March 13, 2006
Soap Actor Reaches Out to Daytime Fans to Lobby Together

People within almost any industry often debate the value of the online fan community and the fan clubs of a particular show. A few weeks ago, I posted an argument on the Procter & Gamble Productions message board between moderators with PGP and fans on the board regarding the importance of the hardcore fan base versus obtaining general viewer impressions.

One actress that seems to be convinced of the importance of the most ardent fans of a show is Ellen Dolan with As the World Turns. Last week, Ellen sent a letter to the ATWT Fan Club explaining her problems with the way the character had been written and female characters more broadly on the PGP soap over the past year or two. Ellen's letter was quickly posted on message boards dedicated to ATWT across the net and became the talk of the fan community this past week.

In her letter, instead of taking the line others have that active fans represent such a miniscule number (although a number that far outweighs the Nielsen's, eh?) that they don't matter, Dolan points to the prior successes of the fan club. She points out that Trent Dawson, who was one of the favorite recurring actors on ATWT, was given a contract after being cheered on at the last annual fan club gathering.

She also makes the case that her character was originally one of the few female detectives on daytime but her professional duties have been stripped from her character, in a trend she seems to find where daytime, while once progressive with putting women in the workforce, is actually scaling back now that primetime is offering up female detectives and business leaders.

"Do you remember when Margo was a strong, independent woman and not a sniveling,cat fighting, high school girl craving for a football hero?" she asks before further asking why longtime ATWT actor and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Tamara Tunie can't seem to get a story of her own and longtime character Lucinda Walsh, a powerful businesswoman in town, never gets any stories about her professional life on the show these days.

"The character is being dismantled. These characters are your characters and I think valuable to the show. I need your support. I need you to help save Margo Hughes! I need you to write and ask for Margo back. I have attached a list of names and addresses for you to write to. Tell them how you feel about this character. Please guys, 'cus I love Margo and I want to keep giving her to you. Not to mention that my kid is only six, I've got many years to go."

ATWT is one of the best written shows on daytime television, but it doesn't mean that Dolan hasn't found one of the points that online fans constantly bring up as their frustration with the soap's content--the lack of workplace stories. While the show's producers can't be happy that what would essentially be a backstage argument has disseminated throughout the fan message boards, the direct plea and the grassroots campaign Dolan is trying to begin shows some recognition of the most active fans having the most power and the most investment in the show.

And Ellen hits on a very powerful message regarding the moral economy surrounding the characters, the feeling on behalf of the fan community that they have ownership of the characters, when she says, "These characters are your characters" and implies a fan duty at protecting the quality of the show by doing their duty and writing in.

Following this situation and the response of PGP should provide an interesting window into where things stand with the company's view of the fan community.


On March 20, 2006 at 9:32 AM, lynn said:

hi sam --

i finally decided to post here after lurking for a while. just went to the pgp board trying to find the post you reference at the top. no luck. ant suggestions?

On March 21, 2006 at 7:54 AM, Sam Ford said:

That's the problem with citing something off a message board. The addresses on the message boards are so transitory that, by the time anyone clicks the link, it's often already not working. Try going to the PGP board for ATWT and scroll through the titles. Sorry that the link is already invalid. And thanks for giving me the heads up about the posts over on the Media Domain board. I'd better answer the call.

On March 21, 2006 at 11:47 PM, Elaine Eichelberger said:

