This week, ABC made major headlines with the announcement of the cancellation of 2 of its longest running daytime soaps - "All My Children" and "One Life to Live". ABC's not the first of the networks to shed its daytime line-up of the decades-old soap opera. In the past few years, NBC has taken the knife to its daytime dramatic series, and CBS has cancelled both "Guiding Light" and "As the World Turns." Now, instead of "love in the afternoon", daytime viewers can choose from roundtable current events gab-fests fronted by minor celebrities, pseudo-health information talk shows where one can see moles removed (and, yes, that DID happen), or cooking shows. Well, as a lover of the daytime soap opera I say ENOUGH!!
As my tone might suggest, I am a longtime fan of the soap opera, having spent my childhood watching the antics of Kay Chancellor and Alan Spaulding (from CBS' "Young and the Restless" and "Guiding Light" respectively) with my Grandmother. Grandma would always talk about her "shows", as she called them, and every week day, from 12:30pm until 4:00pm, the TV in the family room belonged to Grandma. During her "shows", she didn't answer the telephone, and you dared not speak to her. She'd knit or crochet during her shows, and over the years, her output of hats, scarves, and blankets was phenomenal, a testament to her many hours spent watching the misadventures of the citizens of the mythical towns of Genoa City, Oakdale, and Springfield.
By the time I got to college, my life revolved around the real-world drama of campus life, and I didn't have time for the make-believe world of soap operas. But it would be my Grandma who would bring me back to soap operas. Grandma was sick and not getting better. When she ultimately succumbed, it was the soap operas that started to bring me out of my haze of grief. I remembered our happy memories, watching our "shows", and I'd smile and I'd laugh.
I know that the clock is ticking on my "shows", and that someday soon, CBS will lower the boom on its last two soaps. So for now, I'll revel in the implausible story lines, the over-wrought acting, and the seemingly ageless stars who portray these forever broken characters. I'll delight in the baby switches, the evil twin plots, the disembodied announcer's voiceover telling the viewer the name of the new actor now portraying your favorite character. I'll jump for joy over the bed hopping, secret trysts, and convoluted family trees. You see, theirs is a make-believe world, the "Barnum and Bailey world" sung about in old standards, and, as every child knows, it's fun to play make-believe. Never in my childhood did I fear that a baddie like the fictional Victor Newman would cross from the picture tube and into my living room in "The Purple Rose of Cairo" fashion. But, I tell you this, I'm more fearful of the armies of NeNe's and other wannabes modeling themselves on the badly-behaved stars of reality TV. I'm just saying:)