Discussion in 'Sundry Prime Time Soaps' started by Willie Oleson, Apr 19, 2019.
Wow, thanks for posting this!
I'd always read about Our Private World but had never looked online to see if any of it existed. It was unique because it was a nighttime spin-off of a daytime soap--the enormously popular As the World Turns. Lisa Hughes (mentioned in this episode but not seen) was the premier troublemaker on ATWT, and her portrayer, Eileen Fulton, was about as famous as anyone on daytime at that time. They made the mistake of trying to make Lisa more 'mainstream' on this show (that is, part of an ensemble) but the toned-down Lisa wasn't what people wanted to see. Still, centering a spin-off around Eileen Fulton was a testament to how 'big' she was back then.
OPW was indeed CBS's attempt to emulate the success of Peyton Place, but also to transfer some of their daytime supremacy into their primetime line-up. They even aired the show several times per week (as seen in the promo at the end). The look-alike opening titles and similar incidental music (not to mention the name) made it feel a lot like an extension of ATWT rather than its own standalone show. The only signs of it being primetime (in my opinion) are the larger, more well-appointed sets, and (gasp!) the married couple conversing in a full-sized bed. If it were daytime, that convo would have been in twin beds, or they would have been in chairs.
It was especially cool seeing Nicolas Coster in that last scene (as Dr. John Eldridge). Lisa ended up marrying him. She returned to ATWT after OPW was cancelled, and about thirty years later ATWT used her time away on OPW to create a secret child (a son named Scott Eldridge) she'd never mentioned to the people of Oakdale. It was a fabulous plot twist, since Lisa had become kind of...dull? in her sixties and this reminded us that she was always in some kind of trouble in her younger days. Nicolas Coster also got to play another husband of Lisa's, since they enjoyed working together so much on OPW.
It all sort of ended badly, though, because the actor who played her son (Joseph Breen) discovered he was HIV-positive and ATWT fired him. He tried to keep his status out of the press but it ended up leaking to some tabloid. Since it was the early 1990s, things were obviously very different--ATWT never really got the sort of media shit-storm that such a firing would have generated later on.
I recall a storyline from my childhood where Lisa was generally being a bitch to Joyce Colman, since the two women were vying for some man. Eileen Fulton was in a supermarket in Manhattan, minding her own business when some random woman who obviously watched the show very closely walked up and slapped Fulton, then screamed obscenities at her for what "she" was doing to Joyce. The attack generated headlines and the network publicized the fact that they hired a bodyguard to escort Fulton in public.
In that clip, you saw a (very professional-looking) photo of Lisa's young son, Tom. This character was aged to adulthood in the early 1970s, and Fulton had a clause inserted in her contract that Tom would not become a father (which obviously would turn Lisa into a grandmother). Other actresses have followed that lead over the years, but I do believe Fulton was the first to pull that stunt (and have the network honor it).
Both of these anecdotes tends to reinforce the idea that if CBS wanted a diva at the center of their primetime soap, they certainly got one with Eileen Fulton.
The diva doesn't want to be affected by the turns of the world?
Absolutely not! They sort of got around the Grandmother Clause later on, however, when it was revealed that while Tom was serving in Vietnam, he had managed to make her a grandmother after all. In the 1990s his adult daughter arrived in town, played by Ming-Wa Nen (now just Ming-Wa). By then, I guess Fulton was kind of cool with the idea that she was no Spring Chicken any more.
Didn't Joan Van Arc pull some sort of similar stunt with Lucy / Dallas / Knots as to not be aged prematurely?
Many actresses were said to have that Grandmother Clause, but since contracts are so secretive, it's all speculation. Fulton (and I believe Susan Lucci) are the only two actresses I recall who've acknowledged having it...though in both cases, they relented once they reached a certain age. I think JVA, ML, and maybe DM all had an unofficial agreement with their producers not to 'go there', since the producers likely wanted to keep them happy and didn't go that route. Heck, in JVA and ML's cases they went in the other direction by giving them newborn children to make them appear younger. I guess the Dallas/KL "divorce" made Lucy a moot point; Lucy could have had a pack of kids at that point and KL would never have acknowledged them.
Yeah, I've heard tell of these women having stipulations in their contracts because they wanted to appear younger in playing their on-screen counterparts. As it's been said, however, the sacredness of these contracts for public viewing renders it impossible to prove as fact, and it's easy to say that many of these actresses aren't going to admit to it right off in fear of revealing their vanity.
In speaking of the Knots Landing ladies, however, I've never heard about the clause being linked to Donna Mills and Michele Lee's contracts, but I've heard it linked to Joan Van Ark on multiple different fan pages and discussion forums. Apparently, she was never fond of having a teenager daughter, which is why Lucy never made any further appearances --- or permanent transition --- in/to California because Van Ark evidently wanted to be viewed as a younger woman, hence the birth of her and Gary's twins.
It isn't shocking, though. These ladies wanted to be viewed as younger because of the young beauties surrounding them and pressure from 'the system' itself.
I don't think it's that they wanted to be younger themselves, but the business is both notoriously sexist and ageist, so once you're seen as an "older woman" it gets harder and harder to get good parts. And you can't ever "de-age" once you're seen as old, especially on weekly television. Even if it's getting better these days, it's still pretty dire to get a juicy role as a woman unless you're Meryl Streep.
SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) often affects these kids, which can make that young diva's four year-old son suddenly turn nineteen. This helps the writers write for the (now-) nineteen year-old, but it hurts the parents of that kid, who were "young parents" and are now "parents of a young adult" and "potential grandparents" despite not having aged a day. Some soap characters (especially female) end up being painted into a corner by SORAS-ing decisions like this. It's always looked silly to have soap kids get ten or more years older in the span of a month, but it's easier to overlook (in time) than the parents who are still there looking exactly the same.
Brooke Forrester on B&B had several kids age seemingly overnight, and she became a grandmother while still able to have kids of her own (and I think she did just that). Rachel Cory of Another World was a great grandmother* when she gave birth to twins...the only instance I've heard of a great-grandchild being older than her great-aunt and great-uncle. When Erica Kane of All My Children finally became a grandmother, all the characters carefully avoided referring to Erica as such; the baby was "Erica's daughter's child" or "the newest baby in the family" or some such nonsense. I don't think the show ever did use the G-word in Erica's presence.
* Rachel's step-grandson Dennis (son of Rachel's stepdaughter Iris) had a baby with Olivia Matthews circa 1992, while Rachel miraculously gave birth to late-in-life twins with husband Carl circa 1997. It should be noted that Olivia was the daughter of Rachel's ex-husband Russ Matthews, so in a roundabout way she was Rachel's step-daughter, too.
And in case you think this thread has been derailed, it's also worthy of note that in the mid-2000s, the actress who played AW's Iris (the late Carmen Duncan), temporarily played the role of Lisa Hughes on As the World Turns when Eileen Fulton was ill.
But they had relatively secure jobs. They were on a popular prime time television series, but yet vanity worked itself in, and they didn't want to be any older, on-screen or off for that matter, than they could --- more or less --- get by with.
They probably thought beyond Knots.
The clause was there, but not for why you think.....
Well, probably so. But they should also have known that they would be typecast for the remainder of their careers anyhow.
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