Many longtime soap viewers of All My Children are probably going through a bit of withdrawal now that the series has been off the air for ten days on the ABC Television Network! So we asked, longtime and ardent AMC fan, Karen Aegerter, to keep a personal diary from the day of the network finale and the the first week that AMC was no longer on our TV screens. What follows is this viewer’s story and connection to the citizens of Pine Valley, and how she honestly tried to handle the disappearance of her beloved show!
Diary of a Mad Soap Fan by Karen Aegerter
Like most people, I have endured a multitude of changes in four decades. My family moved at least 18 times during my 12 years of school. My brother, mother, and father have since passed away, I’ve married and divorced, raised a child alone, put him through college, and have had at least 3 major career changes, relocated from the West to the East Coast and back again and endured multiple surgeries and health issues. The one constant in my life has always been All My Children. From the very first time I stayed home from school sick and watched Erica Kane in black and white, with her dreams of Hollywood and Fame, I was hooked. In high school my two closest friends also watched the ABC soaps, and since this was pre-VCR days, we used to take turns every week feigning illness to stay home and watch the soaps. We’d update each other the next day, so between the 3 of us, we only missed 2 episodes a week.
Although there were long periods of time where I was too busy with life and drifted away from Pine Valley, I always knew that it was there whenever I needed to come back for a visit, which I inevitably did. Once the VCR came along, I taped it over and over until it was so worn out that the picture was warped. The best thing to ever come along since Pine Valley was the DVR, and once I had one, I wondered how I ever lived without it! There was no longer any reason to miss my daily escape to Pine Valley. Fast-forward to April 12, 2011.
I caught Susan Lucci at a book signing where I waited in line for over an hour to meet her. She was warm and kind and she assured every fan that AMC was on solid ground because ABC executives assured her they were committed to the show’s success. Just 2 days later came the breaking news of the AMC/OLTL cancellations! The next 5 months I spent wishing that September 23rd wouldn’t come so fast, but watching the calendar push forward at warp speed. Fast-forward to AMC fans’ “Black Friday” or as I like to call it, THE AMC APOCALYPSE.
Friday, September 23
DAY OF THE APOCALYPSE
Dear Diary: I can’t believe it’s the last day of AMC. I am in complete denial. As I head over to my cousin’s to watch the last episode with the only other person who understands what this day means, I feel disconnected and numb. She has Kleenex boxes strategically placed around the living room in anticipation of a flood of tears. We chat nervously for a few minutes until it starts. We fall completely silent and are captivated by the opening clips.
We break out into chatter at each commercial break. I become disgruntled because ABC has actually had the nerve to include their promos for that nasty new cooking show with the ridiculous name not worthy of repeating. How could they disrespect all the loyal and heartbroken AMC fans like that? No shame, whatsoever! I watch the clock tick away so quickly and I don’t want it to end. And then it does. Just like any other cliffhanger Friday…a shot rings out, screen fades to black. No fanfare. What just happened? No tears have been shed. I wept uncontrollably at each of the last 10 episodes, yet now I have none. My cousin is equally dry-eyed. Is it just denial, or were we left high and dry (pun intended)? I drive home and contemplate…how will I adjust next week? There is no Monday episode to come back to after my busy weekend plans. There is NO MONDAY EPISODE…I repeat the words in my head like a mantra. Whatever happens in the subsequent week days, there is no escaping to Pine Valley. How will it change life as I know it after all these years, knowing my one constant is gone?
Monday, September 26, 2011
Weekday 1, Post-AMC Apocalypse
Dear Diary: Well, I had a really fun weekend with friends and there were so many distractions, I was too busy to think about the reality of today. I had a dream last night about meeting a few of the cast members of AMC. I was in discussions with Jacob Young, hoping to do some writing for him. I was going to a dinner at an upscale restaurant in Beverly Hills with him, and other cast members, and it was somehow related to the local morning news show I watch every day. 5am I open my eyes; I have the thought that it is Monday, followed by the thought of when I will watch AMC. Will I have time to watch it in real time, or should I DVR it for later? Oh. It’s gone. There is no AMC today… tomorrow…or ever? At that thought, I decide to close my eyes and go back to sleep and pretend it isn’t so. For two more hours I manage to avoid reality by sleeping.
7am: I can no longer put it off, it’s time to get up and start my day. Once again, I think about Pine Valley and where it will fit into my day. Again, it is squashed and I quickly go on to focus on all the other tasks of the day and everything that doesn’t remind me of what’s missing. Throughout the morning my mind continues this recurring dance, looking at the clock and thinking of noon in Pine Valley, remembering it is gone.
