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ALL: Age Before Beauty?


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Holy moly, I'd never think that someone that age (Eric, 77) would be up for the pace of daytime writing, especially a 1 hour show.

I really feel we need a whole new topic on this, because that's one of the huge UNSPOKEN problems

with daytime.

The MAJORITY of today's soap writers are well over 55 years old, and most of them have been writing

for 20 to 30 years basically "recycling" plots, hiding their "burnout" to keep the fat WGA checks rolling

in and incestuously rehiring their small circle of friends.

Once the number of shows dwindled to 9 soaps...they stopped letting anyone new in.

I was totally shocked when I found out that Stephen Demorest is nearly (or over) 60 years old

now!

Hannah Shearer came to "DAYS" as "new blood"--but I gasped upon discovering she's well over

60 years old.

These writers, many of them millionaires by now, just travel from show to show, replacing each other

across the board, and I believe that daytime really suffers for it.

The Exec. Producers and Producers are golf and lunch buddies (old college friends) with these writers.

Many of these writers are Conservative, Set In their Ways---they don't have a Wild Streak---and because

of this, they often go along with whatever the Networks/Sponsors/Suits want just as long as they can

keep their mansion paid up and keep their summer yachts and kid's tuitions paid.

**Keep their plastic surgery up**

There isn't a "hunger" amongst them. They're very tranquil, routine-oriented and they shy away

from pushing the envelope.

I once wrote a fan letter, asking a Producer---"How do you write about sex and the yearnings of a new

love if you're not having any sex and no longer believe in taking chances with life?"

There was a time that Harding Lemay describes in his autobiography when the networks had "apprentice"

openings REGULARLY and people like Irna Phillips and Bill Bell brought in young writers and trained them.

I'm not just talking Breakdown Writers like Kay Alden, I'm also talking about COUNTLESS young talented

Script Writers who were Playwrights (Harding Lemay), fledgling novelists and even soap fans (Ron Carvilati).

Young soap actors often were trained to write for their shows.

This kept the "energy" on the shows fresh and it allowed NEWBIES like Douglass Marland, Harding Lemay

and so many others to be tested out so they could eventually make "breakthroughs" in daytime.

Douglass Marland, btw, apprenticed under Harding Lemay during "Another World's" golden era of the 1970's.

Young women like Pat Faulken Smith and Kay Alden were practically "hand fed" by Bill Bell.

NOTE---there were like 22 shows back then, however. So they could hire A LOT more newbies and "test out"

which ones had that special "something-something".

That's no longer done today.

Anyone who rocks the boat and is actually getting "shagged" the night before Writer's Conferences

scares the snot out of these old geezers.

They want everything to be SAFE. And that's why they can't have a renaissance or a new breakthrough.

The last person I saw to really take chances was Jim Reilly (well over 60), but then again, he was just doing

absurd stunt pranks that couldn't sustain daily to monthly, monthly to yearly. Wackiness has its place, after all,

but it can't be the entire show/concept on a daytime soap.

BUT HELL, at least he tried to rock the landscape.

I definitely have nothing against OLDER writers. They're the most wise and experienced people.

I religiously believe in the "elders" and respecting and including them up until death.

But I do have two complaints:

(1) They get set in their ways, their views--just stagnant. They don't like taking chances, they

want everything to be a nice rehash of what's already been done.

(2) When they hire young writers---they usually look for the safe, conservative "good kid" who

appeals to their older sensibilities.

At some point, you have to have fire...or you won't have the courage to say something new.

Today's soaps----they don't speak to us.

And believe it or not, there was a time when soaps had

an awful lot to say, they had a point of view and they made their biggest ratings gains while being

innovative and "fresh" and pushing the envelope.

Just ask Agnes Nixon or Gloria Monty.

But we'll never get a new Agnes Nixon, because there's no influx and no TESTING OUT to see who

out of the younger set has that special spark.

Right now, daytime needs that spark more than ever, and I've seen many "SON Soaps" written by

fans that put the actual t.v. shows to shame.

Now that's telling you something right there.

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Does anyone stay at a show long enough to mentor other writers? Even if so, I doubt that an outgoing writer has the power to influence a show's direction these days. If that were the case, they could stay on the payroll. That kind of loyalty can't be expected of an industry that swears by committee decisions.

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ChangedBYSon, this is the best post of the month! It will probably be the best post of autumn :D

This is exactly what I have been thinking and writing about for years, but far too many people have looked the other way. I always believe that a large writing team is the best way to go. AMC, ATWT, GL & GH had large writing teams in the 80s & early 90s and their quality, for the most part, remained intact. GL had 4 head writers for almost three years, but that would never occur today.

The amount of new writers (and producers/directors for that matter) to the daytime industry has reached an all-time low, and the situation looks like it will not significantly improve. Were are the new Cascios or Walds? GH would be nothing if it wasn't for Marland's 77-79 tenure. The same goes for OLTL from 1991-1994 with Gottlieb (movie producer) & Malone (novelist).

There are many talented and passionate writers out there how would enjoy writing on daytime. I think playwrights and novelists should consist of the majority of new writers, especially script writers. ATWT, GL, B&B, Y&R, GH are lacking in writers. But will something be done about it. ATWT's recently hired Cheryl Davis, but I don't think she'll stay long because ATWT has a history of hiring people only to have them leave less than a year into their tenure.

