Monday, September 13, 2010

As the World Turns, 1956 - 2010

1956 to 2010. That's quite an astonishing run for a television program. It is a feat to be applauded. It is an entertainment legacy to celebrate. However, as with last year's cancellation of (The) Guiding Light, the ending of the program leaves a bitter taste for fans.

Also created by Irna Phillips, As the World Turns was, along with The Edge of Night, the first of the soaps to be broadcast in 30 minute episodes. The Hughes, the Stewarts, the Lowells captured hearts and imaginations, and dedicated viewers for generations.

Kathryn Hayes (Kim), Don Hastings (Bob), Greg Marx (Tom), Hillary Bailey Smith (Margo)
Don McLaughlin (Chris), Helen Wagner (Nancy)
Julianne Moore (Franny) and Scott DeFreitas (Andy)

Soap fans appreciate a strong cast. By necessity, personalities drive many of the stories. Even the best of writers are going to dry up when trying to provide episodes for an hour (the show went to an hour in 1975), 5 days a week. A solid mix of experienced performers and youngsters who can take the opportunity and run with it make for exciting - almost theatrical television.

Note the Christmas tree in this cast photo. The weddings, the births, the funerals and the holidays made the characters and their travails important moments in the days of viewers.

Isn't this a fabulous photo? Who else remembers Lisa's Mom and Susan's Mom? Our "Aunt" Charlotte used to say "Oh, that John Dixon is a devil!" We all agreed and we all loved Larry Bryggman.

It's a rare thing to see a "soap" get a TV Guide cover. Apparently, the time of day in which a program aired was important in the hierarchy of entertainment. That would change with the advent of VCRs when people could choose their own timing.

However, that change in viewer's habits frightened television and program executives. They ran scared and in an effort to gain a new viewership, ignored the old. Ratings slipped and viewers were blamed for deserting the show. A look at any internet message board would have told them that the fans were still there, but the fans had had enough. Fans practically begged for stories where history of plot and consistency of character were honoured. Fans practically begged for a glimpse of cherished, veteran performers.

What we got were recasts in name only ("we're going in a different direction with the character), promises of storylines for veterans (Bob gets sick on Tuesday and forgotten about by Thursday). Gimmicky summer mysteries (a slasher on the loose at a camp for teens!) and SORAS'ed (soap opera rapid aging syndrome) teenagers making out at the Snyder pond.

I believe it is the lack of listening to the fans, and the proliferation of SPOILERS that have brought about the decline in viewership. There is still a place for the continuing story arc in entertainment. Most of the popular primetime series of today emulate that model.

Eventually the bitterness will fade and fans will check out clips on YouTube to relive favourite stories and moments that are as real to us as anything we've experienced. However, right now, during the last week of As the World Turns we hang on every last moment and curse the people who took a cherished storytelling legacy and let it die.

Farewell Lisa, Bob, Kim, Susan, James, Barbara, Lucinda, John, Tom & Margo, Lily & Holden. Good-bye to the all the stories told and all the stories untold.


  1. thanks for posting this. i watched ATWT every day for over 25 years. it is my favorite soap opera after the campy and spooky DARK SHADOWS & PASSIONS. i hold a place in my heart for all the actors who've passed through Oakdale over the years.

  2. Enjoy the final few hours with your 'daytime tv' friends.

  3. Hello, Skinny Arbuckle (you can call me "Stretch"!).

    I have a long-standing fondness for the Collins folks and would applaud the work I occasionally caught on "Passions".

    I never thought I would see the decline of the daytime drama in my lifetime.

  4. Novabreeze, even my enjoyment is tempered by some of the truly awful story wrap-ups that have been provided.

  5. I applaud anything/anyone older than me. Bravo ATWT!

  6. Yes sir, BriGuy, there's a lot to be said for longevity or, as Ed Begley put it: "Outliving the other b********."

  7. This is so smart and spot-on. Love! You might also like my take on the Huff Post: and Salon: So sad right now.

  8. Jennifer, thanks for the compliment. Also, thanks for the link. I'm getting lost (in a good way) reading your stuff.

    I married in 1988 and hubby & I would watched the taped episodes together. Those were golden years for the show. I'd watched it since I was a kid in the 60s. This is a tough loss.

  9. Nicely said. Will TV execs ever learn?



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