Among the first customers for VCRs back in the late '70s were soap-opera fans determined not to miss another episode. So it's somewhat confounding, considering the size of the audience, that very little soap-opera material has been recycled on videocassette.
ABC is making a bid to change that. Working with the company's own label, ABC Video, the network is planning a series of tapes derived from its daytime dramas. The first to emerge is a collection called "Daytime's Greatest Weddings," consisting of three tapes priced at $14.98 each. Each tape is devoted to memorable weddings from a single show: "All My Children," "General Hospital" and "One Life to Live."
Judging by the "All My Children" tape, soap-opera fans will revisit emotional high points. But outsiders will be at sea, because there is little effort to orient the uninitiated.
The only new footage is of Susan Lucci, who plays the notorious, eight-times-married Erica Kane on "AMC" and who provides brief introductions and transitions. The tape opens with a recap of her never-ending nuptials, the oldest being the 1978 union of Tom and Erica. This is also the oldest clip; the first eight years of the 23-year-old soap are otherwise neglected. The tape contains glimpses of 26 weddings, including the wedding that served as a setup for a prison break when Erica married inmate Jeremy in 1986, or the one in which the groom (Tad the cad) was detained by holdup men.
The Tad-Hillary sequence also features a clumsy action scene, in which Hillary -- in full bridal regalia -- runs into the streets of Pine Valley and falls in front of a pink Cadillac, driven by Dottie's mother. See, years before, Dottie had duped Tad into marrying her when she claimed that he . . . oh, never mind.
Soap detractors like to point out that nothing ever changes on the programs, that the same situations persist for years. A fan is likely to reply, "So what?" and will see nothing remarkable in the fact that one couple here -- Cliff and Nina -- is shown tying the knot four times.
If the early days of "AMC" are neglected, it must be said that the tape is at least up-to-date. The most recent wedding here occurred in the summer, when Dimitri married -- who else? -- Erica.
Publicity materials issued to the press about this series carefully note the broadcast date of each wedding depicted, but, alas, the dates are not on the tape