Patrice Collins never missed an episode of "All My Children" in the show's 41-year run.
"I hate to admit this, but I planned my high school classes at Summerville and my college classes at USC around watching it," said the 56-year-old Summerville real estate agent. "I even had my back surgery rescheduled."
When her surgeon suggested she go under the knife at 1 p.m., Collins realized she wouldn't be available for another hour.
So, of course, when the final episode of the soap opera aired Friday, Collins made sure she was home. She said the concluding scene -- a gunshot, its target and consequence left to the imagination -- was a little disappointing.
But, she added quickly, "It was just good to see it."
What will she do now for that hour every day, five days a week, that she previously spent with Susan Lucci and the crew?
"I don't know," Collins said, remembering a conversation with a friend who watches the show just as religiously. "Other than eating and going to the bathroom, that's the only other thing we've done regularly for 41 years."
The ABC daytime drama marks the latest casualty to a changing daytime viewer demographic. A new food talk show called "The Chew" will take its early afternoon time slot.
For decades, "All My Children" captured a devoted audience, so much so that 27-year-old Mount Pleasant resident Alysa Beutler said she "just" got into watching it eight years ago. Her best friend, Brooke Ryan, formerly a local radio host, was named after one of the show's characters and introduced Beutler to the program when they both lived in Bakersfield, Calif.
"If I don't watch it, I'll read about it," Beutler said.
She turned up the volume on her television as soon as the intro music started during Friday's finale.
"As cheesy as it sounds," Beutler said at the first commercial break, "this is one of those programs with a legacy. Your family starts watching it; your friends start watching it."
The show's legacy also includes tackling some touchy subjects, such as abortion and gay relationships. It also brought characters back from the grave, some more than once.
Beutler, like Collins, thought the finale fell short, especially in invoking "Gone With the Wind" dialogue right before the abrupt, mysterious ending. As the next soap opera came on, she wondered aloud, "That's it?"
The question now is whether die-hard fans will follow "All My Children" as it migrates to the Internet.
Perhaps the character Tad Martin said it best in a toast during a cocktail party in the final episode, just prior to the cliffhanger: "Neighbors, family and friends. I've found all them here. ... No matter what, my family and all my children are always with me."
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allyson jbird.
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