The Sadness of the Long Running Soap Fan

By Marlena De Lacroix

When most longtime watchers get disenchanted or downright  disgusted with their old  soaps, they are usually angry.  We’ve all invested years of our lives and our deep feelings in this genre.

Now, it’s gotten to the point where I’m not angry anymore.  As we watch the final act of daytime soap opera, I just find myself very very sad to see them all so swiftly decline, and that sadness seems to make an appearance nearly every day when I

The real world could care less.  For years non-soap friends have been interested and asked me about soaps.  Well, not anymore!

watch shows or check in on news and happenings in our own little soap world.  Here’s a rundown on what gets me right in the heart:

Sadness 1 –  Of course the worst pain is seeing our shows implode in front of our eyes.  How bizarre and tragic it is that top classic shows, still so beautifully produced by solid old pros like JFP and Rauch, put all their resources into storylines that make no sense, are over the top, and are downright unwatchable.  Perhaps the saddest to watch is longtime number one, great and classy for decades, but now out to lunch The Young and the Restless: Stacey Haidukit seems to devolve day by day with its twin doppelgangersTracey E. Bregman and its now unlimited misogyny. These days, Y&R is more like Passions at its most tasteless and excessive.

Y&R Doppelgangers:  Tracey E. Bregman (left) and Stacey Haiduk 

Meanwhile, General Hospital‘s ENDLESS ultra-hypocritical “hero” Sonny never pays for his crimes saga. (Chapter 242: After Sonny shoots his son Dante point blank, the ”selfless” mobster tries to take the fall for his other son, Michael, for murdering Claudia.)  This kind of nonsense has canceled out all that still wants to be good on GH. (Like Cristina’s story, the beautiful end of life story of Shirley, played by Michael Learned.)  You’re not pulling the wool over my eyes, Guza, by doing noble social messages to camouflage the Sonny mess!

Sadness 2 – Every day brings news of another actor firing, hopeless writing change … or just news that is so ridiculous and downright desperate you can’t believe it.  Like Sean Young joining Y&R as Eric Braeden’s brief love interest.  WHAT???  What an odd, odd couple — kinda like Clark Gable co-starring with Tallulah Bankhead! Like Tallulah, Young has a host of personal problems that have been publicized — and the last thing daytime needs right now is bad publicity.  In her prime, Young was a good actress (for instance, hotly co-starring with Kevin Costner in No Way Out), and who knows, she might be interesting with Braeden. But still … what the hell happened to our Miss Melody Thomas,  Braeden’s leading lady of three decades?  Since when does a major soap star turn nearly invisible on her show for a still mysterious reason?     

Sadness  3 – The needlessness of our losses. The canceled As the World Turns, which goes off in September, has wonderful episodes and characters:  The Bob and Kim anniversary episodes, full of love and family warmth.  Luke and Reid.  Imagine how awful the coming end is if you are an actor on that show with 50 years of experience like Don HastingsDon Hastings and Eileen Fulton.  American institutions have Eileen Fulton feelings, too! Speaking of  buckets of tears and bottomless sadness, I can’t even think how we’re all going to cope with seeing the end of ATWT in September.

American Institutions: ATWT’s Don Hastings and Eileen Fulton

Sadness 4 – The real world could care less.  For years non-soap friends have been interested and asked me about soaps.  Well, not anymore!  Why?  “Soaps are dead, don’t you read magazines?” said my old beau and now over-the-hill newspaper editor Phillipe L’ Ouef when I mentioned to him the other day that he should do a feature story about the current state of soaps. My old Soap Opera Weekly column readers know what a sweet guy Phillipe always was.  But his “who cares?” attitude towards the end of our beloved genre is all too widespread these days.  Soaps and their glorious history — even in their demise — deserve notice.  Respect must be paid! 

Yes, yes, yes, there is still some of what is good about soaps.  Our favorite actors, and they are (mostly) still here – -working  bravely to enliven awful scripts and storylines.  The shows are still on, as of now.

But soaps are living in bizarro world now, as my old boss and friend Jason Bonderoff  (now retired editor of Daytime TV magazine) always used to say about crazy plots or backstage soap happenings in the old days.  Then we soap reporters all sat around the office or at parties and laughed heartedly.  Now it is all sadness.

