The mysteries of Cincinnati

Anyone who’s read this blog before knows that I have a lot of love for the Proctor & Gamble soaps. I’ve covered them since I was writing for the Marlena Delacroix blog, and have talked about them a great deal in this blog.

Cincinnati-based P&G has been producing these shows since the Irna Phillips era. I have a lot of affection and respect for the people who worked on these shows, both in front of the camera and behind it.

But with the end of P&G soaps six months away – and no clear or viable option to revive them in sight – I have to ask for answers to questions I have and puzzles I still don’t understand. Maybe those questions are much higher up the food chain, so to speak.

Can I squeeze the Charmin? Can we solve these mysteries of Cincinnati?

(1) Why was it never an option that Guiding Light or As The World Turns could go to a half-hour? Wouldn’t that have been a wiser option for both shows in 2007 or 2008?

(2) Why has P&G not capitalized efficiently on its library of old episodes and the interest in its programming? The PGP Classic Soaps blog and Another World Today are valuable, and a great start, but I’m surprised P&G hasn’t started its own Web channel.

(3) If P&G/Telenext wants out of the soap opera business, why weren’t the shows and rights to P&G material sold back in the 1990s when there was interest? What possible reason was there not to sell? Is there some hidden goldmine we as analysts are missing? Or is it true that P&G upper management has always looked at soaps as filling to air between ad bumpers?

(4) How much control did you have to cede to CBS to keep the shows on the air? Who owns the decisions and stories told over the last five years on these shows?

(5) Why were these shows – particularly ATWT – taped so far in advance? Did you want to avoid a repeat of Another World (a 35-year show that had to be tied up in 10 episodes) if they were cancelled? That may have been wise, but when ATWT is taping almost 3 months in advance, how do you address issues, failed chemistry, etc.?

(6) Not understanding why P&G was such a misanthrope in the soap world. You didn’t sell, you don’t share your history and you didn’t come to terms to run on SoapNet. Why? We know Soap City was going to be P&G’s answer to SoapNet, but it (sadly) never took off. Why didn’t you make a deal to run these shows and let another audience see them and get involved?

(7) How could you have so totally fumbled the interest in Noah and Luke, which would have (with minimal cost, investment and effort) put a huge rating spike to work for ATWT? I know it’s beating a dead horse, but it seemed so promising and it was such a pointless fumble. It was the biggest P&G fumble since Rely. What happened?

(8) Why did Guiding Light go so long with stories that were clearly not working? Why did it take so long (until February 2009) for improvements to show up on air? Why did it take so long for Grant Aleksander’s return to hit the air?

(9) When GL was cancelled, why did ATWT make almost EXACTLY the same decisions and same mistakes, almost to a T – in particular, waiting until the show was on the endangered species list to make much-needed changes to story and/or cast?

(10) What really happened when Telenext attempted to shop GL around? Where is the company on the search for a new home for ATWT?

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “The mysteries of Cincinnati

  1. Love all the questions…don’t have answers to them obviously, but I have thoughts about them.

    First off what is Rely? I feel stupid not knowing what you are writing about.

    I thought that it wasn’t that much cheaper to produce a 30 minute show instead of a 60 minute show. Financially it would make more sense to have one 60 minute soap instead of 2 different series that air for 30 minutes each.

    I wish that P&G’s experiment with showing old episodes of AW, Texas and EON would have been successful. It was on AOL, though open to anyone in the US to watch. For whatever reason, that never took off with people. AW just didn’t have the ratings on SoapNet, which was sad. I was devoted to those airings and in the prize demo. Too bad, and having them on Hulu just not the same.

    I’ve also wondered why P&G didn’t sell the soaps years ago. Was it pride? Was it that they wanted to milk the proverbial cash cow as long as possible? I too wonder who is the culprit in the issues with the Telenext shows, the network or within themselves. That is something I doubt we will ever find out unless someone extremely high on the food chain spills or someone who had access, but was in a low level position does the same.

    ATWT taping three months in advance is bad. Port Charles once it went telenovela style had even a larger delay. I wonder if it is a cost thing. I think part the reason that GL stayed so long with stories that weren’t working was they didn’t want to admit defeat. Also I posit were the people focused upon were those they could afford to pay and they couldn’t shift gears as easily. They had to clear the decks, and that took time. I don’t know why ATWT had similar issues to GL other than some of the people in charge were the same and they hadn’t learned from their mistakes. I do wonder if Telenext was really serious about shopping around GL and/or ATWT, or if it was just for show to make people blame CBS more for the cancellation than themselves.


