Soap operas are plagued with death. Some characters emerge from the grave thinking they are their psychotic, amnesiac sibling, while others drift off into the great beyond only to be resurrected as the mysterious twin no one ever knew about. But never, in their decades-long existence, did these daily serial dramas think they’d be facing the ultimate demise: theirs.
Nearly a year ago, after rumors of cancellation surfaced, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) confirmed that they were washing their hands of two beloved soap operas—All My Children and One Life to Live. Both birthed by Agnes Nixon over 40 years ago, All My Children said good-bye in September, leaving viewers with the creatively hopeful “Who’d J.R. shoot?” cliffhanger. (Thanks to SoapNet, another soon-to-be relic, I can still comprehend the beautiful irony despite the fact that I was four-years-old when Dallas ended.) And now, as Friday the 13th approaches, I (and likely thousands of others) must prepare to say good-bye to the Buchanan’s, the Manning’s, the Cramer’s, and the Balsom’s. We must bid farewell to the families that existed long before I did.
As a child, I remembered hating One Life simply because I hated their hospital rooms. The atmosphere depressed me even before I knew what depression was. Then, during a winter many long years ago (more years than I’d probably care to admit, in fact), one snowstorm ushered in a new wave of intrigue, complex characters, and Bree Williamson*. Just like that, this casual viewer got swept up during sweeps week, becoming a fan for life.
(*Please take note, Hollywood: Such versatility and talent doesn’t grow on trees. Most may shun the Dissociative Identity Disorder storyline as preposterous or silly, but when you can transition between two roles within the blink of an eye—and so convincingly!—you’ve got a gift that should not go to waste.)
Honestly, I never thought this day would come. I grew up with the dream of introducing my future children to One Life to Live. I would point out how Starr Manning (Kristen Alderson) started when she was just about their age. I would reminisce about Rex and Gigi’s journey into the past. I would point out that, for every blonde, there seems to be a redhead rival (i.e. Nora and Lindsay, Jessica and Natalie, Viki and Dorian). And though the Manning’s (and John McBain!) are moving to Port Charles, which eases the blow just a bit, I have not been able to stare at my TV screen these past few weeks without tearing up as the memories come flooding back.
I remember Starr’s fascination with bugs and reptiles, and I know that her special frog is actually a Beanie Baby named Smoochy… I remember when Kelly picked up a book by Richard Castle and noted how familiar the author’s photo was, paying homage to both Nathan Fillion’s role on the ABC drama as well as his stint as Joey Buchanan on OLTL in the 90s…
I remember taking a trip to NYC to see August: Osage County only to discover Charlie Banks (Brian Kerwin) playing the pedophilic creep! I remember when the very professor who took us to see August: Osage County bragged that January LaVoy—a Fairfield University alum!—was cast as Noelle!
As Viki (Erika Slezak) said during the show’s second to last episode, soap operas are all about family. We invite these characters into our homes day after day, year after year. They become family. We cry with them, and we jump for joy. We loathe the bad guys and cheer for the good guys. We embrace the absurd to escape our own reality.
Yet while we, the viewers, must bid a fond farewell to this 43-year-old show, Agnes Nixon must wave good-bye to her last living legacy. (That’s right—ABC has killed all her children.) So, as we sit down at 2pm EST to find out if Jessica is truly Clint’s daughter, the tears may come, and our noses may run, but we must take heart and find solace in what the future may hold, for this cast has so much life yet to live.