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« Adults Behaving Badly and Failed Identity Switches | Main | The Day's Dumbest Dialogue »

July 21, 2010

The Mixed-Up Mind of Robert Guza

A recurring Serial Drama features over the years has been When Soap Writers Talk To The Press: Shocking, Stupid, Seriously How Are They Still Employed?; previous segments include Charles Pratt blaming Eden Riegel for his stunning failure at his job, Maria Arena Bell claiming that Tracey E. Bregman deserved an Oscar for her dual roles, Bob Guza blaming Michael for getting shot in the head and then going on to coin the phrase "the penultimate, the cosmic guffaw". I post their musings, provide commentary and then we all have a hearty laugh at their expense and/or weep bitter tears that these people write for a living.

Today's entry: Bob Guza talks to Nelson Branco in a conversation that reads as though delusion, arrogance and simple-mindedness combined to form a mutant offspring with zero redeeming qualities. My commentary at first consisted solely of the phrase "Bitch be crazy" in response to everything he said because...well, see for yourself.

Guza on Claire Labine: She’s a classic example. Stone’s death was a great story — but that’s all she had. As a result, not only did the show dip in the numbers, there was nothing to pick the story up.

He's right, you know? Claire Labine only had iconic stories like Stone's (and BJ's) death, which can hardly compare to Bob Guza's legacy which includes--gosh, I hardly know what awful story to throw in his face as an example because there are so many to choose from. Mr. Craig being Jerry Jacks? Blog wars? Sonny and Emily's affair? The Text Message Killer? I could keep going, because there are so many other ludicrous stories I could use to prove my point, but that would just depress me even more and, really, why exert any more effort when the following words so clearly convey the deepness of this man's wrongness?--Nikolas having sex with a hallucination of his tumor-addled mind.

TVG: Your storytelling is more balanced now, too.

Who who in the what now?

G: It’s because of the stories. I fixated on the idea of the Dante story that became the umbrella story for what you’re seeing now. The trick was not to make it Sonny’s story but Jason’s, Carly’s and so forth. I think that’s what our turning point was and what you’re seeing. Dante’s story has allowed us to tell these umbrella stories that we have to tell with this cast.

1. "I fixated on the idea of the Dante story"--no fucking way, seriously? I never would have known, because it's not like Dante has forsaken Italian food in favor of EATING ALL OF PORT FUCKING CHARLES.

2. The man thinks that an umbrella story is defined as "A Sonny/Jason/Carly" story. It says so much and so little about him at the same time.

TVG: Obviously David Chase is one of your favourite writers and/or idols?
RG: Yes. He’s extraordinary. I watched every single episode of The Sopranos.

As Becca so astutely said to me in an email, "I think he did something else to every single episode of that show.  "

Guza on the ratings: You look at them in the sense that you’re trying to reach as many people as possible. We’re not just writing for ourselves — or the 15 people in a loft in Greenwich Village. To that extent, yes, I look at them, but I’m not worried about GH going off the air or losing my job or anything.

Oh, for the love of.

[...]And that’s the tricky part because sometimes you can’t explain the ratings. Like you said, sometimes the show is doing really well creatively but the numbers are down. If we can’t explain it, well, it’s very frustrating. That’s happening more and more lately where we can’t quite figure out why the numbers are just OK and not great. Especially when the focus groups are saying the show is great.

I'm no super genius, but I think I have an explanation for your ratings woes, Bob: the numbers are "just okay" because a large percentage of your ever-dwindling audience are saps who, despite the myriad crimes against humanity perpetrated by your writing staff, continue to watch GH out of misplaced loyalty to a show that we once loved. If we weren't stupidly sticking it out, the numbers would become "threat level midnight" because I have a feeling that there just aren't many people tuning in because this show is something they unironically want to watch. The numbers are "not great" because, despite what these alleged focus groups allegedly say, your show sucks and blows at the same time and no, I didn't think it was possible either, but it is and your work is living proof of that fact!

TVG: In a few sentences, what’s the identity of GH today?
RG: [long pause] Wow. It’s almost like love amongst the ruins. Love against the backdrop of violence, despair, and death. The one thing we’ve always had, and let’s not forget the mob has been a part of the show’s history since Luke was a runner for Frank Smith’s mob, what it gives us is high-stakes drama. You and I could have dinner at some little Italian restaurant in New York but it’s just not dinner because at any moment someone could run in and kill us because our families hate each other. Once you find the romance in that backdrop, the story is automatically amplified given the circumstances these people are living in. I’ve always found that fascinating.