Comments

  1. David C says:

    A beautfiul eulogy for this dying genre.
    My theory for the last few years about why daytime soaps are dying? Because mainstream news media have decided to carry real-life soap operas on an ongoing basis; the better concocted real-life stories of public figures has trumped even the most ingenious soap writers.
    A few of countless examples are the OJ trial. John Edwards story and most recently the betrayed Sandra Bullock situation.
    Come on, weren’t any of those stories tantamount to a good six months on The Edge of NIght. All My Children and Search for Tomorrow?
    OJ’s would have been a dynamite Edge story penned by Mr. Slesar and the convoluted Edwards affair has Agnes Nixon and Lorraine Broderick written all over it. What Doug Marland would have done with either Brittany or Lindsay’s story is too rich to even contemplate. Bill Bell would have gotten years out of Bullock’s life.
    And that is my thesis: What passes for news stories in the last decade is what used to be the regular fodder for daytime soaps
    The audience for serialized drama remains high and engaged, only now, it can be satisfied on any local , network or cable news outlet.and also round the clock. The daytime drama genre has failed to compete with that because real life drama has been featured 24/7 and is now almost inescapable.
    What passes for news anymore is nothing more than inuendo, gossip, titilation, greed, lust, deceit and murder.
    THAT was daytime soap opera for 80 years.
    NOW, it’s news coverage and reportage. TV networks figured that out when tens of millions of people wanted to see a real-life soap opera played out with OJ. We are the ones who chose that salacious and tawdry business over the best that dayitme soap opera ever had to offer.
    We are collectively to blame for this because we turned our backs on the fantasy of fictional drama and replaced it with a leering voyeuristic peephole mentality about public figures. The problem, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars but with ourselves.

    Marlena says: What a great letter, David. From soaps to Shakespeare. To me the hunger for celebrity and scandal has always been there (just censored in the days of old Hollywood) but the fact that Americans eat it up now instead of the family and love that soaps used to spotlight says something very serious about our country and what is happening in the world right now. Beware, the dumbing down of America — and TV, which only wants to make money from it.

  2. Coggie says:

    I felt the sadness acutely when I watched one brilliant, all-too-brief story play out with AMC’s Palmer’s memorial service. That was why we all (and I mean ALL) watched AMC in the 60s-70s. Unfortunately, that was just a knee-jerk response to a veteran actor’s real-life death–nothing more. I didn’t cry just for the loss of the actor or the character or his decades-worthy history.

    I cried because an important part of Americana died too–and nobody gave a damn.

    Marlena says: Cog, you know I love you, gal. But you gotta cut the snark here. Knee jerk reaction! James Mitchell was very much loved at All My Children, especially by backstagers who had been there for years, and his castmates. Notice what a classy episode it was, written with uncommon elegance and told with truth. What Mr. Mitchell was all about as a person.

    Cog, I’m glad we both smart enough to have savored the last bit of real soap opera we’ll ever see. Thanks for the compliment on the column, mon vrai amie.

  3. esther says:

    Great article, Marlena. The anger has subsided.
    I don’t care anymore either.

    I think David really made some incredibly awesome points to explain what’s happened. Really, really solid.

    Marlena says: The problem is I do care, which is why I am so sad.

  4. Darcy says:

    I speak generally not in all cases but most.

    I just don’t understand the writing of daytime drama anymore and for the most part that’s why I don’t watch as much. I use to turn on the VCR as soon as I closed my the door revving it up to watch my shows now I go weeks

    I just don’t feel the same way about them after witnessing so much destruction over the years.

    When I do watch its like you’ve said its for the actor’s and characters I’ve followed…what I find amazing is their ability to give it all they’ve got and deliver good performances…I guess that is what I find entertaining about soaps now-adays..is how they can have a crappy storyline and sell it.

    I like TraceyB. and am glad to see her other than sitting on the couch with Michae sort to speak so
    I’m trying my best to stick this one out.

    I’ve given up on their “consistent” telling well executed storylines “overall” ..they have a good one here and there. I see storylines clearly not working..yet they carry on . and do the same storyline “again.” Many times with the same characters eg GH the same dialog….

    . eg a character(s) just out of a long arc eg a triangle/storyline for two years, yet less than 6 months later they’re in another one?

    HUH?

    They have catered to their coveted demo group more interested in a couple than “actual” storytelling. Most of this audience weren’t even born when soaps told good story. As long as their couple stays together that’s pretty much all they care about (generally speaking).

    and I’ve ran across those that do recognize story beyond their shipping that watch old storylines on Utube I was surprised at the young people watching vintage soap storylines and/or (cancelled shows)..

    I read message boards and its just “couples” that’s all (for the most part when women eg GH has so many other problems other than being attached to a fictional penis.

    The genre is dying and like all of TV (I’ve read) people simply dont’ watch the way they use to…and with advent of technology there are so many options out here… other than being held hostage by bad writing (and story execution). The audience have had enough and some have tuned out.

    JMO…

    Marlena says: It was a smart move to give Tracey a storyline. The Emmy winner has been fun and lively and just a sparkling soap star since she was a teenager as Don’s daughter Donna on Days of Our Lives, and has mostly been wasted the last few years on Y&R. But not this storyline. I join the chorus in saying double doppelgangers on Y&R is soap poison.

  5. Jennifer says:

    There was a time I watched almost every soap opera on the air. Between vcr’s (mine and my dear grandmother’s) and the remote, I had the great pleasure of being immersed in a great escape. In fact, when there was a great storm and we lost electricity for several days, I camped out in front of my grandmother’s television just to see if Lucinda would seduce Lisa’s long-lost son Scott on ATWT.

    I remember when soap couples had their own theme song like Cruz and Eden’s “The change in me is you,” or Tom and Margo’s “If you say my eyes are beautiful.” Now, there are no strains of a great song to reflect a lovely romance let alone any truly romantic couples. The last time a watched the promise of such a romantic and sparkling couple was on OLTL with Dorian and Ray. Robin Strasser and A Martinez generated so much heat that, of course, this steamy couple was chucked and for what?

    Where are the adventures and mysteries that bring couples together and demand a viewer’s attention? Where is the love? Heaven knows they keep bringing the sex.

    Once I wanted to watch them all; now I watch OLTL on occassion if only for my all-time favorite Dorian and Strasser. ATWT was “my” soap and I have no interest in watching the show. I love this type of storytelling and, yet, I have become indifferent to the current shows on daytime.

    It is indeed sad that the producers and writers have so lost their way and, as such, lost their audience.

  6. horselover says:

    I want to be where you are, Marlena – not angry anymore. I still am. I think if I didn’t follow the boards I wouldn’t be so angry. I no longer watch any soaps because they’re just so bad. So maybe I should finally give up following them. I gave up watching GH after 30 years of viewing, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to give up following them on the boards after just a few years.

    Soaps, RIP. It was a great ride for a while. But sadly, I think you’re done.

  7. Jimmy says:

    Hi, Marlena!

    I guess my current sadness (One Life to Live) would fit into categories one and two. As they arbitrarily wrote out a half-dozen characters and decided to “revamp,” the show seemed to slip into neutral. I felt they were fixing something that was only slightly broken; rather than using tweezers, they used a sledge hammer. Now it’s no longer a show I make a point to see, and when I do I have to wonder if I should invest in the new stories, given how easily they can be forced to ditch entire blocks of characters and ignore everything that just happened. I am wary of people who are so quick to hit the reset button.

    It certainly isn’t my first go-round watching characters being shown the door en masse, but I no longer even try to believe the whole “we’re going in a different direction” shpiel. When AW was writing out characters left and right in the mid-1990s, I grew increasingly alarmed and depressed over the events of my beloved Bay City. With OLTL, I just sigh and roll my eyes a bit because I feel they’re just actors on sets and writers trying to crank out stuff to put on screen. I can’t really immerse myself in the scenes as if they are “real,” if that makes sense. It’s more like “what will they (the producers/writers) expect me to believe this time?” rather than “what will happen to X and Y characters next?”

  8. love the soaps says:

    I have just read this last entry on your blog with sadness. It is true that the story lines on the soaps I watch have gone completely down hill and have gone beyond any kind of realism. On Young and the Restless , one can see not one, but two evil look a likes trying to murder the only two people in Genoa City , Michael and Phyllis who are bright and crafty enough to see that something is amiss.
    On General Hospital , the endless worship of Sonny the good mobster and St. Jason and Carly, the enabler and consummate liar is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. When Dante the unknown son of Sonny came on the show, it was exciting to know that maybe perhaps that good could triumph over evil. But Sonny, like Victor on Young and the Restless must always prevail, so we have Dante an undercover police officer perjure himself . To tell the truth after he lied to protect Sonny , i lost interest and haven’t been tuning in.

    As for Days of our Lives, I will be watching for the return of old favorite characters and a fitting tribute to one of the last matriarchs of the soaps, Alice Horton as portrayed by Frances Reid, Rest in Peace. Hope that it will not play second fiddle to the Carly and Melanie, (all the men on Days are Crazy about us) Days of our lives.

    Marlena says: Thanks for writing. But this is FAR from my last Marlena De Lacroix column, now in year 19, (minus) a few.

  9. C.L.B says:

    I think you should add Sadness 5 to your article, Marlena: The Downfall Of One Life To Live! In the past month we lost four characters from the canvas: Kim, Rachel, Schuyler, Kyle, and Oliver! I was never a big fan of Stacy’s BFF stripper friend Kim, but I definitely cared for the latter four characters on the show!

