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Viewing Single Post From: SOD Best & Worst -- 1987
Matt
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Classic Soap Fan

Presenting the Best & Worst of 1987 from the issue of Soap Opera Digest dated January 12, 1988...


THE YEAR IN REVIEW: LOOKING BACK AT 1987


Rape. Cancer. Alcoholism. Teen prostitution. Teen suicide. Drug abuse, interracial romance, and even the "A" word -- AIDS -- were the difficult and complex subjects that soaps didn't shy away from this year. It was about time.

Scripted by different writers, these story lines were handled with varying degrees of excellence and believability, but most were moving, thought-provoking and, thankfully, absent of heavy moral judgment. Sensitive writers, producers and network executives finally seemed to win the internal battle over the American public: with the airing of these story lines TV seemed to be admitting that the daytime viewing audience is a lot more intelligent and open-minded than they had been given credit for.

You can be assured that many of these stories did not cross the airwaves without a fight. There was talk for many months about whether such social issues would offend the viewers. Not even a year ago some network executives were quoted as saying that an AIDS story would no be told on their soap operas. But the times they were a-changing. AIDS and teen suicide were making headlines daily. And other forms of entertainment tackled the issues. Plays, films, nighttime dramas and movies of the week had all dealt with difficult topics, including AIDS; always, when the drama was stirring, people watched.

Concerned by daytime's seeming refusal to deal with AIDS, Soap Opera Digest put a questionnaire in its April 9 issue, asking readers if they would like to see more social issues, including AIDS, dealt with on the serials. A whopping 87 percent of you responded by saying, yes, social issues -- including AIDS -- were topics that demanded daytime's attention. Soon after the results of our survey appeared in print, both NBC and ABC announced that they would be introducing AIDS story lines on ANOTHER WORLD and ALL MY CHILDREN. And CBS's AS THE WORLD TURNS began a riveting story about teen suicide. In fact, when NBC announced their story line in a press release, they cited this magazine's survey. That questionnaire and your responses to it were among the things Soap Opera Digest editiors have been most proud of for it proved once again that the audience does have a voice when it comes to programming, that good entertainment does not have to suffer when an important issue is being dealt with, and tha tyou are an enlightened and informed group.

We were particularly glad to see how well, the 1987 social-issue story lines fared on air. Ratings, that all-important barometer of TV's every movement, did not drop when AS THE WORLD TURNS told the story of Kathy Evans's depression leading to attempted suicide. They did not waer when ALL MY CHILDREN's Mark Dalton realized he could have contracted AIDS from his days as an intravenous drug user, or when GUIDING LIGHT's handsome and virile Johnny Bauer learned that he had cancer. And few events on daytime television were as well-acted, -directed, or -written as the harrowing rape of Caroline Spencer on THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL. The viewer felt the depths of Caoline's despair. Special mention must be given to actress Joanna Johnson for her remarkable portrayal of a sheltered rich girl whose life is devastated by one night. While GENERAL HOSPITAL experienced all kinds of ups and downs this year (some might term it chaos, others, rediscovering itself), it began a fascinating interracial love story between doctors Tom Hardy and Simone Vabelle. Daytime has tried this sort of story before but always aborted it mid-stream. GH must be applauded for their promise to tell the tale with all its complexities, despite scattered criticism, from start to finish.

Of course, social issues were not the only stories unleashed on serials in 1987. Ollie North and the Iran-contra hearings were a mesmerizing off-screen drama that erupted on screen and interrupted the daily airing of the soaps. For all its drama, lies, heroes and villains, not to mention the unraveling of secrets, one can't help but call those hearings something of a soap opera.

Nineteen-eighty-seven was the year that CAPITOL was canceled and BOLD & BEAUTIFUL premiered. It was the year that ANOTHER WORLD was told by NBC to shape up or possibly be shipped out; the year that rumors abounded about Procter & Gamble wanting to sell their soaps because the serials were getting too expensive to produce -- the company owns ANOTHER WORLD, AS THE WORLD TURNS, and GUIDING LIGHT. It was a year when GUIDING LIGHT celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, making it the longest-running show in the history of broadcast, and saw the return of head writer Pam Long to a serial that no longer made sense to many of its viewers. Patrick Duffy had come back to DALLAS, but Victoria Principal departed, leaving many to wonder if the show could survive her loss and keep its ratings intact (ratings have dropped since last year) and budgets on many of the prime-tiem soaps were cut. So was one of the soaps. THE COLBYS, DYNASTY's spin-off, came to an abrupt end after two seasons with Fallon floating off in a spaceship, only to return to Earth and Denver with her husband Jeff on DYNASTY. Meanwhile, FALCON CREST became funny and KNOTS LANDING stayed superb, particularly when it told the story of Olivia's drug abuse.

GENERAL HOSPITAL was down in the ratings, until the People Meteres came along, and then it regained its number-one spot over THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS. Actors with high TVQ's came and left, among them: Bob Woods, who left DAYS OF OUR LIVES, and returned to ONE LIFE TO LIVE; Peter Bergman, who left then came back to ALL MY CHILDREN; Vincent Irizarry, long gone from GUIDING LIGHT showed up on SANTA BARBARA; and Kin Shriner returned to Port Charles and GENERAL HOSPITAL as Scotty Baldwin. In 1987, ALL MY CHILDREN regained its strength, ONE LIFE TO LIVE became the Tina Show, and AS THE WORLD TURNS stayed a class act.

With all the turbulence of new writers, new producers and even new heads of networks, 1987 was a very good year for soaps. We will keep watching, and hope you do, too.
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SOD Best & Worst -- 1987 · Soap Opera History & Discussion