By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
The powers that be have had plenty of time to contemplate how to honor the 50th anniversary of “As The World Turns,” and CBS, Procter & Gamble and the soap’s producers have collaborated to come up with some creative plans.
The celebrations begin with not one but two special episodes of “ATWT.” The two one-hour segments are stand-alone episodes that air Friday, March 31, and Monday, April 3. They-were specially created to celebrate the soap’s illustrious past and vibrant present.
“These episodes are aimed to bring joy to all our viewers through laughter, conflict and triumph,” said executive producer Christopher Goutman. “As we celebrate this remarkable
accomplishment, we remember all the thousands of good memories that have brought us to where we are today and we look forward to sharing new experiences with our beloved Oakdale heroes and heroines.”
The March 31 episode could be subtitled “Tales from TV Land.” It’s a takeoff of classic situation comedies, with the current “ATWT” characters playing famous TV characters of the past.
“The Munsters” are reinvented by characters Hal Munson (Benjamin Hendrickson), Barbara Ryan (Colleen Zenk Pinter), Bob Hughes (Don Hastings), Will Munson (Jesse Lee Soffer) and Jennifer Munson (Jennifer Ferrin) as Herman, Lily, Grandpa, Eddie and Marilyn, respectively.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” will be depicted, too, with Meg Snyder (Marie Wilson), Holden Snyder (Jon Hensley) and Lucinda Walsh (Elizabeth Hubbard) as Elly Mae, Jed and Mrs. Hathaway.
“I Love Lucy” will be satirized when Katie Peretti (Terri Colombino), Mike Kasnoff (Mark Collier) and Henry Coleman (Trent Dawson) don costumes to become Lucy, Ricky and Fred/Ethel. And, yes, that’s Fred/Ethel; Coleman plays both of the Mertzes.
“I Dream of Jeannie” will be skewered when Carly Snyder (Maura West), Jack Snyder (Michael Park) and Nick Kasnoff (Jordan Woolley) become Jeannie, Maj. Nelson and Maj. Healey.
“Happy Days” returns in the guise of Gwen Norbeck (Jennifer Landon), Maddie Coleman (Alexandra Chando), Will Munson (Jesse Lee Soffer), Casey Hughes (Zach Roerig) and Margo and Tom Hughes (Ellen Dolan and Scott Holmes) as Laverne DeFazio, Shirley Feeney, Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli, Richie and Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham.
The April 3 show is a sentimental flight of fancy entitled “Seven Divas,” starring the seven grande dames of Oakdale: Nancy Hughes (Helen Wagner, 50-year veteran), Lucinda Walsh (Elizabeth Hubbard, 22-year veteran), Susan Stewart (Marie Masters, 37-year veteran), Kim Hughes (Kathryn Hays, 34-year veteran), Lisa Grimaldi (Eileen Fulton, 46-year veteran), Emma Snyder (Kathleen Widdoes, 21-year veteran) and Barbara Ryan (Ms. Zenk Pinter, 28-year veteran). The ladies are bound for Chicago, but their trip and lives are turned upside-down when their bus hits the skids. The dramatic situation forces the women to re-examine old conflicts, and that conjures memories-vividly brought back to life with flashbacks-before they get back to Oakdale intact.
The Museum of Television & Radio is also celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary. The museum had an evening seminar planned for last Thursday in its New York auditorium, with Mr. Goutman and seven of the show’s stars-Ms. Wagner, Mr. Hastings, Ms. Hays, Ms. Fulton, Martha Byrne (Lily), Mr. Hensley, Kelley Menighan Hensley (Emily) and Ms. Zenk Pinter-expected to participate in a discussion about the series. Ms. Wagner planned to read from the first episode of “ATWT,” and scenes from the soap were to be shown.
A publishing event will also mark the anniversary. Pocket Books on April 4 will release “Oakdale Confidential: A Novel,” with the author listed as “Anonymous.” The on-air characters will star in the book. Starting with the April 3 episode the characters will talk about a new novel that features well-known Oakdale citizens as fictional characters and exposes secrets from their pasts. The novel is a suspense-filled tale that commences with the body of Gregory Marron, Oakdale Memorial Hospital’s gala event guest of honor, falling out of a chauffer-driven limousine dead.
Stars from “ATWT” will autograph copies of the novel during two live appearances at bookstores, and Pocket Books will run an online sweepstakes on SimonSays.com, which fans can enter to win an all-expense-paid trip to New York and an exclusive tour of the “As The World Turns” set.
The show’s fans received another gift in January, when entire audio episodes of “ATWT” began being podcast on CBS.com and iTunes.com.