Sunday, January 6, 2008

Are The Soaps Losing Their Lather?

I’ve been an off and on soap-watcher since the late 1960s. My seventh grade teacher, who was lucky enough to have control of the only TV in school – used to turn on General Hospital while we waited for the school buses to arrive. So I got hooked on Doctor and Audrey Hardy, and Jesse Brewer and their complicated lives at a very young age. When summer vacation began that year, I kept watching GH when I could. Somewhere near that time when One Life to Live premiered, I started watching that too, much to my mother’s dismay.

After getting out of high school and starting a job the very next week, it was many years before I could go back to watching the soaps. I think when VCRs came out, and it made it so easy to catch up, I discovered the soaps again. Of course, I also got my husband hooked. We would share in the humor of bad acting and horrible, unbelievable story lines. But, we still tried to catch them for a few minutes each day, even if it meant fast forwarding through 75% of the show.

Over the last several years, though, the quality of the soaps has gone from bad to worse. It was bad enough that years ago, many soaps changed from 30 minute shows to one hour shows. All that meant was stretching and elongating bad stories. But now, the story lines are sometimes stretched out over months, with even more amateurish acting and uninteresting characters.

Case in point: General Hospital. Or shall I call it “Criminals in Port Charles.” The show centers far too much on the criminal element, AKA Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard), the wooden Jason Morgan (Steve Burton), Sonny’s annoying ex-wife Carly (currently played by Laura Wright ), their bratty children, and various associates. Then of course, Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) disappears for months on end, and then forces himself on the viewers in heavy doses, in vacant story lines, when he graces everyone with his return. In the past year or so, GH seemed to try to actually center some stories around hospital people and events, but again, the stories and the characters were unappealing.

Another case in point: One Life to Live. Once the most interesting of the bunch, it now seemingly has nothing really interesting going on, or a story gets dragged on to the point of boredom. Right now, I think Marcie (Kathy Brier) is trying to keep Tommy, her adopted son, away from Todd, his biological father. The story brought her to Paris Texas, also strangely the same place where Vicki Lord Reilly Buchanan Davidson (Erika Slezak) is living out a secret life as a waitress. OK, I feel for Erika. She’s had the best stories of OLTL all her career, but since they now gave the role of designated “Dissociative Identity Disorder” to her on-screen daughter Jessica (who I refer to as “Messica” because her life was a mess), there may not be much more Erika can do that’s a challenge. But this story line seems to be going on FOREVER, with no real movement. Add in a few characters who really can’t act, examples: Melissa Archer, who plays the wardrobe-challenged Natalie, and Michael Easton (John McBain), who only has one dead-pan look on his face and always appears in need of a shower. What you end up with is 60 minutes of fighting off an afternoon nap.

At face value, it doesn’t seem like the soaps are that bad. But when one considers that the soaps used to be the one place for controversial stories on television, or for stories that you wanted to talk about with others, it’s clear how they have fallen. There are frequent reports on how the soaps have continued to lose viewership year after year. Part of it is probably due to the volume of choices a viewer has, but a big part is that the soaps are no longer the place to see a story that pulls you in and makes you interested in the characters, the stories, the issues, and the actors themselves. I find I don’t watch the soaps much any more, usually only checking out the first 5 minutes to see if the story will grab me. Most days, they don’t.

Recent events with the writers strike have raised questions that if the soaps go off the air for a while due to lack of writers, they may never come back. And you know what? Here’s one person that won’t miss them.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information,

No comments: