Friday, December 16, 2011

THE GUILTY PLEASURE OF WATCHING A SOAP OPERA

            Some people feel that admitting to watching or having watched a soap opera in one’s life is a kin to admitting that he or she lolls around eating bon bons or reading the National Enquire.  Why this is so is beyond me. On the contrary, I find that people who put down ‘the soaps’ without ever having watched one are often insecure intellectually. (They don’t seem to have a problem admitting that they watch the show, House, which is in essence a soap for those who are embarrassed to admit they watch soaps).  Truthfully, if Dickens were alive today he’d be writing for the soaps. Same with Jane Austin. Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Sammy Davis Jr. were closet, and not so closet, fans of the genre.
            Let’s go back to the original purpose of the daytime serial. It was to sell soap. Hence the term, soap opera. It had its origin in radio in the forties and by the fifties many of the shows transitioned to television. Some, such as Stella Dallas and Our Gal Friday did not. The largest sponsor of daytime serials back then was Proctor and Gamble.  Many of these shows aired in fifteen minute formats, shows such as Brighter Day and Secret Storm.  By the sixties, most had expanded to a half-hour format which eventually made its way, in some cases, to a one-hour format.
            The basic formula for most of these shows was the same. Generally the story revolved around two families: the family that was blessed with wealth but that lacked love and the family that was blessed with love but that lacked wealth. From there, all the usual trials and tribulations grew. People loved to hate the villains and empathize with the victims.  They came to feel as though they knew the characters, whether it was Erica Kane or Lucky Spencer. Were the stories convoluted?  Of course they were. Characters died and their long lost twins would appear months later. It didn’t matter. Viewers were asked to suspend their beliefs and give in to their imaginations. They were frequently rewarded with stories filled with pathos that, in many cases, reflected their own lives. This was especially true beginning in the eighties when storylines dealt with domestic abuse, alcoholism, teenage pregnancies, etc.
            I began watching soaps with my mother when I was very young. My favorite of them all was The Edge of Night.  Winner of the Edgar Awards for best mystery writing, EON would craft a story in a matter of weeks that would climax in a murder. It would take several weeks until the mystery unraveled and the murder was solved. The show was brilliantly written.
            Years later, I found myself working for P & G, writing for As the World Turns. When I challenged the continuity of a particular storyline, the producers were impressed with my knowledge of the bible (the original story on which all is based). Little did they know that my knowledge came from watching the show as a child.  When my husband, Rick, began writing music for the show Santa Barbara, we became fully entrenched in the world of soaps and made many wonderful, life-long friends. The theme that Rick co-wrote for Guiding Light aired for many years, ending months before he passed away. I never told him and the show itself was canceled shortly thereafter.  I, myself, had the opportunity to write for General Hospital in the eighties. Incidentally, I’ve watched this show for the past few years and find it to be very well written, acted, and directed. Kudos to Executive Producer, Jill Farren Phelps.
            Whether or not you got ‘hooked’ on a soap by watching along with your mother, your grandmother, or a girlfriend, whether you began watching while at college -- don’t be so ashamed to admit that, for at least a time in your life, you watched a soap.  Trust me; there are worse things to which one can be confessing.
            It’s common knowledge that many well known actors have appeared on soaps over the years.  See if you can guess which actor appeared on which show. As usual, you can scroll down for the answers when you’re finished. Good luck.

1.    Kathy Bates                                  a.   Love is a Many Splendid Thing
2.    Ryan Phillipe                                b.   Somerset
3.    Brad Pitt                                      c.   Capital
4.    Warren Beatty                             d.   Bold and the Beautiful
5.    Leonard Nemoy                          e.   General Hospital
6.    Kevin Bacon                                 f.    The Edge of Night
7.    Bette Midler                                  g.   As the World Turns
8.    Joan Crawford                              h.   Young and the Restless
9.    Macdonald Carey                          i.    Santa Barbara
10.  Robin Wright                                 j.    Passions
11.  Alec Baldwin                                 k.   The Doctors
12.  Hal Holbrook                                l.    Another World
13.  Tom Selleck                                  m.  Guiding Light
14.  Dustin Hoffman                            n.   Brighter Day
15.  Meg Ryan                                     o.   Secret Storm
16.  Donna Mills                                   p.   Search for Tomorrow
17.  Teri Hatcher                                  q.   One Life to Live
18. Georgia Engel                                 r.   Days of our Lives
19  Sigourney Weaver                          s.   Love of Life
20. Jack Wagner                                  t.   All My Children
21. Yasmine Bleeth                               u.  Ryan’s Hope













l.t; 2.q; 3.l; 4.s; 5.e; 6.m; 7.f; 8.o; 9.r; 10.i; 11.k; 12.n; 13.h; 14.p; 15.g; 16.a;
17.c; 18.j; 19.b; 20.d; 21.u  

Thanks for joining me again on RHODES LESS TRAVELED,

Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Holidays,

Vivian
                                   

7 comments:

  1. No there's nothing wrong with watching a soap operas (eg. -- this year's Republican primaries and Democrats in past years). But how can you say that admitting to watching them is akin to eating bon bons or reading the National Enquirer. The bon bons I understand. That's a stock negative image. But reading the National Enquirer? That's an informative news outlet with some of the highest paid reporters in the country. The National Enquirer broke the John Edwards scandal story (which itself was a good soap opera)! If it wasn't for the National Enquirer, I'd be dead now. I'd have died of boredom long ago standing in line at the supermarket. (OK, maybe I stand in the long checkout line just so I can read the National Enquirer. But that's exactly my point.) I'm agahast.

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  2. I grew up on All My Children - Erica Kane is my hero! I am mourning the loss of so many of our soaps... daytime TV will never be the same. I'm still keeping up with Y&R and B&B :-)

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  3. Actually I don't have a problem with either eating bon bons or reading the National Enquirer. It's lolling around doing nothing but,
    with which I have a bit of a problem. :)

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  4. Learned to Watch "GL" when my new wife and I started dating, the show was set in "Springfield" but was actually shot in Peapack Gladstone NJ not far from here. We were so excited one day when we pulled into a shopping mall in Chester to find a shoot going on and got to talk to some of the characters.

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  5. Laurie (Jamie's Mom)December 17, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    My fondest memories are when my son who is now 38 was born and I would watch All My Children and have a TV Dinner for lunch back in 1973. Thanks for the memories.

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  6. Lots of people who scorn soaps proudly watch, "Danccing with the Stars"--or other reality junk.The whole point of entertainment is to escape reality DUH! And soaps used to be the best written, most professionally acted dramas on TV. BTW, the National Enquirer broke the John Edwards story even though members of the main stream press were on his campaign plane with him and his pregnant mistress who was "in plain sight," because we have a corrupt media. They weren't going to "snitch" on Edwards. The National Enquirer is now more reliable a news source than the LA Times, the Washington Post, or the NY Times. ("It is the best of Times & the Worst of Times! (Lol)
    BTW X2 -- Marisa Tomei also started out on As the World Turns in the late '70's.

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  7. Laurie: You'd be surprised how many women began watching soaps while warming up baby food:)

    Hope your holidays are good ones, Vivian

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