Let's just eliminate all the bullshit, shall we?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

As The World Turns

(The cast, circa 2000)
I heard the news yesterday that CBS is going to pull the plug on the daytime soap opera,
AS THE WORLD TURNS. This may seem inconsequential to many, but it saddened me a bit.
The show has been on the air for 54 years, and I have been a fan of the show for nearly 35 of those years.

My grandmother was my closest ally as a child. We spent the days together, and later when I started school, we spent the afternoons and summers together. Watching her stories was a part of the ritual. She was a strictly CBS gal, but As The World Turns was our mutual favorite.

There's something very magical about the consistency and familiarity of something you do nearly every single day. Most of us don't see our loved ones five days a week! This show, in addition to being a connection to my grandmother, was a substitute for friends and family that didn't exist for an outsider like me. (I think that appeal is one reason there's such a high gay fan base for soaps.)

I formed attachments to these characters, these actors, who grew up alongside and in front of me. I'm not psychotic; I know it's a t.v. show, but it's entertainment and consolement that has propped me up during dark times. Not everybody can afford a shrink. Not everybody has a large and warm circle of friends. For some of us, the habitual nature of spending an hour a day with others can only be fulfilled through a TV broadcast.

(Cyndi Lauper guests with super couple
Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann.)
I think about all the times that my loneliness and disconnectedness were assuaged by a character or storyline (which of course meant that the writers behind it cared enough to write it, and the actors involved cared enough to give it their all; so somebody out there did care!)
The current Luke and Noah storyline has been an amazing resource for gay and lesbian kids the world over. I remember all the times through the years that the show braved criticism and did positive gay-themed story lines. The friendship between Hank (a gay man) and Paul (a straight young man) in the 1980s was incredible.

I have spent Thanksgivings and Christmases sitting in front of the tube with my surrogate family, when otherwise I would have been alone. Feeling better as they laughed and celebrated, feeling comforted when they went through hardships with resolve and gumption. It seems as though I have always gotten what I 'needed' at any given time from the show. Funny how that works out.

(Tamara Tunie, left, and Martha Byrne & Elizabeth Hubbard
are just a few of the phenomenal actors who hit it out of the park daily under demanding
The show's cancellation comes at a time when the popularity of soaps has hit a bad low. Too many different media draws on the public's attention? To many of the old school fans dying off or moving on? Who's to say? I think that nearly 3 million people a day watching a show is pretty decent numbers. (Those stats don't even account for the untold millions who watch a friend's tape, watch it en masse in nursing homes and college cafeterias and business offices, or those of us who watch online at YouTube.)
The world's changing. We see the familiar and the previously constant being altered or lost all the time. But with a matter like this, where there is such a level of intimacy formed through daily connection with mostly the same people over so long a period of time...it really stuns and shocks. I'll take whatever criticism others wish to launch over my vulnerability on this; it's a loss, and it saddens me.

Ironic that the show's name is a poignant reminder that this is, at the end of the day, just more
of life's changing aspects. It is what it is. But there's always a grief process when losing someone or something close to you. The older you get, the longer you've come to depend on something, the more you experience losses in general...well, you know.

(John Hensley, another long-term fave)
I think about all the wondrous actors on the show, many of whom are underrated and under appreciated due simply to the lingering stigma of soaps, and not in any way reflecting their tremendous talent. I think of them and the huge crew having to find work, all at once, in this time. It took a lot of skilled people to put out a show of this sort on a regular basis; all the set designers and directors and writers and hair/make-up folks. All completely knocked for a loop by this message, in the midst of the Holidays.

I think of all the elderly people who have already lost friends and family to illness and death--people who are isolated and lonely and have depended on this show for almost five and a half decades; what will they do now? There is a definite transference that takes place with such implied intimacy. That's hard to lose.

The program has produced a multitude of actors that have gone on to build careers in movies; Meg Ryan, Dana Delaney, Julianne Moore, Parker Posey, John Wesley Shipp, Lauryn Hill, and countless others.

The phenomenal Lesli Kay.

There have been disagreements and politics and dry spells and bad writing and all the usual suspects of conflict and lacking serenity that come with any family. You can't please everyone all the time, and you certainly can't approve of everything a loved one does with their life, and that's true of the show as well. But at the end of the day, it was the strengths and good points that I always recall. All the fond memories that these talented showmen provided me with.

So many of the cast have their magnificent artistic talents at work in a variety of fields already, doing Broadway, singing in night clubs, producing Cd's, starring in films and other t.v., appearing in commercials, showing in galleries.....I wish them continued success.

I would be horribly remiss in neglecting someone's name if I tried to list all the great actors who have made the show work through the years, but I would like to say a few "Thank yous" to some personal favorites, such as Ed Fry, Marie Masters, Ellen Dolan, Don Hastings, Kathryn Hays, Helen Wagner, Scott Bryce, Margaret Colin, and so many more...including all the folks pictured here. This show would not mean what it did if not for such a dedicated ensemble group of talent.

(Elizabeth Hubbard; you are a natural wonder!)

(Eileen Fulton and Colleen Zenk Pinter indulge in a delicious bitch-fest!)***********************************************************************************

So, for now it's all over but the shouting. I can only hope that the show gets a send-off deserving of its cast and viewers. The expectation of such a task may prove too great to deliver on; perhaps it's best to simply savor great memories. But hopefully the writers will toss us a bone and remember some of the history that has made the show so beloved.

Thanks for the memories.


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