Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daytime Soap Operas— No Life Support

We knew it was far too "fantasy-like" to be true. Some new company with bold vision and a bright red cape saving "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" and airing them both on the web. All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate learned 3 to 4 months ago that Prospect Park began to feel the "sting" of budget demands and that their web plans were beginning to wane. Talks with SAG and AFTRA weren't going exactly as planned and ABC Daytime and the Evil Dr. Brian Frons was happily planning his "I'd Rather Kill Myself Than Watch This Crap" show line-up to replace the soap operas he didn't really care for as he never bothered to promote them.

Five months ago, independent production firm Prospect Park acquired the rights to the two long-running ABC melodramas with the hopes of turning them into widely watched web series. But on Wednesday, the company announced that it was abandoning its efforts after failing to make financially viable deals with brand-name online distributors, such as Hulu or Google, and after failing to get cost-cutting concessions from Hollywood's powerful talent guilds. The company had hoped the unions would accept lower wages for their members, as the shows were moving from TV to the Internet. But the two sides could not come to terms, Prospect Park said. Advertisers also were skeptical that enough viewers, particularly the ALWAYS loyal over-50 crowd, would watch online. Really?

So why the smoke and mirrors? Why manipulate a rather large audience into believing they sincerely would have the "option" to watch their beloved shows online? And why not just announce the inevitable fate/demise of "General Hospital"... and pull the Band-Aid off quickly? In case you haven't been paying close attention... all of the afternoon slots have been filled on ABC, including the "General Hospital" time slot. If you check out the morning slots, they too are filled. So when and where is "General Hospital" going to air? Good question. We sadly believe that GH will also be cancelled. This leaves 3 soap operas... "The Young and The Restless", "The Bold and The Beautiful" and "Days of Our Lives". If "The Young and The Restless" is cancelled... "The Bold and The Beautiful" will also be cancelled. As for "Days of Our Lives", well, I wouldn't give it more than a 15% shot of making it through another year... and I'm being generous. If these 3 remain, it will be nothing short of a miracle. But changes HAVE TO be made.

So who is REALLY responsible for this massive slaughter of a genre that once stood tall and proud and boasted guest stars like Elizabeth Taylor? Truth? They [the soap operas] NEVER EVER made a natural evolution/transition into the decades which followed the 80's. Producers were fired. But then they were simply re-hired by another soap. It was exactly the same with all of the writers. A group of writers would find themselves jobless on Friday... only to find themselves in another soap opera studio on Monday. Daytime Soap Operas became the most INCESTUOUS group of Producers, Directors, Writers and Editors EVER to remain on television.

What does all of this translate into? God-awful OVER-recycled writing, bad production and two decades of musical chairs with the exact same people running the shows. Okay, how many people have you known to fake a pregnancy and actually get away with it? With the amount of technology that we now have that storyline made us all cringe. Why did it continue to take 6 to 12 months to get to the meat of any story? And think about the rest of the stories. Oh Dear God... they were so unbelievably absurd that at some point I found myself wondering how any of these fictional people made it as far as they did without being killed or swindled much sooner. And we all KNOW the soap opera rules: No body, possibly still alive. Girl loses guy, girl becomes psychotic, either attempts to kill someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol... or heads for a mental hospital in another town. Rich men never go to jail no matter how many federal or state laws they break. There is ALWAYS an abandoned cabin for a couple on the run and it's always furnished and filled with food. The list of absurdities just goes on and on... and on... I'm 900% certain that each of you has a Soap Opera plot device that irritates you beyond understanding.

The audience literally became far too advanced for this stuff. Yes romance is wonderful, but at what cost? Most of the people I know aren't willing to allow their intelligence to be destroyed, stepped on and insulted. Sure, a lot of the stuff I mentioned used to be fun to watch, but then... it got old. It never stopped. Most of the writers kept right on pulling out the old stand-bys. Can you imagine what it would be like if film actors used the exact same methods of acting as they did in the early 40's and 50's? It might be really really funny at first... but then we'd all start asking ourselves, "Why are they talking like that?"... "Make them stop!"