All of the words he used are, in fact, real words and not gibberish, but the way he combined them into these sentences makes such little sense--it makes the opposite of sense, really, and I read this a handful of times to see if I could understand it and I still couldn't, and then I had the heartbreaking image of my brain holding up a tiny white flag of surrender, sadly saying, "Congratulations, Mr. Guza. You did what a diet of obsessive US Weekly reading, 90s pop-music-listening and years of ABC TGIF sitcom watching couldn't do--you broke me. Hear that? You're worse than Step By Step. Well slash evilly played, sir."

The gist I am getting is that he sees his show as a pit of destruction and violence and that if one looks hard enough, they could find a love affair that will get little to no screen time in favor of the mafia and then one or both of the participants will inevitably be felled by a stray bullet in the most depressing of ways.   

TVG: Lost really made that technique popular, first with their flashbacks and then later with their flash-forwards. Later, Desperate Housewives and Mad Men really utilized that technique to their advantage. Do you think soaps would be wise to employ the flash-forward device to keep their narratives relevant and fresh?
RG: We’ve messed with time before, that whole thing with Metro Court. But you have to be careful because there is such strong, strong identification with these shows. When James Franco shows up in public, fans say, “Hey, James you were great in fill-in-the-blank movie.” When Steve Burton is out in public, fans go, “Jason, why are you with Sam?” Soap fans don’t separate [fact from fiction], which is why you can’t mess with time too much or the audience gets turned off.

Okay, the fact that my immediate reaction to this was "FUCK OFF, you horrible, horrible little man" maybe proves his point that soap fans aren't always completely rational people, but HOLY EFFING ESS if one more soap writer or producer says that their audience is stupid and incapable of separating fact from fiction I will not be held responsible for my actions. Granted, my actions will consist of typing feverish, borderline hysterical blog posts, but they will be typed angrily! I don't like having my intelligence insulted by anyone, but when the person doing the insulting is dangerously incompetent at best, it turns my stomach.

RG: No question that Steve Burton is one of the most underrated and most extraordinary actors working today. I’m surprised, year after year, when he doesn’t get Emmy nomination [even though he’s already won an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor in 1998]. What Steve does so well, much of the time, is play so much with so little words. You don’t see that in daytime so much.

Presented without comment because no comment of mine could speak louder than the practically audible panting that accompanies that answer.

TVG: How far do you write ahead? Some writers, like B&B's Brad Bell, literally write week to week.
RG: Yes, Brad is fond of that. Listen, sometimes I can literally tell you what will happen a year from now. In six months, I can tell you what will happen in detail. In three months, I can tell you scene by scene.

That is such a lie.

[...] We work from a perfectly precise template. If you ever get down here, you’ll see that we have all these dry-erase boards where we put long-term story on one board, a week on another board, and individual days on one board. I’m not talking about Bradley because he’s very good at what he does, but personally I need to know where I’m going to know where we are. That’s they way I have to work.

As someone who has made perfectly precise into an art form--my planner is fastidious and detailed. I am obsessed with straight lines. People think I use a ruler to write, for heaven's sake--I am good at spotting one of my kind and let me tell you, all Bob Guza and I have in common is that we are both human beings. His sloppy storytelling and appalling lack of continuity prove that all too well.

I'm not saying that he's lying about the existence of these dry-erase boards; I'm just saying it's much more likely that all they are used for is playing hangman. Dirty hangman.

TVG: Do you dream of these characters?
RG: [Sighs] Yes, I do.

I think we all know what character he dreams about and what kind of dreams those are, and on that horrifying, NSFW note, I am out. There is SO much more of that interview for you to read, if you dare, and I seriously hope that you don't want to dare, because it is dangerous and I will worry about you.


Seriously, how far was Branco's nose up Guza's ass during this interview, and how did Guza hear even one word? GAH!

What's wrong with this statement:
"After a decade of upsetting and frustrating critics and fans with his unimaginative reliance on violence and rewarding criminals instead of its heroes, it’s certainly about time Guza awoke from his one-dimensional coma."

A DECADE? Nelson, are you listening to yourself? The man sucked for a DECADE and still has his job? THAT'S what Nelson should be investigating, not fawning all over him like he's Shakespeare resurrected and GH is the best show in the universe. The only thing I can think of is that Guza is paying this guy somehow, or that he wrote the interview himself. Any backlash they might get from the article will be put down as just a handful of loony disgruntled viewers, while the real viewers that are so happy with the show are the small focus groups. These guys can't do simple arithmetic. That interview was one of the most infuriating things I've read.

Just adding an "Amen!" to everyones comments. I did call the GH Comment Line with an earful, though. Thanks for the suggestion, fellow readers!

