Saving Soaps

Mala Bhattacharjee had a very interesting “Soapbox Column” in the July 21, 2009 issue of Soap Opera Weekly. Going off of Guiding Light’s finale she speculates the stories other soaps would tell if they too faced a death sentence. She speculates “Personally, I think we’d see a marked change in the writing – and viewers would actually start seeing the stories that should be told, instead of the-powers-that-be’s grandiose pieces of soap fan fiction.” After running through the stories she’d like them to see, she explains it’s “because at the end of the day, soaps should be about family, about love, about returning to those basic values….And here’s the thing: these are all stories we could see without cancellation actually looming. How about we just pretend soaps are under the gun? Much like Scheherazade staving off her own execution by weaving gorgeous tales, daytime can earn a reprieve by telling fans the stories they actually want to hear.” p. 8

I think that she has a point. Soaps don’t need to find the next big thing, they need to return to their roots, what really makes a soap a soap. They need to have some characters be solid couples and face their problems together. They need to balance the pain and problems with happiness and joy. They need to take advantage of the fact they are on so long to play all the beats of a story, all the connections between people instead of hurrying through. Soaps are still an important part of many people’s lives and even if they are not ever going to be back up to the ratings they experienced when there were only 3 networks to choose from, they fill a true need, and will likely exist in some form for decades to come, even if the mega budgets of the 1980s never come back. In many ways the Internet Soaps of today are much closer in production standards to the short and relatively cheap production values of radio and early TV soaps. Perhaps they are the answer, perhaps the answer is elsewhere, but I think if people look for it they will find one.

In an article called” Bringing Sexy Back” in the Feb. 16, 2010 issue of Soap Opera Digest, TV Guide columnist (and author of some of the best coverage of the GL cancellation) Michael Logan chimed in with a similar thought. “We no longer see those ‘slow-burn’ romances that soaps used to take the time to build up. The shows are so eager to find popular couples that characters get together very quickly, but I think it’s the journey to get them together that’s sexy….In the past, it was a big event when couples actually had sex on-screen because it took so much time for them to get there….It’s not like that anymore because everything plays out so fast. I realize that the pace has changed, but romance novels are still really popular. People still want to see that complete love story played out over time.”

Steve Burton who plays Jason on General Hospital chimed in that soaps need to play out all the beats of their love story. “Sexy is more than being shirtless in love scenes. I think that soaps have gotten away from the romance that’s needed, just the basic story of a man and a woman in love. And that’s what soap operas were in the beginning. I think that if they can find that balance, then they’ve got something again.” p.64

Robansuefarm is the handle of one of Manny and Guiding Light‘s biggest fans following in her family’s footsteps of Guiding Light fandom since 1939. This blog is an effort to make it easy to find Guiding Light and especially Manny online. Check back here for her blog, find fanfic previews and fake WSPR newscasts on her YouTube, find podcasts that look back to old shows and audios of her fanfics on Blog Talk Radio, and finally follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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3 Responses to “Saving Soaps”

  1. natnic Says:

    Yes soaps need to get back to slow burn stories. Mala often makes the point that the reason she always liked the same-sex love stories so much is that the writers were forced (by potential backlash? squeamishness on the part of execs?) to write the stories carefully and build the stories very slowly and gradually. She really has a point. The writers took an entire year to get Olivia and Natalia to say “I love you.” I remember when you could count on it taking two years from the time the characters first met to the time they landed in bed or at the altar.

  2. soapfanccb Says:

    def. agree w/what natnic says above, actually couldn’t agree more!!

  3. glmanny Says:

    Reblogged this on Glmanny's Blog and commented:

    What will it take to save soaps.

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