25 July 2007 | blanche-2
Good soap, filled with now-familiar faces
Ryan's Hope, the story of the Ryan family, was a wonderful show filmed in New York City, thereby giving it the advantage of some veteran stage actors as well as newcomers. The cast was led by the amazing Helen Gallagher, a great musical theater star, as the matriarch of the Ryan family, Maeve. Maeve and her husband Johnny (the late Bernard Barrow) ran a bar/restaurant and were the linchpins of the soap. Their children were Frank, Mary, Siobhan, Patrick, and the seldom seen Kathleen. The Coleridges - attorney Jillian and two doctors, Faith and Roger - were the other family, a bit higher in class but nevertheless closely tied to the Ryans.
Along the way, many young actors cut their teeth on "Ryan's Hope" - Kate Mulgrew, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Corbin Bernsen, Marg Helgenberger, Ilene Kirstin, Gordon Thomson, Roscoe Born, Earl Hindman and Ron Hale, to name just a few. Today Hale and Kirstin are still soap actors, as was Roscoe Born until recently, while Hindman, Mulgrew, Bersen, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Helgenberger went on to TV series fame (Hindman was the neighbor in "Home Improvement").
In the beginning, the great interest (for me anyway) was the love story between sexy reporter Jack Fenelli (Michael Levin) and Mary Ryan (Kate Mulgrew). The character of Frank started out with an older actor - Christian Slater's father, if memory serves - and there were several Franks, the best remembered probably being Daniel Hugh Kelly. The beautiful, classy Nancy Addison, unfortunately now deceased, was Jill Coleridge throughout the series, and Hale was her brother Roger. Their sister, Faith, was played by more the one actress, the most memorable being Karen Morris Gowdy (now a Connecticut socialite). Delia, Frank's wife and ultimately ex-wife, and Roger's wife and ultimately ex-wife, and a royal pain, was played by both Randall Edwards and Ilene Kirstin, more successfully by Kirstin, in my opinion.
The series had some interesting plots. Two I especially liked were the Gordon Thomson story arc where he played Alexander Benedict White, an Egyptologist who becomes involved with Faith in an intriguing story; and the other involved a relative of the Ryan's, E.J., an ambitious reporter trying to find out if a soap actress, Barbara Wilding, is faking leg paralysis. Unfortunately for me, Soapnet stopped the series in 1981 - in the middle of both of these plots. The word is that they are going to continue the series this time around. Let's hope.
"Ryan's Hope" started to lose steam around 1983 and limped to cancellation in 1989. But seeing it on Soapnet, one is reminded of how good it was at least from 1975-1983, before it became influenced by the breakout success of "General Hospital" and veered from its original structure. At its best, "Ryan's Hope" was more like the English soaps such as Crossroads - about the middle class in a big city, their lives and loves.