    I was very glad that they brought back Nora’s
    daughter Rachel back to Llanview and have her be Cole’s drug rehab counselor when Cole was going through his drug addiction storyline. What I wasn’t glad about though was the love triangle storyline she had with the Evans brothers. The writers first had Rachel hook up with Sean only to cheat on him with his doctor brother Greg after he messed up on an operation on his brother’s brain to remove a bullet that he took for Starr’s infant daughter Hope (this was of course during the drug trafficking storyline when the Russian mobster character Sergei kidnapped Starr and Hope after Starr’s father Todd blew Cole’s undercover operation to nab the drug dealers responsible for the drug use in Llanview) that put him in a coma for about a month! When Sean woke up to later find out about Rachel and Greg, the writers had only little use for Rachel after that, except for playing a small part in Stacy’s storyline when she found the Oxytocin that was used to induce Stacy’s labor. In late March, Dapnee and her character Rachel, left the show when Rachel left the apartment that she shared with Schuyler to hep out a friend back in Chicago with his drug problems, and left the show never to be heard from again! (Before her exit though, she and Greg called it quits with their relationship after he found out about her covering for Schuyler and the infamous empty Oxytocin bottle!)

    Viewers (including myself!) found out about her departure a month before when she posted on her twitter account that she was moving to L.A. , coincidentally right after her second McDonald’s commercial aired! (The ones that has her singing about the joy of chicken mcnuggets to hunky fellow! If you haven’t seen these commercials, look them up on YouTube!) It was later noted by Tea a month after she skipped town that she “went back to Chicago” when she was having a emergency check-up at the hospital for a fainting spell performed by Rachel’s ex-boyfriend Greg! Rachel didn’t even get to say good-bye to her family before she suddenly left Llanview!!!!

    The terrible departues of Kyle and Oliver had already been lamented on a previous post by you that I also commented on a month ago, but it still stings with me almost three weeks later! The way they were dropped off the canvas just so quick and sudden was a slap in the face to viewers (including myself!) that was invested in this groundbreaking romance of two young adults in love with each other, along with Fish’s baby Sierra Rose (conceived through a regrettable one night stand with Stacy “The Fiasco” Morasco!).

    I thought it was a very polite thing for Gigi to relinquish her sole custody suit of Sierra to Fish and Kyle and drop her custody suit altogether. It’s such a shame that we won’t get to see Kish raise their baby together as one big happy family! (If the TPTB in the primetime department at ABC network can have Cameron and Mitchell raise their baby together as gay parents on the hit sitcom “Modern Family”, why can’t TIIC at ABC Daytime show Kish as gay parents on OLTL?)

    I also thought that the network’s reasoning behind Kish’s firing was because they were at fault for the show’s low ratings was absolutely full of bunk! I don’t think that’s true at all!!! I think the real reasons why the ratings were low is because of the Stacy storyline and Mitch Lawrence’s much ballyhooed second coming to the show! ( Also, isn’t it ironic that the executive producer of OLTL Frank Valentini, and the show’s head writer Ron Carlivati, are both openly gay men!!! If they were so dedicated to the Kish storyline, then how come they didn’t put Scott Evan (Fish) on contract like they did with Brett Claywell (Kyle), and fought to keep their storyline going on the show?!?!?) I hope one day TIIC reconsider their mistake one day and bring both BC and SE back on the show on full-term contracts (for BOTH of the actors) or to put a more final and proper closure to their storyline on the show!
    Scott Clifton as Schuyler Joplin may have started out in few bad storylines when Starr had a “hot for teacher” crush on him when she was on the outs with Cole when he had his drug problems, and when he was involved in that lame love triangle with Rex and Gigi last year (along with being in tangled in Stacy’s baby mama storyline when Stacy and Kim lied to Schuyler about being the kid’s father after he caught Kim and Stacy putting a pregnancy pouch on her stomach) , but he’s character was starting to grow on me towards his final moments on the show! When Schuyler learned that he was the biological son of Mitch and Roxy, it should’ve opened up whole new storyline potential for Schuyler! Unfortunatly, they had Schuyler go temporarly insane after he found out that he wasn’t Sierra’s real father, and have him kidnap Gigi, shoot Bo in the chest, and have him thrown in the slammer! It’s too bad we’ll never get to see Roxy and Schuyler bond as Mother and Son with Mother’s Day coming up next weekend!

    I will definetly miss seeing Rachel, Kish, and Schuyler on OLTL every week on tv and hope that one way or another that they will hopefully come back to the show to continue (or finish out) their storylines on the show one day. I also hope the characters will come back to the show with the original actors that potrayed them! (Even though Rachel has been played by different actesses over the years! Either one of them will be fine with me!)

    This past week ABC daytime publicist Jori Peterson told TV Guide magazine that they denied reports that they’re cancelling OLTL and replacing it with a talk show hosted by Tori Spelling. This type of news dosen’t bode well for the show since the ABC Daytime publicity department also denied reports that All My Children was going to move out to L.A. last year at the beginning of 2010 (which they ultimately did earlier this year!).

