Tom Casiello recently posted Viewing Habits of a Soap Writer, which got me thinking that I should talk about my own viewing habits. I started watching the CBS lineup with my mother in the mid-50s. I could catch all of Search for Tomorrow and half of GL before I had to go back to school after lunch - back in the ice age, grammar school children came home for lunch with their stay-at-home moms.
Back in the day, I had a working knowledge of almost every show on the air in the 1960s - SFT, GL, As the World Turns, Love of Life, The Secret Storm, The Doctors, Another World, Where the Heart Is, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, One Life to Live. I added All My Children when it premiered in 1970 and dropped in and Young and Restless now and then. Never got into Days or General Hospital.
This is not to say I watched every day. I had to go to school; when I got to high school I had a part-time job. Of course, there were no VCRs then, but holidays, school vacations and summers were enough to keep reasonably current. And so it continued until I moved to Boston in 1973 and started working fulltime. Except for the occasional period of unemployment, it was catch-as-catch-can until the mid-1980s, when I finally got a VCR. By then, many of the shows I had loved were off the air. But Doug Marland was headwriter at ATWT and the Bauers were still a core family on GL, and when it came to my soaps, I was a pretty happy camper.
As most readers of this blog have probably surmised, for all my bitching and moaning, I continue to be a regular viewer of As the World Turns (although increasingly I'm asking myself why). Back in June, I reconnected with One Life to Live (and will be writing more on the polarizing Todd and Marty story soon), and have been loving Ryan's Hope on SOAPNet. I know I describe myself as a soap opera critic (although I actually think I function more as an analyst), but I have neither the time nor the inclination to watch the remaining six daytime soaps. Although since I started the blog, I've made it a point to watch all six at least once a month - in real time - so I actually have to watch and not hit ff. Sad to say, nothing I've seen on any of those shows has enticed me to come back for more.
Sara Bibel's recent post, Flash Forward, suggesting that soaps go backward in time to undo the damage that's been done to the current story reminded me of a couple of things.
The first to try, of course, was the primetime soap, Dallas. When Patrick Duffy decided to leave the show in 1985, his character, Bobby, died. Duffy's return, after a year, led to the infamous shower scene in which the 1985-86 season was revealed to have been a dream.
Of course, in daytime, Duffy would likely have returned as a long-lost twin or look-alike. Or, have been revealed not to have died at all. However Dallas fans may have felt about the dream conceit, it didn't seem to damage ratings; the show ran until 1991.
Back in 1996-97, a few of us discussed the "it's all been a bad dream" possibility for As the World Turns, which was going through a difficult time. Doug Marland had died unexpectedly in March of 1993; this is the point at which some suggest that ATWT "jumped the shark." But the worst was yet to come: in May of 1995, John Valente replaced Laurie Caso as Executive Producer and brought in Stephen Black and Henry Stern as headwriters at the "suggestion" of CBS president, Leslie Moonves.
In early 1996, a plane crash killed Damien Grimaldi and injured Margo Hughes. It's been a long time, and I don't remember all the particulars - although I do remember Lily wearing a perfectly hideous short-sleeved turtleneck in a less-than-flattering shade of green for what seemed like a month. Strangely, I haven't been able to find any only on-line recaps for that time. But that plane crash began one of the worst periods for ATWT - maybe not as bad as now, but pretty bad. The screen was dominated by characters best forgotten - Zoe, Sara, Ryder, Pilar, earlier versions of Paul and Dani - all played by attractive, but inexperienced actors, some not much more than models. Characters were behaving strangely: Connor cheated on her husband, Cal, for no apparent reason; John Dixon romanced Lisa and even Larry Bryggman never understood why.
One night, I was on the phone with soap critic, Michael Logan, and I can't remember which one of us said it first. But we both agreed, that, yes, some fans might be upset at first. But if it was revealed that everything that had happened since the plane crash had been Margo hallucinating while she was unconscious, well, the fans would come around soon enough.
Over at Marlena de Lacroix, soap shrink, Damon L. Jacobs, discusses Ways to Cope with Recent Soap Deaths. In the past few months, the soap world has lost actors Larry Haines and Beverlee McKenzie, Irene Daily, Eileen Herlie and writer, James E. Reilly.
Never having been a fan of either Days or Passions, I can't speak to Reilly's work. As for the actors, all were known not just for their work on soaps, but on the stage, which used to be the case with most New York soap actors. In the case of Larry Haines and Eileen Herlie, both graced the screen as well: Haines most famously in The Odd Couple; Herlie, opposite Laurence Olivier in Hamlet.
Jacobs' advice to fans, "Respect your relationship with the person who has died," brought me back to 1986, when Bert Bauer died on Guiding Light, a year after Charita Bauer, who played Bert, had died. The show had done a beautiful job integrating the amputation of Charita Bauer's leg into a powerful story for Bert. I can still remember her scenes with Robert Newman, whose character, Josh Lewis, had been paralyzed.
But it wasn't until Bert died on-screen that the loss really hit me. I watched in tears and feeling rather foolish. Then I realized that Bert Bauer had been a part of my life longer than either of my grandmothers and my tears made sense.
© 2008 Lynn Liccardo
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