Why soaps are already dead!

If a poster is bodacious enough to use the word ‘sage’ as part of his screen name, BELIEVE HIM!  I was reading the Official GL board when I read a post by ‘SuperSage’.  If you’ve read SS’s posts before, you know the inclusion of the word ‘Sage’ is an understatement.  He has a tendency to knock it out the park when discussing what’s wrong with soaps, in general, and the Guiding Light, in particular.  With his permission, I’m reposting his comments about ‘Why Soaps Are Already Dead’ below.  If you want to read more of SuperSage or join the GL posters who’ve come together to discuss the show, click the link to the side marked “ATWT/GL (Telenext)’ at the side.

From Sage:

It isn’t because my favorite couple isn’t on all the time. It isn’t because the show is in “reality” mode. And it isn’t even because of the wardrobe or hair is a mess. Soaps are already in the grave because of one thing, and one thing only: The powers that be are ignoring their viewers.

Oh, you say that the viewers shouldn’t dictate story? I totally agree! Can you imagine how confused we would all be if they listened to us about Reva, Josh and Jeffrey? They might as well move to Utah because this would be a polygamist marriage! AND Reva wouldn’t know who the triplets’ father would be. AND they would have to move into the Beacon because there isn’t room enough for all of them at Cross Creek (by all of them, I mean Shayne, Marah, Hawk, Billy, Bill, Jonathan, Lizzie, dead Tammy’s rotting corpse and the ghost of H.B. and Sarah).

What I mean is, the powers that be have, for too long, been consulting with focus groups that if you added up their ages, you wouldn’t get over 100 on any given day. The focus groups have told them they want to see scenes that ARE real, not just “look” real. They want to see “real” human experiences. And they don’t want to wait long for them. Problem is, the younger demographics are still a fickle little bunch and don’t stay around long enough for the common daytime soap opera. I kind of see where Chris Goutman (EP of ATWT) gets his notion that “we” don’t want to watch soaps five days a week.

The demographic the powers that be should be going after are the older viewers (35 and up). Is there any of us that didn’t get introduced to soap operas by an older family member or friend? The older viewer (yes, I am one of them… I would call us “veteran” viewers, but that sounds “old” to me, too ) has more disposable income (well, not anymore, but you see where I’m going with this) and we have more influence over the younger viewers. How do I know they aren’t going after this “older” demo? I’ll answer myself with a question: “Where are the characters that have been on the show for more than five years?”

To be GL specific, I’m talking about Alan, Rick, Olivia, Reva, Josh, Vanessa, Hawk, Billy, Alexandra, Blake, Lillian, Buzz, Frank, et al. They should be front and center EACH and EVERY day. I can still hear Wheeler saying, “They can’t be… our budget won’t allow it.” Therein lies part of the problem. They won’t invest in characters we “know.” Make it cheap and make us money. That’s the American motto, isn’t it?

Quality of the writing helps. I’d rather see a well written show than eating, and I’m a big eater. But quality doesn’t translate into ratings. What translates into higher ratings? Seeing characters we already know living their lives in our little make believe world. When viewers continue seeing these characters every day, not just once or twice a week, the ratings go up. We saw this short burst of increases in July with Josh and Reva centered primely in story. And then in August, ratings decreased once again.

I’ve preached for quality and emotion and romance, and all of this is important, but what that doesn’t include is seeing characters we know and love. Y&R and B&B knows this practice to be true. How many years have we had Victor, Nikki, Jack, Ridge, Brooke (oh gawd…) and Stephanie on our screens? The familiarity needs to be there.

The common soap opera might as well be dead if the powers that be aren’t willing to give viewers who they want.

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3 thoughts on “Why soaps are already dead!

  1. I stopped watching Y & R and B & B a while ago. Y & R because I hated the Abbott’s being pushed to the side for Gloria and her brood and B & B mainly because of all the partner swapping but also the new focus on the Logan sisters (ugggghhh).

    But I do agree with Sage and so I have to give both the shows props for one thing: they do keep the main well known (and often older) characters front and center. These are the characters viewers care about.

    Of course for me … more goes into it than that – obviously or I’d still be watching B & B. In addition to seeing these characters on nearly everyday … I want well written stories! I want to see a love story that actually IS a love story. Eric and Donna isn’t a love story … its two characters in bed with nothing else in common. Taylor and Rick are a love story (regardless of how one feels about the age difference or the fact he is Brooke’s son) – they supported one another and were friends before anything physical happened.

    When I think of stories I loved back in the day I remember Jenny and Jesse in New York (AMC), Cass and Kathleen (AW), Robert and Holly (GH), Jack and Jill on Y & R having an affair and the puzzle being sent to John …. I could go on and on.

    There are no stories like these anymore … they took time to tell … now the shows move from one thing to the next and its all plot driven instead of character driven.

    Right now, I’m not watching any American soaps. None … for the first time in my life. I’m trying out EastEnders from the UK and you know what? It’s pretty good.

  2. We must be psychic twins! ICAM! You make me so nostalgic for the days of classic daytime. Why are writers having such a hard time repeating that formula. Some of the writers who were around then, are still around now. What’s missing?

  3. I think one of the biggest issues for soaps these days is the attention span – and I don’t mean the fans … I mean the networks. Every story has to move, move, move (unless its the gay couple on ATWT then the story must drag) – so they are rarely well-plotted.

    How many days did we see Katherine and her maid (sorry just cannot remember her name right now) look at those photos of Jack and Jill? How long was Lauren buried alive before Paul finally figured out what was going on? On GH Holly was pregnant by Robert’s best friend Luke. Robert and Holly only got married so she could stay in the country. They didn’t jump into bed together the moment Luke was reported dead (like Brooke on B & B would do) – they got together … fell in love over time.

    To continue the time theme – I’d also say it not only affects overall storylines … it taken a toll on love stories. Think about the soaps you watch … can you name a couple of any of them that you really root for the way viewers did for Greg and Jenny? I mean where is the love? Lust yes plenty of that … but love? I can’t find it much. Bed hopping and all of that is a staple of soaps and always has been … but the backbone of the genre is love.

    Also changing the history of the show bugs me to no end. I’ve watched Y & R long enough to remember Brad as the pool boy. Now I’m supposed to believe that all the time he was in Genoa City under a false name and in hiding? Really? All the time he spent in the public eye working for the Newman’s or the Abbott’s and he was hiding? It makes no sense.

    And how about Erica’s non abortion on AMC? It was a huge story at the time. Erica Kane having an abortion (hell its still a huge story because no character gets to make that choice anymore) – it was timely and important. So what does AMC do today? Reverses the abortion. Come on … really?

    Marlena being possessed by the devil on Days may have been a stupid story, but at least it didn’t change the complete history of the show or the character.

    I know I’m ranting and I apologize for it, but I am really serious when I say I have no soaps on my tivo at this time. When I think about that … it really shocks me because I’ve always watched soaps. They’ve been a part of my life since I was a kid.

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