In recent weeks, the As the World Turns writing team has begun a somewhat miraculous rehabilitation of Jack and Carly. It’s astounding because for the past several years, the creative team has inflicted a lot of harm to the once dynamic duo of Carly and Jack (CarJack for shippers). In fact, at one point in the not-so-distant past, it seemed virtually impossible to undo the damage.
Case in point? In a ridiculous storyline originally designed to facilitate actress Maura West’s maternity leave, the TPTB had Carly run away with jewel thief Simon Frasier, leaving her children behind, in an attempt to avoid prosecution. Now I’m the first to acknowledge that Carly is no saint and I readily admit she’s actually an anti-heroine and there’s no way we can call her a classic soap heroine. (And that’s probably why I like her so much.) Sure she’s lied, cheated, blackmailed, committed fraud, theft and so much more. But it’s all part of her charm. However abandoning her children? Not Carly Munson Dixon Snyder Tenney. That silly end to the Simon/Carly storyline was a bitter pill to swallow. One of Carly’s most redeeming qualities has always been her devotion to her children. Surely the writers could have found a more plausible reason for Maura to temporarily exit the scene? It was a terribly storyline decision by the writers, and the character of Carly has been paying for it ever since.
When Carly eventually returned (after actress West finished her maternity leave) Jack was more than willing to pass harsh and seemingly endless judgement on his ex-wife for leaving her family, driving a further wedge between the two. Never mind the fact it was Jack’s idea for Carly to skip town and avoid prosecution, an important detail that the writers conveniently decided to ignore and toss out the window.
The result of both Carly’s abandonment of her children and Jack’s relentless criticism was that viewers witnessed two once- interesting and charismatic characters not only drift further and further apart, but also become shadows of their former unique selves. Jack became a humorless, nagging grump and Carly lost all the fiery self-confidence and bravado that made her one of the most watchable and interesting characters on daytime TV.
And then there was Carly’s ridiculous brain tumour. And again the damage to a central character continued. After initially being told she had a terminal brain tumor, Carly discovered she had been misdiagnosed and would in fact completely recover. But Carly continued to lie about having a fatal condition, in order to keep Jack. Now the Carly previously known to fans would never have lied to her children about dying, not even to reclaim Jack. Would she lie to Jack? Well, sure. We all already know that Carly can and will lie to Jack whenever it suits her needs. It’s who she is. But would she allow her kids to continue to think she was going to die? Never. When Jack inevitably discovered the lie, the gulf between the two seemed to become unbridgeable. It appeared the once powerful Super Couple was gone for good, fallen prey to repeated moronic storyline decisions.
But then writer David Kreizman, of the now-canceled Guiding Light, joined Jean Passanante at the helm. And magic began to happen. In recent months, Kreizman has faced a lot of criticism for the many failures at Guiding Light, of which he was also a Head Writer. And perhaps some of that condemnation was justified. That’s probably a topic for another column. So far, his tenure at ATWT has revitalized the soap. The writing is crisper, more realistic, definitely funnier and at the same time more poignant and heartfelt. Maybe it’s my imagination, but even the actors seem rejuvenated. And as for my once- doomed Super Couple? Now Jack and Carly have begun a slow and believable journey back toward each other. And Jack’s “Never Surrender” Tour, following his brother Brad’s tragic death, was an interesting and creative start to a reconciliation between Jack and Carly.
The creative decision to have Carly be the one to reach out to Jack during his tour of redemption was noteworthy. Not only was she the only one that really attempted to follow him on his journey, but she was also the one to finally convince him to come home. And now she’s also the person to whom Jack has turned when his marriage to Janet faltered. It’s all been a sweet reminder of the bond CarJack has always shared; even when previous writers tried their hardest to make us forget that.
While not without flaws, Jack’s journey has made the impossible seem possible again. As he comes to terms with accidentally killing his brother, Judgmental Jack is learning to be more forgiving and less rigid. And for this new CarJack chapter to truly work, Jack needs to accept and respect Carly for who she is. Because Carly is also growing stronger each day, no longer willing to accept less than she deserves.
Perhaps most importantly, both characters have found their sense of humor again. And that’s a key point. It gets depressing for a viewer to never see joy and fun in their favorite characters. Every once in a while, we need a payoff for all the suffering. And we’re finally enjoying scenes of Jack and Carly in some comical situations together.
And finally, there’s just the H-O-T factor. Whether you’re for or against a CarJack reunion, there’s no denying the chemistry Michael Park and Maura West have with each other. Sometimes I swear I can see actual sparks coming off ’em. And it has been my pleasure to watch two characters begin a return to what originally made them so popular with viewers. Let’s hope David Kreizman and the current crops of writers continue this trend, not only with Carly and Jack, but with all the residents of Oakdale.
Karen is the latest edition to the TVSource Magazine editorial staff. We’re pleased to have her join our team.
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