Goodbye to My Old Friend All My Children

On Friday September 23, 2011 ABC aired its last episode of All My Children. This was a sad event since I began viewing AMC in the summer of 1970, when I was not quite nine years of age, and I’ve watched it ever since. I first discovered it along with my younger brothers while home on summer vacation. In those days, my mother did not allow us to watch soap operas and when she questioned our newfound television viewing choice we simply stated that AMC wasn’t a soap opera. She eventually began to watch it too.

 From the beginning Erica Kane played by Susan Lucci was my favorite character and the main reason I stayed with the show is because she never left.  I always thought that Susan Lucci  was beautiful and I liked the fact that she was Mediterranean looking like me. And even at the age of nine, I found her egocentrism amusing though I always wished she would become a nicer person. Over the years she did.  My then six- year- old brother, who also still watches the show, favored Phoebe Tyler played by the classically trained Ruth Warrick.

 Now, 41 years later, All My Children was still the only Television drama I consistently watch. Why is this so? It’s like an old friend. I’ve been following the lives of characters such as Erica, and Jessie and Angie Hubbard for many years. And although I don’t particularly like many of the hokey story lines, I love the multidimensionality of the characters. No one is completely good or completely bad and the characters often grow over time.

 When all my children was in its heyday, it not only told tales of young people, but presented storylines which revolved around a group of middle aged and older people as well. There were the trials and tribulations of Mona Kane and Charles Tyler, Phoebe Tyler and Langley Wallingford  — all actors who inhabited these roles until they died. Many of these thesbians were not only well trained but had also appeared in Classic movies. For example Phoebe Tyler / Ruth Warrick had a pivotal role in Citizen Kane and Palmer Courtland / James Mitchell danced in Oklahoma.  The fact that a number of the cast members could really act, added to AMC’s appeal, and I am certain the loss of these actors/characters brought about the decline in the show’s ratings.  No one, however, lives forever.

 The show could also be hilarious. For example,  Erica Kane, Phoebe Tyler, Langly Wallingford, and Opal Gardner — especially when played by Dorothy Lyman — were all comical characters who were fun to watch. In this way, AMC was very much a satire.

 What’s more, AMC’s dialogue was better than much of what is written for modern-day network television programs. So although soap operas are generally considered to be at the bottom of the entertainment hierarchy, there was a lot to like about All My Children. 

 To me, AMC was at its best in the early to mid 1980’s when the story lines were especially heartfelt and compelling. I remember, while being in the midst  of working towards my undergraduate degree at Cal Poly Pomona, watching AMC in the school cafeteria. There in front of a large wide screen television, hundreds of students would sit absolutely glued to the set. While eating our lunches, we witnessed the the heart wrenching saga of Jenny and Greg and Angie and Jessie. We also followed Erica’s tumultuous romance with writer Mike Roy,  played by the Clark Gable-like Nicolas Survoy — a person I had the opportunity of meeting on an airplane over twenty years ago.

 At the end of its run, AMC still contained multidimensional characters, such as Dr. David Hayward, played by Vincent Irizarry which kept the show interesting.  And of course it was always a pleasure to witness the never-ending antics of the show’s anchor, Erica Kane.

 Although I like the way ABC ended the show with the return  and “ressurection” of pivotal characters, its happy endings, and its “who did JR shoot?” cliff-hanger, it is incredibly sad to know that I will no longer be able to find AMC every Monday through Friday at 12pm. It’s like losing an old friend who had been around for most of my life.

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