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Daytime Opinion Article


By Suzanne

Dark ShadowsDaytime soaps have often gone into the world of the supernatural - more than you think. You may remember "Dark Shadows", which was a pretty good daytime soap in the 1960's about vampires, werewolves, and witches.  I watched that one when I was a child, and then later in reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel. I only started watching most soaps in the 1980's, but they have had many unusual stories since then.

In the 80's, soaps started tackling unusual storylines, instead of just stories about the boardroom or the bedroom (or the kitchen).  General Hospital started this general trend when they brought in spies and mobsters.  The evil Cassadines tried to freeze the world.  Later, they had a story about mysterious crystals and an alien named Casey.  In One Life to Live, they had a time-traveling storyline where a few of the characters went back to the 1800's. They also had a secret underground city called Eterna.  Days of Our Lives waited until the 90's to have their weird storylines when they had Satan possess Marlena. Later, they had many weird things going on with Stefano planting a mind-controlling computer chip into Vivian's brain, and then the entire cast was killed off...only to reappear on a secret island that was an exact duplicate of their town, Salem.  On Guiding Light, they had a cloning story where Reva was cloned, and then her clone grew very quickly into an adult.  These stories were largely not done very well. They are intriguing, but usually the writers don't do a very good job of meshing romance with the supernatural or sci-fi.  Still, they get props for trying to do things that are unusual.

General Hospital had a spin-off called Port Charles. It started out as a fairly normal soap, but after a while, they added vampires, witches, angels, werewolves, time travel, andCaleb of Port Charles other weird things. I enjoyed it, as did many others. In fact, though, the soap was already dying, and this did not do much to save it, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it was still not the best writing. There were many inconsistencies that viewers had to put up with.  Secondly, ABC was having problems with their affiliate stations, so many of the stations showed Port Charles at odd times that led to bad ratings.  Thirdly, many soap opera viewers do not like supernatural stories. If Port Charles had better writing, it still might have suffered in the ratings, due to the other problems.

The man who was responsible for many of the weird things on Days of Our Lives in the 90's, Jim Reilly, created another soap called Passions. Passions was sort of a bad spoof of Dark Shadows.  It had many normal soap opera elements, but it also had witches, living dolls, demons, and other supernatural elements. It didn't take itself seriously, though, unlike Port Charles or Dark Shadows. In many ways, it was a very bad show. It never really lived up to its potential for being either a good comedy nor a good supernatural soap.

By and large, most daytime soaps are about fairly realistic stories, aside from the occasional story about psychics or ghosts.

Vampires and werewolves are all over the movie and TV screens right now.  Some of them are very romantic and are more like soap operas than straight-out sci-fi/fantasy (like, say, Supernatural on The CW).  Another CW show, "Vampire Diaries", is a supernatural soap opera.  Like "Twilight" and "True Blood", it is based on a series of books.  Unlike most daytime soap operas, it is very well written.  It is written by the same guy who did "Dawson's Creek" (the brilliant Kevin Williamson), which was another good primetime soap opera.

This is another good example of how primetime soaps are better than daytime ones. If daytime soaps want to survive cancellation, they need to up the ante and improve their writing, as I've said in previous articles. Vampire Diaries is a very good example of an excellent supernatural and soap opera TV show.  It may be about witches, werewolves, and vampires, but it is also about regular American teenagers and their romances,  and their family troubles.  In fact, one might argue that the romance aspect is way more important than the supernatural aspect. We care way more about whether Elena is doing to choose Damon or Stefan, than we care whether they are going to be biting people.Vampire Diaries

Yet, unlike daytime soaps, the show is not at all boring, nor does it fall back on clichés,  contradictions, boring dialogue, or characters that we don't care about. I might even suggest that every single character on the show, large and small, is interesting, and so the impact is great when one of them gets killed off (which they often do).  Unlike soaps, where we often don't even care about the characters while they are alive, let alone when they are killed off.  The show is unpredictable.  You really don't know what will happen next, and it continuously shocks me. That almost never happens on daytime soaps.

I know it sounds like I am putting down daytime soaps here. I really value daytime soaps, and I hate to see how they are just failing badly. I hate to see them not living up to their full potential. I hate to see all of these great actors wasted on these horrible stories (and then losing their jobs when the soap gets canceled).

If you love soaps, please write to the networks and tell them how much you love them. Tell them they need to get better writers. That is the number one important thing about any TV show, daytime or primetime.

Part One Part Two

Page updated 12/27/11

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