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Soapsuds

Remembering Douglas Marland: Timeless Storylines, Timeless Talent

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If Doug Marland hadn't died so young (and remained with ATWT), I'm curious as to what you folks think would have ultimately happened with the show. In particular, do you think that ATWT would have lasted beyond 2010?

 

I honestly don't think that ATWT would have lasted any longer than it did (though its quality may very well have been much better post-1993). There are numerous reasons why I feel this way:

 

*Many excellent writers experience a decline in the quality of their work. More likely than not, the quality of Marland's ATWT (post-1993) would have declined.

 

*Even without Marland, ATWT experienced a ratings boost in the first half of the 2000s. (I seem to recall it semi-regularly raking #4 in the ratings.) And yet the soap was still cancelled in 2010.

 

*Even if Marland was still getting the same accolades in the 2000s (as he did from 1985-93), it's very unlikely that P&G would have changed its mind about its desire to exit the soap business.

 

*ATWT's fans just aren't as vocal/rabid as fans of some other soaps. Perhaps I'm wrong on this score, but I think that the massive devotion of GH & DOOL fans is one reason why both soaps are still around today (despite the fact that overall ratings for both soaps aren't particularly strong).

Edited by Max

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He died just before everything started falling apart.  The OJ trial changed everything.  It was sensational and provocative in a way nothing airing on TV had been.  It broke the viewing habits of lots of people, and it opened cable news and other programming into telling stories that grabbed people in a way soaps didn't.  They suddenly seemed very old fashioned to lots of viewers.

 

I think Marland would have suffered the same problems pretty much everyone else did at that time.  Declining ratings, nervous network execs, and the wrong people placed in charge.  GL had a fantastic writing team, but without Curlee and with JFP's usual interference, that show floundered and was never the same.

 

 I think Marland would have made it to maybe 1996 or 97, but would have quit or been forced out by then had he lived.  Even his last year or so was not his strongest.

 

I would have loved to see him at OLTL.  I think he would have been amazing there.

Edited by titan1978

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I don't think the ratings for ATWT would have fallen so deeply had Marland been HW at the time. It would have been a more gradual drop like Y&R.

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6 minutes ago, Soapsuds said:

I don't think the ratings for ATWT would have fallen so deeply had Marland been HW at the time. It would have been a more gradual drop like Y&R.

I'm not so sure.  He had lots of recasts that weren't generating as much love from fans. The Crawford murder mystery had fallen apart on him and was his first huge dud on ATWT.  His cast was very large and he was reluctant to let characters go.

 

Funny to think Shawn Christian started under him as Mike.  I thought he was so hot and loved him as Mike.  But as Daniel on DAYS-  yuck.

Edited by titan1978

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2 minutes ago, titan1978 said:

I'm not so sure.  He had lots of recasts that weren't generating as much love from fans. The Crawford murder mystery had fallen apart on him and was his first huge dud on ATWT.  His cast was very large and he was reluctant to let characters go.

 

The story might have changed but the ratings to the climax of the story were pretty good. The remote with Darryl and Frannie in Switzerland did rather well in the ratings and the finale of the story where Darryl crashed out a window with Caroline's killer registered a 6.2 rating for the week. I have the magazine with those ratings. It ranked either #2 or #3 for the week in soaps.

7 minutes ago, titan1978 said:

 

 

Funny to think Shawn Christian started under him as Mike.  I thought he was so hot and loved him as Mike.  But as Daniel on DAYS-  yuck.

And SC did nothing for the ratings for ATWT either...LOL. Marland had passed by then and the new writers had him in the Rosanna and Carly triangle which didn't do well ratings wise.

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3 minutes ago, Soapsuds said:

The story might have changed but the ratings to the climax of the story were pretty good. The remote with Darryl and Frannie in Switzerland did rather well in the ratings and the finale of the story where Darryl crashed out a window with Caroline's killer registered a 6.2 rating for the week. I have the magazine with those ratings. It ranked either #2 or #3 for the week in soaps.

I'm not arguing that at that time he was still capable of pulling in strong ratings.  I'm just saying that I think he was starting to falter a bit and would have been suceptable to trouble in the years coming up.

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14 minutes ago, Soapsuds said:

I don't think the ratings for ATWT would have fallen so deeply had Marland been HW at the time. It would have been a more gradual drop like Y&R.

 

It's been a while since I looked at the ratings history, but if memory serves me correctly, ATWT's ratings took a sizable dip in the mid-90s but then really rebounded during the early part of the Goutman Era. Even if Marland was still writing for ATWT (and still producing high quality material), I'm not sure that its ratings in the early-2000s would have been any better.