Dear Guza,

Re: Claire Labine as a one-story wonder:

Where The Heart Is
Love of Life
Ryan's Hope
Guiding Light

every one of these shows gained viewers precipitously under Claire's watch. Even GL, where she fought Rauch tooth and nail every step of the way, was at #4 in the ratings when she left. Something you've never managed to do on GH. Notice how every year your numbers have been DROPPING?? Not a coincidence, rly. GH was doing FAR more than Stone's death. Monica's cancer, AJ's alcoholism, Ned and Lois, BJ's death. Remember those?? OH NO none of them are directly tied to Sonny, I forgot. That means they're completely irrelevant.

You know if most soaps weren't shedding viewers as fast as GH, this shitbag would've been dropped like mouldy cheese in the trash a decade ago. Vile excuse for a writer.

As much as I loathe the nonexistent "talent" of Bob Guza, he's merely a symptom of the disease killing the soaps. The networks themselves don't care what happens to daytime, or in some cases, the higher-ups have real, actual antipathy towards the genre. Thus they recycle the same talentless hacks amongst the shows, allowing the programs to hemorrage viewers. The only way to save the soaps is to have a massive overhaul of the writing staffs of all the shows. Yes, the budgets are down, yes, the "actors" are being replaced by models, yes, the audience has more entertainment options. None of these are show-killers. Bad writing, however, will kill the artform entirely.

Ok i just read this extract of interview you did post Mallory.
And what i read cracks me up and the comments after that crack me up also (in a good way i mean). At least people are passionate about this soap here..and yeah reaction is reaction, publicity is publicity ..it is always better than indifference even negative backlash is better than indifference in entertainment industry.

That said (don't kill me lol) he is right about something IMO : lot's of soaps fans don't know really well how to separate reality from fiction..they will hate an actor because the poor gal plays a rapist or a murderer, they will hate an actor because he plays an interloper for their favorite couple whereas at the end of the day it is just a fictional character on a soap opera !
Some people are so into these characters and their fictional life that they become almost irrational..it can be pretty scary..in a way i can see why : they see them every day in front of their tv screen for years, it is almost like they believe they know them so they become really attached emotionally..they will worship some characters or freaking hate some characters and then they will transfer these strongs feelings on the actors who play them..but the actor is not the character..for prime time shows it can be the same thing but on a lesser level because there is one just epi every week and these shows don't last numerous years (they are cancelled very quickly) so the viewers don't have time to be as much attached.
On soaps events some fans will speak to their favorite soaps stars by naming them by their fictional characters's name, they will speak to them like they are the character and they will pressure them, ask them lot's of questions about the character's relationships, love-interests because they know the story always continue..can change like they would like to..Whereas for movie stars the situation is totally different and much more easy : in a movie (or a play) there is a beginning, a middle and a end so when fans can talk to actors they can't pressure them since the history is written, they like it or not ! lol
They also distance themselves from the movie character because they are not as much invested, they saw the story and that's all, they will get back home and even maybe quickly forget the character and his story..they will see the actor playing another character very soon..so they don't identify too much the actor with the character..except for some actors who are famous for only one iconic role..for example for lot's of people Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker or Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter...(well Robert Pattinson is above all Edward Cullen..the poor lol)

For actors it is always flattering and really pleasant when fans worship them..and most of them play the game, actors are people with big ego..they want to be loved so the worshipping is delicious for them but the game can be double-edged when fans become to hate them, to harass them because of their character..it is really disturbing..of course you have to accept it..and don't bother, it is also the actor's job but this statement stays very true.
An actor wants above all being praised for his work no matter if the character is a good guy or an evil horrible excuse for an human-being..the important is the performance, the depth of the character, the complexity of the character even for a soap star (well for smart soap actors..lol), a soap character on a medium like a soap opera..and some fans don't seem to get that.

But i really disagree with Guza when he speaks about the talent of Burton : the guy is just dull..it is the epitome of dull acting..he doesn't play so much with so little words..he is just expressionless..it is painful to watch..i know lot's of people criticize soaps actors with their over-the-top acting (and sometimes i am one of them..it can be ridiculous but entertaining lol) but come on Burton is just the opposite in a bad way, it is not subtle or nuanced acting it is just nothing : blank stare after blank stare..Guza had certainly smoked too much ganja when he answered..or he is just Burton's lover..or both lol

p.s : Franco can be a really good actor, Milk is a testament to his acting talent and yes he can be in the same league as Ledger..ok Ledger was outstanding on Dark night, it was his best work but Nolan was here and ..Guza will never be Nolan !

all I have to say to that fucked up interview is seriously: HOW THE FUCK, HELL IS THIS BASTARD STILL EMPLOYED??????????????? He has single handedly MURDERED( pun intended) the best soap IMO that ever was and he has the gull, the fucken balls to not only insult previous great writers and great stories but his ass seriously thinks that the shit he has forced people to watch over the years is great story telling?????????????? WTF???????? WHY DOES THIS SON OF A BITCH STILL HAVE A JOB??????????????????? YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

I begining to seriously believe that that ass sold his soul to the devil. cause thats the only thing that makes sense. He's evil, has no respect for gh history and the actual great writers that were on that show. he's just EVIL. I HATE BOB FUCKIN GUZA. HATEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HIM.

