The friendly, spirited round-table discussion, which took place at P&G's Madison Avenue advertising offices, was led by Mary Alice ("Mickey") Dwyer Dobbin, P&G's chief executive in charge of daytime production. Here are excerpts...
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: I'm really excited to have Chris sitting next to me here and to be able to say our new executive producer at Another World. I've known Chris, I guess since [he] turned up at All My Children back in the mid 80's, if I recall... And I have come to know and respect him over the years, and I was thrilled when I got to P&G and he was already [directing] at As the World Turns, because that certainly meant that show had some good hands leading the actors in the control room. But, at any rate, Chris and I really started talking about things this summer because, as part of his relationship with P&G, he's also been a consultant. And I said, "He's a consultant? I want to consult with him!" So, we started talking about things. And quite honestly, the leadership role at Another World came up very quickly and very recently. But, I have come to respect him, not just for his talent and for the manner in which he has performed his responsibilities at the other two shows [where] we worked together, but also because of his optimism. And his energy. I'll give you an example of what I mean. When we came to this mutual agreement last Friday, I said to Chris, because he's still directing at As the World Turns, I said, "Well, why don't you start as soon as you're finished directing at World Turns?"... which would be next week, the middle of next week. I even had my dates mixed up. So, at any rate, that was fine, and then he got together with the [AW] writers over the weekend, and he was directing on Monday, and on Tuesday he came in to get together with the writers again and he said, "You know, I think I should get out there [to the NBC studio in Brooklyn] sooner. Would you mind if I started on Thursday?" So, he started yesterday... I think that everybody at the studio, cast, crew, staff, writers, are truly energized in just this very short period of time because of what they believe Chris signals for the show. And I think that's all true.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I'm excited, thrilled, feel very blessed to be a part of Another World. I look at the show as an embarrassment of riches, believe it or not. I see so much talent on the screen. Whether it's being used in the correct way or not, I think a lot of you [in the press] have your own sort of opinions about that. I think that things can improve tremendously in a very short time. I'm excited about the talent on the screen, I'm excited about the stories that we're going to tell. And I hope you will be, too.
QUESTION: Do you know if you are the first executive producer to get [to the top spot] without working your way through the producer ranks?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I don't think that's ever occurred, no. Not that I know of. I know that John Whitesell directed, but he became a line producer first at Guiding Light or one of those shows. Actually, when I left Brooklyn [as an AW director], John was the executive producer, and he said, "Do [you] want to produce?" and at that time I said no. So, the opportunity has arisen before. And in the past, Mickey [Dwyer Dobbin] and I have had discussions about this, and I think one moves along different paths. I mean, there's no rule that says one has to do this before this or before this. As a director, and having done a lot of things as a director, including 50 location [shoots] or so, I've been involved in every aspect of production. So, I don't think it's that unusual. And I think that the exception may prove to be a smart thing.
QUESTION: What are some of the changes on AW that we'll be seeing right away?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I think you'll see a much more romantic sweep on the canvas. I think the writers are going to introduce an incredibly romantic, incredibly unusual story that will bring all of our characters together in a very unusual fashion. The key word is romance, the key word is adventure. My familiarity with the show is from the middle 70s when [Paul] Rauch was producing it, and he had these big stories, these big romances, these big melodramas, and I think that that's where we need to go. Back to where it was, but in a very, very different way. I think you'll see a very unusual story come about very quickly.
QUESTION: Mickey, why was the [executive producer] change necessary now as opposed to months past when [there was so much] clamoring for a change?
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: Well, the timing seemed appropriate now. You know, as you look about and you try to evaluate whether or not to make a change, [you see that] Another World has truly been through a lot of changes. And you know, we always hoped with every change that things would get better. And quite honestly -- you all know what the ratings are -- they haven't been getting better. And so, the time was right. You know, as you look around to say, Who is the candidate who can make this happen? You know, Chris has been a very integral part of As the World Turns, and we've been going through, as you all know, some regeneration at that show, and I think the time was right now also to have the luxury, the flexibility to pull Chris out of there, because I was also concerned about that. [Chris has] been directing two shows a week at World Turns, and the show really reflects, I think, the fact that it's going in the right direction, both in terms of production and in terms of story. So, you know, it's in a good place now. Another World really needs to turn around.
