Here lies the final resting place of the Great American Soap Opera
A good and constant companion to millions,
The genre lost its way toward its Final Fade to Black.
Neglect and misconception caused the genre’s downfall,
But their collective memory shall live in our hearts. Forever.
Daytime O. Drama
1952 (or 1937) – 2010 (or 2015) — Depending on Who’s Counting
Yes, my friends, it is time to put on your best Sunday black, sit Shiva if you are among our Jewish friends, remove all your jewelry if you are Muslim, burn those collections of Soap Opera Digest in a Shraddha ceremony for our Hindu cousins, and the rest of us heathens and infidels can cuss out Brian Frons, Barbara Bloom, Ellen Wheeler and Ken Corday in polysyllabic orgasmic fury. A flame in the wind has flickered its last, the bright promise of our date with life is forever gone. Today is no longer ours. Stick a fork in daytime soaps. They are done. I just have one tiny question:
Are soaps really dead?
If you are one of the thousands of fans who regularly follow Daytime Confidential, the reportage of our good pal Nelson Branco, the soap magazines or tabloids, the exquisite coverage of Sarah Bibel, the passionate treatises of Tom Casiello or any number of the dozens of other websites devoted to daytime drama, you are no doubt aware that the epitaph of soaps have been all but engraved on a tombstone. The mainstream press also has jumped into the act in recent weeks, stopping just short of rubbing its collective hands with glee over the prospect of the demise of daytime. This is not exactly a new development since the mainstream press has been reporting the fat lady clearing her throat since about a week after the end of OJ’s first trial in 1995.
All this gloom and doom is not without merit, make no mistake about it: Viewership for #1 Young & the Restless is at historic lows. Guiding Light’s recent 1.4 rating is an alarming development for the 70-plus year old icon. The entire ABC daytime lineup is sputtering along like a hoopty whose latest tuneup may be its last. Firing of Drake Hogestyn & Diedre Hall; no more needs to be said about that. The soap version of Ragnarök is upon us. Again.
Like any other fan who has immersed themselves in the soap opera that is Soap Opera, I have been as disturbed by all of these "new" developments as anyone. I’m not blind and can see the handwriting on the wall, too; yet I am always curious about whose handwriting I’m reading as much as what’s written. What I mean by that last statement hopefully will become more clear if you bear with me.
As long as I’ve been blogging about soaps, both on my now-defunct personal blog and here at DC, I’ve tried to explain why I think that daytime is not on the verge of imminent extinction but in the midst of evolutionary change. There is plenty of evidence to back this assertion up (which I will get to in a minute), but getting that message through is admittedly nigh on impossible. Once a particular narrative has taken hold in the minds of fans it can be hell trying to ask folk to consider a slightly diffrent view. Nonetheless, I think it’s worth a try.
I am willing to admit that I could be completely wrong. However, I am reminded of something that my late mother used to say all the time: when you speak things into existence, they are liable to come true. Another way of saying it is "be careful what you wish for…"
Do the fans want Soap Opera do disappear? No, I do not believe we do. But there is something a little off in the incessant negativity in some quarters about the possibility/probability of it all, as if some fans are all but waiting for the final episode of General Hospital or the last fade out of Y&R to say, "See, we told you so! Nobody listened to us! If they had paid attention to the fans this genre would have been saved! We’re the fans! We know everything there is to know about this genre and if the idiots in charge had only listened, we would still have love in the afternoon!"
There is validity to that once and likely future view. There is plenty of folly in it as well, pointing us to why soaps may not be in as dire straights as many of us think: … (continued)