As the World Turns Stops: Sobs! All Those Afternoons!

ATWT lgo

By Marlena De Lacroix

When I was in high school I was noted for spending my afternoons watching soap operas and eating cole slaw. Decades later, I am sobbing … and I mean real big salty tears … into my slaw as As the World Turns is drawing to a close, heading to 

With the end of As the World Turns, let’s celebrate soaps. Our memories of As the World Turns will never fade, nor will our belief that the strength of the American family will never end.

its final episode Friday, Sept. 17. Last week, I even lay awake worrying about Chris Hughes and whether Reid’s transplanted heart would save his life. I know ATWT‘s life is over.

Sob! All those afternoons … I remember in 1970 when Irna Phillips punished Jane House by having her Elizabeth Stewart fall up the stairs and die because the actress old ATWT 1was appearing nude in the original production of Lenny on Broadway! Who can remember the afternoon when Iva came after Josh when her daughter Lily found out Lily’s father was really her rapist Josh … How come I sob whenever magnificent Kathy Hays as Kim is in a scene advising a younger Oakdaler or hugs Bob over another tragedy (like Nancy’s sudden death last week and the fittingly modest service that didn’t last for weeks). And the always modest but bravura Don Hastings, too. Were you there last week when Chris told Bob he was the finest man he ever knew? Sob!

All those afternoons! I can remember when Grandpa Hughes raised the flag on national holidays and gave Tom all those lectures in his workshop. Who old ATWT 2remembers when Mr. Big (dear, dear Brent Collins) chased Margo and Tom around that crazy set and made them run for their lives. (Justin Deas and Margaret Colin got married instead.) Who can remember when Lisa lost her son Chucky when he ran out in the middle of the street? Oy, I have watched this show forever.

So why criticize this show in its final days? Let’s celebrate the show the way ATWT‘s writers nicely celebrated Barbara and Henry’s wedding — with joy, the pleasure of repaired family relationships and friendships and the expression of the kind of genuine love never seen on soaps anymore (just like the joy felt at weddings of our own!). I cheered loudly when Babs (Colleen Zenk Pinter, so great for 30 years) was feted by a dance with Henry to that old Bee Gees tune, “More Than a Woman” as their wedding night began.

Let’s celebrate that after all his sour words, Reid is a good guy after all and donated his heart to Chris! Let’s celebrate as ol’ Johnny Dixon so fittingly lands up with la Lucinda! Let’s celebrate ALLATAT 3 the couples who are ending up together and living happily ever after, Katie and Chris and Casey and Allison, creating families of their own filled with love! Let’s celebrate a show we all watched for five decades … a show as close to us as our own families and those members we miss every day so dearly. Sob!

With the end of As the World Turns, let’s celebrate soaps. Our memories of As the World Turns will never fade, nor will our belief that the strength of the American family (the Hughes family singularly in soaps lasted all 56 years of the show) will never end.


  1. I will miss AS THE WORLD TURNS. For the most part, that delightful old girl brought me many hours of soap opera viewing.

    Remember, Susan’s battle with dipsomania, which almost caused her her medical license? And who could forget Julia Burke, played by the magnifcent Fran Carlon, trying to tell Susan to move on and forget about Dan. But Susan refused to listen.

    And many years later, Susan had similar spats with her daughter, Emily, who was trying to break up Tom and Margo.

    Do you recall the Dobson period? I hated that Helen Wagner left the show as Nancy, but the Dobsons made Oakdale an entertaining place to visit. Their stories were fresh and engaging. The dialogue, bitchy and amusing.

    Remember Karen Haines, played by the terrifically talented Kate McNeil? Karen wanted respect and money. She thought she could acquire it by becoming Mrs. James Stenbeck. She discovered that James wasn’t the true heir to the Stenbeck fortune. “Marry me, James,” she told him. “If you don’t, I’ll tell the world that you aren’t really a Stenbeck, but actually, the bastard child of the nanny. ”

    James was engaged to Dee Stewart, but hey, having the Stenbeck millions and power meant more to him than being married to the comely, Dee. So he dumped her and took Karen down the aisle. And he tormented Karen for blackmailing him.