Anyway, as we all know, the "Guiding Light" Otalia storyline [played to perfection by Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia] came to a grinding halt when the "suits" at P&G decided that two women should not be given a love scene or be able to display affection in the same manner as heterosexual couples have for years. What was even more interesting was that the two characters were not necessarily "gay" as much as they were perhaps bisexual or just two people of the same sex who fell in love. No matter how it was defined by the writers, the actresses or the viewers, the story was never given the proper ending causing fans all over the world to be outraged. And rightfully so as the story itself became a worldwide phenomenon. WHY? Because it was DIFFERENT! It wasn't the same old stories simply being recycled. It was original.

But you see, originality was and still is frowned upon by the producers, directors and writers who have had to either slip into a coma or die to be replaced. You see, this doesn't happen on Prime-Time Network Television [although the shows are becoming cloned every season... how many CSI cities are there now?]. This also doesn't happen in films, at least not the films that are worth watching and thankfully enough... there are still some left.

Also, why oh why was their never ever enough sexual, cultural, religious, ethnic and racial diversity? Soap Operas RARELY took risks with anyone who could have stepped up and gave us all lessons in embracing diversity. Sure there were moments, here and there... but 80% to 90% of the time these stories were backdrops for the stories we'd been watching over and over again to the point of nausea. Otalia was thrust into the forefront/spotlight because of the actresses and the writers who weren't afraid to take risks. But then, who would be afraid to take a risk knowing cancellation was bearing down upon them? And if you are going to be cancelled anyway, take it ALL THE WAY! Why stop it with words and caresses? Why not go for it? What did they have to lose? THEY WERE CANCELLED! Who would they have hurt? No... they were all too afraid that God watching, waiting to dole out stock hits to the old guys. What a rip-off.

And what was the "OFFICIAL" word on the deal that could have brought a few soaps to the web? The bull shit statement that was filled with nothing more than a gargantuan PR cover up. These people never cared. The fans cared, but corporate suits? Oh please... they were all looking for a quick bargain with no flavor. Here it comes: "We always knew it would be an uphill battle to create something historical, and unfortunately we couldn't ultimately secure the backing and clear all the hurdles in time," Prospect Park partners Rich Frank and Jeffrey Kwatinetz said in a statement. "We believe we exhausted all reasonable options apparent to us, but despite enormous personal, as well as financial cost to ourselves, we failed to find a solution."

The move was another gut-punch for soap opera fans who have been in mourning since ABC announced earlier this year that it was canceling the two soaps due to financial pressures. The two programs, created by the doyenne of the genre, Agnes Nixon, had been on the air for more than 40 years each. "All My Children" made a household name out of Susan Lucci. "One Life to Live" helped launch the careers for Tommy Lee Jones, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Cross. Daytime drama viewers were hopeful that Prospect Park would transform the fading TV genre into a thriving niche on the Internet. Soap-opera fans aren't the only ones disheartened by Prospect Park's decision not to revive "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" online. The Writers Guild of America, West is expressing its dismay too. "We were disappointed to learn that Prospect Park's financing fell through," the WGAW said in a statement provided to TheWrap. "Prior to the end of last week, we were close to a fair deal for the writers."

Fair deal? For writers who have been penning the same tired, crappy storylines for the past two decades? Okay, not ALL of the writers were bad... but they refused to swing the bat and hit it all out of the park. As a creative person, you have to be willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of the art. If you can't... I'm sorry but the word "hack" comes to mind. Where were the Asian storylines? Where were the cultural explorations? What about the LGBT storylines, with full blown love scenes? I'm Italian and Lebanese and have "yet" to see a soap opera go there. Diversity. It is a word that we MUST fight for a word we MUST embrace and hold... or we are all part of a hypocrisy that will continue to destroy the entertainment we love. My heart goes out to all soap opera fans. You were cheated, lied to and taken for granted. Oh and Brian Frons... this guy is still whistling Disney tunes. I would tell all of you to keep on fighting if I believed it would make a difference.... sadly, I don't feel that it would.

I don't have a clear cut answer for you. But I do know this: that the web is destroying the "control" the networks and studios used to have on its viewers... and that my friends... is a GREAT thing!

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