I wanted to give it a few days to sink in before I sat down and posted the newest entry in Michael’s Blog, since the cancellation notice was handed down to As the World Turns. When the news broke earlier this week, I was in a state of shock. Not that the show wasn’t in danger as the next soap to go on the chopping block, but that it happened at this time. After speaking with ATWT’s publicity team, it apparently took them by surprise as well. They had only known for a few days and for some not till the day the axe fell.
As the World Turns was the very first soap I ever watched (so we can all blame my lifelong soap obsession because of it). It was my mother whose then favorite show revolved around Lisa Shea, Penny, Dr. Bob Hughes, Chris and Nancy Hughes, and Ellen and David Stewart. So she would be watching, and somehow I got sucked into Oakdale. I can still remember Ethel Remey’s, Alma Miller, mother to troublemaker Lisa, who when her daughter would do something obnoxious would yelp, “Well, Lisa!” Later came the likes of Carol and Jay Stallings, Grant and Joyce Coleman (remember Barbara Rodell?) and a young, Judith Chapman as evil Natalie Bannon.
But perhaps the greatest ATWT actor to come along (and who made every storyline work and all so effortlessly) was Larry Bryggman as Dr. John Dixon, Bob Hughes’s mortal enemy. I also will never forget Henderson Forsyth who was terrific as David Stewart, and then all of a sudden was the lead in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas on Broadway! At that time, I remember thinking, “Wow, soap actors do Broadway, too?” Of course later came Gillian Spencer and Kathryn Hays as Jennifer and Kim, respectively, and Colleen Zenk Pinter (our Babs) and I could go on and on. At one time the show (at the height of its popularity) was being spoofed by Carol Burnett every week on her variety show in a ditty called, “As the Stomach Turns”. I loved the parody on soaps; gazing long looks into the camera… and the organ music!
The show did experience another renaissance when Douglas Marland revitalized Oakdale and wrote some incredible storylines involving Julianne Moore as Frannie/Sabrina, and the Doug Cummings murder, etc. And he gave us Lily Snyder… and the soap world was introduced to a young Martha Byrne who for decades would be the show’s moral center and most beloved character. Along with Byrne came the casting of a well regarded Emmy winning soap actress Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda) who can make reading the phone book sound interesting. It was through Marland that soaps and ATWT got their first gay male character in Hank, even though it was too short lived… but for its time, a step ahead.
Of course, as happened with Guiding Light, the show was on a tremendous groundswell at the time of its cancellation with outstanding and complex performances. Over the past few months we have seen interesting stories that have featured current cast members Michael Park, Terri Colombino, Julie Pinson, Maura West, Trent Dawson, Jon Hensley, Noelle Beck and Van Hansis, etc.
I believe P&G and CBS thought that in lieu of the bad taste that was left in everyone’s mouth this past April when Guiding Light was given the heave-ho, and only six months to finish up, that they perhaps wanted to handle this news a bit differently. Well, at least ATWT got nine months… a little more time for actors, crew and production people to look for other work, or figure out what the next step in their lives would be. It’s still crummy.
Many of you read the statement by Jim Romanovich in regards to if there were to be a tribute for ATWT at next year’s Daytime Emmys. And as the person who handled the Guiding Light tribute for the broadcast, I would hope that with cooperation from P&G and ATWT that a beautiful tribute package could be made, and that this time, the powers-that-be would learn from their ways and give the soap and the fans it’s just due.
Am I sad? Yes. Very. Look around us. Soaps are becoming extinct! We will be down to six. I pray to God, I won’t be saying “down to five” come spring if One Life to Live (with all the rumors circulating) is next. It was so odd to hear Ellen Wheeler being named a director for ATWT and then have it be cancelled a few days later. Will she be spearheading their exit from television as she did with GL? What is this saying? That she knows how to handle a demise of a show?
And before I end, I have to address Luke and Noah, who without a doubt had become the most popular couple in Oakdale. How nice it was that a few years ago, that a soap incorporated a young gay male couple finding each other and a romance… something that had previously not been seen on daytime. Through all the good and the bad; the missteps, the lack of airtime, bedtime, kissing time, it still captivated for a time, the consciousness of an audience whose lives were not represented. As Guiding Light, its sister soap, had done with Otalia, it started something that needed to be continued, and thus media magnet, Crystal Chapell decided to take matters in to her own hands. Maybe now it’s the boys turn. Is the male Venice just around the corner starring Van and Jake?
As the World Turns goes into its final rotation from daytime to darkness now till September 2010. It will be interesting to see if people tune-in with a big publicity push as Guiding Light had done for its finale, or if knowing so far in advance that their story is ending, if viewers will just keep tuning-out.