Genie Francis of GH on Story of Soaps
Credit: Image: ABC

Plus, other notable takeaways from last night’s documentary special.

In watching The Story of Soaps I was struck once again by the remarkable contributions to the soap opera industry by ‘Queen of the Soaps’ Irna Phillips, who created or co-created 18 radio and television series, including Guiding Light and As the World Turns, and the incomparable Agnes Nixon, who got her start working under Phillips and worked as a headwriter on Search For Tomorrow, Guiding Light, and Another World, before going on to create All My Children, One Life to Live, and Loving. It was gratifying to see a primetime slot dedicated to celebrating their accomplishments and taking time to flash back to the various ways in which they guided the evolution of soaps, such as Nixon incorporating the Vietnam War into her storylines, tackling social issues, and giving women a voice through stories that simply reflected what was happening in real life and in the headlines.

It was a thrill to see so many scenes, beloved characters, and storylines from the past. It’s incredible how some are etched into the memories of soap opera fans, such as Robin and Stone’s AIDS story on General Hospital. The special was chock-full of nostalgia that had many recalling favorite characters from the past and revisiting storylines that received unprecedented attention, such as Luke and Laura’s wedding, which proceeded a candid look at the controversial beginnings of the supercouple in which Luke raped Laura on the floor of the disco. Anthony Geary recently spoke out on the rape, and The Story of Soaps showed the scene, as well as General Hospital’s follow-up years later when Laura confronted Luke with the reality of the trauma he’d caused her. Genie Francis, who plays Laura, appeared in the segment and said of the incident, “I’ve had to justify it for so many years and I have to say, it feels good to sit here and say I won’t justify it. It’s awful. They shouldn’t have done it.”

While much of the take away from The Story of Soaps was positive, the omission of the contributions of William and Lee Phillip Bell, who co-created Young and Restless and Bold and Beautiful, two of the four remaining soaps, was glaring, though their son Bradley Bell, headwriter and executive producer of Bold and Beautiful, did make a few brief appearances. Also off-putting and left many wondering if the program was a celebration of soaps or a eulogy, was the take that soap operas were displaced by reality television following the OJ Simpson trial, along with the suggestion that soap fans wanted to watch the trial as opposed to their soaps.

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