Some warbled, dramatic music and a slowly rotating Earth – that is the As the World Turns intro that I remember from my childhood. It was the era of the Snyders and their farm, the Lily/Holden/Dusty love triangle, the James Stenbeck who always (shock!) returned from presumed death, etc. Growing up, every afternoon between 1 and 2 p.m. my mom was watching As the World Turns, which means that most days, so was I.
I stopped watching the show years ago, except for the summer after graduate school when I was unemployed and got sucked back in to day time tv again for a few months. The beauty (or perhaps tragedy) of soap operas is that even if you haven’t watched the show in ten years, you can pick right back up, since there is always a core group of characters who have grown up or grown old on the show. And so, from time to time (as in, once every few years…), I have read the weekly update in the newspaper, and know what’s going on in Oakdale.
I’m not sure whether to be sad, pleased, or indifferent about the apparently imminent death of all soap operas. Several soaps have left the air over the past few years, and new ones aren’t replacing them. Apparently more people want to watch judge shows than soaps now. As the World Turns was the latest soap to fall victim to this trend – it aired its final episode last Friday. Out of nostalgia, I watched the finale.
What is a fitting send-off for a show that’s been running for over 50 years? Certainly not the uneventful, dull episode that the writers came up with. I suppose they were focusing on closure for those Oakdale residents who managed to survive to the end without being murdered, dying of a rare disease, going to prison, getting amnesia, etc. Here’s what I gathered from the finale:
- Jack and Carly are happily married – again – and have a baby on the way, not to be confused with the baby that Jack recently discovered he’s not the father of.
- Lily and Holden are once again having problems (in fact, it looks like they are separated/divorced), but it looks like these true loves are going to find their way back to each other again.
- Lucinda and John Dixon rekindled their love for one another while in Europe, and they plan to live the rest of their days enjoying each other’s company, much to Lisa’s chagrin.
- In the strangest development, Barbara Ryan is happily involved with a much younger Henry, and they seem to spend their time dancing to disco music at home, even with a disco ball and multi-colored lights. She even dissolved her partnership in her fashion company with her son, Paul. Luckily, Paul had been about to do the same thing. They have now “set each other free,” and Paul is happily involved with Emily.
- Emily’s much younger sister, Allison, moved away with Tom and Margo’s son Casey. I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing. Surely they are older than college aged by now.
- Margo was quite distraught about her youngest son leaving home, but Tom helped her focus on the positive, and now that they are empty nesters, they conveniently switched homes with Katie and Chris, who just got engaged and are planning to fill a house up with kids.
- Coincidentally, Katie and Chris’s condo once belonged to some guy who died and was in a relationship with Luke (Lily’s son). The guy’s heart was transplanted into Chris, so Luke came over to listen to Chris’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.
- Bob Hughes retired as Chief of Staff at the hospital, and the show ended with him leaving his office saying , “Goodnight,” with a globe spinning on his desk.
It was weird to see everyone (except Luke – bummer for him) so happy on a soap. That’s actually why it was so boring. Soaps thrive on tragedy, intrigue, and drama. If I had been in charge of the finale, I would have included a shocking or untimely death, an unexpected revelation, and most importantly, plenty of cameos of former characters. Since they episode was centered around Bob’s retirement, why not have a huge retirement party and have some old familiar faces come to town for the event? I don’t know who’s alive or dead, but what about some of the other Snyders, or Craig Montgomery, or Lucinda’s other daughter Sierra. What ever happened to Nancy Hughes? Even if they couldn’t afford to have cameos, or couldn’t figure out how to work these characters into the finale, they could at least have ended with an epic video montage. I certainly would have enjoyed that.
Random Memories of the Show
- Actors who have gone on to success – Not that being on a soap opera doesn’t spell success as an actor… But, some of the faces I remember are Meg Ryan as Craig’s first love, Betsy; Marisa Tomei as one of Lisa’s many children, Marcy, I think; Julianne Moore as Bob and (Lisa’s?) twin daughters Frannie and Sabrina (am I remembering their names correctly?); William Fichtner as Josh; etc.
