FLASHBACK: Writers Stephen, Elinor Karpf Believe Time For Soaps Is Now (1982)

CAPITOL stars Carolyn Jones & Constance Towers
Writers Stephen, Elinor Karpf Believe Time For Soaps Is Now

By Jerry Buck
Associated Press
March 27, 1982

Stephen and Elinor Karpf contend that the soap opera, broadcasting's endemic art form, finally has come of age.

The Karpfs, writing partners since they met as teenagers at a pre-college conference, are the creators of CAPITOL, a slick and high-powered daytime serial that got a sneak preview Friday night on CBS.

"I think the soap opera's time has come," says Mrs. Karpf. "It is the true realization of the novel, and we're happy to be in it. This is a true American art form.

"We have a very strong story to tell in CAPITOL. It didn't become a feature film. It didn't become a miniseries. It didn't become a novel. It became a soap opera because it needs the time to unfold. And you have a more responsive audience out there during the day than you do at night."

Karpf, who with his wife has written scripts for several movies and miniseries, says, "This is really a writer's medium. You don't have car chases. The audience is attached to the characters, which goes back to the writing. We think this is an extraordinary opportunity."

CAPITOL, which will be the only half-hour daytime serial on CBS, begins its regular run Monday in place of SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, which has moved to NBC.

The show, from John Conboy Productions, is the first new soap opera on CBS in nine years.

The series, which has production values of a primetime series, stars Rory Calhoun, Carolyn Jones, Ed Nelson and Constance Towers.

It follows the public lives and private ambitions of two warring Washington families, the McCandlesses and the Cleggs. Between the two families, they are into everything, from politics and medicine to sports and television.

"To me, the McCandlesses have that uplifting American ethic," says Karpf. "The Cleggs are the bad family. I idolize Frank Capra and believe in the triumph of goodness. This is about the right away to live."

The Karpfs say it's all original and not a roman à clef about the Kennedys, or anybody else.

The Karpfs were asked to create the new serial by Conboy, who is executive producer of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, also on CBS.

They had never written a soap opera, but it had long been on their minds. They had been compiling characters and back stories for a prospective serial for several years.

This, they felt, was their big opportunity. Then two days before they were to make their presentation to CBS, Mrs. Karpf was hit by a car and her leg was broken.

"When I got to Television City, I couldn't go upstairs, so the CBS executives came down to the basement to hear our pitch," she says. "I looked like hell and I was in agony."

As in one of Frank Capra's movies, the call to the Karpfs telling them that CAPITOL had been selected came on Christmas Eve, while the family was gathered round the tree.

The Karpfs did so much research and wrote so much about all their characters (about a thousand pages in all) that they are now putting it together for publication as a novel. Some of the character histories are taken back to 1900.

The two writers went to college together near one another. He was at the University of Chicago and she was at Northwestern. They were married in college, and had their first child when they were in graduate school.

They write in a house filled with three children and two dogs.

"I do the typing," Mrs. Karpf says. "I write the dialogue. We discuss the stories. I write at night because during the day I enjoy cooking and running a household. That's what makes life worth living.

"I'm from Missouri," she says, "and I still bake apple pie from scratch. I help the kids with their homework. I have a sewing machine and I saw, and I write."

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