Thursday, December 10, 2009

R.I.P. As the World Turns (aka My Ode to Soap Operas)

So, I'm supposed to be studying for my last final tomorrow (side note: yay!), but I'm proscrastinating. Also, I'm saddened by the news that CBS has cancelled As the World Turns. The last episode will air September 17, 2010 after 54 years. Once upon a time, especially in late middle school through early college, I eagerly waited to see what would happen next in Oakdale.

Though I haven't regularly watched the show in a few years, I hate that the genre is slowly dying. Guiding Light went off the air this fall after a 72-year, 15,762-episode run and the future looks pretty bleak for daytime serial television. My viewing timeline of GL was very similar to that of ATWT, which is fitting since they were considered "sister" shows. And while I was sad to see GL's cancellation, it didn't hit me as hard then as ATWT's has hit me now. Maybe it was because GL was virtually unrecognizable to me by the end of its run having been reduced to out-of-studio location shoots and shaky, single-held cameras as a means to cut costs. I did tune in for the very last episodes of GL. It was like saying good-bye to a long and faithful friend. I was pleased that it ended with the annual Bauer barbecue and the reunions of some of my favorite relationships/couples, especially the four Muskateers, Mallet and Dinah, Bill and Lizzie, and, of course, Josh and Reva.

This makes me wonder what will be in store for As the World Turns' final episodes. I dearly hope it centers around core characters and families and brings together the most cherished couples. I would especially love for the final words to be spoken by Nancy Hughes, played by Helen Wagner. Wagner, the only original cast member remaining, spoke the first words on the soap ("Good morning, dear") in 1956, and it would be fitting if she spoke the last.

I know soap operas get a bad rap, but their very nature makes them so fascinating. They are a unique television medium in that they tend to go on and on creating rich, vibrant histories. This is the reason they are so very different from primetime shows and the reason fans get so into them. People who watch soaps generally grow up watching soaps with their mothers or grandmothers. I grew up watching Days of our Lives with my mother and when I got older, I branched out to other soaps. Because it's on everyday year after year, the characters become familiar and viewers become unusually invested in their lives. While soaps today have fallen mightily from the deliciously campy, adventure-filled, love-in-the-afternoon, heydeys of the '80s and the more realistic, well-written, social awareness of the '90s, I still hate to see the genre die. And though General Hospital and All My Children are especially atrocious these days, I would never want these shows canceled mainly because, misguided or not, I still have hope for them to get better and become the shows I once loved. I think daytime can be revitalized and I draw such hope from the example set by One Live to Live, which, in my opinion, is the best in daytime. It's just soapy goodness. It helps that the show has hired a head writer that seems to sincerely love and, perhaps most importantly, respect the genre. As a result, the show has experienced a rebirth in quality storytelling. OLTL isn't perfect but it's generally well-written, respectful toward its history, and integrates the entire cast and canvas.

While I wasn't entirely surprised by the decision to cancel the show (ATWT has been hanging by a thread for a while now since producer Proctor & Gamble hasn't been exactly subtle about it's desire to get out of the soap business), I was most certainly disappointed. Lately, I have been checking in with ATWT once in a while since the news broke that Paul Leyden's Simon is returning, so I would be up-to-speed when Simon stepped back into Oakdale. Though Simon and Katie were the reason I first tuned into ATWT (they are still one of my top soap couples of all time), I became fond of the other Oakdale residents and was entralled in their lives, loves, joys, and heartbreaks. If you'll indulge me, I'd like to relive some of my favorite moments/couples/storylines.

-Simon and Katie's wedding of convenience. One of the funniest, most entertaining weddings in soap history. I wish I could find a clip of it. Seriously, it's up there with, though doesn't quite surpass, Sean and Tiffany (er, Elsie May Crumholtz)'s wedding from General Hospital.

-More Simon and Katie: Halloween. The airport. Simon admits he loves Katie. Katie teases Simon with her superstitions. First Halloween anniversary. The real wedding. The cottage. Simon begs Katie to live when she flatlines after donating part of her liver to sister Margo. I really wish I could find the scenes of Simon and Katie in the opera house basement in Malta as they are probably my favorites, but alas.

-Hunt Block's snarky and dastardly Craig Montgomery. I loved Block's Craig with Cady McClain's Rosanna.

-Paul and Rose: I loved Scott Holroyd's Paul (I still prefer his Paul to Roger Howarth's version) with Rose. They just sparkled. First meeting. The gazebo. First date. Engaged.

-Trent Dawson's Henry Coleman and his hilarious, partners-in-crime-turned-best-friendship with Katie.

-Hal Munson's death. How I loved Hal. The sadness surrounding his death was exaccerbated by the fact that it resulted from his portrayer Benjamin Hendrickson's suicide. Jesse Soffer's performance as Will Munson was especially moving. I loved his entire run as Will. He was one of the best actors the show produced. And that's not damning with faint praise. This is a show that launched the careers of Meg Ryan and Julianne Moore in addition to employing one of the best casts in daytime.

-Dusty and Lucy: It started at the warehouse. Hiding. The charm. Dusty comforts Lucy at the Oakdale PD. First kiss. "I could drown in you." Dusty saves Lucy. Breakfast in bed. Courtyard break-up.

-Jack and Carly's Montana wedding and Jack is Sage's father.

-Luke comes out to Holden and Lily.

-Lucinda's cancer.

-Paul and Meg in the cabin. Before they spiraled into a mess of suck. This was also the only time I cared about Roger Howarth's Paul.

-Luke and Noah: First and second kisses. First time.

Also, some iconic memories I've only seen via YouTube.

-The fabulous Lisa Grimaldi.

-Bob and Kim.

-Julianne Moore's dual roles of Frannie and Sabrina Hughes.

-Teenaged Lily and Holden first meet in the Walsh stables. I really wish I could find the scene where Holden drops down from the loft and Lily is left speechless. That's one of the most recognizable moments from the show.

-Steve and Betsy's wedding. (Betsy Stewart was played by future America's sweetheart Meg Ryan.)

-Old school Tom and Margo, played by Justin Deas and Margaret Colin.

-Scott Bryce's vulnerable and tortured Craig Montgomery. His Craig was best with Finn Carter's Sierra and is likely Craig's best pairing period.

-Margo pulling Casey off life support.

-Jack and Carly in Teague's cabin.

I know there are plenty more, but it's hard to get them all when a show has a decades long history. Luckily (and hopefully), these will all live on via the wonder that is YouTube.

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