Another World

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Another World

Co-conceived by the prolific Irna Phillips and William Bell, Another World premiered on NBC television in 1964, eventually becoming one of Procter & Gamble's (P&G's) most enduring soap operas. Initially envisioned as a spinoff of one of Phillips and P&G's other creations, CBS's As the World Turns, Another World abandoned this link when CBS opted against airing it.

The introductory narration, "we do not live in this world alone, but in a thousand other worlds," was the signature of Another World's early seasons. Set in Bay City, in a Midwestern state later tagged as Illinois, the program focused on the Randolph and Matthews families in the 1960s, as Phillips and Bell offered timely stories involving illegal abortion and LSD. These topics proved too bold for traditional viewers, however, and backstage adjustments led to the hiring of Agnes Nixon, future creator of All My Children, who devised "crossovers" in which characters from P&G's veteran soap on CBS, Guiding Light, were temporarily imported in the hopes that their fans would follow. The tactic, however, failed to boost Another World's numbers.

The 1970s began under the headwriting leadership of Harding Lemay, who would shepherd Another World into its heyday. Several characters were extracted to launch a spinoff—Somerset. Lemay then broke ranks by having patriarch John Randolph (Michael Ryan) commit adultery, sending wife Pat (Beverly Penberthy) into an alcoholic tailspin. This displeased Irna Phillips, who lamented the loss of a solid, "core" couple. Gradually, the Randolph family was phased out, the farm-grown Frame clan was introduced, and a defining element of class difference marked the show. A triangle involving heroine Alice Matthews (Jacqueline Courtney), husband Steve Frame (George Reinholt), and working-class homewrecker Rachel Davis (Robin Strasser, later Victoria Wyndham) made the show a ratings leader in 1977/1978. Before long, Rachel was redeemed in the love of upper-crusted Mackenzie "Mac" Cory (Doug-lass Watson), a publishing magnate 25 years her senior. Mac's self-absorbed daughter Iris (Beverlee McKinsey) threatened the union of her father and Rachel, who deepened a trend of inter-class romance and were to become bastions of the soap's pre-eminent "core" family. Additionally, in 1975, the soap became the first to make 60 minutes, rather than 30, the industry standard. As the 1970s concluded, Another World was pressured to focus on its younger generation in order to compete with General Hospital and other soaps making inroads into the profitable baby boom audience and displacing it atop the ratings ladder. Lemay resisted these efforts and exited the show in 1979, later publicizing his bittersweet experiences in a memoir entitled Eight Years in Another World. The book also recounts Lemay's battles with executives, including one in which Lemay's proposal to introduce a gay character was vetoed.

A musical chairs game of writers penned Another World in the 1980s, which began with Iris departing Bay City to anchor yet another spinoff—Texas—and Rachel's payoff tryst with a blackmailer. The tale spawned a divorce and Rachel's third child. Mac soon forgave Rachel and adopted the boy, Matthew, who followed in his siblings' footsteps by succumbing to the genre's accelerated aging process and sprouting into a teen overnight. Efforts to replicate the "super couple" phenomenon so efficient in attracting baby boomers to rival soaps evolved. These were spearheaded by a thirty-something, inter-class duo, Donna Love (Anna Stuart) and Michael Hudson (Kale Browne), and another composed of their teenaged daughter Marley (Ellen Wheeler) and Jake McKinnon (Tom Eplin), the ex-beau of Marley's wily, prodigal twin Vicky (also Wheeler). Two nefarious miscreants, Donna's father Reginald Love (John Considine) and ex-husband Carl Hutchins (Charles Keating), and a vixen, Cecile de Poulignac (Susan Keith, later Nancy Frangione), were added, along with dapper attorney Cass Winthrop (Stephen Schnetzer) and flamboyant romance novelist Felicia Gallant (Linda Dano). The latter three established screwball comedy humor as a distinctive trait of the program, and Cass's effort to elude gangsters by cross-dressing as a floozie named Krystal Lake was a first. Similar gender-bending escapades involving Cass, other characters, and other soaps would later re-emerge as a comic convention. The 1980s also featured the "sin stalker" murder mystery to which several actors fell victim, and the first of myriad soap opera AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) stories. While influential, these innovations were to little avail, and the show settled near the ratings cellar and suffered another blow—the death of Douglass Watson (Mac)—as the 1990s loomed.

Lack of headwriting and producing consistency continued to plague the soap in the 1990s, as the aftermath of Jake's rape of estranged wife Marley drove the story. Jake's eventual shooting injury at the hands of Paulina (Cali Timmons, later Judi Evans), the daughter Mac Cory never knew he had, dovetailed into his controversial redemption and courtship of Paulina. Vicky, the wicked half of the good twin/evil twin duo now portrayed by future film star Anne Heche and, later, Jensen Buchanan, was blossoming as the "tentpole" heroine. Vicky was saved in the love of true-blue cop Ryan Harrison (Paul Michael Valley), despite the machinations of Ryan's evil half brother, Grant (Mark Pinter). Redemption was also the watchword in the widowed Rachel's reluctant, marriage-bound romance with former nemesis Carl Hutchins and the delightful, screwball comedic pursuit of jaded, forty-something divorcée Donna Love by Rachel's ardent, twenty-something son, Matthew (Matt Crane).

Attempts by NBC to coax Another World into imitating the postmodern, youth-orientation of its "demographically correct" cousin, Days of Our Lives, were afoot. Producing and headwriting notables Jill Farren Phelps and Michael Malone were fired when they resisted such alterations as restoring Carl's villainy. The violent death of working mother Frankie Frame (Alice Barrett) sparked a viewer revolt. Trend-setting tales, including the Matthew/Donna romance which had laid the groundwork for a similar effort on Guiding Light, and a planned white woman/black man liaison involving Felicia, were scuttled. Later, several over-forty stars, including Charles Keating (Carl), were axed, angering Internet fans, who mobilized letter-writing protests. The screwball humor, social relevance, feisty women, and multi-generational focus which had distinguished Another World and proven so influential had fallen victim to commercial dictates. Unable to overcome the challenge, the show was cancelled, the final episode airing on June 25, 1999.

—Christine Scodari

Further Reading:

Lemay, Harding. Eight Years in Another World. New York, Atheneum, 1981.

Matelski, Marilyn. The Soap Opera Evolution: America's Enduring Romance with Daytime Drama. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Co., 1988.

Museum of Television and Radio. Worlds without End: The Art and History of the Soap Opera. New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997.

Scodari, Christine. "'No Politics Here': Age and Gender in Soap Opera 'Cyberfandom."' Women's Studies in Communication. Fall 1998, 168-87.

Waggett, Gerard. Soap Opera Encyclopedia. New York, Harper Paperbacks, 1997.