The Death of Erica Kane

The Death of Erica Kane

By Miriam Brown

Photo Courtesy of ABC Television

The recent cancellation of soap operas All My Children (AMC) and One Life to Live marks the end of an era, and seemingly foreshadows the overall demise of the American daytime drama. Only four series now remain: General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless (Y&R), and The Bold and the Beautiful. Sadly, though, their demise may also be imminent.

A legacy of salacious entertainment was born in 1952 when the first soap opera, Guiding Light, transitioned from radio to television. Over time, daytime television became inundated with other soaps like As the World Turns and The Edge of Night. Early on, these telenovelas became more than superficial entertainment. They were a connective cultural tissue: a fodder to be discussed at workplace water coolers and a viewing tradition shared between mothers and daughters, friends, and even lovers. (Yes, some men aren’t afraid to admit they would take in a little Y&R from time to time!)

Their winning formula depicting “Cinderella-like” heroines scorched by the heat of insatiable passion and unrequited love gave birth to modern-day “knights in shining armor;” and their Friday afternoon cliffhangers became the original “must-see-T.V.”  – featuring characters’ untimely deaths and unforeseen resurrections on a weekly basis.

In the pre-DVR era, it was understood, at least in my household, that if my mother returned home from a long day of work, and the VCR had failed to record her “stories” because someone changed the channel, there would be consequences and repercussions! Quite simply, soaps were an integral part of our lives and we saw the characters as beloved extended relatives.

The iconic, “Erica Kane,” played by Susan Lucci, was like the mother you never had and the sister you always wanted. She was the femme fatale notorious for slapping her wayward lovers for their undisclosed indiscretions, while pledging her undying love for them – all in the same scene. Despite “Erica Kane’s” widespread popularity, Lucci famously received 18 nods (and snubs) before finally winning her first Daytime Emmy Award in 1999.

In addition to their captivating content, soap operas have kick-started the careers of many of our favorite Hollywood stars. Eva Longoria (Y&R), Marissa Tomei (ATWT), Blair Underwood (One Life to Live), Demi Moore (General Hospital), Meg Ryan (ATWT) and Kelly Ripa (AMC) are all soap opera alums. Unlike Lucci, who essentially began and culminated her career on All My Children, these brilliant actors have gone on to have successful careers on popular television series, as well as on the big screen.

Once soap operas are gone for good what will take their place as the prevailing tradition among mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters? Many have insisted that over-the-top reality shows now satisfy the guilty pleasure that soap operas originally did – and for far less money. But those of us who grew up on soaps know that there’s a big difference between Snooki and “Erica Kane;” and it’s unlikely that any of us will be following the Jersey Shore star’s every move twenty years from now.

As network executives prepare to draw the final curtain on All My Children and One Life to Live, there are no reports that any similar shows are waiting in the wings to take their place. In fact, in Hollywood—which is struggling with its own economic crunch, the prospect of any new scripted daytime series being developed in the near or even distant future seems, unfortunately, highly unlikely.

So, after decades of highs and lows, deaths and kidnappings, marriages and divorces, and children who were 8 years old one minute and 18 the next, we say goodbye to a marvelous television era. And in doing so, we lay to rest one of the absolute giants of that era.

Farewell to you, our beloved “Erica Kane.” May you rest in peace in syndication.


Miriam Brown is the founder and creator of Thirtythoughts, a contemporary blog focusing on relationships, career, fashion and entertainment, from a 30-something’s point of view. She currently resides in southern California – moonlighting as a writer and serving the legal community by day.

To read more of her work, please visit:

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