Every lover of soaps remembers the “Love In The Afternoon” marketing campaign that ABC used to promote its daytime lineup for ten years from 1975 to 1985. While an effective campaign for ABC during the height of its soap’s popularity, the words can be used to describe soap operas in general. For those of us who have watched soaps for most of our lives what attracted us most were the grand love stories that kept us glued to the TV rooting for our favorite couples to overcome the many dramatic twists, turns and tragedies that threatened the happiness we all knew they deserved. No matter if you were rooting for Luke and Laura or Jack and Erica on ABC, Cruz and Eden or Bo and Hope on NBC, or Lily and Holden or Josh and Reva on CBS, all the soaps offered much love in the afternoon, and on this Valentine’s Day, it’s a great time to reflect on what these super couples meant to soaps and the millions of fans who followed their every trial and tribulation.
Soap operas have always been about couples and the troubles they faced in their relationships. Even when the soap characters were only faceless names and voices coming through the radio, storylines centered on the interrelationships between husbands and wives as they dealt with issues of marriage and children or the many things like alcohol and infidelity that were always a threat to a couple’s happiness. These love stories continued when soaps moved to television, but the stories remained more grounded in real life situations that ordinary soap fans could identify with. While interesting, and often riveting, the stories could not be described as enthralling and romantic. That all changed in the late 1970’s and the changes propelled soaps to their most amazing decade ever, the 1980’s.
The 1980’s was the decade when soaps became mainstream and more popular than ever and that can be attributed to one thing, the soap super couple. Love took over the soaps and the soaps took over America and the world. It wasn’t just any love, though. It was star-crossed love. These lovers were meant to be and no one or nothing would keep them apart forever, no matter what obstacles were thrown in their way or how long they might temporarily be separated. In the process, soaps showed fans how to do romance right and for better or worse, millions of viewers wanted what their favorite soap stars had, a grand romance, and set out to find that very type of relationship, minus the tragedy and separation, of course.
The soap super couple followed a tried and true path. First, they came together under the most difficult of circumstances, either because they were from different social walks of life and shouldn’t be together, or they were already in a relationship with a friend/family member and it was taboo to get together, or they simply hated each other, and as we all know, there is a fine line between love and hate. When a soap super couple got togeter it was magic and the fans became loyal boosters for years and even decades.
The first real super couple was General Hospital’s Luke and Laura, and they set the tone for all those who followed. They also took soaps to a level never dreamed of, even making the cover of TIME magazine. She already married and the daughter of successful professionals, he the working class rogue, they simply should not have gotten together, but when they did it was magic! When they ran away to get away from Frank Smith’s organized crime syndicate in the summer of 1980, millions of fans around the world went with them, and when they danced to “Fascination” in the closed department store, women, and some men, knew exactly how they wanted to fall in love and what kind of romance they wanted.
The role model for romance and glamour was All My Children’s Erica Kane. Married many times, and in perpetual love with someone at all times, she seemed unlikely to be in a super couple. Fans knew differently, though, because her one true love was Jackson Montgomery, no matter who else she might find herself with. The couple met in the late 1980’s and there was one problem. Erica was in love with Jackson’s brother Travis! Oh the soaps, how they do tease us. For the next twenty years, this super couple faced tragedy, betrayal and every obstacle in between. Amidst all of that though, there was romantic magic that had fans running to imitate these star crossed lovers.
I have to admit that I often was caught up in the daily roller coaster of my favorite super couple, Josh and Reva from “Guiding Light.” True to form, this couple should never have been together since he was the son of a rich Oklahoma oil baron and she was the daughter of the family maid! Yet, they did find each other, only to have her jealousy and insecurity get the best of her resulting in her marriage to his brother when Josh decided to go away to college and leave her behind! This set the tone for a twenty-five year romance that saw her marry not only his brother but his father as well! Their love/hate relationship also led to one of the most dramatic and memorable soap scenes of all time when Reva baptized herself the “Slut of Springfield” after trying everything possible to accommodate Josh only to have him treat her like dirt at every opportunity. It was soap magic!
Although many of our favorite super couples are no longer with us because their shows have been taken from us, they live in our memories and they live through how we conduct ourselves in our own romances. These super couples taught us that love knows no boundaries and this Valentine’s Day, millions of couples from opposite sides of the socio-economic system, same sex couples, or couples from different races, nationalities, and religions will celebrate their love because they grew up in a culture that taught them that there were no barriers to love; a culture that started with the soaps. Many of these couples will also plan the most romantic evenings filled with good food, dancing, and much love, because that’s what they learned to do watching the soaps!
Please share with us who is your favorite soap couple?
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