Oh my god, you’re sitting down?

— Reid (to Luke)

ATWT Wins Writers Guild Award for Reid’s Death

On Saturday night, the Writers Guild of America Awarded As the World Turns the prize for best writing in the Daytime Drama Category. To quote Michael Fairman on the subject:

In the Daytime Drama category, the writing team of As the World Turns in it’s final time in the competition, took home the prize besting the writing teams from One Life to Live and General Hospital.

Yesterday, Michael posted a follow-up on his blog, confirming that ATWT won based on the scripts surrounding Reid’s death, and the show finale. Wrote Michael:

Many asked over the weekend what episodes did ATWT submit and win for, when we first reported  As the World Turns won it’s stunning WGA Award on Saturday night, making it extra special since it is the last time the series will be in the category. Today,  On-Air On-Soaps can confirm after speaking with a representative at the Writers Guild of America that in fact, the Daytime Drama nominees have to submit three scripts for judging.

Then, CBS Soaps In Depth today confirmed that ATWT’s submission for their win consisted of two of the scripts focused on Reid’s death and Chris realizing he had the late doctor’s heart, and the third, the finale.

Former ATWT writer David A. Levinson, who accepted the show’s award in Hollywood stated about the finale selection,  “It had an ‘Our Town‘ feel to it. We felt that Bob’s retirement was the perfect way to go out.  And the soap’s ending was a well-planned and thoughtfully-considered phrase.  To have the last words on the show be him saying, ‘Good night’ [was] because [the late] Helen Wagner (Nancy) opened the show with ‘Good morning.’”

Thanks to the alert fans at ESS.com for the link to MF’s site.

LoveLure’s Response

This was my knee-jerk reaction, which I posted on Michaels’s site (once I was able to scrape my jaw off my keyboard):

Dear Michael,

Thank you SO much for posting this!  You’ve answered a question many of us have been wondering about (even if we were too stunned to email you about it!).

Many people have hypothesized along the way that the ending was plotted to give TPTB a shot at Emmys, and, so it seems at first glance, that they may be right. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual scripts for these episodes – the "writing" (not the plotting) got more than the usual attention with award submissions in mind.

I think part of the problem with these awards is that inevitably they are taken out of context (I have the same problem with the acting Emmys – how will an actor who is great every day but has no standout episode ever get recognized?). This should not be the daytime drama award for best writing, but rather the "daytime drama award for best writing of a few episodes."

For anyone parachuting in from outer space to review these episodes knowing only superficial context (Nancy’s history, show ending) then I can see why these episodes would win.

I’ve said before that given the ending (which, obviously, given my screenname, I did not enjoy), I actually adored much of what came out of Luke’s mouth the day of Reid’s death (the script) – I love you and you love me, so many stupid arguments, blaming himself and then correcting himself in Reid’s voice (I actually cheered out loud when he did that!), offering to bring in a specialist like he did for Noah, you’re not going anywhere and neither is your heart. So, on a micro-level, I can objectively see why these episodes would win.

Similarly, we all knew they were going for a poetic, artistic final episode. And so the blatant (and well-publicized) effort to give the finale an "Our Town" feel apparently succeeded. If you watch the episodes without realizing what a major character Luke was, then you probably can’t appreciate the depth of his loss (it would be like..say, Lisa or Emma, not being on the canvas).

Without any knowledge of the show’s history, it’s easy to believe that everyone got their happy ending (the other two submitted episodes notwithstanding) and that the storylines seemingly were (all) neatly wrapped up in pretty bows -  i.e., "well planned and thoughtfully considered".

But short of making the awards judges sit in front of 200 episodes of each show before rendering judgment (a torture I would not wish upon anyone), it seems that the "mis-representative sample" bias will endure.

It just goes to show – you can’t fool all the people all the time, but it’s not so hard to fool some of the people at least some of the time. It’s like why you wear makeup and lose 10 pounds for your high school reunion. A reflection of reality? Not so much.

– LL

P.S. Just reread your post. And I see that the phrases "well-planned" and "thoughtfully-considered" came from David Levinson, and not a representative of WGA, and that "thoughtfully-considered" referred specifically to the "final phrase."

Not to be too cynical, but my response to that is: "DUH!" I started following ATWT again in March after watching off-and-on for 20 to 30-some years. I don’t know when the speculation began, but I have to believe that almost starting from the day the cancellation was announced, fan forums have been dotted with people suggesting "Wouldn’t it be great if Helen Wagner could say the last line – oh, and it should be good night, dear!"

With Helen’s unfortunate passing, the mantle obviously passed to Don Hastings and Kathryn Hays. So to me that final line was no more well-planned and thoughtfully-considered than, say, wearing a raincoat in a raging thunderstorm.  Granted, it was sentimentally appreciated, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But really? How many long-time fans actually DIDN’T anticipate a variation of this as the final line?

It’s Harder Than It Looks

WorldTurnsTV.com did a great post that captures a lot of great thoughts:

I must also acknowledge that I have launched many tirades in the past about the writing on my beloved show; but I have also often stated time and again that even at its worst, World Turns was better than the others. This is a show that didn’t just focus on the rich and famous, but showcased characters that each one of us could relate to in some way. This is a show that didn’t rely on gimmicks, teen exploitation or the supernatural; instead it focused on family, relationships and everyday people who could have been our best friends or relatives. That’s why World Turns won the best writing award from their peers at the Writers Guild. It is also why this show should not have been canceled. 

