Agnes Eckhardt Nixon Beatrice Berg - Essay

Beatrice Berg

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Out there in Middle America, where the rate of addiction to soap opera is high, viewers of ABC's "One Life to Live" … have been getting regular five-minute doses of unrehearsed, spontaneous confrontations between real-life former dope addicts and the actress who plays Cathy Craig, "One Life"'s troubled teen-ager….

When Amy Levitt, who acts Cathy, began to interact with the ex-addicts the cameras turned, the resulting talk was much gutsier than the written dialogue usually heard on daytime TV….

Mrs. Agnes Nixon, writer of "One Life" …, claims that this is the first time a soap has blended fact with fiction. Since the start of the Odyssey House episodes, heart-rending letters have been pouring into ABC by the hundreds….

As a result of such responses, Mrs. Nixon is now planning to have a mockup of an Odyssey House storefront rehabilitation center built in the "One Life" studio. Instead of ending the dope episodes this month, as originally intended, she will have Cathy continue her improvisational group therapy sessions with real Odyssey House inmates for an indefinite time….

So O.K., be snobby about soap operas. But the producers of the show believe this is a way of reaching people "who don't read The New York Times and won't look at documentaries about the drug problem because they don't want to be preached to." Maybe—just maybe—"One Life" will help some of those kids, and some of their parents.

Beatrice Berg, "Real Life Comes to 'One Life to Live'," in The New York Times (© 1970 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 2, 1970, p. D13.