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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Unspooling

As most of my readers know, much of the last six months here in the Casiello home have been spent turning it from a dust-ridden bachelor pad, into a co-habitable home for me and The Beau. As such, there's been lots of cleaning and digging into old boxes and closets, trying to make room for the crap he and I have accumulated over the years.

In the process, I've come across some real gems - a few long stories I've collected from various shows over the years. Some of them are long stories I've actually told as a member of the writing team - and others are copies of old long stories written by previous head writers and long since buried in the back of a writers' assistant filing cabinet. Some of them were approved by the network and made it to air - and some of them were quickly thrown out, and left to collect dust underneath a pile of old mailing labels and manila envelopes. (One of them was written by Doug Marland, and once I get through all hundred and fifty pages of it, I'm definitely going to blog more about it for all you Marland/Oakdale aficionados - did you all know Holden Snyder's original name was Clem Holden?! CLEM?!)

It's interesting looking at the spectrum of styles used in all of these long stories. The Marland long story is EPIC. I mean, every detail is laid out, meticulously logged from one chapter of the story to the next. As I flipped through it, I was so impressed at the way the stories weaved in and out of each other. I haven't seen a long story written out like this on a soap in years.

And then I started to think about why.

Many fans would say it's due to the fact that head writers now are "lazy hacks". That's probably a vast over-simplification. I don't think writers these days want to devote that much time and energy into writing their long stories, because inevitably you end up with what I call The Unspooling.

Here's how it works:

A) Head writer crafts detailed long story, writes it all out, single-spaced - every move, every reveal, every pay-off, for three months (Thirteen Weeks).
B) Network approves it whole-heartedly. It's "just what we're looking for!"
C) Breakdown writers begin the first few chapters of the story. Everything is great - it's playing out at exactly the pace and the proper tone as the head writers' original document.
D) Somewhere in Week Three, the network doesn't like how something plays. It's "a small section of the story", and they "just want to tweak it."
E) So the scenes get tweaked. Only suddenly, pulling out a thread of the Story in Week Three means you can't play another detail in Week Six, and then the reveal in Week Thirteen has to change slightly. But it's all good. We're professionals. It's what we do. Moving on.
F) Week Four begins, and things are back on track. Only this time, there's an actor vacation that was approved eight months ago. Crap. We don't have our leading lady for the next two weeks. Okay, so we postpone what's supposed to happen in Weeks Four and Five until Weeks Six and Seven, and we'll just highlight another storyline in Weeks Four and Five until we get her back.
G) Oh, but wait. If we postpone Weeks Four and Five into Weeks Six and Seven, then the rewrite that took place (in Step E above) in Week Six has to be changed to Week Eight.
H) Do-able. We'll make it work. It'll take a lot of planning, but we should be able to get everything back on track by the reveal in Week Thirteen during Sweeps. We don't need that beat in Week Ten anymore, so we'll just cut that and move right to Week Eleven, and then we'll still have the reveal by Sweeps. Just pull that thread out.
I) We're writing Week Six now, and suddenly realize the plot movement in Week Six was supposed to be build-up to the beat in Week Ten - you know, that beat that we just erased from the long story from Step H earlier! Well, what's the point now? So Week Six it out the window - Week Six that was originally Week Four, and now serves no purpose to the reveal.
J) Then the executive producer enters the room. Guess what? These two actors hate each other and refuse to work together after a big blow-out a few weeks ago. Damn. There goes your Week Eleven love-making sequence. It's okay though (everyone sighs, exhausted) - we'll play it off camera. Just pull that one thread out, the rest will be fine.
K) Only it's not fine. You're now playing beats from Week THREE in Week TEN, the threads you pulled to appease the network earlier you now realize you need in Week Eleven - because you can't play what you originally wrote in Week Eleven. And crap, we're now two weeks away from Sweeps and you have to rush the story to get to the big reveal. And just then...
L) The network steps in and realizes they don't like how the story's been playing on-screen (since Week One of the story just started to air), and want to completely change the ending. Let's go dark for two weeks and come up with a whole new Sweeps. In the week you're writing the Week Thirteen Reveal.
M) Writing team drinks heavily and throws in the towel.

Okay, this is basically the Perfect Storm of events, and I'm exaggerating slightly. But it's not that far from the truth. The head writer who holed up in his or her house for two weeks straight, drowning in a sea of index cards and dry erase boards, now has watched as one thread after another is pulled out, and the entire quilt completely unspools. As they struggle to pull the pieces together, try and come up with a logical ending to this quagmire they're in that will somehow make everybody happy, it hits them - "This is the story that will make me a hack. Why oh why did I plan this down to the tiniest detail, when there's so much that can go wrong?"

On the other hand, I've seen plenty of head writers turn in "bullet points" for a long story. Two pages (tops!) of half-sentences, with just a list of beats. "Boy meets girl." "Boy loses girl." "Girl sleeps with boy's brother." "Girl gets pregnant." "Baby has mystery disease." "Brothers team up, find out girl has long-lost twin sister, who donates bone marrow to save baby." "Baby lives, boys end up with girls."

Once upon a time, I thought this was just the easy way out. A head writer's net income has six or seven zeroes, all for a two-page beat sheet?!

But after seeing the way so many of these detailed stories have been picked apart, dissected, and ended up un-spooling on-camera? I have to wonder if maybe that isn't the only way to go these days in order to preserve some sanity. This way, if a detail is pulled apart, it doesn't take your whole long story with you.

Don't get me wrong. In my perfect world, the head writer would have an incredibly detailed long story, where all the beats are carefully laid out, and your Sweeps periods for the next YEAR are planned on January 1st. The network has signed off on a year's worth of story, and instead of constantly shoehorning in changes, the head writer is now free to focus on the characters' voices, the smaller (more emotional) beats in each episode, the subtext and working with his/her team of breakdown and script writers to create the best possible show. And sure - life gets in the way, and you'd have to make changes for actors/directors/EP's, etc. But in the end, all the notes were incorporated before the story even hit the breakdowns, and all are happy with the direction of the show for the year.

Ah, yes. In a perfect world... but that is not the reality of writing for television.

The clouds swirl around you, the threads are pulled out one by one, and at the end of the day? You're going to have to make changes anyway. So why spend the energy rewriting a two hundred page document, when you can just rewrite a two-page beat sheet?

Having been away from daytime for the last year, and gotten a little perspective, I can see the pros and cons to both methods. The beat-sheet writers tend to have a much easier time at their jobs... their stories roll with the punches, and they tend not to be as stressed out. And therefore, they tend to stay in their jobs longer. While the ones who detail out their long stories? They tend to get more frustrated, spend a lot more late nights working, and inevitably, end up in arguments with the higher-ups and don't last long. Gone are the days where Head Writers own a part of their show, and had the final say. You can't fight City Hall, so how do you write the perfect long story when you know what inevitably will happen?

In an industry so hell-bent on writing by committee, I've come to realize that my naivete in terms of the auteur's vision on daytime may be wonderfully idealistic (and something MarkH did a really interesting blog about recently) , but it's not the way a show can thrive. Not in this day and age. I marvel at the head writers who somehow manage to find middle ground - who so tirelessly write enough long story for their breakdown writers and script writers to not feel like they're lost at sea, but also write the LEAST amount of story to give to the networks, so the whole process doesn't get picked apart. A breakdown writer once said to me in my younger days "The more you write, the more they'll note you". True enough. Ergo, writers started writing less.

Still though... I read these old long stories stacked up in my bookshelf? And that naive part of me that started in this business ten years ago re-emerges. I get lost in the details of a beautifully crafted long story, and think back to my childhood, watching the way these stories played out on-screen and wondering what it would be like to one day be the one spooling the stories in the first place.

And what it was like to write for the sake of writing, and not to avoid the noting.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Soap Writer Joins the Club!

Hey all!

I hope everyone's holiday was good last week, and you're all chilling out and saving some energy for New Year's Eve in a few days! I just finished my December job (well, almost... two more days this week), and gearing up for what I hope will be an exciting January.

But today's blog entry isn't about me.

As you all know, I've lived through some doubts about keeping the blog going after it went public in February '08. But if anything positive came out of that turning point, it's that other soap writers found their way onto the web. A short time later, Sara Bibel got her own blog over at Fancast. Dena Higley began blogging about her home life over on the Days site. And suddenly, other writers like Karen Harris, Victor Miller, and Thom Racina, found their way onto Blogtalk radio shows like In the Zone, and the Robert Reid show. Just recently, Guiding Light invited Internet bloggers over to Peapack, New Jersey. These aren't people associated with any of the soap press - they're just fans like the rest of us, who began their own commentary. Finally, daytime is catching up with the rest of us on the Internet (although I think we all waited about five years too late), and I think it's fantastic.

Now, another soap writer - one I consider to be a very dear friend, and I adore completely - has joined the rest of us out here. I first met Leslie Nipkow when she was a script writer on One Life to Live - although I didn't really get to know her until she was promoted to Script Editor and began joining us for the weekly Monday morning writers' meetings with the network. Her levity, and ability to find a way to laugh under even the most tense circumstances not only got me through many an awkward notes' meeting, but also through three months of walking in circles last winter during the strike. And this past year, even though we've been traveling on different paths since the strike ended, she's proven herself to be an invaluable friend, and got me through many periods in 2008 where self-doubt and insecurity reared their ugly heads.

Leslie has veered back into essay writing, and earlier this year, had one of her pieces in the New York Times! A few weeks ago, she posted this essay over at I loved it - it's bold, blunt, funny, and paints a much different picture of the "Soap Opera Experience" than anybody else currently online, from a very different perspective than we're used to. And fans of Loving and One Life to Live will really get a kick out of it. You'll never think of Randolph Mantooth the same way again!!