Hey, Sam! I had lost the website here. I thought I had it on favorites, but it was GONE! Glad you gave it to me again! On the wrestling issue! I quit watching it years back when it got to be just a big show with all the firework theatrics! I loved it back in the 70s with Jack Briscoe, Terry and Dory Funk, Mike and Eddy Graham, Harley Race, Buddy Colt, Rocky Johnson, Steve Keirn, DUSTY RHODES!!!, Abdullah the Butcher and the Mongolian Stomper and the Samoan (was that his name?). Those last 3 guys SCARED me! My father saw a guy get his ear bitten off in Baltimore, one time when he went (probably in the 50's). I remember Killer Kowalski was involved. I can't remember if he bit or was bitten! Probably did the biting! I just can't deal with this stuff they have on now. It's so much different than what I used to like! (I just had to respond to that--couldn't let it go by!) OK, now for GL. I first started watching this show when I was 2, with my grandmother (47 years ago). I quit watching at different times over the years, for years at a time. When they killed off Maureen, when they fired MZ; those are the times that stick out the most for me on there. One of my favorite people on there was Peggy Fletcher. I LOVED her! She was such a sweet girl. Usually I hated the goody goody people (Hope was always goody goody to me--couldn't STAND her until Elvera Roussell came on, then I liked her. Beth the same. HATED her until Beth Chamberlin came on; then liked her. Can't STAND the self-righteous people--like Mike Bauer. Ed was SR too when Mart Hulswit played him. But when Peter Simon came on, he wasn't. He played him as a decent, likeable, flawed but really trying person who really gave to others. Mart Hulswit was a pig, I always thought!) GL has usually been really strong into character development as far as I'm concerned. (I never liked Ross Marler, either, which I know is unusual. He was self-righteous, PLUS he was boring. Just drab to me.) This show has always been able to make these people into my friends. They still do that. Some of the people I really despise. But the ones I like really feel like my buddies. I guess that's part of what you meant by us investing in the shows long term. I LOVE Reva and Billy and Josh! They were fighting today like they fought 20 years ago. It was GREAT!! The stuff they've been writing about the show has really upset me. About the new head writer and all. They really needed one, I think the show has gotten horrible. But it's BECAUSE they started a great storyline with Billy's drinking, which people LOVED! And then boom! It's gone! This show has done many alcohol storylines. Because it's REAL! It hits home! People feel it! This new Alan Michael they got I think is REALLY turning into a great AM. He's already showing the torture of wanting Spaulding things, but maybe wanting other better things too, and thinking he needs to cover the Spaulding part for others to see. This is great! DON'T age kids so unrealistically that it insults our intelligence (Leah,and nobody else!) Quit hiring new people, and use their salaries to divide amongst the other people! Give us Rick and Holly! Don't FIRE people like Edmund! One thing I've noticed recently is that people's characters are being sacrifices for flash in the pan sensationalism. (PRIME example is Emily! Yes, she's ALWAYS been ditzy and made bad choices, but that does not lead to mass murder for crying out loud! We're in Oakdale here, not Salem!!!) Get rid of people like Jeffrey, whom people REALLY don't like. Cassie is pretty much hated, but we LIKE hating her! But take Jeffrey's salary and pay the other people! Yes, I would buy tapes and DVDs of old stuff. I got the Roger tape and the Reva tape. WHY DON'T WE HAVE A BERT BAUER TAPE? An Alan Spaulding tape? Also, about those stupid Nielsen ratings! I tape B&B, ATWT and GL every day. 4 people watch those tapes. 3 of us at my house, and a girl at work that I take all my tapes to. Her mother may watch some of them with her, too. And I SERIOUSLY watch my shows. Not a day or two a week! I just went through serious withdrawal last week when they weren't on for 2 days. My shows are why I look forward to leaving work at night! I LOVE THEM!!! A lot of the things they do on the shows are losing them viewers. But they don't learn from it--they keep doing WORSE stuff! Why can't the NEW characters brought on shows (i.e. Sandy and Ava) be the people who are NOT on contract? Why do we kick out good characters that people love to the curb so that we can pay new ones? And the same thing goes for ATWT. I didn't start watching that until about 71 or 2. Didn't start nearly as early on that one! But as one example. Tom and Margo. They need to be on a LOT more! They are SO wasted! They both are unbelievably talented! They need to be on more often. (I cannot believe that they STILL have not had Margo apologize to Gwen for how she treated her!!!) I actually LOVED the umbrella storyline. I LOVED it!!! But I do believe that they did overuse Gwen and Jennifer at the expense of other people. Of course, it was good to see all the other people. But look at John Dixon! What a waste! They don't have to have a front burner storyline. Did you see what that one person wrote on one of the posts? We don't wan't to see the vets! Who wants to see Nancy involved in a geriatric love story? That was ridiculous! But actually, that COULD be done! It certainly is a real life issue. How do the grown kids feel when this happens. They know they shouldn't care, but somehow, they DO!!! I might have to deal with it soon, and it won't be pretty if I do! These issues can really hit home! Now bringing Damian back I think is a stroke of genius! He was GREAT! If I stopped watching shows, what would bring me back was when the show brought someone back on that I had really liked. (Roger, Holly.) I started watching AW when they brought Lisa Peluso on. I had watched her when she was a kid on SFT, and just wondered what she looked like grown up. The acting on AW (AND the writing) hooked me from day one! Judi Evans, whom I HATED as Beth Raines, was on (Paulina) the first day I watched, and she had me sitting on the edge of my seat. She was FANTASTIC!! Really powerful! I LOVED her as Paulina! I started watching AW and actually liked EVERY character on the show (which is totally unheard of for me). When they cancelled AW I boycotted NBC for 4 years. I wouldn't let anyone in my HOUSE watch that station! It was a real slap in the face to fans that Passions and DOOL could stay on, while AW was cancelled. I had been watching DOOL for a year or two prior to when I was watching AW. I finally stopped because I only liked 3 or 4 people on the show, and hated all the rest of them. I compared that with AW, and the fact that I liked EVERY character on that show. What does that tell you about the writers??? I LOVE it when they have Cass on ATWT. He was SO GOOD! He breezes in there like he's worked there for years! Another great! When I started watching ATWT again a couple years ago, I liked everyone on the show. The writing was superb! But since then something has happened. I now HATE, LOATHE and DESPISE many of the characters. What has happened in the last year or so? I used to really like Jennifer. Now I HATE HER GUTS!!! Why? What have they done to the character? This writing they have now is terrible! The quality of the actors is so good that it's carrying them. That Julia Larrabee stuff was GREAT! I used to rush home EVERY day and I couldn't WAIT to see what Julia and Lily and Carly were up to today!!! What happened???? Thanks for listening, Sam! Glad you're there!!! fee

