Breaking a Habit at Our Little House

Have you ever tried breaking a 35-year habit?

That’s what I’ve been doing this week.

Nope, not chocolate or coffee.

It’s my one daytime television guilty pleasure, “All my Children.” Last month, ABC further alienated me from the three “big” networks by announcing they would be canceling the 41-year-old show this September.

The network execs, in all of their infinite wisdom, decided their audience – what’s left of them – want more reality and lifestyle television so they are giving us yet another real time weight loss show and cooking show (ironic in those two opposing choices) in place of AMC and “One Life to Live.” Those type of shows are much cheaper to produce and don’t require paying a cast of actors or a team of writers.

I’ve been watching AMC since the summer I was 11-years-old. I grew up with AMC, watching during summer vacations, school breaks and sick days.

The show is set in fictional Pine Valley, Pa. Erica Kane, played by Susan Lucci, was young and glamorous. Ruth Warrick who played Phoebe, was even from my hometown of Kansas City. When they introduced teen characters, Jenny (Kim Delaney, most recently on “Army Wives”), Greg, Liza, Tad, Angie and Jesse, it enveloped my generation.

Through college and jobs and the Hailey (Kelly Rippa, who met her husband on that set) days, I began taping AMC, hooking Dale and later both of our exchange daughters (what choice did they have but watch with me during dinner?) I even stood in line for hours one Saturday at a bookstore during one of my business trips to NYC to catch a glimpse and get autographs from characters Jackson, Brooke English and Trevor.

Oh, there were times I hated the storylines or the characters and swore off, but it wasn’t for very long. I even received for Christmas in 1995 a 25th anniversary edition coffee table book that recounted each and every character and summarized the quarter of a century of storylines.

When we moved to Our Little House, AMC moved with me. My new town wasn’t familiar and I knew few people here, but I did know Pine Valley and everyone in it.

Eventually, the original older characters started dying off and retiring. NBC began canceling their soaps, citing production costs and ABC moved AMC to LA from NYC to try to cut costs. The storylines got lamer and the new unseasoned actors reflected the shows shrinking budget.

I knew it wouldn’t be long.

Still, I watched the show, because for more than half of my life, it was my habit everyday at noon.

Lunch and AMC. For me, it goes together like PB&J.

When we finally got a DVR this winter and I recorded a couple of shows when I wasn’t home, I realized just how much of a habit it was, as I was fast forwarding through all of the new characters I didn’t like, which left me only with about 15 minutes of actual story.

So, this week, I moved my lunch hour from noon to 1 p.m., watching every show recorded instead of “live,” preparing for the day this September when I will no longer be able to watch it at all.

My friend and Living Large community member, Heather, invited me to get into her daytime show, but I declined. I have only 3 shows now left on the 3 major networks, “Dateline,” “Wheel of Fortune,” and “48 Hours.”

ABC, NBC and CBS’s incessant LOL-lacking sitcoms and reality TV has driven us to cable networks where we can still find dramas with real actors and brilliant writing in shows such as “Damages,” “Dexter,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Killing,” and what I refer to as “smart” reality TV such as “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” (at least there are some history lessons in each show to go with the contrived drama and humor).

No, once I break myself of this daytime guilty pleasure, I’ll probably just build in another hour for reading. At least stupid television executives cannot replace books with reality shows (although publishers can continue to give us those “brilliant” “celebrity” memoirs by the likes of Levi Johnston and Snooki). But even if they produced only these “reality quality” books from here on out, I still will never get to all the good ones written to date that I still want to read.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? What is it? Have you ever tried to break the habit of doing it? Do you want to or have to?

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42 Responses

  1. We completely ditched our Satellite service back in Jan. We only watched a few shows each week. Aside from the $60 a month the constant bombardment with ads drove us nuts. To provide some mindless “couch potato” viewing we picked up a Roku box which allows us to stream content from netfilx and other sites directly to the tv. Watching an hour program via netflix…actually only has 40 to 44 minutes of content….so up to 20 minutes of the show is BS commercials. The only show we ever watched that was not available on netflix, hulu etc..was Survivor which we can stream from CBS.

    • Kerri says:

      I watched my soap “live” yesterday instead of recording it as I had something else to do later in the afternoon and it really drove me crazy not to be able to fast forward those commercials, which do take up a good portion of a show. Not sure how the streaming works, but we don’t have internet access in the house and only dial up (until tomorrow) here in the office and then it will only be a 256K DSL. Since we don’t spend hardly anything else on entertainment, we feel the satellite + the Netflix membership well worth it. And ours is only $49 per month.

  2. Merr says:

    My heart goes out to you! I saw this on Twitter and RTd to friends. I stopped watching after college, but boy, do I remember the addiction to finding out what was going on in Pine Valley!

