused Rosanna (an all over the map Roger Howarth and a vaguely confused looking Cady McClain) scenes at her co-op/farm vis a vis the the machinations regarding the return of Alison's (Marnie Schulenburg) father Larry McDermott (Ed Fry) felt like watching two and sometimes three different shows altogether. Instead, let's focus on the scenes where Meg (Marie Wilson), Damian (Paolo Seganti) and Barbara (Colleen Zenk Pinter) had it out after Paul mistakenly thought Barbara had betrayed him because Meg and Damian followed her:
MEG: You are helping your crazy son! Paul is crazy! Eliza is MY daughter! If something happens to Eliza, I'll pout in a very threatening manner! (I'm trying to look scary and threatening. Is it working?)
BARBARA: I was trying to help! Paul is MY son and Eliza is MY granddaughter! I thought if I brought him millions of dollars, he'd listen to reason and give Eliza back, you FOOL! (I can sell this, dammit!)
DAMIAN: Call the police, Barbara and Meg. - (grumble, grumble, try not to look confused as to why I came back to this show for this shit) - We'll get Eliza back, Meg. Don't worry. - (try to stay awake).
This huffy argument was repeated twice nearly verbatim on location at a slightly tornadic airfield and then inexplicably again once Babs, Meg and Damian had flown from wherever they were back to Oakdale. While repetition of scene dynamics and sometimes even dialogue within any given episode of a soap is nothing new, this dreadful ring-around-the-rosie argument on ATWT was written with a tin ear filled with wax. The words that were said only vaguely sounded like the characters themselves and did not ring at all true.
The writing for Meg in particular made her come off more shrill and completely unlikeable than ever; her tirades against Barbara — while laughable — were completely undone when Meg later admitted to Damian that she felt that Paul wasn't a danger to Eliza at all! So what the hell was the the previous twenty minutes of shrieking all about? Instead of making Meg look like a frightened mother, she came off just as loony, hotheaded and unreasonable as Paul. Let me just say that given the foul language I used, I could have easily won the Scripps Spelling Bee for Cussin'.
While the cited scenes are examples of ATWT's ongoing but worsening narrative clumsiness, it is far from alone. Across the dial, One Life to Live has been afflicted with a slightly different strain of narrative swine flu. As with many viral mutations, the primary symptom is a ham-fisted lack of subtlety. In recent weeks, OLTL has felt "off" in a way that I could not quite figure out until the intersection of the denouement of the Baby Chloe Is Really Baby Hope Saga with the climax of the KAD Killer/Crazy Powell/Multi-Kidnapping Imbroglio.