Search for Tomorrow


I warn you now, what follows is not strictly a bit of soap opera nostalgia. Though cloaked in fond remembrance, there are deeper issues at play here, if you will bear with me…

My late mother loved “her stories.” One might say she was a one network kinda woman, too. When I came along into my parents’ lives, her soap schedule was more or less as rock solid as the dawning of the sun: Love is a Many Splendored Thing, As the World Turns, Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, The Guiding Light and The Secret Storm.

I vaguely recall a few of these shows as I was all of about 5 or 6 years old at the time, but they began to imprint themselves on my mind because by some strange coincidence or another I was always catching some memorable scenes or events that would be the equivalent to sweeps stunts today.

There was beautiful bad girl Jennifer (played by an extraordinarily young Morgan Fairchild) crashing through a glass door and becoming disfigured on Search. On another show, I saw two men fighting in a jungle over a disheveled woman named Holly; one of these men, Ed, sent the other, Roger, over a cliff to what would be one of the more memorable of the latter characters many deaths on GL. I can’t recall how many times after school I sat mesmerized by all the vampires, witches and supernatural dealings going on — it wasn’t Tabitha or Timmy from Passions, but rather the dashing figure of Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. To my young mind, these were very interesting things but not of much consequence. After all was said and done, I had to finish my homework or get back outside to play. However, there was one episode of a certain show I caught that would change everything and make me soap fan forever.

I do not know if it was summer recess or if I was home sick from school, but leading up to that day there had been a fever building between my mother and her friends for some time over something terrible that was on the verge of happening on this show called The Edge of Night. It seemed as if the father of this woman named Nicole was trying to kill her, Nicole was about to marry this guy named Adam and there was a bomb aboard their honeymoon yacht! Would they find they get blown to smithereens? Would Adam save her? Would she not dodge death again? Who would live? Who would die? Sound a bit familiar? It should and it should not.

Not to belittle the fine and popular work that is done here at Daytime Confidential or elsewhere on the Internet, but you see it must be pointed out that before the faux-democracy of Internet message boards and spoilers that gave away every plot detail and overzealous network marketing departments, my mother and her friends got on their rotary phones and called each other about their “stories.” They were not the stereotypical “soap opera housewives” either, none of them desperate. All of these women had full lives outside of their homes as well as within them. My mother, for example, was a school teacher and later a district superintendent, extraordinarily active in a half dozen or more church boards and committees at a time; a businesswoman and a landlord who actively helped raise our livestock and was planting and harvesting our crops alongside my father. There was no such thing as men’s work or women’s work in my house; there was only work. Somehow, my mother still had time for her stories, just like people you know or once knew. (continued)

9 Responses

  1. Profile photo of KingTV
    KingTV

    Beautiful, compelling essay, J. Bernard. Your insight and intelligence on the genre shines through with this thesis on the generational passing down of the soaps. I, too, found myself watching Ryan’s Hope, Days, Another World and Guiding Light originally due to my step-mother’s love for the lives and loves of the people in those cities and towns where they were located. That led to my own exploration of what other soaps were out there and I found the particular style which engrossed me the most at Y&R, GL, DOOL and then Loving and Santa Barbara. The internet has lessened the shock and surprise of what was going to happen and I am not sure if it has been a blessing or a curse for the industry. As much as I want story lines to remain shrouded in having to watch, I find myself hunting for the leaks because I also enjoy knowing what is going to happen and then seeing how the individual show produces and plays the scenario out. Mostly, I just wanted to let you know that I can relate to so much of what you have written and analyzed to be the history of the actual watching of daytime drama. Stories should be long-term and plotted out to involve every single beat and moment. It makes things that much more organic, natural seeming and like read life, where things like falling in love does not take 2 days but 2 years or more, evil plots are thought out and planned while the unwitting participants go about their lives and mysteries, criminal trials and off the charts events take their time in unfolding. Thank you for writing this to educate the new viewers of what the soap opera was originally intended for and to remind the long time fans of why they fell in love with the genre to begin with. Happy new year 2009 and here’s to a resurgence of all the soaps and a continued passing on to the next generations of fans.

  2. Profile photo of smulgrew
    smulgrew

    JBJ,

    You are simply one of the finest commentators on the genre. I remember checking in on DC hoping “DS9Sisko” (which, by the by, is the best of the Treks) posted on certain articles, because they were always a treat. I’m thrilled that you are an official contributor to DC now.

    Thank you for pointing out what OLTL and Y&R are doing right now. The shows have rejuvenated my love for the genre in the last year.

    Off-topic, I was thinking about “Guiding Light.” Anybody else think that the new production model would actually work if the show were cut back to a half-hour? They wouldn’t have to rush so much with the editing and shooting. I mean, “The City” had a similar format 13 years earlier and it looked far superior.

