Huge Changes Mark A Chaotic Week For Soaps

Robin Strasser (ABC)

Robin Strasser (ABC)

This has been the craziest week in daytime since “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” were canceled. The headwriters of “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives” were fired within twenty-four hours of each other.  The Los Angeles Times reports that Katie Couric is close to signing a deal with ABC for a syndicated talk show that could put “General Hospital’s” future in jeopardy. I hope that next week is a lot less eventful.

Casting Updates

Sad news for “One Life to Live” fans. Robin Strasser will be leaving the show prior to its finale in January, 2012 because she needs to have back surgery that will require a lengthy recovery. Wednesday she tweeted, “I’ll have to leave OLTL sooner than the cancellation date, for compelling health reasons. Unable 2 meet high standards I owe our great show.” She followed up with, “WISDOM indicates a GRACE-full exit, before I fall on my bum. “Always leave ’em laughin”. With Tuc [Watkins] and luck, hope I will!” Its unthinkable that the final few months of OLTL will not feature Vicki (Erika Slezak) and Dorian’s relationship, which has always been the heart of the show. Here’s hoping that one of Strasser’s twitter followers is a doctor who can give her a soap style miracle cure.

“Days of Our Lives” fans have much better news. Jack is back. Matt Ashford will be reprising his popular role, perhaps portending a reconciliation between Jack and Jennifer (Melissa Reeves).

Irony Department

Hours after Dena Higley was replaced as headwriter of “Days of Our Lives“, the ratings for last week came in. DOOL was tied for first place in Women 18-34 and second in Women 18-49. It also gained viewers versus a year ago in both Households and Women 18-49, the only soap besides the canceled “One Life to Live” to show any growth. Apparently, people tuned in to see Rafe (Galen Gering) and his doppleganger com face-to-face. I’m thrilled DOOL is getting some new blood, but Higley seems, like OLTL to be suffering the curse of doing well when it’s too late.

Let’s Not Reopen Old Wounds

I have a bone to pick with the coverage of the “General Hospital” headwriter change. Several other sites, including Deadline, the entertainment industry’s most important news source, highlighted the fact that Garin Wolf opted for financial core status during the writer’s strike in 2007 and continued to write for the show.  The implication was that he was being rewarded for his past actions. It also made someone who has worked in daytime for decades sound like someone who only got his job as a soap writer because he crossed the picket lines. When I wrote about Wolf becoming headwriter, I mentioned that he wrote the show during the strike so that readers would have a sense of his writing style, not to imply that he did not deserve his promotion.

As a WGA member who chose to picket instead of resurrecting my daytime career by going fi-core, I have a pretty thorough understanding of this issue. I feel good about my decision every time I get a green envelope containing a check for the small amount of foreign residuals that I am still earning thanks to “The Young & the Restless’s” international syndication.  But you know what? It’s over. Those who struck and those who went fi-core are working side by side on every daytime show. Whatever an individual’s writer’s feelings are about the situation, I don’t think it’s a pressing concern now, three years later, with the survival of the genre at stake.  People’s motivations for choosing to keep working ranged from feeling a greater loyalty to the shows they worked on for decades than to their union, to financial need to, yes, naked power grabs. Nobody who worked in primetime or film had to make this choice because their projects shut down for the duration of the strike.

Wolf, who I have never met, and who is unknown outside of daytime, did not need to have that chapter of his life dredged up on what surely was the already bittersweet occasion of getting promoted because his longtime boss was being let go. I have no idea why he was given the promotion over all of the other talented writers on GH, but until someone who works on the show states that it’s because of what he did during the strike, I am not going to jump to any conclusions. Nobody ever talks about all of the other daytime writers who went fi-core, including those who are currently working as headwriters and executive producers.

In fact, Thursday, when it was announced Marlene Clark Poulter and Darrell Ray Thomas Junior were replacing Dena Higley as “Days of Our Lives” new headwriters, not one article mentioned that they, too, went fi-core during the strike, along with most of the other “Passions” writers including James Reilly. By that point, the soap was airing on DirecTV and was barely hanging on by a thread, so few people paid attention. It’s hardly a secret. I found out when I looked up their credits on IMDB and discovered someone had posted their fi-core status in the trivia section. There’s no reason to single out Wolf for a choice that, for better or worse, a significant percentage of the people currently working in daytime made.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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