I think soaps have long survived for multiple reasons. Everything we love about entertainment media- sensationalism and fantasy -lies within the soap. Part of why the fine arts exist is so we can briefly suspend or exaggerate reality to express or escape from the stressors of daily life. Soaps provide all the juicy, low-down dirty sensationalism we want to gossip about and alter reality in the most radical ways. Incorporating every major movie genre, soap storylines are especially unique and provide a little something for everyone. See one episode about a hallucinatory ghost visiting her grieving mob-boss husband to warn him about an impending attempt on his life by a cooky magician who was once in love with the mob-bosses wife, and you’ve got romance, horror, drama and action all in one hour. In soap opera-land, ANYTHING goes and ANYTHING can happen. The fact that there are endless possibilities for a storyline’s resolution is what keeps people watching and talking. Much like how we all have to see the conclusion to the Harry Potter film franchise (or read the book), we have to know what happens next. Soap-operas are fairy-tales for adults. Where else can you watch someone go from being a doctor, to a bartender, stripper, a priest and finally a life-saving secret agent? Where else can you love a murderous prick?
Finally, the actors. The acting ability of soap opera stars has long been questioned and challenged, and many have a hard time finding work outside of daytime, but it takes more than skill to learn and perform the immense amount of material a popular character has to absorb. Think about it: soaps are on 5 days a week YEAR ROUND with only holidays off. No other scripted television show airs that often. It also takes skill to play your own evil twin. Not many big-shot Hollywood actors can say that they’ve done that. On another note, soaps are generally more respectful to actors. Writers tend to be more forgiving and flexible, forming storylines around pregnancies, illnesses and temporary exits. Plus it’s a consistent gig. You’re not sitting around waiting for the next script or the next phone call from a film exec. Soaps are such a consistent job that you can literally grow up on them. AMC’s Susan Lucci (“Erica Kane”) has been on the drama since its start. 33-year-old Kimberly McCullough (“Robin Scorpio”) started on “GH” at age 7. 20-year-old Kris Alderson, better known as “Starr Manning” from “OLTL,” originated her role at age 6. Say what you want about soap actors, but they’ve worked hard to craft and originate the iconic roles that will last forever in television record and in the memories of the fans that they are often so accessible to (shout out to “Adam Chandler,” “Edward Quartermaine,” “Victoria Davidson” & “Dorian Lord”).
After receiving quite the backlash and protest from fans, ABC has resolved to put “AMC” and “OLTL” online, but kinks, contracts and budgeting are still being worked out. There HAS to be away to reduce production costs besides cancellation. I could deal with seeing my favorite soaps (or as grandma called them, “stories”) only 3 times a week, instead of 0. Network representatives might have to get as creative as the soaps they’re cancelling to come up with a better plan.
*The character of “Erica Kane” is such a salient pop-culture figure, she has her own song. “Erica Kane,” by the late R&B singer Aaliyah, was released posthumously in 2002. You can hear the song in my tribute video below.