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2001 Article on JFP, Tomlin, Broderick etc.


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This article features analysis on JFP, Gary Tomlin, and Lorraine Broderick. I'm only familiar with their work on non-ABC soaps ie GL, Days, ATWT etc. sound I did find it interesting the columnist here analyzed their previous work I'm more familiar with.

Daytime News & Comments, by Stephen Wiss March 12, 2001

When JFP Comes A Knockin’, Don’t Answer The Door

Since taking over at the start of the year, Jill Farren Phelps has made General Hospital a can’t miss combination of backstabbing, duplicity, heightened emotion, and shocking turns of events. Oh…not what’s on screen. General Hospital The Show is a dull, lifeless mess broken up only by the over-frequent Phelpsian musical montages. I’m talking about the events that have occurred behind the scenes. There has been more back-stage shenanigans in the past ten weeks than Paul Rauch could manage in several years at Guiding Light.

When JFP was announced as the new Executive Producer of GH, OLTL fans tried to warn GH fans what would happen. But did any of us think Jill’s path of destruction would happen so fast? I haven’t seen a soap destroyed so fast since Esensten and Brown took over at Port Charles.

In ten short weeks we’ve had:

1) JFP fires Riche’s pet actresses Lisa Vultaggio (Hannah) and Tava Smiley (Chloe). This was a good thing, since neither woman could act. But OLTL fans knew that the other shoe would drop.

2) The Jensen Buchanan contract fiasco. Jensen is hired, and then fired when Procter & Gamble sues her and ABC. JFP says she was unaware of Jensen’s contract status with ATWT even though the contract was hardly a secret. Michael Logan mentioned it in his TV Guide column late last year. Now that the lawsuits are settled Jensen is back at work.

3) Megan McTavish becomes General Hospital’s new headwriter right after JFP lies to Michael Logan, claiming McTavish is only consulting on a story.

4) Steve Burton (Jason) returns only to be wasted in the emotionless teen stories. Burton has now left the show for at least four months to film a movie. While his scenes will appear through April, there’s no word on whether or not he will eventually return.

5) The Sarah Brown fiasco. Rumors were flying fast and furious. First it was said that Sarah re-signed for two years. Then it was said she was leaving, but would stay on for twelve weeks to wrap things up. Then it was reported that she had a public fight with JFP on the set and walked off. Finally, Sarah set the record straight, sort of. On Friday, March 9, Sarah released the following on her website:

"My contract expired today but I will stay with the show 4 more weeks to wrap it all up for them. I am not leaving because of money issues or contract issues. I am leaving because my heart is telling me I'm done. When a thing is done it's just done for me. I want other things right now and I hope to move into directing in the next 10 years, full time. Tell the fans I love them, and appreciate the support and love they have shown me. Tell them I'll be working again soon, hopefully for the same network, just in another time slot. Peace, Sarah."

What I find most interesting is that Sarah did not deny that a fight occurred. If her reasons for leaving have nothing to do with money or other contract issues, what was the real reason? If she had felt earlier that she was done with the character of Carly, why even bother renegotiating? The only answer that makes sense is a disagreement with JFP over the direction of her character. Also, four weeks is a very short time in which to wrap things up due to how far in advance storylines and scripts are written. Either McTavish will have to furiously rewrite scripts to write out Carly or Jill will have to do another of her infamous recasts. Replacing a three-time Emmy winner will not be easy. Internet posters are already imagining Kale Browne or Tim Gibbs in drag.

JFP apologists are still taking a wait and see attitude. “The show is in transition, we must be patient.” Well, OLTL is in the same boat as GH in terms of transition, but Tomlin’s tweaking of the storylines has created a very entertaining show. JFP’s backstage mismanagement and on-screen tweaking has been an unmitigated mess and the arrival of McTavish shouldn’t inspire confidence in anyone.

The arrival of JFP and McT has thrown GH from the proverbial frying pan and into the fire. But the departure of these two soap wreckers has taken OLTL from the fire. The future looks bright, right? Well…maybe.

From The Fire…To Where?

Others have written about Gary Tomlin’s actions behind the scenes so I’ll focus instead on the incoming headwriters, Lorraine Broderick and Chris Whitesell. In the last column, one letter expressed her hope that the team up of Lorraine and Chris as OLTL’s headwriters would work well with Mr. Tomlin. I certainly hope she’s right, because separately their work does not inspire much confidence in me.

Chris Whitesell: His few months as co-headwriter of GH before Bob Guza’s return to the show were as dull and incomprehensible as the Cullitons’ reign before him. “Mac’s double” and “Maxie and the Indian Statue” were hardly great soap opera. And as for Sunset Beach, where Gary Tomlin was the executive producer, the phrase “Say hello to Mr. Turkey Baster” still makes me want to retch.

Lorraine Broderick: At All My Children Lorraine had some hits, but she also had a lot of misses as well. For every “homophobia story” or ”The Plane Crash” there was “Myrtle meets Santa Clause” or “Maria boinks Dimitri” or “Erica kidnaps baby Maddie”.

After being fired from AMC, Lorraine joined Felicia Minei Behr over at As The World Turns where all her negatives were magnified.

