It's been several weeks since NBC announced that is is canceling Another World after 35 years on the air and viewers, industry professionals and AW employees are still reeling from the news. Today (May 4) marks the show's 35th anniversary, and TV Guide Online took the opportunity to sit down with straight-shooter Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin for an in-depth Q&A about the show's future and the future of soaps, in general.

Another World will leave the airwaves after the June 25 episode, But Dwyer-Dobbin and Procter & Gamble are well aware that the show will live in viewers' hearts for many years to come.— Jonathan Reiner

What happens to Another World after June 25?

I'm sorry to say that we've explored a lot of opportunities and June 25th will be the last we see of Another World.

We all knew that cancellation was a strong possibility, but a lot of people were still shocked...

We all felt that we had truly turned the show around. In daytime it takes a long time to lose loyal fans and it also takes a while to get them back. We all felt that in the last six months in particular that the show has improved dramatically. And in spite of the fact that the ratings were not great, but were starting to move upwards — and there is a substantial gap between us and Sunset Beach — we really hoped we'd be able to pull it off. And NBC, for a variety of reasons, chose to do what it did.

Were you there when the announcement was made?

Chris made the announcement and I made some following remarks. It was very somber. Just the atmosphere, as everyone was gathering, you could tell what was happening. It's sad.

Why do you think it took so long to turn this show around when As the World Turns and Guiding Light were able to get back into fighting form quicker?

Different cast of behind-the-scenes players. Every show is in a different state when you try to rejuvenate it, and some shows can be straightened out more quickly and others take longer. There were a number of reasons.

In hindsight, anything you would have done differently?

Oh, a million "What ifs." You know, you see things that need to be changed... you can't do it all at once... because people aren't available. Sometimes you do make changes that you think will improve the situation, and they don't. It takes time to make changes. Whenever anyone new comes into a soap on any level, I always say it takes six months to find your way around the halls and figure out where the bathrooms are. So you wait 'til somebody figures out what's going on, and then you give them a little time to see if they can improve the performance, and then you see they aren't going in the right direction, and you figure you have to make another adjustment. And you lose more time. We had a tough time getting the writing team in place. I think we ended up with a surprisingly strong writing team.

I agree.

Each member of that writing team really makes the whole team stronger. So it is a very strong entity.

Are there any plans for any Another World characters to go to the other P&G soaps?

We're talking about it. It's just a superb cast of actors, and they will all go on and have wonderful careers from here. It's such a small business that we will all work together again.

Were you surprised by the fan outcry?

Well, you know, we've been hearing from Another World fans for a long time. I knew they were out there. Maybe nobody else knew they were out there. When I spoke to [NBC honcho] Scott Sassa, he told me that his e-mail was jammed with messages from the fans, and I said, "I hope you're reading each and every one of them!" And he said, "I am. I want to learn about daytime!"

It's interesting to note that it's only after the cancellation that the number of fans seemed to grow exponentially. If there are so many fans, where are the viewers?

Well that's the million-dollar question — for all of us! This is just a small example of the danger that the entire day-part is in. As the available 18 to 49 audience diminishes in size, the ratings will get lower.

Why are the 18 to 49 year olds so important?

Because that's the demo that the advertiser wants. That's the center. Sure, younger are important and older are important, but....

But I get mail, and I'm sure you get mail, from women over 49 who have a lot of money to spend!

I'm not an advertising person... you need to ask an advertising person. But my understanding in the past has been that the psychology of commercial effectiveness is such that if you reach a woman between the ages of 18 to 49, you are more likely to get her to try something that you are trying to sell. You've already got the ones who are older but you're still trying to change the buying habits [of women 18 to 49].

That's hilarious to me — that the whole entertainment industry is based on advertisers who want a certain segment of the audience to buy their products! AW could have had a nice share of viewers over 49 but that really didn't matter to the network.

Comparatively speaking, on NBC, Another World had a nice share of the 18 to 49 viewers, and that didn't matter to NBC. Go figure!

Any plans for P&G to start a new soap in the future?

We don't have any plans at the moment. I'm not sure where there is a marketplace for a new soap. The business won't support one in syndication.

USA is starting a daily soap....

I'm anxious to see what that's all about. The problem is that an hour on cable would have to be produced for half of what we're spending right now. Less than half.

When did it become all about money?

It's not all about money. It's just the cost of doing business. The longer your talent is on the show the more valuable it becomes to you, therefore the more you have to pay. It is a business. We're not in this for our health and well-being. You do what you do to make money, I do what I do to make money. You can't expect anybody to lose money doing what they're doing. That's not what it's all about.

I just think that it's sad... not just for the industry, but for P&G. Can this medium survive?

I don't know. I hope so, but it's a problem across the day-part.

But a show like Judge Judy gets good ratings, so there are people out there in front of the TV sets.

Yes, but Judge Judy is a show you can come into every day, or go out of every day, and get your fix. Judge Judy is a very cheap show to produce, and it's dependent on one personality. And it's a different time period, too. I think she runs mostly in late afternoon.

