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Guiding all my beautiful restless children

One man's journey in Pine Valley, Oakdale, etc.

The last time I spent an entire day watching soap operas was June 4, 1986.

Happily, when I resumed recently, I was able to pick things right up as if I never left. Same story lines: X having Y’s baby, Y accused of murdering Z, Z’s double mysteriously arrives, X and Z’s double plotting against Y, Z’s double having X’s double’s baby, etc.

Armed with my TiVo, remote, and a candy bowl filled with Lexapro and Xanax, I hunkered down for a daylong visit to Genoa City, Pine Valley, Oakdale, Port Charles and all the other generic towns where only Tommy Hilfiger models are allowed to live. (There are more beautiful people in Pine Valley than all of Eastern Europe.)

First up was “As the World Turns.” A little girl is talking to a little boy. She says, “My dad left, my grandmother almost died, my dad came back, mom was in a coma, my brother told us he was gay.” And she ends the speech with, “My parents worry about every little thing.”

That was the only storyline I could follow. Even the characters themselves seemed confused. Especially the guy in a coffee shop clutching his teddy bear. Even at a Friendly’s that’s weird.

Then there’s “The Young and the Restless.” Eric Braeden has been on the show for 70 years and still looks fantastic. There must be a portrait of him in an attic where he looks like Nick Nolte’s mug shot. My favorite character is Victoria because, well … I have a crush on Amelia Heinle who plays her now.

Vicky’s led a ho-hum life. Saved from drowning, had a stalker, married a guy who had been involved with her mother, saw her second husband shot at their wedding by his ex-wife (it’s why you don’t invite them), was a volunteer art teacher in Italy, became acting CEO, witnessed her third husband kill two people. Excuse me, but that’s every girl on JDate.

The Bold and the Beautiful” is big on stunt casting. Lorenzo Lamas, Lesley-Anne Down and suds star supreme, Jack Wagner. It was like the “Legends in Concert” show at the Imperial Palace in Vegas where Buddy Holly and Janis live again!

Luke is still on “General Hospital.” I was saddened to learn that Laura is in a sanitarium. That must make joint custody very interesting. My favorite line of dialogue from this episode: “Your father suffered another heart attack, and your sister was one of the hostages that night.” Tell me you yourself haven’t uttered that same sentence at least twice.

Over on “Guiding Light” someone asked this eternal question: “What do you call it when the cops show up, harass someone in a wheelchair and accuse them of shooting their father?”

After watching six or seven soaps I was starting to think there were no new storylines, that the genre had exhausted all possibilities. Ah, but then I watched “All My Children.”

The show begins with a crazed guy who looks like Prof. Irwin Corey holding a gun on a man tightly clutching a remote box with wires attached to a woman whose hands are bound and is sporting a collar that has a syringe attached pointing to her neck. If the man releases the button, the syringe will plunge into Little Nell’s neck, killing her instantly, and if Prof. Corey shoots button boy, he’ll surely loosen his grip.

Haven’t seen that before. Fortunately, the victim happened to have a huge carving knife in his pants (natch!) and thwarted the gunman. I wouldn’t be surprised if next week all three were adopting a child together.

“All My Children” still features perennial Emmy loser Susan Lucci (though she did win once) as the evil Erica. Susan is ready for the next awards ceremony. She was dressed to the nines in a stunning gown with blinding jewelry during a hospital visit. All that was missing was Joan and Melissa Rivers ready to ambush her at the nurses’ station.

My hat’s off to soap opera writers. How they keep coming up with twists and turns to fill (in some cases) five hours a week is astounding. But I fear for the genre. Someone is going to realize that there are such things as gun control laws and condoms, and 100 years of storytelling will come to an end. Genoa City will go the way of Flint, Michigan.

But in the meantime, I admit, I’ll be back. On “GH,” Mr. Craig just injected Nikolas with a poison that requires an antidote every 24 hours. Will insurance cover the antidote, and will Mr. Craig pass his driver’s test?

Ken Levine is an Emmy-winning writer of “Cheers,” “MASH,” “Frasier,” and “The Simpsons.”  You can read more from Levine at

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