Saturday, February 13, 2010

FLASHBACK: Soap Breaks Image of Daytime 1967

Serial Breaks Image of Daytime Programing

By Rick Du Brow
Los Angeles Times
October 10, 1967

CBS-TV has been giving a big promotion push to its new daytime soap opera, LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING, but perhaps the most significant thing about it - the racial aspect - isn't being mentioned much.

While night time television programming has been taking on a much more noticeable tone than in the past - although it is still hardly overwhelming - daytime video series have been conservative in this area.

The soap operas, in recent years, have abandoned their generally innocent approach to life, and have been, to say the least, quite frank about such matters as sex other subjects that have become more prominent in contemporary life. Yet only here and there, and very briefly, has the subject of race been treated in these tales.

Well-Known Book

Well here we have LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING, which after all, was a well-known book and movie that had a great deal to do with race - not the Negro race, perhaps, but the romance of a woman of the East and a man of the West.

Early episodes of LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING indicated that the standard soap opera format is almost blotting out the original story. But - and it is a big "but" - we do have the fact that the central character of the CBS-TV soaper, and the chief link to the original tale, is a girl named Nancy Hsueh, who gets things rolling in the drama by arriving from Hong Kong to study medicine in San Francisco.

In this updated version of the book and movie, Miss Hsueh portrays a girl named Mia, who, in the story, is the daughter of Han Suyin and an American war correspondent.

Sponsor's Rejection

The sensitivity of daytime soap opera sponsors in the past to anything eyebrow-raising is well known. In my files I have a clipping from a show business trade paper of May, 1965, in which a major soap opera creator is reported as being unhappy over a sponsor's rejection of "significant Negro portrayals."

Now it is two years later, and things really are still quite different in daytime programming than they are on prime time video shows. But LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING may be, in its own small way, an indication of changing times and future happenings


  1. Sad to think the character Mia Elliot would be phased out within months of this article. Why? I believe it was because of the fact that TPTB didn't like the fact that she was Asian and involved with a white man. I believe this was the straw that broke the camel's back and caused Irna Phillips to quit this show she'd developed. Looking back, it's such a stupid reason to protest, but seemingly impressive that Phillips would quit over it. (I say "seemingly" because Irna was a very unusual woman and MAY have had her own cloaked reasons to quit, but used this as an excuse.)

    One of the changes that was made to the show that I'll never understand is how the original opening credits with it's fairly full orchestration of the theme song was eventually dumped in favor of the now-familiar organ music. An odd decision, to be certain.

  2. I was too young to have watched this show. The fact that the show fired its lead Asian actress is just a sign of how little things have changed in soaps.

    ATWT is ending. There is not a single person of color on the show. No Asians, African-Americans, Latinos (of any race), or Native Americans.

    It's just pathetic.

  3. Earlier last decade, ATWT had one of the strongest African American casts ever on soaps - Tunie, Parros, Rucker, Taylor, plus Napiera and the kid who played Curtis. There was a core family that could have continued for a long, long time. Later, Earnest Waddell of BUPPIES played Curtis but was never used.

    The thing about ATWT is that they have diverse core families. Tom has a Vietnames daughter that could be front and center along with some children, and they are aging Faith who is the same age as Hope Dixon, who could easily come live with Bob and Kim.