Bernard's "World" View: In Defense of Christopher Goutman
In the midst of Lucinda’s chaos, Blackthorn (Billy Warlock) provided a catalyst for Janet (Julie Pinson) and Dusty (Grayson McCouch) to reunite. Likewise, Manzo’s (Stuart Damon) re-emergence not only gave Jack (Michael Park) closure about Brad’s death, but also allowed insight into Lucinda’s past and gave her the spark of an idea that she could live a life outside of her daughter and company— just not with Manzo— paving the way for a full reconciliation with John Dixon, the only man who gets Lucinda as she is.
This is the kind of densely-plotted connective tissue that the Douglas Marland used to write; I say “real” in order to distinguish the television writer from the mythical “Douglas Marland” of selective nostalgia and chopped up YouTube clips. The way Lucinda’s plots, Reid’s death, Chris’ heart transplant and the Jack/Carly/Janet/Dusty imbroglio have been intertwined are true in spirit to Marland's canvas spanning, intricate storytelling. They have provided many opportunities for most of the cast, affected nearly all of the major characters and moved every story to some sort of closure in an economical fashion not seen on most soaps in their final days on the air.
This is why ATWT is in as good, if not better, dramatic shape as Texas at the end of its two-year run in 1982. Of all the soaps that I’ve watched fade to black since I began in the 1970’s (excluding Passions, a show I never cared for), only Texas seemed to look at the interior lives of all of the characters on its canvas and treat the show’s end as the opportunity for them all to move on to new chapters in their lives. Several serials (Generations, Capitol, Port Charles) continued their storylines and ended with unresolved cliffhangers. Other finales involved stunts (Loving and its spinoff The City with serial killers; Andie’s ridiculous wedding assassination plot during BJ and Warren’s nuptials on Santa Barbara; gorillas invading Bay City at the end of Another World before its beautiful, final scenes). Sunset Beach went out as forgettable as it came in. Search for Tomorrow faded out fitfully but gracefully. The Edge of Night stayed true to its mostly plot-based roots and sprang everyone into another mystery/adventure as the end credits music swelled and the final credits rolled.
Texas—which as I mentioned I feel is the soap to benchmark in terms of ending things well— under then headwriter Pamela K. Long, asked internal, character-based questions of nearly all of its canvas. The one, overarching inquiry which fuels any soap opera and all of its principal, featured characters is: “What is most important to you?” Almost everyone on Texas had an opportunity to evaluate or re-evaluate their lives, loves and fortunes before moving on to new chapters in their lives. The two-year old Another World spinoff ended with the fitting sale of fictional television station KVIK and a moving toast that doubled as a tribute to the show and their efforts featuring the majority entire cast.
The citizens of Oakdale won’t get that specific kind of final sendoff, but will have gone on final journeys where these last stories have motivated its principals to reexamine their mistakes (Barbara (Colleen Zenk); Lucinda; Craig), triumphs (the reconciliation of Jack and Carly (Maura West) and Janet and Dusty and the birth of their baby), cherish all that they hold dear (almost all of the remaining Hughes’ in various forms), and embrace (mostly) hopeful futures (Gabriel (Ben Levin) in Montega; Liberty (Sarah Wilson) at F.I.T.; Parker (Mick Hazen) as a cop in honor of his fathers Hal (the late Benjamin Hendrickson) and Jack; Casey (Billy Magnussen) and Alison (Marnie Schulenberg) in marriage and new career paths). Their “final” decisions and actions have not come out of the blue as so many seem to think they have, but have been building for weeks and even months.
I think a lot of viewers these days watch day-to-day and week-to-week, often permanently judging characters and entire storylines on a scene-by-scene, minute-to-minute basis as they air. Twitter, Facebook and other social media have only accelerated and underscored that tendency. Our instantaneous reactions can become etched in opinionated stone and we get so caught up in being “right’ that we sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Despite the fact that those trees have been a little ragged, in my opinion, Goutman has done a fine job at the end of the day. Do I agree with every last one of those decisions? Of course not. However, in the next two days as we say goodbye to As the World Turns’, I’m going to go to bat (mostly) for Goutman, look at the final two episodes, and within that context critique why some of the things that fans want are not always what’s in the best interest of a show.