Search for Tomorrow



How my mother and her equally busy friends kept up was a simple affair. They would fill each other in on the day's events by phone if one or the others were busy. During the summer months (for my mother), breaks and holidays they would catch up with “the stories” because, well, they could catch up with them. The point here is that prior to the 70's and only until very recently, there was a prevailing sentiment among viewers and in entertainment that soaps were going to be around forever.

Don't get me wrong. My mother and her friends were not of the opinion that specific, individual shows would last always. Among others, they had seen the losses of The Brighter Day, Young Dr. Malone, From These Roots and even the demise of an entire network, Dumont, and its few soaps right along with it. Thus it wasn't the thought that a single show would last forever that was at play, but that the genre itself would be with us and they immersed themselves in the stories and shows they claimed as their own.

By the time my fidgety ass rolled up on the scene and I'd overheard untold dozens of conversations about these “stories,” I was familiar with the names of soap opera, but not the faces: Bob, Bert, Ed, Holly, Kim, Jennifer, Geraldine, Colin, Joanne, Mike & Nancy and “that devilish” Lisa. Of them all, the whole business of Nicole's daddy trying to kill her on The Edge of Night, kept coming up among my mother and her friends with a sense of urgency and palpable fear until the fateful day arrived that summer.

Upon the appointed day, I asked my mother if I could watch the show with her. She agreed. From what I remember, Adam and Nicole had already set sail on The Sprite with bomb aboard. Nicole's daddy tried to do something to let her know what was up, but was too late. The bomb went off, The Sprite went up in flames and the last images I remember are those of Adam adrift in the sea hanging on to debris screaming Nicole's name. It was all shot on location. My mother was nearly apoplectic, in tears. I was in shock and I didn't even know who these people were or everything that was really going on at the time. Although it would be several more years before I would become fully immersed in soaps, I was hooked from that moment onward.

If that all sounds vaguely familiar, it is likely that many of you came to soaps as I did at my mother's proverbial knee or, in my case, at the foot of her bed. The year for me was around 1974. It has occurred to me that we soap fans tend to recount these kinds of experiences with fond a remembrance of things past without digging just a little bit deeper to uncover what made the event so special in the first place.

For many soap fans, we recount the experience as “generational,” as if in and of itself it is a tradition passed down from parent/grandparent to children/grandchildren. Soaps are the precious family heirlooms. To hear tell it, if you could just engineer the shows today so the parents or grandparents would invest in these shows again, their children now would follow suit just like we did. There may be some truth to that, but the whole idea begs a question: of the mothers, fathers, siblings and other relatives who are currently watching the remaining soaps faithfully, why are their children and grandchildren not becoming hooked as we once were? And how, exactly would you do it if you could?

The “generational” sentiment also does not account for the millions of fans who came to soaps on their own whether in college during the whole 80's soap craze or for some other reason before that decade or since. I think there is however, a common bond among all of us who came to the soap opera as entertainment or art form, as critics or fans: when we first fell in love with soaps no matter how we came to the genre, each of us wanted to know what would happen next. (continued)


Comments

KingTV's picture
Member since:
1 January 2008
Last activity:
4 years 48 weeks

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.

Member since:
12 November 2008
Last activity:
4 years 37 weeks

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.

Scott Novick's picture
Member since:
14 December 2008
Last activity:
1 year 20 weeks

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.

joeyconf's picture
Member since:
23 August 2008
Last activity:
4 years 32 weeks

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

SoapSnob's picture
Member since:
1 July 2008
Last activity:
2 weeks 5 days

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!

Member since:
15 October 2008
Last activity:
37 weeks 1 day

Love this.
JBJ you are the man and I just love reading your posts.

daisyclover1938's picture
Member since:
14 November 2007
Last activity:
3 years 49 weeks

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)

ABCJunky73's picture
Member since:
19 January 2008
Last activity:
1 year 14 weeks

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!"***

Member since:
11 June 2010
Last activity:
3 years 44 weeks

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.