  3. Profile photo of Scott Novick
    Scott Novick

    J. Bernard: Thanks for both the fond memories and for holding the mirror up to daytime today and showing how far many shows have changed from those days. I was a little older than you when I started watching soaps and started about a year earlier in ’73, but I still have memories etched in my head of how stories I watched with my mom during summer vacations – like Joanne on Search for Tomorrow being blinded, or the Scott/Kathy/Jennifer story you mentioned where Morgan Fairchild’s Jennifer crashed through a glass door – stayed there, to the point where even when I was back in school, I had to ask Mom what happened. When my mom went back to work in ’76, we depended on newspaper summaries to keep up until vacation rolled around again for me, and that’s what got me into first SFT and Y&R and then later ATWT in the late 70s/early 80s. Those stories unfolded slowly, sometimes taking years to unfold, so it’s sad how we’ve lost that today with so many shows moving at breakneck speed. The worst part is that many of daytime’s leaders today – Brad bell, Ken Corday, Chris Goutman – were active in the industry in the 80s when the likes of Bill Bell and Doug Marland and others were still writing continuing drama, so it makes you wonder what these folks see differently in today’s audience that they create such fast paced fare.

  4. Profile photo of joeyconf
    joeyconf

    I’d give anything to be able to rewatch eps of Love of Life from the 70s and 80s. They were less than 15 min long in content due to the CBS 5 minute newscast in the slot. The two actresses who played Van and Meg, Audrey Peters and Tudi Wiggins were fantastic. And yes, Search for Tomorrow in the 70s was awesome. Marie Cheatham and Morgan Fairchild played great bitches. What I especially remember about SFT was the perfect use of music underneath the scenes to create tension in every single scene. The writing on LOL and SFT was almost always excellent. Too bad Soapnet doesn’t air old soaps anymore. How many times can you actually watch reruns of friggin’ One Tree Hill? Scott

  5. Profile photo of SoapSnob
    SoapSnob

    excellent. Excellent. EXCELLENT! J. Bernard Jones, I have said it before, but it bears repeating… You are a TRUE talent. Thank you so very much for taking the time to write such insightful and compelling material for Daytime Confidential. It is sincerely appreciated. I hope it is not going unnoticed by the insiders of the industry – executives, writers, actors. They could definitely learn very much while also experiencing a truly enjoyable read. Again, Thank You Very Much. And I look forward to “hearing” more of your “voice” in 2009. Happy New Year!

  6. Profile photo of daisyclover1938
    daisyclover1938

    Great blog Bernard! As usual, you’ve given me a lot to think about.

    I do think about how soaps have changed over the years, but I also think about how I’ve changed as a viewer. I’m so hyper-critical now. For awhile I was enjoying OLTL and tried to recapture the joy I used to feel as a soap fan back in the day. Back when I didn’t Fast Forward, didn’t read Spoilers, didn’t hop online right after watching an episode to dissect, analyze and criticize every line of dialogue/plot point/hairstyle, etc… It worked for awhile – until the show started drowning in a sea of Camp and told a story (Tarty) that made me ashamed to be a soap fan (sorry, I know you disagree Bernard, but I’m still not “over it” lol)

    Anyway, what’s interesting to me is that the 3 soaps I enjoy watching the most right now are Ryan’s Hope (on SoapNet), Dark Shadows (on DVD) and EastEnders (UK soap). RH and DS are decades old and while I have opinions on them, I don’t belong to any forums that discuss the shows at great length. And while I post on an EE thread on TFO, we really just talk briefly about what we’re enjoying. My point is that being hyper-critical of these shows would be a waste of time, so the *way* I view them is completely different than how I view current US soaps, and I think it allows me to enjoy them more.

    Thanks again for another thoughtful blog Bernard!

    **********************************
    DaisyClover (aka SamBot #1)

  7. Profile photo of ABCJunky73
    ABCJunky73

    JBJ-

    Yet again another great article! You always write such compelling articles. My mom also was a soap fan, being a housewife of 9 kids. When we were in school, she whould faithfully watch AMC, RH, Loving, OLTL and GH. I remember some of us running home from school and my mom and a group of neighbor ladies all huddled around the 19 inch watching Karen Woleck on the stand, revealing that she was a hooker, and then it was a soap oprea block party when Luke & Laura got married.

    Yes, those were the days! Again, another great article! BRAVO!!!! This should be in Soap Oprea Digest!!

    ABCJunky

    ***”Tick.Tick.Tick..The Hunt For Ron Carliviti Is On! REDEEM OLTL! LEAVE RON ALONE!”***

  8. Profile photo of davidcs
    davidcs

    Yes, the daytime serial "Search For Tomorrow" could have been subtitled "The Joanne Gardner Barron Tate Vincente Tourneur Story",for that character,certainly Mary Stuart,the actress portraying her set the tone for the show’s entire 35-year run,producing over 2,000 episodes. In many ways Joanne was much like a radio soap opera heroine,remaining strong and supporting her friends while enduring terrible suffering in her life. But she had time for lighter moments with her co-stars while dealing with the usual situations that when on with her longtime friend Stu Bergman,who was first seen in December in 1951 and stayed until the end of the jobs for 15 year olds,and by the 1970’s, a chance to break out in song occasionally. The combination worked for  viewers for at least 30 years,as the show’s top rated soap from 1952 to 1955,stayed near the top through the 1960’s,and remained a serious contender until CBS-TV,in a dispute with sponsor Proctor and Gamble,canceled it 1982 after more than 31 years with the network. The series premiere on CBS-TV on September 3, 1951 and ended its astounding run on March 26,1982. Then,a week after it left CBS,the soap moved to NBC-TV on March 29,1982 and remained with the network until December 26,1986. When it was on CBS-TV during the early years,the series was seen in 15 to 20 minute installments and it remain that way until the late-1960’s. On September 9,1968 the show was extended to a full half-hour.

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