That lovely little suburb of Philly where the police never catch the bad guys, the townsfolk go all vigilante and nobody ever stays in jail even when they are caught, convicted, or have confessed. Where the beach is inexplicably close, despite the fact that the only shore is that of the Delaware River and the closest beach is actually a whole state over, at least a 3 hour drive for anyone else in Philly, with the possible exception of the neighbors in Llanview, but they tend to head to the mountains anyway. My beloved “Team Slater,” the Chandler Mansion, those Kane women, Janet from another Planet, Dr. Death… those goofy Martin brothers…all of which comprised my daily 1 hour escape (40 min. if I DVR) conspicuously absent from this Monday.
I’m still in denial, as if it is just a holiday. I’m not even angry, as I always was when I’d fight LA traffic to get home only to find that some “breaking news” like storm watch, or a car chase have pre-empted my soap just as something really exciting was about to happen. Oh, the countless times I have screamed obscenities at my TV before frantically calculating in my head if the East Coast would have been affected by the breaking news or not. Then I could catch SoapNet at 8pm and be forced to watch in real time. I’d be inconvenienced, but I could live with it.
Can I live with this? I suppose I don’t have much choice. I can’t spend every day shouting obscenities at my TV for not delivering my show. The neighbors might tell the local authorities. I’d be hauled off to the jail, and then who would feed my cats? They don’t care how many obscenities I shout at the television, as long as they get fed. The youngest was fond of snuggling on the couch and watching the soaps after he’d eaten. How this will affect HIS life!! He may eventually be driven to watching Snookie or some other equally horrendous!
I have today’s episode of OLTL sitting in my DVR, but somehow I can’t bring myself to watch it without having it follow an AMC episode. I contemplate watching Friday’s finale of AMC again, and then OLTL, but I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet. While I certainly don’t compare the magnitude of losing a soap to the loss of a real life family member, I am certainly recognizing the parallels to the sense of loss in my life, and the phases of the grief process itself. Four decades with my faux family of Pine Valley…how long with the healing process take? Is there a formula to calculate like when a relationship ends? Is it one-quarter of the total duration? I hope not.
Tuesday, September 27
Day 2: Post-AMC Apocalypse
Dear Diary: Again, I woke up earlier than planned, opened my eyes, shooed the kitten away from the blinds, rolled over and dozed back off. This time, however, I didn’t think about AMC. The first time I realized my loss was not until I heard on TV a mention of their regular scheduled program, an hour after getting up. The local TV station is showing the Michael Jackson murder trial, and I, of course am sucked into the drama from the D.A.’s opening statements. I am surprised that so much time passed before my awareness of loss, on this, only the second day. I attribute this to the ongoing sense of denial, where I continue to reside. Eventually the numbness will wear off and reality will slap me in the face repeatedly until it hurts. How long before the onset of the anger phase? I was unnecessarily irritated by everyone and everything around me today. Nothing especially bad happened; I just felt my tolerance level for normal everyday life stress completely evaporate. I attribute this to typical physical ailments, but will later re-think that assessment.
It is said when you experience a loss of great magnitude (IE: the death of a loved one) coping with the usual traditions that included them is too painful and it is important to make new traditions and revise the existing ones by changing the venue and some of the specific tasks that go along with them.
I suppose rather than avoiding OLTL, I should adapt my viewing habits. I usually would change into my pajamas, make dinner and curl up with a kitty in front of the TV. I think tomorrow I will try something different. The problem is, my life has already been completely uprooted in the last few months and everything’s already changed. I lost my job 3 months ago, moved out of my apt in the city and into a family-owned house in the suburbs. How can I change my habits when they are already unrecognizable?
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Day 3: Post AMC-Apocalypse
Dear Diary: Working around the house today, feeling painfully aware of 12pm, but keeping busy with all the things I need to be doing instead of focusing on the big, gaping, crater-sized hole in my day. Having the TV on as a back drop is a staple of my multi-tasking when I’m at home. I need multiple sources of stimuli to function at my highest level. Singularly, I lose interest, focus and ultimately, consciousness. As a complete contradiction to myself, I must have singular task focus to function in any external environment, like at work. I’m unable to shut out any kind of noise from crows squawking outside my office window, or co-workers’ conversations. I suppose there’s some sort of survival skill in this, but I couldn’t really say what.
