When is Christmas over? Is it when the last present is unwrapped? The last relative has gone home? The last Christmas candy has been eaten? Maybe when the ball drops in Times Square?
I know Christmas is over when I stop expecting something new.
During the weeks before Christmas I enjoy lots of fun little surprises. I'm often surprised by an old carol I'd forgotten and childhood memories come flooding back. Relatives surprise me with quick calls to double check someone's size or compare travel plans and recipes. This year we were surprised to spend Christmas Day at the home of my daughter and son-in-law instead of having them come to our place because they'd been sick and weren't up to driving over. We packed up Christmas dinner and took it to them and had a great time opening presents and playing with their cats.
Somehow, no matter how much planning goes into the season it’s never quite what you expected.
Today we said goodbye to another soap opera as One Life To Live aired its last original episode on ABC. For close to twenty-five years I've tuned in to life in Llanview expecting to see a new story unfold every Monday through Friday. Sometimes I predicted the way a story might play out, guessing which good guy was really the bad guy, which DNA test wasn't necessarily conclusive or which character might be recast next. More than once I've seen good writers fix a bad story and brilliant actors shine when handed a less than brilliant script.
But I always saw something new. No repeats, except for an occasional holiday re-run.
Next Monday there will be nothing new in Llanview. And I'm still grieving the loss of All My Children. More than just entertainment, these shows have been a gathering place for families and friends from one generation to the next for as long as I can remember. Even when characters and stories changed, we could tune into Llanview or Pine Valley and find something familiar and remember the foundational stories that we loved so much as we watched new stories develop. I could always pick up a novel or go see a movie but the never ending story format of soap operas is something unique.
The sense of expectation is what I will miss on Monday when the time comes and there's no One Life To Live to watch. I felt that loss when All My Children went off the air but at the time we thought we'd be seeing it online so I could tell myself it wasn't really goodbye and I took comfort in the last few months of life in Llanview. I am very grateful for Frank Vallentini and Ron Carlivati and all the cast and crew of OLTL who brought this wonderful show to a very satisfying close. The last two shows in particular were brilliantly written and brought me to tears several times. Special thanks go to The View for their Tribute to One Life to Live show for packing so many memories into an hour that flew by, also accompanied by tears.
It's not just the anticipation of what my favorite characters will do next that I'll miss, though, it's sharing that with other viewers. Year by year new friends have become dear friends as we've talked about our favorite stories in person and online. This week plans are underway for the next fan luncheon for Jessica Leccia in New York City and I've been thinking of people I might see there if I'm able to attend. Some I've never met, some I met only briefly at last year's luncheon, but dear friends I chat with every day.
While bracing myself for this last week of OLTL I thought of how Guiding Light led the way for us. As GL was going off the air, many of the actors, writers & crew members made themselves available to the fans on Twitter and Facebook. We saw life go on for them as they shared their new dreams with us and allowed us to encourage and support them. In many cases new and life-changing friendships formed and once again I was caught by surprise. Somehow we felt like we didn't have to really let them go as we followed them to new shows and projects. I’m glad so many from AMC & OLTL are staying in touch with us the same way now.
I’m sure I’ll see some of my favorite actors from OLTL go on to other TV shows or movies. Some may be seen on stage in towns all around the country or even on Broadway. Some may be signing their latest book at my local bookstore.
I certainly expect to watch some of them in webseries like my favorite new soap, Venice. These are the ones reinventing the entertainment industry and interacting with the audience in new and different ways. Emmy-winning Venice is in its third season now and when new episodes are released every Wednesday I gather with other viewers to talk about the latest developments just like I have with other soaps I’ve watched for years.
I expect new stories will be shared online as long as there is an audience to watch them.
I know I’ll be staying tuned to see what they do next.
I hope you'll leave a comment and tell me about your favorite new webseries. Feel free to share your memories of OLTL or thoughts on the this week's shows.