Hank Eliot and Oakdale

I hadn’t thought about Hank Eliot for years. He was part of the first gay storyline on As The World Turns (indeed, the first openly gay man on ANY soap).

I was reminded (as I often am) by a mention on We Love Soaps.

Oh, my. This was even better than I remembered in my memory! And the scene at the end gets me, in the Snyder kitchen. I really miss those people.

I remember Hank (Brian Starcher) coming out to Barbara and Shannon as well. (I wish I could see THOSE scenes!)

The beginning of the story was wonderful. There was some very realistic reactions from Paul and Andy.

It got weird at some point, with Hank’s path somehow crossing James Stenbeck, if I recall.

Hank’s arc on ATWT was one that defines the word “abrupt ending.” It was all very CLICK BOOM BYE. He was gone, quick as a flash, and almost never mentioned again….after nearly 18 months of us seeing him onscreen nearly every day.

Here’s a link to an interview with the late Douglas Marland and his writing team about this story.

Still missing the Light

What would appear in YOUR viewfinder, dear reader?

June 30th is the day, in 1952, that Guiding Light began its long, continuing story on television (after 15 years on the radio).

It’s been nearly six (!) years since it ended, and nearly five for As The World Turns, but I still miss watching those shows, and seeing those people.

And though my love for ATWT and GL is pretty equal overall, I’ve been drawn to GL clips on YouTube a lot lately.

(Not that this would be obvious if you looked at my Twitter page or the header at the top of this blog or anything….)

ATWT, particularly under Douglas Marland, was no slouch at telling stories with a lot of heart and a lot of love.

But what I often loved the most about GL was how it wore its heart on its sleeve.

So I’m serving you up some Christmas in (almost) July realness today.

If you don’t want to watch all of this clip, start at around 42:00 and catch the very end. (And the credits, too.)

I know that this is an era that is bygone; that this type of show is no longer made in New York City, that we’ll never see anything of that scale again, that the money and the sets and the cost of everyone involved is far out of reach.

Perhaps.

But the heart, the optimism, at the core of this story is what I’m missing these days.

Bring us all the darkness in the world, and an unlikeable antihero, if you must, but know that we’ll care about him, and all the people around him, if you have one person who sees the good in him, and believes in him, as Maureen Bauer saw the good in Roger Thorpe.

In this age of nihilism, I keep craving stories that show me the shared connections we have, the things that make us a little less lonely.

And I know those stories can be told, because I watched it happen for years.

It makes these words – appreciated by some, derided by others – take on a new resonance for me.

There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone.

All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.

(Oh yes, I went there!) 

Hope (Memorial) springs eternal

Elizabeth Hubbard, always stunning.

Elizabeth Hubbard, always stunning.

Can we talk about the best new soap to hit the air in ages?

It’s smart, it’s funny and the characters are so well drawn, played by fantastic actors.

Okay, so perhaps “new” isn’t accurate.

We have to go back to the future – circa 1967-1968 – for the origins of this show.

I’m talking, of course, about the vintage episodes of The Doctors that have been running on RetroTV since late last year.

I expected to have a twinge of nostalgia when I saw these old episodes, though I was too young to see the years in question (I wasn’t even born yet!) and only caught a handful of Doctors episodes in later years.

What surprised me was how truly smart and contemporary the episodes were. THIS is the kind of smart, engaging drama many of us are looking for today, and it’s ironic that we have to look back nearly 50 years to find it.

And at this point, I can wait no longer to say it.

OMG ELIZABETH HUBBARD. 

Can we please talk about how truly, abundantly amazing her performance as Althea is in these episodes?

What a fully formed, strong persona Althea is, navigating her career and dealing with drama in her life, with Nick, her colleague and love. I would gnaw off my right arm for a character this well drawn, this authentic on any soap today. 

It’s a magnificent performance, and Althea in 1968 is everything that, say, Meredith Gray is in 2015 — minus the sometimes debilitating self-doubt. Althea knows she’s good, and the equal of any man at Hope General.

She is, in turns, strong, funny and heartbreakingly vulnerable.

And her friend Maggie (played in early episodes by Bethel Leslie, and in episodes after 1968 by Lydia Bruce) is delightfully droll and sarcastic. Maggie’s shade game is TOTALLY on point.

Here’s a series of episodes from 1971 that feature Hubbard AND future soap royalty Anna Stuart as Toni Ferra, who becomes involved with ridiculously handsome Dr. Mike Powers, as played initially by the late Peter Burnell, and then by Armand Assante.

Yes, some of this is probably a little too dry for today’s soap viewers.

But it’s these kinds of small, intimate scenes that, when layered together, build a character and a storyline. Many of today’s shows skip the buildup and only set off the fireworks – and wonder why we’re increasingly numb to the explosions.

There’s a lot that new web soaps and a new online soap, a la Netflix, Hulu or Amazon – could learn from this era of The Doctors. 

Names and faces: Longtime soap fans will catch a few familiar names. The executive producer of the episode posted above is Allen Potter, who would later go on to become Guiding Light’s EP during the Marland era (and whose falling out with Douglas Marland led to Marland’s resignation from the head writing position at GL).

An early episode featured James Noble, who would later play Governor Gatling on ABC’s Benson, as Althea’s analyst.

Here’s a piece from We Love Soaps earlier this spring about a very special episode of The Doctors.

Aren’t the “in color” bumpers for the show fun?

Happy birthday, Douglas Marland

Note: I know that a lot’s been said lately about the exciting new things happening for serialized shows, and I’m eager to look to the future. But the future is better understood when we put our past into context.

I take any opportunity I can here to sing the praises of the late Douglas Marland. Today would have been his 75th birthday.

Marland died way too young, and he’s been sorely missed since his death in 1993.

I’ve been lucky to have a few great, wonderful experiences as a result of this blog. I’ve written an essay that will be published later this year in an academic journal (!), I had the good fortune to see one of my favorite shows being made, and I’ve met or talked to a number of talented professionals.

But I have to say, talking about the work and legacy of Douglas Marland ranks right up there.

Two years ago, Marlena Delacroix and I remembered the Marland magic on the anniversary of his untimely death. It’s worth remembering him again today. If you’d like to check out those posts, take a look at Marlena’s blog. (The posts, from March 2008, are under the “Yearning for Yesterday” tag.) We talked to several ATWT and GL actors.

As with stunning performances that have since slipped into the ether, it’s hard to quantify what was so fantastic about Marland’s work for younger viewers if they’re not able to see it.

When he fired on all cylinders, it was the perfect balance: dramatic yet realistic, romantic and filled with love for friends and family, yet rocked by great villainy and anger.

It was, in short, a wonderful story, and Marland will forever be remembered as a master storyteller.