The Death of the Soap Opera?
“One Life to Live,” after an over forty-year run on ABC-TV, ended last week. That leaves only four traditional daytime soap operas still on the air in 2012. Among the survivors is “General Hospital,” the only one of its ilk that I followed regularly for a time. I discount “Dark Shadows” as I only vaguely remember it when it was on, and mostly watched it in rerun on local Channel 48 and SyFy when it was just starting out.
The award-winning “One Life to Live” was part of the ABC daytime soap opera programming shared universe of Agnes Nixon, of which “General Hospital” is currently the only survivor. “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless” on CBS and “Days of our Lives” on NBC are the other three. On a sidenote, I gotta ask – am I the only one who thought “The Doctors” was still the soap opera of the same name? Weird. “OLTL” had some highlights in its run, Emmys aplenty, groundbreaking storylines dealing with rape and drugs, and even some time traveling a la “Dark Shadows,” exciting stuff.
“One Life to Live” also actually had some fun with its last days. Residents of the fictional city of Llanview watched on their sets the final episode of an equally fictional TV soap created by Agnes Nixon, who was interviewed. Angels abounded, played by cast members whose characters who had died. There’s even a cliffhanger, and a broken fourth wall, good stuff. But now it’s over, with some characters moving on to “General Hospital,” and the time slot filled by “The Revolution,” another boring health and lifestyle show.
Anyway it seems the soap opera is dead as a television genre, but is it? It may be well on its way out as a genre unto itself, but let’s face it, everything is soap opera now. I have always said that soap opera is at the core of comic books (any serial fiction really) and that as wrestling is the bastard stepchild of comics, soap opera and comics are the bastard stepchildren of mythology – but that’s another story.
Soap opera as storytelling is everywhere, and I’m not just talking about prime time dramas either. The concept of main story with several subplots underlying that soon become the new main story in an unending cycle is how television works now. There’s no more status quo, where the whole world resets when the credits of a given TV show roll. The characters evolve and change as time goes by.
That’s soap opera, and even if the TV series we normally think of when we think of the term are gone, soap opera still lives, in every other television series.