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Daytime's Master Headwriters: Their Strongest and Weakest Work

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Avid fans of daytime television know that there is a regular rotation of headwriters among the shows. This can be a blessing when a gifted scribe takes over a troubled show, but it can also be a curse if a weak writer is inexplicably assigned to take over a program, only to decimate its quality and integrity.

 

Some writers are routinely dreadful no matter where they end up, so it's pointless to include them on a list such as this, but some of daytime's well-known scribes work wonders on one series, but simply do not "click" as well on another.

 

What would you consider their strongest and weakest material?

 

IRNA PHILLIPS

Strongest Work: AS THE WORLD TURNS, THE GUIDING LIGHT

Weakest Work: ANOTHER WORLD

 

WILLIAM J. BELL

Strongest Work: THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, DAYS OF OUR LIVES

Weakest Work: THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

 

AGNES NIXON

Strongest Work: THE GUIDING LIGHT, ANOTHER WORLD, ALL MY CHILDREN, ONE LIFE TO LIVE

Weakest Work: LOVING

 

DOUGLAS MARLAND

Strongest Work: GENERAL HOSPITAL

Honorable Mention: AS THE WORLD TURNS, THE GUIDING LIGHT

Weakest Work: LOVING

 

PAT FALKEN SMITH

Strongest Work: DAYS OF OUR LIVES, GENERAL HOSPITAL

Honorable Mention: THE GUIDING LIGHT (She was excellent during her all-too-brief reign)

Weakest Work: RYAN'S HOPE

 

CLAIRE LABINE

Strongest Work: LOVE OF LIVE (She was amazing on this series), RYAN'S HOPE, GENERAL HOSPITAL

Weakest Work: THE GUIDING LIGHT, ONE LIFE TO LIVE

 

HARDING LEMAY

Strongest Work: ANOTHER WORLD

Weakest Work: THE DOCTORS

 

ANN MARCUS

Strongest Work: SEARCH FOR TOMORROW (The best work of her career, IMHO), MARY HARTMAN

Weakest Work: DAYS OF OUR LIVES

 

HENRY SLESAR

Strongest Work: THE EDGE OF NIGHT

Weakest Work: ONE LIFE TO LIVE

 

LYNN MARIE LATHAM

Strongest Work: HOMEFRONT, KNOTS LANDING (primetime)

Weakest Work: PORT CHARLES, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS (daytime)

 

BRIDGET & JEROME DOBSON

Strongest Work: THE GUIDING LIGHT

Weakest Work: AS THE WORLD TURNS

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Edited by vetsoapfan

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Definitely agree with Ann Marcus's worst work being at DAYS. She did away with the Grants almost immediately upon her arrival, and did an embarrassing lesbian story that lasted about a week from all accounts. Just embarrassing, and caused great damage to the show's ratings in the process.

I generally agree with most of your picks, though from all accounts Marland's Doctors was no hell either, so I'd probably tie that with his Loving for his weakest work.

Throwing in some patchier writers into the mix:

Bob Guza:
Best work: SB
Worst work: GH, his cynicism and dark edge works fine for SB, which was always rather irreverent, but coming off Labine's very earnest run, his hubris and penchant for taking history and wiping his arse with it was rather disgusting.

Josh Griffith:
Best work: OLTL (the first time)
Worst work: OLTL (second time)
His DAYS has been alright, and I really don't want to give him too much grief about his Y&R because we all know he didn't have that much say with JFP in the house.

James E. Reilly:
Best work: GL
Worst work: Passions
While DAYS is what got me hooked on soaps in the first place, and I really do think the team of headwriters at GL was more or less Nancy Curlee + others, that era of GL was stronger than anything he's done since.

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Definitely agree with Ann Marcus's worst work being at DAYS. She did away with the Grants almost immediately upon her arrival, and did an embarrassing lesbian story that lasted about a week from all accounts. Just embarrassing, and caused great damage to the show's ratings in the process.

I generally agree with most of your picks, though from all accounts Marland's Doctors was no hell either, so I'd probably tie that with his Loving for his weakest work.

