Last night, ABC’s Nightline dug into the issues facing one of TV’s most venerable and (personally) beloved segments — soap operas — with a story called “Soap on the Ropes.” (See the whole clip here). With the recent news that CBS will pull the plug on the 72-year-old (some of that time being on the radio) Guiding Light this September and the faltering economy slowing advertisement sales and generally declining ratings for the daytime dramas, one would assume that soaps aren’t long for this world.
But, good news, soap fans: That’s not true! At least, right this moment, according to Nightline. Sure, the network behind Nightline — that’d be ABC — has a vested interested in the genre, as they still have three hours of daytime drama (All My Children, General Hospital, and One Life to Live) on the air, but the segment did a decent job of trying to show how soap producers are dealing with all the hardships: They’re getting creative about slashing costs.
Sure, some of that “creativity” is costly and apparent on screen: Losing daytime staples like Days of Our Lives‘ divine Deidre Hall, who played Marlena for what seemed like ever (or cutting the salary of All My Children‘s Susan Lucci, pictured), and hit-you-over-the-head product integration, like Campbell’s Soup on all three ABC soaps. The All My Children producer praised such advertiser-integration tactics, saying they “validate and authenticate our fictitious Pine Valley.” Honestly, though, I — and I think most other fans — don’t go to soaps for authentic things, you know? I go for the escape.
But soaps are already so low-budget, I don’t think anyone minds these tweaks too much. (Sure, I miss Deidre, but she had a good run.) Hell, I welcome the changes, as long as they keep most of “my stories” in tact. One producer had this to say about the state of soaps: “At the end of the day, we could probably be doing this in front of a black drape and they’d be watching for their characters and their stories.” And she’s right — it’s the old idea of watching “my stories” every day is about those characters and stories, not big budget sets or tons of glitz and glamour.
To all you soap opera fans out there: Do you agree? Are you glad that soaps are probably gonna survive (for a while longer) with some changes? What changes would drive you to stop watching all together?