Had there been an ”In Memoriam” during the annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Las Vegas last week, it would have focused on the shows that ABC unceremoniously canceled this past spring. The fate of All My Children and One Life to Live definitely cast a pall over the ceremony, which is now forced to integrate embarrassing promotional spots about hotels (look at the soap stars playing at the Atlantis resort!) to help pay for the telecast. When AMC‘s Susan Lucci stood up on stage to say, ”Daytime television is alive and well — and look at all the talent in this building,” it sounded more like a desperate plea for help than a rousing call to arms. But even Lucci must know that the fight is futile: The cold, hard truth is that women just don’t watch soaps like they used to, which is why ABC yanked AMC and OLTL — two of the least watched dramas on TV today. Fans are valiantly trying to save the veteran sudsers through online campaigns and protests, but no network is willing to pick up a 41-year-old series like AMC when it lures only 2.4 million viewers. (It doesn’t help that the one person who won for AMC on Sunday was Brittany Allen, who was dropped from the show last year.)
The future isn’t looking all that rosy for the surviving soaps. It’s hard to say how much longer General Hospital will be around because the Alphabet is giving its afternoon time slot back to the affiliates in September 2012. That means 15 months from now, GH will have to fight for a spot in the three-hour programming block along with The View and the yet-to-debut lifestyle shows The Chew and The Revolution. (Even worse for soap fans, the ABC-owned stations have already decided to put Katie Couric’s new talk show in the GH time slot.) In soap terms, this is the equivalent of Anthony Geary’s perpetually sauced character on GH plowing over all the children of Port Charles with his car — not just poor little Jake. That’s why stars like Laura Wright were particularly happy to take home an Emmy on Sunday. ”It generates good feelings,” said Wright, who was one of two stars from GH to win gold. ”Right now, with all of the negative [feelings] out there, it’s good to have these great things happening.” GH‘s remaining competition may be looking to keep up the positive vibes. The Young and the Restless‘ head writer, Maria Arena Bell, tells EW that she’s hoping to hire a few of the AMC and OLTL stars once those soaps go dark in September and January, respectively. ”We know that right now, people think that soaps are a thing of the past,” says Bell, who also won an Emmy for writing the industry-leading Y&R. (Its sister show, The Bold and the Beautiful, was named best drama.) ”They’re not. We feel like our show has a lot of life in it, and so does the rest of the genre.”
Where was Oprah?
In addition to bidding farewell to AMC and OLTL, the Daytime Emmys also paid tribute to Oprah Winfrey, who ended her long-running talk show last month. Though Winfrey did not attend the ceremony — she was out of the country on business — she did appear in a pretaped video to accept the honor.