Throwing in some patchier writers into the mix:

Bob Guza:
Best work: SB
Worst work: GH, his cynicism and dark edge works fine for SB, which was always rather irreverent, but coming off Labine's very earnest run, his hubris and penchant for taking history and wiping his arse with it was rather disgusting.

Josh Griffith:
Best work: OLTL (the first time)
Worst work: OLTL (second time)
His DAYS has been alright, and I really don't want to give him too much grief about his Y&R because we all know he didn't have that much say with JFP in the house.

James E. Reilly:
Best work: GL
Worst work: Passions
While DAYS is what got me hooked on soaps in the first place, and I really do think the team of headwriters at GL was more or less Nancy Curlee + others, that era of GL was stronger than anything he's done since.

I hesitated over mentioning Marland's work at THE DOCTORS. It was quite good; he certainly worked wonders with the garbage he inherited. I just felt that his other work outshone his efforts on that show. I'd rank his work on TD above LOVING, but below GH, TGL and ATWT.

 

It's hard to understand why Marcus' work at DAYS was so atrocious. Perhaps simply by comparison to Pat Falken Smith's stellar material, Marcus' work would have looked bad...but the sudden influx of violence, the dumbing down of the characters, and the absence of warm, poignant moments all resulted in a noticeably crippled show. I was relieved when she was axed, although Elizabeth Harrower was not a strong enough writer to undo the damage and return DAYS to its former glory. I'd say that Marcus' only successful contribution to DAYS was the Don and Marlena pairing, but that had just as much to do with the chemistry between the actors.

 

I would agree that his time on TGL was the only period in which Reilly was associated with quality writing. My gut tells me that Nancy Curlee deserves the lion's share of the credit, however. Left on his own, Reilly's low-brow camp was painful to watch.

 

I would also agree with your assessment and comments regarding Guza and Griffith.

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JEAN PASSANANTE

Best work: Nowhere (Intelligent TV my ass. She sucks!)

Worst work: Everywhere. (i.e. Another World, As the World Turns, All My Children, One Life to Live, Young and the Restless, General Hospital) 

 

CHARLES PRATT

Best work: Santa Barbara

Worst work: All My Children, Young and the Restless, General Hospital

 

LORRAINE BRODERICK

Best work: All My Children (her run in the 80s)

Worst Work: As the World Turns. I feel like this show was out of her wheelhouse as the ABC soaps targeted younger audiences and were more campy. P&G soaps are geared to older viewers and tended to be rooted in reality. 

 

RICHARD CUILLTON

Best work: Guiding Light (his 80s run)

Worst work: Another World (97-98). I think he tried to rectify a lot of the issues in the show but Another World was mortally wounded by that point. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Nothin'ButAttitude

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JEAN PASSANANTE

Best work: Nowhere (Intelligent TV my ass. She sucks!)

Worst work: Everywhere. (i.e. Another World, As the World Turns, All My Children, One Life to Live, Young and the Restless, General Hospital) 

 

CHARLES PRATT

Best work: Santa Barbara

Worst work: All My Children, Young and the Restless, General Hospital

 

LORRAINE BRODERICK

Best work: All My Children (her run in the 80s)

Worst Work: As the World Turns. I feel like this show was out of her wheelhouse as the ABC soaps targeted younger audiences and were more campy. P&G soaps are geared to older viewers and tended to be rooted in reality. 

 

RICHARD CUILLTON

Best work: Guiding Light (his 80s run)

Worst work: Another World (97-98). I think he tried to rectify a lot of the issues in the show but Another World was mortally wounded by that point. 

 

 

 

 

LOL! I did not even think about including Jean Passanante on my list, because as you say...she's awful.

 

I agree that Broderick was great on AMC, a show she understood and wrote effectively for, but her ATWT was stiff and awkward. Still, I would take her work there over Jean P's and Hogan Sheffer's any day.

 

Charles Pratt's only real "talent" is writing low-brow camp, so that's why he keeps failing at shows which are based upon more adult, nuanced, serious drama. I agree his style worked at SB, nut it's been poison everywhere else, alas.

Edited by vetsoapfan

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JEAN PASSANANTE

Best work: Nowhere (Intelligent TV my ass. She sucks!)

