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As the World Turns

Why are people so nostalgic for the old soap operas when they are canceled but they get cancelled because no one actually watches them?

My mother and great-grandmother watched As the World Turns for many years so I saw it more than I would have liked from as far back as I can remember all the way up into the late 80’s. Soap operas then were a bit “risqué” but they were not as over the top as they are now. I think the fact that they border on being silly with all of the shenanigans is one reason why they are failing but the major reason is that we don’t need them – we have real-life soap operas we can follow online, in the tabloids, and on shows like TMZ and Inside Edition. It’s quite a commentary on how our society has changed over the years when you realize that the antics of real people like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Mel Gibson running around are far crazier than anything the fictional people of Oakdale every did.

I taped the last episode today because it reminds me of how much my mother and great-grandmother liked the show. Several of the characters I remembered were still there – Holden, Lucinda, John Dixon, Lisa and Bob and Kim Hughes. Most of them had been on there for years. Don Hastings played Bob for 50 years! Helen Wagner was in the first episode in 1956 and appeared for the last time this June – 1 month after she died at age 91.

My kids probably will never watch a soap opera. It probably won’t be long until there are none left. Also, we’ll probably rarely see a show broadcast new episodes continuously across generations, unless you count news programs or The Simpsons which may outlive me.

Shows like As the World Turns and Guiding Light connected us with times long gone. The world has changed quite a lot and these shows struggled mightily to hold on.

Below are two clips showing what is most likely the best example of As the World Turns place in American History. In these clips from 1963, you’ll see Bob Hastings and Helen Wagner in the episode interrupted by Walter Cronkite as he announces that President Kennedy has been shot. My mother actually saw this as it happened.

Aside from the tragedy of that day, it is interesting to hear the organ music that accompanied the scenes of the show which are reminiscent of old radio serials. The commercials are not far from what we see on television today.

Times have changed and television has to change with it, whether we’re ready for it or not.