Two More Soaps are Down/The Guessing Game

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 Most of you have heard or read, by now, that  U.S. soaps are one step closer to being a part of our American past.  I have been saying for some time that I wish that the powers that be (TPTB) at the networks would either fix daytime or kill it off, but that anything in between is unfair to fans, and a clear disrespect for the genre.  I am not celebrating the loss of All My Children and One Life To Live.  In fact, it saddens me for two reasons.  The first is that I believe that both shows were a damned sight better than General Hospital and were far more ‘history rich’ in their current forms than GH.  The second is that I believe that both shows could have lasted years longer if ABC had the courage to infuse the genre with new writers and executive producers/energetic writers and executive producers who would have respected the genre’s history, but not become bogged down in the repetitive storyline telling, and the lack of attention to detail that drove fans away.

AMC and OLTL were the ‘class acts’ of daytime, and to lose these two shows won’t  improve the chances of the remaining shows to survive by picking up their audiences.  The loss of these two shows will only serve to illuminate how much weaker the plots and plot devices of the remaining shows are.

The Young and the Restless:  The actress replacing Drucilla (whose name I’m not even motivated to look up) once gave an interview stating that most Drucilla fans were fans of the show first, not of the character.  Uh… ok.  She also stated that she wasn’t hired to create a character to replace Dru… and how’s that workin’ for ya?  Where is the character she plays now?  In Dru’s old storyline… pregnant, by one of the Winters brothers and she’s not exactly sure which.  Adam, who burned a fetus in a damned fireplace, never giving its mother the chance to grieve its loss is a romantic hero, involved with a woman whose child he stole.  Go. AWAY!

The Bold and the Beautiful Where to begin?  There are so many problems with this show that between it and DOOL, that either could be the next to go (yeah, even over GH)!  I wish Bell’s ‘bad girls’ weren’t so one-dimensional, like Steffy and her faux ‘good girl’ mother, Taylor- who is as much a daytime bitch as ever there was one.  Both Steffy and Taylor highlight the weakness of Bell’s writing for bad girl characters.  I miss the real bad girls, women with a method to their madness and whose actions were explained through their backstory (pain, unhappiness, abuse, abandonment). You always knew that their desperate actions were about fighting back in the only way they knew how and it left you hating them and loving them at the same time. Steffy is just a selfish, pampered, snotty little girl who thinks life owes it to her to give her whatever she wants – even after having such a privileged life and a father who sacrificed his happiness for hers.

Her constant attempt to draw a distinction between herself and the ‘human trash from the valley’ makes her as useless as her grandmother. Most soap bad girls didn’t offer the social class argument for their superiority and since social class is the only type of class Steffy has – any argument she makes in her favor is moot. She is everything she despises in others… the ultimate hypocrite.

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Steffy’s character lacks depth and a backstory gives definition to her character.

She’s just mean, nasty, and whiny-bitchy instead of fun bitchy. It’s this sort of anemic storytelling that’s killed so much of daytime and makes the genre unwatchable.

Days Of Our Lives Rape is NOT SEXY!  EJ? NOT SEXY! I don’t care how attractive EJ’s portrayer James Scott is.  JS is not EJ, and EJ is a rapist with no redeeming qualities.  His sole mission in life it to own and manipulate the woman he raped, to control her life and to continue to impregnate her through violence and/or deceit.   I gave up on this show a very long time ago.  DOOL, and EJ as a character, are better suited to a soap titled, “The Land that Time Forgot”.    The titled references a book, screenplay, and several movies.  Why not a soap?  Women are smarter, better educated, focused on informing themselves and their daughters and sons about sexual assault — yet, sexual assault is still the foundation for romance and ‘good times’ on Days of our Lives.  Not.  good.

General Hospital Need I say more?  Nice guys really DO finish last.  OLTL and AMC focused on family ties, the ups and downs of relationships, and in the end the mob boys and weak guest appearances win out.  Sorry, James Franco fans, I thought GH’s artist Franco sucked and that the actor treated the character as a caricature.  His vision of what a soap character was supposed to be left me cringing and I was shocked that TPTB backstage allowed it to happen.

Daytime writers and executives of the four remaining shows have to become more protective of the genre.  They have to remember daytime’s illustrious history and send the remaining four shows out as a bright flame, and not sending it up as a weak puff of smoke.  They owe the fans no less.

