The news came out earlier this week about the death of soap writer and creator Claire Labine passing away. Below are my thoughts about her and her legacy.
Claire Labine got her start at CBS daytime on two shows I never saw "Where the Heart is" and "Love of Life". "Where the Heart Is" was cancelled to make room for "The Young and the Restless". From reading about her time at "Love of Life" according to the history books, she was there during the period where Christopher Reeve's character was majorly important and the program's ratings increased. After her stints on those shows ended, she and Paul Avila Mayer created "Ryan's Hope" for ABC. Due to SoapNet, many of us have been lucky enough to see hundreds of hours of her writing on that program as the channel aired more than five years worth of episodes. She worked at RH on and off throughout its run from 75-89. Later in her career, she went to "General Hospital" creating many memorial stories and characters. Her last two soap stints were at "One Life to Live" and "Guiding Light" taking us to the early 2000s. After that Claire never wrote another soap again, but her legacy is a huge one.
I really loved watching "Ryan's Hope" reruns during much of the SoapNet run. The show has a unique tone about a family in the Riverside section of New York City. (ABC originally wanted a show focused on the hospital, but the show we ended up with had the hospital across the street from the bar.) The show was filled with memorable characters played primarily by theater performers. The Ryans were a strong Irish-Catholic family, while the Coleridges were a more traditional non-ethnic rich soap opera clan. The permutations between the various characters continued for many years. Johnny and Maeve Ryan were amazing parents, who did their best by their adult kids and nearly everyone they knew unless said person hurt their family. Some of my favorite scenes where with Maeve being a comforting spirit. The program also gave me one of my personal favorite soap couples of Jack and Mary. To some they may seem out of date, because well at times Jack's behavior wouldn't be seen as appropriate. Mary, created and best played by Kate Mulgrew, was only 19 when she began in the role. RH also was Justin Deas, first soap though his character Bucky has been forgotten compared to his later work. Other couples on the show I tended to enjoy lasted about five minutes (not really), but tended to not be who one was supposed to love, but I digress. One of my favorites that fell into that category were Pat and Delia. They were dysfunctional to the extreme, and to keep her happy, Pat became an addict. During one memorial episode, Pat and Dee went to a movie together during the middle of the day. Neither of them realized until after the fact that the film wasn't appropriate family viewing. I couldn't believe this made it to air in the late 70s, and I couldn't stop laughing at the ridiculousness.
With "General Hospital", Claire Labine brought an intelligence and a maturity to the program. Yes there were moments of gladness, but much of it had a darker tone. It was more sophisticated than RH's in some ways, but decades later, which is understandable. BJ's death was heartbreaking, so was Monica's cancer, and Stone's death of AIDS. She was the last GH head writer to really have legitimate super couples as part of the formula that were successful and known outside of the program's base viewership. Some fun stories were to be had like Ned being a rock star and falling in love with Lois, while still being married to Katherine or anything with animals like Lucy's duck Sigmund, along with the unlikely romance between Lucky's pooch Foster and Edward's dog Annabel.
After leaving GH she was at both "One Life to Live" and "Guiding Light". I can't pinpoint anything she did at OLTL that I completely loved. At GL, there was the mess where she and her son were fired, and then quickly rehired. Her first episode had a completely different tone, and I was bowled over, though it felt like there was a push/pull in the material. Unfortunately this was short-lived, but it was a period of the show I enjoyed. What I appreciated about her time at GL was how she handled things like Jim's death and the focus on character development. (When she was at GL, SoapNet had started airing the RH reruns and on occasion there was a humorous parallel like a boxing analogy on both shows on screen within a few weeks of one another.)
For many of us, Claire Labine will forever be remembered for her work. She gave us many memorable stories and characters. I just wish we could see more of it though I'm very glad that she had the foresight to save her beloved Ryan's Hope. Much love to her family and friends in this difficult time.