    Also, James came thisclose to marrying his sister, Ariel. Remember Judith Blazer, the actress with the large expressive eyes?

    Who could forget Annie Stewart giving birth to quads and receiving a phone call from President Reagan?

    Over the years, I had some SPLENDID times with AS THE WORLD TURNS and I will miss it terribly. So, I will bask in my memories. But I can’t resist saying that the quality of the storylines descended over the years, and I firmly believe that played a role in viewer attrition.

    Marlena says: Get me a hanky!

  2. That was lovely, Marlena! My fondest memories revolve around Tom and Margo (Gregg Marx/Hillary B. Smith), Bob and Kim (also Susan), Nancy, Barbara/Hal, Andy Kavovit’s Paul and anything Craig…back when he was terrorizing Meg Ryan’s Betsy, his scary fabulous chemistry with Lucinda, to redemption with Sierra, his incredible friendship with Iva that turned to lust one night at the Snyder Pond (as “We’ve got Tonight” played hauntingly) to his beautiful friendship with Lindsay Frost’s Betsy. Also, his being a father figure to Lily was so heart warming — and then finally finding love again with Brooke Alexander’s Sam. And by Craig, I mean only Scott Bryce. But you knew that.

    Marlena says: I LOVED Scott Byrce’s Craig for years. And {{Esther}}.

  3. You’re right, Marlena – as much as there is to be angry about over the last few years, there’s also much to celebrate.

    Once ATWT goes, a certain caliber of soap will be gone forever, and the ones that remain, fine as they may (or may not) be, are now hybrids….action adventure shows with serial roots.

    Marlena says: {{Patrick!}}

  4. What a beautiful heartfelt column. In the middle of it I felt like hugging you like my mom did with me when Mary died on “Santa Barbara”. In the end I felt like giving you my condolonces. I hear you and I feel your loss. I am sorry ATWT is gone for good.

    Marlena says: Grazie! Grazie! Baci! Baci, Giada!

  5. Also, Chris Goutman has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism for AS THE WORLD TURNS’s demise.

    The show is in good shape and lately, it has been compelling soap opera. It is dying with dignity, if you will and Goutman deserves some accolades and superlatives for that.

    There are things that bothered me about the show. Kim and Bob had no home. Usually, they met in the hospital corridor and went out to eat, where they discussed this or that.

    It appears as though they reduced the size of Margo and Tom’s home. Lucinda’s house was done away with altogether. Budget cuts, no doubt.

    I have been watching erstwhile episodes and once upon a time, the sets were spacious and convincing. So, yes, the budget had been slashed. But despite that, the show has been watchable/enjoyable. Not great, but watchable. Which is more than I can say for some other shows.

    So, obviously Goutman toiled to make certain he produced a worthwhile show. He deserves props for that.

  6. OK, I know this is long, but I just have to re-post this column from my local newspaper … before I do, I am just SO SAD that the Procter & Gamble era is coming to an end … and the kind of “soap opera” as we have known it will be disappearing forever.

    I wrote this for people who might not even realize there is a show called AS THE WORLD TURNS, so please forgive some of the information we all know by heart … I guess I am just here to say goodbye, and thank you Connie/Marlena, for ALL these years of criticism for the thinking soap fan!

    Elegy for the End of the “World”

    by Michael Bird

    “Good morning, dear.”

    Those were the first words spoken by actress Helen Wagner, who portrayed matriarch Nancy Hughes until her death earlier this summer, on the afternoon of April 2, 1956 as CBS-TV premiered the first 30-minute daytime drama live from New York City – AS THE WORLD TURNS.

    A production of Cincinnati soap and cleaning products giant Procter and Gamble – the company that gave this genre its nickname – ATWT was a creation of Irna Phillips, who had written and created the most successful soap operas of the radio era, such as THE GUIDING LIGHT.

    The residents of fictional Oakdale, Illinois, were live on November 22, 1963, when Walter Cronkite broke into a scene between Nancy and Grandpa Hughes to announce that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. And until the late 1970s, ATWT was still performing each episode live. It ends its life next week, with the final episode taped at Brooklyn’s JC Studios.

