You don't have to have watched one moment of All My Children to know that the star was Erica Kane as played by Susan Lucci. And she was on from the first day until the very end. Were there other huge stories? Absolutely, and some of my favorites were the feud between the Cortlands and Chandlers, Tad the Cad and Jenny and Greg, but if you took away Erica and her many husbands, the show would have been a shell. She started out as a spoiled teenager who tore apart the girl and boy next door out of selfishness, but viewers understood that it underneath she was an emotionally needy young woman who pined for the father who left her when she was a little girl, and every man she became romantically involved with was a substitute for him.
|Susan Lucci as Erica Kane, the defining character of All My Children- and some said the industry itself|
Her antics were over-the-top, but many of her stories had a lot of dramatic resonance, including her abortion (the first one ever on a soap), the accidental shooting of her cheating boyfriend and the revelation that as a young teenager she'd been raped and impregnated by a friend of her father. And as selfish as Erica was, she also loved her children intensely. When her younger daughter Bianca was raped and then impregnated years later, it forced her to deal with the issues left over from her attack and grow up enough to assume the role of matriarch- even if that matriarch still managed to get into the same kind of trouble she had thirty years earlier. Well, we all have friends that don't grow up, but after a while we might spend less time with them. (Then again, doesn't everyone loves a narcissist?)
The lesson: a central character in an ensemble cast can work- but the character has to grow over time.