Is there a perfect soap moment?
A spot that somehow encapsulates all the great things about the soaps? One that captures the romance and the drama and demonstrates why they are so beloved by viewers?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since ABC aired “The Story of Soaps,” a prime-time tribute to daytime serials.
It was a surprisingly well-done special, until Andy Cohen guest-starred in the role of undertaker and declared the soaps dead.
So here’s my pick for That One Perfect Soap Moment that demonstrates the power of the medium and illustrates the genre’s appeal, no matter if you’ve been watching for one minute, two years, or decades.
ABC’s “General Hospital” airdate Dec. 3, 2013
If you’re tuning in to “General Hospital” for the first time:
You have no idea what’s going on, but you quickly get the set-up from headwriter Ron Carlivati. A handsome doctor is marrying a beautiful nurse. Unbeknownst to them – not for long – is the doctor’s beloved dead wife, truly not dead, lurking in the wings.
She almost gets away with it, except her young daughter sees her and calls her out.
You’d have to have a heart of brick not to react to this little girl running into her mother’s arms.
That’s just the first minute of the show.
What are you going to do?
Turn to “Maury” or “Dr. Phil”? Please. You may be chuckling at the lunacy of the situation, but you are not touching that remote.
If you’ve been watching for a couple of years:
You know this is Dr. Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough), believed killed in a laboratory explosion and mourned by all those in Port Charles, especially her husband, Dr. Patrick Drake (Jason Thompson) and their adorable daughter Emma (Brooklyn Rae Silser).
Instead, Robin was kidnapped and was passed around like a pack of gum by three major psycho villains who needed her biomedical genius. You also know the bride is a lovely woman, nurse Sabrina Santiago (Teresa Castillo), who underwent her own Ugly Betty journey to come into her own, and how much she loves Patrick and Emma. You’ve seen Robin struggle to get back to her loved ones, and you’ve waited for this reunion for what feels like forever. (About 18 months, though it seemed longer, as it always does on any soap.)
If you’ve been watching for years:
You watched McCullough literally grow up on the show. She started working as Robin when she was 7 years old in 1985. You know how much Robin and Patrick have endured to be a couple and to make a stable home with their daughter.
The directing is striking:
From the altar, Emma spots her mother in the back of the church and to get to her, separates Patrick’s and Sabrina’s hands. That’s some great foreshadowing: They will never be joined together.
Robin places her hand on Patrick’s chest, and it is Sabrina who falters at the altar.
Robin and Patrick kiss, a dream come true, and Sabrina collapses to the floor, her dreams shattered.
Emma running to her mother echoes the iconic scene in 1985 when young Robin ran to her mother Anna (Finola Hughes).
That’s an important reminder:
Great soaps reward viewers for the investment they make.
Unlike most prime-time shows, they build on the time viewers give them.
The longer viewers watch, the greater the emotional connections with the characters.
“What’s going on? Is this a dream? Is this real?” an astonished Patrick says.
Thompson, like everyone here, deserved an Emmy for selling this so completely.
His disbelief is perfectly matched by McCullough’s heroine, determined to reclaim her life.
“You have to know something. I have been trying every single day to get back to you, I promise. Even when I thought it was hopeless, I tried. I tried for so long, and I finally made it home to you. I’m finally here -and you’re – you’re getting married.”
Now that’s damn good soap, resolving one plot point, pushing one story along to another crisis.
Watch for yourself:
And here’s a young Robin running into her mother’s arms at the 1:45 mark for reference: