The Detective’s Daughter -These are the Days of Our Lives

kimspolicehat

Kim, in Baltimore, writing up lists and a menu for a gluten-free Thanksgiving.

[The winner of the anthology Over the River and Through the Woods is Susan Sportiello. Send me your info at kkurthgray@gmail.com]

Last week I read online that the daytime soap Days of Our Lives was going off the air. I watched nearly every soap opera on television, but Days was not one of them. Still, it made me sad to learn of its demise. I grew up watching a lot of television. A Lot. If ever I’m on Jeopardy and all the questions involve 1970’s television, I’m sure to be a Jeopardy champion.FullSizeRender (26)

Mom was not a soap opera fan, but Nana loved them and would tell me how she’d been following The Guiding Light since it was on the radio. When Nana came home from work we would watch The Edge of Night and Dark Shadows. I was about six years old when she retired from McCormicks and that’s when our addiction really kicked in.

FullSizeRender (27)In the summer, we’d begin our day with Love of Life, followed by Search for Tomorrow, All My Children, The Young and the Restless, Bold and the Beautiful, As the World Turns, Guiding Light, and General Hospital. We switched from channel to channel during commercials, trying to watch them all. Our favorite was One Life to Live. I recall clearly how Nana and I cried when Meredith died and left Dr. Larry a widower with a young son.

Pop-Pop was even in on our stories, as we called them. During the school year he would watch whichever program was running a particularly interesting story line and take notes for me. One of my all-time favorite’s was in the early 1980’s on Guiding Light and involved the characters of Tony and Annabelle. The plot was similar to the movie Ghost Story. It involved a few of the older gentlemen in the town of Springfield who, when younger, had inadvertently caused a woman’s death. Harley Jane Kozak played the part of Annabelle and I cant begin to tell you how thrilled I was to meet her at Malice Domestic when she won the Agatha for Best First Novel [Dating Dead Men].FullSizeRender (20)

I know that soaps get a bad rap and people make fun of them, but they are also a good writing tool. What keeps viewers tuning in everyday? How do you keep a plot interesting? It’s easy to tell what works and when the writers have gone too far. The soaps are also a good way to look at character development and character arcs. How did Erica Kane go from villain to heart of the show? There’s a lot to be learned here.

I miss those days of watching television with my grandparents and the lively discussions we would have about our favorite – and not so favorite – characters. I never watched soaps with either of my children. My daughter and I made a habit of catching every episode of The Gilmore Girls and I guess you could argue that’s similar to a soap. We planned our entire evening around that show and still talk about the episodes.

it’s been many years since I’ve watched a soap opera. I think I watched the final episode of Guiding Light, but that was mostly out of sentimentality. Occasionally I flip through a soap magazine while waiting in the check out line, but I couldn’t truthfully tell you what shows are still on. It’s funny how things that were once so important can fade away. Looking back, I believe it was more about the time spent with my family than the shows. And I’m thankful to have those memories.

Dear Reader, Please tell us some of your favorite shows or pass times you shared with your family while growing up.

29 Thoughts

  1. I loved watching all those soap operas with my neighbor. With no recording, I don’t know how we watched all the shows we watched. You definitely got some life lessons.

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    1. We watched nighttime television with our neighbors during the summer months. Everyone would bring their television set outside and sit it on the top set. We’d all sit in our lawn chairs on the sidewalk and discuss which shows were best. Everyone would turn to the same channel and you could watch the show as you walked up and down the block.

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  2. As a confirmed TV addict, I have entirely too many shows that I love to list here. Let’s just say there are a lot that I like and remember watching (or own on DVD). I’m not sure which ones I watched with my family growing up though. Possibly The Muppet Show, and I’m pretty sure that we (at least my parents and I) watched the last episode of M*A*S*H* together. Oh, and there was the annual viewing of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

    As for non-TV activities with the family, we had a few years where every summer we took a vacation to Vermont. And then there was the annual extended family Christmas Eve gathering that we did for about 40 years before it ended.

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  3. Oh, my this brings back good memories. I watched Edge of Night with my grandmother waaaay back in the late 1950s. As an adult, working a split shift at the college library, I started watching again, with Guiding Light as a lead in. I broke the habit when I got serious about writing full time (soaps were as addictive then as Facebook is now) but I was sad when both those shows came to an end. So many well known actors got their start on soaps, too. They were the summer stock of tv and movies.

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  4. My mother watched Days of Our Lives, so I have some memories of that one. I was devoted to Guiding Light, too, and the Annabelle/Tony story line. I loved the summer she lost her mind–or thought so! Roger Thorpe and Holly Norris were also favorites. He was so evil! Terrific actor.

    I stopped watching soaps as I got older. I never got into the Luke & Laura and “super couples” mania. He assaulted her, and the backtracking on that turned me off completely, but when you think about some of the taboo topics covered on soaps–mental illness, alcoholism, rape, child abuse–they could be pretty bold.

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  5. Great memories, Kim! A soap opera is actually responsible for our friendship.

    My mother worked when I was a kid, but after my brother was born before Christmas in 1961, Mother was home for a few weeks, Which was great, because she was there when we got home from school, and there was hot cocoa! She watched the ABC soaps:the then-new All My Children, and General Hospital, and we would settle down with our warm drinks and watch with her.

