When As the World Turns Gets It Right
As the World Turnsgets little critical love these days, at least from me. Executive producer Chris Goutman and head writer Jean Passanante are roundly criticized for revolving door castings that last between three to six weeks per actor while a number of popular veterans remain stranded on the sidelines, nine month story lines compressed into 45 minutes of screen time, and obviously declining production values due to draconian budget cuts not of their making or within their control. Watching ATWT lately has been as often a test of endurance as much as one of patience. Unfortunately, many viewers have been able to pass neither challenge as the show's declining Nielsen ratings attest.
Nonetheless, I am careful to try to give credit where credit is due and today's episode did something very smart for the first time in a long time: human emotions took center stage. The writers shoved janky plot mechanics aside and instead focused on characters trying to relate to each other through adverse circumstances. Yes, ATWT's usual maddening problem of compressing events that should have played out over days and weeks into a single show managed to compromise a bit of my enjoyment, but I have to say I thought as a whole they hit it out of the park today.
First, kudos to Ellen Dolan as Margo. There is a reason why Daytime Confidential's Mike Jubinville has chosen Ms. Dolan two weeks in a row as one of his Performers of the Week and today's scenes illustrated exactly why. Dolan communicated Margo's almost irrational yet totally understandable desire to protect Adam/Riley (Tom Degnan) while trying to maintain her relationship with an increasingly (and, again, understandably) hostile Casey (Billy Magnussen), while at the same time trying to convince him to not blow Riley/Adam's secret. Ms. Dolan's work was the pitch-perfect mix of a mother's determination and barely-under-the-surface desperation to hold on to her tenuously reunited family at any cost, including her own integrity.
In my opinion, Magnussen has kept Casey sympathetic regardless of his distasteful behavior because Casey's arguments about the unfair burdens he's been saddled with (going to jail for Adam's past deeds and now keeping his brother's true identity a secret from everyone he knows, including his father) are legitimate. Today, instead of being written as the volcanic hothead, Casey was driven further toward a certain level of bitterness that only makes sense for the character under the circumstances.
I also very much liked that the mechanics of how Hunter came to be born was less in the forefront than it has been the last couple of days. Instead, today's show focused on him and Allison trying to find a way to relate to each other as brother & sister. I thought both Evan Alex Cole and Marnie Schulenburg (who usually gets a lot of grief in these here parts) were excellent at conveying their awkwardness in trying to find a way to be a family and dealing with the pre-sibling revelation sexual tension between them. In many ways, their pseudo-incestuous connection reminds me of another brother & sister with deep sexual attraction, Brian & Paige Madison whom older viewers might remember from The Edge of Night in the early 1980's. As an added bonus, I loved how Allison stood up for herself and refused to be mistreated by the bitter Casey and basically told him he could get to stepping!
As for Carly's intervention, the word that comes easily to mind is 'Bravo!"(continued)