I encourage everybody to go check it out - and who knows? I would love to see Leslie's work continue, and find an audience online, only because her sense of humor, love of both writing and acting, and her experiences working on BOTH sides of the camera is truly inspirational and enlightening. So if you like it, let Freshyarn know, or leave a comment here!

Congratulations, Leslie!

And Happy New Year, all!!!

xoxo --tom

Monday, December 22, 2008

Where in the World is Tom Casiello?!

It sure has been awhile, hasn't it?

I can't remember the last time I took so much un-announced time away from the blog. Believe me, it wasn't planned. Suffice it to say, I've been running around like crazy trying to get ready for the holidays, and get what's left of my finances in order. I'm also way behind on all of my soaps, and my holiday break is basically going to be me and my DVR. The poor Beau will probably forget what I look like. But there's a lot to catch up on, including Heather taking Adam down on Y&R, Todd's trial on OLTL, Alan-Michael and Marina... oh wait, I mean Craig and Dani on As the World Turns, and Annie's reign of terror on AMC. I'm also still waiting with bated breath to see what GH has up its sleeve in the new year, considering I've been hearing some pretty wacky rumors.

In terms of my writing... well, things may or may not be happening. Here's how it works when you're focused on your own projects - since you're not writing for an EP or a Head Writer or a network, you're basically writing with zero boundaries. Which can be totally wonderful, but it can also be tremendously intimidating. You don't know what quirks your eventual reader will have, and you're never quite sure who you can trust and who you can't trust out there in "Reader-Land". I can't say much, but I can tell you that projects thought long dead have suddenly been resurrected (much like many a former soap spouse) and while I've been keeping my fingers and toes crossed for that, I also got a mysterious phone call two Fridays ago that also could prove to be my salvation in 2009 (a great Friday tag, leaving me totally hanging... again, just like a good soap)

So basically, I've been afraid to come near the blog, because the way these things work, the rug can always get pulled out from under you. It's nothing personal - sometimes things work out, and other times, circumstances beyond your control step in and you end up on an entirely different path altogether (Writers Strike, anyone?)

So I've avoid typing anything, because I don't want to give away too much or too little... and not that I'm a superstitious person, but I don't want to jinx anything.

Suffice it to say, things are hopping over here in Tom-Land, and I'm hoping that soon, very soon (in writer-speak, "soon" could mean a few months, by the way), I'll be sharing some wonderful news on these pages.

Who knows? Maybe tomorrow...

But if it isn't tomorrow, I want to say HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all my readers out there. It's been such a crazy year... on January 1st last year, we were all wondering what story the "real Greenlee" would come back to, I was looking forward to the strike ending and returning to work, and NOBODY knew this blog even existed. And here we are, almost three hundred and sixty five days later... and life is totally different. I've got a partner living with me, and new friends I've made all across the Internet (Hi, Kenny! And PR! And Toups! Hi Superposter! And Soap Queen! Hi Ryan! And Jack Peyton! Hi Damon! And Patrick! And Mark! Hi Marlena! And Nelson! And Snark! And Khan! And Luke and Jamey! Hi Na'Vell and Matt! Hi Rhinohide! And MsT! And Crystal! I feel like I should be looking into the Magic Mirror when I type this! :-)) I've got job prospects lined up, and a whole new future that a year ago, I thought would never be possible.

2008 has been a truly terrifying, inspiring, surprising, traumatic, wonderful, educational year for me. And I hope all the little moments that added up to your 2008 somehow make sense in these final days. And as we look into a very uncertain year for daytime, please know that I treasure all you guys out there reading - both the friends I've met and the friends I haven't, but still keep in touch with all the time through the blog. You've made the last twelve months so memorable, and so special, for all of us out here in Soap Land, both current and former.

Without you, we would be absolutely nothing. I would be absolutely nothing. And I hope in some way, some of the words found both on these pages and on your TV screens have managed to light up some light inside of you, given you a little hope in the middle of so much drama, and a little joy in the midst of so much uncertainty.

Have a wonderful holiday and a fantastic New Year's!

All my love,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Little Business

Having pontificated enough, I realize I still have a few myths to bust, and I've gotten some good feedback on the idea of posting some old-Tom-scripts (circa 2001) online and talking about what I would do differently now, but I still don't know how I would get around the legalities of that. (A few networks might have something to say about that. :-))

But it did get me thinking about putting together some "I Wanna Be A Soap Opera Writer" experiment, with people writing scripts off of old breakdowns. Again, I question if I could get sued (not that they could take much away from me these days). But I do know there are a lot of fans out there who dream of one day writing their favorite characters, and if I can find a way around the lawyers, it might be kinda fun. I wish I could offer a job as a grand prize, but they're few and far between these days. Sorry, would-be writers!

I'll see what I can do...

Gluttons for Punishment, Springing Eternal

Occasionally, somebody will liken soap fans to abused spouses (with apologies and great sympathies to anyone who's ever been abused by their spouse). We may be beaten down, talked down to, and ignored - but many of us keep going back for more. It's a morbid comparison, but one that's not entirely untrue.

After the last couple of days, I'm pretty sure that analogy could apply to soap writers as well. I already wrote about the WGA holiday party the other night, and catching up with everyone who is also out of work in daytime. And last night, I got to spend the evening with another fellow former soap writer - one I've worked with and talked to many times, but never face-to-face.

We spent a lot of time talking about what's right in the industry, what's wrong, the behind-the-scenes stories that aren't really appropriate for repeating, and of course, my favorite topic between former soap writers - the most preposterous stories the fans never saw on daytime. (One day, when all of the people involved are long gone, I'm going to post a list of the WORST ideas that NEVER made it to air, thankfully were killed before they could make it in breakdown - it's a list that I think soap fans would go ga-ga for, and would inspire both laughter and horror. It can always be worse, soap fans. ALWAYS.)

So after all of this fun and gossip over drinks, the inevitable question came up "Would you go back?" And the answer for both of us was pretty much "Yes".

Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of out-of-work soap writers out there right now, ranging from the lazy to the brilliant (most of us are definitely somewhere in the middle), and we're all working on our own projects - some of those projects are satisfying us financially, and some of them are satisfying us emotionally. But free of the early morning network meetings, where phrases are micro-managed and spirits are broken, we love being able to explore ideas and themes and worlds with utter freedom.

We cringe at the deadlines, we cower at the notes, we roll our eyes at some of the decisions. And yet, most of us would go back if given a shot.

Not just because of the paycheck. But because somewhere under all of this vitriol, hope lives on. We remember that moment sitting at our computers, completely lost in the middle of a scene, pounding out the thoughts and desires as if we ourselves are these people, and we love that rush. We love stepping into these fictional characters' shoes, and allowing them to help us discover something about ourselves in the process.

Michael Logan recently talked about hope in the latest issue of TV Guide, and in spite of the low ratings, budgets being slashed, vets being fired - the execs in charge remain positive. Naivete? Maybe a little (okay, a lot.) Denial? (Okay, possibly.) But many soap writers share that hope that there's still a way to turn this around, so I don't doubt that everyone's intentions aren't pure, even if their actions show otherwise.

Because at the end of the day... even if you have two actors in front of a piece of cardboard with a home video camera, if the words are there, if the feelings are evoked, if the writing is solid, people will watch. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - it's all about that kiss. If it's done right, that's all you need.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Memorable Pages

Wow... what a night.

First things, first - I got back from the photo shoot on Monday night (late, like at midnight). It was quite the adventure - I worked HARD for about thirteen hours a day, but then was able to eat and drink (whatever I wanted) on the company's dime after that. So as long as I went to sleep early, woke up early, and didn't stop working my ass off until the end of the shooting day, it was totally worth it. And I would do it again in heartbeat.

So I got back last night and worked all day today in Job #4 I have right now. While I was there, I received a messengered package (more on this later)... and then I headed to the Writers Guild's Christmas Party. With the Beau in hand, I headed to the hotel, and caught up with numerous people I haven't seen since the picket line. The first thing I noticed immediately is that with the exception of ONE WRITER, every other daytime writer I saw there was currently unemployed. I don't know what to make of it, but with the exception of one, every one I caught up with there goes under the title of "Former Soap Writer". Weird, right?

But back to that messengered package.

For reasons I can't get into, I was in need of some old scripts I wrote YEARS ago, that I had saved on a computer that has long since crashed (years before I truly understood the meaning of "back up your stuff") So a good friend helped me out with the material he still had on his computer, and on the subway ride home, I got to read what Tom Casiello of the early 90's thought to be "good dialogue".

Some of it was bad. I mean, REALLY bad. But some of it - some of it was kinda pretty cool to read. The thing about writing scripts is that it uses a TOTALLY different part of your brain than writing breakdowns. Richard Allen once told me that you use the part of your brain that writes a screenplay to write a script, but you use the part of your brain that solves a crossword puzzle to write a breakdown. And I think he's totally right. Writing scripts is all about detecting the nuances in character's voices, whereas writing breakdowns is all about making sure every scene is about something, while trying to get from Point A to Point B, in accordance with your head writer.

But it's always interesting to read your past work, and reading what Tom Casiello thought of dialogue back then was highly entertaining. In fact, I'm signing off now to read a lot more of Ryan and Kendall, Carly and Alexis, and Craig and Sierra. And what I thought of them back then.

In writing, so much of it, no matter what the show or who the characters are, it's an interpretation of what's going on in your life. And piecing together the style I wrote with the things going on in my life back then - good or bad, right or wrong, it's the kind of thing I can spend all night doing.

So you'll forgive my intense sense of nostalgia at the moment.

In the meantime, I've taken on a whole slew of freelance jobs, and I know I have another six myths to discuss in my blog. It might take longer than I thought, but I will get there. Just bear with me. Unfortunately, the bills have to get paid, and I'm going to try and juggle the jobs and my blog as best I can.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. In the meantime, I can't wait to dig back in to Greenlee being a BITCH to Kendall, and lovin' every minute of it.

xoxo --tom

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mythbusters - ON HOLD!