I've been watching GH since I was 12 years old. I'm 42 now. I'm very capable of separating reality from fiction. lol Just wanted to put that out there.

The reason I am so pissed off about his insult on the Stone story is, this story alone helped me get through something personal in my own life. Guza doesn't get it. It wasn't just some storyline that was boring and sunk the ratings. This was a story that NEEDED to happen at that time, all those years ago. When aids became a topic of fear.... Claire Labine had the ability to weave a story about Stone and humanize the person dying from it. This is why there is only one Mtv Real World I liked and always will, Pedro Zamora.
I just cannot believe that Guza can sit back and insult Claire that way. She had remarkable talent. And out of all my years of watching GH, her stories are the ones that tend to stick out most.
Guza is desperate to destroy the character of Robin. Why?
As suspected, he wants this to be the Carly, Borg, and Sonny show. All stories lead back to them and that is all. He's ruined this show beyond belief.

I just had a moment of pity for Luza. He thinks we're all just ignorant and don't get his brilliance, his creative genius. He doesn't realize that if he continues to drive away the viewers with his "love in the ruins" crap, pretty soon there won't be a show to write for, no matter how far up Brian Frons' ass he is. What a clueless fucknut.

I liked Step by Step.

So Labine only had Stone's death (did he just forget BJ? Is that cause she was a girl?)? Well, last I checked you only had "Clink-Boom" and I'm not entirely sure you actually wrote that.

Oh and soap fans can't separate fact from fiction? Really, because the only thing I have trouble separating is dog shit from the stuff you spew out every week.

The fact from fiction remark made me laugh. I mean really? I do get that because the characters are so long term, people do associate the actor with the character, but it's not like we really believe Jason or Sonny are real. We're not retarded!

I just had to comment. What an awful interview. What an ego!! Claire Labine created some of the most memorable soap moments EVER in the history of soaps not just GH. How dare insult all of that! What one memorable storyline has he written in the last 5 years! One that people will remember and discuss 10-20 years from now. I will never forget BJ's death-- it was heartbreaking Felicia crumbling against the wall. Tony listening to Maxie's heart. OMG I still remember and cry. Stone dying-- crying to Robin " I see you". Beautifully written and acted. He is a hack at best ripping off prime time and movies. ABC needs to lose the focus groups and get back to telling good stories with compelling characters (more than 2/3 per show). Guza and Company need to go.. GH needs a new direction. Although the campiness of the show now --does provide you with lots of material for the blog.

I just commented on the TV Guide article itself. It will most likely be deleted but It had to be said:

I cannot even believe this tripe. Guza shouldn't even be allowed to say Claire Labine's name. This show has become a pile of crap under Guza's "creative" vision and this interview is the most ego-petting, ass-kissing smack I have ever read. I believe I can tell fiction from reality, unlike Guza, who would like to believe the show is spewing viewers not because of his hack writing, but because of ratings’ trends. The ratings go down the toilet when the show sucks. That's your way of "reaching as many people as possible?" Right.

thanks so much for your HILARIOUS commentary. it balanced my RAGE at guza, the single-worst soap writer of ruiner of a daytime drama of all time. is there an award for that. nice to know he's an ASSHOLE as well.

(sigh) life goes on, but i just can't help wishing for a claire labine return. 1993-1997 was a fabulous era for GH. the sonny-brenda-jax triangle, stone's death, bj's daughter dying, and the return of luke and laura. CLASSIC drama that has not been repeated. sonny was such an enigmatic, complex and sympathetic character despite his flaws. he was never a caricature like he is now. it's a waste of a great actor. and brenda was, quite simply, an inspired character, though not created by ms. labine. she took on a life of her own through labine's writing and we all fell in love. vanessa marcil's charisma and labine's writing created soap history -- even though marcil was wet behind the ears in the early days. even today, i haven't loved a female character so much.

guza can't wreck vanessa's chemistry with her co-stars, but he sure as hell is trying! i'm quite happy with his wedding writing, however -- but everything else has been shit. please remember you have DAYTIME GOLD on your hands with vanessa, maurice, steve and ingo -- with an emphasis on vanessa. don't waste it, guza!!

in a 2009 interview ms. labine said she enjoyed writing for GH more than any other job -- and would consider returning, but on her terms. we'll take it! kick guza out and get labine back!!!!

So fun article is! I know more from it.

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