Oddly enough,  I was a daytime fan who, when this blog began as a column for  Darcy Fourier’s “The Soapscope” website, watched more daytime than primetime television.  My primetime viewership was nearly non-existent.   When I became disenchanted with daytime, I switched to primetime viewership almost exclusively.  Even still, I will miss soaps for lots of reasons, but primarily for their history in total.  I can’t say that  I will  soaps in their current incarnation, I hated and still hate most of what’s airing in daytime.  I will miss daytime for what it was, and for the missed opportunity to make it something great, again.  I’m not interesting in more daytime talk, more scripted reality, or more game shows and can’t imagine their appeal over even the worst of daytime dramas, much less the best of it.  To the Cast and Crew at All My Children and One Life to Live, thank you for the decades of memories.  You are irreplaceable and you will be missed.

Is ATWT canceled?

You betcha’ and it just SUCKS, doesn’t it?  True or not, it certainly feels as if NBC and CBS have been leading the charge to dismantle daytime, one show at a time.  Rather than invest in new blood in the writers’ room and retain beloved onscreen  faves, TPTB have favored daytime writers and EPs with histories of utter failure and disregard for the fans – shifting them from one show to the next.  “Cheaper” (and not necessarily better) on screen talent has been shifted from one show to the next  as well, and fans are stuck with the consequences of a host of bad decisions.  We’ll miss you ATWT.
ATWT’s last airdate is scheduled for Sept. 2010 (GL fans will remember that GL’s last airdate was Sept. 18, 2009).   Read more by clicking HERE.

Update:  RedStateCenterLeft commented with this bit of trivia regarding ATWT, as HuffPo:

ATWT was the program Walter Cronkite broke into to announce that JFK had been shot. Because of that AWTW will be forever linked to a day that changed history. So sad to see that bit of history fall.

Mourning Guiding Light

In case you haven’t heard (and it’s doubtful this is still news to anyone):

TV’s ‘Guiding Light’ switching off after 72 years

NEW YORK – CBS is pulling the plug on the soap opera “Guiding Light” after a 72-year run that predates television, the show a victim of the economy and changed viewing habits. The drama’s final episode will air on Sept. 18. The Guinness Book of World Records has cited it as the longest-running television drama. It began as a 15-minute serial on NBC Radio on Jan. 25, 1937, and debuted on CBS TV in 1952, focusing on the fictional town of Springfield and the Spaulding, Lewis and Cooper families.

Full story here

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.

I shouldn’t be angry, but I am.

I shouldn’t care at all, but I do.

Like many of you, The Guiding Light has been a staple in my life for a VERY long time and even though it’s ‘just a soap’, it’s a soap that will be deeply missed. It helped bring generations of television viewers together, many of us with our mothers and grandmothers. Together we shared at least an hour a day together, infuriated at/laughing with/intrigued by the fictional friends, foes, lovers, and others of Springfield. There was a time when almost every day was torture, waiting for the next episode to air. While I understand the reality of the current situation, I don’t fault the show’s demise on just the economy, it’s been a confluence of issues; bad casting, bad timing, bad writing, horrid production values, among other factors.

It’s as if the powers of daytime have chosen to remain tone deaf. The ‘blame the OJ trial’ defense had magical powers for daytime shows, they seemed to believe. Writers didn’t have to worry about the changing times, they only had to offer the same old storylines as before – and oh, blame the OJ trial for falling ratings, not the writing. Those storyline were mysteriously inoculated against fan boredom, in the minds of daytime writers and producers, network talking heads. Storylines are treated as though they were so foolproof that you only had to make ‘slight’ modifications to the same old-same old and you could shove ANY character or couple into the formula.

The Writing

The writing speaks for itself, unfortunately. It was the show’s biggest stumbling block to wooing fans back. Until recently, I couldn’t think of a GL storyline I could stomach. Cassie and Josh’s forced relationship was a slap in the face to veteran viewers who couldn’t believe that Josh, Reva’s soul mate, would have chosent to stay with Cassie while Reva battled cancer. The writers gave us touching scenes of Josh fighting to save Reva from death’s door, only to walk away from her, himself. Josh finally came to his senses, professing his love for Reva and leaving Cassie behind – only to have the writers give fans a punch to the gut, instead of a slap.

Reva not only chooses Jeffrey over “Joshua”, but having survived radical chemo and radiation treatments and having TWICE gone through menopause, she ends up pregnant with Jeffrey’s child. Another non-Jeva child in an attempt to put an end to the show’s signature couple. More than two decades of JEVA, a couple that death could not separate, and the writers defied science, logic, and commonsense to try to marginalize their cherished history.