Hey all!

I was hoping to continue talking about more myths regarding soap writing, but the time has gotten away from me... and I'm leaving in about 17 hours for IslaMorada to work on a photo shoot. (I know, right? Me? Working a photo shoot?) It's crazy, but it was a great opportunity that fell in my lap, and with daytime headed... well, where it's headed, I'm taking full advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Time to find a new future, and new doors to walk through.

In the meantime, I've also got my hands full with that writing project that's been floating around my apartment and an outside desk or two for the last six months. Things seem to be happening, but in this biz, you tend to get the rug pulled out from underneath you a lot. If this year has taught me anything, it's that I need to let go a little, when it comes to dreams of the past. But it doesn't make me any less of a fan, that's for damn sure. And I'll keep trying, while I continue on this crazy journey.

I'll be back with the rest of my debunked myths next week... but in the meantime, have a fantastic weekend. Play nice, and I'll talk to y'all next Thursday!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Mythbusters, Soap Style - Part Four

So this one is for all the fans out there... and before you jump down my throat, hear me out on this one.

The Plot-Driven Myth

Plot seems to have become a four-letter word around Internet Message Boards these days, and it doesn't have to be. Plot is actually a very good thing. And if a plot drives your story, it's not always the worst thing in the world.

Wait! Wait! Before you all start furiously typing and call me a hack, work with me for a second.

It's very easy for us to divide head writers into camps like "plot-driven writers" (pretty much everybody after 1990) and "character-driven writers" (most of the writers who have long since left the business), and never the twain shall meet. And that's kind of a myth. You need plot. In fact, a great story should be the perfect marriage of plot and character. If stories were all character-driven, chances are, not a whole lot would happen. If it weren't for plot, that accident that killed BJ would never have transpired at exactly the right time to save Maxie's life on General Hospital, and if it weren't for plot, a few frat guys wouldn't have been introduced out of nowhere into Marty Saybrooke's life on One Life to Live. If it weren't for plot, Natalie would have never had a twin sister and Cindy never would have been infected with the AIDS virus on All My Children. If it weren't for plot, a plane crash wouldn't have killed Craig and sent a distraught Lily through the burr-riden woods, ripping her clothes in the process, into Josh Snyder's arms... and Iva wouldn't have thought he was raping their own daughter on As the World Turns.

Plot is NEEDED in a daytime serial. And sometimes, it drives the story. That's not always a bad thing. '

Don't misunderstand - When you get too plot heavy, and the characters get lost under the blanket of the plot, then that's a problem. (I fell victim to that trap a few times at Days of Our Lives - and it WASN'T pretty. I learned my lesson after that year, I'll tell you that much.) A good story should involve both the Fates (i.e. the soaps' writers) throwing in curveballs, much like life... as long as the characters react within the established boundaries of their personalities. If a character is going to do something that the audience doesn't think is within character for them, it's our responsibility to get the character to that life-changing decision in an organic and natural way. The greatest soap writers understood that - the secret is to take the time for the character to become something he or she previously wasn't. (Annie Dutton's slow descent into madness on Guiding Light is a good example of this, or Victor feeding the chickens on Hope's farm for months on Young and the Restless) If you can get get them to that plot point in a way that doesn't turn the audience against the show, then it's okay. Plot and character have to merge in order to drive the whole story.

Don't get me wrong - I still think there are writers out there who rely way too much on plot and end up sacrificing character in order to make their plot work. And when you start shoe-horning characters into storylines to fit a need they shouldn't fulfill, then I definitely think it's a bad thing. But sometimes the plot NEEDS to drive the storyline for a week or two... and then, ideally, the characters need to drive it for another month or two. But if reading drama going all the way back to Shakespeare tells us anything, it's that outside forces raining down on our couple when they least expect it is how great story unfolds.

Plot doesn't have to be a four-letter word on the Internet... believe me, I post on message boards too, and my immediate reaction when I hate something is to say "Enough with the plot-driven crap! Where's my old school character-driven soap opera?!" But then I remind myself about the basic aspects of storytelling, and that sometimes, a storyline needs to be plot-driven. Not for very long... but long enough for our characters to react to what's happening around them... and then they can take the wheel and drive for awhile.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mythbusters, Soap Style - Part Three

I'm jumping in and tackling the third myth I think soaps need to bust open...

The C-Story Myth

Even if you don't know the term "C-story", you've seen hundreds of them. They're the least important story on the show at the moment, and it's usually used as a cutaway from the big heavy-hitter storylines. Examples from shows I've worked on include Touch the Sky on Days, Dorian hiring a real stalker to faux-stalk her own daughter on OLTL, and Isaac and Bonnie go to Scotland and get stuck in a castle on ATWT.

Do we sense a trend forming here?

They're usually the stories that involve the characters least important to the canvas at that time. The characters least developed. And they're usually (but not always) the stories that get the least amount of focus by the writers, and have the least amount of depth.

There seems to be a myth that if you just play this story one or two days a week, and just get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible, you've accomplished your goal. I've been as guilty of feeling this way about a C-Story as the next writer, and I'm a lot of fans feel stuck with the C-story, and use it as easy exercise for their fast-forward button.

I've been thinking a lot about C-stories lately, and how usually plot-heavy they are, usually involving day players from outside the show's regular cast of characters. Forgettable villains, stories with a beginning, middle and an end, and no real evolution in the character's lives to spin them off into their own B-or-maybe-someday-A-stories. But not always. Look how well Ron Carlivati moved Rex and Adriana from C-story-land to A-story-land, and pretty organically as well. Sometimes they're with characters no one's able to get a handle on, and other times they're characters the audience loves, but the show doesn't have a long-term plan for them.

So while the writers are focusing on the show's big umbrella A-story that's building to a climax, and kick-starting the B-story into its second act... there's the C-story. Getting only a quarter of the attention it should, and usually falling like a lead balloon to the ground.

I wonder if maybe instead of inventing some non-sequitur of a plot for a show's C-characters, maybe the idea should be scrapped in favor of some good old-fashioned character moments for them, while the show's writers find a way to incorporate them into the other stories better. Frankly, I'd rather learn more about a character's dreams, desires, fears and regrets, then wonder if they'll escape the day player prostitute holding them hostage on a plane over Las Vegas, or if Isaac will beat the Scottish Duke in his sword dual.

These stories almost never work, so instead of the writers beating their heads against a wall trying to make a story like this work, and the fans scratching their heads wondering what in the hell the writers are smoking, maybe the C-story should be retired for awhile, and these characters just given room to breathe, and the audience time to see how three-dimensional they can be. Their deepest insecurities, their ambitions, their quirks... these are the moments that make us fall in love with characters, as flawed as they are. These moments make us want to keep watching them, because they feel more like us - like human beings. Not when they're being picked up by Bruce, the Psycho-Stalker on the side of the road.

We want to fall in love with all of these characters, so maybe instead of filling their guaranteed episodes each week with cookie-cutter stories meant as throw-aways, we can better use those scenes to give us real human moments with the characters who need them most. We understand the Carly Tenney's and the Sami Brady's and the Todd Manning's of these shows. We've been given an unending wealth of information about who they are. It's the C-characters who need the most work, and that work can't be accomplished when we're playing them in stories with little emotional depth as a plot filler for a summer teen story, or a comical adventure meant to balance a dying baby story.

C-stories don't have to be meaningless. In fact, they should be the exact opposite - they should surprise us be getting us to care about characters in ways we never thought we could.

Tomorrow, I'm throwing one at the fans - the biggest myth fans need to overcome, as opposed to the executives. (Crikey! Get your flame-throwers ready, kids!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mythbusters, Soap Style - Part Two

I'm taking a look at a different myth in the soap industry every day, and today, I'm focusing on a rampant trend in daytime that only seems to be getting worse...

The Quick-Cut Myth

Ten years ago, there were approximately twenty to twenty-five scenes in each episode of a soap opera. I remember the episode where Grant Harrison died on Another World had about thirty scenes in it, and that was considered a LOT at the time.

Fast-forward to 2008, and it's a completely different story. Most shows these days have about thirty-five to forty scenes, and some shows are even flirting forty-five or fifty scenes per episode. Why? Because there's this myth that in this fast-paced, "MTV-style" age of editing (and frankly, I don't understand what MTV has to do with any of this, and I think they'd be happy if the phrase "MTV-style" disappeared from our buzz word lexicon forever... but I digress...) ...there's this myth that viewers these days don't have the attention span beyond anything longer than a two-page scene.

Now here's the thing - anybody who's taken Screenwriting 101 knows that quick scenes intercut with each other is a really cheap, easy tool to build suspense. So when you're talking about something like the tornado sequences on AMC, or one of General Hospital's famous shoot-outs, or John's plane crashing with all the Bradys inside on Days of Our Lives, then by all means - quickly cutting from one section of a set to another, in fast-paced scenes underscored with tense music - well, it's a great way to build to something. Something like this probably goes without saying... but I want to make it clear that I'm not always against this style of storytelling. I wrote the day the prison riots broke out at Statesville on One Life to Live, and even though I wasn't a fan of the storyline (it's a soap opera - why are we writing prison riots?), I remember really wanting to do it justice. If The Powers That Be want a real prison riot, let's give it to them. I watched action movie after action movie the weekend before to get my head in the right place, and devised a "24-esque" count-down in the episode, where it unfolded in real time, and Carlo, John, Hayes and Cristian were all moved like chess pieces to various locations inside the prison, when the lights went out and all hell broke loose. I think I had about fifty scenes in that show, and I remember lots of intercutting between Carlo looking at the clock on the wall, Hayes setting the tripwire on a bomb detonator, the dirty corrections officer downstairs taking an axe to the circuit box, Cristian desperately trying to stop it in time, but trapped in his cell, and John trapped in the warden's office as it unfolds around him. It was an undertaking, and while I still have issues with the fact that we spent three weeks in that crazy riot, I do think the kick-off worked, mainly because there was so much cutting back and forth to different locations in the prison, quickly and without time to catch your breath. (Let's not talk about where we were with it two weeks later...)

