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Daytime Opinion Article


By Suzanne

I was sad when they canceled "Passions", but maybe it's a good thing for daytime (as a soap fan, I never thought I would say that).

The people who produce and write soap operas have to get off their butts and realize that the reason soap viewers have left and not returned has nothing to do with O.J., or even that women are at work rather than staying at home watching soaps. The reason is that soaps have stagnated over the years instead of improving, and there is so much competition that they can't compete.

Primetime TV has improved over the past 20 or so years; daytime has not kept up. While I hate how the networks cancel primetime shows so quickly, sometimes after one or two episodes, I think this has contributed to their improvement. People writing and producing primetime shows realized that they had to work hard on improving their product in order to sell it, and the result is that primetime TV has more exciting and complex stories. Soaps, on the other hand, have not improved. They are stagnant.

If you can't believe it, think about all of these soap opera cliches that the writers use over and over again. These are major stories such as characters coming back from the dead, suddenly having psychic visions, getting plastic surgery to look exactly (and sound exactly) like other characters; characters who suddenly remember something shocking from their past that they never even hinted at; women who sleep with the wrong person once just so they can do yet another "who's the daddy?" storyline, missing security in hospitals and police stations, and people just not behaving in realistic or rational ways.

The day-to-day shows are riddled with lesser soap gimmicks such as characters walking in just when two others are talking about them, having long monologues with themselves, never shown going to work, and getting upset about something one day and forgetting about it the next.

Try describing your favorite soap opera story (even the best ones) to a non-soap watcher and watch them smirk or roll their eyes. That's because these horrible cliches have attached themselves to the genre like cankers and have destroyed it. How can you expect to bring in viewers when they know how stupid soap stories can be?

Gimmicks like bringing in lame pop stars or other walk-on celebrities, or repeated acts of violence just to make a show momentarily suspense-filled for the day, are not enough. To get viewers to keep tuning in, the people in charge have to care about the characters and the story, and respect the viewers who already watch. Romance and adventure has to come from the characters, their lives, and their families. Stop being deritive and contrived and write from both the heart and the head.

Why would anyone start watching "All My Children" or "Passions" when they TIVO'ed CSI or a good movie the night before? Even die-hard soap fans have great primetime soaps they would rather watch, such as "Ugly Betty", "Men in Trees", "Desperate Housewives", and "Grey's Anatomy" (shows that are all better than daytime shows). Most primetime shows today are serialized and have soap elements, such as "24", "Battlestar Galactica", and even "American Idol". There are only so many hours in the day to watch. Unless soaps improve their writing significantly, they will not survive. Perhaps they deserve to die off if they can't keep up with what people want to watch. It's sad for those of us who love the daytime genre, but we will understand because we are the ones watching the uneven or crummy stories faithfully, every day.

My advice to people in charge of soaps, if they really want to save daytime: get rid of all the cliches and hackneyed storylines. Fans want romance, excitement, adventure, families, humor, pathos, drama, and more. We want you to know the history of the show and honor it. We want to have good actors- not pretty models or teens who shriek and mumble. We want to see people of all ages having exciting stories interwoven among all the characters that make sense. Write stories as if your jobs depend on it because THEY DO! the whole genre depends on it. Cancel the soaps, fire the writers, do whatever you have to. They quoted Irna Phillips on "Guiding Light" the other day as saying that the actors need to believe the stories because she does, and the viewers do, too. Soaps need to heed those words and bring in more excitement and believability into the shows so that everyone will want to watch. Irna didn't just create soaps, she was constantly re-inventing them. They should still be doing that, instead of relying on their past triumphs.

I would rather have two or three very good daytime soaps than 10 mediocre or disappointing ones. My advice to fans: write letters to the networks, and stop watching if the shows are bad. Maybe that will be the only thing get to real, lasting change in daytime.

Page updated 12/27/11

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