I am a soap opera fan. I admit it freely. Have been since I was 6 years old. Are they highbrow, intellectual entertainment? No. Are they entertainment, period? For me, the answer is yes.
Today, ABC announced they are canceling 2 of their 3 soaps, All My Children and One Life to Live. They join the recently departed Guiding Light and As the World Turns from CBS, and together have over 2 centuries of history. Centuries.
I was actually watching One Life to Live when the news came across the internet. Irony, you are a cruel little bugger.
I am sad for the actors, crews, and other people who will lose their jobs. I am sad for the legions of fans out there who won’t get to see their shows after years of dedicating watching. I am sad for the magazines that cover soaps, which will be little more than pamphlets after this (with even more jobs lost, I reckon).
The appeal of the soaps, for me, lies in the never-ending nature of the story. Sure, the plots start and end, arcs ebb and flow, characters come and go, but the whole world inside continues. I liked that I didn’t have to say goodbye completely, not at the end of a season and not at the end of a series very often. Despite the campiness, the drama that doesn’t quite translate to being actually possible, soaps create their own reality, albeit heightened for entertainment’s sake, that made us fans engage, enjoy, commit a part of ourselves, more so than anyone does to other genres. There’s something about the almost every day, every week nature of such a program that promotes a deeper level of engagement, one that leaves fans feeling somewhat personally invested. Because soaps are rooted in the idea of creating and perpetuating their own history, it becomes part of the history of the person who watches. It’s certainly part of my history, and my mom’s, and my grandma’s, and my aunt’s…
I’ll give you 2 more reasons I’m upset with this news. It appears that the network went out of their way to convince the show’s employees that they were not being canceled, so this feels like there was some nasty lying going on. That bugs. What also bugs is that the replacement programming will be talk shows, and not even particularly creative, unique, or innovative ones. They will be like the rest of the talk shows that now fill the daytime landscape, except for the odd game show (rock on, The Price is Right!) and the 4 soaps still left standing.
No, I do not sit in front of my TV all day long. I don’t even watch the soaps every day or every week. But I can sit down when I have a minute and catch up. It’s nice. It’s comfort to me. As much as I loved Lost, I couldn’t miss a couple of weeks without being hopelessly confused. I’m confused enough in my daily life, thankyouverymuch.
So I’m sad today. That’s all I wanted to say.