But what's disturbing to me is that this approach seems to be taken with emotional moments... like, say, Lily confronting Holden about sleeping with Carly on As the World Turns, or any number of women losing a baby on General Hospital (Pick any of 'em - it's not like there's a shortage of miscarriages on that show), or hell, Reva cleaning her fridge on Guiding Light.

Big emotional pay-offs, as far as I'm concerned, should involve excruciatingly long pauses. The kind where you're hanging on every word, every reaction, every emotional beat in a scene. And when there's only one beat to a scene before you cut to someplace across town? It kills all momentum. One of the things I really appreciated about Ed Scott's production at Days is that he knew when to play a three-to-four minute scene (i.e., Marlena and Belle saying goodbye to John as he died in the hospital), and he knew when to play a forty-five second scene (i.e. the afore-mentioned plane crash). You have to give a viewer time to get invested in a moment before you cut away, and it's damn near impossible when you keep cutting away from it.

There's a time and a place for quick-cutting, and when it's used effectively, it creates its own kind of suspense. But there's a myth that you can't build suspense in a scene of two people just talking to each other (or crying or arguing or throwing things at each other or pointing a gun in each other's faces)... and that's just ridiculous. Not only is it possible to write a four-minute scene that builds suspense between two "talking heads", but it's the foundation this genre was built on.

We watch five days a week to be invested in ALL of these moments - whether it's an action movie, or a melodrama that tugs on every heart string we have. But you have to let us feel it. And it's hard to feel much of anything when we're getting whiplash as we hop across town forty times in thirty-seven minutes.

Tomorrow... Myth #3. And it's another screenwriting lesson I think some executives should pay more attention to...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mythbusters, Soap Style - Part One

My latest trip up to Cambridge for the Futures of Entertainment conference was enlightening in a lot of ways, but none more so than breaking a few misconceptions people had about the soap industry. I've been thinking over the last few days about everything I've learned from taking this year off and learning all I can from the fans. There are a lot of myths out there in the soap world - and even though my silly little blog might not change any minds when it comes to the higher-ups, I wanted it stated for the record that we... and I say we, as I have been a part of it for the last ten years, and in one way or another, contributed... we are completely wrong about.

I'll be taking off for the Florida Keys next Thursday, but over the next five days, I'm going to take the time to dispel the five myths The Powers That Be have convinced themselves of.

First up?

The Teen Story Myth

Somehow, The Powers That Be have convinced themselves that viewers under the age of twenty-five only want to watch characters who are under the age of twenty-five.

I have spent many months trying to figure out where this started. I can look back to characters like Jeff and Penny on As the World Turns, as well as the Dusty/Holden/Lily triangle. I can also look back at Luke/Laura/Scotty on General Hospital, Leo and Greenlee of All My Children, or Frankie and Jennifer on Days of Our Lives. These are all immensely popular love stories told with young people.

These are the examples people in higher positions at soap operas use to convince themselves they need to showcase young people in order to get young people to watch. I don't believe this is true. First of all, I speak from personal experience - I adored watching Cass and Frankie on AW, as well as Mac and Rachel... or Mason and Julia on Santa Barbara, or Robert and Anna on GH (and later, Duke and Anna). They made me look at adults I really admired and respected, and jumpstarted my imagination to show me the kind of man I wanted to me, the kind of love I wanted to experience - and that I shouldn't settle for anything less in life.

I do think back in the late seventies and early eighties, viewers did want to see people their age, because for so long on soaps, middle-aged characters were the centerpiece of every show (not that there's anything wrong with that).

But times have changed, and here's the biggest change in 2008 - young people WANT to be older now. They see themselves as mentally twenty-five when they're physically sixteen. Whether it comes to fashion, romance, sexuality, social issues - they're basically growing up far faster than anybody wants them to.

So here's a suggestion - perhaps we should be showing these young people that characters in their twenties and thirties make mistakes, but learn from them and grow from them and evolve from them. Seventeen year olds will want to watch them because they like to think they're indicative of the people they are in spite of their age, they'll see them screw up and become better people (and maybe learn a few lessons in the meantime), and viewers in their forties and fifties won't feel like they're watching ungrateful, one-note, one-dimensional teens played by inexperienced actors.

Balance those characters out with the kind of older couples young viewers wish they had as parents, and play these families interacting with each other and encountering the same problems these young viewers experience with their families (in spite of the fact they're much younger in real life), and suddenly you've got a multi-generational drama that maybe gives kids something to look forward to, and titillates them in ways eighteen year olds with in bathing suits can't, no matter how many push-ups they do.

Don't get me wrong - men and women of all ages don't mind the eye candy. But it needs to be organically incorporated in, as opposed to the central hub the "spokes of the wheel" turn around (to coin a popular phrase on the blogosphere these days.

Young viewers know what it's like to be around other young people. They live it all day long. That's not what they're interested in watching on television. I promise you. Give them older people to entertain them, to model themselves after (in positive ways), to laugh at, and cry with, and learn from - and I promise you. They'll watch after class.

The rest of us did. They will too. No lie.

Tomorrow - Myth #2.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day - A Walk Down Memory Lane

As I sit here at the Beau's family's house, I can't help but remember one year ago, sitting at this same computer, after watching the Days Thanksgiving show I was so honored to write.

It really was a special episode, to sit here and watch with the Beau's family, as I filled them in on the Shelle wedding, and the beginning of the Stefano/Marlena showdown. My heart still starts to race when I think about it, and I just had to take a walk down memory lane, one year later.

Special thanks to our friends who upload these at YouTube. They're really beautiful...

Happy Turkey Day!

(To those of you who would like to see the whole episode, it starts here: That's part one, and the rest are linked on the right. Embedding was disabled upon request of the uploader.)


Love, Tom

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For a Good Cause

Hey all!

I wasn't planning on writing again before Thanksgiving, but something's come to my attention that's really important to me.

I received the following press release tonight. Before you skip past this and blow off the post, please read it, and give me at least two seconds to pass on my thoughts:

"Nuke" fans launch 2nd Annual Project Holiday Spirit campaign in honor of Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann

November 25, 2008—As a tribute to "As the World Turns" actors Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann, fans at announce the second annual "Project Holiday Spirit" campaign (PHS) in support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. For 2007's campaign, "Nuke" fans set a fundraising goal of $500, but raised well over $6,000! Bolstered by the success of PHS, fans continued to work together, ultimately contributing over $35,000 to 10 different charities in less than 12 months.

The first campaign was launched on December 1, 2007 (World AIDS Day) and was originally inspired by a blog by Hansis about the holidays. Fans decided to embrace the true spirit of the holidays by helping others, and the campaign became a meaningful way for them to acknowledge the positive impact Van and Jake have had on so many lives.

Fans have decided to kick off another year of charitable giving by making this very special tribute an annual holiday tradition. This year's PHS campaign once again begins on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2008, with the goal of surpassing last year's total. Fans invite everyone to join them in honoring Van and Jake by donating to this very worthy cause.

For additional information or to donate, visit or email

About the organizers: is a fan-run site with over 1700 members, dedicated to the support of actor Van Hansis and his work. Many of Hansis' fans also offer their support to Jake Silbermann, his acting partner on CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns", in appreciation of Hansis' and Silbermann's portrayals of Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer, daytime's first gay super-couple, affectionately known as "Nuke". PHS is also supported by the members of, a 1300 member website dedicated to the couple.

Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann are in no way affiliated with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, or the PHS campaign. PHS was originally conceived by, and is solely managed by, the fans at All donations are made directly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Additional Information:

To see a breakdown of "Nuke" fans' charitable giving visit

To see Hansis' original blog about the holidays which inspired PHS visit

Right... so here's the thing. Two things, actually...

1) This is an amazing country, America. We're all allowed to have free opinions and free speech, and that should hold true whether we agree with others or not. If you have a personal or religious bias against the pairing of Luke and Noah, that's totally cool. I may not personally agree with it, but freedom to think and feel what we want is what this country is founded on - it's what we fought a war over back in the 1700's. And as much as I'd love to change your mind, that's not my responsibility. We live in an independent world. But having said that, this isn't about whether or not you want to see two men kiss at two o'clock in the afternoon on network television. This is about supporting a cause to keep people from DYING. People of all races, all sexual orientations, all worthy of life.


2) Money is tight right now for everybody. It's a crappy situation out there, no two ways about it. I don't know how much money I'll be able to give to this cause, but over the next few weeks, I'm going to try and find some way to donate SOMETHING - even if it's twenty dollars. And if you really, truly can't afford to donate anything to this charity? That's okay too. All I ask is that you please forward this to people you think might still be fortunate enough to donate even the tiniest amount. This economy is hitting all of us hard, and many of us (myself included) are unemployed right now. But there are still people out there who have the ability to help somebody less fortunate than themselves. And I can't think of anything that embodies the holiday spirit more than helping out those in need.

I won't lie - my contribution won't be momentous. But over the next couple of weeks, I will do my best to give even the smallest amount, if it means being able to help somebody... anybody... from this dreaded disease. Whether they got it from unprotected sex, or from a horrific transfusion, or even through their genetics - whatever your political or religious affiliation, there's no reason why somebody who has something to spare can't give ten or twenty dollars to help somebody who is incapable of helping themselves.

I *ALMOST NEVER* throw my personal beliefs outside of the soap industry into this blog - but for this, I will. There's too much at stake for too many people whose lives count for something not to.

Thanks, and I appreciate you taking the time to read this and check it out.

xoxo --tom

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Soap

Hey all!

