If Reality TV hadn’t been such a big part of the cancellation of soap operas, for reasons discussed below, we at LTAS, along with millions of soap fans might not actively advocate their elimination from the television landscape. We may have just avoided them and enjoyed our scripted serials and their enchanting premises, compelling storylines, and lovable characters. But because network executives have been so attracted to Reality TV’s relatively low production costs and non-professional (hence cheaper to employ and easier to both hire and fire) casts, thereby replacing scripted shows and professional actors with them, we say to TPTB at networks, “Get rid of Reality TV and help usher in a new golden age of scripted television!”
Why, I ask the networks, would you continue to produce crass, mindless Reality TV, all of which is tainted by the base nature of its awful progenitor, the OJ Simpson trial? Yours truly, recently did a Master’s project on soap operas, online activism, and the Save Our Soaps (SOS) movement. In that project, I wrote about the idea that Reality TV got its start from this tragic event. I admit, I was one of tens of millions of viewers around the country who allowed the voyeuristic parts of my mind to get hooked, day after day, on the exposing of the labyrinth of complex, lurid, cringe-worthy, and ultimately depressing people and events that occupied our TV screens during the trial, often interrupting soap operas, for several months in 1995. I even skipped a college class to watch the verdict on a tiny handheld television, gasping and crying when the jury foreperson said, “Not guilty.”
Unfortunately, we didn’t foresee that the huge ratings and almost free production of this train wreck event in U.S. cultural history would show network executives that they didn’t need quality production or fictional stories to reel viewers in. All they needed, showed the OJ Simpson trial, was to produce shows featuring situations catering to the lowest common denominators of human nature: addictive voyeurism (e.g., Living Lohan), the appeal of pornography (e.g., I Love New York), and watching willful and desperate self-humiliation (e.g., America’s Got Talent). If I had known that the OJ Simpson trial was setting the scene for the advent of Reality TV, I would have avoided it like Ebola.
Luckily for soaps, and really for U.S. culture overall, viewers’ better judgment and tastes are winning—reality TV will soon be nothing but a regrettable but inconsequential blip in television history. Ratings for Reality TV are plummeting. Ratings for soaps are skyrocketing!
In 2010 when ABC/Disney announced the murder of All My Children (AMC) and One Life To Live(OLTL), the soap fan community vowed to get justice. We began boycotting Disney/ABC and anything affiliated with it. And now two of the biggest reality-based shows are gone or going: Dancing With the Stars (gone) and American Idol (going). Is it a coincidence that the Dancing With the Stars’ lost 25 million viewers in the last four years and The Bachelor lost 15 million, starting when AMC and OLTL were canceled? We think not.
Cable channels like AMC (American Movie Classics), facing overall falling ratings last year, are turning away from reality-based shows and toward scripted programming. Six cable channels have or are premiering scripted shows this year. “In an environment of exploding content options for viewers, we have decided to make scripted programming our priority,” AMC announced last fall. In another example, E! will next year will be premiering a soap-esque, scripted show, The Royals!
Now that the networks are seeing the light about Reality TV, soaps are primed to make a comeback. Now we soap fans must continue to make our voices heard. We want Dallas back, which we believe will usher in the return of All My Children, One Life to Live, Another World, As the World Turns, and Guiding Light. Dallas fans are some of the most dedicated and loyal out there, which is why we think the movement to resurrect Dallas is the model for all of us to follow.
Listen up, networks! We are acting as your advisers here. Bring soaps back and we will make you glad you did. Do not follow the lead of the ignorant and arrogant (in the words of Susan Lucci), who thinks he can train us to watch whatever sub-par fare he presents us with, like The Chew and The Revolution.
Soap fans, we are powerful. Remember this. Make it known to the networks. We are their bread and butter, and we can make or break them simply by turning our televisions on or off. We took ABC from its rank at the top of viewership to a steady and still-happening decline in ratings after they killed All My Children and One Life to Live. We dubbed Oprah, a long-time supporter and fan of soaps, “Noprah,” when she declined to help us by airing our soaps on her OWN network. A headline in The Globe read, “Oprah Tells Soap Fans to Drop Dead.” OWN’s struggles to attract and keep viewers are well documented in industry publications and in mainstream media. Whichever network will begin the new soap Golden Era by bringing back its canceled soaps and/or a dedicated soap channel will be the leader in viewers and revenue.
Readers, we now want your opinions, in the form of comments below. What do you think about the death of Reality TV and the coming new Golden Age of Soap Operas? Which network do you think will be the smartest and usher in this new era? Can’t wait to hear what you think!
And as always, remember to Stay Soapy!
P.S. LTAS would like to thank Nishadat for her lovely logo. You can contact her via this link if you would like to avail yourself of her design services! https://www.fiverr.com/nishadat