on June 14, 2005
There was a time when soap operas were written with style, panache, drama, humor and an almost theatrical quality. Obviously, that time has long since faded, as today's soaps tend to have more in common with th works of Jerry Bruckheimer than Tennessee Williams.
Harding Leman helmed Another World during a period which many considered its heyday. And this memoir provides readers with not only a fascinating peek behind the scenes of a once popular, now defunct soap, but also into the life and mind of the person responsible for bringing an entire fictional town to life on a daily basis. For eight years, Lemay was responsible for who did what to whom in the town of Bay City. He took a soap which for far too long had relied on melodramatic plot twists and infused it with a sensibility more akin to the parlor dramas of Tennessee Williams. It was under Lemay that typical bitch-Goddess Rachel evolved into a character whose actions and motivations the audience could understand, paving the way for her to eventually become one of daytime's most beloved heroines.
Lemay's story will prove fascinating to anyone who loved Another World, soaps in general or that much more specific audience of people who watch their daytime dramas and think, "I could do that!" They'll find that not only is it not as easy as one might believe, but that it can often become all-consuming.
Anyone with an interest in daytime will surely find this to be a fascinating read, although those who are familiar with Another World and it's history will, obviously, get much more out of it than the casual reader.
Harding Lemay was a playwright when he was hired as the headwriter for NBC's top-rated daytime drama "Another World" in 1971. Proctor and Gamble, the production company that owned the show, was looking for someone with fresh ideas and innovative ways to enlighten and bring up the ratings. Although "Another World's" ratings were quite good when Lemay took over as writer (the serial was a solid #4 in the Nielsen's), the ratings took a nosedive after Agnes Nixon left as headwriter in 1968 to go to ABC. What Lemay found on "Another World" was a show filled with melodramtic storylines consisting of secret burglaries, poisoinings, and illigetimate children. Lemay wanted to change the face of the show, and of daytime for that matter by writing stories that dealt with human emotions and interractions, without a ton of hospital and courtroom scenes.
Harding Lemay went on to be the greatest serial writer ever, even surpassing William Bell, Agnes Nixon, and even Irna Phillips herself, as Lemay wrote daring stories and brought "Another World" to the top of the daytime ratings. The show continuously held a number 2 position in the Nielsens, and it was under his helm the show hit #1. "Eight Years In Another World" is Lemay's account of what he went throught to make the show a hit, how he kept it there, the problems he had with certain cast members and producers, and ultimately how he got burned out from constantly writing for a daytime serial for eight years. Lemay is very open about his distaste for certain actors on the show like Val Dufour, Virginia Dywer, Geroge Reinholt, and Jacqueline Courtney, and he writes about how he tried to get these actors to act the way he wanted them to, unfortunately to no avail. He writes how he wrote out these popular actors, yet he writes favourably about Douglas Watson, Susan Sullivan, Victoria Wyndham, and Beverlee Mckinsey, and how they all were a pleasure to write for. Lemay also acknowledges how hard it is to write for a soap opera, with the time constraints and deadlines in putting a daily 30 minutes serial on the air. This is a book all should read if you want to be a soap opera writer, as Harding details the problems too with a longer format for a daytime series, as "Another World" would be the first soap to expand to sixty minutes a day in 1975, then ninety minutes in 1979. That 90 minute expansion would be the death nell for both the serial and Lemay, as the ratings took a nosedive and Harding started having severe health problems brought on by the stress of too much overwork. If you are a fan of soap opera or was a fan of "Another World" during its Golden Years, this is a must read as many of the 1970's top stories are documented here on its pages. "Eight Years In Another World" is long out of print, but the price that sellers are asking for it is worth every dime, because not only is it the best book on serials, but the best book on how soap operas are created, made every day, and written. Lemay is also credited with helping Douglas Marland for getting his start in serial writing, as Marland was a dialogue writer for "Another World" under Lemay. Marland would go on to make "General Hospital" a hit and would create characters like Tracy Quatrermaine and Luke Spencer, still mainstays of "GH" to this day.
on May 7, 2012
I read this book when it came out originally, and loved it! . . . when I wanted to go back to it, it was out of print, so I was very happy to see that it was coming back. I got it for my Kindle Fire, and am reading it there. The book is a wonderful review of Harding Lemay's eight years of Head Writing for the Soap, "Another World". If you were a fan of "Another World", you will love this book! Lemay talks about his writing experiences, and also gives his opinions about the actors on the show, and gives you an insight into a wonderful show! Every page is a joy to read!!
on May 24, 2015
I am somewhat disappointed that Lemay didn't mention much about Doug Marland. He doesn't seem to even mention him by name. He's just the writer who quit Another World during the mid-70s to be the head-writer on another soap. Nothing else. Somewhat disappointing. Regardless, my three favorite soap opera head-writers were in some way influenced by Lemay's character-driven work, whether directly or indirectly: 1) Marland, by being on Lemay's writing team. 2) Pam Long, by being an actress on the Another World spin-off, Texas. 3) Donna Swajeski, she became the 1988 writer's strike head-writer for the Another World. I don't know what kind of creative differences she and Lemay had (maybe something like the creative differences that existed between him and Irna) that caused him to not want to work with her, but, regardless, I really liked her work. I started watching the show in late 1990. Those three Procter & Gamble shows were so character-driven back then, it was like a "golden age" of soap opera. His work on Another World back in the 1970s helped make that possible.