QUESTION: Do you feel a kind of pressure to make something happen very quickly? Or will you be waiting months?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: No, you'll see something immediately. You'll see story in place very quickly. A story will be accelerated. I think a lot of things are in place. They may not be accentuated correctly right now, but I think these are very easy things to accomplish. I think... the time is now. I mean, you know, we all know the facts of where the show is. Pressure? No. I think it's an opportunity. Do I see something hanging over my head? No, I look at it as an opportunity to rise. Am I nervous or frightened by it? Not at all. I think it's just an incredible opportunity. We can go for broke. We can do things right now that I think might, on other occasions, take months and months to do.
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: When Chris says immediately, just keep in mind that material is written into December.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: Start looking in December. Start looking December, January, into February Sweeps, and you'll see what I'm talking about. That's the time frame, that's the timeline that I'm talking about.
QUESTION: In the unfortunate event that Another World is canceled [by NBC], does P&G have a contingency plan to keep it on the air? If so, what is it?
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: No, there's not, only because we don't expect that to happen. Truly. We are very confident that we'll be around. You know, I just said the show's not going off on my watch. [Laughs]
QUESTION:You talked about bringing back the magic of the Rauch years, the 70's. Specifically, what?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: Another World, I think you'd all agree, has an incredibly strong female cast. There's no other show in daytime that has the strength there. So, if you look at that, including Vicky Wyndham [Rachel], including Linda Dano [Felicia], all the way down the line, Jensen Buchanan [Vicky], Ellen Wheeler [Marley]. There is no other show that has that talent. We'll be using these people in new and exciting ways, with very specific things to do. I'm not going to have Rachel come in to change Lila's baby's diaper. We're not going to be doing that. I mean, we're going to have her involved in a very, very broad canvas, where she has something very specific and exciting and romantic to do. And I can't be any more specific than that. You'll have to stay tuned.
QUESTION: Are you predicting any cast changes?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I think it's a little bit too early to say. I think that there's going to be nothing major. Nothing major.
QUESTION: So, you're going to work with what you have rather than bringing in new people.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: There's going to be no overhaul of cast. Absolutely not. I like who's there. I think that's one of the great things about the show: the cast.
QUESTION: Does that also apply to the writing team?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I think the writing team is terrific. I think... these ideas that I'm talking about have come from them. I'm just saying this was there, this was sitting there, and I went, "This is great! Let's do it!" And that's what we're going to do. It just hadn't been propelled, it hadn't been set -- no decision had been made and we just all agreed that this is great and let's just do it. So, I think it was just, I don't know what had transpired beforehand, but I think everything was there, had been there for a while, it just needed, I don't know, a little kick.
QUESTION: You talked about looking back on the magic years. Does that mean in developing storylines for the future, you might be looking into the show's rich history?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: Perhaps.
QUESTION: Will you be bringing back characters from the past?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: Perhaps. I can't tell you any more than that. I wish I could. But, of course we've had those discussions. How far in the past? I'm not going to tell ya. But, certainly we're not going to bring back any people who have left us. No, I think part of what we're talking about -- and I don't want you to think that I'm going, "Oh, it was so great back then" -- we're moving into, we're going into the millennium. We're going to have a story that's going to be romantic, hip. We have a young person coming in who I think will be really terrific. It's going to be -- we've lost, I think -- not only on this show, but a lot of other shows -- the ability to surprise and thrill. We are too often satisfied with formulaic things and I think that's been why soap opera in general -- I mean... you can just look at Another World and see a decline, but all the shows have declined. Percentage wise, probably Another World has declined less than a lot of other shows over the past year, if you really look at it that way. So, I take that [as an opportunity] to say, let's just, we know how this [medium] works, let's make it work really, really well. And, again, my experience, I've been involved in shows that have worked really, really well at specific times, I've been involved with stories that have had great magic to them. I mean, I was acting on Search for Tomorrow when Travis first came on to the canvas. I remember his TV Guide cover. And Liza was kidnapped by Nick D'Antoni, who played my brother on the show. I mean, this was a great sweeping romantic thing that I think [daytime as a genre] does really well, that no other, this is the only place to do these sort of things. I think that sense of magic is something that we're going to try to capture again.
