This week, I wish to talk about something that has been in the Entertainment news for the past few months but only recently have I noticed a slight twist. At the end of May 2011, ABC announced their decision to not renew two of their staple Daytime dramas come 2012. All My Children, which has been running on ABC since 1970, will end its run on September 23, 2011. And One Life to Live, which has run since 1968, will end in January 2012. Ironically, both shows were created by Soap-writing legend Agnes Nixon. Stars who got their start on All My Children (like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Josh Duhamel and Melissa Claire Egan) have vowed to return to their roles in honor of the show's impending ending.
Of course, the ABC-owned SOAP Network is flooded with ads regarding the end of both of these long-running shows. But as I have watched the Alphabet Network in both Primetime and Daytime, I haven't noticed many commercials for the end of Susan Lucci's Erica Kane or Erika Slezak's Victoria Lord (or ads for ABC's high-rated and critically acclaimed General Hospital, which managed to survive the axing...for now). Moreover, I noticed ads for All My Children's replacement (a new View-like talk show called The Chew) running rampant on ALL ABC-owned stations (except maybe ESPN!). It's like ABC is kicking the two Soaps while they're down and mocking them on their own genre's network! Coincidentally, I have noticed that rival networks NBC and CBS have taken this opportunity to advertise their high-rated Soap Operas (NBC's The Days of Our Lives and CBS' The Young and the Restless) in both Daytime AND Primetime.
Has ABC given up on these two Soaps' viability or any possible viewership they can get out of a star-studded finale? Do these shows that once stood as landmarks in the network's programming deserve better than just to be tossed away (without any kind of fanfare from the network itself)?
Fans of both Soaps have been taking to Message Boards and Blogs denouncing ABC and some have even planned to boycott the network entirely. Rumors of both shows possibly moving to other cable networks were quickly debunked. ABC quashed the idea of their own SOAP Network taking on both shows and Oprah Winfrey, herself, sent out a viral video on her website explaining why her new OWN channel cannot possibly take on the task of producing the Soaps.
But what happened to the Soaps, which were once the crown jewels of Daytime programming? There are five reasons/theories, I believe, have caused this shift (and slight disdain) for what the Soaps have to offer:
1) Soaps are expensive. And in this uncertain (and often dangerous!) economy, even TV Networks are feeling the strains of massive production costs. The ratings that both All My Children and One Life to Live have been getting are just not enough to justify the enormous costs they take to make (despite the fact that Susan Lucci agreed to take a significant salary reduction!).
2) The audience has changed over the last 40 years. In the "hey-day" the Soap Opera, the target audience was most definitely the at-home wife and mother (re: housewife!). As the social priorities shifted, so did the number of women who were at home in the Daytime. With it's target audience significantly affected, the Soaps have struggled to keep the audiences they have.
3) There are too many choices these days. There are so many channels with many different types of programs in the Daytime. The reason why these Soaps were such staples in the Daytime landscape when I was growing up was because there were no other channels, only broadcast networks (i.e. NBC, CBS, ABC etc.).
4) The writing in Primetime Television has changed over the last 30 years. Ever since the popularity of Primetime Soaps from Dallas to Desperate Housewives, the writing of Primetime Dramas (and some Comedies, but that's another blogpost!) has drastically shifted. The use of continuing plots and story arcs from episode to episode was once a trick that was unique to Daytime Soaps. But in the last few decades, audiences have realized that their favorite Primetime shows can be just as "soapy" in their storytelling and audiences love them for it!
5) The rise of Reality TV has really put a dent in the economics of Television entirely. Since Reality shows are cheaper and more popular, networks are going to stand behind them and will toss away the scripted shows that are damaging their finances.
These combined reasons are the factors that have contributed to the change in attitude (particularly from the networks) towards Daytime Soaps, in my opinion.
Yet, even after all of this, it seems that the two Soaps may indeed have a second life on the Internet. But is it a worthy end to two such legendary shows? To me, it seems like this Internet bid is just something to placate the fans who are crying foul towards ABC. But sometimes you have to give the people what you want, in any form necessary. It still seems such a shame that two (once) respected shows have been summarily dismissed from their earned place in history. It makes me wonder: What will happen to other legendary shows (Primetime OR Daytime) when they no longer serve a network's purpose?