SoapSuds and Other Afterthoughts
Soaps: Survival of Pedigree
by, 01-22-2009 at 12:53 PM (2801 Views)
I am firmly convinced that the reason all soaps struggle these days is because of a fundamental change in writing and cast turnover. Once upon a time - these "stories" were investments in characters, families and - like neighbors we loved - issues everyone cared about.
If it took two years to find out who someone's biological father was so that the groundwork could be laid to introduce a family, social issue, or tie in the rest of the story canvas - we watched faithfully for two years. If we didn't watch, we asked someone who did or listened on the radio. In today's technology, that's the equivalent of watching online or reading the daily recaps.
Unfortunately, the time is no longer taken in daytime television to build a story arc of any substance. Take nighttime television with resounding success (Friends, 24, Gilmore Girls, CSI, ER, Prison Break, or Will and Grace). Regardless of the network, they have a commonality that can't be overlooked. The writers stay true to the characters, develop a story arc over a season or several seasons and invest the viewers emotionally in the characters.
Daytime was the model for this. Was being the operative term. Now, daytime insults the faithful by twising the past and characters they have built to suit a current storyline "trial". If the trial fails, they twist everything again in another direction trying to hook new viewers, sustain ratings, or please investors. With every twist they lose the faith of the viewers and ratings fall - you would think the trend would stop, but instead it continues in desperation.
Families are never portrayed and whole and happy, any character is up for destruction, and stories come and go so fast - the details are usually lost in the shuffle which leads to sloppy dialogue and illogical character behavior.
So how does the daytime soap opera survive? By embracing the idea that just because it was the old way, doesn't make it wrong. Go back and watch your roots, writers - take notes. Become faithful fans like your viewers and preserve what little integrity is left.
A starting point would be to take all the old episodes and start releasing them as box sets. Entice viewers back to your scenery with visions of the amazing towns, people and relationships you used to portray. Perhaps by the time they get to the current storyline, you will have rediscovered the love for writing a true story - and not a current comic strip.