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Sylph

Is the soap world asleep?

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There was a time not so long ago, specifically when Hogan Sheffer switched soaps, when I thought "Wow... :mellow: This might be a start of an exciting new era for soaps." There was Hogan, then Pratt, Dena, British writer ghost consulting... Exciting doesn't really equal good, but nonetheless it'd be better than this swamp we're in. As if the whole world is at piece, no wind, the trees don't move, everyone's in mh6rdd.gif mode.

Is it time to admit that some changes didn't work out and that it's, perhaps, time for change?

There are many soaps, if not all, which are in desperate need of a thorough cleansing. GH comes to mind. ATWT — what is Jean Passanante doing there? :unsure: Oh, right — helping Chris turn his ideas into stories.

What is going on? Why is no one trying to "fix" anything? :unsure: Not only is nothing happening, we're seeing a kind of retrograde, anachronistic moves appear from nowhere occasionally.

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I'm all but ready for a soap cancellation. Maybe it will scare the rest of the shows(God's chosen one, Y&R, aside) into doing something fun and drastic. Maybe it will usher in a new soap to network television. Who knows?!

I'm ready for someone to shake the boat.

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I disagree, it's exciting times for ATWT and GL right now. The writing has taken a dramatic turn for the better at both shows. Massive cast and crew upheaval is not the only way to fix a show.

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I'm all but ready for a soap cancellation. Maybe it will scare the rest of the shows(God's chosen one, Y&R, aside) into doing something fun and drastic. Maybe it will usher in a new soap to network television. Who knows?!

I'm ready for someone to shake the boat.

Thank you! I feel the same way. Every week I look in the ratings thread and see posts from people who want all soaps to go up regardless of quality for the "good of the genre" and I cringe. How is embracing mediocrity in the best interest of the genre? How is it for the greater good for the audience to say "It's okay. I have no standards just don't leave me!" That's not loyalty, it's Battered Viewers Syndrome.

I know there are plenty of people enjoying their respective shows right now. Goodness knows every week there's another show "on fire right now!!" But I think even satisfied viewers can agree that all the recycling, whether actors, writers or producers, is detrimental overall. It's like making a Xerox copy of a copy of a copy, eventually it becomes so degraded you can't tell what it was to begin with.

I hold out a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe the stars will line up and a new soap can somehow be born, whether it's network, cable or the internet. There's a lot of lapsed viewers like myself out there: people who want to find a show to love, but we aren't coming back to the same thing we left.

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If the freefall of the past 5+ years on many soaps (going back even further than that) isn't enough to shake things up, then I don't think a cancellation would make a difference. Most of these big shocks, like all the other soaps reacting to GH's huge comeback in the late 70s, or the ratings disaster of the OJ trial in 1994 and 1995, or all the soaps trying to copy Jim Reilly's success at DAYS, only decreased soap quality and ratings longterm.

I remember when AW being canceled was supposed to be a brilliant move which would change daytime, usher in a bold new era, and then we got Passions, which got notice for a few years, at most, for camp appeal and bad acting, before fading out of public consciousness. The only trend it may have helped accelerate was dumping actors over 50, which didn't really help any soap, except maybe DAYS.

I don't believe any network would replace a canceled soap with another soap now. We'd probably get another talk show, or pseudo-reality show, or they would just stick reruns of some of their primetime programs into daytime as a cheap way to fill the spot.

The soaps most likely to be canned are soaps I'd want to stay around. The soaps most likely not to go anywhere are soaps like GH which I think are very offensive. The message a cancellation would send would be that turning even further into a soap like GH is the way for daytime to go.

Why don't we fire some of the hacks who run daytime now, and find fresh blood? That would be a way to wake the soap world up. It's when Disney took over ABC, then when Frons was hired, and the changes at P&G's soap department in the mid-90's that began seriously damaging the soaps. Or in B&B's case, when Brad Bell took over.

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Thank you! I feel the same way. Every week I look in the ratings thread and see posts from people who want all soaps to go up regardless of quality for the "good of the genre" and I cringe. How is embracing mediocrity in the best interest of the genre? How is it for the greater good for the audience to say "It's okay. I have no standards just don't leave me!" That's not loyalty, it's Battered Viewers Syndrome.

I know there are plenty of people enjoying their respective shows right now. Goodness knows every week there's another show "on fire right now!!" But I think even satisfied viewers can agree that all the recycling, whether actors, writers or producers, is detrimental overall. It's like making a Xerox copy of a copy of a copy, eventually it becomes so degraded you can't tell what it was to begin with.

I too hold out a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe the stars will line up and a new soap can somehow be born, whether it's network, cable or the internet. There's a lot of lapsed viewers like myself out there: people who want to find a show to love, but we aren't coming back to the same thing we left.

So, in my non-soap life, I'm always eager to see innovative things that push envelopes. My favorite show on the air these days is Breaking Bad, which I consider to be a COMPLETE soap opera. It has all the melodrama, it has a terrific high concept, excellent performances. But, in the process, it also serves as an intriguing conceptual essay on topics like crime and punishment, on moral reasoning in dire circumstances, on mentorship and friendship, and so on. A supporting character is a terrific young man with cerebral palsy...and I think it is just brilliant how that is woven into the show without really being an issue.

On my Netflix queue are oodles of independent films, many of which make my co-viewers groan ("oh, why always so quirky?", or "can we watch something that is NOT experimental?"). I like shows like Lost or The Office, precisely because they do not hand me cliches, and they keep me on the edge of my seat with unsolvable riddles and uncomfortable character moments.

I embraced LML at Y&R, because I thought she'd shake the tree and give us some daytime innovation. I'd even argue that, initially, she did.

But on the tail end of her ride to ruin, I had a personal epiphany about daytime, encapsulated by Kay Alden's MIT quote that "Daytime is not an avant garde medium".

She's right! EXISTING soaps are bodies with huge histories. That is their ASSET. So, current storytelling that leverages history is something that daytime can uniquely achieve.

Now, I'm also happy and satisfied and sometimes euphoric because my show is Y&R. I know some disagree, but in my view that is a show that effectively uses the past (actors and characters and situations) to tell new stories. Some of those stories are "homages" to the past, but I do not personally see recycling.

That said, there is a nostalgia motive, and that's okay. When they play old musical cues, it brings genuine pleasure to long-term...especially when it used skillfully to evoke old emotions as well.

I think Y&R fares better than most other soaps because (looking, for example, at ABC) they EMBRACE their history, but they also try to bring on new generations, and tell new stories with them. (For example, the current Sharon-nervous-breakdown is a whole new beat for the actress, and it takes her places she has never been, yet it fits perfectly into her 15-year history on the show). ABC has mostly discarded the legacies of its shows. Add to that largely contrived, sensationalistic storytelling with characters who are not always likeable or relatable...and you have schlocky storytelling ("grief sex", "kidnapping", "mob war", "paternity wrangle", "paralysis", etc.), without any emotional richness.

So, I have come to the conclusion that "old daytime" and "new daytime" need to be held to different standards. Old daytime needs to be judged on the usual aspects (storytelling, acting, production values, etc.), BUT ALSO TO THE EXTENT THAT THE SHOW HONORS THE STORY THREADS THAT BROUGHT IT TO THIS POINT. Most shows forget this latter part...and therein lies their bankruptcy.

On the other hand, I do think there is genuine room for "new daytime". In "new daytime", I would expect envelope pushing...I would welcome it. So, far, there is no appetite to create this. In "new daytime", I would cast a super-dire eye on amnesia and paralysis and switched babies and .... (Or maybe not, if it was done effectively).

I close noting, somewhat tangentially, that Brad Bell gave an interview recently to SOD. And in it, he argued that the "ratings panic" was misguided. (One cannot use old numbers in a less fragmented television landscape to judge today's numbers, he said). He said that--in the daypart--the soaps still MASSIVELY outrate anything cable is pulling in, and soaps continue to offer that niche audience. This is correct. It IS important to contextualize soap viewership in the broader scheme of cable and declining network viewership over all.

But it was Brad's CREATIVE comments that have me thinking. First, he's VERY happy with where B&B is right now. (Can he really believe that? If yes, that explains why his show sucks). Second, though, he reminds us what soaps were meant to be: CHEAP programming, with not-stellar production values, that sold soap.

We gotta sell soap. We've got to appeal to that lowest denominator in all of us...the folks who need mouthwash and pantiliners and detergent and Celexa. We keep imposing these high-falutin' creative expectations of soaps...but they're supposed to be cheap programming (they SHOULDN'T be that much more expensive than the game shows and talk shows they have always been associated with) that brings in soap buyers.

Soap. Not Starbucks. Not Mercedes. Not complex financial instruments. Soap. Deodorant. Ditropan. You need a certain kind of programming to sell that stuff. As much as I love my Breaking Bad, that show pulls miniscule numbers compared to most other shows. They don't advertise for soap on Breaking Bad. They do try to sell cars and movies.

So, in closing, I think I have concluded -- too -- that "new daytime" MUST NOT be in the daytime. The innovation you want needs to play to a different audience. I'm already finding it -- on HBO and FX and AMC and so forth. Our long-running daytime shows are anachronistic survivors of a dead era, and I think their strength and survival DEPENDS on their embracing the traditions that served them so well for so long.

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You can't expect a positive change on any CBS or ABC soap right now (with Y&R being the exception). What we need is a new wave of soaps. A form of soaps that are going to attract a socially conscious demographic who is looking for dramas that tackle social issues in the way All My Children once did. Stories that are groundbreaking and touching, stories about humanity and love and hate. The stories that make the average viewer forget all about their own problems while getting a look into the complicated yet pretty realistic lives of the people on their television screens.

As much as it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to say this, the only broadcast network that I believe has the ability to bring us a new groundbreaking daytime drama is NBC. Now before everyone freaks out and brings up what NBC has done in the past I have a few things to say.

I pick NBC here because the only soap left on their network is Days. Now let's be realistic, I don't see Days sticking around much longer, not matter how long they can keep their 3rd place in the HH rating. NBC will still pick it a part next year and it's bye-bye. NBC also tries to bring in a really young audience. Well soaps need to have a multi-generational audience. You create socially relevant shows on an already youth oriented network and once those young viewers get hooked, they will stick with the show as it grows with them and then they pass it on and so forth.

I know NBC doesn't have the space at the moment with the two hour extension of the Today show, but since their daytime lineup consists of one soap, it would make sense for them to have two new ones produced, two new ones that they don't mess with and destroy, new ones that they allow to grow and promote. With patience I think it could build up a pretty decent audience. It would also make the other networks realize something as well. Success doesn't happen over night!

As someone else pointed out above, P&G's mid-90s changes really hurt their soaps. Disney taking over ABC also really hurt their soaps. We all know who is responsible for Days. The bottom line is, someone has to make a change and I think that change should take place on a network with minimal daytime programming. A network who is skewing a younger audience that can keep them entertained with real stories. Especially on the network that has the leading morning news show, NBC. Even those viewers who may be older than what NBC usually targets for their "soap," they can contribute to the audience of a new drama. I know it's a long shot, but, you never know.

Notice I didn't say cancel the lowest rated soaps on CBS and ABC and replace them with new soaps because no matter how low a current soap may be, it still has decades of history to explore. By a third network, NBC making a comeback, they will make it more competitive for ABC and CBS to step up and fix with they have done to their current soaps. That is something that can help the genre as a whole as opposed to canceling a soap now to make the networks understand what has been done.

I can't believe I just wished for NBC to create a groundbreaking daytime drama lineup. :o

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I disagree, it's exciting times for ATWT and GL right now. The writing has taken a dramatic turn for the better at both shows. Massive cast and crew upheaval is not the only way to fix a show.

LOL. Leave it to the TeleNext Cheerleader to assume I was explicitly talking about ATWT and GL.

How is embracing mediocrity in the best interest of the genre? How is it for the greater good for the audience to say "It's okay. I have no standards just don't leave me!" That's not loyalty, it's Battered Viewers Syndrome.

You've absolutely taken the words out of my mouth. We've all said it before and we've beaten the horse to death. I think, for the most part, people have come to accept mediocrity instead of aiming higher. Lord knows I embrace every great nugget I get from B&B these days. But I'd like to think I'm pretty realistic when it comes to how absolutely awful the show is. I know the show can be better, we all know the show can be better. But pretending that it HAS to be this way is kinda sad.

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You can't expect a positive change on any CBS or ABC soap right now (with Y&R being the exception). What we need is a new wave of soaps. A form of soaps that are going to attract a socially conscious demographic who is looking for dramas that tackle social issues in the way All My Children once did. Stories that are groundbreaking and touching, stories about humanity and love and hate. The stories that make the average viewer forget all about their own problems while getting a look into the complicated yet pretty realistic lives of the people on their television screens.

I think GL's made a positive change over the past 6 months, although they have a long way to go and I know they could backslide. Right now, on the good days, I think it's some of the best on any soap.

I don't think any network right now will allow socially conscious, groundbreaking soaps. There's such a conservative and shallow mindset across the networks, and even much of cable. They're so afraid of pressure groups, or when they aren't afraid of them, they go the other way and are obsessed with being trashy and tawdry to get attention. I wish that HBO or Showtime or even Cinemax would invest in a soap that could air a few days a week and have adult themes as well as adult stories. I know people will say that the dramas on some of those channels are like soaps, but I think the more continuous production method, airing at least 2 or 3 days a week every week, is what truly helps develop and tell these types of groundbreaking storylines. That's what soaps should be about. That's what Doug Marland did, that's what Agnes Nixon did.

Doug Marland also managed to write believable, popular teens while still showcasing veterans and elderly actors. That's something which many writers and producers don't get. They think it has to be either/or. They also think young people need to see mindless pap. If TV didn't assume their viewers were brain dead, where would we be right now?

I also think the ABC soaps would immediately improve if Brian Frons were fired. Even with Disney still in the picture. I know by saying that I'm tempting fate that he will be replaced by some scourge, but I don't even care anymore. Frons and the writers he's put on those shows have ABC Daytime in such a chokehold.

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Notice I didn't say cancel the lowest rated soaps on CBS and ABC and replace them with new soaps because no matter how low a current soap may be, it still has decades of history to explore.

But really, how many more decades can these soaps limp on? Even IF the economy gets better, GL will continue to get slashed. It will never be a studio creation again with three wall sets, etc.

What's wrong with just letting go, especially when you've told all the stories you can tell?

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I disagree, it's exciting times for ATWT and GL right now. The writing has taken a dramatic turn for the better at both shows. Massive cast and crew upheaval is not the only way to fix a show.

I love your posts but sorry I disagree. ATWT is a trainwreck. The 2 one punch of Pissy and Goutman just totally wrecked this show! At least GL has somewhat stepped on the brakes. Too bad their production values still suck.

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I think GL's made a positive change over the past 6 months, although they have a long way to go and I know they could backslide. Right now, on the good days, I think it's some of the best on any soap.

I agree it has made a positive change, but, is that enough for CBS? A while back I remember reading an article someone posted on here with a CBS exec saying "One soap isn't even treading water, it's sinking" or something to that affect. Is GL's 1.6 to 1.7 HH rating enough for CBS or will they pull the plug? And if so will Telenext retaliate and take ATWT with them? It's not the same case with Y&R where it has been the undisputed number 1 daytime drama for 20 years.

I also think the ABC soaps would immediately improve if Brian Frons were fired. Even with Disney still in the picture. I know by saying that I'm tempting fate that he will be replaced by some scourge, but I don't even care anymore. Frons and the writers he's put on those shows have ABC Daytime in such a chokehold.

I used to think that as well, but sometimes you have to consider this: maybe Disney wants a person like Frons to control their daytime in that fashion. I believe that if Frons were given the boot and new producers and writers came to ABC and fixed what has been done, yes, ABC would bounce back to a highly competitive position, but Disney may not want someone to change what has been done.

That's why I believe another network coming in to shake things up would help. This whole conservative way needs to go. The interest groups need to go. Writers should be left to mend their craft in a way that is informative and serves the public not just for the entertainment aspect but for things that give them insight into what's really going on in the world.

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But really, how many more decades can these soaps limp on? Even IF the economy gets better, GL will continue to get slashed. It will never be a studio creation again with three wall sets, etc.

What's wrong with just letting go, especially when you've told all the stories you can tell?

Because sometimes just pulling the plug isn't the best solution. If CBS cancels GL, ATWT may follow it, that's a 2 hour hole that CBS has to fill. What if they don't have something right now to replace it with. Now they are in a struggle with the affiliates over the time periods who will insist syndicated programming is more profitable. If CBS puts a new soap on long after those shows are gone, it's highly unlikely many affiliates outside the O&O stations will carry it. Historically, CBS is the last of the big 3 networks to hand over time to the affiliates. When they become less reluctant in doing so, that's not a good sign. It means they've given up, so there goes the genre.

As far as GL goes, it could end tomorrow for all we know, but with less competition from other soaps and networks, there is no longer any hope that another drama will replace GL. When the longest running program in broadcast history is replaced with a syndicated talk or game show, don't doubt the remaining will soon follow that path.

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Years ago I read an interview with Oprah where she said that there were only 7 different topics for her show and that hard work lay in presenting each topic in interesting every time. This is the challenge that the soaps face and most of them are failing woefully. I do think that Y&R is the best of the lot though I do not think that the show is as good as some people say. Y&R has saved itself and stemmed the ratings loss over these past months by tapping into its history and recasting old stories in a new light. I love how Y&R has incorporated flashbacks of the doctor telling Hope and Victor that Adam was genetically predisposed to lose his vision. Contrast that with GH which only has disdain for its history. GH does tell the same mob story over and over, but it is never told interestingly and it always has the same ending, Sonny and Jason win. Even when GH goes for a social story like Robin having PPD, it devolves into a puddle of goo. No wonder the audience is drifting away. I still think that most of the soaps aren't going to be around in 10 years, but I no longer think it is inevitable. The soaps can save themselves, but it will take hard work from creative minds willing to tell interesting and meaningful stories.

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