  3. Donna Hull says:

    I’ve tuned into All My Children from time to time over the years, more so when I was staying at home raising my children. I recently visited my mother in Atlanta, who is a die-hard fan. It was amazing how quickly I tuned right back in. Those plots take years to resolve! Here’s your chance, Kerry, to adopt a healthy habit in place of your soaps. What about replacing it with a walk down your country road?

  4. Kim says:

    I never picked up an interest in a soap opera, but Aaron and I have taken to adopting an entire series now that we have Netflix. We don’t have cable (never have), but we can get a whole series at once, and watch 2 or 3 episodes at a sitting. Favorites are American Pickers and Pawn Stars, and currently, Friday Night Lights (which I can only bear to watch because I do not have children anywhere near high school age. It would make me twitch if I did).

  5. Susan Johnston says:

    Finishing a favorite TV show is like losing a friend!! I’m going through serious Mad Men withdrawal, since the show won’t start up again until 2012. That said, we only use the TV for Netflix and Hulu, so I haven’t watched a show in real time in ages, which frees up a lot of time for other activities: reading books, working out, cooking, etc.

    • It really is like losing a friend! I always think about that study a few years back where they discovered our brains are really fooled into thinking we *know* these people on TV… no wonder it hurts so much when a show ends. (I’m still going through LOST withdrawal.)

      • kerri says:

        Wow, a lot of “Lost” fans here. Maybe I will have to give that one another try this fall via Netflix!
        You’re both right. I wonder what will happen to all of those people in Pine Valley once no one is watching them! 😉

        • Karen says:

          Kerri…I loved Lost. But don’t waste your time. IMO the heartbreak is resolved with a very incomplete ending with all kinds of unresolved plot issues that were never even addressed, much less answered. It really drew us into the characters, then ended, badly.

          Far better: Jericho, The Dead Zone, FlashForward

  6. I’m not much of a TV watcher at all. If my husband isn’t home, the TV simply isn’t on. That said, I started watching General Hospital when I was in junior high and throughout my kids’ baby years. I don’t remember how or why I stopped watching, but every once in awhile when my husband is off work, he turns it on. Little has changed in all the years since I’ve stopped watching, it seems!

    • kerri says:

      Oh, yes, Kris, when we would take breaks from AMC, we could come back 6 months or even a year later and pick right up where we left off! 🙂

  7. I’m still suffering from the end of LOST. Seriously, best TV show EVER. :o(

    • kerri says:

      I did try one season of that show, Roxanne, but found myself, well, lost in the second season! 🙂

  8. Sheryl says:

    I watched AMC for years and years, starting when I was in high school and all the way through staying at home with my children; I scheduled their naps around it! Then life got too busy and unpredictable and my habit waned. I still get a glimpse of the show, though, since one of the main characters (I am sworn to secrecy) lives in my town, and I run into him from time to time. In fact, we have a friend in common and we both were at her wedding. Strange but true…truer than a reality show, really!

    • kerri says:

      Oh, that’s too cool, Sheryl! Reminds me of the time we were in a restaurant in our hometown of KC and my husband said, “Isn’t that the guy from American Beauty?” I said, “Yeah, right,” and he says, “No, seriously.” I turned around and there was Chris Cooper, with who I assumed to be his mother on Mother’s Day. Had no idea he was from KC!

  9. Jane Boursaw says:

    Oh man, I totally feel your pain. I keep waiting for them to pull the plug on General Hospital, which I’ve been watching for some 30 years. Though I haven’t watched consistently over this past decade, I still know the characters and their stories. It’ll be like going through a grieving process if (when?) the show gets canceled.

    • kerri says:

      Maybe GH, Y&R and Days will escape the ax, Jane. Surely there is enough of an audience to support 3 shows? Thanks for coming by LL!

  10. Frugal Kiwi says:

    I haven’t watched in a couple of seasons, but I will admit to the guilty pleasure of a few seasons of enjoyment of America’s Next Top Model. Gotta love watching the pretty girls cry in completely over the top silly situations!

  11. NoPotCooking says:

    I am a lifetime viewer of General Hospital, which escaped the ax. The same problems have been happening there – they got rid of so many actors and characters and now things just aren’t the same.

    My son loves American Pickers and Pawn Stars!

    • kerri says:

      We watched GH for several years when Dale worked nights as it came on when we were eating our dinner before he went to work.
      AMC actually led me to that one because Sonny was originally on AMC years ago. 🙂
      I stopped when we moved because it was in the middle of the afternoon and there is no satelite here in the office.
      Your son has good taste in shows. 🙂

  12. Olivia says:

    I am a “Grey’s Anatomy” fan and I also enjoy Ice Road Truckers(I am obsessed with the Arctic) and IRT’s Deadliest Roads where they drive along the craziest and deadliest roads in the Himalayas – (even though I often watch through my fingers).

