Speaking of entertainment trends and nostalgia, as I have been lately, it seems that yet another favorite genre of mine is going the way of the dinosaur. The longtime favorite daily escape of at-home wives and mothers (formerly known as “housewives”), the daytime drama, is being yanked from the airwaves at an alarming rate these days. While those who stay home to tend home and hearth have always loved these “Soap Operas”, when video tape recorders became popular in the 80’s, this form of melodramatic entertainment also seemed to appeal to many a working woman (and man, yes, we’re onto you guys), as well as college students. Today, die hard Soap fans record their favorites digitally to watch when they get home from work. Soaps are also now available via streaming video online, which is how I enjoy mine. I watch “The Young and the Restless”, each evening once I finally settle down to relax after a long day of homeschooling, housework, and completion of my own brain twisting grad school assignments.
Vintage “As the World Turns” Intro
Lately, those shows that have been on the air nonstop now for 40+ years are disappearing into the ether, never to be forgotten by those of us who remember watching them, and their familiar cast of characters, literally from the playpen on… The first to go in 2009 was “Guiding Light”, the longest running daytime drama in history. “Guiding Light” was so long running that it first began on radio in 1937. This one was a favorite of my mother and grandmother, as were all of the soaps on CBS. Another long term family favorite, “As the World Turns”, began in 1956 and ended the year after Guiding Light made its final exit. The “As the World Turns” characters were like members of the family….Lisa, Bob, Kim, John and especially Holden Snyder, who kept my heart racing for decades, from the moment I first saw him jump down from that hayloft–shirtless.
Josh & Reva in a Classic Scene from “Guiding Light”
Why do I like Soaps? Well, I guess I like them because I tend to get attached to television shows and certain characters. And really, what other show can you think of that has run half a century, featuring many of the same core characters, played by the same actors and actresses? “The Simpsons” is an up and coming contender, but since it’s a cartoon, it really doesn’t count. There’s just something comforting about knowing that those people are going to be there day after day, even if they have to defy scientific law and medical reality to return from the dead multiple times in order to show up for you. And, while the storylines really are silly at times, soaps can always magically pull it off–because they’re Soaps. I’ve seen some really great performances over the years on these daytime gems as well, and obviously Hollywood agrees. Several of today’s major stars “honed their craft” as it were, on soap operas–Meg Ryan, Tommy Lee Jones, Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria, just to name a few. Now it appears that two more Soaps are scheduled to end their multi decade run on television–One Life to Live, which premiered in 1968, and All My Children, that has been on the air since 1970.
Marisa Tomei AND Julianne Moore on “As the World Turns”
So what’s going on? Reasons given by the networks for the cancellations always seem to point back to high costs of production and increasingly lowered ratings–typically a deadly combination for any television show, or any business for that matter. This might explain the demise of one show, but four in under 5 years? That tells me something else is at play here. Have we, as a nation, “outgrown” the daytime drama as an entertainment genre? I like to think not, because I really do enjoy watching “The Young and the Restless”, so I don’t want to lose it. But, in many ways, the handwriting is on the wall for Soap Operas. A few, like Y&R, “The Bold and the Beautiful”, and “General Hospital”, seem to be hanging in there–for now. And new formats for daytime drama have hit the scene as well. Martha Byrne, “As the World Turns” fans’ beloved “Lily” for several years, has launched her own web based Soap,“Gotham”, which is delivered in under 10 minute “webisodes” featuring many familiar faces recruited from her “As the World Turns” days. Is this the future of Soap Operas? Perhaps…
But really…are we just too busy multitasking these days to “waste” more than six minutes and 21 seconds on infidelity, evil twins, the ever popular logic defying total plastic surgery to look just like your arch enemy, paternity tests every time the stork visits, and the inevitable Friday afternoon cliffhanger? Let’s hope not! Because I really need somebody’s life to be crazier than mine….