Ratings Killed My Soaps

Or lack of it. There’s no denying that, over the last decade, ratings for soaps have dwindled considerably. And now, the end for two of my favorite shows is on the horizon. Yes, it is a bleak time for all soap fans. The end of an era.

Which is why I need a Plan B.  You may recall that last fall, I wrote a post (see My Life in Soaps) about where I want to live when I retire: Llanview, USA.  I thought it would be fun to spend my golden years living in a soap. Not just any soap, but my soap du jour, One Life to Live. After all, the people there are like old friends.

Well, no can do. ABC Television has pulled the rug from under me, thanks to their decision to pull the plug on One Life and All My Children.  How can this be, you ask?  I have been asking this myself over and over.  I’m miserable, verklempt, trying to make sense of all this, while feeling a terrible, aching sadness.

Here’s why I like soaps so much:

Soaps have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Over the years, these shows have seen me through good times and bad. I started watching when I was a freshman in college and discovered that, for many of my classmates, the place to be, weekdays at 1:00 pm, was glued to the tube watching AMC and One Life.  In fact, so many of them planned their course schedule around these soaps (Remember, no DVR’s back then!) that I think the university decided to play it safe and not schedule classes during the midday.  Come 1:00 p.m., you could find at least 20 of us squished into one dorm room—the only one on the floor with a TV—passionately watching the travails of the Martins and the Tyler’s, the Buchanan’s and the Lord’s. In no time, I was addicted, and I’ve been getting my fix ever since.

Soaps bring people together:  Way before we had the internet, Twitter and Facebook, soaps were a common ground.  Total strangers could come together and dish about the characters in the show as if they were talking about the people they knew. “Did you see what Erica just did?”  “How did Todd land in jail again?”  “Don’t tell me Asa is at it again!”

Susan Lucci plays Erica Kane, the infamous vixen on All My Children.

Soaps can be a special bonding time for mothers and daughters.  My daughter, Sarah, whose middle name was borrowed from a character on All My Children, discovered the world of soaps one day when she was nine and home from school with a cold. Up until then, I hadn’t let her watch the shows, but the storyline that week was coming to a head, and I just had to tune in. After a few scenes, Sarah looked at me and said, “Isn’t anyone ever happy on this show?” Nope, because if they were, it wouldn’t be for long and it certainly wouldn’t be a soap. And just like that, my daughter was hooked.

Soaps tackle social issues to teach invaluable lessons:  Recently, One Life has had a storyline about bullying. It’s been heart-wrenching to watch, but so timely in light of the culture of bullying that has been prevalent throughout the country. Other issues soaps have covered: addiction, domestic violence, homelessness and racial prejudice.

Many actors launched their careers on soaps:  Amanda Seyfried, Courteney Cox, Alec Baldwin, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Meg Ryan, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, James Earl Jones, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Marg Helgenberger and Susan Sarandon.  The list goes on.

Stars are soap fans, too:  Many celebrities who are fans themselves have vied for a cameo on a soap, including, Carol Burnett, Snoop Dogg, Betty White, James Franco and Oprah. Heck, even Warren Buffett has had his 15 minutes of fame on a soap.

Even in its demise, soaps bring people together.  One Lifes Facebook page has more than 11,000 comments from people bemoaning the cancellations.  Soap operas have the most loyal and devoted fan base of any television genre, which makes this the worst decision in the history of television, if you ask me.

ABC has promised to “conclude each series in a manner that respects their legacies and the longstanding hopes of many of their viewers.”  Well, I for one will keep watching until the bitter end.  And on the day of the last episode, don’t look for me.  I’ll be in seclusion, wearing my black armband, and holding back my tears.

So long One Life! Fare thee well, All My Children! Your fans will never forget you.