January 31

1949 — Debut of These Are My Children, the first daytime-TV soap opera

 

“There is no place on television for this type of program, a blank screen is preferable.” — Television World

 

Thea clicked the volume button on her remote.  People in the hallway always seemed to get noisy at the most crucial moment during her plays.

Victor Kluge was on the verge of announcing the truth about the baby.

Several times over the past weeks he’d reached a similar point.  But this time, Thea was certain, he’d really admit it.

The whole extended family was gathered in his lavish living room — including Victor’s three ex-wives and their new husbands; his ungrateful son, Dell; Lane, his former lawyer and business partner; and baby Randall, the focus of recent turmoil.  Beringer from The Newspaper waited to catch the scoop.

“I feel an announcement is long overdue,” Victor says.

You got that right, Thea thought.

Tense, tick-tock music plays.  Onscreen, the camera pans from one anticipating face to another.

Georginas twisted expression is the bestShe has the most to lose.

“I will get right to the point.”  Victor takes a deep breath.

Thea leaned forward from the couch.  A loud crash sounded from the hallway, followed by shouting from her young neighbors.

“The baby’s father is…”

Another pause, another pan over anxious faces.

Here it comes.  Theres only five minutes left in the program.  Here it comes.

The screen flashed.  A “Special Report” banner replaced the scene from the Kluge living room.

“Oh, for crying out loud.”  Thea couldn’t help from yelling at the screen.  “They always do this!”

Her stupid local newscasters wore grave faces.  What could they possibly be upset about?  Probably a fake emergency like a White House conference, or some celebrity death, or some snowstorm that’s not going to happen.  How dare they interrupt her show instead of waiting two more minutes for the regular news hour.  After she’s been waiting three months for Victor to fess up.

She couldn’t hear the newscasters over the commotion in the hallway.

An onscreen graphic reassured her the “emergency” was only a weather event.  Lines and numbers cross-hatched the U.S. map, with cartoon clouds peppered over certain states.

But the cloud graphics looked odd.  Almost like mushroom clouds.

More shouting rose from the hall and from surrounding apartments.

Victor’s not the father, like everyone suspects.  The truth, she knew, would be even more surprising.  Thea still held out hope they’d finish the news report quickly, in time to cut back to the final seconds of her program.

Then the screen went blank.