(An early title card from “Our Lives” when I first joined the cast.)
There are many odd things about being “single” (that still feels weird to say or type) and living alone. Earlier today, I walked over to Subway to get a sammie for lunch and as I walked back I caught a glimpse of myself in a window I was passing, and I did double take. My lips were moving. I was talking. Aloud. And no one was with me. I don’t even remember what I was saying. It’s like my brain and my mouth had no connection. I smirked the rest of the walk home, thinking about this–one of many–oddities.
I’ve always done it–not just talked out loud to myself but “performed”. And I did it as a child and a lot more when I lived alone. Now is no exception. Though it was surprising, when I thought about, I realized I do it A LOT–though I’m usually home alone or in the car, and I’ve always done it
It comes from when I was a little TV-obsessed boy and didn’t understand how shows were produced. I thought everyone had cameras in their house–everywhere. And “the powers that be” went through all the footage and decided what shows made it on air. In spite of consistent and inspired dramatic soliloquies and perfectly timed comedic prat falls, my family’s show was never picked. Not even as a mid-season replacement.
So, on it went from there. Even though we never hit the official airwaves, I created a whole history–more exciting than the real one–as I starred as Channing in “Our Lives”, a steady drama about a midwestern town where I began as a minor character who soon became a fan favorite, pushing me to the forefront of the most compelling teen/young adult story lines, when I ran away from my mother (Emmy for me that year) and crazy ambitious State Senator of a step-father Sumner Sloane who eventually hanged himself. Eventually the whow followed me through four years of college and a couple years afterward. (By then my character found out he had a scoundrel of a twin brother, Colin–who was British, of course!) Our scenes were intense because he’d be cast away to live with their mother’s family in England.
Then in 1992, I left my venerable show to star in a “spin off” of my very own called “Chicago Lives” which chronicled Channing’s move to Chicago in pursuit of his dreams (and the company that had been swindled from him.) The first couple of seasons were rough with a rash of hirings and firings until the right cast was assembled. After that the show became a great success, culminating in the storyline where I met and fell in love with Ken–In spite of all the press leaks from “sources close to the situation”, saying I was difficult to work with or for. (Unlike the previous one, I owned half the show and was a much bigger target for criticism. Ah. Showbiz.)
At the height of CL’s popularity, the fans were shocked to hear that their beloved Channing was leaving for yet another spin off, “Pacific Lives” which ultimately followed his and Ken’s move to Los Angeles. It reintroduced a couple of old cast mates from CL who had since relocated and introduced some new ones, including a whole clan of Andersons. The show was a critical hit, but never found an audience, presumably because fans couldn’t accept Channing anywhere but Chicago.
So, in 2006 after a huge media blitz and ad campaign Channing and Ken returned to Chicago and to CL with all of the familiar faces–some real, some imagined. This year marks end of the show’s 20th iconic season. Channing is still here–so is Colin–when I’m feeling plucky. And I still deliver powerfully dramatic and comedic scenes and daydream about story lines or look back at past ones–most of which are chronicled in my diary.
These fantasy shows which have been a part of me for thirty years may sound odd or a waste of time. But in the last year I’ve thought about them a lot. They have acted somewhat like “religion” and helped me make sense of the world and my place in it. They’ve given me glimmers of perspective on the good, the bad, and the life changing story lines we had no interest in playing. But nor did we have a choice.
You hear this a lot, but we really are a family on our show. Let’s hear it for 20 more years!