Soap History: Loving
Blue collar vs. blue blood on this dramatic 80s soap.
Agnes Nixon once again used her magic touch to help co-create this ABC daytime drama in the early 80s. “Loving” premiered as a two-hour ABC Sunday night movie in order to gain an audience before moving into its daily 11:30 AM EST time slot the next day. Nixon’s vision was to create a contemporary show that embraced classic soap opera themes like romance and class struggle as other shows had veered toward more action-themes storylines to bring in a younger audience. Nixon left the series after a few years and ratings suffered until the end which many attribute to a high turnover in writers and producers.
(June 26, 1983 – November 10, 1995).
The original families consisted of the Donovans in the blue-collar roles while the Aldens existed in a higher echelon of society.
Trisha Alden (Noelle Beck) and Trucker McKenzie (Robert Tyler).
When the “Loving” pilot aired in 1983 in the fictional town of Corinth, Pennsylvania, the cast was filled with a few film actors such as Lloyd Bridges (Johnny Forbes) and Geraldine Page [Amelia Whitely] who never made it to the daily series. Despite that, over the course of its decade on air, “Loving” employed some actors who went on to be well-loved in Daytime (Laura Wright, Lisa LoCicero, Jennifer Ashe, Amelia Heinle, Debbi Morgan, James Kiberd, Linden Ashby, Genie Francis, Jean LeClerc, Gwynn Gillis, Catherine Hickland, Anders Hove, Ted King, Darnell Williams, Rena Sofer) and other notable stars (Luke Perry, Kelly Rutherford, Bryan Cranston, John O’Hurley, Teri Polo, Rebecca Gayheart, Daisy Fuentes, John Schneider, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Feuerstein) throughout its run.
“Loving” was largely set on the campus of the fictional Alden University. The show began with TV anchorwoman Merrill Vocheck (Patricia Kalember) discovering a much bigger story as she did a piece on Alden. Despite the initial intrigue, romance was the show’s big theme while it handled tough topics like alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and incest.
As the show faced cancellation in 1995 it set out on its biggest – and what many consider its best – storyline in the show’s history. A serial killer struck Corinth and took out a number of big-name characters like Cabot (Wesley Addy), Stacey (Lauren Marie Taylor), Jeremy (Jean LeCerc) and more. The big reveal was that long-suffering matriarch Gwyn (Christine L. Tudor) was behind the mass-murder spree in an effort to relieve them from the pain she perceived they were in. She then killed herself before she was apprehended by the police. The remaining characters of “Loving” moved to New York to create the new show, “The City.”
The ratings game:
It’s hard to believe there was a time when a soap opera could exist just outside the top 10 in ratings its entire run and still make it for more than a decade. But that is exactly what “Loving” did. In fact, when it hit 10th place in the ratings its second year, it was the best it ever did. Credit for that was due to a new timeslot after “Ryan’s Hope” got bumped to make room, although some larger markets, like Atlanta, refused to make the switch. In 1992, ABC stopped airing shows at noon since often they got bumped to accommodate local newscasts. “Loving” was moved even a few more times. And while the show lingered on at dead last in the ratings the last four years it was on air, it did beat the top powerhouse “The Young and the Restless” in huge markets such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
* The last few years of the show saw a string of producers, including a four-month stint by Mary-Ellis Bunim at the start of 1990. She went on to co-create MTV’s seminal reality show, “The Real World” which she conceived as a scripted soap opera, drawing off her experience on shows like “Search for Tomorrow,” “Santa Barbara,” “As The World Turns,” and “Loving.”
* There were many crossovers and mentions of “All My Children” during the course of its run, which was easy considering they were taped in the same building. Character Ally (Laura Wright) was a big fan of “AMC,” and Jeremy Hunter (Jean LeCerc), Trevor Dillon (James Kiberd) and Angie Hubbard (Debbie Morgan) where characters on both shows. “AMC” wasn’t the only soap to cross paths with “Loving,” like when “General Hospital’s” Cesar Faison (Anders Hove) hung around a bit in 1993.
* A revolving door of writers was blamed for numerous questionable storylines, for example, a cough syrup addiction and deals with the devil.
Photos courtesy: ABC
– Hollie Deese