Monday, September 26, 2011

So Long, Pine Valley


For many people, Friday September 23, 2011 was a regular day. But for me, it was the end of an era. Part of me knows this is silly. The other part of me knows I am dead serious is being un-ironically sad about the end of All My Children.

It was on television for 41 years. It gave us the greatest daytime diva in history in the form of Susan Lucci and her alter ego, Erica Kane. It gave us Tad and Dixie, Angie and Jesse, and Haley and Mateo. Some of Hollywood’s prettiest people started out as residents of AMC’s fictional town, Pine Valley—Sarah Michelle Gellar, Josh Duhamel, Amanda Seyfried and Kelly Ripa. It was the first soap to feature storylines about rape, abortion and transgender persons. And although many of its other storylines were topics overdone by many soaps, AMC did them so well. I still get goose bumps thinking about when Paul switched Babe and Bianca’s babies at birth or when Gillian was shot and Ryan painfully chose to donate her heart to save Laura.

I know. This all sounds so over dramatic. Talk about first world problems, right? But seriously. This show was a daytime legend, part of television history, and now it’s just been buried six feet under and ABC barely fronted money for the funeral. Thanks for airing a commercial of the stupid new show you’ll be replacing AMC with during the soap’s finale episode. Really? You think all those die-heard soap fans are going to watch that? I don’t know if you know this, ABC, but soap fans are loyal. We seriously can’t be friends with people who think Jamie and Babe are meant to be if we are rooting for J.R. and Babe. I can’t even look people in the eye without being a ball of rage if they tell me they like The Bold and the Beautiful the best. Because I’m all like OMFGhaveyouevenseenGeneralHospital? BEST. SHOW. EVER! Soap fans are nothing if not devoted and mental about our favourite shows and characters. In other words, no, we will not be tuning in to your dumb cooking show. If we did, we might as well be stabbing Susan Lucci through the heart.

TV shows are meant to end, I know, but it’s still sad to me. It’s like saying goodbye to a close friend. And yes, most successful primetime shows only make it roughly six to eight seasons, so technically 41 years is over staying your welcome on the airwaves, but soaps were always different. They were meant to be around forever, cycling characters and storylines time again, trying every combination of romantic pairings, turning babies into teenagers in a matter of days and bringing people back from the dead until the end of time. That’s just the way it was. I took comfort in knowing that my soaps would be around forever. Then they just started dropping like Lindsay Lohan on a Friday night. Four years ago, there were nine soaps on the air. Passions was first to go (and I admit that its cancellation was a relief. It did nothing good for soap operas’ image). Then CBS cancelled Guiding Light- which had been in production for seventy-two years....SEVENTY-TWO YEARS PEOPLE!- followed by As the World Turns, and then this year ABC announced it was getting rid of AMC and One Life to Live. That leaves only four soaps still in production. How are we supposed to continue the Daytime Emmys? It won’t be an awards show anymore, it will just be like little league baseball. A shiny ribbon for everyone! Hurray!

I understand that most people don’t like soaps because the storylines are slow and clich├ęd. But for us fans, none of that matters. We understand why writers do what they do. Story arcs move slowly so that we can tune in from time to time and still know what’s happening. And killing characters off only to bring them back later is done all in the name of an interesting story twist. We don’t care how many times you bring Dixie back from the dead; we will still be excited every time. Because it just means we get to see her again, and gosh, who knows what she will do this time! Okay, we know there will be a love triangle involving Tad and David, and her loving maternal side will help to pull her son J.R. out of another tailspin, but who cares? It’s Tad and Dixie. Together Forever! Again! Anyway, the point is, everyone is entitled to their opinion and it’s okay that not everyone likes soaps, I guess. But I just don’t want them to become extinct. Because despite how many people hate them, there are still so many fans who love them and count on them and are still waiting for Luke and Laura to be reunited. Networks don’t cancel all of their sitcoms when one or two don’t work out. Why can’t soaps be like that? I’d feel less sad about the death of my shows if I wasn’t shitting my pants thinking that General Hospital is next and that in another four years, soaps will be gone forever. If you’re going to get rid of a medium, it should probably be reality TV. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t “dislike” reality TV, but if I’m being honest with myself, it doesn’t add anything to my life. If I want to see young people getting drunk and fighting, I can go to a college dorm. And if I want to see rich people being rich and having dinner, I can watch The Golden Globes. All I’m saying is, when was the last time Snooki brought someone back from the dead? Or gave birth to a baby who four episodes later turned into a brooding teenager with daddy issues? At least soaps offer story twists that real life can’t. And you know what else? Soaps may take months when it comes to big story reveals, but at least they don’t wait seven full seasons (and potentially two more) to tell us who the freaking mother is.

But alas, all of the crying and whining and petition-signing in the world couldn’t change the fate of these beloved shows. The light finally went out, the world stopped turning, and now all the children will be put to rest. Soon, there will be no more lives to live either. But we’ll take this one day at a time. So, so long sweet, dysfunctional, incestuous Pine Valley. Thanks for the memories. But most of all, thank you for sharing the many wardrobe changes and marriages of Erica Kane.

-Alice

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