 

I have long felt that ATWT's cancellation was a much bigger blow to the soap genre than was the cancellation of GL. That because unlike GL (or AW for that matter), ATWT didn't spend the entirety of its last decade on life support (although, of course, ATWT did post disappointing ratings during its last five years or so). Once ATWT was axed, ABC came to the conclusion that it too could cancel some of its soaps (even if those soaps hadn't been on life support for a very long time).

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2 minutes ago, titan1978 said:

I'm not arguing that at that time he was still capable of pulling in strong ratings.  I'm just saying that I think he was starting to falter a bit and would have been suceptable to trouble in the years coming up.

Oh I am sure the ratings would have dropped like all of the soaps but it wouldn't have been hit so hard with Marland still HW.  It is a shame we will never know where ATWT would have stood in 95 or so with Marland still at the helm.

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3 minutes ago, cassadine1991 said:

Marland at OLTL, makes you wonder what he would've done

Imagine if he had taken over post Malone's first stint.  Brought in one of his Marland families.  I see lots of stories about publishing, and he would really have been able to rebuild Viki after the DID storyline completed in a way that never really happened at the time.  Plus he could have written for HBS again as Nora!

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I would have loved to see what Marland could have done for a show like DAYS.

Edited by Khan

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I hope that Retro TV gets to his material as HW of The Doctors. From what I understand, TD was his first gig as a HW. I think it was in 1976 or 1977. I think he left for GH in 1978.

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Marland worked at AW under Harding Lemay before The Doctors.

 

I

Douglas Marland: A Personal Remembrance of Soaps' Greatest Writer

BY ELAINE LINER 
 
In 1981 I was the editor of a soap magazine that had a great reputation and no budget.  Every year we gave out awards, but we had to do it in small ceremonies on the sets of the daytime dramas. My head was whirling from the first one on the set of All My Children. An actor I had admired who played a nasty character took his statuette, turned to me and said, “I can’t accept this. It’s made of plastic.”
 
We went over to Guiding Light to give Douglas Marland his award for Best Writing. There were perhaps three people on the set. Tanned, dressed beautifully in a custom-made light blue double-breasted blue suit, Doug accepted his statuette with a long, heartfelt speech and tears of gratitude. 
 
That is how I met Doug Marland. I was fortunate enough to know him as a journalistic source and friend for the next 13 years.
Doug was a very real, very charming person, full of the gusto of life long before he ever became a legend in the soap business. And legend he certainly became, as writer and head writer on The Doctors, General Hospital, Guiding Light, As the World Turns and as co-creator of Loving, and more.
 
He just loved being in the business, and he seemed to get to know everyone in it. He looked at the soap world as a community. He treated everyone on the shows he wrote as family. 
 
Then as now, television was a highly competitive, rough business. Most soap head writers and TV execs I’ve known are so inhumane, and they have hard shells around them. Doug took many punches over the years (Gloria Monty personally claimed  the fame he deserved for creating the character of  Luke and for writing the Laura, Scotty and Bobbie era on GH, for example). Yet, he always remained human and very, very vulnerable.
 
He loved his characters, and his actors
 
 
Can I say it again? Doug really loved soaps; he passionately loved his work. Perhaps because he had been an actor for so long, there’s he nothing he loved more than seeing his actors bring his work to life. He could never stop talking about them! Once, when he was co-writing Loving, he and his driver gave me a lift home from the West Side Manhattan studio. From the second I got in the car, he started raving about how wonderful the very young Susan Walters was as his young heroine Lorna. I had not been a fan. But Doug’s passion and conviction about Susan over the next hour not only convinced me, but had me watching Loving--and soaps–in a whole new, deeply analytic way from then on. For example, he told me that the key to writing a soap villainess (or villain) is to portray the fact that she always believes what she is saying is truth, even when the viewer knows different.  The poignancy of the character comes from that disparity.
 
He wanted you to do your work, and he wanted you to do it better. His enthusiasm was genuine and so inspirational you easily could see why his actors loved to work for him. 
 
Nola’s Captain Blood Fantasy
 
 
Doug Marland had been through lots of hardships in his life, but he was so positive in is outlook, he seldom talked about them. He grew up the eldest in a large family on a farm in a town above Albany named West Sand Lake, New York. He was close to his mother Beatrice (after whom he named many of his soap moms) whose maiden name was Snyder. He escaped by watching movies from the ’30s, which formed the basis for the fantasies Nola had on Guiding Light, placing herself in such movies as Jane Eyre, The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca. He later moved to New York City to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and became involved in the theatrical world, appearing as an actor in many plays, touring companies and on TV in the early days of television in such pioneering dramatic shows as Playhouse 90.
 
