Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

April 14, 2011

The End of the Soap Opera

Filed under: At home,Family — Janice @ 10:51 pm

The news came out today that ABC is canceling All My Children and One Life To Live. I heard a TV critic say that people are mourning the loss of these shows even if they haven’t watched them in years because they knew that those shows were still there if they needed them or wanted them and this makes them also mourn the time in their lives when they were involved with these shows.

I was never a regular watcher of these two shows, but hate to see the end of soap operas in general because they have been a part of television and radio since the beginnings. As campy and corny and over the top as they were, if I were forced to stay home and watch daytime television, I think I would enjoy a well told story — okay, a story– more than endless parades of judges and bitterness and accusations or diet and exercise or just interviews. Are we losing our ability to tell a story and enjoy hearing a story?

My earliest memories of soap operas were from my Mamma Williams watching them and telling us about them from time to time. I don’t think I ever watched one with her, but she did plan her days around them. She would gather up her crochet or quilting or embroidery and sit down in her easy chair, prop that bad leg up on her ottoman, and watch her “stories.” She was alone for days on end while my grandfather was trucking back and forth to Denver and I’m glad she had the soaps for company. She also had Lawrence Welk on Saturdays and “Johnny” for an hour and a half each night. She had her schedule. One of my favorite authors, Clyde Edgerton, has a book called Walking Across Egypt and the elderly woman in it also had her “stories” and I loved that character. [note: if you go to check on this book, I recommend his book Raney even more — one of my all-time favorite books]

When I was growing up, we would watch Dark Shadows when we got to stay home from school or during the summer. Not too much, of course, because Mother didn’t approve of that show, but that was the ones kids talked about at school and described the latest from Barnabas Collins when they’d been home for a day. Mackie and I began watching The Young and the Restless through some summers. It began in March of 1973 so that was the summer before Mackie was a senior and I’m sure she was ripe for what they were offering! I don’t remember too much of it.

In college, lots of the girls in the dorm gathered in the dorm TV room to watch The Young and The Restless and General Hospital. I think that was about the time that General Hospital was coming on strong. I had class in the mornings and worked at the newspaper in the afternoons so I didn’t get to participate in that rite of passage. I just had to go read the Wikipedia article about Luke and Laura to make sure what soap they were on and, yes, it was General Hospital and, almost facing cancellation, they brought it from the brink to the forefront in 1978, just as my college days were starting. I said I didn’t watch General Hospital with the girls, but I must have heard enough and passed through the living room enough or it was just so pervasive at the time that I certainly knew all that was going on in the world of Luke and Laura and Luke’s awful sister and Laura’s ex Scotty Baldwin. At some point in later years I did get caught up in that show a lot more, I know, because I think I know the characters well, but maybe not those early story lines.

When I worked in morning radio in Amarillo at the start I got to go home from work about 11 in the morning (those were the days!). There was a soap on at the time that I watched pretty regularly just to have something to do in my boring little world. I don’t remember if it was Search for Tomorrow or the Edge of Night (echo echo echo), but one of those that wasn’t as mainstream as General Hospital and Y&R. I can remember the smarmy guy that was the villain. He reminded me of Dr. Smith on Lost in Space. Just creepy. And there was a tall pretty actress that went on to be in some sitcoms and movies and I’ve searched and I can’t find who she was or what show that was. But that show and I enjoyed a nice long relationship, I remember.

When I lived in Dallas, my roommate Diane was totally hooked on Days of Our Lives. Of course by now we have VCRs! Truly one of the greatest inventions of all time. Diane worked a very hard schedule and long days, but she LIVED to come home and get to watch Days of Our Lives and follow the storyline of Crook or Crash or some one-word name like that. She would often watch the show and then rewind and watch it again. Yes, we both needed to get a life about that time. Poor Diane. I knew she had an addiction that needed to be broken. She had to go out of town for a week  for work, or maybe even two. She asked me to tape her show for her, but I told her I wouldn’t do it. Nothing ever changes on a soap in a week anyway and I didn’t want her coming home and spending five hours watching a soap opera. I trust that somewhere along the way she has gotten help and is over that addiction now. Having a baby might have cured her if nothing else did! I learned a lot about Roman and Marlena while we were watching that show with her. I just Googled “roman soap opera” and the guy that is Roman now is not the real Roman. I wonder if people realize that.

Now I’m remembering that creepy old woman that was on one of those soaps I watched. Wait a minute. Wasn’t there a creepy old woman on every soap we watched?

I hadn’t thought about soap operas at all in a long time and this has sure brought back a flood of memories. I won’t miss soap operas, I hardly realize they even exist anymore, but it certainly was an interesting era of television. When we got more than 3 channels, when we got VCRs, when we got JOBS, and, mostly, when we got the Internet to entertain us through the dullest part of the day, the soap opera didn’t stand a chance.


  1. I can’t believe all the details you can remember!! I started watching AMC (no, not the Mad Men AMC…All My Children) in college and fell in love with every character, every story, and particularly Tad. 😀 It seems like in the 80s, we all planned work lunch hours around the week when Tad came back to the show (again)…or he got married….or something. I’m like you…lots of memories (ok, mine are much fuzzier than yours) wrapped up in soaps. Dark Shadows for sure. Mammaw’s “bad leg”…that made me laugh. Mostly I remember we were BANNED from watching them growing up, and Mother never watched them either. Which should have made me a much more productive person I would think. Sadly, no. I am using my time now to catch up on all the TV I missed back then. (I think I just wrote enough for my own post.)

    Comment by Mackie — April 16, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  2. A Soaps blog is on my posts-to-finish list too but your details are fabulous. I may have to cite you instead of Wikopedia! Maybe I will just post a link to “what she said.”

    Comment by Diana Finlay Hendricks — April 24, 2011 @ 2:11 am

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