Now a Soap Opera About Negroes
By Tony May
September 24, 1968
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A recent television survey claims some 22 million persons watch television soap operas and of them, about 13.6 million are Negroes--watching how the white world lives.
They really had no choice until a few weeks ago when a petite suburban Philadelphia mother of four debuted her ABC network sudser called, ONE LIFE TO LIVE.
The new show features not one, not two, but three Negroes who face the daily tribulations of Sudsville side by side with whites.
"I thought it was time to get the soap operas out of WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) Valley," said the writer, Mrs. Agnes Eckhardt Nixon.
Mrs. Nixon, who writes her daily scripts in her home in the Philadelphia "Main Line" suburb of Rosemont, added:
"Obviously black people watch soap operas, but that's not why I did this. I just felt it was totally unrealistic if you're doing a serial appealing to the masses, not to show all the masses."
Perhaps the first regular series about Negroes since AMOS 'N ANDY, also created by white people, ONE LIFE TO LIVE avoids the criticism that show suffered by avoiding painting Negroes as a "one-class people."
Among Mrs. Nixon's characters are Dr. Price Trainor, intern and son of a judge; Lt. Ted Neal, a policeman; and Sadie Gray, a widowed dayworker--all Negroes.
Not content with those three distinct economic classes, she throws in a second intern who is the son of Polish immigrants--neighbors of Sadie in her near-ghetto neighborhood--a nurse's aide from a very wealthy white family--and an Irish Catholic who marries a Jewish girl.
"And we will have interracial couples," she said.
"But I won't say when," she quickly added, closely guarding her soap opera writer's privilege to keep her audience in suspense for months at a time.
Mrs. Nixon, a 42-year-old Northern-born and Southern-bred writer, is no newcomer on the Sudsville scene. She served as chief writer for THE GUIDING LIGHT for 12 years and is currently chief writer of ANOTHER WORLD.
Actually, said Mrs. Nixon, "ABC was delighted" when she proposed her new series last December, but added that daytime television--especially the soap operas--have never shown the reluctance to face some topics that nighttime television has.
For example, she cited her own script for THE GUIDING LIGHT. One nine-month segment of LIGHT followed a character through the trying stages of uterine cancer, its treatment and the patient's eventual recovery.
"Eight million people watch GUIDING LIGHT and there wasn't a woman who watched who didn't know that uterine cancer was curable if caught in time through a Pap smear test," she said.
So far, any preachments in ONE LIFE TO LIVE are not readily visible but Mrs. Nixon says she won't be surprised to get some crank mail.
About 80 per cent of all ABC stations are carrying or plan to carry the series, she said.