    But I suppose my strangest guilty pleasure is reading and commenting on blogs that I don’t even like (not yours, Kerri, I assure you.) There are some blogs that really annoy me but I find myself reading aand arguing with them anyway. What’s up with THAT?

    • kerri says:

      My father in law likes those trucker shows too, Olivia.
      You made me LOL. I’m glad LL isn’t one of “those” blogs! But maybe it is like a wreck. You don’t want to look, but something just makes you NOT turn away! 😉

  13. mat says:

    The last show I put everything else on hold for was Lost. I was a Lostie from compelling beginning to lackluster end. But that was before I had DVR. With a 3-year-old and the trappings of suburban life, I don’t get to dictate what stops for TV these days. And in fact, the only things I’m interested in watching are Lights Out (which is the best drama I’ve seen since Lost) and the World Rally Championship, which if you don’t know, is the most insane competitive racing in the world. In-car videos of 130mph down a muddy goat path in Greece does it for me.
    Interestingly (to me), I’ve read more books since the new year than I have in probably the last 3 years combined. I forgot how much I enjoyed my favorite writer–and am looking forward to his new (in 2009) book that I’ve been waiting to read for 15 years.

    • kerri says:

      Oh, do tell more about Lights Out, Mat!

      • mat says:

        Best drama on TV, hands-down. It centers around boxing…but it’s not about boxing. The writing is excellent, the acting is excellent, the plot twists are excellent. There’s a lot of “what would you do” in it (also what attracted me to The Walking Dead), which gets me more invested in the characters. Even my wife loves the show. I always liked Colt McCallahany in his bit parts, but he’s great in this.

        • kerri says:

          Oh, we’ll have to look into that Mat, maybe next winter we’ll Netflix it and see what it’s all about! Thanks!

          • mat says:

            We just got Netflix for my wife to use while her tonsils came out. I love it! We use it for movie night with our son–there can never be enough Batman and Superman cartoons in our house.

          • kerri says:

            Oh, you know I am a big Netflix fan! We watched the entire series of “Deadwood,” “Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under” and “The Wire” on Netflix!

  14. Heather says:

    When you told me that you watched your soap while eating lunch, then I started to do the same. Days of Our Lives is one of the last four soaps left. I doubt that it will last much longer either because the writing leaves lots to be desired.

    I’m open for other ideas as to what we can do for an hour while having lunch besides watch TV.

  15. kerri says:

    I agree, Kathy, that the quality of writing on AMC has been poor for awhile. That’s why it is more a habit to me than anything else.
    We’ve already discussed our differences in what we both think of when we think of comedy. I probably would watch “30 Rock,” but Dale doesn’t care for it and I haven’t found it funny enough to get into the characters each week and remember to DVR it. 🙂 If I’m watching something I think of as funny, it is usually reruns on TV Land of “All in the Family,” “That 70s Show” or “Dharma and Greg.” 🙂

    • kerri says:

      And since you don’t have cable or satelite, you really don’t have much of a choice but to watch what the networks are playing, or not turn on your television at all. 🙂

      • True- we decided against getting cable when our kids came along, because we felt like it offered too many tantalizing programs for children, and they’d constantly want to be in front of the tube. I guess we discovered we could live without it and so didn’t miss it. Then network TV started airing re-runs of popular cable shows like Sex and the City, so we do get to see some of the more popular cable shows, via late night re-runs. Hooray for late night re-runs!

        • kerri says:

          Yes, they have started rerunning some of those shows, but you’re missing a lot of good parts with them being on the networks! 😉 I’ve noticed The Sopranos on those reruns don’t even make much sense.

  16. I was a long time watcher of AMC for many years, so I understand, Kerri! However, my viewing was interrupted for years at a time by work, kids and a busy schedule, so I kind of got weaned off my initial daily addiction. However, I’d still catch up on life in Pine Valley on days off or when in a job transition. But, truthfully, I found that in the last five years or so, the story lines and characters just didn’t have the same compelling substance as in the earlier years. I think the writing really went downhill and I began losing interest, only watching occasionally and recently, not at all. Guess it’s a good thing I’m not still hooked!

    I agree with you that most of network programming these days is pretty poor, although I love The Office, Thirty Rock and Big Bang Theory, also like you, am a big fan of 48 Hours Mystery. However, I could go the rest of my life without seeing another cop, lawyer or medical show (as well as “reality” shows ugh!) and as for CSI- come on, we know that most of that forensic technology doesn’t even exist. Guess that like you, I’ll just have to do more reading!