Shake Up at 'One Life to Live'
by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 4th 2010 10:01AM
A sure sign that things aren't going well on a soap opera is when they make writing changes. For months, 'One Life to Live' has been spinning out of control. Headwriter Ron Carlivati, who has been excellent in the past, just let the show run off the rails. And the results have been seen in the declining ratings and reason to be concerned about 'OLTL.'
To help get Carlivati out of the woods and back on track, Jean Passanante will join 'One Life to Live' as associate headwriter. (Like Miss America, in the event that Carlivati cannot fulfill his role as headwriter, Passanante will resume his activities...)
Actually, the Emmy-award winning Passanante is currently head writer for 'As the World Turns,' wrapping up the 54-year run of CBS's legendary soap. When her duties in Oakdale have been completed, she'll move to Llanview. In fact, her move to 'OLTL' is familiar, She's going back to a show in which she's had experience. Jean's also put in time on 'All My Children' and 'Another World,' so she knows a thing or two about soap writing.
But the key element is her 'OLTL' experience. She's written for Viki and Clint and Bo and Nora in the past. And that's a good thing because the show needs more of those characters, as well as John and Natalie and Jessica and the whole Cramer crew, and less of the Mitch Laurence rising from the dead with evil intent.
The fans have been turned off to a bunch of current storylines and changes have already been afoot. Scott Clifton has been dismissed as Schuyler, for one. For another, the romance between Oliver and Kyle which got a lot of attention because it was a gay love story is coming to an end. Both actors -- Brett Claywell and Scott Evans -- have been let go.
The dismissal was seen as a rejection of the gay angle. GLAAD's President Jarrett Barrios said in a statement: "While we understand that the close of storylines is a frequent occurrence on daytime dramas, canceling this story just as it gains momentum is a step backward in ABC Daytime's representation of the lives of gay Americans."
Yes, but getting rid of Kyle and Oliver is a step forward for 'OLTL.' No offense to the actors, but their characters were fringe players. Oliver Fish was a uniformed cop with computer skills in the Llanview P.D., used as a go-fer to John and Bo. ("Fish, go for that report from the Mayor's office.").
Kyle was a corrupt lab tech at the hospital. Neither role was ever meant to be front and center. And now, with their exit, nobody will miss them. They were unconnected to the main characters. The same could not be true if the gay storyline had involved Rex and Cristian, two characters who are much more ingrained in the fabric of the show.
Still, 'OLTL' can be arresting entertainment. Here's a recent sample of the show, when Fish and Schuyler dealt with saving the baby:
Passanante's rejoining 'OLTL' should, if anything, give Carlivati a chance to refocus and redirect the show. Nothing like a shake up to get the headwriter re-thinking long-term storytelling. And just so you know, Carlivati has done great stuff on 'One Life to Live.' It was just a couple of years ago when the show was humming. It was the best-written soap on the air. In 2008, 'OLTL' was the Daytime Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team, and it deserved it.
'OLTL' needs to use the veteran talent it has. Stories like Viki's sojourn to Paris, Texas, was a terrific. And anything that stokes the battle between Dorian and the Buchanans is pure gold.
The whole thing about soaps is that the viewers have been there for years and years. Soap fans have a connection and an investment in characters they've lived with for ten years or more. Focus on that link and you'll bring back viewers, because the ratings erosion going on now looks to me like people tuning out, not turning on. For the sake of the show's future, it's time to bring back the 'OLTL' fans.