If you’re like me, your favorite soap opera of all time is “As the Stomach Turns.” For the uninitiated, As the Stomach Turns is the title of a series of sketches that aired on The Carol Burnett Show (and later, on Carol Burnett & Company) back in the sixties and seventies, that took the piss out of CBS’s As the World Turns and others of its ilk in a way that only Carol and company could.
Daytime dramas, as they used to be called by people who found the phrase “soap opera” to be demeaning or disparaging to the art form, were nigh as vital to life as water for many of the women in my life when I was a kid. Both my grandmothers were devoted viewers of the “soaps” and would watch them, one after another, for literally three straight hours every single day.
Perhaps it was because Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood weren’t racy enough for them. Or maybe because Phil Donahue was too political for them. Or maybe they just tuned in so they could stay on top of all the processed foods, household cleaners and other consumer goods that were advertised during their viewing hours. Like fans of Playboy magazine who claim to read it just for the articles, they may have been watching the soaps just for the oh-so educational commercials.
As a teenager, I discovered that the soaps were as important, if not more so, to a surprisingly large number of my junior high and high school friends and their sisters, who would race to their living rooms after getting off the bus to switch on General Hospital or Days of Our Lives—often foregoing a snack until the first commercial break. The most dedicated among these would go so far as to take the phone off the hook to keep it from ringing and ruining the moment at which someone confessed to murder, having an affair, having an abortion, or giving birth to the lovechild of one of the Quartermaines. This was before anyone had a TV in their bedroom, of course. And before there was such a thing as DV-R. And before you could binge anything on Netflix. And before—well, you get the picture.
Most of the soaps that aired in my lifetime have gone the way of the dinosaurs, with only a handful still on the air today. I can’t say I’m surprised. Nor can I say I’m sad. Because while my friends, grandmothers, aunts and neighbors were obsessing about Luke and Laura, Bo and Hope, Frisco and Felicia, and who-knows-who and who-knows-who-else, I was thinking about other things. Like writing skits for The Carol Burnett Show and Saturday Night Live.
Such as, Nine Lives to Live. Set on a lavish estate called Llanfill in the fictional town of Llanville, this parody of One Life to Live would have centered on the life of the rich and saintly Fluffy and her morally questionable alternate personality, Muffy.
Obviously, that was never going to get off the ground back in the seventies. But today, you need only saunter over YouTube and search for “Nine Lives of Our Days” and see that I was ahead of my time.
Other ideas I came up with while my friends and other folks were watching Marlena become possessed by the devil; get brainwashed into believing she was a serial killer; suffer from amnesia; survive a plane crash; and fall into and recover from a four-year coma, include The Shy and Unassuming and The Old and the Listless.
As far as I know, no one has stolen those ideas and taken them to YouTube, although for the life of me, I can’t imagine why.