But, back to the book... It is surprising that someone who didn't really want to write for soap operas would end up being so good at it and so influential. It is also amazing that he ended up writing so many of the scripts himself. It's understandable, as to why. He wanted the characters to behave consistently and to have a consistent voice. It was also interesting that he didn't particularly care for writing young characters. I agree with him that younger characters can sometimes be somewhat boring. I thought that when I was a teen in high school. I tended to be more interested in the older characters. Pam Long (GL-era) was one of the few soap opera head-writers who could create and/or develop teen characters that I thought were interesting (She developed: Rick, Phillip, and Alan-Michael. She created: India, Harley, etc.).
on August 3, 2013
In 2012, while attending the premiere of Soap Life, A Documentary, I had the honor of meeting and having a drink with Harding Lemay and his wife. I am a die hard soap fan - with Another World being number 1 on my list. When the charming Mr. Lemay asked me if I had read his book, I, embarrassed, told him I didn't know about it but that I certainly would. I came home, found it and ordered. Thank you Mr. Lemay for bringing me back to the days of my beloved show and - you and your wife are absolutely delightful!
on May 17, 2015
Daytime soaps are an odd, funny medium. They started out as filler between the ads and are heading to the same end. But there was a brief period in the 1970s and 1980s where many shows had amazing quality and a cast of actors to rival any Broadway play. Lemay's time as writer of "Another World" was among the halycon days for these shows, and this book captures a large part of the reason why.
Lemay's book is a must for anyone who wants to understand how the behind-the-scenes action impacts what the audience sees. He talks about some of the most memorable characters on the show (Mac, Iris and Rachel) but is not afraid to be critical of other audience favorites.
Very glad to see this book in Kindle format.
on July 4, 2014
Playwright Harding Lemay became the headwriter of popular (now defunct) NBC daytime television soap opera ANOTHER WORLD in 1971, and this book follows his journey as headwriter until his exit from the program in 1979.
This is a fascinating, absorbing account of Harding Lemay's headwriting stint on ANOTHER WORLD, whereby he lays bare everything about his life during this period. He examines in great detail his uncertain beginnings writing the show, his tutelage under Irna Phillips, queen of soap operas, success with the soap opera form, dealings with sponsors Procter and Gamble, and, the reasons why he eventually left the show. It is a true page turner, and a book that every soap opera lover, or those who would like to write soap operas, should read. An excellent book from beginning to end.
on November 6, 2001
This book details the years during the 1970's in which the author wrote for a popular, long-running television program. His uncertain beginning, learning by the seat of his pants, immersion into the rigors of the work, and ultimate obsession with the writing are interesting. Read after the author's first memoir, one can appreciate why Lemay behaved as he did during the 70's. Although he had reconciled some of the past conflicts about his childhood by this time, ghosts of his demons and unresolved issues sprang up in the hothouse of daytime TV writing.
Lemay provides an interesting depiction of the struggles anyone would face in the fast-paced, pressure cooker environment of soap operas-- creating 5 one hour dramas each week with no time off for reruns-- and gives us some hints about his own particular reaction to the stresses. "Eight Years" does not, however, contain the depth of insight and self revelation that the preceding memoir did. A reader who had not read the first volume would not realize the desires, experiences, and unfulfilled hopes that drove Lemay to throw himself into a cauldron of obsessive writing, quest for quality, self imposed isolation, and acceptance of inane corporate superiors. The costs of such compulsive self discipline are outlined but not as completely detailed as in his first book. Implied in the book is the incredible convergence of fate that brought a man who had been so long striving to enter another, better world through sometimes dramatic means to a television show that needed a theme about longing and the lengths to which people will go to find satisfaction of their dreams.
Much of the book is devoted to the plots Lemay created for the show. This hints at the role of fantasy in the mind of a damaged child, creative adult, and questing person, but the author refrains from exploring at length the links between addiction to writing the ongoing lives of imagined characters and the deprivations of his actual history. The continuing drama of his show's characters do propel the book the way they do a soap, which is fun. The pain of Lemay's decisions, however, seem underplayed. Nevertheless, as a two volume memoir, "Inside, Looking Out" and "Eight Years" make for a compelling portrait of a man one might like to know better. The books raise curiosity about the plays he also wrote and the teleplays of "Another World" of the 1970's that may be lost forever except in the memories of fans lucky enough to have seen them in their single airing.
on April 28, 2013
I was a big fan of Another World and had heard of this book but never able to find it. Hearing how staffing issues, personality conflicts, and meddlesome sponsors affect the direction of story, etc was interesting. Totally recommend this book if you are looking to remember Another World!
When I was 17 years old I wrote a letter to Harding Lemay to give him feelings about characters on "Another World" I also informed him that I wanted to be a soap writer one day. To my surprise I received a reply for the iconic writer. Not only did he thank me for my kind words but offered several suggestions to me. We kept in touch over the years and my first novel, Delusions of Grandeur, about a soap writer in the 80's is modeled after him and Douglas Marland another iconic soap writer. "Eight Years in Another World" is a fantastic book. It pulls you right in from page one and takes you inside the frustrating world of daytime TV which is all but extinct today. Harding Lemay is a great man. A great writer and I am proud to say I met him, went to his home and he one of his Emmys. A must read for anyone interested in TV soaps.