Well, what about moving a soap to the later timeslot.

The later timeslots are syndication's timeslot. That belongs to the local stations. And the local stations can make a lot more money with non-network programming than they can with network programming.

How do you feel about the on-air recaps and teasers that some soaps use to entice viewers.

Quite honestly? It doesn't bother me. We're not doing it, and I don't know what ABC's experience is with it, but I think it's a good thing. As viewers watch less and less frequently, it's helpful. And if you watch everyday and say I don't want to waste time watching it, you're still going to be there every day. I keep up a little bit with one other soap that's not mine, and I appreciate the recaps.

Any reason why they're not being incorporated into ATWT and GL?

It's a network call, and I don't think it's easy to do. It's a lot of post-production work and it's not easy to do creatively. How do you do a tag about what's coming up tomorrow without giving away what's coming up tomorrow?

After AW leaves the air, what are your main priorities.

As the World Turns and Guiding Light!

I guess I walked into that. What specifically about the shows?

I'm pleased where each of them is, but there is still room for improvement. My concerns continue to be the bigger picture of bringing these serial dramas into shape in a way that will keep them healthy and strong for the new millennium. And this is something that CBS is concerned about, as well.

Although we still have specific aspects of both the writing and the production that we feel can be improved upon on both shows, as we get into the summer months we're going to look at what we can do on a bigger scale to keep them fresh and up-to-date. When you start thinking about what people who are going to be in the 18 to 49 year old category are going to be five or 10 years from now... they're going to be very different from the folks who are there today. They have grown up with so many forms of media entertainment that it takes a lot to get and keep their attention. And that's something we have to think about.

What sort of stuff can we look forward to as the show wraps up?

Fabulous stuff! We've got a lot of story going on. Lumina has a fabulous climax that I think is going to be very satisfying and very exciting. And the Grant murder-mystery hasn't been solved yet! We've got the Anne/Cass/Lila triangle going on, as well as Amanda and Cameron.

Can we expect more returnees?

Not really... No. This company that's there has been performing a labor of love for a long time. It's their show and we want to concentrate on them.

Any plans for flashbacks for the final episode?

No, no flashbacks. We have too much story too tell and too little time to tell it! And we had great story planned for the summer.

How do you wrap up a 35-year-old soap?

Well, I believe the fans deserve to see the characters happy. People should not miss a day of this show between now and June 25. We have something planned that is very much in keeping with the spirit of Another World, which will be fun. There is a lot of stuff happening. Trust me.

Especially with June Reiner!

She's not so perfect, you know! [Editor's note: You're telling me!]

What have you learned from this experience?

It's all about personalities. And you always want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes there isn't time to give people the benefit of the doubt, or to let them try to work things out.

Last week, Procter & Gamble programming chief Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin discussed the miraculous resurgence of As the World Turns. Now, in part deux of my interview, we move on to shakier ground.

There continues to be widespread concern -- despite widespread denials -- that NBC is determined to make Another World a Days of Our Lives clone. I don't want to believe it, but when I see Vicky Wyndham getting pregnant at age 103, it's hard not to.

First of all, Vicky Wyndham is not 103!

OK, so I exaggerate. But c'mon, this is silly, Mickey.

And you'll be happy to know that we just did focus groups across the country...[Groaning.] Puh-leeze don't start talking to me about focus groups....

[Pressing on] ... and I can't tell you how many women like this story. In fact, one woman yesterday in a focus group in Boise, ID, said, "You know, I love this story because I'm 43 and I'm pregnant, and it's wonderful to see something like this happening on my soap."Well, what about the other Days-like things going on?

Like what?Oh, gee, like how about the twin for Jake that they conveniently brought in to pull that story off?

It wasn't a twin! OK, then, a look-alike.

He had a mask on!Well, whatever the hell it was, it was preposterous! Has this ever happened in your life? Has someone in a latex mask ever pretended to be you? I want more realism, not less.

Well, it hasn't happened to me, but I'm sure it has happened to someone somewhere. Haven't you ever been to a costume party with people who look like famous people and you say, "How did he get here?"No. But then, I never get invited to costume parties like everybody on a soap does, either. OK, forget that. What about the ghost of Ryan coming back? Vicky's trip to the afterlife?

That was gentle. It was not outrageous. Many shows have gone to the afterlife. [Getting serious.] Let me answer your question: NBC fully recognizes -- in conversations that I've had with them -- that AW is not Days. Nor do they want it to be Days. But what we're doing [on AW] is what I meant when I spoke [in part one] about raising the stakes and making the storytelling more operatic. We are trying to up the ante here. AW is far from being in place. Anything you want to say directly to the fans?

I want to thank the fans. I truly believe that they've been incredibly loyal and been with us through all the tough years. I thank them for that, and I hope they'll enjoy the next few months. The outpouring of support for AW has truly been phenomenal.