Sweeney Todd was the Demon Barber of Fleet Street who butchered his clients. Anne Sweeney was the soap opera butcher of Disney/ABC who not only butchered ABC’s longstanding daytime lineup, but stabbed millions of ABC fans in the back . On March 14, 2011, she and her henchman, Brian Frons, orchestrated and oversaw the startling cancellation of “All My Children” (AMC) and “One Life to Live (OLTL),” soap operas that had been in ABC’s daytime lineup for decades. But Sweeney did not act alone. A whole host of bottom-line-obsessed, shortsighted executives in their corner offices with sprawling views of LA, such as Brian Frons, as mentioned, and Bob Iger, head of Disney/ABC decided to place AMC and OLTL on the chopping block and hack them off the ABC daytime lineup.
In the March 25th issue of the New York Times, author Delia Ephron wrote a piece as an uber-fan of The Good Wife in response to the events of its latest episode that left fans stunned and bewildered. In the subtitle of the article, she writes, “A great show like “The Good Wife” isn’t just something you watch. There is ritual, expectations built up over years. Love.” And of what took place on the show this past week she writes that it, “…dashed my dreams and broke my heart.” As a soap fan, I feel her pain. That last sentence brought a lump to my throat. I felt the same way when, on “General Hospital (GH),” Bobby sees Felicia in the hospital and with just one look at Bobby, Felicia realizes it was Bobby’s daughter, BJ’s, heart that saved Felicia’s daughter Maxie from certain death. Felicia collapses in guttural, choking tears as Bobby runs to catch and comfort her. What soap fan doesn’t have at least one memory like that? And is it any wonder that feeling people of all backgrounds would form attachments to characters who live through such traumas, but also ecstatic highs, fear-filled suspense, and wild adventure? These are our families and our friends for whom we feel, as Ephron noted, love. Over years and years, our lives and hearts include them in their daily functioning.
Given this attachment and devotion that forms to and for soap operas in particular, what happened after Sweeney, Frons, and others committed their daytime massacre, should surprise no one. The fan backlash began.
Protests, boycotts, petitions all demanded that Disney/ABC reverse their misguided, to say the least, decision to cancel AMC and OLTL (along with the decisions to replace them with the worst kind of cultural dreck: “reality-based programming”). We vowed to make them hurt where a corporation feels the most pain—the bank. And we have. ABC/Disney has been hemorrhaging millions of dollars since soap fans organized boycotts of its television stations, theme parks, movies, and merchandise.
The production company Prospect Park showed us a glimmer of hope (and the respect we deserve) when it leased the rights to both AMC and OLTL from Disney/ABC and began producing and showing them online. Even this glimmer of hope may not have been what it seemed. The executives at the helm of Prospect Park (named for the Hollywood neighborhood has studios) had been affiliated with Disney/ABC. Some fans have proposed that the leasing of rights by Disney/ABC to Prospect Park may have been simply a way to placate fans and end the boycotts of Disney/ABC and their advertisers.
Disney/ABC also owns shares of Hulu, one of the platforms the online versions of AMC and OLTL were shown on
Anyway, because of a pending lawsuit with—you guessed it—Disney/ABC, the Prospect Park-produced online versions of those shows are on indefinite hiatus. Meanwhile the shows that replaced AMC and OLTL, “The Chew,” “The Revolution,” and “Katie,” are all either cancelled or in the ratings doldrums. And now there are murmurings that ABC/Disney wants full legal possession of the rights to AMC and OLTL, now we will be waiting for them to pick them up as they left it when It last air on TV.
Additionally, a replacement for Anne Sweeney has been named, Bob Sherwood. Now, he had not proven himself to be any friend of the soaps during his tenure as head of ABC News, at one point trying to axe “General Hospital” to put “Good Afternoon America” in its place.
But ultimately, THE FANS/VIEWERS/CONSUMERS have the power in this complex situation. Incredible leaders, such as Cole Bell of Boycott ABC 7 across America and Boycott ABC 7 among other SOS groups, have and are doing the hard work for us–we simply need to follow. And show ABC/Disney what we as consumers, their bread and butter, will and won’t stand for. Disney/ABC like any corporation in this capitalistic economy we live in and by, ultimately cares for revenue, which is ultimately provided by us, the FANS/VIEWERS/CONSUMERS. And we have shown and are showing them a simple formula to stanch the revenue-hemorrhaging that even people as thick as Frons and Sweeney should have be able to follow: that they will lose revenue if they don’t bring AMC and OLTL back and they will gain a great deal of it if they do bring them back. I’m not sure how we could spell it out more simply. We fans/viewers/consumers have the power. And we will continue to wield it in the way we see fit and fair—boycotts of Disney/ABC and their advertisers—until AMC, OLTL, and GH are safe in their one-hour lengths on television and SOAPnet is restored, showing all soaps, all the time.
To the fans: look out for a petition to Disney/ABC in a couple of days that will demand all I’ve mentioned above. Info will be available here, on our Facebook page, and on our Twitter account. It will take seconds to sign, but could get us everything we want. We can do this!
To Disney/ABC, and Mr. Sherwood especially: we at letstalkaboutsoaps.com ask you once again to end the bloodshed. Bring back AMC and OLTL to their original time slots, leave GH safe in its current length and time slot, and return SOAPnet to the cable lineup as well, showing only soaps all the time. We will make it worth your trouble. And we will continue to wage a bloody and unpleasant (for everyone) war if you don’t.