This has been a rotten year for daytime soaps. At the beginning of 2011, there were six daytime dramas on the air, their futures all seemingly secure. Now, there are only four survivors, with “General Hospital’s” future looking increasingly tenuous. Yet almost every day I am reminded of why I love this unique genre. Here are my top five reasons why I am thankful for soaps right now.
Possible New Life For the ABC Soaps
Yes, it’s frustrating and agonizing that, after announcing its acquisition of “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” with great fanfare, production company Prospect Park seems to be pulling back on its plans to bring the shows to the web due to funding issues. It’s aggravating that the company is not communicating with fans the show’s future. But, in my opinion, it’s better than the alternative: outright cancellation. A world where there is a chance that “OLTL” will continue, freed from the constraints of ABC daytime, is better than a world where the show just taped its final episode.
“Days of Our Lives” Reboot – And The Return of Lust in the Afternoon
Two years ago would anyone have predicted that “Days of Our Lives” would not only be on the air but be appointment television? Six months ago, I was ready to give up on the soap. Now, thanks to a reboot that not only refocused the show on core characters and families, but made the bold choice to make the soap smarter, more sophisticated and more realistic, DOOL is suddenly appointment television. Tuesday, I spent the morning looking forward to seeing the fallout from the surprisingly lusty Sami (Alison Sweeney) and E.J. (James Scott) sex scene that aired Monday. I’m posting it here because it is an ideal alternative to all of the Thanksgiving sports programming.
Then, when I tuned in I was treated to two storylines that honored the show’s history without merely repeating it. Will (Chandler Massey), who witnessed his mother’s couch action, lashed out at her, echoing Sami permanently turning against he own mother after witnessing Marlena and John;s adultery back in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Abigail (Kate Mansi) developed a crush on the older Austin (Patrick Muldoon), just as her own mother, Jennifer (Melissa Reeves), fell for Jack (Matthew Ashford) back in the 1980s. Instead of just reuniting old couples, the soap is using its past to inform its future.
The Final Two Months of All My Children
The final two years of “All My Children” were barely watchable. The show made one decision after another that drove away longtime viewers, from having Adam (David Canary) murder his beloved twin brother Stuart to saddling Erica (Susan Lucci) with the most boring man on earth, Caleb (Michael Nouri). It seemed beyond repair until, lo and behold, Lorraine Broderick returned as headwriter, and, in the wake of the show’s cancellation, managed to restore the show to its former glory. It’s frustrating that she was not given a year to turn the show around instead, but we never would have gotten to see Tad (Michael Knight) and Dixie’s (Cady McClain) reunion, Leo’s (Josh Duhamel) all too brief return, the unexpectedly great romance between David (Vincent Irizarry) and Cara (Lindsay Hartley), or Angie (Debi Morgan) forgiving Jesse (Darnell Williams) for the prior regime’s depressing baby swap storyline. The show went out on top, unlike other canceled soaps. I still hold out hope that there will be another miracle and the show will return on the internet in 2012.
“One Life To Live’s” Continued Excellence
It’s been a long time since a soap has had the sustained excellence of “One Life To Live.” We critics have been praising the show’s virtues since 2008 but the rest of the country did not catch on until about ten minutes after the show was canceled, when the return of Roger Howarth in the ingenious Tale of Two Todds brought back droves of lapsed viewers resulting in a sustained ratings increase that proves even in 2011 it is possible for a soap to grow its audience. The show continues to be a delight on a daily basis, giving equal airtime to teens and their grandparents and pulling off constant unexpected twists that can turn what seems like a clunker of a storyline into a delight. Last week the ridiculous Gigi-is-either-back-from-the-dead-o- her-sister -had-cosmetic surgery-to-look-just-like-her plot became ridiculously awesome when her trip to a surgeon’s office led to con artist Cutter (Josh Kelly) running into his mother — Alex Olanov (Tonja Walker). It would be a crime if a show that is firing on all cylinders really ends in January 2012, so one of my Thanksgiving prayers is going to be that Prospect Park finds a real life Asa Buchanan to finance this show’s on-line transition.
Nikki Newman Has Returned To “The Young & the Restless”
This was not a great year for “The Young & the Restless.” America’s number one soap spent the past year focused on stunt casting and interminable murder mysteries. Fortunately, the show’s leading lady, Melody Thomas Scott who has been off the show for months due to contractual issues, finally returns today. Nikki’s fling with younger bad boy Deacon (Sean Kanan) and fall off the wagon, was the best plot of the last year, before it was abruptly cut short. Let’s hope that Nikki brings the show’s trademark character driven, romantic and family oriented writing with her.