Tears in Soap City Starting to Look Real

Soaps Improvise Solutions to Economic Pinch

"One of the things that I love is actually using real products, because it validates and authenticates our fictitious Pine Valley," said Hanan Carruthers. "Our challenge, and my goal, is that when we do it, it happens in a very natural and organic way, so that we aren't going back to the days of holding up the soap box, actually doing a commercial in the middle of the show."

But the down economy hasn't been all bad news for Pine Valley.

"It's actually, in an odd way, getting easier," said Hanan Carruthers. "The economic state of the world kind of made everyone here pull together."

The banner example may be Susan Lucci, who has played the immortal Erica Kane for 39 years, through thick and thin, and worse.

Even Lucci had to take a pay cut.

"Everyone has pitched in, and everyone has stepped up to the plate, and we've tightened where we can," said Lucci. "I've felt it in a couple of ways, there's some missing faces on the studio floor, and that's sad because we really are an ensemble here, from top to bottom, not just the company of actors but the crew, very much so."

That sense of company spirit was on full display on a recent walk-through of the "All My Children" set.

"This is like a typical day here at "AMC," said Cameron Mathison, who plays heartthrob Ryan Lavery. "There are 47 scenes today. That's insane. Anxiety!"

He gestures to an especially eye-catching wardrobe.

"Look at this over here, folks, this is all Erica Kane's! I hope Susan doesn't mind me doing this. Let's see what we got here."

He held up a pair of striking leopard-print pants.

"I mean, come on. Do these say Erica Kane or what?!"

The roving Mathison is drawn to an important piece on any daytime television set: the bed.

How many women has Ryan Lavery lured there?

"Uh, easily four."

Four ... at different ... times?

"Easy, now!"

Crafting story lines that may stretch the imagination are part of keeping an audience.

"It helps remind the audience that something's going on," said Valentini. "We never have reruns, so you are never going to hear that there is the season premiere of 'One Life to Live,' we just continue going on. So it's good to have something fresh going on."

Character Erica Kane on "All My Children" has been married 10 times. And this past year, the legendary soap employed the use of CGI technology to create a giant tornado with Hollywood-type technology.

Soaps' Secret Weapon: Committed Fans

In the end, though, the soaps that brought us Kelly Ripa, Demi Moore, John Stamos and Rick Springfield have a secret weapon, something that transcends dollars and downturns.

They have fans -- deeply devoted, committed fans.

"We are in their living room every single day, they see us every day, it's an ongoing story," Mathison said. "It's not something you have to tune in every week to find out, it's right there for an hour every day in your living room, and if you're home that's a lot of your life, that's a lot of consistency."

And the stories will go on. Which means Erica Kane will almost definitely get married, again ... and divorced, again.

"In a bad economy, that's when the audience really wants to watch something that really helps," Lucci said. "The escape is in some ways instructive, and is also really hopeful, exciting and fun."

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