A man of the theater, first and foremost
 
 
He was from the theater and you knew that when you talked to him. He knew the fundamentals of drama, as one can only learn from acting in and seeing decades of plays. (I think today’s younger generation of head writers studied their drama at the Happy Days/Batman/MTV school of drama.) In the ’80s and early ’90s, I saw him at Broadways shows all the time. In 1991 or ’92, he was sitting with Lisa Brown at the opening of the revival of  Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, which starred Alec Baldwin as Stanley Kowalski (“Stella!”) and a completely inaudible Jessica Lange as Blanche. After the curtain came down, he came over to me and whispered, “Look what they’ve done to my beautiful play.”
 
Doug expertly knew and wrote classic drama, and he was fortunate to work in an era where soaps were all about the intensity of human emotion, not the momentary titillation provided on soaps today from car crashes, violence and endless misogyny. In Doug’s day, he was free to write about what soaps always were and should be about: romance and character.
 
A special talent for creating female characters
 
 
What Doug Marland too rarely is credited with was his unique talent for creating and writing deeply rich, complex and especially conflicted female characters. So many of them! Jennifer, Carrie and Nola on GL!  Lily, Margo and Shannon on ATWT! And so many more! It wasn’t politically incorrect in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s to say that soaps were a women’s medium, and Doug loved delving into the female psyche on his shows.
 
Think of Lucinda (who he did not create) on ATWT. She had affairs with younger men (Craig); she barked business orders 23 hours a day. Instead of writing her as the Wicked Witch of the West, Doug looked into her soul and found deep, deep neurosis and lifelong pain.
 
He sent actress Elizabeth Hubbard (for whom he had written on The Doctors, where she stunningly played headstrong Dr. Althea Davis) back to 1930s Chicago to play her own even crazier and demanding mother, in startling black and white. Lucinda learned why she was the way she was and so did we! Doug evidently knew the work of Dr. Freud, but he also relished the chance to write original, deeply psychological story material for a spectacular actress who could and did break our hearts.
 
He was a master storyteller 
 
While most of Doug’s writing concentrated on character, he was also a  master storyteller and could spin a great yarn. He was so versatile and could tell any kind of soap story well.  His character Doug Cummings (a young man eerily obsessed with Kim) in a mystery plot on ATWT was truly suspenseful and thoroughly chilling. An old soap fan friend of mine maintains that even Doug’s soap cliché stories were more intensely written and more hand-wringingly emotional than any other soap writer’s. When Holden Snyder got amnesia and went  missing from Oakdale for five months on AWTW, we’d never seen anybody suffer more acutely than his wife Lily and mother Emma when this blank slate of a man returned to the farm.
 
And the original stories he created! On Loving, he (and co-creator Agnes Nixon) did a story where traumatic stress victim Mike Donovan (my all-time favorite soap actor, James Kiberd) paid a visit to the newly built Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., where he “saw” the ghost of his dead comrade Gage. I went on that location shoot on a rainy day in 1983, and watching the profound and moving drama created and being taped that day by the combination of brilliant writing and acting was transcendent. It was art and it was theater and it was all being done on a soap opera.
 
Of course, those days are long gone. Doug, who passed away in 1993, didn’t live to see  the current de-evolution in intelligence and integrity that soaps started suffering in the mid-’90s due to factors such as cable competition and all-cosmetic casting. Younger viewers who never saw Doug’s work seem to know him through an old soap fan mag article by him from 1992, now posted on the Internet—a set of rules called “How Not  to Wreck a Show.”  They use it to shake their finger at the way soaps are written now.
 
Let me tell you something about Doug from having known him: He knew the classic soap form better than anyone. But he lived and worked in an entirely earlier soap era. Today he would be the last person to shake his finger at anyone. He lived his life encouraging people to be creative,  graciously and lovingly complimenting people who were creative, and just being loving and supportive to everyone in the soap industry. He loved soaps, including all the fans. Doug Marland was a lovely, lovely man.
Edited by Paul Raven

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He was a good writer...but kind of over rated.

 

He was a master at balancing numerous stories and pacing...but the dialogue was stilted..with too much gossip and explaining everything.  And the shows when he wrote felt cold and sterile...no passion or emotion.

 

I do wonder how he would have written Damian/lily/holden had he lived.  Follow up writers slanted things to damian/lily with holden as an interloper.  

Edited by Soaplovers

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