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Decline of the Roman Empire


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Okay, go with me here - please. It's a serious thread.

I know, it's odd. Comparing the end of the Roman Empire to the what's happening with soaps - but go with me. I promise not to make it to academic.

Here's my theory. It's much easier to have less, or be on the way up, than it is to be on the way down. A poor society, or an emerging one, is okay with less in life because they are used to less.

If you're standards are lower, you don't know what you're missing.

Conversely, if your standards are higher, you know exactly what you're missing. AND YOU HATE IT!

Many scholars have suggested this might be the first American generation to do worse economically than the one before - something that's never really happened before. But it's generally being ignored, because who wants to think about that? It's DEPRESSING... even if it might be true. So I ask you to look at it another way...

If your team won the World Series last year, but this year, failed to make the play-offs... would you focus on the glory of then? Or analyze rather the current less-than-glory? That's what sunk the Roman Empire. Nobody wanted to admit things had changed. Even though they had.

Which brings me back to soaps.

You look at any soap website/message board - and you will see complaint after complaint about the decline of soap operas. How the casts are being trimmed, they don't use veterans, there are no more remotes, the stories aren't what they used to be, etc.

I think all of the above statements are ABSOLUTELY TRUE. However, I don't think it's because network executives / executive producers / head writers - don't care. It's just economics. The soap opera business isn't what it was 25-30 years ago. In the 70s and 80s, 3 networks ruled all of television. Which means 3 networks split ALL the advertising dollars. In 2007, I have over 300 channels on my satellite TV. Yes, there's been some increase in the population, but mainly it means the revenue that had been shared by 3 is now being shared by 300.

Which just doesn't add up the way it used to.

And while everyone hates to admit that show business is show business - it is. There is a bottom line. In the heyday of soaps - to me, the 70s and 80s - the 3 networks could have a full cast that included all generations. A wedding or a funeral would include the entire 30 person cast. Plus extras. Plus a celebrity singer - and maybe even a remote location!

For fans, that was great. If a couple got married, or someone died - the entire town showed up. It was an amazing sense of extended community - that fans either identified with - or wished they had. (And that's why people love soaps - they want to be part of that big, extended family.)

But that was based on economics. Soaps used to be the part of TV that had the biggest bang for the buck. It cost the least to produce, and made the most money. So if you wanted to have a 30 person cast, plus a good group of extras at a wedding - go for it!

Unfortunately, 30 years later, we're paying a price. While on one hand, it's great that we have 300 channels to choose from at any time... it divides the money that supports our beloved genre 100 times! Which means budgets have to be cut. Trust me, I've worked in Hollywood for 23 years. There's not a single person that I know in movies, primetime or daytime that is happy about budget cuts.

Speaking specifically to daytime, we all know it's not what it was. That if we create a "group" scene - we'd love to do what was done 30, 20, even 10 years ago and have a group of 12 extras. Today, we might be able to afford two - three on a special day. It's not that we don't know it would be better with a bigger cast, more extras, more sets... economics simply don't allow them.

So my question is: what do we do?

I've traveled to enough third world countries to know that our TV is still %1,000 percent better than much of the world sees.

So can people - who are used to caviar - learn to become happy with the Olive Garden and/or Red Lobster?

Look at it from the other side. If you only get McDonald's - isn't Red Lobster a treat? ATWT still has Bob, Kim, Nancy, Lisa, Susan, Lucinda and Emma - all vets well over 50. Yes, I know, it'd be better if it was 30 years ago and those vets actually got story. BUT IT ISN'T 30 YEARS AGO. And personally, I'd rather know the vets were around occassionally, than not at all.

Or are we doomed to extinction because we just can't accept that we've peeked. That the best days are over (finanacially) - and that we need to accept less?

Hope this makes sense. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the daytime format and want it to continue on. Along with the daytime fans.

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