Friday, April 15, 2011
Seriously, ABC Daytime. SERIOUSLY?!?!?
Yesterday afternoon, I was coming home from my voice lesson when I get a text from my Best Guy Friend, Taylor. The sum total of the text was, "Are you alright?" Since to the best of my knowledge, I hadn't in my immediate past been killed or maimed, I texted back, "Is there a reason I wouldn't be?" And that, lads and lassies, was my introduction to yesterday's gut-punch of an entertainment news tidbit--ABC has canceled both All My Children and One Life to Live.
Ok, in all fairness, it wasn't COMPLETELY out of left field. The vast webs of internet rumor mills have swirled for months with whispers of the imminent cancellation of one show or the other. That ABC had uprooted AMC from its NYC home so that it could consolidate its scripted daytime television into a one-coast operation (General Hospital is a west coast show) and OLTL was going to be canceled. That AMC was getting the ax so that ABC had one show on each coast. Rumors, rumors, everywhere. But somehow, I was laboring under the delusion that cancellation, at least within the realm of soaps, was something that happened to: a) glacially-paced CBS soaps watched mainly by people born during the first Roosevelt administration. The first TEDDY Roosevelt administration. b) NBC shitfests like Passions. c)A stream of half-hour ABC filler soaps that came on between the noon news and AMC.
But AMC and OLTL? Really? They've both been on the air for more than forty years. Maybe I...maybe we ALL should have been more prepared, though. In the last few years, both Guiding Light and As the World Turns have been canceled. And they had both been on the air since God was in short pants. GL started out as a radio show, for heaven's sake. I guess, though, I had a real sense of detachment. Mostly because I can count on one hand the number of full episodes of GL I had ever seen and I'm pretty sure I had NEVER seen an entire episode of ATWT. The ABC soaps are different.
I'm the first to admit that among the Big Three ABC shows (I never had more than a passing interest in Ryan's Hope/The City/Loving/Port Charles--aka The Half Hours), my first and greatest love was and is and ever shall be General Hospital. I've watched it the longest by far and it's the only one that I've watched without significant breaks. But I've watched them all. In fact, there was a brief moment, practically a millisecond in soap time, where I would have told you, with some conviction, that AMC and not GH was my favorite. Perhaps the most succinct way to put it is thusly: This time it's personal, bitches. Because even when I wasn't watching regularly (and it's been years since I would even consider myself a casual viewer of either show), I kept up, at the very least enough to tune back in for major events on both shows.
And so All My Children has approximately five months to wrap up FORTY-ONE YEARS of stories. THAT'S FORTY-ONE YEARS OF ERICA EFFIN' KANE. It would take more than five months to wrap up a recap of Erica's latest marital woes. Much less her, you know, LIFE. One Life to Live is lucky, I guess. They have 'til next January. But they also have to tie up ends with Ms. Viki Lord. And she's got more than one personality, so that's no easy task, either.
I just wish there as a way to properly express my rage. Because I've developed a heady need to kick some asses, starting with one OJ Simpson, whose stupid-ass trial delayed and pre-empted the soaps for eons and dealt them a ratings blow from which they NEVER recovered, and ending with that of Brian Frons, the current head of ABC Daytime, who has been nothing short of condescending, insulting, arrogant, and clueless with regards to the soap audience since he took the job. My best course of action is to direct you to the Serial Drama girls, whose blog, often filled with frothy rage directed at the "writing" on the various ABC shows, is so awesome that it landed them a writing gig at a real live soap magazine. If you want to get a good idea of the rage I'm feeling, their five years of rantings about the precipitous drop in quality of daytime dramas, particularly those of ABC, their vitriol is without compare and I agree with pretty much everything they've ever said. (Except about Jax and Brenda, because I don't roll that way. S&B4EVA!!)
Actually, though, while the rage is not insubstantial, the most real and most enduring feeling I'm having over all this is sadness: for the hundreds of people who work on these shows who now...won't. For the actors, especially the ones like Susan Lucci and Erika Slezak who have given their lives and careers to these shows. For the big name actors who got their starts on AMC and OLTL and who still look back on the shows with fondness and gratitude. For the no name actors who got their SAG cards playing waitresses and cops and clerks on the shows and the ones who got a paycheck for pretending to drink coffee in the background. But most of all for the fans. Because these characters were and are our friends.
Someone I know was reading about this (it was in the NY Times this morning) and said, "Well, who watches those shows anyway?" I do. And my friend, Anne Marie, who is one of the smartest people I know. And my little sister, who watches because I watched. And my friend, Hannah who has three pre-schoolers and said that the only hour of the day when she feels like she doesn't have to deal with "Dora and that damn monkey" is when AMC is on. And my friend, Michelle, who works in advertising, who I met my first week of college because she was watching the ABC soaps in the sorority house TV room and I heard it and went in to talk to her which I normally would have been way too shy to do.
I'm sure that in the five months leading up to The End, I will have lots more to say on this subject. But for now, I'm gonna leave it with the immortal words of Agnes Nixon (and this is really how so many of us feel:
The Great and the Least,
The Rich and the Poor,
The Weak and the Strong,
In Sickness and in Health,
In Joy and Sorrow,
In Tragedy and Triumph,
You are ALL MY CHILDREN.
(And also, EFF YOU ABC DAYTIME!!!)