Killing off JEVA, killing off Ross (and effectively Ross and Blake), getting rid of the Bauers, Beth Spaulding’s destruction, exiling Holly and Fletcher, Alex’s desperation for much younger Cyrus the jewel thief, the under use of the Lewis clan, Josh’s stint as a minister, Maureen’s death, Ed’s disappearance, Rick cheating on Mel with Beth, kissing cousins Jon and Tammy, the shuttering away the Spauldings, the Rick/Alan-who’s-the-daddy storyline, you name it… the writers either killed it, perverted it, ‘redefined it’ until it was unrecognizable, or unintentionally made a complete joke of it.

And still the show’s writers managed to begin turning it all around. With Coop’s tragic death, Philip and Edmund’s triumphant returns, Shayne’s reemergence and re-integration into the Lewis family, edgy-comedic Dinah being unleashed, and Otalia’s unexpected romance GL seemed like a new show, a recognizable relative of the old GL, not yet the old GL itself. It was a show that was redefining itself for the better and heading in the right direction.

What irony that short-sighted network execs who didn’t seem all that keen about putting money into the show to save it, have canceled it now that the show is finding its footing without a significant increased investment from the network.

The Casting

Any number of characters fit the bill of the pretty-but-pointless crowd. Now is not the time to name them, and I don’t fault them or the actors who portray/portrayed them, for the decision made by the show’s producers to fill screen time with cheaper-to-hire newbies instead of established characters. I think it was just hard for many viewers to watch a show called ‘Guiding Light’, but featured very few recognizable characters. Veterans were reduced to ‘bit players’, all except the veterans involved in storylines that were a direct contradiction to the show’s history. I don’t understand why Maureen’s death and the subsequent loss of viewers following that bad decision never served as a lesson to network execs that fans love VETERAN characters.Those veterans have been our anchors to the soap world. They were the faves we shared and discussed with our parents and grandparents. Our parents and grandparents brought us to the genre, not our peers. The 18-25s and the 12-17s the networks were desperate for weren’t watching soaps and bringing one another in. When the did watch, I suspect they weren’t watching to see OTHER teens on air. They see that every day. Many of them were most likely watching for the glitz and glamour GL ONCE offered.

Even now, what makes teen soaps, such as ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘90210’, and other such dreck popular is that the ‘teens’ are living the lives of adults. They have little adult supervision and they live a life that most adults can’t afford, much less other teens. Kids stuck in “juvvy” falling in love versus a torrid love affair (complete with location shoot)? I’m willing to wager that the love affair with location shoot wins hands down, even for the bubble-gum crowd.

Production Values and Timing
” I do think if you were flipping through the channels you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, this is a soap opera, I’m not going to stop,’ ” says Wheeler. “You wouldn’t know what it was.” Ellen Wheeler
Therein lies the problem.
The writing was bad, the production values were WORSE. While fans wanted more cross promotion with primetime shows as a way of bringing in more viewers, I never understood why primetime promotion would have caused those viewers to tune in to a show with such low production values and plots that could never have made it past a brainstorming session in a primetime writers room. Actually, I think a primetime writer would have been embarrassed to introduce some of daytime’s most beloved plots.

Why didn’t anyone ever cross promote with networks like Home and Garden TV (HGTV)? Why not challenge the various “Design on a Dime” teams to redecorate some of GL’s least aesthetic ‘sets’ using their $2,000 budget, per room? Hell’s bells, go hog wild and up the budget to $5,000, even $10k! The two networks split the cost! How about a Designer’s challenge with HGTV, designers pitch their ideas on how to redecorate camera ready rooms? Fans of BOTH shows would get to weigh in and select the chosen room. There could have been webisodes of the ‘behind-the-scene’ build. Fans would go online (or call in for those without and internet connection) to weigh in on various options for redecorating each space, not just the overall room design. Throw QVC in for good measure. Let the design options be selected from the QVC website/catalogue of options, to bring down the costs of the redecorated rooms.

HGTV/QVC would give free airtime to GL, who’d give free advertising to those networks and similar such partners. Some of GL’s biggest stars could host a “getting to know” web segment as their onset homes/rooms were redecorated. The chosen characters would discuss their own history (or histories in the case of selected couples), discuss how they fit into the overall GL story. They could discuss how the redecorated room tells you about who their characters are.

The selected design teams could have temporarily become part of the cast as a character’s/couple’s space is redecorated with a series of comedic mishaps. The segments could air on HGTV/QVC – as well as the web. HGTV/QVC fans would probably want to tune in for the dramatic overhaul of the sets, and potentially become new viewers. GL (assuming they could talk the apartment/hotel/home owners into allowing it to happen) would up its production values for very little money. Similar connections could have been made with the Food Network stars, as well – who could become involved in kitchen renovations.I don’t know if Ellen Wheeler ever reads message boards, including the official GL board. I think it would have been informative for her to know that there are soap fans, most especially at ‘all soaps sites’, who aren’t watching and WON’T watch Guiding Light because of the show’s production values. From her statement above, clearly Ms Wheeler was banking on the new format to get viewers to tune in. She was banking on viewers thinking of the show as a ‘reality show’ and want to watch to figure it out. Instead, viewers ran in the opposite direction.