I still keep contemplating watching the AMC, finale show, or any of the nine shows stored in my DVR. When I visualize it, I smile and like the idea in theory, but I can’t seem to do it. There’s no good excuse, I just keep coming to the conclusion I’m not ready. Like the death of a loved one, you want to go in and go through their closet, pack up the stuff you don’t want to keep, call Salvation Army, but it’s still too raw to deal with yet. Perhaps I should go schedule a root canal and do my taxes first.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Day 4: Post AMC Apocalypse
Dear Diary: Another busy day where I managed to keep myself distracted for a good portion of it. I woke up in a good mood, dug into the day’s plans, made it at least 3 hours into my day before I realized that AMC is still gone. I strategically scheduled a late morning coffee meeting for 11:30 so the noon witching hour was filled with conversation at Starbuck’s and not even a taste of AMC withdrawals. Instead, I found myself completely hopped up on caffeine and sugar, bouncing off to my next appt with no time to stop and stare at the clock, television or DVR.
After a holiday dinner with family, I get home way past feeding time at the zoo (aka dinner time for the 3 cats) so first things first. I’m running around the house doing things that I have been putting off, like half-finished craft projects and all the stuff from my daily to-do list that usually doesn’t make the cut—heck–I even clean the litter boxes 12 hour early. Do you think I am in avoidance mode? I haven’t even sat down in front of my television, which is unheard of for me on any given night. I did have it on tonight while I was painting, but much like avoiding eye contact with someone you do not want to confront, it’s been nothing more than a background noise in the next room. It’s past midnight and I’ve barely even contemplated watching today’s episode of OLTL. It’s recorded, I want to watch it in theory, but…fingers have yet to even graze the button on my remote that with those 3 letters…D.V.R.
To watch OLTL would require coming to terms with what I can’t watch, as convoluted as that sounds. Anyone whose daily routines have included both shows understands what it means to not be able to watch both. To the rest of the world, I am beginning to sound like a stark, raving lunatic!
Tomorrow marks the completion of an entire week of living in denial, which I know is not a river in Egypt. If the process continues to parallel that of the death of a loved one, I would expect my numbness to soon give way to some serious anger. As the flood gates are opened, de-“Nile” will soon over flow with rage!
Friday, September 30, 2011
Day 5 Post-AMC Apocalypse
Dear Diary: It’s officially Friday, and I should be shouting it from the roof tops. So why am I completely zapped of energy and motivation instead? Ok, I stayed up a little late last night, but I didn’t wake up super early. I’m so tired, in fact, I’m downtrodden. Don’t think I’ve ever used that word before, but that is what my mind evokes right now. I did actually watch OLTL today, and paid attention to almost all of it. I thought again about watching an AMC episode from the archives, and as usual, I didn’t do it. Today, moreso than any day this week, I am extraordinarily aware of the deep chasm that sits smack dab in the middle of my life. It’s like a vortex that sucks in all surrounding energy and life, and pulls it down to the bottom of the earth.
It’s just a TV show. Really, what does it matter in the bigger picture? I need perspective. Things could be a whole lot worse, and for many people in the world, they already are. Ok, I don’t have the right to feel sorry for myself, fair enough. So what do I do with these feelings? Maybe I channel them into something else.
Maybe instead of writing to you, dear diary, I will spend an hour every day writing imaginary story lines for the characters in Pine Valley. I’ll pretend that their story goes on and I will make it up myself. Now, if I could just get the actors to come over and play out the scenes for me. That shouldn’t be too hard, right?
I’ve hit the bargaining phase. I’m making deals that have no basis in reality, in hopes that they’ll keep me occupied. I need to get anew life. It’s a time of tremendous change. Everything in my life, and the lives of those around me, is changing. We’re all evolving and our lives are morphing into the next chapter. But, we do still have only One Life to Live!
Looking forward, I’m anticipating Prospect Park’s re-launch of AMC online early next year. I’m not sure what will be left of Pine Valley’s residents and how the storylines will work, but I will hold out hope for the best. I think JR will shoot everyone at the party except for Ryan and Cara, and then he’ll turn the gun on himself on his way out the door to CBS. Ryan will turn to Cara for comfort with the loss of Greens in the Chandler Mansion massacre. I am going to miss Pine Valley’s characters and story lines because they’ve given me a great amount of stress-relief in all forms of the seven deadly sins, adding up to one big, giant GUILTY PLEASURE!! Maybe the Michael Jackson murder trial will last until the re-launch of AMC and keep me happy. Then again, there’s not anyone beautiful and/or shirtless in the court room, so that’s not likely.
As I wander aimlessly through the Autumn months in search of an adequate substitute addiction, one burning question lingers on…”WHY ON EARTH DIDN’T STUART GET TO GO TO HIS OWN WELCOME HOME PARTY???!
Now, that you have read Karen’s diary of her first week of life post-AMC on network television, let us know how you are coping with the loss until it gets back on its feet with Prospect Park in 2012?