Yesterday ABC announced that two of its long standing soap operas, “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” are going to be ending their respective 41 and 43 year runs in the next 9 months. “All My Children” will wrap up in September and “One Life to Live” will follow in January thus marking the end of an era in daytime television.
Whatever happened to the dedicated and reliable soap opera fans? I remember when they expanded these two soaps from 30 minutes to the odd length of 45 minutes and then ultimately to one full hour. There were scores of daytime soaps which then lead to the evening soaps of the late 70’s through the 80’s. There was “Dallas”, “Falcon Crest” and “Dynasty” to name a few. Soap Operas ruled the networks and if you didn’t have a soap opera on your network, well then you might as well close up shop and call it a day!!
Soap Operas got their name from the original sponsors and producers of serial programming. Soap icons like Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor and Gamble and Lever Brothers originally produced these shows on the radio to air during the daytime hours. They targeted the demographic of listeners who would be the most likely to buy their products, that being housewives. With the advent of the picture tube these soaps then moved onto the small screen.
I remember in the 1960’s my mother watching “General Hospital” with her cup of coffee and a cigarette everyday at 3pm. Programming before the 3 o’clock hour typically consisted of game shows like the “Newlywed Game” and the “Dating Game” or possibly the ahead of its time cooking show “The Galloping Gourmet”, one of my personal favorites. In the 1970’s tons of new soaps came to dominate afternoon TV thus relocating game shows to air in the morning hours of the day. Then, in November of 1981, there was the marriage of Luke and Laura which was watched by 30 million viewers and to this day remains the highest-rated hour in American soap opera history! I was in college at that time and I remember the football team convening in the student activities building to watch “General Hospital” at 3 o’clock every weekday afternoon. Football practice was just going to have to wait for the Mighty Marauders until the closing scene of GH was over.
But as far as I am concerned the rest of the 80’s belonged to” All My Children”. The young new cast of high schoolers and all their drama brought in a new group of daytime followers, teenagers. The addition of “Tad the Cad” Martin and sweet Jenny Gardner along with her love torn story with Gregg Nelson; the ever plotting Liza Colby and her real estate mogul ‘jump in the sack with a minor Jack’ socialite mother by the name of Marion Colby, made for scores of memorable story lines. Not forgetting to mention the Chandler Empire which landed in Pine Valley during the 80’s to rival the all powerful Cortland dynasty. And of course there was Erica Kane who in the 1980’s catapulted herself to a status which was larger than life itself!
Yes Soap Operas enjoyed a long run beginning in 1937 with the first radio broadcast of “The Guiding Light”’. Reality television is the rage now, has been for the past decade, but this too shall pass. Nothing can live forever, even the reliable “love in the afternoon” television soaps must be laid to rest at some point, and we are at that point this week with two of ABC’s programs. They are slated to be replaced by lower cost lifestyle shows “The Chew” and “The Revolution”. I’m guessing that ABC has chosen to ride on the coat tails of the popular Food and HGTV networks.
So even though I haven’t really followed the soaps in recent years I will miss knowing that they are there. And for many of us, it never made a difference how long we may have been away from them, we could always go back. They were always there, they were the characters we grew up, who we were pregnant with and raised our families with. They provided a source of comfort for us in knowing that for one hour of the day our world as we knew it would stop, and we could sit down with lunch or coffee or tea and become involved with the colorful lives of the delightful fictional occupants of Pine Valley or Landview.
So good bye old friends, I enjoyed you well. I’m just sorry that my children will not have the chance to know you and have the intimate relationship I did with you.With that being said, I’ll end with the words of “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” creator Agnes Nixon…
The Great and the Least,
The Rich and the Poor,
The Weak and the Strong,
In Sickness and in Health,
In Joy and Sorrow,
In Tragedy and Triumph,
You are ALL MY CHILDREN