On Tuesday, As the World Turns viewers said our final goodbyes to Nancy Hughes, and the actress who played her for fifty-four years, Helen Wagner.
As Executive Producer, Christopher Goutman, promised in a TV Guide interview, it was a low key affair: "We decided not to go the traditional route in paying tribute to Nancy because she made it clear she didn't want anything fancy done." Well, maybe Nancy made that clear, but the question her great-grandson, Casey, posed, “but what about the rest of us?”, resonated for many, if not most, watching. And so did Kim’s lament “I’m just saying… It seems so small.” It’s as though the writers anticipated how fans would react to the tiny, compressed affair, and decided to let the characters give voice to viewers’ frustration and disappointment. And I expect the actors’, as well.
Too clever by half; no one was fooled – especially since Nancy’s death had been revealed in the last minute of Monday’s episode. A single episode to honor the actress who uttered the first words on the show on April 2nd, 1956, and, had she not passed away in May, would have uttered the last? It didn’t just seem small; it was small.
What would have been so "fancy" about her other children, Penny and Don, and their children had attending their mother and grandmother’s memorial? Not to mention her friend, Ellen Stewart. Even a phone call to let viewers know that TPTB remembered their existence would have been better than nothing. The omission is all the more inexplicable in the face of the cryptic reference to Nancy's late daughter, Susan, whose death was part of the show's backstory. But Goutman made it clear that he didn’t want to close out the show “do(ing) the nostalgia thing.” And he hasn’t.
Then, as with Kim and Bob's recent anniversary, the amphetamines kicked in. Casey asks everyone to do their volunteer work to “honor Gram,” and meet up in two hours. So, in between some truly wonderful flashbacks, Nancy’s apartment was cleared out while Katie and Chris discussed his failing health, her books turned into a mini library at the hospital, a memorial scholarship at the local school arranged. Meanwhile, John and Lucinda shared a beer (a real highlight), Lisa, Barbara and Susan toasted Nancy with something pink in martini glasses (was Susan so upset about Nancy's death that she fell off the wagon? Or maybe the writers forgot she's an alcoholic. Whatever.), Casey volunteered at Legal Aid in preparation for a legal career (no matter his felony conviction), after which he and Allison got engaged, all leading up to a candlelit prayer missed by the “show’s sweetheart,” Katie, who closed the episode curled up bereft on Nancy’s sofa. An ending that left many viewers more pissed than bereft.
© 2010 Lynn Liccardo
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