There is some irony in beginning a column that revolves around a show that’s been given the death knell. But with the not unexpected, but still devastating news that CBS has canceled As the World Turns, the subject matter of my inaugural column was pretty much a given.
By now everyone knows As the World Turns will go off the CBS airwaves after more than 54 years as a daytime staple. As a long-time viewer, I can hardly imagine a weekday without my Oakdale fix. My heart is invested in the characters of ATWT and trying to envision the time when I’m no long able to visit this fictional town and escape into the complicated lives of its residents is distressing in the extreme.
At the ripe old age of 42, I’m a bit of a soap veteran. I have been a fan and viewer of several different soap operas throughout my life. In high school, I loved Greg and Jenny from All My Children’s Pine Valley and Luke and Laura in General Hospital. In my early college days, I was hooked on Cass and Frankie in Another World’s Bay City and I adored Mason and Julia and Eden and Cruz in Santa Barbara.
But above all, and from as far back as I can recall, As the World Turns has been my constant. In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is of eating lunch with my Mom while ATWT was playing in the background. Bean with bacon soup and a grilled cheese sandwich enjoyed while watching the latest dramas involving Kim and John and Bob and Lisa and poor drunk, confused Susan. I can still see my Mom sitting at the kitchen table with soup spoon in hand, voicing her opinion on the day’s happenings in Oakdale. At that age I was a sponge, soaking up her knowledge of the show and each character’s history.
And as both my older sister and I grew from child to teen, we inherited the mantle of As the World Turns fan and viewer. And while living at home, we would discuss and debate and laugh and cry with our Mom as we shared in the lives and experiences of the troubled citizens of Oakdale. We grew up watching and loving Craig and Sierra, Betsy and Steve, Tom and Margo and Lily and Holden. There was a connection and attachment to our favorite characters and we downright felt a need to watch their lives unfold.
And as for my mother? My Mom watched the very first episode of As the World Turns and never looked back. As Oakdale’s Nancy and Chris Hughes raised their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, my Mom reared her own four children against that backdrop. As a stay-at-home Mom, her soap opera was an integral part of her daily routine. Over coffee she and her next-door neighbor, also a faithful viewer, would discuss all the latest escapades and heartbreaks of Oakdale’s residents. Even when the show struggled with less than fabulous storylines, her loyalty never wavered.
And she remained a constant and steadfast fan from the day the show began until the day before she passed away. While today in the 21st century that may sound like some trite scene out of a clichéd 60’s sitcom it is a fact. It also helps illustrate how times have indeed changed. There are less and less people home on that daily basis to watch their soaps. And why, to the cynical and eye-to-the-bottom-line CBS executive, the show’s time has come and gone.
But has it really? The greatest strength of As The World Turns, and all soaps in general, is that very continuity from generation to generation that my Mom passed on to my sister and me and that countless other parents and grandparents have passed on to their own families. Most of us can share a story of watching a favorite soap with our grandmother, or mother, or aunt. We have grown up watching our daytime drama. We have years and decades invested in our show and it is woven into the very fabric of our daily routines.
It’s sad and unfortunate that that kind of fan base, with all its support and loyalty, is so under-valued by the network. Even those of us (most of us) who work during the day find a time and a way to watch our soap opera, each and every episode. We TiVo, we watch online, heck, we even use a trusty ol’ VCR.
Unfortunately, soap operas are not inexpensive to produce. Game shows and talk shows cost far less. And in today’s precarious climate, CBS opted to go with the relative bargain of the less-expensive game show genre. I find it wretchedly laughable that CBS CEO Les Moonves considers As the World Turn’s day to be “over” but a game show (Let’s Make a Deal) re-hashed and re-constituted from the 60’s is somehow relevant.
But again, it comes down to economics and which show is cheapest for the network to produce. But all hope does not have to be lost. There are other outlets that may be willing to pick up and rescue ATWT. There have been other TV shows saved from near-extinction. And many of those saved shows had far less history and fan base than As the World Turns. We all know the soap community is a tight-knit one and its fans are nothing if not vocal. Just look at all the forums on the web that are chock-full of opinionated soap viewers. We are not a quiet bunch!
Let’s make sure those voice are heard. We need to speak out, collectively and often, to any and all possible homes for ATWT. As fans, we must prove not only do we watch, but we will continue to watch. That the investment any new outlet makes in our World will pay big dividends to that new network.
And one doesn’t have to be a watcher of As the World Turns to support the effort to save the show. Fans of any daytime soap need to take heed. Soaps as a whole are in trouble. The domino effect started with the cancellation of Guiding Light and is continuing now with As the World Turns. As one falls, all the others find themselves weakened. So no matter which show is your favorite, a united front is now very much needed.
I can’t imagine life without ATWT. Not only do I love the show for itself, but it also remains a symbolic connection to my much-loved Mom. Every day that I watch an episode of As the World Turns, I feel reminded of my Mom and of her warmth. And as I imagine what her thoughts and opinions would be on current storylines, I am comforted. That is a treasure beyond all price and a gift that I know is shared by countless other soap fans.
Long live As The World Turns.
Karen is the latest edition to the TVSource Magazine editorial staff. We’re pleased to have her join our team.
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