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.