One of the most frustrating facets of writing about daytime and about soaps is that any truth about behind-the-scenes drama and intrigue is almost completely obscured by spin.
Trying to analyze the thoughts and intentions of heads of daytime and executive producers (usually best done while shaking one’s fist at the skies saying “WHAT were they THINKING????!!!?????) is a mystery that even Miss Marple would be too puzzled to solve.
That’s why I’ve sort of taken a bit of pleasure (schadenfreude, as my handsome German boyfriend would say) in watching the battle for the title of Mr. Eloquence between Les Moonves (head of all of CBS) and Brian Frons (daytime head of ABC). In a few public statements, the masks have fallen from the dragons, so to speak.
They’ve either astonished us with their ignorance or amazed us with their rudeness. I swear, they are both reading from the same management book: How to Enrage Fans and Defy Logic and Sense. It’s the book Dale Carnegie never quite got around to publishing!
Les Moonves is a competitive soul, though, and not to be bested. So Les busted out his now famous statements about “special” soaps, right after he kicked As The World Turns, a show that was number 1 for 22 years and made insane profits for the network for years, to the curb. That Les, he keeps it classy.
Just when we thought Les had it nailed down, though……Frons has another card to play.
USAToday has an article about all of daytime (talk, game shows and soaps). It’s overall a nicely done article that seems to avoid the “daytime is dying” mantra repeated elsewhere in the mainstream press. But at the end, we have THIS gem from Frons:
“Some (soaps) have been on many years, so people feel the need to make sage-like statements about the future of the genre,” Frons says. “Nobody makes those statements when a sitcom or long-running
drama dies. It’s the end of that program, and that’s the way we should look at it as well.”
Wow, that’s some SERIOUS spin. I mean, it’s just – spinspirational! And it would completely make sense – except that when a long-running drama or sitcom dies, another program like it generally takes its place.
So Brian, can we expect that ABC will replace any soap it cancels with a new soap?
NBC has, to its credit, tried over the last few years to launch some new soaps. None of them worked, and it’s now down to an hour of programming.
When ATWT leaves the air, CBS will have gone from 3 1/2 hours of programming to 1 1/2 hours in, seemingly, a blink of its CBS eye.
Do what you need to do to bring in the bucks, Brian. But don’t try to sell us shit and brand it as sunshine. As these shows disappear, something IS being lost.
There may be other venues, other outlets for serials, other platforms, other fandoms. But don’t pretend Rome isn’t burning. It’s just tacky and insulting to your fans. And besides, if you keep fanning the fire, it might singe your back hair.