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BKuzak

20 years since OJ Simpson coverage affected soaps

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I think it was possible to regain that audience, but most of the shows and executive bungled it.

I was not really a fan by the end of his first run, but Reilly grew Days' audience coming out of OJ, while even Y&R lost some ground.

A series of bad personnel changes in HW spots or EP positions killed Daytime, and a significant number of those crappy decisions happened in the wake of the OJ panic.

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I think it was possible to regain that audience, but most of the shows and executive bungled it.

I was not really a fan by the end of his first run, but Reilly grew Days' audience coming out of OJ, while even Y&R lost some ground.

A series of bad personnel changes in HW spots or EP positions killed Daytime, and a significant number of those crappy decisions happened in the wake of the OJ panic.

All of this! OJ didn't kill soaps! Networks with very bad decisions did!

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While the OJ coverage certainly didn't help soaps (it dominated ALL media outlets the summer of 1994; I can't speak for how much it affected the soaps come fall as I was back at school and didn't keep track of daytime TV then), I agree it is more a case of TV network executives (or TV "nitwit" executives, as Jay Leno may or may not have accidentally referred to them years ago in a monologue) passing the buck. They didn't and still don't understand if soap fans want to watch crashes, explosions, rapes, etc., they'll wait for the news. As a result, I turned off soaps and never went back. If they are unwilling to write what I want to see, then why bother watching? The soaps would have gone by the boards with that kind of mismanagement anyway, and the OJ saga just happened to occur at a certain time when the soaps were slipping from their glory days.

In short, I think the OJ media circus had a little to do with soaps slipping (how could it not, with so many preemptions?) at the time, but not in the wide scope of things.

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I think a lot of things killed soaps. O.J. was just one of them. But the soaps themselves, many of them, had certainly not declined (or declined much) during the trial.

The other issue with O.J. was that we got inside those people's lives, every single day - the coverage on the lives and backgrounds of O.J., Nicole Brown, her boyfriend, Kato Kaelin, even the judge and the prosecutors, was incredibly layered, and it was showcased with non-stop airtime.

Soaps panicked after that, because they thought they had to compete with a real-life atrocity by upping the ante with shock value. They missed the fact that it was an atrocity where we grew to feel as though we knew those people inside-out - something which was already a strength of daytime before O.J.

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celebratingthesoaps.net

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And that was just the beginning....

Note: they DID rebound in the weeks afterwards, but not to the level they were in the first few months of 1994.

It's interesting to see how some shows were affected as a result. Y&R spent most of the first half of '94 in the 8's (even hit 9.4 and 9.7!) yet stayed in the 7's afterwards.

1995 to be posted soon.

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Those are both from '94, right?

If so, it is odd (and good) that Another World was the ONLY soap to maintained some steadiness while the rest dropped dramatically. Just shows how I always viewed AW to be the glue that kept everything together and when it was cancelled, everything fell apart.

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The thing is, DAYS wasn't "modern" at all in the 90s. It was extremely traditional soap, mixed with camp and zaniness. A huge chunk of JER's writing in the years that the show shot up in the ratings was old school soap. Soaps of the 40s didn't have demonic possession, but they had wild streaks.

Soaps thought that viewers wanted endless car chases and shootouts. Soaps thought that the new America hated women, hated black people, hated all minorities, hated business stories, and only wanted stories about brooding "antiheroes" with tight little butts who would rape and maraud the canvas as we cried on cue over how they suffered so nobly from those "hypocrites" who could never understand them.

Soaps began to hate themselves and hate their fans. And their fans got the hint and said fuckity bye.

That sounds more like a description for the mid to late-00s.

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Soap ratings sank, post-OJ (the trial escalated their decline, although 1993 saw an upswing for a number of shows like Y&R, GH, DAYS, and OLTL), and their panic and knee-jerk attempts to goose their numbers back up is what did them in during the second half of the 90's. EP's and Headwriters started coming and going at rapid speed, with the memo given to speed up the stories and do "never been done before" stories for shock value.

DAYS' success at bucking the trend of the ratings decline is what brought in the zany, wacky stories of the late 90's. Demonic possession, Lady In White "ghosts", mind control, and brainwashing helped them inch up to No. 2. by the second half of 1995. Other struggling shows thought that was the key to success. So, we had stories of voodoo, angels, turkey basters, and clones. 1998 was probably the most outrageous year for soaps across the board, save for a few shows like Y&R who remained traditional and classically slow-moving. Consequently, that's also the year the numbers across the board (except Y&R, mostly) sank to new lows.

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Agreed with Gray Bunny. It's interesting to note how 1997/1998 were just badly campy on almost every soap. They lost their realism. Not to mention the film vs. tape look. Days is a perfect example.

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