Wednesday, December 9, 2009
State of the Soaps
With the cancellation of ATWT, CBS President Les Moonves gave the following quotes:
“The days of the soap operas have changed very much. GUIDING LIGHT left last year. AS THE WORLD TURNS will leave this year. They had long and distinguished runs. And they're day is over.”
“Is it the end of an era? Sort of. Only the special soaps are going to survive. It’s certainly the end of the client-owned soap. All good things come to an end, whether it’s after 72 years or 54 years or 10 years. It’s a different time and a different business.”
For some time, we’ve all seen the writing on the wall – that daytime soap opera is dying, each show being picked off one by one. But are daytime soaps really dying…or are the networks using the recession as an excuse to kill them all off? The attitude of Mr. Moonvey makes me think the latter. My question to the networks is: what will they do once they’ve succeeded in killing off all their soaps and are producing trash TV on the cheap? Once the recession is over, are they really going to expect people to religiously tune in to LET’S MAKE A DEAL every day? Will the likes of THE TYRA BANKS SHOW survive for thirty years plus? I suspect that when times get better, these network execs are going to regret sacrificing these television shows to live on the cheap.
Also, my response to Mr. Moonvey is that the day of the soaps are not gone. I believe new soaps will continue to crop up, possibly on the internet or on other cable networks. What is over are the days of the Nielsen Ratings. The ratings system is a joke. How many people actually watch the soaps when they’re actually airing rather than via the Internet, iTunes or what have you? How many people actually even have a Nielsen box or are part of a Nielsen family? The networks have not changed with the technology of today; and I will not be convinced that these ratings reflect any kind of accuracy of how many people are really watching which shows.
Not that these soaps are not responsible for their own doom. How many times have we seen our favorite soaps spiral out of control over stupid backstage politics that effects the quality of the storylines that we’re seeing onscreen? How many times do we hear about the soap producers hiring their BFFs to work on the show rather than quality people that actually care about what’s going on? How many times have we seen the soap characters that we’ve lived with for years be miswritten to the point where they are no longer recognizable? The heart and soul of soap opera, the kind that existed in the 80s and 90s, seems to have all but disappeared. I believe that is because all of the soaps have been too “corporate”-ized. Accountants and pencil pushers are dictating the direction of the soaps more than those who created them in the first place.
While I’m still on the fence about paying for VENICE, I applaud the pioneers like Crystal Chappell, Martha Byrne and Tristan Rogers who are actually trying to keep the genre alive. Yes, right now the episodes are little five-minute segments once a week. But how long were soap operas on the radio when they first aired? There’s always the possibility that these shows will become longer if given the support. The networks obviously don’t give a damn about soap operas anymore, whether it will ultimately be to their advantage or not. Perhaps the audience should start to support the people really do care about the genre. That’s how those pioneers like Bill Bell, Agnes Nixon and Ted and Betty Corday got their start.
Editorial by FancyFace