Sunday, October 9, 2011
Yes, Joan B. Average, Scriptwriter took a brief station break... but she's back with a suitcase full of new adventures to explore. Speaking of suitcase, it was a sad, sad day for soap opera fans when we learned our favorite shows and stars had to pack their network Prada bags and head for the unemployment line with the other half of America. It doesn't get anymore reality television than that.
Believe me, I went through a fair amount of Kleenex when I found out my old friends, All My Children and One Life to Live were given the "It's Not You... It's Me..." speech after ending a 40+ year relationship. Actually, it was the reverse. I guess you can't fault ABC if the ratings don't justify the expenses.
Susan Lucci, our feisty veteran of 40+ years, made Erica a phenomenon for generations to love and hate, depending on the storyline. Thank goodness she had a thing or two to say about the show's demise, and packed a nice punch in her heartfelt memoir, All My Life, published earlier this year.
Can you blame her? She spent a good chunk of her life on the show. It probably stopped being a job after the first season when Erica had the hots for Phillip and schemed to get sweet Tara out the picture.
Many of us grew up watching this serial bride from the playpen to the water cooler, and had no problem knocking down co-workers at lunch just to snag that last seat in the employee lounge to satisfy our soap fix. There was a time before VCRs and On Demand, when college students avoided scheduling classes between one and two o'clock, so they wouldn't miss a minute of Erica's shenanigans.
In her memoir, Lucci blames Brian Frons, President of Daytime Disney-ABC Group, for the show's demise. According to Lucci, Frons said it would be 40 percent cheaper to replace the costly network soaps with informational cooking and weight loss shows. I'm sure it also would've been cheaper two decades ago.
I say, if we want to watch these food/lifestyle and weight loss shows, can't we simply turn on the Food Network Channel, Cooking Chanel or Fit TV?
There's enough yada yada on during the day. Unless somebody's changing DNA testing or slapping a cheating husband... (I'm talking storyline--not real life.) then I'm not interested. Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic. I would be interested in good information, but I just proved my point. I NEED FICTIONAL DRAMA.
I can find real-life drama in my own life. Let me escape to a world where my problems don't exist, where I have the solution to any character's woe in a hour with station breaks. Where else would you give birth to a baby and three years later that same baby graduated from college, landed a job and has an apartment, bigger than your house. Only in daytime television, I tell you.
The soaps are like an old friend you saw everyday in school. You may no longer speak to her on a daily basis, but it's good to know she's there when you phone her, and in seconds you become that silly teenager who bit her nails to the quick.
But in all fairness, it's probably viewers like me who watched the soaps mostly on Soap Net. So I'll own my part in the dropped ratings.
Lucci wrote: "If Brian Frons could show his bosses that he could save the network 40 percent in production costs, he could keep his job even if the rest of us lost ours." She added that several employees on All My Children either lost their jobs or lost money when the show moved from New York to California to save money. "I wonder, did Brian Frons take a pay cut too?" Lucci wrote.
Seems like some of Erica's spice rubbed off on Lucci. I'm just glad she's expressing her views, because she has a right to be angry. She also mentioned in her book about the decline in the quality of writing. She said that when she turned on the show one day, she thought she clicked on the wrong station. Erica didn't recognize Pine Valley? That's like ketchup not recognizing french fries.
Okay, you know where Joan B. Average, Scriptwriter is going with this. Now it's my time for me to be feisty... move over Ms. Lucci. I think they needed to bring on a few new writers, perhaps outside the daytime world, who grew up watching All My Children, and knew the stories inside out that could bring a fresh perspective without changing the premise of the show. Not just hire writers who hopscotched from soap-to-soap and once hired, researched long stories and scripts in order to learn the show's tone and backstory.
I think All My Children's premise faded away when no one was paying attention, just like General Hospital's.
Come on, I'm sure when the husband & wife writing team and GH creators, Frank and Doris Hursley, penned the GH bible... they didn't plan on mob wars taking over the nursing floor drama. No Ma'am... No Sir. Even mob wars haven't been in the news lately. So why are we watching them in daytime drama? What happened to "Love in the Afternoon?" It's now chatting and chewing in the afternoon with tips on where to find the best coupons.
Oops... my foot just plunged into the soap box I'm standing on. They don't make them like they used too. I guess I need to lay off the Starbucks Frappuccinos.
It's ironic that the digital generation is probably responsible for our beloved daytime soaps' demise, when it's the digital generation that will keep the Pine Valley and Llanview residents scheming on the Web for years to come.
That's right, I'm not making up stories in school. You know I love creating storylines, but this is the real deal. I'm sure you heard my shrieks of ecstasy where you live.
Yes, All My Children and One Life to Live will live to see another drama-filled day digitally on the Web. Production Company Prospect Park signed a multi-year, multi-platform deal that will deliver the soaps to fans via online episodes through emerging platforms and internet-enabled television sets.
Can I get a yaaay! But that still doesn't mean I'm going to stop my personal boycott of the ABC talk show, The Chew. I even turn the station when the The Chew's commercials come on. Oh don't cry them a spaghetti sauce river, I still watch those folks on the Food and Style Networks. I have to admit, I'm happy they gave two newbies a shot at reality television fame.
But in all fairness, I'm not mad at ABC. I'm loving their prime-time shows, especially Dana Delaney's Body of Proof. (I wonder if she started on the soaps? Most Hollywood stars did.) However, I'm not loving Dancing with the Stars, this season.
But hey, these are different times. Average Joans, Joes and college students no longer run to their dorm rooms and company lounges to get their soap fix. There are so many other electronic distractions knocking them out of the running. I'm just thrilled AMC and OLTL have landed somewhere I can visit.
But I have a feeling, soaps will gain popularity again in the future. Life goes full circle and so does television. Must I remind you that some of us are watching Hawaii Five-O again, this time on Monday nights and it's pretty darn good.
Debuting last year, Hawaii Five-O's characters, McGarrett and Dan-O hadn't hit the streets of Wakkiki since the early seventies. And let's not forget about our Charlie's Angels, with their sleek guns tucked away in their garter straps--are back for a second curtain call thanks to Executive Producer, Drew Barrymore, our ET angel... all grown up. Of course, we'll never forget our original angels: Farah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. We'll always remember Farah Fawcett's beautiful smile and her long feathered hair many tried to copy.
Time will tell if daytime soaps will survive to see our toddlers hit the university halls. Stay tuned.