Prior to the upswing in the writing, and whatever remaining veteran characters were left, the production values were all viewers had to reinforce their remaining emotional connection with the show’s history. I directly fault Wheeler and Bloom for taking that from fans. Much of the show’s history was thrown away when the show went outside of studio.
  • Imagine how different the show would have been had Alan been tried (and convicted?) in the same courtroom where it was revealed that Annie Dutton carried a dead fetus for weeks in order to frame Reva Shayne for her infant’s death? The last time Alan was in that room, he was supporting Annie who’d lied even to him. (Cue flashbacks!)

  • What if Josh and Reva, by coincidence, went to clear their heads in the same carriage house they met in the last time Reva came back from the dead?
  • Imagine Josh walking about that beautiful house he once shared with Reva, while images of young Marah and Shayne played as memories in the background. What if living with those memories motivated him to rebuild his family with Reva?
  • Blake and her children living at the cottage? Remember the playpen where the twins played, one believed to be Ross’, the other believed to be Rick’s? How long after both betrayed Holly did they move into that cottage to start their lives together? I remember watching Holly in that living room and wondering how could stand there and not want to take Ross’ head off every time she walked through that door.

As fantastic as the Shayne-Liv-Edmund drunk rock band scenes were, they were upstaged by the low rent digs Shayne lives in. That cheap dark paneling filled the scene – and Liv’s upscale wardrobe seemed even more out of place. Shayne grabbing beer out of the mini fridge in the efficiency kitchen in his one room hovel caused ME to sober up and I wasn’t drinking!

The Guiding Light was always a better show than it was given credit for. The half-assed decor that worked to strip the show of its integrity said nothing about the show, but more about those who were supposed to be good stewards of the fans’ trust and the show’s resources. I’m one more angry GL viewer who can’t believe the show is gone, rather than having the network get rid of the people who destroyed it. VERY short-sighted on the part of CBS execs. If any show deserved to have the network execs fight for it, it’s The Guiding Light.

Thank you to the great actors (past and present) for sharing your hearts, your time, and your talents with us. In my world, The Light still shines and it always will.

Yet another dire warning about the end of daytime:

Thanks to Listen2Me2, from the Official BnB message board for sharing this article. A comment from a CBS exec about the Guiding Light:

In September 2007, NBC moved another soap, “Passions,” to DirecTV before shutting down the program altogether. Insiders at “Days,” a daytime staple since 1965, say they won’t be surprised if the sands in their show’s hourglass run out too.

A similar fate awaits CBS’ “Guiding Light,” which debuted on radio in 1937 before becoming the longest-running drama in TV history. “That show isn’t even treading water,” says a network exec. “It’s sunk below the waves.”

An even more ominous sign for the industry: For the first time, the Daytime Emmys — designed specifically to promote daytime soaps — won’t even be broadcast. Major networks deemed the fees too excessive for a show that draws abysmal ratings. Even the cable channel Soapnet isn’t airing it.

I really want the show to make it. I hate a lot of what’s going on in daytime, but I don’t want to lose another daytime show, PERIOD. In fact, there are at least four or five other shows I’d love to see come back on air in addition to those we already have (that list grows every time I remember yet another canceled show).
  • I think “Generations’ would do well, given the current climate.
  • Another World
  • Ryan’s Hope
  • Texas…
OH! Then there’s
  • Search for Tomorrow
  • Edge of Night
  • Sunset Beach
NO to Passions, even still.

Another interesting point was raised in this article:

In recent years, market leader “Y&R” has seen its audience shrink precipitously, to an average of 5 million total viewers in 2008. In the old days, soaps were generational — your grandmother got your mother hooked, and she, in turn, got you hooked.

How many times have fans made THIS argument about why daytime writers needed to focus on the established characters and stop killing off the veteran characters we love? Once soaps starting taking that slippery slope of bringing in the pretty, but pointless, characters, fans who may have continued watching daytime appear to be less inclined to do so – and they certainly weren’t bringing their daugthers and sons/granddaughters and grandsons with them to watch daytime’s decline in creativity and overall production values.
Just a reminder: MarkH makes a convincing case that it’s not just awful storylines that are responsible for a daytime… but they sure don’t help!