Like any wonderful book you’ve read, or movie you’ve seen, sometimes the place and the characters seem so real. I used to dream about them, imagine I was walking around the streets of Oakdale. I loved Springfield first. But I dreamt about living in Oakdale, in the world where Douglas Marland was the gatekeeper and the weaver of the tapestry.
This wasn’t the post I’d intended to make today – to comment about the news, ultimately not unexpected but shocking in its timing, that As The World Turns has been canceled.
I’d intended to post a commentary today reflecting on the now somewhat-eerie fact that it was a year ago today that I was in Pepack, New Jersey, having lunch with Jill Lorie Hurst and sitting in a makeshift green room listening to Ellen Wheeler talk very passionately about Guiding Light. It was a glimpse inside of another story, a glimpse I’m eternally grateful to have had before that narrative was relegated to history.
Fast forward a year to today’s news. It’s surprising in its timing, but perhaps to be expected in all other aspects.
I’d been thinking with GL and ATWT that I was surprised that CBS and P&G hadn’t tried to cut each show to a half hour. Had every option been examined?
But Les Moonves made it clear in his statements today where his company stands. In an era where networks are increasingly looking to make partnerships with advertisers, he ironically declared that the day of the sponsor driven product is over.
ATWT had a ticking clock tied to its back on April 1rst. It was only a matter of time.
Stories are dreams that make it into a screenplay, onto our TV screens. I used to dream – seriously! – that I lived in Kim and Bob’s house. I was in a highly prized demographic at the time, but despite all of the flashy flair that the network undoubtedly insisted to Douglas Marland, Laurie Caso and Bob Calhoun was necessary, despite all of those teen stories, I was mesmerized by the cool, complex, sexy, smart grownups.
There was sturdy Tom and fearless Margo, John and the unsinkable Lucinda Walsh, her headstrong daughters, Lily and Sierra. There was the weary hopefulness of Iva Snyder, the classic romance of Duncan and Shannon, the travails of Barbara and beautiful Frannie Hughes. And Lisa! Lisa, who was the Original Recipe Bitch, and proud of it!
And I was fascinated by Bob and Kim – in particular Kim Hughes. Kim was Everywife, but with an exotic layer underneath. Kim was, and is, so many women that I’ve met and known.
The story where Bob and Kim were reunited with Sabrina was just beautiful. Their reunion was breathtaking and beautiful, a child and parents being reunited. Onscreen, it was the resolution of a storyline thread that had been started years earlier. But it meant more than that – it was a resolution of sorts for ATWT’s creator, Irna Phillips.
Kim was Irna’s last creation, a woman who was meant to be independent, free-thinking and full of passion. But Irna’s story had Kim sleeping with Bob Hughes – a man married to her sister – and that just couldn’t be done. Kim had to be punished, and the baby lost – until Douglas Marland and his meticulous attention to history set things right with the Sabrina story.
(And at the time, the search for Sabrina, and Bob and Kim’s joy at finding her, resonated deeply with me, a young gay teenager who craved that unconditional love and acceptance from my own parents.)
I wanted to live in Douglas Marland’s Oakdale – to have Thanksgiving with the Synders, to be a guest at the Hughes’ house, to talk to Grams and hear the wisdom and richness of their lives.
ATWT certainly hadn’t been flying at the top of its game. But it was, in my opinion, stronger in some key areas than GL. Whereas GL had slowly declined over a decade or so, it was only a few years ago that ratings were up at ATWT and Emmys were being won for best show and for many of the performers.
But like GL, ATWT has been on shakier ground. As all daytime soaps are. The audience at large is shrinking. And the remaining soaps are trying desperately to be every single, possible thing they can be other than a soap. The remaining soaps have an audience, but they don’t respect them.
I don’t blame them, folks – they have a gun to their heads, so to speak, and a mandate to make money and maximize advertising. And so stories and ads are aimed squarely at that young audience. But as a result, the daytime soaps are making a fatal error: they’re not writing a story for the dedicated fans who actually watch their show.
And so another long story, another book with many chapters and many layers, is coming to an end. I agree with We Love Soaps’ Roger Newcomb that soaps will live on, in some format, on the Internet.
But another domino has fallen, the last of its kind. This one makes me very, very sad.