On March 22, 2006 at 11:18 AM, Sam Ford said:


Glad that you found your way back to us. Vinnie Jr. certainly changed aspects of the wrestling game, although it has gone back to some of its more traditional roots in the past few years. Still all the theatrics, but some great wrestlers and more of an acknowledgement of history these days. There were several Samoans in wrestling--Afa and Sika, "The High Chief" Peter Maivia--But what a list of great performers you just gave. You must have been watching down in the Florida area with guys like Mike and Eddie Graham and Keirn and Rhodes and Brisco. You know, WWE just bought the Florida tape library and is working with Mike Graham some to restore Florida wrestling history.

It was Yukon Eric who had his ear severed during a match with Killer Kowalski, which is actually how Kowalski earned the name Killer.

I've never watched Guiding Light regularly but am familiar enough with the characters. It's a shame that GL has a longer history than ATWT but has done much less to preserve it, so that ATWT has much more historic depth on its acting roster.

As for ATWT, I think you are right about characters often being sacrificed for the good of a current storyline. It happened with Margo in some ways, definitely with Jessica, and happens regularly in the soap industry. That's when things are plot-driven instead of character-driven. The baby switch storyline is a great example. That's a storyline that could have used a few more weeks simply to tease out the reverberations and the reprecussions of the initial action of the baby switch being revealed. We never fully got to see what happened with Tom and Margo, Margo and Gwen, Lisa, Bob and Kim, etc. We could have seen more initially between Emma and Meg, although they corrected that more later. Basically, soaps are much more powerful in reaction than they are action, and that's why the bby switch storyline worked so well. They just gave up on it too quick and didn't focus on all the smaller stories as well as they could have, which is why some people grew resentful of the Gwen and Jennifer characters, because the umbrella story should have let more people stay under the umbrella for a while longer instead of giving them a few scenes and then kicking them back out into the rain.

I think a DVD of the baby switch would be interesting, for instance, even a couple of disc set. Just following that storyline.

As far as new characters go, the overall reception to Gwen (even with her detractors), Maddie, the new Meg, and several others prove that people don't have a problem with new characters when they are woven into Oakdale well and seem a fit. On the other hand, Keith, B.J., the Ortegas, and Nick Kasnoff appear to be among the characters that just don't fit.

I've made no secret of Tom Hughes being my favorite character in soap opera history. Scott Holmes is excellent, and yet Tom can barely seem to get airtime, and it's been that way for years. When he does get a scene that has real material in it aside from just DA talk, he nails it. He even made the Doc Reese thing compelling, with those conversations with Bob and later Margo. And he gets rewarded with...more backburner.

And I agree that TPTB are not quite right in their claims toward using the vets effectively. Sure, they're doing better than they have at times and I certainly don't want the vets to take over and think they SHOULD have a reduced schedule, but many of them still have stories left in them, stories that could include them without taking away from anyone else. But some characters suffer from TOO MUCH exposure that leads to resentment from the fan base, which doesn't do anyone any good.

I think the power of the show waxes and wanes. HS lost his touch. JP took over as head writer and things picked up. Then, they hit a lull. Just makes you wonder what theo ther influences and/or powers are going on behind-the-scenes at a show.

One major positive is a really good use of Emma lately, a better teen scene than they've had in many years, and the return of Lisa to the screen. Now, if we can just get more Hugheses, especially Tom!