    ATWT was the number-one soap opera on television its first two decades, and was the first soap featured on TV GUIDE’s cover in 1971; original daytime vixen, Lisa, portrayed by Eileen Fulton, starred in her own prime-time spinoff series, OUR PRIVATE WORLD, in 1965; comedienne Carol Burnett even parodied the program on her variety show with “As the Stomach Turns”. The tragedies and triumphs of the Hughes and Stewart families carried the first quarter-century of ATWT, and if CBS wanted to be known as Tiffany network, then AS THE WORLD TURNS was among its crown jewels.

    The few crazy years of competition with rival ABC’s youth-oriented “run-and-gun” soaps are not the most notable in show history, although these years did produce memorable storylines that featured future megastars like Meg Ryan, Marisa Tomei, and Julianne Moore.

    For many viewers, however, the program’s golden age began in 1985 with the appointment of actor-turned-writer Douglas Marland to the post of Head Writer. Marland re-established the supremacy of the Hughes and Stewart families while adding the Snyder family as a representation of his own life growing up on a Midwestern farm. He refused to let plot devices drive storylines; rather, with actor and audience input, allowed stories to develop from character.

    Saying goodbye to an extended Oakdale family that I’ve been watching for virtually my entire life is proving difficult in these last days. I have been there for all the kidnappings, evil twins, back-from-the-dead spouses, and baby switches all these years. I also learned a lot about Alzheimer’s disease, rape, HIV/AIDS, discrimination, and alcoholism along the way. ATWT was an escape, but it was also an education.

    I have also witnessed some powerhouse acting – Larry Bryggman as John Dixon, Elizabeth Hubbard as Lucinda Walsh, Don Hastings as Bob Hughes, Colleen Zenk as Barbara Ryan, Maura West as Carly Tenney, Kathryn Hays as Kim Hughes, Michael Park as Jack Snyder, and many, many more who made my daily trip to Oakdale such a worthwhile visit.

    I could boycott Bounty, stop doing dishes with Dawn, or never pop a Pringles can again, but how will holding a grudge against P&G products bring back my beloved show? It can’t, and it won’t.

    As the last day draws ever closer, it marks not only the demise of my soap opera habit but of the true soap opera era. Procter & Gamble, the inventor of the soap opera, is giving them up permanently. Love and family in the heart of America, as one reviewer called ATWT, is passing us by.

    Irna Phillips should be recognized as a legend for her creation, a uniquely American institution that defined the genre and provided 13,858 episodes of quality drama to an audience of millions. We will never see these episodes on DVD sets; books will not be written about these characters. What has happened these past 54 years in Oakdale will fade into the mists of television memory.

    Perhaps Irna Phillips had it right when she wrote the epigram for the series in 1956: “as the world turns, we know the bleakness of winter, the promise of spring, the fullness of summer and the harvest of autumn – the cycle of life is complete. What is true of the world, nature, is also true of man – he too has his cycle.”

    Michael Bird is a band director for Tallassee City Schools in Tallassee, Alabama. The final episode of “As the World Turns” will air Friday, September 17th at 1:00 p.m. on CBS.

    Marlena says: Thanks for sending this Michael, my dear old friend. Tres bien!!!!!!

  7. Thanks for the uplifting, positive piece about ATWT.

    GL and ATWT will always be MY shows. Although I haven’t been very faithful the last few years I have such fond memories of the show. (And, I really enjoyed reading Tess’s memories — she and I share so many of the same warm and fuzzy thoughts about ATWT.)

    When I was about 9 or 10 I got totally hooked on GL. I would come home from school and watch with my mom as she got ready to leave for work. Many of the stories and characters pulled me in and got me hooked. I remember becoming pretty obsessed over Kelly and Morgan (I still love both of those actors!)

    I always watched ATWT in the summer, and on days when school let out early, etc. By high school I was equally hooked on both shows and recorded them every day with a VCR I had saved up paper route money to buy.

