Why Soaps Are Important and Should Be Saved, PIV: Today Soaps, Tomorrow Other Genres
To both soap fans and non-soap fans alike, the disappearance and devaluing of soaps should be a harbinger of what unwanted phenomena may be to come in television culture and United States culture as a whole. Namely, they may be bad omens of more and more cancelations of scripted television shows across the board. These canceled shows will most likely be replaced with talk shows, Reality TV, lifestyle shows, newsmagazine shows, and extended news hours, as various markets around the country have been experimenting with. For example there is talk that head of ABC Daytime, Ben Sherwood, hopes to extend Good Morning America to 4 hours to fill in time that would have previously been filled by Loving and All My Children. This points to a likely crowding out of other genres of television from the daytime canvas along with that of soaps. News programs are decidedly less costly to produce than soap operas and can offer (literally) cheap thrills to audiences.
I do not mean to say the genres of television shows I mentioned above have no value or place on the airwaves. I simply mean to say we should as a culture desire, encourage, and save as many genres of television as possible, making places for all on the broadcast and cable programming lineups. They all offer worthwhile content.
But if we allow the disappearance of soaps, what shows and genres will make their way to the cancelation chopping block next? Soaps are one of the least-respected, most disparaged, and even highly misunderstood television genres by our culture as a whole, as I have said. Therefore soaps are relatively easy for networks to cancel without much resistance from the general television viewing audience (though not soap fans, as this document and the TTIF website attest to).
This argument reminds us that decisions about programming are driven by, mainstream, hegemonic considerations, such as market forces. When market forces are the determinant of television programming, two undesirable effects occur. First, television becomes a sea of sameness—what sells stays on the airs day and night on all channel choices. Second, in this homogenization of the televisual arts, what marginalized voices, those that cannot pull in huge Nielsen ratings but still need to be heard and would make television in general a richer and more vibrant arena, get further marginalized—or worse, completely silenced? Will there ever be another arena for the classic soap opera as we know it if we as a culture allow them to whiter away? Sadly, the dying of soap operas means also the death of some part within the individuals and niche groups that make up its fans.
And what of other genres of television shows? Will primetime dramas be next? Sitcoms? Fantasy-based shows? These are just a few examples of potential next victims of the overall attack on scripted television. These genres have their own passionate fans who would be distressed and traumatized were their shows to wither away slowly or be quickly swept off television. Hence, these fans should be concerned by the tenuous state of soap operas’ existence and join the fight to save them. This fight is not just for a small group of ardent soap fans, but for all those who enjoy and hold dear scripted television of all sorts.
By Akbi Khan
Edited by Akbi Khan