2011 was the most newsworthy year for daytime television ever. Two popular soaps were canceled. Two beloved talk show hosts opted to leave their long-running shows. The internet seemed to be the future home of soap operas, until it proved financially impossible to launch a daily show online. Here’s a look back on a year that was good, bad, and ugly, but never boring.
10. “The Bold & the Beautiful” Focuses On A New Generation
Since 1990, “The Bold & the Beautiful’s” central storyline has been the love triangle between Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang), Ridge (Ronn Moss) and Taylor (Hunter Tylo). The two women each married the mulleted fashion designer multiple times, never entirely getting over him despite numerous other romances. With the characters now in their late forties, it has gotten not only repetitive but ridiculous. This summer, the show switched its focus to the next generation. Now Taylor and Brooke’s daughters, who both think of Ridge as their father, are fighting over a man who is every bit as fickle as the man who raised them. It’s not exactly a bold change, but it’s a way of attempting to keep the show fresh.
9. “All My Children” Alumni Move To “The Young & the Restless”
If there is anything good about the cancellation of “All My Children,” it’s that a lot of great actors will lend their talents to new roles. The first two to take the plunge were Debbi Morgan (ex-Angie), who joined “The Young & the Restless,” and Jacob Young (ex-J.R.) who returned to his first role, Rick on “The Bold & the Beautiful.” Morgan plays Harmony, Devon’s ( Bryton James) recovered drug addict mother. Though Morgan has had little to do so far, she has already proven herself by far the best edition to the cast in 2011, playing a hard, streetwise, down on her luck character who is the polar opposite of Angie. Unlike the other Genoa City newcomers, Morgan seems like she belongs on the canvas. Morgan will soon be joined by Melissa Claire Egan (ex-Annie), playing a woman involved with Billy’s (Billy Miller) issues in Myanmar.
Go Behind The Scenes Of The “All My Children” Wrap Party:
8. Soap Fans Mobilize And Fight Back
2011 was the year that social networking became a tool for social change. From Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, likeminded people used the internet to band together and make a difference. It turns out the same principles hold true for fed up soap fans. The online fan mobilization began when “General Hospital” fired Becky Herbst (Liz). Though there have been fan campaigns to save actors before, this one was angry, intense and driven by Twitter. It was also effective. The show reconsidered and Herbst’s job was saved. That was only a warm up for what happened when ABC canceled “All My Children” and “One Life To Live.” Fans contacted sponsors, resulting in Hoover getting a lot of free publicity for canceling its ads on ABC, demonstrated at the May up-fronts and plotted to boycott the the network’s other programming. The campaign surely played a role in Prospect Park’s attempts to launch the shows for the internet. Angry fans also got a freelance publicist for “Live With Regis and Kelly” fired for tweeting that she was glad the soaps were over. Whatever tragedies befall soaps in 2012, the fans are mad as hell and are going to fight back.
7. CBS Launches A New Morning Show
CBS is the most watched broadcast network, but it’s always struggled in the mornings. “The Early Show” always lagged far behind “Today” and “Good Morning America.” Now that “The Talk” is successful enough to keep Julie Chen, former “Early Show” anchor, and spouse of CBS president Les Moonves, gainfully employed for the forseeable future, the network has decided to create a brand new morning show. Debuting January 9 2012, the show will be anchored by Oprah’s BFF Gayle King, PBS interviewer extraordinaire Charlie Rose and “Early Show” co-anchor Erica Hill. CBS bills it as a “a more thoughtful, substantive and insightful source of news and information.” In other words, the antithesis of the increasingly fluffy GMA and “Today.”
6. “General Hospital” Replaces Headwriter Bob Guza With Garin Wolf
“General Hospital” had the same headwriter, Bob Guza — minus a couple of brief leaves of absence — since the late 1990s. Though his focus on the shows mobsters as heroes was polarizing, the man knew how to win Emmys and keep the shows ratings high. In 2011, GH’s ratings slipped. A decision to have the show’s iconic anti-hero Luke, accidentally kill his own grandson while drunk driving resulted in a storyline so depressing that it was difficult to watch. Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo’s highly anticipated return to the show was a flop. ABC made the decision to replace Guza with longtime GH staffwriter Garin Wolf. At first, it seemed like the start of a new era of GH as the hospital became a larger part of the show and the Quartermaine family was finally given story. Unfortunately, the soap soon regressed back to its old, dark ways with a current storyline featuring a popular character getting raped on her honeymoon. Now GH has promoted Shelly Altman to co-headwriter to help get the show back on track.