Worst work: Everywhere. (i.e. Another World, As the World Turns, All My Children, One Life to Live, Young and the Restless, General Hospital) 

 

CHARLES PRATT

Best work: Santa Barbara

Worst work: All My Children, Young and the Restless, General Hospital

 

LORRAINE BRODERICK

Best work: All My Children (her run in the 80s)

Worst Work: As the World Turns. I feel like this show was out of her wheelhouse as the ABC soaps targeted younger audiences and were more campy. P&G soaps are geared to older viewers and tended to be rooted in reality. 

 

RICHARD CUILLTON

Best work: Guiding Light (his 80s run)

Worst work: Another World (97-98). I think he tried to rectify a lot of the issues in the show but Another World was mortally wounded by that point. 

 

 

 

 

LOL! I did not even think about including Jean Passanante on my list, because as you say...she's awful.

 

I agree that Broderick was great on AMC, a show she understood and wrote effectively for, but her ATWT was stiff and awkward. Still, I would take her work there over Jean P's and Hogan Sheffer's any day.

 

Charles Pratt's only real "talent" is writing low-brow camp, so that's why he keeps failing at shows which are based upon more adult, nuanced, serious drama. I agree his style worked at SB, nut it's been poison everywhere else, alas.

I think that Broderick needed a co-head writer for her time at ATWT. Preferably, someone who worked under Marland. I think then she might've panned out better. And I am one of the few that didn't mind Hogan's time at ATWT. At least not the first 2-3. I thought he did OK. He kept my attention. He did get stupid towards the end. And Jean was abysmal from the start. '05 was OK with the Julia Larrabee story and Gwen's baby story but afterwards, the show plummeted to hell. Jean does her best work as a breakdown writer. 

 

I agree with everything you said about Pratt. His style of writing worked best for both SBs (Santa Barbara AND Sunset Beach). He cannot handle serious dramas. He flounders every time. Whether it is GH, Y&R, or AMC. He sucked each time. I wish people would stop getting wet b/c of what he did for Melrose Place and see what he's did afterwards. All of his shows afterwards have suffered or were cancelled. MP was a flash in the pan for him. 

 

Ron Carlivarti :

Best Work: GH

Worst Work: OLTL

I reallly could've went either way with this one or put them both as his worst work.

See I'm the other way. I liked Ron's first year on OLTL until he started giving Jessica 1000 alters. Then I was done. I hated EVERYTHING he did on GH. Especially, to my Kate Howard. Kate Howard was a glamorous fashionista once played by a great actress (Megan Ward); however, they had to make Kelly Sullivan's dreadful ass the star of the show and give her D.I.D. I was too done. 

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Jean Passanante

Her Best Work: Current GH/YR: Jean has really risen since let's talk about that super Gem Shelly Altman. These two are the dream duo. Shelly is modern edgy writer combined with Jeans sensabilities. They created smarttv. There YR was closest thing to Bill Bell thst had been seen in a decade. Their GH so far is so character driven and emotional.

Worst Work: Her co head writing with Leah Laiman and Peggy Sloane. It was her first promotion to head writer in 1996. She was very new to the genre. Best thing was creating Tea. It's crazy though thinking Jean has been head writing soaps for 20 years.

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Agnes Nixon needs to be recognized for her work on Another World.She replaced James Lipton and jettisoned his family, the Gregorys,in favor of strengthening the Matthews with the Sorasing of Russ and bringing Alice to the forefront,creating Rachel.Sam and Ada,Steve Frame etc.It set up the show for years of story and the ratings reflected that.

Henry Slesar headwrote Search for Tomorrow for about 6 months in 78. He quickly wrote out Jo's latest boyfriend Greg and his daughter Meredith,introduced Chance and Kylie Halliday,Ted Adamson and his land grab and had Steve Kaslo dying.There wasn't anything earthshaking.I got the feeling SFT was having trouble with the revolving door of writers around this time and Slesar was there to keep things afloat until new writers could be found.The Corringtons replaced Slesar and did much more with the show than Slesar in terms or revamping.

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I don't necessarily agree Bell's weakest work was at B&B I know it had a bumpy beginning and got called "the poor man's Y&R" but then Bell went off to create the Spectras which was one of Bell's best creations. Bell's weakest work on B&B was probably the Angela story, whereas even Bell's best is always Y&R his weakest work occurred there, usually when a story took a rather strange turn of events ie the Becker family, Paul sleeping with Barbara Harding, the Audrey North story etc. 