As for Freiwald, I'm sure a recycled writer will take his place on Y&R once he retires.

A daytime crew should always consists of a...

() = minimum of

Head Writer

Co-Head Writer

Associate Head Writer

Story/Script Editor

Story Consultant

Creative Consultant

Story/Script Coordinator

Writers Assistant

Breakdown Writer (5)

Script Writer (6)

Executive Producer

Co-Executive Producer

Producer (2)

Director (5)

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But then how does a wildly successful small writing team, as possessed by Y&R for it's entire run (even, as of late under LML) fit into this equation? Bill Bell's writing staff ranged from only 6 writers (including Papa Bell) to a max of 12 (under Jack Smith's regime).

A writing staff of 19 (!) is massive. I would worry that having so many writers would dilute the sense of cohesion in terms of scripts sounding the same and following similar patterns. Kay Alden, in her brilliant MIT speech, said that Y&R always kept a small writing team and that it always worked because everyone knew what everyone else was doing and their styles gelled: scripts always sounded the same!

That being said I do agree that soaps need fresh blood when it comes to the writing teams. I think people like Natalie Minardi Slater are good examples of how it should be done: get hired young, be mentored for years (as she was under Kay Alden) and then take over when the senior writers step down. I don't think it's at all smart to hire young people simply for the sake of hiring 'youth'. That is just ageist and foolhardy as these young writers would likely have little experience in terms of the history of the specific serial. When this experience is lacking the shows fall apart: currently, Y&R illustrates this beautifully as it had consistent writing from 1973-2006 and then a new writer with 'fresh' ideas comes to town and the show is wrecked.

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Thanks RuAsRuAnUh,

But in no way was I saying the writing teams should be larger.

As well, Stenbeck, I wasn't saying that "mentoring" is all that important.

What I am saying is that 80% of the writers in daytime should not be over 50.

I believe this is really hurting the shows a lot, especially because of the IN-BREEDING hiring practices.

We rarely ever get new writers.

We need young, new, energetic, talented writers to be allowed on these staffs.

There are MANY gifted playwrights and novelists under 40 years old who could be given

the opportunity to come in and put some fire into these dying shows.

Douglass Marland and Harding Lemay were BOTH UNDER 40 when they started writing soaps.

Agnes Nixon started writing soaps for CBS when she was younger than 30.

Kay Alden said she was fresh out of college when she joing "Y&R", and make no mistake, she

is a huge part of why that show was so successful all those years. Otherwise, Bill Bell would have

fired her and gotten a new sidekick, but no, he kept Kay Alden and Sally Sussman Morina (who

was in her 20's when she started).

Nowadays...there's no need blood coming in.

Where are the new young voices who have something to say for OUR TIMES?

We need some 30 and 40-somethings on these writing staffs in much greater numbers.

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I don't think it's at all smart to hire young people simply for the sake of hiring 'youth'. That is just ageist and foolhardy.

Absolutely not.

There are tons of "gifted" "charismatic" novelists and playwrights in their late 20's to early 40s who may

be the person to start a new spark in daytime.

Harding Lemay took over "AW" right before he was 40---he knew NOTHING about the show's history--but in

less than 2 years, he took it to #1 in the ratings and he created a sensation.

Finding a "superstar" Head Writer is no different than finding a superstar actor or singer.

You need someone with that special hunger and drive, that special "pulse" with the public, that special voice.

All of these Head Writers today are just NONDESCRIPT, routine-rehashing wealthy WGA members.

Where is the Pam Long who stands out from the pack?

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A writing staff of 19 (!) is massive. I would worry that having so many writers would dilute the sense of cohesion in terms of scripts sounding the same and following similar patterns. Kay Alden, in her brilliant MIT speech, said that Y&R always kept a small writing team and that it always worked because everyone knew what everyone else was doing and their styles gelled: scripts always sounded the same!

Word. I can't even imagine managing a team that large on a serial. Think about the writers' meetings! On a sketch comedy like SNL, a large team can be beneficial just to throw out ideas for gags, but I think a drama should have a more singular vision. Claire Labine also mentioned the fact that a smaller team allowed the writers to know each other's strengths and weaknesses, their various styles, etc.

But I totally agree that most writers these days are working just for the paycheck and have lost their ambition. The network interference isn't helpful, but somehow, these writers need to "make it work," as Tim Gunn would say.

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But in no way was I saying the writing teams should be larger.

I understood what you wrote. I just feel that a writing team that is too small is prone to more instability if lets say two people suddenly leave (death, quit, fired). People forget that these shows are responsible for at least 240 hour-long episodes EVERY year.

I believe this is really hurting the shows a lot, especially because of the IN-BREEDING hiring practices.

We rarely ever get new writers. We need young, new, energetic, talented writers to be allowed on these staffs.

I could not have said it better. The list of talented, passionate writers are way too long to list. You are really good, ChangedBYSon!

There are MANY gifted playwrights and novelists under 40 years old who could be given

the opportunity to come in and put some fire into these dying shows.

Loved that you used the word "dying" because it accurately describes the state of daytime. The same state it has been in for MANY years now. It is considered taboo and offensive to believe and profess that daytime IS dying. Daytime IS dying.

Sally Sussman Morina (who

was in her 20's when she started).

I wish Sally Sussman Morina, along with a few others, would return to daytime to mentor new writers. She's got talent and passion. Will she return to Y&R? Her hubby is a producer for the show and will soon direct.

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