Filling a Creative Void
The New York Times, April 21, 1988
As the writers' strike against television and movie producers continues through its seventh week, nonunion people have begun taking over some of the scriptwriting for daytime soap operas. And the soaps' creators wait with trepidation - mindful of tales of disaster from their 13-week walkout in 1981.
During that strike, said Claire Labine, co-creator of "Ryan's Hope" on ABC: "There was a story line involving an older woman and a younger man, and when we returned she had unaccountably murdered him. Someone else got pregnant by a young man - whom I had never met. It's a little as if you leave your children with a trusted sitter for the weekend and return to find them all juvenile delinquents and in jail."
Another writer, Douglas Marland, told of "an actor who shall be nameless" on "Search for Tomorrow" who knew his character would soon be killed off and who volunteered to become head writer during the strike. "Not only did his character not die off, his character became the lead," Mr. Marland said. And fellow cast members didn't dare criticize someone "who could have marked any one of them for demolition."
Unlike nighttime programs, many of which had all their scripts for the season or went into reruns when the Writers Guild of America struck the three major networks and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on March 7, daytime serials are expected to keep taping new material no matter what. And while they may have story outlines that were written before the strike, they have begun running out of pre-strike scripts.
"As the World Turns," on CBS, has been sending its new scripts to Mr. Marland, its head writer - for his edification, not his commentary, since he is on strike. He said they ranged from "very awful to surprisingly good" and that "actors are telling me they're having a terrible time memorizing the bad ones because the flow isn't natural."
The networks won't say exactly who the temporary writers are or will be; NBC says they are nonguild freelancers, CBS says only that "actors are getting the scripts" and ABC only that "programming will continue as usual."
Mona Mangan, the executive director of the Writers Guild, East, said the shows are "churned out by secretaries, producers, and somebody's mother."
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