Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fried Chicken Wednesday: Soap Operas

It is a dirty little secret that Busy Black Women watch soap operas (what else do we DVR now that Oprah has ended her show) and it is this week that we pay homage to one of our favorite character actresses, Debbi Morgan, who celebrated a birthday on September 20.  On and off since the 80s, Morgan has portrayed Angie Baxter Hubbard, alongside Darnell Williams, who portrayed her soul mate, Jesse Hubbard on All My Children (AMC).   

Of course you already know this because everybody knows about Angie and Jesse, the first black super-couple in daytime (and apparently the person who put together that fan page, must really love them).  And of course, you know that as of this Friday, AMC will sign off for good, perhaps to be reincarnated online as a web serial.  So Happy Birthday Debbi Morgan!  As of Friday, you’re out of a job…?

Except that is not quite true.  Although AMC will be going off the air, Morgan will be joining the cast of The Young and the Restless (Y&R) next month, another long-running soap on a rival network.  And so, Happy Birthday Debbi Morgan!  You still have a job…for now, since it is a pretty good bet that CBS will rinse its two remaining soaps down the drain before long. 

The soap opera as we knew it back when we watched it with our grandmothers and babysitters is dead.  It is okay because years ago we gave up trying to keep up with those inane soap storylines involving alien abductions, resurrections from the dead, and how many husbands Erica Kane has had.  Quietly, but steadily, we have all moved on to the real-life drama provided by reality TV shows. 

Which is rather ironic since reality shows are just as scripted as the genre they are replacing.  And while the daytime soaps remain on life support, primetime soaps seem to have made a comeback—everything is retro from Hawaii 5-0 to Charlie’s Angels to Dallas to 90210.  All we need now is for some young network genius to convince Joan Collins and Linda Evans to come out of mothballs to don their old Dynasty personas.

Unlike their primetime counterparts, the choice of a daytime soap was akin to selecting a car brand.  Back when there were just the three American car companies, people either chose Ford, GM or Chrysler.  The same was true about soap operas back when there were only three networks, except only two choices really mattered—Y&R and AMC (sorry Days of Our Lives fans).  My grandmothers both watched Y&R, but my cousins who sometimes babysat us watched AMC.  The two shows overlapped by half an hour, which made life very difficult if both had particularly engaging storylines.  It was a dilemma that was finally solved when I went away to law school in a different time zone—Y&R came on an hour earlier at 11am!

By then, I had not watched AMC in years because Angie and Jesse were no longer on the show.  Jesse died onscreen, so despite the many reincarnations of their characters on other shows, the initial magic was gone.  Black characters were no longer unique, and once I lost interest in my beloved Y&R, I gave up on soap operas altogether.  I’ve had a few relapses over the years (most recently the four month obsession I had with Days when they were killing off all of their main characters), but once that absurdity ended, I quit cold turkey again.

So on Friday when the residents of Pine Valley bid a final adieu (as well as the folks from Llanview on One Life to Live), they will join the other recently departed shows in that great tub of bubbles in the sky.  A few of the actors will get lucky like Morgan and will be able to change residences, while some of the others might end up hawking jewelry or hair products on those late night infomercials.  In any event, some new roundtable talk show will air next week and then we'll wonder when the same fate will befall the remaining four serials.

By the way, I just realized that I did not make a single reference to fried chicken...


  1. Soap operas are a tradition. My grandmother watched Y&R, so my dad watched them, he got my mom hooked, and now I watch them!

  2. They are...I watched soooo many years of Y&R (at least through three of Victor and Nikki's marriages). I hooked my brother on them too. Every now and then I catch the repeats on Soap Net.