    I watched pre-Marland (and really liked the show a lot) but got SO sucked in with his stories. I didn’t know it at the time — didn’t really know anything about him. Later I realized that he was man who had sucked me into GL and then made ATWT must-see viewing for me for many years through high school, college, and beyond.

    Marland really is a hero to me.

    I’ve been comforted, a bit, over the years just knowing that GL and ATWT were there. Knowing that I could see Kim, Bob, Susan, Lucinda, Barbara, etc. whenever I wanted to.

    It makes me incredibly sad to lose that comfort and to lose bits of Americana that have been so important to me over the years.

    Marlena says: Thanks, {{Bob}}

  8. I only started watching ATWT about 9 years ago, and although my viewing has been hot or miss, depending on what is going on in my life, when I heard the news that this show was being cancelled it hit me in a physical way.
    I still can’t believe, as I watch it now, that in one week it will be gone. The stories have been rushed recently, for obvious reasons, but the writing hasn’t suffered and most especially the acting hasn’t suffered-everything has such a sense of urgency to it, the tears more real.
    I am struck by the difference between GL and ATWT in their final days-as GL felt like a crazy mess, ATWT still feels like a love story between the show and the audience.
    My partner thinks I am a bit crazy right now as I can’t seem to stop talking about “the end of an era”, “a loss for all of us”. It’s true. The stories, characters, the escape and the joy are being replaced by something that you can already get on many other channels, without a care in the world, it seems.
    Overwhelming is the word I could use in place of this whole entry. That is how it feels.

    Marlena says: I feel overwhelmed too Daniel! xo on our loss!

  9. Is it true as the world turns never lost it Quilty after Douglas Marland death?

    Marlena says: Although we miss Douglas terribly, I think the show has lived on in quality.

  10. @ Marlena: Hi, Marlena! A great review! My late friend, Charles Frederick Paul, was the original musical director and organist of ATWT. I’ve established a tribute channel on YouTube to honor him, and to honor my late organ teacher, one of Charlie’s colleagues, Eddie Layton.

    My first visit to the set of ATWT was on December 20, 1971 for the live production of Episode #4068. At the time, Jane House was still playing Liz Stewart. Liz was killed off around 1973 with Judith McGilligan in the role.

    By the way, do you ever hear from John Kelly Genovese? I would love to get back in touch with him.

    @Michael Bird: If you’re curious as to what transpired during the rest of the November 22, 1963 ATWT episode, the Paley Center for Media (in NYC and Beverly HIlls) has a videotape of a kinescope of the full episode. The live episodes of ATWT ended in the spring of 1975, in preparation for the show’s expansion to an hour daily on December 1, 1975.

  11. Soapluvva … so good to hear from you again! Some years back you e-mailed me a scan of the original Charles Paul score to the theme from “As the World Turns” — in the key of C, for organ, I believe, later changed to D for the orchestrated version.

    Anyway, I lost my printed copy, and my email, and have wondered for years if I’d ever see your posts again. I guess we’re all here to say goodbye to ATWT and the P&G era of soap operas … it’s going to be a sad week.

    To Daniel: What a lovely way to say it! ATWT is indeed a love story between the show and the audience! These last days of references to Bay City and Springfield … dialogue that mentions worlds turning … I think they know how special this passing is, and what it means to their longtime viewers, so I am hoping for some more of what we have been seeing as the last week is now upon us.

  12. I’ve watched ATWT off and on since I was about ten years old, back in the day when I would sit with my great-great grandmother as she watched her “stories.” I remember the days when Eileen Fulton was the Susan Lucci of her day — so big a soap star that she was given her own nighttime soap to headline!