QUESTION: What sets Another World apart from other soaps?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: ... We're very strong in character... If you look at other shows, not naming names, you have sometimes [various] people on the canvas that don't have a lot of character. There're just: this is our hunk, this is our so and so, this is our so and so. And they tell story, again, in a very formulaic [way], and the audience is way ahead of them...
b>QUESTION: Fans have had the perception that Another World tried to go very shamelessly for the young demographic by cutting out the middle and more mature character group from the show. Is there going to be an attempt to revitalize
that particular age group?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I want every age group. I want the three year olds. I'm going for the three year old audience. I want everybody to be watching the show. I mean, NBC is interested in demographics, and I understand all those numbers things, but if we tell great story, with a great core of characters, which is people who are young, people who are in their twenties, people in their forties and fifties, we'll get everybody. I think it should be inclusive rather than exclusive. I think, again, that's what daytime does well. [In] daytime [viewing] traditionally...the mother sits at home, the daughter's there, they watch the TV program together. This is the medium that brings people together. So, yeah, we'd love young demographics, but... we have two terrific, terrific actresses in Vicky Wyndham and Linda Dano and they're going to be used big time, big time. And I think you'll see some good stuff for them.
QUESTION:You've talked about the strength of the female cast. Do you feel as confident in the male cast?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: Yes. I think that you'll see, again, a couple of people being brought in, a couple of males being brought in, and I think that will strengthen that area. Again, we have Stephen Schnetzer [Cass], who I think is just fabulous... There's nobody like Stephen anywhere. There's no one who's had that history with the show, and who's right now -- when I'm sure some of you have said Stephen hasn't had anything to do in two years -- all of sudden, he gets involved with Lila, and you see this stuff happening. You go, "This is terrific!" Lila, a character -- I mean, this can be the next Erica Kane. Really. Look at this character. She's [involved with] someone rich but she really wants to be with Cass. I mean, this is great, she wants everything. We're going to try to elevate all these things, elevate these characters into a very rich place.
QUESTION: As a former actor and director, do you think you bring a unique prospective to the job?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: Again, everyone brings their own unique prospective, whether [mine] is better or not, I'd say, yeah, it's better but, you know, what else do you want me to say?
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: I think it's better, too!
CHRIS GOUTMAN: You know, at the risk of sounding arrogant, yeah, I mean I can talk to actors. You know, I can figure out scenes. But also, now that I'm involved in story, I know where the story is going. And again, it's story, story, story. And the idea, the fact [is] that there is no story, that's ridiculous. Story begets story. We just gotta tell stories. And we will.
QUESTION: What has the cast and crew's reaction been to yet another turnover at the show?
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: Many of them know Chris, and so they know what he's bringing to the show. I spoke to one of the veterans Friday, who said that when the word started spreading through the studio, it was like a shot, sort of like a wakeup call, you know... I think the ones who know him are very excited, and I think the ones -- so I've heard -- some of the ones who don't know him are shaking in their boots. And I said, "Fabulous!" Because, you know, this little show out in Brooklyn has got to wake up, and Chris is doing that and energizing everybody. It's a real challenge to all of them out there.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I think if anyone knows me -- I think a few of you have known me over the years -- I get very passionate about things. And I just think that if we become passionate about what we do across the board, it'll show on the screen immediately. You'll see scenes that are very, very compelling, and there'll be no scenes [where] people are sitting on their heels, or you'll say, "What was that scene about?" or "Why is that here?" I think you'll see it all come together very quickly.
QUESTION: From your prospective, starting out as an actor, how has daytime changed since you got into the business?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I sound ancient, don't I? [Laughs] Well, let's put it this way: I pulled out one of my first Another World scripts that I directed and it was Mac and Sandy Cory's double wedding... and there were, I think, 13 scenes in the entire show. Long scenes. Like two pieces to an act... it was just a very different show... [Today] I think you need more pieces, you need more excitement, you need to jazz the viewer a little bit more. Again, the form needs to be continually reinvented in a way. You know, I think we did sit back and sort of blame other things, blame OJ, blame whatever, [as] taking away our audience... We were pointing fingers, we were making excuses, basically. I think this form has existed from time in memoriam. We've had this soap opera thing going on for a long time. So, I just think the challenge is for us to make it continually exciting and reinvent it in new ways. And not change; you know, we're not reinventing the wheel. We're not devising a new form of transportation here; we're just saying that this thing needs continually, continually adjusting.
QUESTION: When you talk about the old days on Another World, it seemed the show was almost done like a stage play...
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I think what you saw there was great theatricality. I think theatricality is part [of the emphasis on romance that we've been] talking about. I think the idea is the same. I think the execution may be different, but the result, hopefully, will be equally, even more compelling. I don't think we can go back to anything. I think we have to move forward into something new.
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: One of my mantras over the past couple of years, you know, as we revitalize... the shows, is "We're paying for the sets, I'd like to see them sometime! We're paying for actors, we have their whole bodies, can we please see them, you know? Can we see the body language, can we see the relationships?" So often, it's a series of tight closeups, but.... there's a way to use it all.
