In an example of life imitating art, the iconic soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live are being retired to make way for newer, younger and let’s face it, cheaper programming. Today, ABC officially announced that they are changing their daytime lineup to make room for two new hour-long talk shows, The Chew, which will focus on food and The Revolution, which will focus on lifestyles.
With the staggeringly close ending of All My Children in September of 2011 after 41 years and One Life to Live in January of 2012 after 43 years, ABC has finally silenced the rumor mill that has been especially active these last few weeks. Fans of the shows have no doubt seen the writing on the wall since other long running favorites such as As the World Turns and Guiding Light, were phased out; however, the inevitability does not ease the very real sense of loss associated with these cancellations.
It was during my 7th grade summer vacation, in my thirteenth year, when I randomly flicked through the channels and came upon a torn Erica Kane played by Susan Lucci. You see, she was in love with her husband’s brother Jackson Montgomery at the time and feeling rather guilty about the whole thing. Just a few months later, after my father’s sudden passing, All My Children became a form of escapism for me. I began to care about the characters, flawed and morally corrupt as some of them were, because they represented the only constants in my life.
It wasn’t long until One Life to Live became part of my daily escape as well. I would rush home from school and rewind the VHS tapes that recorded the stories of what had become my extended family. I formed bonds with teachers in my school who proudly announced that they had been watching for more than twenty years. And though I was convinced I would never get that old, I wondered how long I would remain devoted to these shows.
And while my attention fluctuated over the years (due to real-life storylines such as my studies, marriage, and the birth of my son) my devotion never did. Despite falling months behind more than once, I continued to tape the shows, filling my living room with precarious towers of VHS tapes. The invention of the DVR enabled me to continue my habit in a less obtrusive and more organized fashion.
But in today’s society, with their busy two-income families and eternal pursuit of information and novelty, there no longer seems to be a place for these institutions of episodic dramas that demand five hours each week. Instead, daytime television will be filled with talk shows with names like, The View and The Chew, which require little investment and zero loyalty.
So now, with their end in sight, I step back and realize with a pang of wonder and disbelief that like my childhood teachers before me, I have invested 22 years – more than half my life – in these shows. And I have no intention of replacing them, because while to some, the end of One Life to Live or All My Children is merely a change of programming, to others, like myself, it is not just the end of an era in television but in our own lives.