Why The Remaining Daytime Soaps Must Start Paying Attention to Their Primetime Counterparts if They Hope to Stay Alive
If you go back even further, you'll find television's premiere soap superbitch, Lisa Miller (Eileen Fulton), who was so good at being bad on As The World Turns, they gave her a primetime spinoff. How is it that the very soaps who invented the art of televised revenge, sex and debauchery, have seemingly forgotten how to script it before 3 pm? Let's face it, we can blame networks all we want for cancelling them, but most diehard daytime soap fans agree that the quality of writing for daytime dramas have been majorly off for years, if not decades.
Granted, daytime soaps are at several disadvantages to their primetime counterparts. Number one being, they've all been on for decades and have therefore told every story that could be told at least 20 times by now. Plus, primetime soaps only have to be good for 13-22 episodes a season, whereas daytime soaps air five-days-a-week, year in/year out. Even still, those facts can't excuse some of the pisspoor storytelling daytime fans have had to unfortunately grow accustomed to in recent years.
A wise man once said there are only really seven plots in literature. It's all about how you tell them. In my opinion, Revenge proves that theory. Heck, it's based on the Count of Monte Cristo, a book most of us never bothered to read in high school, yet we can't get enough of this soap opera.
While an on cancellation watch General Hospital wasted the last few months following a third rate newcomer, as she traipsed around a gothic mansion in a night gown, Revenge had America buzzing—no longer around the water cooler— but on Twitter, Facebook and Get Glued with creator Mike Kelley's new spin on classic soap staples. We all know primetime soaps have much bigger budgets than daytime, but the great equalizer can and should be storytelling. There's no excuse for bad storytelling, nor time to allow for it on daytime's remaining dramas. So why then do daytime executives put up with bad writing for so long, before desperately trying to bring in new blood five seconds before it's too late?
GH isn't the only daytime offender when it comes to being permitted to tell really bad stories for a really long time while the genre is in crisis. Daytime's Number 1 soap The Young and the Restless has arguably been the greatest offender of the four daytime soaps left on the air. In recent years, instead of telling classic, believable tales about the rich and the wanton, Y&R descended into the outlandish — telling stories about criminal chipmunks, dueling doppelgangers, people being sprayed down with pesticide in corn fields, volcanic deaths and the like. These sad developments have left ticked off fans of the late Bill Bell wondering what happened to the soap opera that shot to the top of the Nielsens on the strength of an epic, timeless love story between a former stripper and the ruthless mogul who loved her.
Why have daytime soaps stopped keeping it simple? Even when telling out there sagas on daytime, the story has to be rooted deeply in love, family, sex and retribution. The reason Days of Our Lives' devil possession storyline worked so well was because at the heart of the supernatural saga was the ultimate love story of John Black (Drake Hogestyn) and Dr. Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall). John loved Marlena so much he fought the Devil Herself for his beloved. I would gather that ABC's 666 Park Avenue will have more than a little in common with DAYS from that era, as well as Dark Shadows — by way of Manhattan.
Nowadays it feels like whenever soaps decide to go outside of the box, it's a last minute decision, come upon by a hack writer, not a well-thought out, soberly contemplated, decisive move. Again, Y&R, which at this point is only No. 1 out of habit, is one of the greatest offenders. Often times, Y&R's current brass creates plots before even thinking about character arcs, and has gotten into the habit of casting big names before even considering who they will play, or how they will fit onto the canvas, which is evident when you tune in to watch an episode.
Even with a show like Revenge, where plot is most definitely as essential as character, you know that Grandpa Grayson and his thread into the soap's tapestry was fully fleshed out before anyone so much as picked up a phone to dial Bill Devane's number. Why is that no longer the case with daytime soaps?
One daytime soap that is farily consistent in keeping true to their characters, is Y&R's sister soap The Bold and the Beautiful. B&B keeps it simple in terms of their storytelling, but at times its too simplistic. The hit international sudser is known for sweeping triangles, pitting "true love" against a scheming interloper, and while that has served B&B in good stead, it could seriously use a dose of modernization.