It's been a crazy week, and it's only Tuesday morning. To be honest, I have yet to fully catch up on the soaps from last week, and have no idea what's been going on. Between the trip to Cambridge, helping a friend of mine out at her store for the holidays, and preparation for a photo shoot I'm working on next week, I feel like I haven't had a minute to myself to enjoy a good thirty-six minutes of daytime drama.

I'm especially looking forward to Thanksgiving, and seeing how the soaps treat the holiday. In recent years, it's been getting harder and harder to really deliver an original, moving, heart-warming Thanksgiving episode. Not because we don't want to - quite the opposite. It's just that every year, so much time and care is put into the Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes, and it gets harder and harder to do something that's never been done before. The first year I worked at One Life to Live, Thanksgiving was all but ignored, for example, in favor of rushing the Santi story to its climax with Tico's shooting. When I was at As the World Turns, there was always this struggle trying to deliver something fresh and innovative (words Chris Goutman was a fan of, and I don't blame him for it), while still holding true to traditions such as the Hubbard Squash at the Snyder farm. Last year on Days, Hogan wanted to combine a Thanksgiving toast/dinner with the wedding of Shawn Brady and Belle Black (DiMera). It's always a struggle - everyone knows viewership is generally pretty low this week, as people are traveling and spending time with their families. So you don't want to advance story too much - but at the same time, you want to try and find people who are home a reason to watch. Some soaps feel like they don't want to put a hold on the momentum their stories are gaining - while others encourage their writing teams to write something people don't need to watch, even if it's a little slow.

Me, personally? I love me a good old fashioned Thanksgiving episode. I want to see people around a table, coming together, sharing scenes that may not advance the plot, but remind me who these people are, and why I want to spend Thanksgiving Day with them and their families. I don't need a "special" episode where the actors all play other characters, and I'm not really looking for a big Sweeps-stunt. I want to be reminded that in spite of all the trials and tribulations my favorite romances, families and friendships suffer through all throughout the year... that somehow, that's able to be put on hold for a day. That people can still come together and be grateful for each other... and maybe find forgiveness in these troubling times.

Of course, with our luck, someone will get shot and someone else's baby will die.

I truly hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and the usual family dramas that take place around ALL of our dining room tables (real or fictional) are both enlightening, AND entertaining. And I look forward to seeing how the soaps treat this holiday come next week, and learning who embraced it and who wrote against it... and why.

In the meantime, eat up! And have a wonderful holiday week!

Much love,


Sunday, November 23, 2008

MIT Panel Transcribed

Hey all!

The good folks at MIT have transcribed the panel I was on (as well as all of the other panels). It's called "Franchises, Extensions and Worldbuilding". They were typing AS we were talking, so occasionally, you might come across something that doesn't sound like a real sentence. :-) Rest assured, it wasn't because I was speaking like a moron - I was probably just talking faster than they could type.

The podcast and video should be up later, but for now, if anyone's interested, here it is:



The Road Back to NYC - What I Learned at MIT

Let's face facts - I'm not an academic. I went to film school in New York City - I studied screenplays and film theory... and while I could probably still tell you in great detail how Die Hard is a prime example of perfect three-act structure, I didn't have a clue on Thursday night how in the hell I was going to dissect the theory behind transmedia properties and their metrics.

Are your eyes glazing over yet? Because mine sure were.

But something wondrous happened on Friday morning. I got over whatever was holding me back - whatever those demons of insecurity were infesting me with - and just threw myself into an experience like none I've ever had.

I listened to film producers, screenwriters, primetime showrunners, agents, sports marketers, scholars, founders of online social media sites, and online game organizers - all of whom had so much to teach me about where all of these businesses are going in the next year. Daytime is struggling, but it doesn't have to be. The way all of these industries treat their superfans, the way they've thought outside the box and allowed them to be part of the creative process, part of the storytelling, is monumental. And no, I'm not talking about I Wanna Be a Soap Star or InTurn or Shop the Soaps.

I'm talking about Web-series shot to give niche fanbases what they're begging for from the main show, but cannot receive due to advertisers concerns. (I can't imagine Nuke fans would complain about a twelve-part Nuke series on their very own official show website where they can kiss whenever they want, until the rest of America catches up with the times) I'm talking about interactive games where you followed the Salem Serial Killer... and just as you're about to click on the mask to remove, YOUR PHONE RINGS IN YOUR HOME, and a masked voice tells you that you could be next. And when you try and close the window on your computer screen? Your cell phone rings, and a voice says "Where are you going? I'm not done with you yet..." WOW! That's creepy! Or how about helping Lucky follow the clues to solve a crime simultaneous to airing said crime on General Hospital, on (That's IF they ever allowed Lucky to solve a crime on GH)

There's such a world of possibilities in our future that every other genre is already leaping on. And guess who they're aiming at? Young people. Women. Men. Established long-term viewers. New audience members. EVERYBODY soaps claim they want. And yet - all they seem to getting online are behind-the-scenes gossip and celebrity news.

Soap opera is the greatest form of immersive storytelling I've ever seen. Hardcore fans can throw themselves as deep into the fictional lives of these characters as much as they want. And whereas every other genre is trying build up their worlds, make these stories as immersive as possible... daytime is firing its favorite actors, pulling back on long-term storytelling, and SHRINKING their fictional worlds. At a time when soaps should be offering a UNIVERSE of an online community, it's nothing but a little hamlet of behind-the-scenes actors basically reading off press releases... while fan message boards are expanding the known soap universe new galaxies - what's going on at Oakdale High, Llanview Memorial, Downtown Salem, Pine Valley University. The fans are building these worlds because nobody else is doing it for them.

Now imagine if they were.

Imagine if these shows took the time to build cross-platform medias that weren't just "See what Thorsten Kaye's dressing room looks like". Not that there aren't fans who appreciate that - hell, I appreciate it once in a while. But imagine if the fictional towns you spent five hours a week in didn't go away when the show ended. What if they kept going, albeit in ways that weren't required to enjoy the show (i.e. NuAlison and Amber's drug and porn adventures in Los Angeles for Y&R and ATWT), but rather were optional - but still focused and creative and bold nevertheless. Not online diaries written by interns and writer's assistants, but more immersible branches of storytelling written by teams of WRITERS, working closely with the head writer to create a larger world, a realm of infinite possibilities where Port Charles becomes a working, growing mechanism. Fans can create avatars and travel around Genoa City themselves, interact with characters WHILE THE SHOW IS ON THEIR TELEVISION SETS. Where these shows become organisms that cross all kinds of media.

Can you tell how fired up I am? But let's get this back down to Earth for a second before my head explodes. Let's face facts - only a very small percentage of the audience would take advantage of this. It's true. They say only three percent of the YouTube users actually upload videos, and only seven percent are actually responding to them. So we're not talking about revolutionizing the soap viewing audience.

But what it does do is create buzz. One hardcore fan throws themselves one hundred percent into this, and then they post on a message board how awesome it was to try and escape from the MetroCourt crisis in an online game. Instead of bitching about rapemances, they're competing to see who can sell more papers online - The Llanview Banner or the Sun. And some people won't want to take part in it, and that's fine. But the people that do... they're the ones who will bring in new viewers to your show. People that maybe thought of soaps like fluff that didn't cater to them... and then discover it through another avenue. People like the MILLIONS of Nuke YouTube users who follow their storyline without watching the actual aired show. Maybe if you give them a reason to check out your site, they'll then find a reason to check out your air show. You generate positive buzz, as opposed to the negativity soaps have been saddled with since the strike ended.

Did you know that forty percent of thirty year olds are actively online while they watch their TV shows? Think about that for a second...

Soaps can move into the 21st century, older viewers get to see their vets every day on television, and younger viewers are engaged in deeper aspects of the soap viewing experience by being a part of the Springfield Social Networking Site. You don't need new camera techniques, green screens, or ratings stunts. These viewers are craving SERIALIZED STORYTELLING, and a CREATIVE EXPERIENCE. They want their favorite characters, in gripping storylines. They don't care how good your CGI is, or whether or not you're jumping forward or back in time. They want to see good old-fashioned human drama, and you can offer it in real-time, on both the Web and their television sets. And get some GOOD press (for a change) in the process.

Every other genre is on board with this. And as I head back to New York City, I worry daytime is heading so far down the wrong path, it'll be too late to turn back.

I encourage anybody in a network position to check out the panels at MIT's Future of Entertainment website. There's an entire online community that wants to be part of the STORY. You want them to be part of the SALE. Both can have their way - but not without making it organic to the story, making sure the audience is included without being manipulated, and you start looking at your Superfans like they're the ones who are going to work FOR you to create buzz, instead of scoffing at them and looking down your nose at them.

A new world is coming - in fact, it's already here, and no matter how many times you say it doesn't affect daytime... the truth is, you're going to be saying that right onto the unemployment line.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

MIT - LiveBlogging

For those of you interested, MIT has live blogging of all the days' events, starting with a panel on Comics (and the Watchmen adaptation coming out next year), and later, my Worldbuilding panel.

The link is here

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Loss Soap Fans Don't Know They're Experiencing

Color me stunned.

Today, I sat through seven hours of panels that were HIGHLY entertaining and fascinating to me as a writer. Whether or not your average fan would be interested in some of it, I'm not sure.

But something was pointed out not once... not twice... but at least four or five times in three different panels that blew me away. And this isn't a case of people telling fans something to humor them. This is about people in the industry telling academics and other people in the industry, as a way to explain their point.

This will be up in a few weeks on MIT's website, but I had to share it with you guys first.

Did you know that True Blood rewards their "Superfans" (as in, the ones writing fan fiction, etc) with prizes? Or that The Ghost Whisperer producers will seek out those who make Claymation animation of Jennifer Love Hewitt and use their craft to promote their show?

Is this for real? Are there actually industries out there that are REWARDING the Superfan?

