Deep Soap: Is Daytime Doomed? Soap Stars Weigh In

Greg Rikaart (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Greg Rikaart (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

It is easy to make the case that the end is near for daytime soap operas.  ‘As The World Turns‘ has been canceled. SoapNet will be gone in a year. The Daytime Emmys have become an infommerical for C-list lounge acts, the ratings continue to decline.  On the other hand, all television ratings are down, particularly in daytime, no matter what the genre is.  Last Sunday night, ABC’s new, decent quality, summer primetime series ‘The Gates‘ and ‘Scoundrels‘ performed worse in the all-important Adult 18-49 demo than ‘General Hospital‘ and ‘The Young & The Restless‘ did last week.  The return of Vanessa Marcil to GH and the guest appearances of several big name celebrities is bringing increased publicity to the genre. There’s the theory that sooner or later, everything comes back into fashion.  So, is daytime doomed or, like the cockroach will it prove indestructible?  How healthy is the industry?  Where will it be in five years? I posed these questions to some of daytime’s biggest names at the Daytime Emmys.

Cameron Mathison (Ryan ‘All My Children‘)
Obviously, things are changing.  But all of television is changing.  I think daytime is rolling with the punches.  We’re doing what we have to do to create our place in this changing entertainment world.  I think we’re doing a really good job of it.  Some shows aren’t making it through the changes.  We never want to see any of that ever happen, but at the same time that may end up strengthening the shows that are still on the air.  I think we’re all finding our way.  We all have to do what we can as a team. It’s actually brought us all closer together.  I think that we’re in a pretty good place.  We’re kind of ducking and weaving and adjusting as the plans change.

Paul Rauch (Executive Producer ‘The Young & The Restless’; former E.P. ‘Santa Barbara’, ‘Guiding Light‘, ‘One Life To Live‘)
For the most part, most shows are struggling.  Just look at the ratings every week.  We’re bucking the trend, though.  We are up in the demos 18-49 and 25-54 over a year before.  Our ratings are either the same or up over the year before.  I’m not talking about that a lot because I like what’s happening and I don’t want to jinx it.

Greg Rikaart (Kevin, ‘The Young & The Restless’)
There are challenges.  I think it’s unfair when daytime singlehandedly gets pointed out as having problems.  I think network television across the board is suffering.  I think it’s unfortunate to see a show go away.  But the reality is, in primetime shows go away all the time. I think the future may bring [fewer but] better quality shows.  I think there will always be a place for the genre.  People enjoy watching it.  I don’t think as many people watch baseball games as they used to but I like watching baseball games because it’s part of my routine.  It’s what I do. No matter what’s one the internet or where else you can get your entertainment there’s something about sitting down in front of the TV and watching your stories.

Read Our Full Daytime Emmys Coverage Here

Eden Riegel (Heather ‘TheYoung & The Restless’ ex-Bianca ‘All My Children’)
I think there’s a reason these shows have been on the air for 40, 50 years. There’s something about them that will continue to appeal to people.  As long as we do what we do best, which is telling stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and family drama, I think soaps will be here for a while.

Beth Chamberlain (Beth, ‘Guiding Light’)
I think I’m probably one of the few people that’s very optimistic about it.  The reason I’m optimistic is because I think in five years there may not be a daytime and primetime line-up.  So I think those shows that have a loyal following will fare very well and soaps are very loyal.  I think it will be a difficult transition period but once we get through the transition period soaps will be in for the long haul.

Michelle Stafford & Christian LeBlanc (Phyllis and Michael ‘The Young & The Restless’)
Stafford: I think it’s fantastic.  I think we’re going to be going strong in five years.
LeBlanc: Our solution to any problem is to get better.
Stafford: Don’t get apathetic.
LeBlanc: We have 100,000 choices now.  You want an audience, you’ve got to be good.  Don’t treat your audience like morons.  Step up your game or get out.

Kelly Menhigen Hensley (Emily ‘As The World Turns’)
I think we need to continue to recreate a [genre] that has gotten a little stale.  I think a lot of really smart people, like the people that are bringing this show to Vegas, need to put a spin on it, but you have to stay true to what daytime is, which is good storytelling.

Carolyn Hennesy (Diane ‘General Hospital’)
I think that we’ve done all the cutting that we’re going to do.  I think the ones that are still here are going to stick around for a while.  I’m sad that we’re losing SoapNet but, to be perfectly honest with you, I think soap operas are today’s version of the Greek tragedy and people are always going to need those stories.  We’re always going to need those morality tales.

Zack Conroy (Oliver ‘The Bold & The Beautiful’, ex-James ‘Guiding Light’)
Honestly, I think that my show [B&B] is different than all the other shows because we are an international show.  The people that watch in the United States are dwarfed by the people around the globe, so it’s kind of hard to compare the two.  Y&R also has a huge international audience.  It could get to the point where there’s so few that the ones that are left get bigger. Who knows?  Right now, the six that we have left, now that ‘As The World Turns’ is leaving, we have a good core group.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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