    Jori Peterson also said that Ron Carlivati isn’t going to leave the show after his contract with OLTL expires next month. Instead, soon-to-be former As The World Turns HW Jean Passante will join RC and his writing staff as an associate HW, a position she’s held before at OLTL back in the mid-90′s. She’ll join the show when ATWT wraps up production next month. Marlena, what do you think of this piece of news, and are you familiar with Jean Passanante’s previous work with OLTL? Feel free to respond to my question (and my post!) as soon as you can!!!!an

    Marlena says: CLB, thanks for your summary of what’s been happening on OLTL, which I’m sure will come in handy for those who have stopped watching. I watch and am struck and almost shocked by the swiftness with which they’ve reverted to the traditional soap formula with the existing storylines. Don’t know yet how I feel about the storylines or the “new” show. I don’t know Carlivati or Valentini, but I’m sure they must have fought ferociously for Kish to continue. Remember, they created and put a lot on the line professionally and personally to do this story! Remember CLB, network executives ALWAYS have the final say on what happens on soaps and apparently call most of the shots these days. Also, Passanante hasn’t written the show yet, so it’s unfair to criticize her. As far as predicting what she’ll do, that’s the soap internet way, not my way.

    I miss Kish and Sky too. That Gigi was so gracious in giving up the baby was perfecly within character, although in real life I think a custodial aunt would do it with more angst and interior reflection with this emotional situation (which was absurdly omitted in the soap’s story — why?) As far as the ABC publicist publically backing up the continuation of OLTL, etc., and Mr. Carlivati’s tenure — that’s her job. The networks are in the business for business, not for truth.

  10. Roman Seano says:

    Connie, I’m very thankful, though not surprised, that you – as pretty much a lifelong lover of this genre – just come out and speak the truth: Daytime soaps are on their last legs.

    Now I’m not happy that soaps are heading toward their sunset. But I think everyone should be comfortable with talking about it. You know how many times I mentioned that on a blog or a message board (when I did post on a message board) and have someone go absolutely mad on me for even suggesting the possibility? I suppose for some people, it’s painful. And I get it. But it’s the truth.

    The way I approach my love for soaps now, is to enjoy WHATever I can, WHILE I still can. So I look at the present-day All My Children, as penned by longtime AMC (and might I add, multi-Emmy winning) head writer Lorraine Broderick, with a tremendous amount of appreciation.

    I’m also open-minded about watching what her successors, David Kreizman & Donna Swajeski, have in store – especially since Swajeski confirmed to SOD/SPW that Broderick remains as the Associate Head Writer. And Swajeski, I believe, has a pretty good track record. When a longtime viewer thinks of the Another World, it’s usually stories and characters from Swajeski’s run as head writer that first come to mind.

    Heck, even as One Life to Live chews its own limbs off – or, dare I say, gets sawed away branch by branch by ghost co-headwriter / co-executive producer Brian Frons, I still manage to find things in it that compel are compelling to watch. Though sometimes it’s compelling in the same way a car accident grabs you (i.e. Todd is a “victim” again).

    But my eyes are wide open. I don’t think about it too much, and though I admit it’s sad – especially when you recall just how good soaps once were, I don’t worry too much about how it will end up. Instead I let myself enjoy the bright spots of what remains… and I always appreciate the beauty of what WAS: the great history of the talents behind, surrounding, and covering daytime drama.

    The truth is out there, and I think everyone should be able to talk about it now! Just think of how much people will be talking about soaps when all is said and done. They have made an undeniable impact on pop culture, everywhere from tackling social issues in groundbreaking fashion to pioneering the formula for good TV camp.

    Like 80′s new wave music… the daytime soap medium is unforgettable – and it will always be a part our lives!

    Marlena says: Thanks, Roman, for your grace and special sensitivities as always — and for backing me up. Of course the truth is painful, but everyone seems to have a lot of confidence in their own versions of truth when it comes to what they post on boards. But then again, of course, Marlena believes in the First Amendment.

    I agree with you that we should all feel free to talk about the end of soaps. I wanted to put my feelings out there, because there is so much denial on all soap sites, boards — and especially in the (remaining!) soap magazines. Although I seem to have to keep reiterating on the net that I am a professional writer, I’m really just a soap fan with a broken pheart. And the Marlena column has always been all about what it is to be a soap fan, for other fans who also have deep feelings — and think.

  11. DS0816 says:

    Dear Marlena/Connie,

    I feel you’ve been in touch during the entire time. That you relate to the reactions of longtime soap-opera viewers like myself (who started in the mid-1980s). That’s because, besides being a writer (and professor), you are a longtime viewer as well.

    I have been attached to the pleasure of viewing the company of actors on these serials. They make the material fly. To this day, I like most of them better than our film stars. (Our mainstream stars.)

    Over the past couple years, a few of the senior vets have died. And this year we’ve already said good-bye to seven-time Emmy nominee James Mitchell [Palmer Cortlandt, "All My Children"], two-time nominee Frances Reid [Alice Horton, "Days of Our Lives"] — and news has hit that, on May 1, Helen Wagner — who played Nancy Hughes on “As the World Turns” right from its premiere in 1956 — had passed at age 91. And I’m sorry this has happened.

    I’m still in my 30s; but even at my age, I recognize some things change no matter how much one fights against that. I’m not sure if today’s daytime dramas are all going to get canceled during, say, this new decade. What I’m confident in believing is that the serialized format will always exist; after all, how many times have we heard or read, over the past two or three decades, about the death of prime-time television comedy or drama? The daytime-drama production model — from the American soaps — is what has been changing. Because of economics. But creatively, I no longer sense the “community” that kept me drawn in for viewing these serials for 25-plus years. (Every show feels like it now has 10 or 12 characters.)

    I appreciate, Marlena/Connie, the interview you gave recently over at the podcast “Brandon’s Buzz.” It was wonderful hearing you two loosely discuss what’s on in prime-time and some of film. What you are drawn to; what you don’t care for. I loved hearing that you dig Fox’s “Glee,” which has a serialized comedic/musical format. And that you love Jane Lynch’s outrageous Sue Sylvester, and the star-crossed Finn-and-Rachel “showmance” — as well as the improbable Will-and-Emma pairing — gives a great deal of [soap-opera-like] mileage in “Glee.” (Tony nominee Matthew Morrison, as instructor Will Schuester, had a run on “ATWT.”) In other serialized drama, I am in love with HBO’s “Treme,” which is about life in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana. It has ten characters — many who are musicians in the modern brass-band tradition of the city’s African-American and Créole cultures — around whom stories revolve. (“Treme” premiered April 11. Among its cast: Melissa Leo, who garnered a 1985 Daytime Emmy nomination as scheming sister Linda, to responsible brother Peter Bergman’s Cliff Warner, on “All My Children.” She’s a journeyman actress — memorable on NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” — and a 2008 Oscar nominee for best actress in “Frozen River.”)

    I have been, and continue to be, absorbing the daytime soaps as, in part, as a sign of the times. They’ve been in trouble for more than a decade — and it hurts even more that the genre has been streamlined. That the product has been diminished. And any news that comes across as poor behind-the-scenes decision-making — like with “One Life to Live” cutting “Kish” — is just one more piece of bad news. It’s not difficult to understand why viewers are discouraged.

    Marlena says: Thanks for keeping in touch, DSO and all Marlena readers. It gives me great joy that you are all still out there, and reading me even though our “little world” is so tragic right now. And thanks also, DSO, for listening to me on Brandon’s Buzz. Until the mags got hot in the 80s, being a soap fan was a very lonely thing, and I have always — LOL –been one to share my feelings. Here’s a toast to all of us!

  12. tess says:

    We all know that soaps aren’t as good as they used to be. Fans have frequently commented–”The networks are trying to kill the soaps. They want to kick them to the curb.”

    Those statements made me pause. After all, why would a network deliberately set out to kill a popular money-making genre?

    But with what I’ve been seeing on the air these past few years, I’m beginning to think there is truth to some fans statements.

    I am APPALLED by what has happened to YOUNG AND RESTLESS. Endless, unimaginative crime stories. And what is Y&R’s fascination with lookalikes?

    John Abbott had a lookalike. So did Kay Chancellor. And Jeffrey Bardwell. I understand that Sheila made herself a clone of Phyllis and raised hell with her enemies. And now there’s Patty and Emily.

    It’s tired, I say wearily, desperately wringing my hands. It’s drab, dreary, uninspired storytelling, which viewers don’t see in primetime. So why is it tolerated in daytime?

    What happened to fresh, imaginative storytelling, which soaps at one time overflowed with?

    I hate to beat a dead horse, but it is mind-boggling to me how gawd-awful Y&R is. And Y&R’s “co” executive producer Paul Rauch is fascinated with stories about evil people who have plastic surgery. Do you recall when he was producing GUIDING LIGHT, Annie returned with a new face, calling herself Terri. And she set out to ruin Reva’s life? I’m all for thrillers and action adventure stories, but at least, entertain us.

  13. Daniel says:

    I mostly read spoilers to see what is going on in the towns I once loved to visit, and I do find myself watching As The World Turns more than before, and I find that I like it 80% of the time, which is saying something.
    I remember taping Luke and Laura’s wedding, the 1st wedding, 30 or so years ago, when watching soaps was mandatory. You couldn’t skip a week or two because you would miss something vital and, well, good.
    We have mobsters running towns and rapists as misunderstood heroes. It is gross. We can blame the viewers for not tuning in because lives have changed, we can blame it on the OJ trial, but the fact is the stories have been turning off viewers. There is no adventure, love, family.
    I was done with GH years ago but when they started killing off the Quartermaines I knew I wouldn’t be visiting PC again.