For years, I have witnessed the eye-rolling in daytime, the assumption that we're writing for the lowest common denominator, the belief soap fans will swallow anything you throw at them, and any model as a recast, because they don't know any better. Hell, we even have executive producers saying "I don't care what they say on the Internet"

And today, I WATCHED THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF GHOST WHISPERER tell me the exact opposite. That yes, those people who are that hard-core are only ten percent of their audience - but they're an incredibly vocal and persistent ten percent that gain their show good buzz, ergo good ratings. And Gail, an academic next to her, said "The fans like to feel like they're part of the process - that by participating, they're fellow workers in the industry with the rest of us. And by empowering fans, they've seen ratings increases."




For years, I have been looked down on in writers' rooms for even mentioning fan's opinions. But tonight, I watched prime-time refer to the "Super Fan" as someone they not only cherish, but they REWARD. And they ENCOURAGE. They know not everybody will devote that much time to the a show, but if they find somebody who's extremely talented, they'll pull them into the transmedia they're putting together to cross-promote the show.


Why are they so insistent that it doesn't matter how many times we see a Who's the Daddy? story, or a baby switch story, or a love triangle, fans will just accept it... and the ones who debate it on the Web are a bunch of loonies? I don't mean to generalize, because not EVERYBODY behind the scenes in daytime thinks that. But a lot of them do. They have a disdain for the fans that's incredibly frustrating.

And here are prime-time showrunners, talking about these fans like they're on the payroll. (They're not, by the way - but the showrunners feel that even though they're not paying these fans, they are spreading the word about their art form, be it fan fic or fine art, and that in and of itself is a form of payment)

These shows see the value in fans like this. And daytime shoves them aside like they're psychotics.

This whole MIT experience has been wonderful so far, but I am truly moved by how much they respect their fans. The way they talked about how "Superfans" are at the center of buzz for low rated shows, and can make all the difference? It's something I always believed (having been one once upon a time), and something I was also beaten down for all ten years I wrote in soaps.

I never use the word "flabbergasted". But there is no other word to use. True Blood sends T-SHIRTS to their favorite fan fic writers. I mean, it's just a T-shirt... but STILL! They ACKNOWLEDGE IT!

I knew soaps were not having their brightest moment these days... but I had no clue just how far off the mark they were. Today was truly eye-opening for me, and I can't wait for tomorrow now.


The Road to MIT - Part Two

I love waking up in hotel rooms. I don't know what it is about it, but the anticipation of seeing a new city out your window in the first moments of daylight always gets my juices flowing.

I'm off to the conference, for some pretty interesting topics today. I'm especially looking forward to Making Audiences Matter. Here's the rundown from the website:

2:30 PM - 4:30 PM - Session 2: Making Audiences Matter

Audiences seem to present a constantly moving target. Migratory, skilled at avoiding advertising, and increasingly looking like producers, working out who the audience is and what they are doing is an evolving challenge. How do we create better relationships with audiences who look less like "consumers"? In a media landscape that looks to increasingly value broad distribution over concentrating attention, how do we uncover audiences and connect them with content? What does an "engaged" audience look like, and how do you know when you've got one? What do you do once you've found one?

Panelists include: Kim Moses, Executive Producer, The Ghost Whisperer; Gail De Kosnik - UC Berkeley, The Survival of Soap Opera: Strategies for a Digital Age; Kevin Slavin, Area/Code; Vu Nguyen, VP of Business Development,

Moderator: Joshua Green, MIT

I can't wait to hear how they discuss strategies for soaps in the digital age. Should be very enlightening.

I'm off to the Bartos Theatre! Catch everyone up later!


The Road to MIT - Part One

If you ever need a guaranteed cure for self-doubt? I have discovered the secret.

Get in your car (or if you don't have one, find someone who does).... find a fairly empty highway, and drive down it at 70 miles an hour singing the chorus to Pink's new song "So What" at the top of your lungs.

Cheesy? Sure. But it sure made me want to take on the world by the time I got to Cambridge! The economy is tanking, the daytime industry is crumbling down around us and my career is in question - "So what! I'm still a rock star! I've got my rock moves, and I don't need you! And guess what? I'm having more fun. And now that we're done, I'm gonna show you that tonight? I'm all right. I'm just fine. And you're a tool. So what?

Thank you, Pop Bubblegum Music - you gave me one hell of a road trip tonight.

Tomorrow morning - Day One of the conference! In the meantime - find a fun little song you're embarrassed to say you love, dig it out, blast it as loud as you can - and sing as off-key as you want!



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rediscovering the Lost Fan, Llanview Style

This will be a quick one.

First up - I have some business to take care of.

A soap fan on here - and one I also follow on message boards and love their posts - posted a comment tonight that while truly flattering, also corrected me on a point of history from a previous entry - that Nadine on Guiding Light was never pregnant in the first place. She did not miscarry and then wear the fake pillow under her shirt - but rather she had been wearing the fake-belly all along.

I'll admit, my hindsight may have been incorrect. In my mind, I remember Nadine originally being pregnant, then losing the baby... but finding herself too paranoid that Billy would leave her for Vanessa if he found out she lost the baby, decided to fake the remaining months until her due date. Perhaps I am wrong, and my early Alzheimer's is somehow confusing Nadine's story with Kristen's on Days (both involved Jim Reilly in their creations). Hopefully, some Guiding Light fans out there can shine a light on this (no pun intended), because now I'm wondering if I'm remembering it wrong. Was Nadine EVER pregnant with Billy's baby? If I'm wrong, then I humbly stand corrected.

EDIT: I stand corrected. Nadine was NEVER pregnant. My hazy memory confused Nadine on GL with Kristen on Days. My apologies to the late Jim Reilly, the much-missed Nancy Curlee, and all the GL fans out there I left scratching their heads. MY BAD! :-)

Also, one other piece of business. I've received a few e-mails from fans who have said they've written in to their favorite soap in an effort to get me hired there. I am truly, TRULY moved by this. It means the world to me. But I have to tell you, much of the reason I don't have a job right now is because the skill I've practiced and concentrated on for the last decade - that of writing a "breakdown" and being part of an associate head writer "team" - is a position that doesn't exist any longer at many shows. It has nothing to do with me personally - there are dozens of talented breakdown writers out there out of work right now for this very reason. And they all deserve jobs, some much more than I do. I am deeply touched there are people out there who would go to bat for me, but the truth is, that's not why I continue this blog. Your support means everything to me, but sadly, pitching me to come to your show is probably not the best way to get me employed. I do have an agent, and he is on the hunt for new employment - but unfortunately, there are other writers out there with seniority and tenure who come first. As much as we don't want to admit it, this is a business, first and foremost - and there s a certain code of rules we must follow, just like any other job. If I'm meant to return to daytime, then I will - and if I'm meant to seek a new career path, then I definitely will. But pitching me in your fan letters is probably an exercise in futility. I encourage you, instead, to write to the head writers and executive producers about their stories and characters. At the end of the day, that's much more important to me than whether or not I find employment in the near future. Having said all of that, I do thank you. It means the world.

Now on to my night. This is a weird entry for me to write, as I don't wish to betray any confidences and I don't want to single anybody out or put them on the spot. I had a surreal One Life to Live experience this evening, to be perfectly honest.

I've said many times before, I had quite the roller coaster in Llanview. I wrote episodes there I'm extremely proud of, but I also faced some of my darkest times as a writer in those two years. It was definitely all over the map. While I was there, though, I built an extremely special bond with someone who works high up in production there - somebody with the same drive, the same passion, the same love of the genre I have. On top of all of that, she has an incredible work ethic and is talented in many areas across the board. In the short time I've known her, she's become quite important to me.

She is leaving Llanview to carve a new path for herself, and tonight, many of us said goodbye. I was cautious walking into the goodbye party, as I haven't seen many of these OLTL folks in years, and have never really known where I stand with them now that the dust has settled. The party-goers were, for the most part, behind-the-scenes people around my age, with a few actors scattered about. I tell you this not to gossip or name-drop - but to say that through my conversations with so many people tonight, I realized there are many more kindred spirits out there than I was ever aware of. Young people who, like myself (and many of you reading), grew up on soaps, along with the Internet, and are driven to see this genre succeed. Is there despair and pessimism? Absolutely. The death knell looms quite low over all of us. But there was also a lot of hope. A lot of ambition. A lot of names most of you don't know unless you follow the credits closely, talking about all the ways daytime influenced them and, in some ways, made them who they are today. Daytime taught them about family, about romance, about the consequences of lies and deceit, and about the kind of person they wanted to be, and the kind of person they never wanted to be.

It gave me hope. Truly. Even if these people never move up the corporate ladder within the genre as it stands now, it made me feel much less alone. These shows are populated with young faces who have heard the fear, have felt the paranoia, and have been troubled over whether or not they chose a career that has no future. And yet, they still wax nostalgic, they still go to work every day, and they still do whatever they can within the very small parameters of their job description to continue the legacy these shows left them with in their adolescence.

There is hope out there. You, as fans, may never truly see it or feel it, because these incredibly dedicated employees may never have the opportunity to call the shots. But they are there, buried underneath the closing credits. And they care.

I can not stress this enough. We are not alone. For whatever that's worth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Early Thanksgiving

So it's been kind of a downer around these parts, huh?

Let's throw some positivity into the mix, shall we? Here's five things right now that currently have me bouncing on my couch... the five things that have inspired me lately, as we head into Thanksgiving next week.

In no particular order…

1) The New Blog - So far, I've gotten numerous e-mails saying how glad people are that they don't have to join MySpace in order to leave comments for me. And my stat counter is much higher here than it was over there. (Sorry, MySpace! I still love you! You gave me a hundred thousand hits!!) PLUS, I got my first (drum roll, please) HATE MAIL just today! I love it! Not once over on MySpace did anybody leave a comment shooting me down - and within a couple of days, I've officially got a dissenter! No, I'm not being sarcastic - I kinda like it. It reminds me how many different perspectives there are out there, and who doesn't need that kind of kick in the teeth every so often? I know I sure do. Sure, I haven't worked all the kinks out yet, but I do feel like the last few days have felt like starting the blog all over again. I'm digging it - and I welcome any and all soap fans who want to critique me. After all, if I can't take criticism, than what the hell have I been doing in the entertainment industry all these years?