5. “One Life To Live” Proves Soaps Can Raise Their Ratings
The conventional wisdom about daytime is that declining ratings are inevitable and related to outside forces like cable, the internet, and the economy. The content of the shows themselves is irrelevant. “One Life To Live” proved that wrong when, weeks after its cancellation was announced, the show’s ratings rose — and stayed up. Thanks to the intriguing, compelling Tale of Two Todds, Roger Howarth’s return succeeded where other big name soap stars comebacks failed. He brought old fans back, but it was the show’s overall quality that kept them watching. Surprisingly, the soap has often been the top show among teens and young women, the two demos that are least likely to watch soaps. Unfortunately, this success did not persuade ABC to reconsider canceling the show
4. “Days of Our Lives” Makes Sweeping Changes
Faced with declining ratings, and aware that the networks no longer have any interest in keeping soaps on their schedules, “Days of Our Lives” decided to get radical. In September, the show made sweeping changes both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Actors Nadia Bjorlin, Crystal Chappell, Louise Sorel and Tamara Braun were out. Former stars Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn, Matthew Ashford, Christie Clark and Patrick Muldoon were back. More important, headwriter Dena Higley, who specialized in far fetched storylines, with Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas Junior have strived for more realistic, character driven storylines and sharper dialogue. The show also changed executive producers, with Lisa DeCazotte, who worked with the new writers on “Passions” replacing Noel Maxam. So far, the ratings have yet to improve, but the soap is to be commended for opting for intelligent, longterm changes instead of resorting to stunt casting and sensationalism.
3. Soaps Almost Move to the Internet in Behind-the Scenes Soap Opera
It was not just a big story for daytime. It was a big story for television as a whole. After ABC canceled “All My Children” and “One Life To Live“, production company Prospect Park, which produces the cable hits “Royal Pains” and “Wilfred,” licensed the shows with plans to create new, full length episodes to air on the internet. The company signed deals with numerous actors, the headwriter and executive producer of OLTL and Universal Music Group. Viewers became suspicious when basic information, like when the shows would debut online, were not released. Rumors abounded that the company was putting AMC on hold to focus on OLTL, but there was no official announcement. Finally, the day before Thanksgiving, the bomb dropped: due to financing difficulties, the plans for the online soaps were canceled. Since AMC and OLTL were done filming, there was no way to script happily ever endings for the soaps. Instead, it appears that “Arrested Development” will be the first canceled show to be resurrected on the internet.
2. “The Chew” Fails To Be A Total Bomb
Soap fans hoped that “The Chew,” “All My Children’s” replacement, would be an utter, miserable failure. Activist fans encouraged people to boycott it. Setting aside viewer’s emotions, the talk show about food was not a particularly appealing premise. Dedicated foodies found the cooking tips too basic; those who were less domestic had little interest in a cooking show. At first, it appeared that the soap fans had triumphed. After a strong premiere episode, assisted by a huge marketing push, the ratings plummeted. They continued to fall for the next couple weeks. Then, they began to climb. Perhaps viewers were lured in by episodes dedicated to Thanksgiving specialties. Perhaps the five co-hosts began to gel. Whatever the reason, though the show has yet to match AMC’s performance given its much lower budget, ABC has no reason to complain. That’s bad news for soap lovers who hoped that the network would be forced to reconsider its decision.
1. ABC Dismantles Its Entire Hit Daytime Line-Up
ABC used to have the top daytime line-up. Viewers could tune in to “Live With Regis And Kelly,” a show launched 28 years ago with Kathy Lee Gifford as Philbin’s co-host, stay for the topical talk of “The View,” catch a half hour of local news, a strong performer for local ABC affiliates thanks to its great lead-ins and lead outs, then watch three hours of the highest rated soap operas in key demographics, and conclude with the biggest, best talk show -“Oprah.” Any network executive would dream of having so many high quality, established brands back-to-back. That is why it is so shocking that, in one year, ABC decided to dismantle its entire line-up in one year. Regis and Oprah chose to depart their shows. It’s possible that Kelly Ripa is popular enough to continue the franchise with the right co-host. But that’s a big change on its own for a daypart that relishes consistency. Oprah’s shoes seem impossible to fill. Yet, ABC decided to replace two of its three soaps with lifestyle shows, then promised the affiliates that it would give them back “General Hospital’s” timeslot in September so that they could air Katie Courics’s new syndicated talk show, putting GH’s future in jeopardy. A powerhouse that has lasted for decades will be no more in 2012 seemingly because the network just decided to give up on it.