Why Brian Frons is SO not on my Christmas card list this year

Frons uses Barbara Walters as a human shield to protect himself from angry fans....

Frons uses Barbara Walters as a human shield to protect himself from angry fans....

ABC Daytime head honcho Brian Frons was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal in a piece that ran on Friday.

But in an unusual move, the Journal didn’t talk to Frons about any of his own shows.

They specifically interviewed him about Guiding Light, a show Frons hasn’t been a part of since the early 80s.

Brian Frons showed about as much class on this subject as Ken Corday did a few months back.

And to paraphrase the fabulous Daytime Confidential response to Corday’s comments, “Fronsie, this is SO not your lesson to teach!”

And yet, what Frons says in the article is fairly on the mark. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my elegy for Springfield, the rock solid support that GL had from CBS changed right around the era Frons mentions as the last time GL won the 18-49 female demographic.

Their lack of support – and the cancellation rumors that have haunted GL since 1995 – can be traced back to the basics: it wasn’t winning the important demographics.

We get it – soaps are a business, and our TV screens are a marketing channel, not a museum.

The thing is, though, I believe that you can feed the moneymaking beast and still respect creativity. I just think most shows are missing the fact that we still want our fictional universe to be familiar and recognizable.

With the exception of One Life to Live, ABC soaps haven’t spoken to me in years.  All My Children’s plots have been a mess for years, damaged by the ongoing creative train wreck of writers (Megan McTavish, Esensten/Brown, and now Chuck “By the power of Grayskull!” Pratt).

AMC is harder to watch, in my eyes, than any Peapack scene I’ve ever seen from GL, because it looks like it was edited on a sepia-toned Wild West photo booth machine from Six Flags. (Either that, or somebody poured a whole gallon of butterscotch on the film.)

General Hospital has been largely unwatchable for me since THAT show’s McTavish writing reign, and Guza 2.0 (or 3.0? I’ve lost track) has all of the shoot-’em-up, no-consequences misogyny we’ve come to expect (now with lingering bad aftertaste).

In my eyes, the problem is that daytime, and Frons, are still adhering to the old 1950s broadcasting standards. They’re pitching a message at a mainstream that’s no longer there, while ignoring the niche audiences (soap lovers, gays and lesbians, and people of color) who provide 90% of the soap viewing audience right now.

They’re looking solely at 18-49 women as the only viable market, because their 1970s era marketing studies showed that young women were most likely to change brands because of a marketing message. Meanwhile, they’re almost completely ignored new marketing methods, new messages, new media and new ideas. They forget that, for example, gay and lesbian consumers are MUCH more likely to be “early adopters” of new products and trends.

Frons and his team may have given GH three million reasons to be beautiful, and I commend ABC for keeping AMC and OLTL on the air. But so far, all the work has been on tangible things: the stage, the lighting, the film, the appearance. The “quality” Frons speaks of is nothing – NOTHING – unless the story is compelling and engaging.

Right now, unfortunately, many of the stories that have come to life under Brian Frons and his watchful eye are repelling and enraging.

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4 thoughts on “Why Brian Frons is SO not on my Christmas card list this year

  1. As with Corday – I have to acknowledge what is true in what he says: Guiding Light was in trouble for a long, long time. The question is, why wasn’t it fixed? Why weren’t long-term problems addressed?

    His cavalier attitude about the demise of the grand-daddy of al soaps is surprisingly cold and clinical , especially given what his network has embraced in the name of “change.” AMC may still look pretty and have big, fancy sets, but it’s a red, hot mess that I can no longer bear to watch. GH became a low-rent version of Goodfellas several years ago, but without the fun or entertaining or interesting bits. Another mess. And OLTL? It’s got some great stuff going on right now, but it’s also the show that wastes the talents of some great veterans and almost lost Robin Strasser just a few weeks back.

    A little respect is in order – something Frons seems to have no concept of. While it’s true that GL has been in trouble for a long time, it’s also true that GL was great for a whole lot longer than not, which is a hell of a lot more than can be said for some other daytime dramas….or for television programming, in general.

    The guy has no class.

    Lana, as I posted in my “elegy” for GL, I’ve really come to think that CBS hasn’t been interested in Guiding Light since the mid-90s. It literally left GL on the vine to die – all while squeezing the last little bit of profit possible out of the show, of course.

  2. Patrick,

    I’m so unhappy with the state of soaps today. Now that GL is ending (and unlike many, I don’t wonder why…WE KNEW this was coming), all I have left is my renewed interest in the freakshow that is Y&R. (I pretty much watch just to experience my jaw dropping on a daily basis; it’s fun!) I’m disappointed in the ABC shows, sure. (I know OLTL has its fans, and I’m one of them, but I’m still shaking my head over last year’s botched return of Tina and Carlo, and Marty falling for her rapist.) But I’m SO BORED by ATWT, I can’t believe it, and I may only start watching DAYS for the first time in 20 years for Crystal Chappell.

    It’s times like these that I usually say something like, “Boy, I sure miss SANTA BARBARA.” But in these sour soap times, I could even go for some reruns of THE CITY! lol Other than handheld cameras and all-location shooting, what happened to ANYTHING innovative on soaps?

    By the way, Patrick, are you wondering, as I am, if AMC’s move to LA will bring a gaggle of Hollywood and primetime also-rans a-running to the show? I mean, if Jamie Luner was willing to move to NYC to do AMC, imagine what will happen now: we might get the entire cast of SAVANNAH!

    Ant, I wish AMC had a writer who appreciated character as much as Agnes Nixon. If it did, I’d be OK with some of those LA actors flooding the show. But if we get more hair models and bland, blah Gossip Girl rejects, AMC will be even more unwatchable than it is now.

  3. Oh Frons…..once again you show your incredible aptitude for stupidity and low-class. I read the article and all I could see was flashes of him not understanding that if Ric slept with Carly while she was drugged then yes it was in fact rape….and the infamous remark that Kathy Brier was “fat and not attractive” to defend himself against charges of only hiring models. And then I remembered the utter horror of the “Real Greenlee” campaign and I wondered why I expected anything different from him.

    While I understood his point…..and my complete lack of surprise at his missing the point and relying on decades old view of the audience…I was also shaking my head at his lack of awareness of the state of his own shows. None of his shows have won that coveted demographic in years. If I remember correctly…and I think I do…GH keeps creating new record lows in that area, as does AMC.

    The sad fact is that until people like Frons are out of power (and I’m convinced he has to have pictures of Mickey Mouse with a goat to justify his continued employment) and are replaced by people who understand and embrace the challenge of daytime in this new era…..people who are not content to just blame OJ (my sister works at NBC and cited this as a reason she heard for keeping Days on the air during the strike. The viewers wouldn’t come back just like OJ)..people who are willing to as Ed Scott said in his interview with TV Guide about Days’s Emmy nods this year, who are willing to work hard, work fast and concentrate on basic soap 101……nothing is ever going to change.

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