 

How was Lemay when he wrote for SFT? 

 

I've liked Carolyn Culliton's work, but I've never thought too much about her husband Richard either. 

 

A couple of other classics not mentioned yet: 

Margaret DePriest: 

Strongest work: Days of our Lives

Weakest work: 2nd run at AW, Sunset Beach 

Pamela K. Long: 

Strongest work: GL

Weakest work: Santa Barbara

The Corringtons had success with SFT but couldn't replicate it at AW or Texas either. They came close with Capitol but that's about it. 

 

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JEAN PASSANANTE

Best work: Nowhere (Intelligent TV my ass. She sucks!)

Worst work: Everywhere. (i.e. Another World, As the World Turns, All My Children, One Life to Live, Young and the Restless, General Hospital) 

 

CHARLES PRATT

Best work: Santa Barbara

Worst work: All My Children, Young and the Restless, General Hospital

 

LORRAINE BRODERICK

Best work: All My Children (her run in the 80s)

Worst Work: As the World Turns. I feel like this show was out of her wheelhouse as the ABC soaps targeted younger audiences and were more campy. P&G soaps are geared to older viewers and tended to be rooted in reality. 

 

RICHARD CUILLTON

Best work: Guiding Light (his 80s run)

Worst work: Another World (97-98). I think he tried to rectify a lot of the issues in the show but Another World was mortally wounded by that point. 

 

 

 

 

LOL! I did not even think about including Jean Passanante on my list, because as you say...she's awful.

 

I agree that Broderick was great on AMC, a show she understood and wrote effectively for, but her ATWT was stiff and awkward. Still, I would take her work there over Jean P's and Hogan Sheffer's any day.

 

Charles Pratt's only real "talent" is writing low-brow camp, so that's why he keeps failing at shows which are based upon more adult, nuanced, serious drama. I agree his style worked at SB, nut it's been poison everywhere else, alas.

 

I think that Broderick needed a co-head writer for her time at ATWT. Preferably, someone who worked under Marland. I think then she might've panned out better. And I am one of the few that didn't mind Hogan's time at ATWT. At least not the first 2-3. I thought he did OK. He kept my attention. He did get stupid towards the end. And Jean was abysmal from the start. '05 was OK with the Julia Larrabee story and Gwen's baby story but afterwards, the show plummeted to hell. Jean does her best work as a breakdown writer. 

 

I agree with everything you said about Pratt. His style of writing worked best for both SBs (Santa Barbara AND Sunset Beach). He cannot handle serious dramas. He flounders every time. Whether it is GH, Y&R, or AMC. He sucked each time. I wish people would stop getting wet b/c of what he did for Melrose Place and see what he's did afterwards. All of his shows afterwards have suffered or were cancelled. MP was a flash in the pan for him. 

 

Ron Carlivarti :

Best Work: GH

Worst Work: OLTL

I reallly could've went either way with this one or put them both as his worst work.

See I'm the other way. I liked Ron's first year on OLTL until he started giving Jessica 1000 alters. Then I was done. I hated EVERYTHING he did on GH. Especially, to my Kate Howard. Kate Howard was a glamorous fashionista once played by a great actress (Megan Ward); however, they had to make Kelly Sullivan's dreadful ass the star of the show and give her D.I.D. I was too done. 

Yes, Broderick might have been successful at ATWT if she had had a co-headwriter on her team who understood the show and its style better; someone who could have helped guide Broderick into proper Oakdale-style storytelling.

 

Sheffer's year at ATWT was actually pretty good. Wasn't Carolyn Culliton there with him at the beginning? (Someone refresh my memory if I am mistaken.) Unfortunately, so much of what he did after that initial period was atrocious, that even Broderick's work on that show appealed to me more.

 

Pratt needs to stick to over-the-top, outrageous camp, and refrain from working on serious dramas, either daytime or primetime.

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Weren't the Corringtons on GH and OLTL too?

 

How you rank Hogan Sheffer's Days and Y&R with his ATWT run?

