The Death Of Daytime: Part One
My babysitter got me into soap operas. She wanted to watch The Edge of Night and I wanted to watch cartoons, and I was very put-out I didn't get my way. At first, I watched very resentfully, thinking this is so lame. Then the episode ended with Geraldine Whitney, who laid in a coma, being visited by her son-in-law, Noelle, I think he was. He was staring down at her as he had a flashback of having pushed her down the stairs. As the show came to its final moments, he picked up a pillow preparing to smother her. After that I was hooked. To this day I still miss The Edge of Night and I still remember some of the great stories they told on that show.
Back then, if you admitted you watched a soap opera, you were belittled and scorned. People thought they were filled with horrible writing and actors who couldn't act. The sad thing back then was soaps had some of the best writing and acting around. Ironically, now soaps have garnered some respect in the industry, they've actually become what everyone thought they were when they were disdained: filled with bad writing and bad actors.
It saddens me to say when there was a time I would stay in on by summer vacation from school to watch my shows, I now barely watch them. I started watching General Hospital to see the wedding of Sonny and Brenda, but it wasn't long after that I turned it back off. It also saddens me to realize there are only six soap opera left on the air, when years ago there used to be twelve to thirteen shows airing every day. And now rumors are running high that ABC may be planning to cancel either All My Children or One Life To Live, which will cut that number down to five.
One of the big problems that has brought daytime soaps to this sad fate is what I call the recycling of hacks. Hacks are behind-the-scenes executive producers and head writers who run one show into the ground to the point they get fired, and then another show hires them in the same position on another show. Where they do the same thing all over again. It's why most of the soaps still on are in such bad shape. The sad fact is most of the executive producers and writers who knew how to write and produce soaps are dead.
General Hospital has suffered under the executive producer-ship of Jill Farren Phelps for more years than I want to remember. The show is just an empty shell of its former self. Before coming to General Hospital the woman spread her magic at sister-soap One Life To Live, where she tried to turn the show into Another World, another soap she was at, which ultimately couldn't recover from the damage she caused and was cancelled. Her favorite mantra is that she's giving viewers what they didn't know they wanted. That's because they don't.
The woman is so arrogant she even bragged in an interview about her nepotistic practices of bringing in pet actors from previous shows she worked on because she needs a comfort zone. Timothy Stickney [who played RJ on OLTL] gave her pet actors the moniker, the Friends Of Jill, and outted a lot of the stuff going on behind the scenes when Ms. Phelps was in charge of OLTL. If you weren't a Friend of Jill, then she didn't treat you too well. She either pushed you off the show, ruined your character or gave you no airtime.
I guess one of her most infamous shenanigans while at OLTL was faxing a pregnant actress who just went on maternity leave to tell her she was fired and she didn't need to come back when her maternity leave was over. In any other industry if this woman pulled stuff like this she would have been fired long ago, but in the daytime industry she keeps her job or she's removed from one job and given another in the same capacity.
If ABC had another soap stationed in California they would have probably moved her on to it and off of General Hospital a long time ago, but since they don't, she continues to hold the position of executive producer there, giving the show absolutely no chance of recovering from the damage that she's inflicted on it. In some cases, the damage she and fellow hack headwriter, Bob Guza have inflicted on the show, can't be repaired.
The only other soaps filmed in California on other networks are: Young and Restless, Bold and Beautiful and Days of our Lives. Y&R and B&B are both controlled by the Bells, so she isn't going to get her butt on that show and Ken Corday isn't going to give up his position to her, either, so there is literally no other soap opera for her to go to to spread her magic. Considering the rumors about OLTL possibly being cancelled, which is the only soap taped in New York, she isn't likely to relocate to New York where the show she's on could be quickly cancelled. That just leaves the unemployment line, but daytime head, Brian Frons [who was daytime head of NBC when Ms. Phelps was executive producer of Santa Barbara until that show got cancelled under her watch] doesn't seem to have any plans to pink slip her. She is apparently a FOB, a Friend of Brian.
Megan McTavish is another infamous recycled hack. The woman has been fired from so many shows as head writer because of her ugly tabloid-style stories it isn't funny, but it isn't long after she's fired before she lands on another show in the exact same position she got fired from. Then her ugly tabloidy stories run that show into the ground, she gets fired, and then another show hires her in the same capacity. And on and on it goes. She's been headwriter on all the remaining ABC soaps, and she was also headwriter on the cancelled soaps: Guiding Light and Another World. Since her last firing she seems to have disappeared from the soap scene. We can all hope for good.
It's just pure insanity what these network execs are doing. Why would anyone with a brain in their head hire someone who was fired for doing a lousy job and suddenly expect them to do a good job? Supposedly, there's just such a small pool of available talent in daytime that's the reason they keep rehiring these people who have no talent for the job. But it's this kind of stupid mentality by the suits in charge of daytime that has caused the genre to be in the sad state that it's currently in. No show can flourish and be good when you got hacks who don't know what the heck they're doing. Who have no understanding of the medium. Who think they're going to remake it into their vision of how it should be. In short, they've taken something that didn't need fixing and broke it and now it can't be fixed.
There was a time if one show got bad, I could switch channels and start watching a show that was good, until my regular soap was good again. Unfortunately, none of the soaps are good anymore. I've watched them since I was in fifth grade and I miss not watching soaps. I've tried to watch them, but what I see disgusts and repels me so much, I just end up shutting them off and watching a movie, instead.
I only mentioned a couple of the more infamous hacks, but all the people working behind the scenes are pretty much hacks, these days. They push their favorite characters down your throat, they write characters in such an ugly manner there's not really anything to even like about them, and they tell ugly stories. None of them seem to understand the soap opera genre and it's a pity, because it was a great industry once.
Right now, I'm at the point where I think they should just cancel them all and show old reruns of the shows from past years when they were good and the people in charge understood the medium and knew what they were doing. I'm curious if you put some classic episodes against the new episodes of a soap to see which would get higher ratings. Something tells me the older shows would beat the newer shows easily. I know if I had a choice between watching a rerun of The Edge of Night and an episode of a current show which show I'd be watching. It wouldn't even be a contest.
I guess I should be grateful the Edge of Night got cancelled when it did. I watched it to the end and never turned it off in disgust the way I've done most of the other soaps that are still on the air. The show didn't lose its identity like most of the current soaps have and its characters weren't hacked to pieces into unrecognizable blobs of goo.
Can daytime soaps be saved before it's too late? Yes, I think they could, but I doubt they will be. It would require getting rid of all the hacks behind the scenes, and that goes all the way up to the suits in charge of daytime programming. Unfortunately, most of the networks don't really care enough to do anything to save the soaps and are happy to just let these hack remain employed while they continued to drive each and everyone of these shows closer and closer to cancellation until they've all gone the way of the dinosaur.