Gary Brown: Demise of ‘All My Children’ has writer reminiscing
I once tried to use the plot of the soap opera “All My Children” as a pick-up line. A series of lines, actually. They lasted all summer.
It sounds sort of crass when a guy just blurts the whole plan out like that. But a little more than 40 years ago, I was smitten, and I used the soap opera as a means to get to talk to an older woman.
Well, she wasn’t that much older. I was early in college and she was later. There couldn’t have been much more than a year or two difference in our ages. But she seemed older, more mature and, somehow, worldly.
She watched soap operas, for heaven’s sake. That was something my mother did. So she obviously knew much more than I did about life.
Except the girl — I know it sounds shallow, but I don’t remember her name — wasn’t watching soap operas that summer. We both were working seasonal jobs. I was laying sod for new buildings at a condominium complex. She was a lifeguard at the complex pool.
Every afternoon, after gobbling down a three-minute lunch with my co-workers, I would walk over to the pool to talk to her.
At first, it was awkward. There are only so many legitimate work reasons for a guy in work boots, jeans and a T-shirt with a morning’s worth of sod dirt on the front of it to be hanging around a swimming pool.
I’d check the growth of the new grass we’d laid around the pool fence. The next day, I’d re-check it. The following day, I’d check it again, maybe even giving it a little tug to see how well it had taken root.
Fortunately, because the grass was starting to grow real well on its own and wouldn’t need tending much longer, by the time the week was up, we’d started to talk. And in one of our early conversations, she let slip the kind of useful information that a young guy in love wouldn’t have even known enough to ask about.
Each afternoon, during an ancient era when you had to watch a TV show while it was airing, she was missing some new soap opera, “All My Children.”
That was my Mom’s show, too. Even then, not long after it debuted, it was the only television program that stopped laundry and vacuuming in our home. Years later, after Dad retired, even he got hooked on it.
For the rest of that summer, I went home every afternoon following work and asked Mom what went on during that day’s episode. I don’t think she even wondered why I wanted to know. We were sharing something. Mothers like that.
The next day, I would head off to work to report what went on during the show to my new friend. The details weren’t difficult to remember. Day-to-day, not much happens on a soap opera. Sometimes I’d pretty much be repeating myself.
But the girl seemed to look forward to seeing me. Soap operas are like entertainment drugs. I was her pusher.
I was reminded of this memorable summer of my life a few weeks ago when I read that “All My Children” is ending.
The ABC network apparently is taking the soap opera off the air, along with “One Life to Live,” which is another long-running soap opera that, over the years, I found relatively useless for getting to know anybody.
ABC is planning to replace the shows with “lower-cost lifestyle shows,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
Nothing against cleaning hints, food preparation tips and health advice, but this saddens me. I’m not sure why. I never saw the girl after we both went back to school, and I’ve rarely thought of her for about four decades.
For all I know, she’s moved from soap operas to cable shows. At the very least, she would probably have the technology to save a TV show, so she could watch it later.
Soap operas are not the kind of social tool that they used to be.