  14. Ah, Marlena – it’s no fun to be a thinking soap fan these days, is it?

    I miss writing about these shows out of love. Now it feels like we’re writing eulogies (as you did so truthfully here).

    Marlena says: Thanks as always, dear.

  15. Nicholas Ryan says:

    As usual your words almost seem to come from heart Marlena. The irony; the passing of Frances Reid, James Mitchell and Helen Wagner trully brings to home how the days of my beloved soaps of memory are trully over! Not only am I mourning these shining vets but I’m also mourning the memories of soaps of yesteryear! Those days will never come again and we should all weep over this unjust tragedy! I know somewhere in heaven Alice Horton, Nancy Hughes and Palmer Cortland are sharing a pot of tea and mourning the genre together as well! God bless them and all of their wonderful memories!

  16. Gene says:

    Marlena, as a long time soap fan, I just getting to the point that I’m at a point of having apathy for soaps these days. I feel that it is not the soap fan that is giving up on the genre, but tptb are the problem and are not thinking of a way to revive it and get it going again. Soaps was in danger in the 80s when Gloria and Doug think outside the box and into a ratings boom. But now it is the same old same old and the fans are tired of it. Soaps need to hired fresh new writers and cut costs and tell intelligent stories that the fans want to see. If not, soaps will go of the way of the dinosaur.

  17. Pumpkinoodle says:

    I am not angry or sad. I still watch some soaps, although I don’t watch others. I tune in, read blogs, provide comments, and participate in keeping this genre alive. I respect your insider perspective, and you may be onto something.

    Still…

    Two things are killing soaps. The most obvious choice is the variety of daytime television programs available through cable. Instead of 5 channels to choose from, most people now have 300 shows to watch at any given time. It’s a simple numbers game, and this is affecting soaps more than anything else.

    What disturbs me is that the very people that love this genre are contributing to its downfall, which brings me to the second factor affecting soap ratings. Most of the online commentary about soaps is negative. It is rare to find sites that celebrate the positive. How can any show survive that much negativity?

    If we want to keep our soaps around, we need to start talking about the good more than we do the bad.

  18. Marilyn Henry says:

    Hi Connie,
    I try not to consider that the soap genre could die. I know in my head the possibility (liklihood ?) exists, but my fondness for the form won’t let me dwell there. But I see what I consider panic moves and it is disturbing. The constant firings and hirings are signs of panic, as well as the amount of sex and violence. Do TPTB really imagine we soap lovers want the gross and gritty?

    One major panic move is the special guest ‘star’. And I’m not just talking about movie stars, big names as such. Those are bad enough. I mean hiring back former soap greats for a couple weeks or even a couple episodes. The appearance is hyped, but the publicity does little to build story. How can we invest when we know it is short term? GH seems especially fond of this type of panic move. Witness Tristan Rogers, Fiona Hughes, Genie Francis, James Franco, etc., etc.

    Celeb appearances simply break the continuity of story-telling and this show is already sadly short on decent continuity. Anything which takes away from good stories in progress simply destroys momentum. And we have seen enough of that. GH is constantly starting stories, leaving them dangling to press another story, then trying to return to the first story after all interest has dribbled away. And Guza is constantly teasing about hiring certain ‘names.’

    I feel if they asked all the true GH fans whom they wanted back most, it would be Genie Francis, not Vanessa Marcel. (It sure wouldn’t be the girl who played Brook Lynn, or even Franco, for that matter.) Genie as Laura is needed as a contract player, a character to shake up PC and begin the transformation from mob show to one where the mob is a sideline thing. She is a good, decent character, but fiesty, and can con with the best of them. She can run a business and that could be interesting. She has plenty of family in PC, another plus. But another short-term visit would be too difficult for us. She is an actress who catches us up in her emotions, who makes us care what happens to her and hers, so the wrench is terrible when we must give her up after a heartfelt two or three weeks. Even having to part with Michael Learned will be hard, though she doesn’t have the history and her story has been so now-and-then, because she is another of those actors who pull us in, heart and soul, and make us FEEL.

    If Vanessa comes back, that just means more Sonny and this show really needs to spare us that. We have had enough Sonny to last two lifetimes and his over-exposure is not working good things for the show. Too much Sonny is a MAJOR problem for the show.

    What is needed on GH now is not another short-term celeb ‘event’, but some good, consistant story-telling, character-driven and full of drama and humor. Using the super talent the show has on contract. It is a downright crime how these writers can’t come up with great story for the likes of Nancy Grahn, Tony Geary, Jonathan Jackson, Jason Thompson, Ingo Radamaucher, Ron Hale, and so on, stories that would bring out their best. I think the calibre of talent of the actors is all that is now holding me to GH. They are amazing and continue to turn dross into gold.

    Marlena says: Ditto on Genie always. Laura’s goodness, heart and love are the only longterm antidote to Guza, as you and I have must have said at least a million times now.

