Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Soap Operas and the End of Civilization As We Know It

Soap operas - those continuing stories on afternoon television - may not be around much longer.

It's the end of civilization as we know it: which doesn't bother the Lemming at all.

The Lemming has been watching 'civilization as we know it' collapse (or change, depending on your point of view) for decades, and would be concerned if the process stopped.

Over the last half-century:
  • Poodle skirts gave way to
    • Bell bottoms
    • Business suits
  • Computers - or, rather, the software in computers - forced folks whose chief talent was adding up huge columns of numbers to find new lines of work
  • Doomsayers warned us about:
    • Cyclamates
    • Satanic messages in Mr.Ed's theme song 1
    • Texting
Come to think of it, things haven't really changed all that much. Or, rather, the culture has changed - but people haven't. Not essentially. In the Lemming's opinion.

Here's what got the Lemming started:
"Real Soap Opera: Why America Hates Breaking Up With Erica Kane"
Wynne Parry, LiveScience (April 19, 2011)

"Can't bear to say goodbye to Erica Kane of the long-running daytime soap 'All My Children?"'

"If so, you're not alone. New research suggests dedicated viewers of that drama and 'One Life to Live' - both of which get the ax this year - will feel the anguish, particularly those who have stronger -relationships- with their favorite characters such as Erica Kane (played by AMC's star Susan Lucci for more than 40 years). [Lonely Hearts Find Comfort in TV Characters]

"A survey that measured the effect of the television writers' strike of 2007-08, when many shows went off the air or were replaced by reruns, on college-age viewers may offer some insight into the psychological effects of this latest disruption to TV watchers' routines...."

The LiveScience article probably won't shock and amaze you - particularly if you've got a modest awareness of American culture. It's interesting, though, to see what assumptions about 'those folks who watch the soaps' are (presumably) valid.

Then there's the Hoover exec who pulled ABC advertising. And the (probable) reason he had for pulling out of ABC:
"Facing the loss of its soaps, Hoover pulls advertising from ABC"
Business, Los Angeles Times (April 19, 2011)

"Millions of soap opera fans aren't the only ones who had the rug pulled out from under them.

"Hoover, the vacuum cleaner company, said it was yanking its advertising from Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC after the network's decision last week to sweep two of its three soap operas off its daytime schedule.

" 'My wife and mother are both passionate viewers of "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," as are many of my colleagues here at Hoover,' marketing executive Brian Kirkendall wrote this week on Hoover's Facebook page...."

The article points out that Hoover/Kirkendall's action may be an effective - and low-cost - publicity/marketing gimmick. Hoover's getting more coverage over those ads than they could have bought with a Super Bowl spot. In the Lemming's opinion.

Or maybe it's a Proverbs 25:24 situation.

Moving on.
"All My Children's Denise Vasi reacts to the show being axed"
US & Canada, BBC News (April 19, 2011)

"US television network ABC has axed two of its long running daytime soaps: All My Children and One Life To Live.

"Actress Denise Vasi, who has appeared in All My Children for the past three years, told BBC Radio 5 live she was frustrated by the decision.

" 'ABC's decision was based on business, so it's not personal,' Vasi explained to Rhod Sharp on Up All Night...."

There's a video on the BBC page, in case you're interested.

The Lemming's been told - and is inclined to believe - that soaps offered young actors a sort of 'foot in the door' in television. Sort of like vaudeville, a generation or so earlier.
"'All My Children': Goodbye to a fondly remembered world"
Hal Boedeker, The TV Guy, blog, Orlando Sentinel (April 17, 2011)

"Even though the end of 'All My Children' had been rumored for months, the news that ABC will drop the long-running soap was hard to absorb.

" 'AMC' superstar Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) survived a lot during the soap's run: bad marriages, strange pregnancies, business setbacks, brushes with the law and an encounter with a bear. But she couldn't outrun bad ratings. The bottom line: The epic sagas on decades-spanning soaps don't fit a Twitter world.

"ABC also whacked 'One Life to Live' and Llanview — so much soap history washed away in one day.

"When I think of these soaps, their central divas come to mind first. 'One Life to Live' showcased Erika Slezak, the Meryl Streep of daytime whose virtuosity as Viki brought her six Emmys...."

There's more - which is probably more interesting to a soap fan than to the Lemming.

You won't see a criticism of acting in the soaps in this post. Not that daytime television was necessarily the place to go for the best that television had to offer.

The Lemming remembers watching an actor's eyes scanning a cue card - probably held none-too-steadily just off-camera - while he delivered a set of highly dramatic lines.

Was that an example of bad acting? Incompetent performance? Atrocious memory?

No, in the Lemming's opinion.

Not when you consider that the forgettable lines the young man was declaiming probably hadn't been written yet, the morning of the day that episode was filmed.

It's possible that he hadn't seen those heart-rending words before a stage hand held up that cue card.

For generations, American soaps showed what entertainment professionals can do with a production schedule that demanded five new episodes a week. Under the circumstances, the Lemming thinks folks who made the soaps did a pretty good job.

As for the snobbish 'One never views such things?' Not gonna happen. Decades back, the Lemming enjoyed watching Dark Shadows. Think Kolchak: The Night Stalker meets Little House on the Prairie. Sort of.

Vaguely-related posts:
News and views:

1 You can't make this sort of thing up:

"Satan Taking Mr. Ed Along For The Ride?"
Justin Mitchell, Scripps-Howard News Service, via Chicago Tribune (May 8, 1986)

"Southern Ohio evangelist Jim Brown claims that he and cohort Greg Hudson have discovered that the theme song to the old 'Mr. Ed' television show contains a satanic message when played backward.

" 'A Horse Is a Horse' contains the backward messages 'the source is Satan' and 'someone heard this song for Satan,' Brown claimed recently during a seminar he held for teenagers about rock and country lyrics in Ironton, Ohio...."

That's right up (or down) there with a complaint about the "effete custom of men growing beards," and identifying David, king of Israel, as a "Christian."

The Lemming doesn't assume that all religious folks are a few tacos short of a combination plate, though. More about what the Lemming believes, elsewhere:


Brigid said...

For those who don't bother to follow the link, Proverbs 25:24 is: "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than in a roomy house with a quarrelsome woman."

hehehe My guess is the man who wrote that was married.

Brian Gill said...


You're probably right about that. ;)

I've been blessed with a saint of a wife - and I've given her a great many opportunities to practice saintliness. Which is another topic.

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