    Supercouples? ATWT invented them before we knew what to call them: Penny and Jeff. Steve and Betsy. Margo and Tom. Lucinda and John. Lily and Holden. Susan and Larry. Molly and Jake. Jessica and Duncan. Bob and Kim. Barbara and Hal. Barbara and Henry. Luke and Noah. Luke and Reid.The thing that I will remember most about ATWT were the love stories, those beautiful, frustrating, moving tales that back in the day unfolded ever so slowly and thoughtfully and had you on the edge of your seat, reaching for your tissue or yelling at your tv set (“KISS HER ALREADY!!!!!!) Remember the days when just a kiss between your favorite couple was exciting and took forever and was something to be savored and definitely not to be missed? (Thank you Doug Marland!) Even though I haven’t watched this show daily in quite a long time, I am going to miss not knowing I could tune into it at any time to catch up on old friends, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. But we will always have our memories — and youtube. I know I posted this video once before, but for old times sake and in honor of some of ATWT’s most memorable romantic couples/moments, please excuse me if I post it again along with a couple of others:

    Marlena says: Thanks Renee xo

  13. WARNING: I’ll be referring to lots of Emmy notes. But for good reason: “As the World Turns” was a highly accomplished, artistic serial. And I want to give it some proper due (despite the fact that giving it “proper due” is a logistically impossible task). I’m sorry the end has arrived. And I am grateful to series creator Irna Phillips and to everyone in front of, and behind, the camera who kept this series alive for five and a half decades. There is no sufficient way for me to say “thank you!”

    I began watching “As the World Turns” (CBS, 1956–2010) in 1984, when Christian LeBlanc (Emmy winner as Michael on “The Young and the Restless”) and future Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (1992’s best supporting actress in “My Cousin Vinny”) were appearing in roles that had no future (they were both written out no long thereafter).

    Winner of the first-ever best-actress Emmy (in 1974, for NBC’s “The Doctors”), Elizabeth Hubbard’s Lucinda was new to the series, and playing daughter Lily was Lucy Deakins (who, a short while later, would get replaced by Martha Byrne).

    One of the soaps’ all-time greatest acting talents, Larry Bryggman (as Dr. John Dixon) had just won the show’s first-ever best-actor Emmy. And, though he had left “ATWT,” Justin Deas won his first (of, thus far, six) Daytime Emmys (in supporting actor), as one of the many Tom Hughes[es]. And Margaret Colin, who would become Deas’s wife after having played his mate onscreen, had just left the role of Margo and was replaced by Hillary [Bailey/B.] Smith (who, of course, later moved on to her Emmy-winning Nora on “One Life to Live”).

    All these years later, it’s difficult to remember “details” of what [stories were] on the screen in the summer of 1984. (I recall one of Lisa’s husbands had just been murdered. And John was dealing with a failed marriage.) But my favorite storyline from the 26 years that gave me opportunity to appreciate “ATWT” was the complicated and thoughtful Kim/Bob/Susan love triangle. It played out during the 1990–91 season — arguably “ATWT’s” best (good enough for its second, of four, best-drama Emmys!) — as Kathryn Hays, Don Hastings, and Marie Masters were sublime. The affair between Bob and Susan began while Kim was looking out for her (and John’s) alcoholic son, Andy. Each actor delivered at an award-caliber level, and it was too bad not one of the three were ever Emmy-nominated (though Masters did get credit with “ATWT’s’ first two writing prizes, in 2001 and 2002; she is, of course, momma to composer/musician Jesse Harris, the 2002 Song of the Year Grammy winner for Norah Jones’s “Don’t Know Why”).

    Perhaps one story others would consider better also involved Kim. I’m referring to the 1985–86 season and with the serial killer Douglas Cummings (John Wesley Shipp, in an Emmy winning performance). Doug was courting Kim’s daughter, Frannie (future film star Julianne Moore, herself a 1988 Emmy winner for “ATWT”), but was secretely obsessed with Kim. A disturbing storyline, exquisitely executed much through the supreme writing of Doug Marland (also responsible for the Kim/Bob/Susan story).

    These last, say, five years of soaps have seen serials display what seems no more than a dozen regular characters (even though more are in their employ). And I had the fortune of enjoying one-hour serials, like “ATWT,” when the structure called for about 30 contractual cast members [for each soap]. More effective in rotating the casts, and with a better sense of community, I was most impacted by “ATWT” during the Douglas Marland years. It’s too bad Marland never won an Emmy for his “ATWT” writing (despite two for CBS’s “Guiding Light,” in 1981 and 1982) because he was the most critical piece to “ATWT’s” glorious success that coincided with the last [est.] 10 years of his life. He died in March 1993, a period I remember very well as cast mate Michael David Morrison (as Caleb) succumbed to a drug overdose in February 1993. A harrowing period for “ATWT” while it was a creative high.

