June 17, 1985 12:00 PM

ABC (1 p.m. ET)

This is the Mercedes-Benz of soap operas, created by Agnes Nixon in 1970, and it still runs like a dream. It successfully combines topical issues and humor with the mandatory machinations of unwanted pregnancies, adultery and murder. The cast is first-rate; the actors appear to really enjoy what they’re doing. Susan Lucci, daytime’s favorite actress according to this year’s PEOPLE readers’ poll, was born to play the pouty black widow spider, Erica Kane. Who else could go to a somber funeral and tell a mourner, “Gee, Ellen, you look wonderful!”? (And that line was an ad-lib.) The show’s dialogue is always crisp and clever. Remember Cynthia (Jane Elliott) and Ross (Robert Gentry) worrying about being blackmailed over their adulterous affair? A worried Cynthia: “The only way we’ll survive is if I manage to stay on top of things.” A snippy Ross: “That shouldn’t be too hard for you—that’s been your favorite position for years.” How did that get by the censors? Michael Knight, who plays Tad “the Cad” Martin, is another scene-stealer in the grand theft class. When his ex-lover, the older Marian Colby (played by Jennifer Bassey), talked to him about her marriage plans to a well-to-do man, he said snootily: “Boy, Marian, congratulations. You were really able to hook a big one!” She snapped back: “Hooking is a poor choice of words, Tad!” Always owner of the last word, he said: “Okay, how about harpooning?” There’s really very little this show does not do well. One exception was a tasteless story line about Erica searching out a Nazi war criminal. “I can’t chase Nazis in South America—I don’t have the right clothes!” That’s not funny. Nor can anyone understand why the wealthy Palmer Cortlandt (James Mitchell) would still have his ex-mother-in-law working for him as a maid. (Perhaps it’s the fantasy of every married man.) Nor have the scriptwriters satisfactorily explained why the equally wealthy Phoebe Tyler Wallingford (Ruth Warrick) would stick with her husband Langley (Louis Edmonds) after discovering that he was a con artist. Despite those relatively minor flaws, this is exactly the kind of daytime drama that makes you proud to say, “I love soap operas.”

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