This week, Richard Culliton rejoins All My Children's writing team. This time, however, Culliton will be perched atop the writing staff as the show's new head writer. I thought it might be a nice time to use the Inside AMC column to look at the changes and offer some clarifications on the whole writing process.
On May 29th, Procter & Gamble Productions announced
that Jean Passanante would be joining the writing team of As the World Turns
in July. The news came as a huge surprise to the daytime community for several reasons. First, Passanante was at the time the head writer of All My Children. Secondly, As the World Turns had just won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing Team
. Some critics had questioned why a show at the top of its game would hire the head writer of a show that was floundering in the ratings.
It took nearly one month - until about June 18th
- for All My Children to name Passanante's successor. During the search process, the names of many possible replacements had been bandied about. What makes Culliton's installation as head writer so interesting is the fact that Culliton's wife, Carolyn, just won an Emmy for her work on the As The World Turns' writing team. Also, the Cullitons are the driving force behind the creation of ABC's Port Charles
. Since Richard Culliton was named head writer of All My Children there have been rumblings Culliton's wife will be joining him at All My Children. Those rumors, however, have not been confirmed by either of the Cullitons or by ABC.
Culliton has quite a history in the daytime television community. Culliton had served as head writer for General Hospital
and is currently a script writer for Days of our Lives
Unlike some of his predecessors, Culliton is not a stranger to Pine Valley. The scribe worked on the AMC writing team back in the 1990s and was key in developing the character of Dimitri Marick
and the rest of the Wildwind scene. This fact has already caused The Loyalists, the fan group that has been rallying for Michael Nader
's return to All My Children, to see a few rays of optimism. Culliton has not publicly stated that he'd like to see the return of Nader to the role he created. It also has to be noted that Culliton would certainly not be the one who'd have the final say in re-hiring (or re-instating, as the case may be) Nader. The role of Dimitri Marick was vacated on July 9th when Anthony Addabbo
left the show. The character of Dimitri and his wife, Alex, are off in Europe looking for interesting information about Ryan Lavery. The door has been left open for both characters to return at a later date.
As Culliton joins the show, some soap
visitors have written in to question Jean Passanante's effect on AMC's ratings. Since the show's ratings have been dreadfully low in recent weeks, a lot of viewers have mistakenly come to the conclusion that things were a lot better in the ratings department before her ascension to the writing helm. Well, you might be surprised. AMC notched a 3.7 rating in the ratings
for the week of June 25, 2001, according the Nielsen organization. During the same period one year ago, AMC's ratings stood at 3.6. So under Passanante, the ratings have actually gone up. Of course, from week to week that status changes. There were also weeks during Passanante's tenure in which AMC's ratings were significantly down over previous years.
Viewers dissatisfied with Passanante's work or AMC's direction of late will need to exhibit a modicum of patience. It will take weeks - possibly months - before Culliton is able to work his own personal magic on the show. Culliton will need to review what stories Passanante has in the fire and decide if he wants to continue them as planned, alter them in some way or scrap them all together. Therefore, Passanante's work will continue to air for some time to come. Also unclear is whether or not Culliton will work with executive producer Jean Dadario Burke to "clean house." It is a commonplace occurrence for there to be the writing out of characters when a new writer or executive producer joins a soap. For example, less than two months after Lloyd "Lucky" Gold was named head writer
of CBS's Guiding Light three of the show's stars were fired
. It also has to be remembered that Culliton will need some time to develop stories of his own - it cannot be expected that the show will see an immediate spike in the ratings. Culliton needs to research the show's characters, develop story ideas and then carefully craft them for play on the small screen. This acclimation period, perhaps, is the most unfortunate part of a writing team transition. Fans can become restless if they feel that stories are not moving fast enough as they forget that the new head writer needs time to set things in motion. Regrettably, sometimes the fans' gripes become too loud and a writer loses his or her job even before there's a chance to start scripting such magic. Then a new writer is put in place... and the process begins again.
Culliton's first day on the job at All My Children was Monday, July 16.