There’s a great post at Daytime Confidential where they discuss (or dissect) the continuing phenomenon of younger characters and younger actors.
Soaps have been more youth-driven since the late 1970s and early 1980s. But the approach to stories with a “younger” focus are radically different now.
Ten or twenty years ago, a younger character would (a) usually be part of a core family and (b) featured in a young-lovers’ romance, especially during summer months.
Now, younger characters are taking over their respective shows, and many of them are unconnected to existing characters. We all gasped and clutched our pearls when Chloe was revealed to be Esther’s daughter Kate on Y&R, and we did so not only because it was a pretty damn good twist, but because few shows even do that sort of groundwork anymore.
Most of these actors are being played front and center not because of ageism (or not solely, anyway) but because of economic realities. It’s much cheaper to work a newbie with a 4-year contract than someone like the soon-to-be-departed Deidre Hall. Hall is as lovely at 60 as she was when she started DAYS in the 1970s, but like any tenured employee, she’s probably near top pay.
I know that shows must go after the 18 to 49 audience, and I’m OK with some of the younger characters, but I think soaps (and advertisers in general) are missing out on viewers that are in our mid-30’s up to 49. We’ve got a specific generation (Gen X) and have nostalgia for our youth.
The old ideas about people our age being inflexible and unwilling to try new things are just wrong. It’s the thirtysomethings and fortysomethings I know who are early adaptors, who have iPhones and Twitter accounts and wear Chuck Taylors and blend a love of their youth with a fierce hunger for what’s happening right now.
Those people – like me – would love to see the shows we recognized in the 1980s feature characters we love doing things we’d believe they’d do. And this CAN be done by mixing old ideas and new ones – old characters with new ones.
And it’s been said a million times before, but shows should NEVER assume that because a viewer is 16 that they want to see a flock of 16 year olds. They want to see strong characters that, in addition to being entertaining, know how to kick ass and take care of business. It’s no wonder that when Sam Ford’s class at MIT was asked about their favorite As The World Turns characters, they listed Margo and Lucinda – two of my favorites who, indeed, have kicked ass and taken names over the years.