On Friday, September 23rd, the last network airing of All My Children began at 12 Noon Central Standard Time. An hour later, it was over. The scheming, the lying, the loving, the surviving, the happy, the sad, the highs, the lows, the tragedy and the triumph.
Erica Kane, the Diva of Pine Valley, finally got her comeuppance when Jackson Montgomery finally, after years of pursuit, responded to her plea that she needed and loved him with an homage worthy of Gone With the Wind. (“Frankly, Erica, I don’t give a damn what you need.” Aaaand exit – stage left). David Hayward, the Scourge of Pine Valley, resurrected several dozen people (at least it felt that way), including Dixie Cooney-Martin and Stuart Chandler, both done in via terrible writing by past writing regimes and approval of the Executive Producer (*coughJulieHananCarrutherscough*) and Zach Slater, half of the Zendall Supercouple both beloved and reviled across soapdom. Bianca Montgomery, the Moral Center of Pine Valley, finally, seemingly, got a happy ending. Adam and Brooke returned, as did Joe and Ruth. And Jamie, albeit briefly. Tad and Dixie got back together, Jake and Amanda stayed together, David knocked up Cara and JR got a gun…
The show ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, as JR, mad as hell and apparently not going to take it anymore (no matter how stupid, selfish and alcohol-fueled) hid in the Chandler Mansion’s infamous tunnels and fired one single shot into the crowd of PV revelers as the screen faded to black. Who was shot? We don’t know. Why? Because the show will move on-line in January and Agnes Nixon, creator and headwriter, and Prospect Park, new owners of the venerable soap, wanted it that way.
While I didn’t agree with the ending, I understand why they did it. I’m just sad that such a time-honored icon went out with more of a whimper than a bang (no pun intended). I understand that the cliffhanger aspect will hopefully keep people guessing until the show re-appears, it also could have the opposite effect in that as time passes, it’s possible no one will care what happened to whom by the time January rolls around. I think a finale tied up in a nice, neat bow would have worked just as well. Because while the cliffhanger keeps people guessing, the time that passes between now and January, in real time, would also allow the characters’ feelings to change, lives to begin and end and the world to continue turning (with apologies to another great, yet canceled, show). The show could then pick up from there, re-booting with an explanation of who and why without having to deal with death and destruction from the outset.
But that is neither here nor there.
What IS here and there is that this venerable show was removed from our airwaves after 41 years. Saying good-bye to such a dear friend has been hard. For every Daytime Television Executive intent on killing daytime serials one long-running, scripted show at a time for cheap, boring, horrible “reality television”, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of long-time viewers who have incredible memories to share about their “stories”. Women who grew up watching with their mothers, grandmothers, friends, family. Men and women who remember scheduling college classes around their favorites. An entire generation of teens struggling with their sexuality…
All My Children wasn’t just entertainment. It told the story of us, our neighbors, our families, our friends. It was timely and relevant. It told the story of legalized abortion (Erica had one in 1973, the first legal one on daytime television following the passage of Roe v. Wade- ridiculously undone in 2005), opposition to the Vietnam War (for which the late Mary Fickett won Daytime’s first Emmy Award), teen homosexuality (delicately and beautifully written by show creator Agnes Nixon and portrayed by Eden Riegel) and the stigma of Aids (heartbreakingly performed by David Canary and Ellen Wheeler). The show handled both drama and comedy, many times excelling at the latter at the expense of the former. It taught tolerance, respect and love. It bridged generations and taught us all a few lessons we sorely needed to learn.
For me, All My Children was a lifetime friend. I began watching during the scorching hot summers of my youth, hiding in the air conditioning during the heart of the day and losing myself in Pine Valley, before following that up with the rest of the ABC Daytime line-up. My senior year of high school, my schedule allowed me to be home by 11:30 where I would watch the shows before returning to school at 3:30 for basketball practice. I watched during my lunch hour all through college and as often as I could when I joined the workforce in a time before DVR’s- or even VCR’s. I grew up with Jenny and Greg, Angie and Jesse, Liza, Amanda and the entire teen set from the early 80’s. I loved the Cliff and Nina love story, the hilarity of Erica, Janet, Skye and Marian trying to hide the supposedly dead body of Dr. Jonathan Kinder and the incredibly told story of Stuart and Cindy.
I watched Tad and Dixie’s relationship evolve into one of the most enduring on Daytime television, persevering through 2 deaths (both Dixie’s) only to be reunited in the end, as it should be. I watched almost all of Erica’s marriages begin… and end.
I made it through chemotherapy sessions in the summer of 2005 with the help of Kendall and Greenlee (Alicia Minshew and Rebecca Budig), affectionately known as Kenlee, watching them work their way through hatred and friendship, humor and tears, and equally tormenting Erica Kane in the process.
I cheered when couples I loved finally got together, I railed when poor storytelling made my favorite characters seem so foreign to me. I wrote the press, I wrote the show, I wrote the actors. I’ve watched through good times and some really bad clunker stories. I admit to walking away because of the reign of horror we were subjected to by one Charles Pratt and his offensive, insipid, insulting and ridiculous vision for the show. I came back because, like a long-lost friend, I missed it so much.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many stars of the show, Alicia Minshew, Thorsten Kaye, the irrepressible Michael E. Knight. Michael even gave me 20 Disney bucks when he heard we had arrived at the park at 3am so I could grab some breakfast when I was done. I used the money to buy a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, instead…
I met some the of the best friends I’ve ever had at a Message Board dedicated to the pairing of Bianca and Maggie (the Supercouple known as BAM – portrayed by Eden and Elizabeth Hendrickson). They were there for me as I battled cancer and hugged me tightly whenever we got together.
I’ve been honored to find myself one of the founding members of Eden Riegel’s Official Fan Club (AbsoluteEden.com) and have had the opportunity to know Eden and her husband, Andrew Miller, as well as her mother, Lenore.
I watched the final week of All My Children alternating between laughter and tears, finally coming to that realization that, come Monday at noon, there would be no need to make sure my television was on and tuned to ABC. I thought of the friends I made way back in the late 70’s during those hot summer days, who came into my house every day to entertain me, the ones who have long since passed and those we have recently mourned. I admittedly wept when thinking of those who I may never see again as they have been to me for 30+ years.
I sighed when I dried my tears and prepared myself to do this again in a few months when we say good-bye to another life-long friend.
And I smiled when I remembered what All My Children has meant to me for more than half my life.
Good bye, my dear, dear friend. I thank you for all that you have given me.
May we meet again soon.