Classic TV: ‘The Edge of Night’

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I loved sitting in on my mom’s soap operas when I was a kid. I would catch glimpses of “Another World” or “Days of Our Lives” when I was home sick. And of course “Dark Shadows” was must viewing after school.

But there was one daytime drama that that thriller-loving kids like me didn’t have to feel silly about watching.

“The Edge of Night” ran on daytime TV from 1956 to 1984 and, for much of its run, focused on the crime-busting cops and attorneys of the Midwestern city of Monticello. Most memorable to me were characters like Mike Carr and Adam Drake, who appeared about as often as any characters during the show’s 7,420 episodes. Most of the episodes appeared on CBS with a few last few years’ worth airing on ABC.

Monticello must have been the most crime-ridden city ever. Murders, assaults, arsons and robberies seemed to happen with such frequency I can only imagine the Greater Monticello Chamber of Commerce had its hands full.

Monticello was modeled after Cincinnati, hometown of sponsor Procter and Gamble. That city’s skyline was glimpsed in the show for many years.

But as in most soaps, the settings were highly fictionalized, sometimes to the point of amusement. For example: The state capital was Capital City, not unlike in “The Simpsons” many years later.

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Carr (played by three different actors) and Drake, played by Donald May from 1967 to 1977, were the most fascinating characters for me. The credits ended “And Donald May as Adam Drake,” which tipped me off that this character was cool and important. And I had a crush on beautiful Maeve McGuire, who played his wife, Nicole Drake.

The show featured a number of actors on their way up, from Larry Hagman to Frank Gorshin to Dixie Carter.

“The Edge of Night” had a regular audience of nine million viewers, many of them men because of the emphasis on murder and mayhem and because of the 4:30 p.m. timeslot, which allowed blue-collar workers and students like me to get home in time to watch.

The show’s scripts were generally recognized as best when Henry Slesar was head writer. And the ominous tones of announcer Hal Simms, who said, “The Edge … of Night” with just the right dramatic pause, added to the mood.

 

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