2) The Last Two Weeks of Young and the Restless - Okay, I know. Truth be told, I owe MUCH more than just a paragraph to this show right now. And I will get to it next week, I promise. But I just have to say that Kay's funeral has been nothing short of genius. Any show can bring back a bunch of old-school characters for a couple episodes, but to play them IN CHARACTER without making them glorified extras is something you don't see every day. It's soapy, it's moving, it's historical, it's nostalgic, and I'm totally on the edge of my seat. Whatever combination of writers were a part of this - from Maria and Hogan, to the breakdown writers, to the script writer, to the script editor, I salute you. I will have more to say on this come next week, but unfortunately, I've been busy preparing for Reason #3...

...3) The Futures of Entertainment Conference at MIT - I'm alternating between excited and petrified out of my mind for the conference this weekend. But no matter how I end up coming across, just the fact that this school has enough faith in me to include me with so many fascinating and amazing people who hold positions all across the industry spectrum blows my mind. Whatever comes of it, just to be in the same room with such a myriad of talented and intelligent people is enough to make anyone full of glee. It's an honor, and I'm just thrilled to experience it - even though at the moment, it's terrifying to even think about what Saturday will be like.

4) The Many PodCasts of both BlogTalkRadio and Daytime Confidential and Marlena Delacroix - What a strange, wonderful world world we live in. Never before have online fans been so vocal, been so eloquent, so cerebral and ground-breaking. Lately, I've been spreading the word to colleagues and friends about the many PodCasts being led all over the web, as well as some of the discussions on SON and Daytime Royalty. They've been nothing short of stunned at the back-and-forth conversations going on regarding all the soaps. (And no, they're not posting, as far as I know) Clearly, there is a bit of a revolution going on - the fans who crave story and character and passion are flocking to these boards, are studying nuance, are analyzing motivation. They’re asking the questions many others won’t ask, for fear of rocking the boat. They’re debating each other intelligently and calmly (for the most part) and they’re proving just how strong the daytime legacy is. Even when I don’t necessarily agree on a personal level with the things they might be saying, I love the Art of the Great Debate. And I salute them - I only wish some of the shows were taking it to the next level the way a lot of these fans are.

And finally…

5) Bianca and Reese on All My Children - Okay, I’ll admit that I have many issues with the plot surrounding these two. The Baby-Out-of-Thin-Air, the Off-Screen Coupling, the Completely-Out-of-Character decisions Bianca has made. But putting all of that aside for a second, I am completely enthralled with what Tamara and Eden are accomplishing on the screen, not to mention how far AMC is pushing the envelope. I think this is one of the only times in my life I can say there’s a touch of sexism from the networks… only here, it’s in favor of the women. Because I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s okay for Bianca and Reese to be as affectionate as they are, when Luke and Noah are still struggling for anything over in Oakdale. But in any case, these two actresses are embracing it whole-heartedly - and what can easily be misconstrued as an attempt to shock-and-awe the audience for no other reason than a ratings spike, is being played beautifully, passionately, and damn near perfectly.

No matter what you may think, I do think it’s important to balance the positive and the negative, especially in these troubling times. If you look back at my past entries, you’ll see the most embittered posts are usually followed by ones full of praise. It’s not back-pedaling - it’s more about not drowning in the dark. Millee Taggert always encouraged “Write towards the light”. Sometimes, we in the industry forget that. And when we get bogged down in any kind of somber writing - be it dead babies on the air, or dying soaps in our blogs, it’s important to remember why we’re all in this business. We write stories about families coming together in times of tragedy, friendships falling apart but always resurrected stronger than before, true love always finding a way, and good always triumphing over evil.

That’s a lesson I never want to forget - no matter what I’m writing. We write for the light, and you watch for the light.

Even if some days we have to look a little harder for it than others.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One Straw Too Many - The Second-to-Last Days Blog

I've never really had a plan when it comes to the blog.

Sometimes, it's a critique... other times, it's therapy. Occasionally I feel like I'm on a pedestal, and sometimes I feel like I'm in a ditch. Although it seems like the last few times I've made mention of Days of Our Lives in this blog, it's like a re-opened wound. There's a personal edge, a lack of objectivity, a razor-sharp slice through my creativity and integrity that almost always draws the equivalent of blood in my soul.

And frankly, I'm tired of it.

Last night, I took part in another round-table discussion with the guys over at Daytime Confidential about the firings of Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall. It just went up online (follow the above link), and you'll listen to it and hear the usual stuff - Jamey and Luke are excellent moderators, Mike was a welcome addition, Nelson is sarcastic and blunt... and I'm kinda sullen. I just don't have any rant left in me. I'm not calling for anybody's head on a platter, and I'm calling anybody any names. The whole scenario has a feeling of "Been there, done that" to the nth degree.

So this is my last Days blog. Well, almost my last Days blog. It just seems like an exercise in futility to question where the business acumen is, or common sense... the respect for your audience, and the artistic skill to inspire fans to return to their television sets in the afternoon. Other shows are trying things - and sure, they're failling a lot of the time, but occasionally they're succeeding. And at least they haven't given up. But Days - I just feel like it's existing from day to day with no real drive. And why bother analyzing it, or studying the situation, or questioning how to fix it? It's Soap-By-Numbers - a renewal fans received, but at what cost? (Talk to Guiding Light fans - they'll tell you)

One of two things will happen in eighteen months - a miracle will occur and the show will feel like home again for millions of fans, or it will shrivel up on the vine and disappear from our lives forever. Once that final decision is made, then I'll come back and revisit Days one last time - I'll look at everything that's transpired and give my thoughts on it.

But in the meantime, I'm tired of devoting this much energy, this much thought, this much typing, and this much caring into a show that's more concerned with hiding its desperation and masking its more-than-apparent behind-the-scenes politics by pretending it's just "business as usual". This isn't business as usual. This is scraping and clawing your way to an inevitable cancellation.

I wish nothing but the best for Days. I grew up on this show, I was thrilled and inspired by so many of its stories. But this is like that insane ex whose antics you get wrapped up in for too many years, and one day you just realize, "Enough. I have better things to do with my time." It should make you sad. But it doesn't. You just don't care anymore.

I look at Marlena Delacroix's latest OLTL blog and I am so moved by the passion she has for the abomination that was Todd and Marty's "love-making" on One Life to Live. In the midst of typing this about Days, I am so touched by the drive she has to right this wrong. There was a time not too long ago I had that same cry for change when it came to the residents of Salem. But they do not welcome it, nor do they agree with me, in terms of that change. They do not learn from their mistakes, nor do they learn from the mistakes of other shows that air around them.

I pray One Life to Live... and All My Children and General Hospital and As the World Turns and Guiding Light and Bold and the Beautiful and Young and the Restless, for that matter... all take a moment and realize that in their quest to lower costs and anticipate which action sequence will thrill their fans more or which shocking headline in the press will bring in more ratings, realize that as they build up new characters played by younger actors struggling to make it through an episode in this fast-paced machine... they're alienating the people who indirectly keep them employed.

I continue to root for the genre. I will go on to write much, both positive and negative, about what's transpiring out there. But Days - there's nothing more to say.

Drake and Dee - I wish you nothing but the best. And I hope to see you back on our screens soon. Days will continue on the path its on - it's time to focus on other shows that aren't repeating the mistakes of the past.

This twenty-five year viewer? He's just not that into you anymore...

(Special thanks to Daytime Royalty and Daytime Confidential for alerting me to this video clip!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Show In Search of a Clue: DAYS Podcast Head's Up

So I've been getting all sorts of e-mails from people wanting to know my thoughts, now that the official announcement of Drake Hogestyn and Dee Hall's firings have come out.

I'm trying to piece my words together (Really... who can?), but in the meantime, I'll be on Daytime Confidential's PodCast to... I don't know. Not rant - it's a little late for that. Not cry - I've wasted too many tears on this show.

I don't know what I'll do, so I guess we'll all find out together...

More to come...

You Sure Don't Make It Easy, Do You, MySpace?

So turns out all the links I attached to my last blog didn't work in the transfer.

I've fixed it, but it's sure gonna make my transfer more difficult.

Thanks, MySpace. :-)

Looking for the Last Two Years' Worth of Posts?

If you're looking for any of my previous posts, you can still find them over at my MySpace page.

I will keep them up there permanently, in case anyone's interested.

In the meantime, I'm working on moving as many posts as I can from MySpace over to BlogSpot. The comments won't transfer, so I won't delete them from over there. So far I've got just November moved... but hopefully if I do a month's worth every day, I can have everything logged by early 2009.

Don't forget to change your bookmarks!

xo --tom

I Love the Eighties (Strikes Back!)

Hey all!

So yeah... crazy weekend, right? Rumors persist that more Days stars are being cut loose in favor of less expensive, less experienced, less interesting actors. And Guiding Light is bringing back more people from its past (Welcome home, Eleni!). If history continues to repeat itself, we should see a big John/Marlena return in July of 2010 just when they decide shooting all of their characters in one set isn't working, no?

In the meantime, I'm trying to remain a little brighter than I was on Saturday. Don't get me wrong, I'm still slightly climbing the walls over the bizarre choices being made across the board. (Don't get me started on what General Hospital did with Luke and Laura... oh wait! I don't have to! Sara already did for me!)

So I gave myself a weekend to mourn, as yet more nails were hammered into a coffin, and no more. I've got some mental jumping jacks to get ready for the MIT conference this coming weekend, and lots to do with my own personal projects (not to mention two days of part-time work thrown into the middle of it) so I'm turning my rant-mode off to focus on other things.

