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The Slippery Slide of TV Soap Operas - only Four Left
There are six dinosaurs walking around your television screen every weekday. They are all sick but two face imminent death. The names of these half dozen superannuated creatures are as follows:
General Hospital: DOB1963
Days of Our Lives: DOB 1965
All My Children: DOB 1970
One Life to Live: DOB 1968
The Young and the restless: DOB 1973
The Bold and the Beautiful: DOB 1987
The doctors, aka network programmers, have said that ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live’ will expire by January 1, 2012. The reason - starvation. These creatures live on food called ratings and their sustenance has been disappearing almost as fast as the buffalo were slaughtered in the 1800s.
In 1970 there were 19 soaps on television and by 2000 the number had dropped to ten.
The all-time queen of the soaps was The Guiding Light which ran for 15 seasons on radio and then another 57 on the tube for a total of 72 years.
During the golden days of radio there were dozens of serial dramas running, The first, and the one that gave the genre its name, was ‘Ma Perkins’. Sponsored by Oxydol, the show began in 1933 and ran for 27 years until 1960. Virginia Payne played ‘Ma’ the entire run of the series.
From 1933 to 1949 ‘Ma’ presided over her family from the studios of NBC. The show was so popular that CBS came on board in 1942 and for seven years the show was carried on both networks at the same time! In ‘49, NBC dropped the program but it stayed on CBS right up until 1960. It never went to television.
In 1957, when the show celebrated 25 years on the air, Time Magazine did the following piece on the real life ‘Ma’, Virginia Payne:
“Like other daytime heroines, Ma neither drinks, smokes, takes snuff or has affairs with men. Unlike Ma, Cincinnati-born Virginia Payne, 47, has never been married, downs an occasional whisky sour and makes up to $50,000 a year—more than any other actress in daytime broadcasting. Her present writer (she has had ten) lived on the Riviera for two years, now counts his money on Cape Cod. A devout Roman Catholic with an M.A. in literature (Universityof Cincinnati), Virginia sheds Ma's vocabulary of "ain'ts," "folks" and "Land o' Goshens" with ease, but insists on making personal appearances in wig, makeup, frumpy clothes and spectacles, "though I often feel like a great imposter." She is an accomplished pianist, lives alone in a posh East Side Manhattan apartment decorated with Duveen-collected oil paintings, accumulates antiques, and grows roses (two varieties have been named for her).”
Ma and her show were inducted into the radio hall of fame in 1988
If you care to listen to radio soap operas, there are hundreds available for free. Just Google the Internet Archives old radio section and you can stream or download as much as you want….for free!
Here’s one episode from ‘Ma’ originally broadcast in 1951.