So, Matt Lauer has just signed a new deal with the Today show that *may* make way for a fifth hour of the Today show. Are you KIDDING me? Four is plenty. Watching Hoda and Kathy Lee get loaded on martinis and wine at 10am is the PERFECT way to end the show. Plus, there are enough talk shows to choke even the most avid chat show fest fan. But, the real reason I have my feathers all riled up, is that this would most certainly mean the end of Days of Our Lives. Yes, another soap would be killed , so another person could talk about how we could better our selves in 5 easy steps, or roast a turkey in under an hour, or create the cutest little party favors with only a leftover cardboard box and food-colored kitty litter. ENOUGH!!
What is up with the daytime execs at ABC, NBC, and CBS? Why do they think that viewers of soaps want more “lifestyle” shows rather than working to keep soaps on the air? The issue here is that the execs don't see soaps as a legitimate genre of art (I think many actors that got their start in daytime would have to disagree. Julianne Moore, Nathian Fillion, Meg Ryan, and Alec Baldwin, are just a few of the fine actors who got their start in the acting world in the land of Daytime TV) – the execs see soaps as a dying breed, since most women are now in the work force. They don't realize that many men and women actually DVR their "stories" to watch later in the day. It is the only genre of acting and storytelling that appears 5 days a week, where the characters get to evolve at a somewhat logical and realistic rate, and where we, the viewer, develop a realistic bond with them.
I love many of the nighttime soaps - Revenge, Desperate Housewives (goodbye, soon), and old school ones like Dynasty, Knots Landing, and Dallas. But even though I LOVED those old-school shows, I did not shed the tears like the way I did when Dr. Bob uttered the words, "Goodnight" on the last episode of As the World Turns. Being only 40, I was not around for the first words of ATWT that Bob's mother spoke (“Good Morning”), but I had read enough of the history to know THOSE last words were coming. I had bonded with those characters from the time I was in high school. I had grown up with Lily, Holden, Lucinda, Bob, Chris, Kim, Brad, Carly, and Jack. I had watched them go through their ups and downs. The births (and deaths) of their children, their marriages, divorces, and yes, remarriages. I had suffered with them as they had lost a parent or a sister/brother, or a colleague. And celebrated their successes.
As a theatre major in college, I once dreamed about being ON a soap – having the grind of learning not just 100 pages of dialog for a musical or a play TOTAL, but 100 pages of dialog in a script for a DAY! What a challenge and what a way to hone my acting chops! What an experience! Many actors were offered guest spots in night time shows shooting on location in NYC. And, many actors on soaps also appeared in Cabaret or Broadway shows at night, too – what a life and career… at one time. It ONCE was one of the most respected jobs in NYC. Even before the soaps were reduced to only four being on the air, the actors were asked to take ridiculous pay cuts, reduced time on the air for the leading actors, and little to no time off to pursue other projects. The execs wanted to have sole control over them, but didn’t want to give them anything in return. The few that fought and won were often labeled, “difficult to work with” during contract negotiations and had their characters sent away to far away lands or rehab, so they were off-camera, leaving viewers to wonder if they would come back. The ones who fought and DIDN’T win their negotiations were unceremoniously replaced (remember the original “Lily” on ATWT, Martha Byrne? She originated that role, and while I enjoyed Noelle Beck in that role, she was NEVER Lily. The execs didn’t even ask Byrne back for the final episodes of ATWT.) Talk about holding a grudge – and all Martha wanted was a guarantee that she would appear in the same number of episodes the following season as she did the previous – she had AGREED to the PAYCUT! Me-OW!
But, getting back to the heart and soul of soaps and why, we the true fans of them, are so passionate about them and hate that they are dying like mosquitos during spraying season. They are relatable to everyone. Sure, some are out there. (Anyone remember Passions?) Soaps, more than any other genre on TV can speak to you on a personal level. They got me through all kinds of heart break, from breaking up with boyfriends, to my grandfather dying, to graduating college, to my eating disorder, to my daughter being born. Why do I mention those things in particular? Because I watched beloved characters on ATWT and Guiding Light (my 2 favs, but I'm sure characters on One Life To Live and All My Children and others that are now gone) had gone through the same things - love, loss, and struggles. We don't need more talking heads telling us how to live our lives - and by the way, what degrees do they have to tell us why and how we should eat, what to watch, how to craft, etc.? I know Dr. Oz, is well, a Doctor, but Ty Pennington of the VERY low-rated The Revolution? Not to throw stones, but before you start telling me how to better my life, how about getting your own in order first…
Considering that the soaps mentioned here lasted a minimum of 40+ years on their respective networks, do we really think that such "gems" as The Chew or The Talk are going to last THAT long? I mean, c’mon. No. Way. What do they have to offer that hasn’t already been given to us by mainstays like The View (which by Barbara Walters’ own admission, at 15 years in, she had no idea it would still be around! Do we really think that Joy, Liz, Whoopi, Sherri, and she will be around for another 25? Heck no! And this is THE show these other copycats are trying to be!) Just look at The Talk – in its first season, it replaced THREE of its original cast members. Not a good sign. And The Revolution? Katie Couric is already putting off the launch of her show (which is good for General Hospital fans) because of its poor ratings, which would be her lead in. Fans do not want these “lifestyle shows” – they want what they already have and had - SOAPS!
In this day and age, with the price of gas reaching $4-5 a gallon in areas, wars being waged, homelessness, and joblessness, sometimes, it's nice not being told WHAT to do, but rather to have an escape from what we already know.
Conni Ironmonger-Mann has happily completed her doctorate (FINALLY), loves her family, and is an avid watcher of soaps. She has vowed not to watch anything on CBS between 2-4pm or on ABC from 1-3pm to honor the fallen soaps – ATWT, GL, AMC, and OLTL. LONG LIVE THE SOAP OPERA!