    Thanks as always for contributing to Connie/Marlena soap efforts (since 1981 when we I first met when you first wrote for Afternoon TV magazine, of which I was then editor. This was the amazing three part “The Legend of Luke and Laura” series.) Critically I agree with every word you, the amazing Marilyn Henry, have ever written about General Hospital.

  19. Michael Bird says:

    Oh, Marlena/Connie, you have nailed it again. I read this when you posted it, but only recently read the comments after watching the Daytime Emmy awards …

    Having said that, the awards were nice, but there was a dark cloud looming over Las Vegas the whole night. I fear for our beloved genre in knowing what act comes next.

    Michael Park’s classy and heartfelt acceptance speech, where he told those gathered, “I hope you never have to go through what we did on Wednesday,” should give everyone pause. AS THE WORLD TURNS doesn’t deserve to go now, but they will be gone in a few weeks. GUIDING LIGHT had spent years wandering in the soap wilderness before the decision was made to let it go; I still don’t understand why ATWT was sacrificed. And for what?

    I did see a bright shining example of daytime at its best on DAYS OF OUR LIVES this past week, as the show and its characters respectfully paid tribute to Alice Horton and her portrayer, Frances Reid. This was as well-done as any death on daytime, ever. However, with a tentpole character like Alice gone forever … or Nancy Hughes (Helen Wagner) … there is no one on daytime who comes close to that high and delicate art of being the advice-giving listener. The grandmothers on most shows are recovering mobsters or psycho sluts with evil twins.

    Looking at the TV schedule, there will really only be two hours of head-to-head combat between soaps in most markets. The lunch hour will have B&B and the second half of Y&R vs. AMC or DAYS. And that’s really about it. OLTL will stand alone in its timeslot – for now.

    Knowing I would be losing ATWT, I have been checking OLTL out on SOAPNet … and I must say I was disappointed in some of what I saw. A year or two ago, everyone was saying it was the best show on television. Now, it resembles an MTV reality piece like JERSEY SHORE! What an embarrassment.

    GH, with its glorification of violence; B&B, with its glorification of incestuous family relationships … I am on the search for a replacement for ATWT, but I’m not sure I want to sign the dotted line as a fan of these just yet.

    I’ve watched ATWT for 30 years. The quality bar is mighty high for me – when you started watching the show Douglas Marland was writing with such love and enthusiasm, it’s hard to dive in to someone else’s idea of what a soap opera is about. These are depressing days indeed.

  20. DaysGoneBy says:

    Soaps are dying. It’s sad, but true. The shows that once FORCED viewers to be home to watch are now nothing more than an after-thought.

    The industry has blamed the OJ trial. NOT! I blame the endless rotation of writers and producers who have nary a new idea between them! Sorry, if you’ve been in the business for 20-30-40 years, you are KAPUT! You are done! Where’s the new blood????

    And sorry, making soaps gay…NOT the answer! You’re gay. You can’t have kids. You can’t marry. All you can do is have promiscuous sex with all other gay characters who come on the show. Real nice!

    Soaps were at their HEIGHT….when they were morality plays. The good guys triumphed, and the villains got their due. Onto the next story. Now, the villains are heroes. Sonny on GH SHOT his own son POINT BLANK in the chest…and he’s STILL being revered as a hero! He isd a disgusting murderous thug and criminal!

    Maurice Benard should be ASHAMED to play such a sickening piece of filth, but he keeps embracing it, and keeps re-signing his contract. We all like money. We all need to make livings. But this whole “Jason and Sonny are sexy” thing HAS to end! COME ON! Murderers are murderers! Cold blooded killers are NOT sexy! Guza, JFP….try something new!

    GH is currently at the BOTTOM of the ratings barrel! Remember when Claire Labine was hired at GH?? and she told heart-warming stories??? Ratings SKY-ROCKETED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Get OUT of the mafia, and back to the hospital! That Jill Farren Phelps must have been abused a LOT to find that crap sexy!

  21. Preacher'swife says:

    Isn’t it time to give Patty her own face back (hire another actress) while Stacy Hadiuk continues playing Emily. It is waaaay past time for Adam to be exposed as the fraud he is. there is no way that Hope Adams could have given birth to a sociopathic monster like this guy! Adam should turn out to be the college roommate of Hope and Victor’s real child (who should be played by Ronnie Milsap; he could use this as an oportunity to sing songs from his new album: “Then sings my Soul”
    Speaking of Hope:

    I’m tired of the nighttime Hope. Get over it, plus I am so ready for her & Bo to get back together because Carly is really getting on my nerves. Hasn’t she learned enough keeping secrets from her Doctor Baby Daddy? There is no trust at all there.

    Quote from soap net .com Posted by Queenldm Sun, Jul 25 – 5:08 pm

    Amen sister preach it!!

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