The soap opera landscape continues to be a challenging, inhospitable one. ABC has cancelled One Life to Live and All My Children today. I’ve never watched either of those shows (actually, no other soaps), but no matter how you slice it, this is NOT good news for The Young and The Restless.
Periodically, tv seems to go through paradigm shifts. Back in the early 70s, CBS made a conscious decision to shift away from its popular “rural” type shows like Andy Griffith, Beverly Hillbillies, and the like. They did so largely because the US was becoming more urban and they wanted to attract more urban-type viewers going forward. Being the monkey-see, monkey-do business that it is, other networks followed suit. You see it all the time, in the late 70s with crime/mystery shows, in the 80s with the resurgence of the sitcom, and now with reality shows. Reality shows have the added feature of being relatively cheap to produce. Why pay stars hundreds of thousands per episode when you can get somebody who just wants to be on tv for free?
The fact that the replacements for OLTL and AMC are reality shows is telling. Even more troubling is the fact that instead of watching soaps with their mom like I did, kids today are more likely watching reality shows or judge shows. Nothing lasts forever, but I just can’t see Y & R being on when my 4 year old and 2 year old sons are teenagers.
Aside from a fight for survival in a world that is trying its best to render soaps obsolete, Y & R has another problem that they may actually consider a good problem. There is a lot of daytime talent available right now just from As the World Turns’ cancellation. That pool will only increase. That’s not good for the performers….if they took a hardline with Eric Braeden last year, no one is untouchable. When they know the cast has fewer options, they can tell them to take or leave whatever offer. Many will take it, some will leave it. I think we’re in for an era of acrimonious contract negotiations. This will inevitably affect the show, as we’re likely to see more “plastic surgery” and evil twin storylines. My fear is that the Y & R I grew up with will cease to be, even if it’s still on. To wit, I’d argue that it’s happened already. Y & R was always one of the more realistic/plausible soaps. Lately, it’s been somewhat farcical.
Also, as sports and wrestling have shown us, assembling an all-star roster doesn’t mean success. When WWE bought the bankrupt WCW in 2001, there were celebrations as dream matches would now occur. I would argue that the demise of WCW has brought down WWE, as the lack of true competition has made WWE less likely to take the risks that brought them massive popularity around the turn of the century. In addition, the roster suffered, as it became very top-heavy and crucial role players were often left out of the only show in town. Those crucial role players were the guys who morphed from lower-card acts to mid-card to main eventers. Instead, guys are now rushed to the top before they’ve really had an opportunity to connect with the crowd. If the same thing happens in soaps, we’re in trouble.
This post is pure speculation, so don’t take it as gospel. What are your thoughts on the matter?