All My Children: Lifelong Fans Become Part of a TV Family

By , Columnist

Bridget Fonger

Fran and Kristi Johnson with Susan Lucci on the set of "All My Children"

They are calling it the end of an era. Daytime soap operas are slowly losing their footing on network television. While there is promise of All My Children's continuation online, and possibly even via cable networks, its cancellation has left many fans in despair.

Two lifetime fans, mother and daughter Fran and Kristi Johnson, recently achieved some solace by winning an All My Children set visit at a charity auction. The mother, Fran, arrived at the studio from their hometown of Fresno carrying a big box of freshly picked peaches to express their decades-long gratitude for the show.

When Fran Johnson’s husband was given a teaching position at California State University in Fresno in the late '60s, she knew she was in for a painful transition because she was leaving her enormous, close-knit extended family (including over 60 first cousins) in Oregon. She laments that with one swift move, “I lost all my relatives.”

She had never even heard of Fresno, didn’t know a soul there, and felt lost at first with four young children and no support. Fran found solace in All My Children. “When it came along, it filled a need for me, and I brought my kids into it too. It just made me feel good.”

The show turned out to be an invaluable teaching tool, especially for this mother-daughter relationship. They would talk about the episodes, and Kristi learned - even at four years old - that she was never allowed to talk to her mother the way characters on the show spoke to theirs.

It was comforting for the kids too. As Kristi says, “The beauty of a soap opera and how long it runs is that you grow with it. As they age, you age. As their children grow up, your children grow up.”

Kristi has watched it on and off her whole life, but in 2007 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis she was bedridden and came back to it full time again. She says, “I forgot what a release it was to go back to Pine Valley every day. You move away and then you move back in. AMC always offered that safe place that you could count on and come home to - in joy and in sorrow.”

They are in denial regarding the network cancellation. “We don’t believe it’s happening. I’m just not accepting that it’s going off the air. Whatever I have to turn on at noon, wherever I have to record, I’ll do it.”

Being able to climb Tad’s staircase, stand in Angie’s doorway, or look at the “Wanted” posters at the Pine Valley Police Department made them feel even more like a part of TV history. But meeting Erica, Ryan, David, Kendall, Zach, Cara, and Dixie outside the normal soap fan events was icing on the cake, largely because the actors were so generous and welcoming, as if Fran and Kristi belonged in Pine Valley.

They do. The fans are as much a part of soap history as the hundreds of producers, writers, and directors that have graced the halls of the All My Children's studios since 1970. Like Fran and Kristi Johnson, the fans’ need for consistency, entertainment, and a safe place to land no matter what’s going on in their own lives has been priceless to both sides of soap history.

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Bridget Fonger is the co-author of “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Just About Everything,” a book that helps women become happier, more passionate and fulfilled by living the “Lazy Way,” aka with less stress and more joy! Ms. Fonger has been featured on HGTV several times with her home décor and…

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