2010 has not been a great year for daytime soap operas. ‘As The World Turns’ was canceled. Ratings are low. Budgets have been slashed. Viewers are demoralized. It’s a continuation of the issues that have plagued daytime for years. Yet there are still many reasons why I am thankful that I have spent hundreds of hours watching soaps this year. So chow down on your leftover turkey (or pizza, if your last name is Quartermaine), and reflect on these daytime blessings.
Days of Our Lives Renewal
Earlier this month, ‘Days of Our Lives’ got an unexpected 45th anniversary gift. NBC renewed the series for another two years. Back in 2007, NBC president Jeff Zucker infamously proclaimed that the show would end its run at the end of its then current contract in 2009. Executive Producer Ken Corday made some tough decisions, including rehiring controversial headwriter Dena Higley, and firing Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn to accommodate a draconian 40% budget cut. The show’s ratings rose in 2009 and the network renewed it for one year. 2010 was not a stellar year for DOOL or NBC, but nonetheless it was rewarded with a renewal. In uncertain times for the genre, it is encouraging that what has historically been the least soap friendly network has made a commitment to the genre.
James Franco Appears On ‘General Hospital’
James Franco’s ‘General Hospital’ arc as the villainous Franco was one of the weirdest stunts in daytime history. The A-list actor, who is a frontrunner for an Oscar nomination for his role in the movie ‘127 Hours,’ gave a campy performance as a serial killer in a storyline that made little sense. He then wrote a pretentious essay in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming that his GH role was performance art. He came back for another stint and convinced GH to stage a location shoot at the Los Anageles Museum of Contemporary Art that was in itself an art project. He generated a ton of publicity, but no increase in the ratings. He also managed to kill my longstanding crush on him. So why am I thankful? Because he gave me, and every other entertainment journalist, a wealth of material. Truly, he was the gift the kept on giving.
Daytime Veterans Taking On New Roles
This was the year of stunt casting actors with primetime and film backgrounds. The aforementioned Franco was the big name, but Sean Young, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Badalucco, one third of the ‘Brady Bunch’ and Brad Rowe all did daytime stints. But it was the daytime veterans who assumed new roles that impressed viewers. ‘The Young & The Restless’ is enhanced by the presence of Stephen Nichols (‘Days of Our Lives’, ‘General Hospital’) and Maura West (‘As The World Turns’) as Tucker and Diane. Kim Zimmer (who admittedly is reprising a role she briefly played a long time ago) has been an immediate hit on ‘One Life To Live.’ Soap acting is a difficult skill to master. Daytime shows are realizing that experience is a more valuable commodity than mainstream recognition.
ABC’s Continued Commitment To Its Daytime Line-Up
In the past five years, CBS has canceled ‘Guiding Light’ and ‘As The World Turns.’ NBC canceled ‘Passions.’ ABC has kept its daytime line-up intact. Though ABC has made some major changes for budgetary reasons, most notably moving production of ‘All My Children’ to Los Angeles, they have kept all three of their soaps. Though there were rumors that ABC was developing another talk show to replace one of its soaps, it did not happen. When ABC announced that SoapNet would be replaced with a children’s network in 2011, it was a blow. The decision to air reruns periodically throughout the year was another. I assumed that ‘One Life To Live,’ the last remaining New York soap, might be in jeopardy. But OLTL still seems to be going strong. The network earns fans ire on a regular basis due to numerous unpopular storylines, but it is ending 2010 with more hours of soaps per day than any other network.
Nina Is Finally Reunited With Her Son On ‘The Young & The Restless’
When I was a kid, one summer vacation a friend introduced me to Y&R. I was transfixed by the saga of pregnant, teenaged Nina (Tricia Cast). Her baby was stolen by the evil baby broker Rose DeVille (Darlene Conley). I waited for her to be reunited with her child. She never was. Nina grew up, fell in love, had another child, got married, got divorced, got married again, and left Genoa City. I grew up, got my dream job writing for Y&R, got fired, starting blogging. Nina’s missing child always struck me as one of the greatest untold soap stories. Then, this summer, Nina returned to Genoa City and finally was reunited with her now grown son, Ronan (Jeff Branson.) Only in daytime could a story like this play out in real time. No other genre has the luxury of telling – or holding back – a plotline for decades. The payoff was so satisfying because it was decades in the making.
What soaps, storylines, or actors are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments.