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Reasons Why a New Soap Might Be Viable on Television


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Given that I am probably the most pessimistic person here, you know that I don't engage in "crazy" fantasies. I realized that out of the (soon-to-be) four remaining soaps on televison, two of them are on their last legs. Consequently, the next few years may be an ideal time to launch a new daytime soap.

In the past, one of the biggest reasons why new soaps failed was because they had to compete against the established giants; of course, most of those giants are now gone (or soon will be). Furthermore, one really cannot say that most of the short-lived soaps were given a fair-trial: in fact, none of the soaps that premiered in-between B&B and Passions were given adequate promotion or a decent time slot. If you look at both B&B and Passions, the former became a huge success, while the latter failed because it was a piece of s#it. (Another failed soap, the acclaimed SaBa, would have likely succeeded had it been on a different network.)

People still love serialized drama, as the success of "Revenge" shows. And, with the ever shrinking hold soaps have on daytime TV, many would likely be willing to try a new soap that comes along. I believe that any new soap would have a decent chance of being profitable provided the following things occurred:

1. It does not air on NBC (given that network's terrible track record)

2. It is filmed somewhere outside the NYC & LA areas (which would greatly reduce costs)

3. It is still "traditional" in nature and has good acting (any bizarre soap will fail no matter how much promotion it gets)

4. The network gives it a decent time slot and does a good job of promoting it

Of course, just because I said that a new soap might be viable on television, it does not mean that a new soap is likely to debut any time soon. Sadly, I believe that the television executives have looked at the high failure rate of new soaps (without realizing the "positives" I mentioned above regarding why launching a new soap today would be different), and will not be willing to ever again air a brand new one.

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There are new soaps on TV all the time on primetime, telenovellas are popular. Its just possible the current shows are not it.Shows like Revenge or even Parenthood or the Real Housewives have a new generation of creative talent something daytime has been unable to harvest, running them with fresh ideas, fresh writing and fresh acting talent mixed in with seasoned talent. My favorite show is The Good Wife and Juliana Marguiles and none of the known actors on that show play my fave character. It is the fresh, smart, sexy, empowered, independent and yes bisexual Kalinda played by Archie Panjabi. Here is a show not afraid to showcase an empowered bisexual character in love scenes with men and women by the way while daytime still treats homosexuality as something to be shielded and treated as something almost unnatural. Will and Grace was a popular sitcom 10 plus years ago, Modern Family is hugely popular yet rapists and sadistic behavior by males and weakened women is the norm in daytime. THere is plenty of audience out there for smart shows but it certainly isn't there for the showrunners currently running daytime soaps.

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I think it would be an ideal time to start a new daytime soap but not on one of the major networks. I think if a cable station, Lifetime, for example, were willing to make an investment that it could pay off. I think part of why the current soaps aren't succeeding is because fans can't get over the past in regards to what their shows used to be. I know with GL, Ellen Wheeler got a lot of criticism for what she did to the show based on its past self and what viewers had once been accustomed to. But if a show started from scratch now with a similar production model and the correct writing/producing team, the show could probably pick up a decent audience for a cable network. But it is too late for a current show to "revive" itself because their is too much cherished history of what once was.

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There are new soaps on TV all the time on primetime, telenovellas are popular. Its just possible the current shows are not it.Shows like Revenge or even Parenthood or the Real Housewives have a new generation of creative talent something daytime has been unable to harvest, running them with fresh ideas, fresh writing and fresh acting talent mixed in with seasoned talent. My favorite show is The Good Wife and Juliana Marguiles and none of the known actors on that show play my fave character. It is the fresh, smart, sexy, empowered, independent and yes bisexual Kalinda played by Archie Panjabi. Here is a show not afraid to showcase an empowered bisexual character in love scenes with men and women by the way while daytime still treats homosexuality as something to be shielded and treated as something almost unnatural. Will and Grace was a popular sitcom 10 plus years ago, Modern Family is hugely popular yet rapists and sadistic behavior by males and weakened women is the norm in daytime. THere is plenty of audience out there for smart shows but it certainly isn't there for the showrunners currently running daytime soaps.

Exactly, serialized storytelling is not related to only daytime soaps. Almost every genre nowadays, one of my most anticipated soaps of this season is Spartacus can't wait for it to return.

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Right, and the very fact that serialized shows are popular in primetime (look at nearly any of the current Cable dramas, from True Blood to Dexter, as well as Showtime's "comedies"--like Big C), is a two part message. One, and I think there's some truth here, is people are getting their serialized storytelling fix from primetime already, using many of the best elements of soap staples but willing to push subject matter and story ideas.--and two, of course, that this is *primetime*. The days of steady daytime viewership just isn't going to continue IMHO. I'm ignorant about telenovelas, but they air in the early evening don;'t they? Like UK soaps?

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I don't see any network or cable channel doing a new daily soap because of the expense (especially cable). Plus, not enough people seem to watch in the daytime. So why start a new daily daytime soap these days when it's so hard to get the eyeballs? It just seems doomed to fail or not pull in enough numbers. And doing a daytime soap at time without any real changes might make it look old-fashioned and out of place. I think daily daytime soaps need a rest for awhile or a reinvention.

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Right, and the very fact that serialized shows are popular in primetime (look at nearly any of the current Cable dramas, from True Blood to Dexter, as well as Showtime's "comedies"--like Big C), is a two part message. One, and I think there's some truth here, is people are getting their serialized storytelling fix from primetime already, using many of the best elements of soap staples but willing to push subject matter and story ideas.--and two, of course, that this is *primetime*. The days of steady daytime viewership just isn't going to continue IMHO. I'm ignorant about telenovelas, but they air in the early evening don;'t they? Like UK soaps?

My cousins watch their shows at night from 8-11.

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Right, and the very fact that serialized shows are popular in primetime (look at nearly any of the current Cable dramas, from True Blood to Dexter, as well as Showtime's "comedies"--like Big C), is a two part message. One, and I think there's some truth here, is people are getting their serialized storytelling fix from primetime already, using many of the best elements of soap staples but willing to push subject matter and story ideas.--and two, of course, that this is *primetime*. The days of steady daytime viewership just isn't going to continue IMHO. I'm ignorant about telenovelas, but they air in the early evening don;'t they? Like UK soaps?

It always seems to me that Univision (and, to a lesser extent, Telemundo) airs telenovelas at least 75-80% of the day, including daytime and nighttime.

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I think there are different levels of serialization and the required commitment involved that affects whether people will watch something or, once watching, stick with it. When you have shows like Heroes and Lost that get into a very intricate mythology and viewer enjoyment is heavily dependent on enjoying and understanding that context, that could be a turnoff to a lot of viewers, current or potential. I mean, I stopped caring about Lost around Season 2 and there was nothing to lure me back because I knew I would be "lost" to what had since transpired on the show. I've started watching "Grimm" and "Once Upon A Time"--the latter, in particular, seems to have the potential of becoming so all over the place to the point of people getting turned off or confused.

NBC has attempted a couple of "telenovela" style, limited run, mystery-type series recently that seemed to suffer from bad writing, or lack of a satisfactory conclusion. I was so disappointed in "Persons Unknown" that it kind of soured me on NBC's ability to put out good enough shows in this format.

I think a lot of drama shows that have come out in the last 10-20 years have become sort of a blend of serial and stand-alone. You could watch episodes independently of each other without having to understand everything that went on before but the show also has long-standing arcs. Scifi series have been doing this for a long time. But now you have cop shows, procedurals, etc., that do this more, like The Mentalist has a different case every week but has the Red John arc, or Unforgettable with the murdered sister backstory. I think the majority of people really respond to that kind of serial/stand-alone combination, where they feel they get to know the characters' lives, they see a progression of story but it's a more gradual, backburnered type of storytelling as opposed to having to watch every week or you're afraid you'll miss something and you'll be confused or indifferent later.

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I think a lot of drama shows that have come out in the last 10-20 years have become sort of a blend of serial and stand-alone. You could watch episodes independently of each other without having to understand everything that went on before but the show also has long-standing arcs. Scifi series have been doing this for a long time. But now you have cop shows, procedurals, etc., that do this more, like The Mentalist has a different case every week but has the Red John arc, or Unforgettable with the murdered sister backstory. I think the majority of people really respond to that kind of serial/stand-alone combination, where they feel they get to know the characters' lives, they see a progression of story but it's a more gradual, backburnered type of storytelling as opposed to having to watch every week or you're afraid you'll miss something and you'll be confused or indifferent later.

I really like the idea of stand-alone episodes (whereas I don't really care for "arcs"), since they allow casual viewers to easily get "hooked." While I don't believe a daytime soap has ever done this (aside from those "Inside the Light" episodes on GL), both BH 90210 and Dallas almost entirely consisted of stand-alone episodes at the beginning. If stand-alone episodes are done, then just about every single episode should be of this type (otherwise, it will break up the flow, as was the case with "Inside the Light").

Viewer attention span is shorter than it was in the past. A new soap would have to fit with that. A two or three day a week half-hour syndicated soap might work, but certainly is no guarantee.

I don't see any network or cable channel doing a new daily soap because of the expense (especially cable). Plus, not enough people seem to watch in the daytime. So why start a new daily daytime soap these days when it's so hard to get the eyeballs? It just seems doomed to fail or not pull in enough numbers. And doing a daytime soap at time without any real changes might make it look old-fashioned and out of place. I think daily daytime soaps need a rest for awhile or a reinvention.

I should have stated at the outset that a new soap would be more likely to succeed if it was just 30 minutes in length. This would requrie less time investment on the part of the viewer, as well as result in lower production costs. (Half-hour soaps are more expensive on a per-minute basis, but they still cost less than hour soaps do.)

I also agree that the approach to daytime needs to change, starting with the mentality that NYC & LA are the end-all-be-all. I see little reason why producers can't shoot a new soap in a place that's business friendly. IMO, an ideal place to film a soap would be in Wilmington, NC: that town is home to the largest studio outside of California; furthermore, because most jobs in the South are non-unionized, I believe you wouldn't have to pay the high salaries of unionized crew members (although I realize that the actors would still belong to AFTRA). And even when it comes to the expense of hiring actors, no actor on a new soap would command the outrageous salaries currently received by Hall, Hogestyn, Benard, Burton, or Geary.

Even though fewer people are watching in the daytime, that doesn't mean that there isn't demand for serialized drama during the afternoon. I really don't think that we can conclude people aren't interested simply because soaps that are on their last legs are floundering in the ratings (or because junk shows like Passions failed). What daytime television needs more than anything is balance, and today we don't have that: pretty soon there will be a few soaps, only one game show (with LMAD gone in 2012), and the rest being all talk. (Truth be told, I think that there were too many soaps in the 70's and the 80's, and this saturation did not serve the genre well.) There are daytime viewers who prefer game shows or soaps over talkshows, and I just think it makes sense to give these folks more options. Perhaps to maximize the chances of success, executives might want to wait until GH and DOOL are cancelled before launching the next daytime soap.

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