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Viewing Single Post From: SOD Best & Worst -- 1986
Matt
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Classic Soap Fan

transcribes from January 13, 1987 issue of SOD...

THE YEAR IN REVIEW


Traditional values, traditional storylines, and tradition tricks of the trade -- that's what soaps were about this year. Mystery and intrigue, mistaken identities, characters brought back from the dead (or from creative nightmares), amnesia, tortured lovers, calamitous weddings, confused parentage, a slew of kidnappings, topped with globs and globs of romance -- that was the stuff of 1986's continuing dramas.

It was also a time when the soap opera playing behind the screen was as exciting and dramatic as the one on the tube. Gloria Monty, the woman given credit for turning GENERAL HOSPITAL from a show headed for cancellation to the biggest hit on daytime, resigned in December to become an independent producer. Wes Kenney, executive producer of THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS (the only show in the last year to give GH a scare for its number one seat) took over Monty's position. Gail Kobe left as executive producer of GUIDING LIGHT and was replaced by Joe Willmore. John Whitesell was installed as the wunderkind to restore SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, but as soon as he pulled off a fantastic flood, made cast enthusiasm grow and the public take notice, his bosses urged him to move to ANOTHER WORLD where more of his kind of work was needed. In the end, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW was cancelled; the same year it celebrated its 35th anniversary on television.

And Y&R's executive producer, creator, and head writer, Bill Bell, decided that having one fabulous show on the air wasn't enough, so he created THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL, scheduled to premiere on CBS this spring.

Executives weren't the only people playing musical chairs. Actors who had left their shows, or daytime in particular, came back. Taylor Miller left Sally Frame on ANOTHER WORLD to once again become Nina Warner on ALL MY CHILDREN. William Gray Espy, one of the all time great heartthrobs, returned to his role as Mitch Blake on ANOTHER WORLD. Also nabbed by AW was Denise Alexander, who was so popular as Leslie Webber on GENERAL HOSPITAL. Bob Woods, after leaving ONE LIFE TO LIVE, turned up on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Tristan Rogers and Sharon Wyatt returned to GENERAL HOSPITAL, Anthony Herrera came back to AS THE WORLD TURNS, Rober Newman picked up his old role of Josh Lewis on GUIDING LIGHT, and the most talked about return of the season was Patrick Duffy's on DALLAS.

DALLAS came out of the doldrums with the return of Duffy and fromer executive producer Leonard Katzman, but some of the other prime time soaps didn ot fare so well. DYNASTY miffed, then lost many of its viewers in the '85 - '86 season when it swerved from the hot triangle between Alexis, Blake, and Krystle, and spent too much time on the convoluted Rita/Krystle storyline. It appears to be a loss they still haven't remedied. Has DYNASTY, once a daring and hlarious program, become a parody of itself? KNOTS LANDING continued to hold steady in the ratings with its moving plots and fine actors until this season, when its time slot was changed for a short while. THE COLBYS, heralded as the best thing to come along since DYNASTY, struggled in its first season, and has been fighting gallantly in a terrible time period against KNOTS and CHEERS.

These shows prove that nighttime soaps don't have the longevity that the daytime ones do. Prime time is a more volatile animal. It is subject to fads and fashions that daytime rarely has to deal with. In the early '80s, prime time soaps were very much in vogue, but in the middle part of the decade the sitcom came back into fashion. With their irreverent comments about life and romance, sitcoms, not the continuing dramas, seem to be the reason people are tuning in most nights now.

Still, the daytime shows forged ahead. This was not the year of the spy or the double identity or love on the run. No, in 1986, daytime soaps began to etch more deeply their own, personal identities. DAYS OF OUR LIVES could be clearly seen as the most amorous and fast-paced soap -- a combination of MIAMI VICE and Danielle Steele-style romance. GENERAL HOSPITAL stayed away from the operating room and continued to chase villains with their stock heroes. THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS kept true to itself with its slow pace and gorgeous close-ups. Y&R must be singled out, not only as the most gamorous show, but as a soap that can be counted on for characters who behave in a way that is in line with the way they have developed. ALL MY CHILDREN my have been ridiculous to many viewers for the first part of the season, but once Jorn Winter returned as executive producer, silly story lines were wrapped up, and integral charaters started behaving in a more understandable fashion.

ONE LIFE TO LIVE continued to excel with poignant stories about families and secrets, highlighted by exceptional acting from Clint Richie, Erika Slezak, and Andrea Evans, in particular. And AS THE WORLD TURNS, under the guidance of executive producer Robert Calhoun and head writer Douglas Marland, once again regained its identity as a soap opera for, and by, adults.

SANTA BARBARA grew each day into a bold, irreverent drama with delightful characters and imaginative writing. While watching that show, one can't help but wonder what it's like to pen it. There seems to be an outrageous collective sense of humor there -- not the kind you see on comedy shows, but the kind that comes out of real life situations. SANTA BARBARA seems to realize that humor is the tonic we often use to deal with the most difficult problems, and they have been able to blend it in quite nicely with even the most dramatic conflicts. Sometimes that humor and imagination gets a bit bizarre -- could we ever really forgive them for killing off Mary? -- but even that was carried off with a bit of panache. How many people get to die by a big "C"? We hope the network will be patient because we think with time this soap could be a winner.

The one disappointment this year was GUIDING LIGHT, the soap we named best show in 1985. With continual changes in producers, writers, and actors, GUIDING LIGHT resembled a revolving door more than a dramatic series. Perhaps this could not be helped, but all that change left GL muddled, confused; a mess.

If there was one trend in 1986, it was in the presentation of women. Victims seemed to be fewer, and villainesses weren't the only women in control of their lives. Finally, we began to see women -- nice women -- act as people who could take care of themselves and stand up for themselves. When THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS's Ashley was faced with an unwanted pregnancy, she took action and had an abortion. We applaud the writers of Y&R for giving Ashley that option, even though it is still a controversial subject. When CAPITOL's Sloane Denning Clegg was abandoned by her husband, she did not sit back and feel sorry for herself. She fought back -- with a vengence -- and then found romance with another man. SANTA BARBARA's Sophia Capwell was not about to let her fiance's ex-wife stand in her way without a fight, and even timid, innocent Hillary Martin from ALL MY CHILDREN stood up for herself. Tired of her husband's lies and manipulations, she left Tad after she discovered his final deception. The biggest change of all had to be the strength found in the women from DALLAS. Always dominated by the men, this show finally let their women stand up for themselves. Sue Ellen drove J.R. crazy by buying her own lingerie company. Mandy Winger, J.R.'s mistress, stunned him when she refused to give up her full-time career to be his full-time playmate, and even fragile Jenna Wade told Bobby where to go when he started advising her on child-rearing.

We're not sure why the writers chose this year to finally let kind women be strong women, but we approve their decision, and their work in general. 1986 was filled with tension, glamour, couples we could root for and good old-fashioned drama. We liked it.
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SOD Best & Worst -- 1986 · Soap Opera History & Discussion