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Growing Old Together: Following As the World Turns' Tom Hughes Through the Years, Part V of VI


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This post was originally published on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog on July 04, 2007.

Tom's Maturity--Scott Holmes Takes the Role

At this point, Scott Holmes took over the role of Tom Hughes. Tom was out of Oakdale for some time in Washington D.C., where he was heavily involved in a massive FBI case that the Oakdale Police Force was also involved in. With Holmes portraying Tom, he returned to Oakdale to put his marriage back together and began working with Margo on the Falcon case. The couple was eventually reunited.

The central character in the defining family of Oakdale, Holmes' Tom once again became a part of several storylines that sought to renew focus on social issues through personal drama, similar to the stories Tom was part of in the late 1960s. This mid-1980s to early-1990s time period is often celebrated by ATWT fans as a glory period of the show, with head writer Douglas Marland blending social relevance into a strong writing emphasis on workspace tension and family drama.

For Tom, the first in this series of storylines was a surprise visit he got from Lien, who ended up being his daughter from an affair he had with a Vietnamese nurse during his time in the service decades before. The ensuing drama showed both the personal effects of Tom's discovering a grown daughter and the complications on his recently reconciled marriage, along with both the lasting social effects of the Vietnam War on American society and the racism that the Hughes family had to deal with through Lien, including a storyline where Lien's high school teacher openly showed aggression toward her because of her race, as he had been a Vietnam veteran as well.

This was also followed by Margo's discovery that she was pregnant and that the baby was not Tom's but Hal's, from the short affair she had had with her work partner during her and Tom's separation. Again, questions of custody and the need for a nuclear family versus the messiness of real human relationships became the focus of baby Adam's birth. Hal eventually decided to be Adam's godfather and to let Tom raise Adam as his son.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Margo's current portrayer, Ellen Dolan, took over the role, and Tom and Margo's status as a couple cemented with Holmes and Dolan in the roles. Tom and Margo's relationship involved both police drama, with the couple continuing to solve cases together, and family drama through which the writers continued to examine major issues Americans were facing.

Among these were Margo's decision to unplug her stepfather's life support after he had confided in her that he wanted to die naturally, even though he had not made a living will. After Tom and Margo weathered the family controversy surrounding Margo's role in his death, the couple had their first child together and named it after Margo's stepfather, Casey.

Later, Margo was attacked and raped while on duty by a man later found to be HIV positive. Through the next couple of years, the show explored the aftermath of her rape. While she had not contracted HIV, Margo became friends with another victim of the same rapist who had contracted the virus and who eventually died, with Margo and Tom helping raise the woman's son.

When the rapist later broke back into the Hughes home, Tom killed him, and the show examined Tom's ambivalence over whether the murder was self-defense or whether he had willingly killed another human being. Through the end of the Doug Marland Era, the couple remained an important focus for such debates. These social issues were made even more powerful because of Tom Hughes' status as the heart of the show and Tom and Margo's status as the show's supercouple.

By the mid-1990s, Tom and Margo settled into their roles of district attorney and top detective. The two continued to work together solving local crimes and raising Adam and Casey, with Lien having left town. Eventually, though, Tom hit a mid-life crisis, returning to some of the questions of his early days about his place in "the establishment" as district attorney.

He decided to leave the law and begin a new job as a journalist for The Argus, his mother's newspaper. However, his editor at the paper, Emily Stewart, became infatuated with him and took advantage of Margo's growing obsession with a troubled youth named Eddie Silva to convince Tom that Margo was having an affair. Tom ended up having a one night stand with Emily, shocking viewers by betraying his maturity. Although he and Margo reconciled, Tom and Emily's affair led to a child born in the late 1990s, Daniel.

During this time, Adam discovered that Tom was not his biological father. Angry at Tom because of his infidelity, a SORASed Adam--now a teenager in high school-- brought all the issues of Margo and Tom's separation from the mid-1980s back to the forefront, juxtaposed with Tom's current affair with Emily. Adam left Tom and Margo's to live with Hal and Hal's wife, Barbara Ryan. Long-time viewers were reminded of all the events between Hal, Barbara, Margo, and Tom over the past decade, while new viewers were given enough background information to understand the current family drama.

The couple weathered that storm and a later flirtation Margo had with a local sportscaster which led to another separation for Tom and Margo in 2004. Tom and Margo--and the viewers--had come to realize by that point that the two had so much history between them that they could not stay apart. And Holmes, despite being the thirteenth actor to take the role of Tom Hughes, had become the defining actor for the role of Tom Hughes.

The Voice of Reason

Today, Tom Hughes has taken over the "voice of reason" role more completely from his father. While Dr. Bob remains a permanent part of the ATWT cast, Tom has played the town's district attorney for much of the past several years and remains the heart of the show's traditional central family.

While Lien has not been back in Oakdale for some time, Tom is actively involved in the lives of his three sons--dealing with Casey's transition from high school to college and the discovery a couple of years ago that Casey fathered a baby that died at birth while he was still in high school, along with Casey's subsequent problems with gambling that have currently landed him a short-term prison stint; the death of Adam's biological father Hal and Adam's return to Oakdale last fall, followed by Adam's trying to separate a couple's marriage and eventually leaving town; and taking primary responsibility for son Daniel while his mother has battled various legal issues and eventually honoring Daniel's wish to be sent to a boarding school, mirroring Tom's childhood to a degree.

While Tom has spent most of the decade as a supporting character, his decision to step down as district attorney last year due to the stress of the workload and his recent heart attack after discovering Daniel was missing have given a little more focus on Tom and Margo in the past year.

Tom remains an essential part of ATWT's fabric even when he is largely playing a supporting role becuase, in soap operas, the interaction between characters takes value over the plot-driven day-to-day activities. Tom and portrayer Scott Holmes, who has now been with ATWT for about 20 years, look to remain a vital member of fictional Oakdale, as viewers will likely watch Tom move into an eventual role as grandfather and watch as he continues to follow in his father's footsteps as the show's patriarch.

Meanwhile, Tom and Margo remain the longest running couple on the show. For longtime viewers, their relationship with each other and with most of the cast is an important tie that binds ATWTtogether and the show's past, present, and future in a way that no other television couple can achieve, due to the duration of American soap operas.

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