Thursday, September 08, 2011

Who Shot What's-His-Name?

I read that All My Children is going to end its run this month after 40-plus years. Not counting spoofs such as Soap and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, it was one of only two soap operas I ever took any interest in. That's because during the 1979-80 academic year at Vanderbilt, my freshman year, I roomed on the fifth floor of Lupton Hall with a fellow named Harry. We'd been put together randomly, or so I assume. I believe random roommate selection is usually a good thing, since you're bound to learn something from your random roommate.

I hope Harry learned something from me. I know I did from him. For example, some people live in Indiana and feel some affection for it. Also, some people care deeply about sports and even have an astonishing talent for sports statistics. Finally, I learned that soap operas have other viewers besides housewives.

Harry, for one. He watched All My Children regularly, even arranged his schedule (I think) so that he could be back in our room to see it. Sometimes other lads from down the hall would watch it, too. TVs were a fairly rare item on the hall, hard as that is to believe. All Harry had was a small black-and-white set.

I watched enough of the show to get the gist of the story sometimes, and knew some of the characters' names. In the spring of 1980 (again, I think), there was a weeks-long story line about the murder of one of the characters, an unlikable man who had many enemies among the other characters. For weeks, it seemed, the show teased the audience with the question of who'd shot the bastard. Come to think of it, that story line might have been inspired by J.R. Ewing's shooting, which was the same spring. The goal of goosing up viewership was certainly the same.

I don't remember how that All My Children story arc played out. But there was a fair amount of speculation about whodunnit among the Lupton 5 residents who came to our room to watch. I made my own suggestion, mostly to annoy Harry, which was the "some guy" theory. That is, none of the regular characters did it. Some guy came in off the street and blew him away.

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