It’s raining here in California. but rainy days and Mondays never get me down. First, we need the rain, and second, it’s…
Yes, every Monday I look back on the career of Douglas Marland, one of my favorite all-time writers. Last week I started to look back on his collaboration with Agnes Nixon (the woman who created several soaps and the iconic Erica Kane) on the show Loving. Although the show was on for twelve years, it wasn’t a hit. What happened? What went wrong? Let’s find out…
When we last left our writers, they were excited about their new venture. The show was already getting good buzz. In March 1983, columnist Lynda Hirsch reported Wesley Addy was considering a role in the cast, along with his wife Celeste Holm (Wesley Addy was cast as Cabot Alden; Celeste Holm played his wife Isabelle later on in the show’s run) “When the show debuts, there will be fourteen characters, and four more will be introduced the next couple of months… the venture promises to be a bold, socially-oriented soap shot through with romance. It will be given a big send-off by ABC when it premieres as a Sunday TV movie, with the first daytime episode airing the next day.” Hirsch also confirmed the show had changed its name. It had the working title Love Without End, but Hirsch confirmed the show had changed its name to Loving.
Okay, this was big. A prime-time debut? Huge. Getting someone like Wesley Addy who was in Network, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte? Double huge. The fact Celeste Holm was even considering the show was triple huge. Karen Richards from All About Eve! An Oscar winner!
But there were other parts to cast. There would be two families to start with.
The Aldens were a well-to-do family. The university in Cornith had the Alden name. Wesley Addy would play Cabot. It was decided Meg Mundy would play his wife, Isabelle (Celeste said no. Meg didn’t stay long either) Mundy had been in soaps and also played Mary Tyler Moore’s mother in the film Ordinary People. The two had a daughter Ann Forbes (played by soap newcomer Shannon Eubanks) Playing her daughter was Miss Teen All America 1981 Susan Walters. John Shearin played Ann’s husband, Roger Forbes, the politician. He and Marland worked together on The Doctors, and Shearin also had a role in the last episode of M*A*S*H called “Goodbye So Long and Amen. Rounding out the cast was a newcomer who had been performing in Opryland, Perry Stephens as Big Man on Campus, Jack Forbes. Christopher Marcantel (who worked with Marland on Guiding Light as Tim, the jilted boyfriend of Morgan) would join the cast later as cousin Curtis Alden. We had a mix of soap opera veterans, a film actor, and newcomers. This was going well.
The Donovans would be the type of family Marland excelled at; working-class people who loved each other and believed in the lyrics Billy Joel sang about in “Allentown” Every child had a pretty good shot/To get at least as far as their old man got. The family would be headed by Rose Donovan played by Terri Keane. Keane not only did two soaps, but she also had a part on the radio soaps The Romance of Helen Trent and Life Can Be Beautiful. Her police officer son Mike would be played by newcomerJames Kiberd. Mike’s wife Nurse Noreen Vochek-Donovan would be played by Marilyn McIntyre, who had three soap credits: Search For Tomorrow, Ryan’s Hope, and One Life to Live. Lauren-Marie Taylor who was best known as Vickie on the first Friday the 13th sequel would be Stacey, a freshman at Alden University.
There was another brother in the family, a professor at Alden. Agnes Nixon named the character for Marland, so his name was Doug Donovan. The actor who would play him? Bryan Cranston.
It was Cranston’s first big role. He later wrote in his memoir that being on the show taught him how to make his mark, how to react to other actors. Doug’s love interest would be Merrill Vochek, the newswoman Nixon bragged about to columnist Gary Deeb. Another newcomer who dabbled with soaps would play Merrill named Patricia Kalember. Again, a mix of soap opera veterans, including one who was on the radio. An actress who was in the Friday the 13th franchise. A couple of newcomers. Again, this was looking good.
Rounding out the cast were Ann Williams as June Slater (she had done Search for Tomorrow for ten years and was in the musical Applause) and John Cunningham (as college dean Garth Slater; he and Williams did SFT together) Newcomer Jennifer Ashe would play their daughter piano prodigy Lily (Ashe’s only credit was an After-School special starring Helen Slater and Matthew Modine) Again, soap opera veterans, with a bit of Broadway thrown in, with a newcomer.
They had a great cast. All they needed was a movie to grab the attention of viewers.
Stay tuned… until next week…
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