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Should All My Children Be Saved?

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By Suzanne 3/26/11

There's been a rumor going around the net this week about "All My Children" being canceled. It even made it to the Los Angeles Times. So far, it seems to just be rumors. Why or how did this happen?

First of all, every time one low-rated soap opera gets canceled, then all eyes turn to the next one. Since "As The World Turns" was canceled last year, now everyone looks to "All My Children" or "One Life to Live", both of which are usually at the bottom of the ratings list now. Secondly, people are getting more worried and the issue is getting more attention, every time one is canceled, since it means there are fewer and fewer soaps, and more to worry about.

When I started this site, there were 9 or 10 soaps, and now there are only 6. That is cause for every soap fan to be worried. That has never happened before in the history of TV. That may sound over-dramatic, but when you consider that soaps have been around since radio, it is pretty amazing (and not in a good way). They are part of the American experience, as well as part of the TV industry history. Once they are gone, they are probably not coming back.

There may be other reason these rumors are coming out. Someone at ABC may be leaking the information out. Perhaps they really are considering canceling the show, or shows. My guess is that they are looking at whatever cost-saving measures they can at this point, and cancellation is one of them. Whether it is a serious consideration at this point or not, I don't know. We won't know until the rumor becomes fact. It may be that ABC is purposely leaking this information to see how people react to it. If they get a large enough reaction, maybe they will decide not to cancel it. There is just no way of telling any of this unless you are one of the people in charge of ABC Daytime.  Rumors like this tend to snowball, too.

The question we should be asking may not be "why are they canceling it?" or even "are they canceling it?", but "why shouldn't they cancel it?" Let's look at this for a minute with the broader perspective of TV as a whole. If this were a primetime or cable TV show, most people would not care that much if they canceled it, aside from a few devoted fans. Primetime shows come and go pretty often, and only the devoted regular viewers, as well as the TV network people, care. What's different here is that daytime TV shows tend to last for decades (kind of like dinosaurs) so it feels like a real blow every time one is canceled.  It's not just a blow to the viewers of that one particular show, or the people who work on it, but to all of the people connected to the daytime TV industry, and to fans of all soaps (even fans that don't watch any more but still think of themselves as soap fans). It feels like they are going extinct, again like the dinosaurs.  People grow up watching the soaps with their grandmas, their mom, and their college roomies, so they have an emotional connection to their soaps that they don't have to other TV.

Therefore, when a soap gets canceled, many people get very upset. That is why the networks, in their defense, do not cancel soaps lightly. They only do it when they are really losing money and have no other options. This is particular true with ABC because they make these shows. CBS did not make "As The World Turns" or "Guiding Light" (or their current shows). NBC does not make "Days of Our Lives".  Some other production company makes their shows, and they buy (or rent) them. This means that they don't make as much money from them, and also, it means they do not have as much of a commitment to them. ABC, however, produces their own soap operas, so things are a little different. This may be why they have not canceled most of their soap operas. They last canceled Port Charles in 2003, and before that, I believe it was "Loving" (AKA "The City"). They are not likely to cancel "All My Children", which has been on TV for over 40 years, without some serious thought and consideration.

People are not just worried about "All My Children" being canceled. They are worried about losing the entire daytime soap genre. I think if we all knew that they would keep 2 or 3 soaps around for a long time, and make them really good, or even replace them with better soaps, we wouldn't mind as much. However, we are all worried about daytime soaps fading out all together. I do think that "soaps" will be around forever. In primetime, they are just another genre, so they come and go all the time. Very few genres completely fade away on TV. In fact, primetime TV shows as a whole are much more likely to be gone before soaps ever are.

The real question is, should they cancel the soaps if they are bad and not many people are watching them? All TV networks are businesses. They put shows on the air, and the shows have to make a certain amount of profit for them, from advertising, or else they cancel the show. With a show like "All My Children", however, they also have other factors to consider, such as how many viewers they will alienate for their other shows. Still, they are not likely to keep the show going if it is costing them money. They can't. They are a business, not a charity. They have shareholders to answer to, not just viewers.

If "All My Children" were a primetime show, it would definitely be canceled by now. It is not a good show. It was in the past, but it hasn't been in a long while. They have had way too many changes in writing and cast for too long. They ruined a number of very popular characters, most notably Ryan and Greenlee, to the point where many viewers can't stand them, no matter how much the writers try to redeem them. Perhaps if the current writing were really good, we could forgive those characters and just pretend those bad writing years didn't happen. So far, however, the show continues to be mediocre at best. There are two major things that cause viewers to stop watching soap operas. #1 is boredom. "All My Children" has been boring for many years. It has dull and unimaginative stories that just drag on and on, with characters we don't care about. #2 is making viewers hate the show because the characters are annoying or have changed too much. "All My Children" is doing both things right now.

Besides the characters we flat out don't like (and these are generalizations because that will vary from person to person), like Ryan and Greenlee, Caleb, Liza, Ricky et al., they have the other characters changing so often or bed-hopping so much that we don't have anyone to root for any more. There are many Jack and Erica fans, but frankly, I always thought they were pretty boring together. It's not the fault of the actors. They just write them as boring. Ryan and J.R. have slept with every woman in town, and Kendall and Greenlee have done the same. Tad and Cara are kind of interesting. Annie was great, but now she's gone. I used to like Jake and Amanda, but they have kind of ruined them, too, with bad stories. I really don't care about Asher, who looks like he should be one of the Ford brothers on "One Life to Live", and it's the third or fourth recast of Colby, so I don't care about her, either.

The writers often whine that having married people and keeping them together makes them boring, but I disagree. I think that if a writer is good enough, it shouldn't matter if the characters are married or not. Lazy writers just use plot devices to break them up over and over again, which frustrates viewers. That is the subject of a future article, however.

I think the only things they could do at this point to save "All My Children" would be a) to bring in some really great writers, b) bring back Zach, Dixie, Adam, Brooke and some other favorites from the past, and c) publicize the heck out of it. I don't know if ABC can afford all that, though. They would definitely have to be willing to put some money into it. By really great writers, I mean that they not only have to come up with new and exciting stories that really challenge us and keep the characters consistent, but they have to mostly concentrate on the existing characters without bringing in a bunch of new ones. Above all else, Viewers don't like sudden, drastic, changes in the characters and stories.

It's a cliché, but all of the soaps need to focus more on romance and family, as well as have great stories with action and adventure, twists and turns. They need to balance characters of all different ages. They need to move into the 21st century by having exciting new stories, not just rewriting stories from the past 30 years. They need to shock us, excite us, and make us laugh, cry, and want to talk about it on message boards or with our co-workers. Above all, of course, they need to make us want to keep tuning in.

What can you do to help? Write a letter (threaten to stop watching all ABC shows). Sign petitions. Watch the show, on your TV, not your DVR, and not on Soapnet. I can't guarantee any of this will help. All we can do is try!

The opinions in these articles are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The TV MegaSite or its other volunteers.

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Updated 3/26/11

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