Now experts offer strategies for coping with the loss

By Josh Wolk
April 20, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Soap opera fans have been inconsolable since their world collapsed last week. Their ”Another World,” that is. After NBC announced that the 35-year-old soap would have its last airing on June 25 to make way for the new daytime drama ”Passions,” dedicated acolytes have been grieving loudly to anyone who will listen. EW Online has received more than 30 e-mails from faithful viewers, some with tearful reactions — like a chain letter that reads ”We (fans) have to be here for each other in our time of need.” Others include last-ditch threats against NBC for its sacrilegious cancellation. ”Now I am supposed to say goodbye to an American tradition that is synonymous with apple pie and baseball?” writes Lori Stephenson. ”I can’t, I won’t, at least not without a fight!” A rally was scheduled in front of the ”Today Show” windows last Saturday, and many have sworn to boycott both the network and any of its sponsors.

Alas, none of this is likely to affect NBC’s decision to drop the soap after its ratings had dropped 24 percent among 18- to 49-year-old female viewers. ”Although this is a vocal group and we care about their feelings,” says Michael Feeney, senior press manager for NBC Daytime, who has been receiving up to 100 letters a day since the announcement, ”it’s hard to justify keeping the show from a business standpoint.”

Those TV fans who bounced back quickly after the end of such long-running prime-time shows as ”Cheers” and ”M*A*S*H” might think that ”Another World” followers should get on with the days of their lives, already. But a passion for soap operas is more ”personal and very very deep” compared with ordinary TV fandom, says Soap Opera Digest editor in chief Lynn Leahey. ”This (emotional response) is not so surprising when you think of how much fans have invested in these stories and characters, watching day after day for years and years, and then suddenly someone comes along and pulls the plug.”

So what is a deserted ”World”-er to do? To help viewers come to terms with their loss, message boards have been set up on the Soap Opera Digest site. ”It’s like a romantic relationship,” says Leahey. ”You get over it eventually and maybe fall in love again. But there is a time when you just have to express your feelings and anger.”

According to pop-culture analyst Dr. Will Miller, viewers may also find more creative ways to work toward the ”acceptance” stage of grief. ”Have your own online wake service,” suggests Dr. Miller. ”Go to chat rooms and talk about what the characters meant to you and remember them. If you’d lost a whole wing of your family in a bus crash, that’s what you’d do.”

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