With morning coffee in hand (topped with Hershey's syrup and whipped cream - how's that for a good Monday morning?), I started going through my mail - and as I flipped through Soap Opera Digest, wouldn't you know it it, but there I am! I was interviewed awhile back for an article about whether or not the 80's were the heyday of soaps, by the wonderful Mara Levinsky (a gal I can talk soaps with FOREVER). I had completely forgotten all about the interview, but it's in the latest issue with Eric Braeden on the cover. (Oh wait - that's all of them!) It was a fun interview, and I find it highly ironic that the persisting rumors of two Days 80's icons being fired coincided with this issue showing up in my mailbox.

I'm curious what you all think. Do you think the 80's were soaps' shining decade? The 70's? The 90's? The 00's? (I'm so curious if anybody thinks it's that last choice, and why)

What do you consider to be the greatest soaps era? And as we head into the "aught-teens", what stories do you think will become instant classics from this decade?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

(Twice) Dead Men Tell No Tales: A Days Rant in Three Parts

Okay - first up - yes, this is a Days rant. Soap fans who don't know the show, I apologize.

Second - yeah, I'll admit. This is a slightly personal entry. How can it not be? Anybody who follows my blog or has listened to my BlogTalkRadios knows how I feel about DOOL. So yeah - I'm inserting my own two cents into this one from my soul.


As of this writing, word has leaked that while Days has been picked up for eighteen months, severe cast changes are in the works. The first of those was felt this week: Jay Johnson (Philip) is gone, Drake Hogestyn is rumored (with a strong foundation for that rumor from numerous sources) to have been fired, as well as Blake Berris. And the grapevine is telling everyone this is just the beginning. In order for Days to survive, more cuts will be made in the cast.

And here, I pause for a deep breath... bear with me, this will all come back to Days, I swear.

There are four stories from my childhood that inspired me to seek out a career in daytime drama: 1) The story of Jack/Billy, Kayla's rape, and Jack's redemption through his struggle with ghosts Harper and Duke, and Jennifer's love for him, 2) the Who Shot Jake? mystery on AW that led to the Jake/Paulina romance, 3) Marty's vicious attack and its aftermath on OLTL (as well as her struggle to overcome it), and lastly... and the point I'll eventually get to... 4) Nancy's Curlee's years on Guiding Light, and her incredibly epic Nadine/Bridget pregnancy story that eventually led to the Roger/Hart/Peter story.

Those who know it already, understand what an incredible journey that was. Those who don't? Here it is in a nutshell - a young rebellious teenager gets pregnant and is drowning in shame. Meanwhile, a middle-aged woman across town is trying desperately to hold on to her husband, who still has a bond with his ex-wife. Second wife gets pregnant, but miscarries. After a chance meeting, she agrees to house the pregnant teen in her attic (and wear a fake pregnancy stomach)... and then adopt the teen's baby when she gives birth... so she can hold on to her husband. The tension builds for nine months. The teen's family wonders - where is our girl? Will the husband and/or his first wife discover the deception? Will the teen decide to keep her baby once it's born and ruin the second wife's plans? The drama builds until she finally gives birth.

One would think that's the end of the story - but it isn't. Because once all of THOSE secrets are revealed, there's a whole other layer: the man the teen had a one-night stand with? He's the illegitimate son of GL's greatest, most complex villain. (Think James Stenbeck or Stefano DiMera, but much more layered.) Once all of the secrets are revealed with the middle-aged husband and his former and current wives... only THEN does it get out that this baby is also the heir to one of the most dangerous, notorious, powerful men on the canvas. And the story takes on a whole new layer for yet another year as this man attempts to get his hands on his future bloodline for his own nefarious purposes... drawing afore-mentioned illiegitimate son, the teen girl, the love triangle of the man and his two former wives, AND the woman who has (in the meantime) fallen in love with the baby's biological father and will do anything to keep him into this web.

This is an umbrella story that defied all expectations, carried on for years, and was the seed that eventually led to Jim Reilly writing the Susan/Kristen story on DOOL. It's also the reason I will always love Guiding Light...

...and it's the reason why I can't recognize the show that calls itself Guiding Light to this day. It's why it seems like an entirely different show, and as far as I'm concerned, the Guiding Light I fell in love with went off the air years ago.

I only explain all of this because after the news of this weekend regarding Days? I worry the same will hold true with my first love (that still remains on the air, that is) - Days of Our Lives.


The budget is being slashed in Salem. There's less than two years left on its contract. Major characters are being cut. And I'm petrified that when Days finally says its goodbye - be it two years or twelve years from now - it won't be the show I've loved through so many incarnations, and over so many decades.

And the knife cuts even deeper, when it comes to Drake Hogestyn.

Anybody who's kept up with this knows I poured everything I had into the death and funeral of the character of John Black last year. It wasn't until I was practically finished writing his funeral that I learned something had changed behind the scenes, and we were required to bring John Black back to life, brainwashed. Did I agree with this? Not really... but I was only a breakdown writer, and I had to write what I had been given.

John Black's funeral wasn't the greatest funeral ever presented on daytime. In fact, it was pretty standard, in terms of the bar set by other soaps. But it had been so long since Days had tapped into such raw emotion, that I felt those were important episodes for the fans... for the actors involved... and for us writers. Dee Hall, Martha Madison, Kristian Alfonso, Ali Sweeney - they were all allowed to go to a place as actors that they hadn't been allowed to go for many years. And even though I love John Black, and I missed him the second he was gone - I felt we were doing the show a great justice by allowing them to explore deep, unresolved, conflicting emotions that added up to powerful storytelling. It wasn't ground-breaking, but it was real. And Days needed something real.

I know Ken Corday let Drake go, and then he hired him back. Whatever happened between them... whatever tale transpired on that phone call between Ken and Drake... it's between them. I wouldn't dare to surmise how it played out. I just know that everything changed, and that was the beginning of the eventual end for our team at Days of Our Lives. John was brought back from the dead as "Jawn", the strike hit all of us like a two-by-four between the eyes, and three months later, there was a new writing team in place, and chaos was reigning supreme.

Now it's only eleven months later... and everything that was undone - every moment we worked so hard to make real and powerful and heartfelt - was all a waste of time. Because John Black is leaving the show AGAIN, and Days' credibility slides just a little lower. As far as I'm concerned, he should have stayed dead. Would it have upset Jarlena fans? Absolutely. But they would have gotten their stronger, more determined, more three-dimensional Marlena... and instead they got a year of backstage tug-of-wars, only to end up in exactly the same place they were in last year. And I ask: what is better? To have John exit in a story that tugged every heart-string? Or to have Jawn exit in another way a year later? In the end, there's no more John Black either way. And fans have been through a roller-coaster ride in a year (a year that should have been spent rebuilding this once-great show) for absolutely nothing. Their emotions have been toyed with, and they're almost unanimously exhausted. And I don't blame them.


I look at Guiding Light... or The Show Formerly Known As Guiding Light... and I think to myself "Self? At no point did any of the major mistakes in story written with the intention to end up where the show is now. Nobody wants to see this show canceled." And yet, clearly nobody at Days watches Guiding Light, because they're heading down the same road. Maybe not with the new production model, or the new cameras, or with all the location shooting. But in terms of firing the people we *WANT* to see in favor of the much cheaper newer characters nobody's spent the time developing.

I watch shows making the same exact mistakes other shows are making, and I wonder if anybody is even paying attention to what else is going on out there in genre. Are they paying attention to what's working and what isn't, or are they just plowing ahead with what they think is right, and inevitably doomed to repeat the same mistakes? Are they so blind they think they won't befall the same fate as so many shows before them? That they're unique... and special.... and can tread the same ground so many other have passed over and fallen on, without suffering the same fate?

A week ago, I felt a little better about the industry. Not much - but slightly better. But now I hear this news, and all I can think is that Days will never have the final year it was meant to have - where the newer (i.e. cheaper) characters taking a back seat to give the people we care about, getting front-burner, powerful, intricate stories that give fans some kind of closure. Instead, they'll limp into cancellation, the way I see Guiding Light limping into cancellation. And it horrifies me.

I am not a savior, and I'm certainly no Claire Labine or Agnes Nixon or Douglas Marland. But even I can see how used and taken for granted the fans of these shows are... and even though I've dealt with my own budget issues while writing for these shows, I also know that in the end, you can take your Melanies and your Dans and your Rafes and you can sacrifice them (maybe not happily, but definitely necessarily and essentially) for the characters your fans care about. The characters that will somehow bring back your audience if you use them correctly.

Instead, they seem to be fading into oblivion. Like the Julia Barrs and Michael Zaslow's before them - carelessly tossed aside without an exit worthy of their strength and power on the screen - they just wither away.

And with them, go the viewers. And with the viewers... goes the genre.

"Damn the man, save the empire", while a silly quote from an absurd movie, held some weight in my eyes when it came to daytime. No more. The empire is heading towards the darkness, no matter what we, as fans, have to say about it. There is no more writing towards the light. There is only making due with whatever we have until somebody eventually has had enough and pulls the plug.

It's a sad day for DOOL fans. But it's a far worse day for fans of the genre.

Welcome to the new empire. The one that's crumbling.

I wish those of us whose hearts break with yours could do more than just write blogs that let you know we feel your pain. But sadly, the empire has turned its back on all of us. It isn't "The Man" who ended up damned... it's those that kept "The Man" employed - the viewers. The fans. The ones who care.

For whatever I contributed to this over the last decade - you have my apologies. I know I tried to do right, even when inevitably, I was part of the problem. And somehow, this is the sad legacy we left you with. One that has no meaning at all. In the end, we may lose our paychecks, and our careers. But you've lost part of your extended family, and are left with a void that makes you wonder why you even bothered to invest your time in a show that had such little respect for the people who kept it alive for so long.

And that emptiness we've all left you with? It's the greatest crime of all.