Even though LB claimed to have spent months studying ATWT history, her work showed no familiarity with the established characters or their histories. Many veteran characters were completely ignored or trotted out for a day or two every few months. The focus was on her new characters, NINE of who were introduced within a year. Brad, Denise, Reid (who was a vastly different character from the pre-plastic surgery David), Katie, Chris, Alec, Julia, Eddie, and Georgia were the center of most of the storylines. In an SOD chat, Jon Hensley (Holden) mentioned that LB was writing all these new characters because she wasn’t comfortable writing for the established characters. Well, it showed.

To make matters worse most of these new characters were undefined. The character of Brad, while played by three different actors, had five or six distinct personalities before he was written out. Katie was sweet, then a bitch, then boring again. Julia was a sweet heiress, then a stupid pawn of Reid’s, and suddenly a physician’s assistant. Was Alec good or bad? All we had were months of Alec trying to keep his paternity of Eddie a secret. And why was Chris suddenly a bad seed?

And there were other failings:

Lorraine’s stories usually ended in an anti-climax: Fans of ATWT had been waiting for nearly a decade for Katie to discover that her sister Margo disconnected her father Casey’s life support system. Instead of a satisfying resolution, we had Katie listening to the tape of her father begging Margo to pull the plug off-screen during a commercial break. She then immediately forgave Margo, who wasn’t even there with her. Then there was the Jack/Brad/Delores story that LB created. Jack believed Brad had killed their father, Burt, while driving drunk. But Brad was covering for their mother, Delores, who was driving that night. The climax for this story: everyone sitting on the couch and discussing it for five minutes. *Yawn*

Major continuity blunders: Some of Broderick's blunders were laughable, like when Camille was wheeled into surgery in Peoria yet was in Oakdale for her post-op recovery, without ever having traveled back to Oakdale.

--Or Julia who was supposed to assist Camille during her bout with breast cancer yet they didn’t have a scene together where Julia ever did that.

But then there were the stories that Lorraine built around these continuity errors, which is even more galling when you consider that she started in soaps handling continuity for AMC:

--The terms of Carly’s trust fund originally required her to conceive naturally and be married for two years after the baby’s birth in order to receive $50 million. These terms were forgotten under LB’s pen. Carly tried to have herself artificially inseminated and then married and divorced three different men in rapid succession, receiving the funds immediately after Parker’s birth.

-- David had no money and was trying to get some from his father, James, or by holding Lily and her baby for ransom. Yet “Reid” magically had the cash to buy baby Hope, get plastic surgery, buy a house, hire a nanny for Faith/Melinda, and hire minions to hold Emily after he kidnapped her or have others follow Julia to the Caribbean. Then there was the peek-a-boo bullet wound. Molly sees Reid come out of the shower wearing only a towel, and no bullet wound was visible on his chest, yet a couple episodes later Reid was worried that Julia would see his bullet wound. Then there were the supposed plastic surgery scars under his hair that Molly noticed but Julia was blind to them.

Plot Driven Stories: The Emily/Tom/Margo story requires Tom and Margo to act like brain dead idiots in order for the plot to advance. Reid/David eavesdropped in almost every episode yet was never noticed. Lucinda, one of the most intelligent, dynamic characters on soaps, was morphed into a brain dead fool who fell for and married James, who had terrorized her family with blackmail, kidnapping and assaults for over a decade.

Honestly, to me the pairing of Whitesell and Broderick as co-headwriters seems to be a forced compromise between Gary Tomlin and FMB, each picking a writer with whom they are familiar and comfortable. If the collaboration is to succeed I think all the parties need to be honest about past mistakes and failures. Tomlin needs to rein in Lorraine’s tendency towards doom and gloom storylines such as her kidnapped babies plots on AMC and ATWT. He also needs to control Whitesell’s more outrageous flights of fancy. Somewhere in the middle might be the makings of an entertaining soap. Hopefully that soap is recognizably OLTL and not the homogenized super-soap ABC seems intent on creating.

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Ouch that was a scorching screed against Lorraine's ATWT work. Can't say I disagree too much.

In an SOD chat, Jon Hensley (Holden) mentioned that LB was writing all these new characters because she wasn’t comfortable writing for the established characters.

I never knew anyone in the cast actually said this.

I do have to defend the Santa Claus and Myrtle story on AMC. It was a very brief story around the holiday season which was generally fun (aside from Laura bitching all the time). I enjoyed this far more than a lot of the stories going on at the time.

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I do have to defend the Santa Claus and Myrtle story on AMC. It was a very brief story around the holiday season which was generally fun (aside from Laura bitching all the time). I enjoyed this far more than a lot of the stories going on at the time.

To further defend the Santa Claus story, that was Co-head writer, Millee Taggart:

AMC12241996.jpg

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The thing is that just because a headwriter was fantastic on one show doesn't mean that it will occur again on another show. There needs to be a fit between the executive producer, headwriter, and the essence of the show.

LB was a very good headwriter on All my Children but she had been working on that show since the 1970's so she knew all the characters and the history. However, her type of writing just didn't jive on As the World turns. That's why I think writers should take personality tests to see if they are compatible with a daytime drama. Just my opinion.

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I kind of enjoyed the Santa Claus story. I believe that was Millee Taggart's story, not LB's. LB is a fine writer, but what works with AMC doesn't necessarily work with ATWT. AMC is a more colorful, less naturalistic show than ATWT, as well as more youth-based. She and Behr tried to AMC-ify the show a bit, which was probably their mandate, and it never really came together.

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