- Duncan’s castle – ATWT wasn’t the only soap to feature an exotic setting. Other shows had deserted islands, king’s palaces, or villain’s secret lairs. But I was intrigued as a child by the idea of Duncan McWhoever’s Scottish castle on the outskirts of Oakdale. I remember that he was originally involved with Barbara, then Shannon, then Barbara. And somewhere along the way he had Kira as a foster child (played by Lauren Hill from the Fugees). Who could resist a Scottish man’s charm? I wonder whatever happened to Duncan, and to Jessica and their daughter Bonnie.
- Casey’s death – Not young Casey, but his namesake – the Casey that much older Lyla married. Lyla was Craig and Margo’s mother. Whatever happened to her? I need to do some Wikipedia reading! I don’t remember what sort of illness he had, but I remember very well how emotional the episode was where Margo decided to grant his wish for an easy death by pulling his plug. 😦
- The Pond – Ah, the Snyder pond – site of secret rendezvous and romantic starlit dates. All the Snyder kids hung out here at one time or another.
- The Yacht Club – The site of summer teen drama – all the high school kids would hang out here and get involved in all sorts of shenanigans no doubt.
- The Snyder family tree – See below for my thoughts on this fun, ongoing mess of a geneology.
Family Tree Game
- My favorite thing about watching a soap was always trying to plot out the complex family trees. It was best not to dig too deep, or you’d discover that someone was actually married to his sister, or that his stepdaughter was his aunt, or something else bizarre like that. My favorite family tree was always the Snyders, so just for fun I’d like to try to list everyone that I remember by memory. I’ll include a link to the actual family tree when I finish.
- Emma Snyder – the matriarch! She seemed to spend all her time standing at the kitchen counter giving her many children advice, or just listening to them lament about all their problems. Her children:
- Seth – I believe he was the oldest
- Iva – She was adopted, so it’s okay that her brother, Holden, married her daughter Lily. Oddly enough, Lily was the result of Iva being raped by Josh (played by now successful character actor William Fichtner), yet somehow Josh was accepted into the family when he married Ida’s sister, Meg.
- Ellie – My favorite actress who played Ellie was the one with the short dark brown hair. I don’t really remember what she did on the show. Mostly she just popped in and out of town for visits.
- Caleb – I think he was one of the sons, but he may have been a Snyder cousin. I do remember that he was married to Julie, and that one night Holden got drunk and slept with her, resulting in a child, or some such.
- Holden – Ah, the heart throb of Oakdale. I remember him best when he was young and always working in the stables, when he wasn’t swimming in the pond with Lily or having romantic picnics with her. As far as I can tell, he’s the only Snyder who stuck around until the end of the show.
- Meg – Yeah, I can’t remember what she did either. The sisters never had much to contribute, I guess.
- Angel – I think she married into the Snyder family. Maybe she was married to Caleb and then Seth for awhile.
- Let’s see how I did with my Snyder family tree – Pretty close. As I suspected, Caleb was a cousin. I forgot that Holden also married Angel. It’s crazy how many marriages, divorces, and illegitimate children are represented in this family!
Let’s face it: soap operas are about as cheesy and over the top as tv gets. And you can fast forward through a one hour episode and catch all the “important” stuff in about ten minutes. Everything is so drawn out – the long pauses, the contemplative stares or daydreams, the dramatic zoom-in close-ups, etc. The writing is pretty elementary, the acting is usually not great, and the stories are usually predictable. Still, there’s a certain charm to soaps, and it seems like there should still be a place in the world for them. Really, what’s the difference between me finding comfort in a primetime show like Parenthood, and a stay at home mom of the 1980s keeping up with the lives of the Hughes and Snyders in Oakdale? Well, I could think of a few… But hats off to As the World Turns for entertaining millions of women (and some men, too) for over fifty years!
What are your favorite memories of As the World Turns, or any other soaps that you watched?
- For more As the World Turns nostalgia, visit this website, which does actually feature a video montage that includes some of the old school scenes I would have liked seeing in the finale.