Search for Tomorrow
How my mother and her equally busy friends kept up was a simple affair. They would fill each other in on the day's events by phone if one or the others were busy. During the summer months (for my mother), breaks and holidays they would catch up with “the stories” because, well, they could catch up with them. The point here is that prior to the 70's and only until very recently, there was a prevailing sentiment among viewers and in entertainment that soaps were going to be around forever.
Don't get me wrong. My mother and her friends were not of the opinion that specific, individual shows would last always. Among others, they had seen the losses of The Brighter Day, Young Dr. Malone, From These Roots and even the demise of an entire network, Dumont, and its few soaps right along with it. Thus it wasn't the thought that a single show would last forever that was at play, but that the genre itself would be with us and they immersed themselves in the stories and shows they claimed as their own.
By the time my fidgety ass rolled up on the scene and I'd overheard untold dozens of conversations about these “stories,” I was familiar with the names of soap opera, but not the faces: Bob, Bert, Ed, Holly, Kim, Jennifer, Geraldine, Colin, Joanne, Mike & Nancy and “that devilish” Lisa. Of them all, the whole business of Nicole's daddy trying to kill her on The Edge of Night, kept coming up among my mother and her friends with a sense of urgency and palpable fear until the fateful day arrived that summer.
Upon the appointed day, I asked my mother if I could watch the show with her. She agreed. From what I remember, Adam and Nicole had already set sail on The Sprite with bomb aboard. Nicole's daddy tried to do something to let her know what was up, but was too late. The bomb went off, The Sprite went up in flames and the last images I remember are those of Adam adrift in the sea hanging on to debris screaming Nicole's name. It was all shot on location. My mother was nearly apoplectic, in tears. I was in shock and I didn't even know who these people were or everything that was really going on at the time. Although it would be several more years before I would become fully immersed in soaps, I was hooked from that moment onward.
If that all sounds vaguely familiar, it is likely that many of you came to soaps as I did at my mother's proverbial knee or, in my case, at the foot of her bed. The year for me was around 1974. It has occurred to me that we soap fans tend to recount these kinds of experiences with fond a remembrance of things past without digging just a little bit deeper to uncover what made the event so special in the first place.
For many soap fans, we recount the experience as “generational,” as if in and of itself it is a tradition passed down from parent/grandparent to children/grandchildren. Soaps are the precious family heirlooms. To hear tell it, if you could just engineer the shows today so the parents or grandparents would invest in these shows again, their children now would follow suit just like we did. There may be some truth to that, but the whole idea begs a question: of the mothers, fathers, siblings and other relatives who are currently watching the remaining soaps faithfully, why are their children and grandchildren not becoming hooked as we once were? And how, exactly would you do it if you could?
The “generational” sentiment also does not account for the millions of fans who came to soaps on their own whether in college during the whole 80's soap craze or for some other reason before that decade or since. I think there is however, a common bond among all of us who came to the soap opera as entertainment or art form, as critics or fans: when we first fell in love with soaps no matter how we came to the genre, each of us wanted to know what would happen next. (continued)