Marland Monday: The Love Child of Thomas Christopher Hughes
Happy Presidents Day!
It’s also Monday so you know what that means?
It’s Marland Monday!
Every Monday I look back at the career of Douglas Marland, one of the GOATS in soap opera history. As I mentioned two weeks ago, it’s February sweeps time. I wanted to remember another February sweeps storyline that happened back in 1988.
Ah, 1988. Reagan was in his last year in office. Nancy Reagan was still telling kids to just say no. I was a freshman in high school. Compared to middle school, high school was so much easier. I didn’t feel like I was going to be caned if I forgot a book, nor were there teachers who disapproved of the wearing of mini skirts.
Back in Oakdale, a new resident was coming. Tom Hughes (Scott Holmes) and Margo (Hilary Bailey Smith) had just reconciled after being separated. I kept thinking of him as “New Tom” because the actor just took over the role back in July. Ironically, Holmes would be the longest-running Tom, playing him from 1987 to the show’s end in 2010.
I’m jumping ahead. Tom and Margo were going out. Tom even looks spiffy in a tuxedo. He opened the door to see a pretty girl standing there. She had long black hair, wearing a jeans jacket. She asked for Mr. Thomas Hughes. Tom confirmed he was Tom Hughes. The girl told him her name: Lien. Tom knew her mother when he was in Vietnam. Surprise: Lien is his daughter.
Now I remembered Tom had done a tour of Vietnam, which was before I was born. He also had a brief drug problem that was fixed right away. Still, it was a shock to see this girl at Tom’s doorstep. Being gracious, Tom invited her inside. The story came out: When Tom left Vietnam, Lien’s mother (Also named Lien, so let’s call her Elder Lien) a nurse, found out she was pregnant. Not wanting to burden him, she never told him about what happened. Lien grew up in post-war Vietnam, one of the countless children fathered by American soldiers. When her mother was dying, it was arranged that Lien would come to the States and find her father.
We were then treated to a flashback where Tom and Elder Lien were saying goodbye. When soaps did flashbacks that were Vietnam related, there was a lot of mist. It also had a rosy glow. If it was jungle related, there was a lot of foliage. If they could get the music rights, Jefferson Airplane would be on in the background, or “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield.
Tom was a little shaken but tried to be gracious to Lien. He looked at the paperwork that got her in the country, but it’s a bit sketchy. Lien is super lucky Tom is the District Attorney in Oakdale, so there shouldn’t be any problems. Margo was very quiet. Smith was one of those actresses who could act with her eyes. She doesn’t know what to make of this at all. In the meantime, Tom’s mother Lisa (Eileen Fulton) came to visit, then found out surprise! She’s a grandma! You have to understand this was a huge deal. In the seventies, Fulton insisted that there would be a grandma clause in her contract. In no way did she want to be a grandma before her time. Grandmas poured coffee, gave advice. Grandmas didn’t have sex. They didn’t have front burner storylines. They didn’t have fun.
But the Grandma clause had been lifted. Thanks to Joan Collins who played a sexy grandma on Dynasty, Fulton knew she could be a Glam Grandma, and do it with style. Instantly she bonded with Lien because their names were similar. When asked what she did for a living, Lisa said she worked at a dress shop and a nightclub. “You do dishes at a nightclub?” Lien asked. Lisa then had to explain that she owned both the shop and the nightclub. It was a whole new world.
Lien ended up spending the night at Tom and Margo’s. Margo was polite but the viewer knew she was holding back. Later she would tell her mother about what happened, and her mixed feelings. She wanted to be the one to give Tom a child, but both pregnancies ended up in miscarriages. How could she help Lien? Could she help Lien? What was going to happen next?
What happened next is that Lien was welcomed by the Hughes family. Lien became friends with teens Andy (Scott DeFreitas) and Paul (Andrew Kavoit) who looked out for her and showed her the ropes at the local high school. She even dated both of them for a while. She did have to deal with a teacher who showed racist tendencies towards her, but it was revealed he was a Vietnam vet. He eventually got help.
The storyline received accolades. Connie Passalacqua praised Marland for doing his research but did warn him not to pull out too many long-lost Hughes children from a hat. The storyline was also interrupted by the Writer’s Strike of 1988. But Lien did become a true soap heroine. She was kidnapped once, then fell in love with John Dixon’s long lost son, Duke. Why should the Hughes family have all the long lost children?
Margo eventually referred to Lien as her daughter. She lost her spleen when Andy Dixon crashed into her car while Andy was driving drunk. But she did survive, and ended up becoming a lawyer, like her father and great grandfather.
Looking at it now, it feels Lien’s assimilation to American life was a bit too pat, too neat. They never called for a DNA or blood test? But honestly, that was TV in the eighties. TV needed to have tidy endings. Not always happy ones, but ones that tied up loose ends. Lien’s storyline was one of those. But it’s important to remember Lien was one of the first racially mixed children on a soap opera.
When the Grandma clause was lifted, it was lifted with a bang, not a whimper.
Tune in next week, everyone…