    I dropped in on those soaps, plus One Life to Live, throughout my adult life, especially when I was a new mom in 1970-1972. When I was pregnant the next time, in 1984, I had to stay home because of complications, and got hooked on Santa Barbara, which I watched from the first episode. Harley Jane Kozak played an ex-nun named Mary, who was tragically killed in a crazy soap opera way. Later, I saw her name in the mystery section of a bookstore, and went searching for the websites mentioned in the afterword of the book. Found The Lipstick Chronicles, and began so many friendships with authors and readers, like you, Kim.

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  6. My paternal grandmother was the “emergency contact” when I was in school. She never missed her stories. So as kids, my siblings and I would “be sick” in school so we’d get sent to Grandma’s house. There we would have grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and watch the stories: One Life to Live, General Hospital, and All My Children.

    But at home, it was about the sports. Hockey and baseball especially. I remember my mom, who usually worked a 3-11 shift as a nurse, was home one night. After dinner, we kids spread a blanket on the floor, popped popcorn, and got the TV ready. When she asked what was going on, we told her, “Mom, it’s Hockey Night in Canada!”

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  7. I always love your posts, Kim! You make it so easy to imagine you and your loved ones and the lives you all lived during your childhood! We didn’t have a television for most of my childhood so our pastimes revolved more around books. We were all voracious readers and shared many favorites. My mother was, and still is, an enthusiastic mystery reader. I still have the family Agatha Christie collection in my office on shelves overseeing my own efforts every day.

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    1. Though I watch very little television now, I can’t begin to imagine growing up without one. My mom was the big reader in our family, but my grandparents were totally into television. Now that I think about it, my mom also grew up without a television set, so maybe that’s why she was never bothered by it. Growing up, I could tell time by what program was on. As a parent, I would be horrified if my kids were watching that much tv!

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  8. My family didn’t watch soaps, or TV at all in the daytime, but as an adult I’ve watched many nightime soaps like Gray’s Anatomy (I can’t believe it’s still on…) and This is Us. I get very invested for awhile, but then I get worn out by the sheer amount of tragedy that has to be piled on the characters to keep the plot moving and I long for a good murder investigation.

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    1. I have never seen This is Us or Grey’s Anatomy which totally upsets my friends. They simply cannot believe I’ve missed these shows. I get the feeling that those shows try too hard to manipulate the viewers’ feelings, and I don’t like that. It was one of the reasons I stopped watching Downton Abbey. I felt the writers were more interested in upsetting us than they were they were staying true to telling a compelling story. My daughter and I had this same conversation about the recent season of The Gilmore Girls. They should’ve left it alone.

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  9. I’ve never thought about soaps as writing workshop, but it makes perfect sense.

    I didn’t grow up watching a lot of tv. We would play games as a family if there was time in the evening. Mom would read out loud after dinner while we cleaned up many nights as well.

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    1. Card games were big at our house with 500 rummy being the favorite. When my kids were growing up, Friday nights were reserved for pizza and board games. I love meeting people who enjoy board games. Our local coffee shop, Zeke’s, even has a family game night the first Friday of every month.

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  10. I loved watching soaps, but mostly in college. We’d all gather in the common room to watch General Hospital. When I went home my sisters and I would fight over the TV, since they were Guiding Light fans. (I tell my nieces about the no-remote, fighting over the TV, no on demand world and they look aghast at the primitive way we all lived.)

    I also liked Days of Our Lives, and was sorry that they are suspending production. I think there’s still a place for soaps, but maybe its online? Or shorter versions?

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    1. I love soaps and I think that’s one reason why I became a fan of shows like Ugly Betty and Jane the Virgin. It just doesn’t seem the same when watching a show online. I don’t think soaps are shows you should binge on. There something good about the anticipation of waiting until next week, or tuning in tomorrow that is lost on shows you can watch numerous episodes of in one sitting. I’m not sure soaps belong in our instant gratification lifestyle. My husband doesn’t understand this. He wonders why I want the commercials when I could see the same show without them on Netflix. Good things come to those who wait!

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  11. When I was a child, I watched Edge of Night and The Secret Storm with my grandmother. Mom and I watched Never Too Young but I was on my own with Dark Shadows. I still watch The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. The Young and the Restless used to move so slowly that I could watch it only when I was off work. The nighttime soaps changed that. Yeah, I watched most of those, too. Afraid I watch a lot of TV but I read during the commercials so I get both in.

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  12. We grew up in the country. I was never the outdoorsy type, I preferred being indoors, especially during the hot south Louisiana summers. Yes, I read a lot as a child. My mother took us to the library every two weeks. But, I also watched a lot of tv, including many soaps. My grandmother actually got the family started on the ”stories” with As the World Turns”. Whether we wanted to know of not, we knew what happened to Dr. Bob and Kim and Lisa and Nancy Chris and Dr. John and Lucinda. My mother was a devotee of Days of Our Lives and Another World. But my all time favorite soap was Guiding. I started following the show in 1969 and watched, except for my time in college with no tv, until the very end. On the final episode, when the screen read The End, I burst into tears. I loved my Guiding Light. The brilliant acting of Michael Zaslow, Jerry verDorn, Maureen Garrett, Maeve Kincaid, Kim Zimmer, Lisa Brown, Allison Janey and yes Harley Jane Kozak had me mesmerized for decades. After 10 years, I still find myself looking at the clock, around 2:00 in the afternoons, and thinking, it’s almost time for Guiding Light.

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  13. I used to watch Days of Our Lives with my mother. She had watched it from the very beginning so would fill me in on the back stories of certain characters as we watched. Sometimes they would change the back story for current storyline purposes and she would get so mad – lol.

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