As a professional writer, I know how tough it is to churn out copy under deadline pressure, but to do it practically 52 weeks a year while fending off criticism from fans, the network, the production company, the producers and the actors is an amazing feat. Fans don’t really understand the pressures these writers face, all we really want is a good show. That’s what these writers delivered to us most of the time, and that’s why I want to take the time to recognize them by name. Congratulations to:  Susan Dansby, Lucky Gold, Janet Iacobuzio, Penelope Koechl, David Kreizman, Leah Laiman, David A. Levinson, Leslie Nipkow, Jean Passanante (head writer pictured above), Gordon Rayfield, David Smilow; CBS

You do us proud!!

I have to disagree with the “gimmicks” for the later years, as I do believe that the show succumbed to plot-driven storylines (Iris, Audrey, Uncle Ralphie) and stunt casting (Blackthorne, anyone?), taking it far away from those family roots that were so great. I think it’s part of what killed the show.

But to pick up on the other point made above, about it being “tough to churn out copy under deadline pressure, 52 weeks a year,” I 100% agree. I’ve worked in publishing as well. There’s pretty much never enough time to sufficiently research and proof, much less write or edit anything to the desired degree of quality.

And based on my Simple Gifts experience, I think soaps are a particularly challenging medium. I’ve also said in the past (and will reiterate) that I think writing a serial is much harder than writing one-shots. PLEASE don’t interpret that as “I think one-shots are easy” – I don’t. But they physically are much less constraining, and I think it’s easier to produce something manageable and great than something huge and decent.

But even writing alone with just one pairing, I still struggle to keep the A and B storylines straight and to keep the timeline untangled. And I even get to choose to write only for my favorite characters, and can write what I want when I want. I can’t imagine having to pick up multiple storylines that haven’t been seen for four weeks.

Susan Dansby made an interesting point in her seminars about script-writers having a job to do. I’m paraphrasing here, badly, but her point was basically that even if you think a plot point sucks, you never know if that idea is the brainchild of the person who signs your paychecks, so it’s not always prudent to go poking holes in the plot. Plus I would guess it’s like a balloon – if you squash it on one end, who knows where it will pop up instead. So as a script writer, you do the job you were hired to do – write lines to fill in and support the breakdown you are given – love it or hate it.

And I can vouch for this fact – writing about a subject you can’t stand (or perhaps worse, are bored stiff by) is WORK. To do so for 200 episodes under tight time pressures can’t be easy.

Daytime Award for Best Script Writing for Certain Episodes

So with all that being said, and with a few hours’ distractions under my belt (otherwise known as “work”), I have come to the conclusion that my biggest complaint about “the writing” is due to the plotting and planning of the story, not necessarily the dialogue and actual words in the scripts.

As I’ve alluded to this in the past, as much as I hated the ending and a lot of the stupid plot-driven twists and stunt casting (which I would attribute to the showrunner and TPTB, who are largely excluded from the above list), I do believe much credit is due to the writers who actually brought Reid and Rooftop/Sparkly Luke to life.

There is a non-negligible faction of LuRe (and Nuke) fans who feel all of the writers should be excoriated for the way they wrote the gay couples, but listening to Susan Dansby’s epilogue seminar (plugging my ears and singing LA-LA-LA loudly during the often blatant Nuke-pandering), I reaffirmed, to myself at least, what I largely suspected about the soap creative process – that much of the direction (including whether there’s a kiss or whether there is any progress in a storyline) is largely dictated before the breakdown step – and long before a scriptwriter is assigned to make something workable out of the convoluted storyline.

Many of these same LuRe fans have basically said that Eric and Van were the only good thing about the show and thrived in spite of the lousy writing. I think Eric and Van worked magic (duh, look at this site, for crying out loud!), but I also think that the writing made a difference – a big one. For me, the combination of writers, characters, actors, and chemistry was uniquely special (one reason I’m skeptical that reuniting Eric and Van as some random other gay couple will have the same resonance – though, if it happens, you can sign me up at the front of the line!).

In the past, I’ve singled out Susan Dansby (and Janet Iacobuzio) for writing many of the early and classic Reid and LuRe episodes (which reminds me – I have another post to update!). They put the words in Eric and Van’s mouths that gave them a foundation for Reid’s snark, Luke’s “in your personal space”-ness, and their amazing chemistry. If you read Eric’s interviews with Susan Dansby and Kate Davies, there’s definitely a sense of him learning the craft in the first few weeks of his run. If he’d been given run-of-the mill dialogue, as much as I love Eric, I don’t believe Reid would have caught on the way he did.

The fact that I’m only through posting transcripts up to March 12th, and the Best Quotes page would already take up 13 pages of paper when printed is in part due to our memories of the actors’ kick-ass delivery, but it also speaks volumes about the writing. Luke and Reid were given some really good stuff. They were also given some stupid inane plotlines, but who in soaps isn’t? I mean – really? Henry falling for Vienna’s baby pad, Paul giving Meg a gun with blanks, and Barbara and Chuckles?

I was going to start quoting a few of my favorites here, but then I realized I’d end up replicating the original post. So if you need a refresher in just how funny and original the writing for Luke and Reid was, go have another look (and yes, I promise this list will someday be complete!).

One Response to “ATWT Wins Writers Guild Award for Reid’s Death”

  1. mmc says:

    The ATWT writers did give us great characters in the form of Luke and Reid, however they didn’t follow through and gave them the worst ending in the history of soaps.At least that’s how I feel.And to be honest, i don’t think any other actors could have done justice to Luke and Reid .In my opinion, Van is the one who should win an award for his wonderful acting…..As far as the Chris and Katie story, it was useless and made no sense.Her child was still a baby and she still was missing Brad.There was no love story with her and Chris and certainly no chemistry between them.And yet they had a happy ending and Luke and Reid did not.The only award the writers deserved was one for stupidity and I’d be so happy to hand it to them myself!!!!

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