I admit I enjoyed his Days

Hogan started out strong on ATWT . Barbara getting burned up in the boat house explosion meant for Carly. Hal and Emily joining forces to uncover what really happened with lead to an unexpected romance. Hogan had the bad habit of killing off characters he shouldn't have like Bryant. Jake, Marshall and Rose. Unlike the late great Mr Marland Hogan didn't use or respect ATWT's rich history for example John Dixon raised Dusty from the time Dusty was 13 until 18 this history was ignored when Dusty returned.I did like Mr Sheffer's early years on ATWT.  Again Mr. Sheffer's Started very strong on Days but it quickly turned into a boring mess. Just like Griffith and Higley Sheffer brought back many favorites from Days supercouple era of the 1980's like Steve,Kayla, Anna and Tony. Sheffer revealed that John Black's true parents were Colleen Brady and Santo Dimera which has since been retconned. Hogan Sheffer's best creation was sweet, intelligent and nerdy Nick Fallon who Dena Higley destroyed.

Edited by victoria foxton

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Agnes Nixon needs to be recognized for her work on Another World.She replaced James Lipton and jettisoned his family, the Gregorys,in favor of strengthening the Matthews with the Sorasing of Russ and bringing Alice to the forefront,creating Rachel.Sam and Ada,Steve Frame etc.It set up the show for years of story and the ratings reflected that.

Henry Slesar headwrote Search for Tomorrow for about 6 months in 78. He quickly wrote out Jo's latest boyfriend Greg and his daughter Meredith,introduced Chance and Kylie Halliday,Ted Adamson and his land grab and had Steve Kaslo dying.There wasn't anything earthshaking.I got the feeling SFT was having trouble with the revolving door of writers around this time and Slesar was there to keep things afloat until new writers could be found.The Corringtons replaced Slesar and did much more with the show than Slesar in terms or revamping.

YES! I definitely agree that AW was among Nixon's very best work, and the magic she wove while overseeing the citizens of Bay City ushered in that show's unforgettable golden era. Harding Lemay has gone down in the history books as a legend for his work on that show, and rightfully so, but Nixon was the genius who got the ball rolling, and deserves a huge amount of credit for the AW's success. I cannot praise her tenure on that series highly enough.

I don't necessarily agree Bell's weakest work was at B&B I know it had a bumpy beginning and got called "the poor man's Y&R" but then Bell went off to create the Spectras which was one of Bell's best creations. Bell's weakest work on B&B was probably the Angela story, whereas even Bell's best is always Y&R his weakest work occurred there, usually when a story took a rather strange turn of events ie the Becker family, Paul sleeping with Barbara Harding, the Audrey North story etc. 

 

How was Lemay when he wrote for SFT? 

 

I've liked Carolyn Culliton's work, but I've never thought too much about her husband Richard either. 

 

A couple of other classics not mentioned yet: 

Margaret DePriest: 

Strongest work: Days of our Lives

Weakest work: 2nd run at AW, Sunset Beach 

Pamela K. Long: 

Strongest work: GL

Weakest work: Santa Barbara

The Corringtons had success with SFT but couldn't replicate it at AW or Texas either. They came close with Capitol but that's about it. 

 

Well, I only meant that B&B paled in comparison to Bell's much greater work elsewhere. Certainly even his weakest material was better, and more watchable, that anything the likes of Reilly or Pratt or Passanante could produce. But I remember watching every episode of B&B for the first several months, and being disappointed in how much it seemed like a pale retread of his earlier and better work on Y&R.

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Jean Passanante

Her Best Work: Current GH/YR: Jean has really risen since let's talk about that super Gem Shelly Altman. These two are the dream duo. Shelly is modern edgy writer combined with Jeans sensabilities. They created smarttv. There YR was closest thing to Bill Bell thst had been seen in a decade. Their GH so far is so character driven and emotional.

Worst Work: Her co head writing with Leah Laiman and Peggy Sloane. It was her first promotion to head writer in 1996. She was very new to the genre. Best thing was creating Tea. It's crazy though thinking Jean has been head writing soaps for 20 years.

Jeanine P's OLTL was really bad i stopped watching OLTL in the summer of 1996.Only started watching when she was fired. But your right Jeanine P's best contribution was tough Puerto Rican lady lawyer Tea Delgado.

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