Soap operas were big when I was in college, and I got hooked. Thoroughly addicted, I scheduled my classes around “All My Children,” “One Life to Live” and “General Hospital.” The writers on those shows knew exactly how to leave me hanging at the end of every episode — and how to reel me back in the next day.
Cliff and Nina, Clint and Viki and Luke and Laura were the supercouples back then (the term “supercouples” was created to describe Luke and Laura), but they didn’t always have ideal relationships. Cliff and Nina married each other four times — Clint and Viki, twice. That’s four divorces between two couples. Luke and Laura’s romance began with a storyline that would never fly in today’s TV world, and 30 million viewers tuned in to watch their wedding. For some reason, a lot of people — including me — were fascinated by these people and their up-and-down stories of life, death, sickness, health, love, joy, tragedy, peril ... and betrayal. Lots of betrayal. I’m not proud of that time in my life. As entertaining as these imaginary people’s lives were, my addiction to soaps cost me a lot of college credits.
Eventually, work, marriage and kids got in the way of my TV time, and I quit the daytime dramas. If I was flipping through channels and came across a typical soap scene — staged lighting, dramatic music, and close-ups of perfectly coifed hair and doll-like make-up — I quickly moved on. The characters had changed, but the high-drama worlds of Pine Valley, Llanview and Port Charles had not. Their magic spell still beckoned, threatening to draw me back in, but my thumb on the remote was always stronger. I had won the battle.
Off of daytime TV for good, I thought nothing of it when, a couple of months ago, I was scanning Netflix one evening and came across “The Office.” I had watched the show when it was on broadcast TV, but only sporadically. That had been years ago, but I remembered it being pretty funny, so I gave it a go.
Someone should have warned me. Whatever that magic stuff is that they sprinkle on those soaps, The Office had it, too. And the supercouples! They put Erica Kane and her many, many paramours to shame. There was Roy and Pam. Pam and Jim. Jim and Karen. Erin and Andy. Andy and Angela. Angela and Dwight. Angela, the Senator and Oscar. Michael and Jan and Michael and Carol and Michael and Holly. Somehow, there was just one divorce in all of that but still — they had me hooked.
In my earlier soap opera days, there had been no such thing as streaming video or digital recording. Binge-watching didn’t exist. VCRs were competing with Betamaxes for the home video recording device of choice, and no one on a budget was crazy enough to invest in either of them. You had to wait a whole 24 hours to watch the next episode of your favorite show, so you either watched your show when it aired or you missed it.
Nowadays, you can watch back-to-back-to-back episodes on your TV, desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. It’s a deadly temptation for soap opera fans ... and anyone stupid enough to tune into The Office. Because, unlike the days of Luke and Laura, the shows don’t go off at 11. A few decades ago, if you stayed up too late and fell asleep with the TV on, the Star-Spangled Banner woke you up and then everything went to static and you got at least six hours of sleep. There was no danger of watching just one more episode, or one more, or maybe just one more. The living room was a much safer place back then.
Nine seasons and 201 episodes later, my steady binge of The Office is over. And apparently, everyone but me has moved on. Michael is doing Pepsi commercials. Pam is on a broadcast show with some guy who isn’t Jim, and Jim is making movies with a new wife who isn’t Pam. Erin and Mindy got their own shows. I haven’t seen any of these except for the TV ads, which are hard to avoid. I guess I want to pretend everyone is still back in Scranton (yes, I know — Jim and Pam moved to Austin, but in my mind that didn’t work out and they came back).
So this is what it’s like to go through withdrawal, I guess. Over a silly TV show of made-up people. I’m trying to find something to fill the void, but so far, no luck.
By the way, the brains behind The Office — the writers — were none other than the dopiest people on the show: Mindy, Toby, Ryan (“the temp”), and Mose. Mose! Who knew?
Thank goodness spring is here. I’m officially over The Office and it’s time to binge on a new show — the outdoors. I’m ready to make a supercouple out of myself and a lot of fresh air. In fact, I may even head to Boulder this weekend for some hiking and rock climbing. I hear Michael and Holly have a nice little place up there and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a visit.
Susan Joy Paul is an author, editor and freelance writer. She has lived on Colorado Springs’ northwest side for more than 20 years. Contact Susan with comments and suggestions at email@example.com.