    I’m grateful to the performances by its cast. Among the unforgettables: Byrne’s double take on Lily and Rose (a richly earned 2001 best-actress Emmy!); Ellen Dolan’s rape story for Margo (1992–93 best-actress nomination; her onscreen hubby Scott Holmes, as Tom, should’ve contended for best actor); all the players in the Snyder clan, particularly Lisa Brown (Iva), Jon Hensley (Holden), and Kathleen Widdoes (Emma); Eileen Fulton’s brilliant 1995–96 period, when her Lisa sued John over malpractice contributing to the death of her spouse (too bad Fulton didn’t snare a best-actress nod as she was the pick from both “TV Guide’s” Michael Logan and myself); and the last decade of work that highlighted the electric pairing of Michael Park’s Jack and Maura West’s Carly — well-deserved Emmys for both (particularly with the soulful Park — whose 2010 win coincided with the second for West — made the winners’ circle just in the nick of time!).

    It’s tough having to say good-bye to “As the World Turns.” One year ago, we all had to do the same with “Guiding Light.” And when one considers the longevity of this all-American genre of the broadcast network soap operas … it seemed unimaginable, ten years ago, that any of them would actually go. Some of these serials (like with “GL”) have had a longer lifespan than some less-fortune individuals. (I know from personal experience.) So it’s an amazing note that they not only survived but thrived for years, decades, and generations. I am hoping — with ABC’s recent announcement of transforming 42-year-old “One Life to Live” to HD (an important investment; after which only CBS’ “The Bold and the Beautiful” needs the upgrade) — that no other serials (of the remaining six) get the pink slip anytime in the next year, two, or three. We need this genre!

    Marlena says: Thanks {{DSO}}

  14. Nicholas Ryan says:

    I just finished watching the last episode of As the World Turns! From that first day I started to watch with my Nan in 1973, you became a close initimate friend. For a lonely alienated young boy the Hughes and Stewerts became family and friends! Through the great heights, the maudlin and the ridiculous you never lost your heart and soul-unlike other shows (most notably Guiding Light and All My Children) within the genre. Goodbye old dear friend! You will be remembered fondly! You will be missed!

    Marlena says: xxoooo Nick

  15. I hate to see the loss of these beloved soap cause I was always a big fan of the CBS lineup. To know ATWT was #1 for 20 yrs almost is a big time accomplishment where there were almost 20 soaps on the air back then. I didn’t watch the show a whole lot but I did like all the veterans they did have when I watched. I loved the characters of Kim, Lisa, Lucinda, and Bob. I would catch glimpses of it more when Luke came out.

    I must say ATWT and GL had good finale weeks. They sent them off in class with both shows. Now, I guess the Bell Soaps must anchor CBS now. Only in essence 60 min of daytime on CBS a day minus the commericals.

    However, I am glad we were apart of these two soap operas. I was proud to be in a generation where I could watch these soaps since a kid. Future generations may never get to experience characters like ATWT and GL had and that is a shame.

    But yet for all of us watching soaps now, we still have youtube and all the enduring memories to share.

    You can’t help but shed a tear no matter what soaps you watch (or in my case tons with GL).

    No matter what we will keep daytime alive in some form or fashion!

    Marlena says: Thanks {[Levi}}

  16. Marlena!! It’s been too long, and it’s fitting it’s on the last day of ATWT. Haven’t watched a soap in ages, nor read a recap, but 5 mins into the final episode so many many memories rush back. Not just of the show but my life. And that is the power and beauty of soaps – if you are a fan, the evolution of our lives is twined with the evolution of the soap’s characters. No other genre, except the evening news, and maybe Oprah, can say that.
    So I shed tears, and like you with your beautiful and moving tribute, remember the goodness of soaps. No recriminations. The World never stops turning. 🙂

    Marlena says: {{Renee!!!!!!}}

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