Due to the huge decline of each and every soap opera on television today, daytime dramas may become non-existent in the near future. For all of those who have watched their favorite soap operas for years, this could be a very traumatic hit to your daytime viewing habits.
For decades, anyone who stayed at home during the day watched at least one or two soap operas. People would make time, anywhere from one to three hours, to escape reality by stepping into the fictional towns of Pine Valley, Port Charles, Salem, Llanview or any of the other cities where our favorite fictional characters lived. While many assumed that soap operas were only watched by middle-aged women, that is simply not true. Men, teen-agers and even young children would end up getting hooked just by watching for one or two days.
Some children were named after a favorite character on a soap opera. Men snuck peeks at the television screen, trying to pretend they weren’t watching or taking their lunch break at a certain time in order to view their favorite soap operas. Teen-agers and young adults would gather around the television in the community breakrooms at campuses all over the country to watch a long awaited storyline. One of the most well known examples of this occurred when Luke Spencer married Laura Weber Baldwin on “General Hospital”.
However, that was in the past. Times have changed and with it, viewer’s tastes as well. Instead of watching soap operas, more and more people are turning to Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos and Judge Judy. Even the most popular daytime dramas like All My Children, General Hospital, The Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives have been affected. Their ratings in 1998 were between 7.9 to 4.2. In 2008, these ratings decline to between 4.9 and 2.5 respectively.
During this time of economic crises, the various soap operas are aggressively trying to manage their costs while keeping their shows on the air. No longer are there visits to tropical destinations to film certain storylines. Budget costs will not allow for that type of dazzling backdrop any longer. Now soap operas are changing these locations to places like Peapack, New Jersey. The actors change their costumes inside of cars and do their make-up in front of the rear view mirror instead of sitting in trailers surrounded by professional make-up artists.
Many soap operas are trying to minimize costs by asking their top paid stars to take pay cuts in their salaries. Taking a hint from President elect Barack Obama, the big wigs at the studios are downsizing the salaries of their veteran stars (who make between $7,000 and $10,000 a show) while leaving the newbies’ salaries of $1,000 per show alone. So far, all of the big name stars like Susan Lucci (Erica Kane), Tony Geary (Luke Spencer), Maurice Bernard (Sonny Corinthos), Jeanne Cooper (Kay Chancellor) and Kim Zimmer (Reva Shane Lewis) have agreed to go along with the pay cuts instead of quitting. This seems to be the best option, since if they refused, their shows would face cancellation and they would be out of a job anyway.
Days of Our Lives took this one step further. They not only asked their top stars to take pay cuts but they “laid off” Deirdre Hall (Marlena Evans) and Drake Hogestyn (John Black) as well. By doing this, the big wigs were rewarded with an 18 month extension on their contract with NBC, whose only remaining soap opera is Days of Our Lives. These two characters have been on the show for a combined 54 years. It’s a shame that the show felt it needed to sacrifice two characters who have given so much of their time and talent to making the show a success. Will their gamble work out or will viewers be upset by the loss of two major characters, get fed up and quit watching?
While most of the writers, producers, directors and big-wigs of the shows are remaining optimistic, the future is not very bright for these daytime dramas. Even though All My Children has seen a rise in the viewership due to the recent massive tornado storyline, As The World Turns has climbed up in the Nielsen ratings due to the romance of gay teen-agers Noah and Luke and The Young and The Restless made a huge leap due to the presumed death of Kay Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper), all of the other soap operas are still sliding down the hill. Sure, the soap operas are still playing to approximately 24 million viewers a day, not including the viewers who tune into SoapNet at night, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.
If things keep going as they have been, the era of daytime soap operas will soon come to an end, leaving us with many memories (both good and bad) and lots of unfinished story lines.