On March 23, 2006 at 12:28 AM, Elaine Eichelberger said:

Yep, you nailed it! I grew up in Orlando in the 60s and 70s! And yes, it WAS Yukon Eric! I remember my Pa saying that now! He was there when it happened! That's great about the Mike Graham thing and the restoration! One of the best matches I ever saw was between Jack Briscoe and Mike! A draw, of course!!! GORDON SOLIE!!! I still think he's the best announcer of all time! I used to do a great Dusty Rhodes imitation! Did it one day at my best friend's house and her brother came over and heard me (from the other room). He got all excited and started yelling "Hey GREAT! Wrestling's on! I didn't know it was on tonight!" But it was just me! He was ticked! "I'm the man of the hour. The man with the POWER! Too sweet to be SOUR, baby!!!" That was the one I always did! I totally agree about the baby storyline. It really was a GREAT story. I still think they should have made a better motive for Paul; I always thought there was something going on they hadn't told yet. It was set up so well for that. But I love Paul. I see him as a good guy who was misguided, but who truly wanted the best thing (which is NOT Craig) for Jen. Both him and Meg I think are good, decent, caring people. Whereas Jen, on the other hand, whom I USED to like, has been built up to the point they have WAY overbuilt her and can't see it. We're spos to feel for her, but most people hate her guts now! Emily, on the other hand, while a nut job, can still draw you in and make you feel for her. I have been TOTALLY amazed at her acting. She is phenomenal! I thought CARLY was great until I saw the stuff KMH has been doing lately! But this show REALLY has great people on it! Which is really the problem! More people need airtime! That site I found,, has the clip when Hal and Dusty went to the courthouse to get Tom to give them a warrant (do DAs do that? I thought only judges did that). It's the part where Tom finds out that it's for Gwen's baby, and he does that "WHOOAAAA!" That was GREAT! I was YELLING!!!! They did it now! Tom's going to KILL them now! He is really great!!! And did you see him and Margo a couple days ago, when Tom found out Maddie was living in the hotel? "Great call, Margo!" That was FUNNY! And then the look on her face as she realized what she'd done. They are both fantastic, and truly great together! I hadn't started watching again when the Doc thing was on, so didn't see that. I think I started watching again about the time they were starting to make up. I started watching again just to see Jack get his memory back! Got hooked into it really quickly. That Julia Larrabee storyline was wonderful! She was a great actress, and did so well with Carly and Lily! I also loved the Craig in the monastery thing, with Sierra and Lucy watching him on TV behind the safe! That was a SCREAM! And my GOSH! What about Gwen when she lost her baby! We were all crying REALLY hard when that happened! And we don't cry over the shows! She was so POWERFUL!! And Emily, when she shot Paul! Sam, these people are SO much better than people in primetime and the movies. I just don't get it, that they're not given the accolades they deserve! Better run! Hope you have a great time at the events! ATWT is my favorite right now, and they do a BANG UP job!

On March 23, 2006 at 5:10 AM, Sam Ford said:

Well, I guess my wrestling radar is still working then, on both your location and on Yukon Eric. Although Jim Ross is my favorite announcer of all time, I think Solie is equally as good, just at a different style that worked more for the product of his time. Solie's professionalism differs from Ross' more emotional approach, but you can see a lot of "The Dean" in "Good Ol' J.R."

Paul's motive was a little sketchy. They should have made the tie-in with James a little more prevalent. I mean, Paul is forever scarred by having a father like James, and they should have brought Anthony in for some work that did something like have Craig's face morph into James or more dreams of James torturing Paul in his sleep, where Paul links his relationship with James to Johnny's potential relationship to Craig. It would have made Paul a lot more sympathetic.

I actually was in transit and missed the scenes with Tom and Margo the other day, but, from all I read about it, I was angry to have missed it, since Tom is by far my favorite character. Here is a good use for them...They should be on at least once a week, even if it is primarily as support for other storylines. They are the next generation of Bob and Kim, and both couples need to be at the heart of the show. All gripes aside, however, on Lisa, as she has been utilized perfectly lately. And Nancy and Emma and Susan are used very well, too.

On April 5, 2006 at 8:59 PM, Elaine Eichelberger said:

Sam--Be sure to read the topic on the board regarding the viewers who have been watching the show for 50 years! It's a GREAT topic! You may have seen it already, but haven't seen your name lately, so didn't know if you had! I can't believe this many people have been watching the show for 50 years! WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT!!!!! I have an idea that there would have been a lot more hoopla on the GL 50th anniversary, if Charita Bauer had still been alive!

On April 7, 2006 at 12:25 AM, Sam Ford said:

I agree with you completely on the achievement. Fans who have stuck with a show for that length of time become a real value in the soap world. And I've found that, this past week, the show seems to have regained its memory in vital ways. The way Jack and Carly's argument quickly turned to Julia. The way that Hal and Carly's argument quickly turned to the way Carly reated Parker when Jack was missing, and the way that Carly brought up Will. The way that the Lisa/Barbara friendship has been featred more prominently. The fact that Lisa and Margo haven't always seen eye-to-eye. And all of the great research that went into Monday's show. Sure, it wasn't as clip-heavy as many would have liked, and I would love to see an in-depth DVD released of the history of the show...but I thought they did a great job giving new material to seven actresses who, for the most part, have only improved with time. By the way, I'm still lurking over at Media-Domain but have just been on the road more lately.