By now you’ve read my comments on the recent Soap Opera Digest interview with CBS daytime chief Barbara Bloom and As The World Turns executive producer Chris Goutman. You may have also read the comments on Snark Weighs In, We Love Soaps and Sara Bibel’s blog.
I think many of us had the same reaction – a negative one – to most of what was said in that interview. But I have to admit that as defeatist as Goutman’s statements sounded, I agree with him in one aspect: I don’t think people have the time to watch five hours (or more) of soap opera a week.
Today, Nelson Branco’s column is speculating that there are discussions about taking ATWT and sister show Guiding Light to three days a week. What I am at a total loss to understand is this: Why are shows not returning to their roots – their half-hour timeslot roots?
I’ll be honest – it IS a challenge to shoehorn 5 hours a week of soap viewing into a busy schedule. And it may well be one of the biggest challenges facing the shows today. Tech-savvy younger viewers are less likely to watch a whole show, or all the selections on a single network, when there are so many channels and technological platforms where they can access content.
In the 1970s, increased budgets and changing storytelling styles expanded the canvases of every show and eventually expanded their timeslots to 60 minutes (and for a time, 90 minutes). Why aren’t the shows changing and evolving as they did before?
Of course, these changes would have an impact on the people who work at the shows. Producing half the product you used to means fewer crew members, fewer writers and fewer actors as well. But I think this may be the kind of business decision that can save the genre and the industry. The same sort of changes have happened in other industries.
I also think it would be a boon for the shows creatively. They may have to pare their casts down (to 15 or 20 core actors), but I think that the changes could inspire new ideas – or perhaps give network heads an excuse to hire new blood. In the best of circumstances, it would allow the shows to jettison extraneous stories, and focus on core families and couples that we want to see.
The other main reason I would love to see this happen? Because shorter shows would open up time on the network’s schedule. And that’s time I’d like to see filled with NEW half-hour shows. (More on that in my next post.) I think growing new shows and planting them on-air is the only way we’ll be able to keep the genre alive.
We are, as I’ve said before, at a tipping point right now. We have two shows (DAYS and GL) that are in danger of cancellation. The cancellation of either one would set off a domino effect. One thing that would almost definitely happen if GL was cancelled? CBS affiliates would ask for the 3 PM hour back (if they haven’t already – GL airs in the morning in many markets). And once one network surrenders time to affiliates, a second will have to do so to be competitive – and so on.