(4.29.13) — Today is Welcome Back to Pine Valley Day. (Or if your preference is just down the road, it’s Welcome Back to Llanview Day.) It’s the day that the Internet reboot of All My Children and One Life to Live begins.
It took me awhile, but I pinpointed my first viewing of AMC to the spring of 1982. I was a senior in high school and I had been, since before I even knew any better, a viewer of CBS soap operas — As The World Turns and Guiding Light, specifically. I couldn’t help it. That’s what my mother and my aunt and my grandmother watched. I couldn’t go anywhere, it seemed, during my childhood without having a CBS soap playing in the background.
That spring, a friend of mine called me on some holiday from school and demanded I turn on All My Children. (There was a lot of watching television while on the telephone in those days; just go with it.) She said that I had to watch this one crazy character because it reminded her of her mother. The actress was Dorothy Lyman, the role was Opal Gardner, and I thought it was hilarious. (And yes, Opal was a lot like her mother, as scary as that may be to contemplate.)
If Opal, Glamorama and all, got me to open the door, the rich, multi-generational tapestry of characters in Pine Valley invited me to the party and demanded that I pull up a chair.
Watching AMC in those days was not just about watching the hot youngsters —Jenny and Greg and Angie and Jesse and Tad and Liza — it was also about watching Benny Sago spar with “The Duchess,” the one and only Phoebe Tyler, it was about the Charles/Mona/Phoebe triangle, it was about Langley and Phoebe and Myrtle and Opal, it was about hooker-with-a-heart-o’gold Donna Beck and Chuck Tyler, it was about Erica Kane and Tom Cudahy, Brooke English and Tom Cudahy, Palmer Cortlandt before Adam Chandler came to town, Nina and Cliff, Ellen and Mark, Joe and Ruth and Grandma Kate Martin, the best soap opera villain ever, Billy Clyde Tuggle. And “Bonkers.”
Great memories of stories well-told, but they are the stuff of television lore. They are the stuff of history as much as this iconic show opening:
When ABC announced the cancellation of AMC, I started to watch it again. I hadn’t watched much in the decade before the cancellation and I have it on pretty good authority that it was nothing like the Agnes Nixon-penned salad days of the 70s and 80s. The first thing I noticed was that Tad Martin had grey hair! Tad the Cad got old? What the hell? I just couldn’t get over that. I mentioned it to a friend and fellow viewer. He suggested that I should look in the mirror. Oh. According to the AMC bible, Tad and I are the same age. Dammit.
Still, I can mourn my lost youth, I suppose, but, then again, I don’t actually want to see the same things I saw in 1983. I don’t want to watch the same stories again and again. I want to be excited about new stories and new ideas. Isn’t that really the point?
(And the other point is that Michael E. Knight and I both aged gracefully and we still look fabulous, grey hair and all!)
Anyhow, today is a new day in Pine Valley. Like Brigadoon, it’s risen again and is ready to let us in. Maybe some of your old favorites won’t be there. Maybe you’ll be looking for The Goalpost or the Valley Inn or the Glamorama. Maybe they won’t be there either. But just like in1970 at the first beginning, Joe Martin will be there (God bless Ray MacDonnell!!).
Dixie Cooney will be there. And Opal Cortlandt. And Jesse and Angie Hubbard. And Brooke English and Adam Chandler. And a whole lot of young people that you don’t know yet. And that shouldn’t scare you away. That should excite you. It’s a new day. In the world and in Pine Valley.
Oft-repeated through the years — and for awhile seen in the opening credits, I believe — is the poem from Agnes Nixon’s AMC bible:
The Great and the Least,
The Rich and the Poor,
The Weak and the Strong,
In Sickness and in Health,
In Joy and Sorry,
In Tragedy and Triumph,
You are All My Children.
Nixon’s All My Children has always been about just those things. Today, they begin telling new stories in a new medium with both familiar and new faces just like always. I have a feeling this day may mark the beginning of a new day of serialized storytelling in this country. That hope — that we can again tune in tomorrow — or at four a.m. or watch from our phone on the train on the way home from the office — makes this a very good day indeed.
P.S. — I spent many years of my working life in the theatre. I don’t get star struck. I have met and worked with many famous personages, but my autograph collection is very, very small. The only person from a daytime drama I have ever deliberately sought out to meet and to sign an autograph was the late Ruth Warrick. I thought she was an absolutely brilliant actress and there have been very, very few characterizations ever that rose to the rarified level of Phoebe English Tyler Wallingford.
Would that the ‘Duchess’ could see Pine Valley reborn. I’m certain that she and the rest of the Daughters of Fine Lineage would be pleased!