Monday, October 6, 2014

Who Killed Your Favorite Soap Opera, and Why?

As any soap opera fan can tell you, following your favorite daytime drama becomes an integral part of your life. Many soaps have been on the air for decades with the same set of charismatic characters. Over time, it can begin to feel like they're part of your own family, so how could anyone want to see the magic end?

According to ratings, the mighty soap opera has risen to power once again, but not so long ago, we saw favorites like "All My Children," "As the World Turns" and "Guiding Light" get shot down in cold blood. The brutal murder of serial daytime drama made little sense to fans. From the days when laundry soap ads punctuated marital chaos to the introduction of the first gay characters, the soap opera genre has always held its own, but suddenly, beloved soaps were dropping like flies. Was something sinister at work from within?

Fashioned in film noir style, "Who Shot the Daytime Soap" explores the initial rise, tumultuous fall and resurgence of daytime dramas and asks why industry insiders and others would want to sabotage such a lucrative and popular television genre.

Fall of the Mighty Soap Genre

Over the past five years, soap operas have experienced an unprecedented collapse. In the 1980s, 14 powerful network soap operas were going strong. Now there are only four. "The Young and the Restless," "General Hospital," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" are the only survivors that retained enough of their fan base and network support to stay around. Even "Guiding Light," which ran for 60 years and is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running television drama in history, got the ax in 2009. Fans weren't the only ones shocked by the demise of beloved soaps. Even some of the shows' top actors and actresses felt blind sighted. Factors like actors' salaries and sponsor reluctance were only known to insiders. Few people suspected that some network executives may have wanted to see the shows fail. To the hordes of outraged fans, there was no justification for massacring an American tradition.

Uncovering the Truth About the Demise of Soap Operas

Executive producer Jim Romanovich, president of worldwide media at Associated Television International (ATI), and writer, director and producer Robert Corsini tackle the mystery in the TVGN documentary "Who Shot the Daytime Soap." The show premiered December 16, 2013 with a sneak peek earlier in the day. It featured interviews with 40 longtime soap veterans such as Susan Lucci and Alicia Minshew from "All My Children" and Linda Dano from "Another World." Even Kathryn Leigh Scott from the long gone 1970s gothic drama "Dark Shadows" had a word or two to say. Maria Arena Bell and Julie Carruthers, soap opera executives who some have blamed for the downfall of soaps, added their own perspectives to the mix. According to Romanovich, the daytime drama industry is far from black and white. Only insiders know what executives are truly up against, and even those who made decisions that ultimately led to failure of a show had passion for the industry and attempted to do their best.

How Can Soaps Stay Alive?

Romanovich claims the documentary is a cautionary tale for networks, production companies, writers, producers, actors and even fans. To keep a show running, it is necessary to maintain traction, loyalty and commitment. Like anything else in the ever-changing television business, soaps were never really safe or permanent. With the advent of Internet entertainment and waning relevancy of daytime serial dramas, networks have to foster enthusiasm and protect the genre. The timing of the documentary coincides with renewed interest in popular shows like ABC's "General Hospital" and NBC's "Days of Our Lives" as well as new web serials, so despite the sad undercurrent of the story, viewers will enjoy a happy ending.

A Five-Year Project

Romanovich claims that he spent five years trying to finish the documentary. ATI provided capital, and co-executive producer Robert Corsini wrote the show. With its retro feel and gangster-style graphics, "Who Shot the Daytime Soap" is a fun but serious look into the heartbreaking murder of seemingly unstoppable daytime television dramas. Its ending gives hope to soap fans and leaves room for a sequel. Romanovich says there is plenty of material left over.

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