For a little over two weeks, we’ve been watching the culmination of a story that began months ago. Kristina Davis, daughter of mob-boss Sonny Corinthos and attorney Alexis Davis, has been involved in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend.
In the past year, two long-time soaps have been given the ax by the respective networks. In the light of the cancellations of Guiding Light and As The World Turns, can any of the remaining daytime dramas feel safe, or should they all be either cowering in fear or figuring out a way to break out of the mold and meet the changing demands of their perspective audience?
Thirty years ago, soaps went through a heyday, especially General Hospital with the pairing of Luke and Laura (pictured left). Suddenly the it thing to have was what became known as the super-couple–a pairing with undeniable chemistry who were fighting the odds to be together. It didn’t start as a pretty relationship, but fans ended up rooting for them despite the rocky beginnings. But that formula isn’t working anymore.
Times change. Viewers change. And if the soap opera wants to rise up from extinction, it needs to change too.
Think about the prime time programming that is on today, and then compare it to what you were watching in the ’80s and 90s. We don’t see shows that even resemble Mork and Mindy, One Day at a Time, or The Cosby Show. In the mid 80s we saw Falcon Crest and Dynasty (most likely a result of the popularity of the daytime drama) but when Soapnet tried to produce a nighttime serial spun from General Hospital a few years ago, it only lasted two seasons.
Despite it’s quick demise, I think General Hospital: Night Shift was ont0 something. Yes, I’ve sung it’s praises before in the features I used to write for Blogcritics: Making the Rounds at General Hospital and The Night Shift, but it’s worth mentioning again. The show–especially in it’s second season–took on some tougher and more gritty subject lines. Some even daytime still refuses to explore fully. We watched a beloved character (Robert Scorpio played by Tristan Rogers) battle cancer, while on the daytime parent show a character (Alexis/Nancy Lee Grahn) was given lung cancer, only to have the treatment of such glossed over and be bestowed a miraculous recovery.
If the daytime serial is going to survive, I think it needs to take a lesson from the prime time counterparts. It needs to give viewers more real-to-life scenarios and do it in a well-written, timely fashion. It can’t rely on stunt guest appearances by large name actors if it can’t follow through with a decent story line. (note the recent failure of the James Franco appearances on General Hospital, no part of which is the responsibility of the actor.)
Unfortunately, and to the great disappointment of this viewer, I think the time has come where they must make big moves to change or go the way of the dinosaur. (And for the tie-in to writing) It all comes down to the writing: Believable story-lines, catered to the majority of the viewing audience (Women). THIS is what will save this endangered species.
When I saw the first reports that Guiding Light was ending its 72 year run, my first thought was what an awful April’s Fool joke. It just couldn’t be true. Could it?
Not that I’ve ever been a particularly big fan of this show in general, but I’ve been a daytime fan since I was teenager. The daytime drama has been around since before television—many of them, like Guiding Light, started on the radio. How is it that they are in such serious trouble now?
I touched on these issues last year in the MTR@GH column I used to write at Blogcritics.org. The gist of the article was that if Daytime really wanted to succeed in the ever changing television market, they needed to look to their prime-time counterparts, and in particular what General Hospital did with their Soapnet spinoff General Hospital Night Shift. In short, they needed to pick up the pace and respect the time and intelligence of their viewers.
Back when soaps got there start, the audience was the same as it is now: women. The difference is, 72 years ago most women were housewives, caring for their homes and raising their families. It’s why the show’s sponsors were soap companies (and how the serials got the still-popular nickname.) These women had one ear on the radio, or one eye on the TV, while they cooked, cleaned and did laundry. The programs were a combination of engaging stories and background noise to fill the day. It didn’t matter that the plots crawled along at a snail’s pace, or that they sometimes concluded with back-from-the-dead scenarios.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to insult the intelligence of those early viewers, quite the contrary. Life was slower, so the stories could be as well, and viewers were looking for an escape from everyday life. Remember the popularity of Dark Shadows and its vampires?
Time passed and the audience changed. The number of women who stay at home has dramatically decreased and those who do have the luxury have busy days to correspond with their children’s now faced-paced lives. Between soccer practices and ballet classes, there is little time for anyone to sit down in the afternoon and indulge. Thank heavens for Soapnet, VCRs, and DVRs, but even with the extravagance of fast-forwarding through commercials, today’s audiences want shows that are as fast paced as our lives, stories that are engaging, realistic, and are first and foremost about what women care about: romantic and family relationships.
What GH:NS did that was so revolutionary was took a basic plot line, that would run for a 13 episode duration. Within each hour long episode they moved the main plot forward while running a b-plot line that would begin and end within that hour. It’s very similar to what is done with the medical and crime dramas that fill prime-time TV and it works.
Am I saying that if Daytime tried to adopt a prime-time theme, the ratings would shoot up? It couldn’t hurt. And with ratings dropping like rocks with every quarter, something has to change.
Let’s start at the end (of my title):
Several months ago I gave up my MTR@GH column at Blogcritics. At the time part of it was because I was so busy, but I’d be lying if I said another part was just a lack of subject matter. With the shows unwillingness to stray for the formula repetition, it got pretty boring highlighting the same stuff over and over.
I realized this week, it’s gotten even worse. I’m teetering on the edge of turning the channel on this one.
I had a really busy week this week; several activities ate up my afternoon hours. So Wednesday I found myself sitting down to watch three episodes. Err… so I should say skim through three episodes.
First, there was the Claudia/Sonny passion… eewww fast forward through that, lest I go blind. Can’t believe these two could ever really ‘dig’ each other. They’ll never be happy ’cause the fact Claudia’s responsible for Mike’s shooting will come out, and then Sonny’s going to freaking kill Claudia. So, why bother?
Also fast forwarded through the Rebecca/Emily look alike and Nikolas scenes. REALLY hated Emily the first time around, Got oh-so tired of hearing Nik mourn her for more than a year. I don’t care what twisted Cassadine-ish plot their using to bring her back. Would have enjoyed Nikolas with Nadine so much better had they actually played out the Prince and the naive small town girl twist they had going.
Watched the Scrub scenes, even though I’m so sick of Robin’s PPD and Patrick’s inability to stand up, be a man, and insist there is something wrong. When did he become a mousy non-confrontational guy? Yes, GH has ruined my favorite couple and completely disseminated both of there families. (YOU SUCK!) I do have to say I like Matt a lot better now that he’s a Drake though.
So, yeah, the only scenes I did watch were the ones involving Spinelli. At least I was able to watch 180 minutes of programming in about 30.
I’m so glad all the preliminaries are over. Wasn’t crazy about some of the choices the judges made for the wild card show, but was happy with the Final “13″. My money is still on Danny Gokey, but I think it shall be a pleasant journey to his finale.
Several several seasons ago I stopped watching ER, and I remember exactly why. It was the night before I had to have a minor surgical procedure and I tuned in to watch, what was at that time, my favorite show. I kid you not, on this particular episode every single person who stepped into the ER died. Didn’t matter if they had a hangnail, they left the hospital via the morgue.
The next morning, after they had given me the pre-anesthesia to relax, my doctor came in to talk to me and I remember telling him he just better “be better than those doctors on ER last night”. I came though fine, but I don’t think I watched again until about three years ago. I tuned in by chance, and have stayed faithful ever since.
The reason is clear. Crystal clear. And the direct opposite of the ‘why I don’t watch GH’. The writing.
The writing has been incredible–especially in this the final season.
Yet, for about three weeks I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat over what most would probably call a minor or ‘b’ plot line. The pairing of Archie with Claudia. I absolutely LOVE these two. It’s perfect and I’ve so dug the growth of the characters as they’ve come together…but I’ve been dreading what I’ve seen as an inevitable ending. Come on, she’s a cop. She’s going to killed in the line of duty, right?
So last night, when the gunshots came at her through the door, and she fell into a pool of her own blood, the words flying from my mouth weren’t very lady like. I just KNEW it! But, much to my surprise…. yay! she didn’t die! And we were treated to a extremely special ‘proposal’ at episodes end.
As I have with every episode this season, I was reaching for the tissues. But I still have this gnawing in my gut that they won’t see that happily-ever-after I want so badly for them.
Pessimistic much? Oh yeah!