QUESTION: There is a core group of newcomers on Another World -- because as much as Josie and Gary are old characters, Nadine Stenovich and John Littlefield, who play them, are new people. So, I think when you mention utilizing now Linda Dano and Vicky Wyndham, maybe mixing them in would probably be a welcome sight for people who are long-term viewers. Kind of mixing old with new, so we can understand more how these people fit into the canvas.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I keep on [talking] about clarity, too. I mean, as a viewer, if I'm confused I'm going to tune out. And I think this show needs a big, big shot of clarity so that, first of all, you know what's going on, and then [we can] start telling stuff that [makes] you really want to know what's going on. [Hopefully] these moments will be a lot more clear [soon]; I think that's a good step for the show to take immediately.
QUESTION: And not to have any cast changes right away would probably going to be good for fans. I mean, that's their biggest fear when a new producer new comes in.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: Well, I think that there's a two headed coin to that. I think when fans [say] that, they're [saying] that they don't like the new people coming in. I've seen new people come in who catch fire like that, and I think it's incumbent upon the shows to find [newcomers] who are really great. All the fans are telling you is that they don't like the people coming in, not the fact that they don't like new people coming in; they [just] don't like the new people who are chosen. That's what they're telling you. It's a very different thing.
QUESTION: I think what the show has suffered from over the last couple of years is a crisis of confidence with the fans. They've been told a lot of things on
various occasions, that we're doing this, we're going to do this... to make things
better. And unfortunately they're not finding it better and they do feel
betrayed. So, I think that it's really important to court the fans -- I know,
fans can't write the story, fans can't cast your characters -- but I think it's
important not to mislead by promising things that can't be delivered. Because
[the show] is really in a bad place with the fans from what we're hearing, and
they want the show to continue but they're also angry. So, I think that there's
a lot of repair work to be done.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: All that I can promise is a better show. I can't promise anything else. And I think that if you give [the fans] a better show, they'll return. I understand that... And if it's a better show, if we're able to do a better show, they'll return, and we'll find more viewers. It's simply us being better. It's our responsibility to do that. And that's the only thing that I can really say with all assurance, you know.
QUESTION: Will we see more of a return to families? Especially over the couple of years, the Corys have been decimated to kind of a bare bones family. So have the Frames, the Hudsons, John, Sharlene, etc.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I would like that to happen. I can't promise you're going to see that in the next three months. But... right now, let's correct what's there, let's make what we have really, really cook, and then start adding new ingredients.
QUESTION:Are you hindered by budget problems at all when trying to revitalize the show?
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: Well, you know, managing budgets in this day and age is always a challenge. Every single show in daytime faces that challenge. Is it a hindrance? I think we'll make it work for us.
CHRIS GOUTMAN: I think no. I mean, I don't know if any of you remember Edge of Night. I think that show did a lot with very little.... It was a show I acted on, the first show I directed, great, great stories... [so] budget has never been a hindrance; budget is something which makes you think more clearly.
QUESTION:We saw crossovers last season on Ally McBeal and The Practice in primetime. Bill Bell had major success moving Sheila back and forth between Young and Restless and Bold and Beautiful. And Another World and Guiding Light do have a historic connection, I understand. Any chance of a crossover?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: You know... Bill Bell had really the only one success in my memory -- there have [also] been tons of failures. It's all dictated by story. Sure, we'd love some people from Springfield over in Bay City, but there's gotta be story there... Down the road, if that opportunity arises, sure we'd jump on it. I think it'd be great. It'd be a scheduling nightmare, but it'd be great.
MARY ALICE DWYER DOBBIN: I think it's a little tougher in daytime to jump networks. You know, really Ally McBeal and The Practice was not easily arranged, either.
QUESTION:You mean, they had more of a time luxury?
CHRIS GOUTMAN: No, they had David Kelley, who can do anything he wants, he walks on water in Hollywood. That's what happened. He said, "I want to do this," and they said, "Sure!"... [Getting back to Another World] if you guys see stuff that you like, say it. When you see stuff you don't like, say it to me. I encourage a dialogue. I like ideas wherever they come from. Anybody who's familiar with the way I work, [knows] I'm always asking the person next to me, "What do you think?" I mean, I want to know what people think. I'll have very firm ideas, but I'm always asking people for their input. People who do know me know that I have a very thick skin, so feel free.