My friend Ed Martin weighs in, too, on the loss of As the World Turns in a new post immediately following this one.
By Marlena De Lacroix
I broke into tears when I heard that As the World Turns was canceled yesterday. I’m sure many of you did, too. ATWT has been a part of all our lives for so long. I learned so much from it over the years about universal values of love and family. Since its 1956 premiere, it has so reflected the true heart of all Americans.
When I first started watching as a young teen in 1969, I was growing up in Queens, where everyone in my neighborhood was either Jewish or Italian (I was both!). My Italian immigrant grandparents, who loving fed me lasagna on holidays, knew little English. My Jewish immigrant
CBS President Les Moonves apparently doesn’t think TV is about the hearts and minds of Americans anymore. Yesterday he had the gall to say that the day of daytime soap operas like ATWT is over. Well, to hell with you, Les Moonves. Love, family and soaps will outlast you and your insults to those who have supported CBS for more than 60 years. ATWT lives!
side all worked in a family movie theater chain and absolutely lived for latest happenings in the entertainment world. My own parents constantly yelled sotto voce over meals, whether we were talking about Broadway or ball games — or me.
To me, ATWT‘s Oakdale in 1969 may as well have been Mars. It was a town full of nothing but WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants.) The Hugheses usually had civilized meals and always conversed in moderate tones. Father Chris Hughes wore a tie to breakfast and dinner! (Not an undershirt or housedress!) Mother Nancy was an ever pontificating pain in the butt. (I never liked her.) Grandpa Hughes, strange and bald, would take little Tom down to his workshop (what? none of those in Queens) and lecture him on manners and life. On national holidays, Grandpa raised the flag and talked about … America. I don’t remember anyone ever doing this in Queens.
As the years went by, Oakdale and the show felt a lot more familiar. I remember being shocked at first when teen Tom started buying drugs from a charismatic dealer (played by Gary Sandy, later of WKRP Cincinnati). About two years later, I was entering college and Newsweek articles, and indeed the whole country, were talking about drugs (I was a good girl.) Then Tom was sent to Vietnam. My male college classmates were in living fear of being drafted and sent. Oh my God, I couldn’t believe this was being shown on a soap!
Of course, other things — magnificent personal drama — were happening in Oakdale circa 1969 back when I watched ATWT for the first time , and I was soon swept up and addicted beautiful Kim (Kathryn Hays) loved Dan, who was unfortunately married to snappy Susan (Marie Masters). So Kim married a very bad guy, Dr. John Dixon, played a magnificent actor (Larry Bryggman) who stole the show every day. No one suffered as beautifully as the magnificently beautiful Kim. Meanwhile, a saucy divorced dame named Lisa (Eileen Fulton) spiced up Oakdale and also stole the show every day. Poor Dr. Bob Hughes, Lisa’s ever-noble ex! He had to play Mr. Serious every single day. (Only years later did I meet Don Hastings and find him the funniest guy in the soap world.)
Because ATWT was all about heart and love and emotions and family — real, human drama — the soap became a constant in my life over the subsequent four decades. Eventually, they added characters of all ethnicities and races. During the Douglas Marland years (1985-93), as I wrote in my Critical Condition column in Soap Opera Weekly, the show turned so deep, so beautifully written, to truly mirror the human condition. It was theater. For more on the Marland years, see the multi part series Patrick Erwin and I wrote on the 15th anniversary of dear Doug’s death.
So many of us, especially those of us who knew him, thought of the late, dear Douglas yesterday when the news broke that the show was cancelled, and would air for the last time in September. I also thought of Irna Phillips, who founded and guided it all. And the lat Bill Bell and Agnes Nixon, Irna’s legendary original sub-writers on ATWT , who went on to found their own soaps and educated the whole next generation of soap writers. To write shows about love and the heart. And America, a country where we are free chose our religions and families and elect our government and to love whomever we want.
And so I was shocked yesterday when CBS and P&G literally unloaded ATWT before its time. Despite all its struggles and failed format experiments in the last few years, ATWT is still a traditional soap about family and love passed through the generations. The Hughes and Stewart family still dominate the show years later.
CBS President Les Moonves apparently doesn’t think TV is about the hearts and minds of Americans anymore. Yesterday when he broke our hearts by cancelling ATWT, he had the gall to tell CNBC that the day of daytime soap operas like ATWT is over. Well, to hell with you, Les Moonves. Love, family and soaps will outlast you and your insults to those who have supported CBS for more than 60 years. ATWT lives!
P.S. Many of you know Italian-Jewish me many decades after my Queens teen years married Moose, a Midwesterner. Oh, the irony, a WASP! Well, as ATWT taught me long ago, Midwesterners are all about universal love, too. At Christmas, I will gather my living family, Moose and my Michiganian step-children and step grandchildren (the greatest gifts ever given me!) and feed them my Italian grandparent’s recipe for lasagna. We are all Americans! ATWT‘s Christmastime (oh the irony!) cancellation is so sad. Even so, I wish all of you, my beloved, readers a merry Christmas. May 2010 be the year all surviving soaps continue to endure.