    BL – ALL great points.

    And mentioning “Rely” was me being snarky. Rely was a tampon that P&G (the consumer arm) released in the late 70s. It was touted as the next big thing but eventually made women sick and had to be recalled and discontinued.

  2. I disagree with your assessment about Luke and Noah. If you look at OLTL, which has a gay couple that is treated equally, it hasn’t seen any spike in ratings at all. Gays don’t seem to be supporting OLTL in number either through TV viewing or online viewing at ABC.com.


    You’re making an apples to oranges comparison. The simple fact that they’re both gay couples doesn’t mean they’re identically the same.


    Luke and Noah made a big splash initially, partly because they were the first prominent male/male couple on daytime and they were also the first young LGBT couple. Those factors combined for a LOT of Internet/web interest and a lot of YouTube hits. ATWT had a chance to capture a younger demographic and grow a younger audience, and it fumbled it.


    I like Kish, and think that the story being told at OLTL is great, but it’s hard to compare the two stories. Oliver and Kyle are older characters. And I think some of the intense Web interest has diminished (though not disappeared).

  3. P&G had a long history of being very insular. Remember in the early days of TV, they had almost all the soaps. Plain out, they didn’t have any regard for any other soap on other networks until at least the mid-60’s. They had a large stable of producers and writers which didn’t cross over to other soaps as often as they do today. Remember P&G folks like Nixon didn’t desert them until 1970.

    There are ways to research this and since you are in Chicago (is that near Cincinnati?) perhaps that could answer questions we all have.

    Hi Connie – I know that there are things I can research (Harding Lemay’s book, Doug Marland’s papers) that can tell me the story of how P&G operated then. Anyone who’s read Lemay’s book has a good idea. But I’m especially curious about the last five or ten years. It’s hard to tell whether someone made these decisions or (as I suspect) the whole enterprise was on autopilot.

  4. Excellent questions. Wish I knew some of the answers. Alas, I do not. Maybe someone who does will chime in.

    Or maybe someone in Cincinatti is writing a tell-all book. Sure is needed. And certainly is one I would read.

    Kim Zimmer is reported to have a book coming out in December. I’ll be one of the first to buy that. But I am so very curious about the business behind the soaps and how upper level decisions are made.

  5. “I like Kish, and think that the story being told at OLTL is great, but it’s hard to compare the two stories. Oliver and Kyle are older characters. And I think some of the intense Web interest has diminished (though not disappeared).”

    I agree. While Kyle and Fish did get some publicity it wasn’t near as much as the publicity that Luke and Noah got.

  6. “Why has P&G not capitalized efficiently on its library of old episodes and the interest in its programming? The PGP Classic Soaps blog and Another World Today are valuable, and a great start, but I’m surprised P&G hasn’t started its own Web channel.”

    Am I the only one who doesn’t like the concept of the Another World Today site? I know if AMC ended I wouldn’t want some hack novelist telling me exactly what happened to my favorite characters through some glorified fanfiction format. I know it includes some fan input but if AMC ended I’d still prefer to use my own imagination.

  7. Why was it never an option that Guiding Light or As The World Turns could go to a half-hour? Wouldn’t that have been a wiser option for both shows in 2007 or 2008?

    I don’t know that it would have helped. The unfortunate truth was that the things that made GL and ATWT thrive in the hour format during the 70s and 80s, even into the 90s, are also what killed them, and most likely what would have made a half-hour change a bad move: The massive character landscape made the shows more appealing to more viewers with a greater variety of character types and plot possibilities; however, more characters = more actors who can hang around long enough to make it financially difficult to get rid of them quickly.

    It also means you will probably risk alienating huge numbers of viewers when you streamline the show by dumping huge swaths of characters, and probably entire core families–characters and core families with huge numbers of fans. Fans who watch just to keep up with those characters/families. You’re already in trouble with your ratings, and you want to risk losing massive chunks of what little audience you do have?

    I know that soap fans are used to characters coming and going, but not on the scale that would happen if you cut an hour-long soap back to half an hour too quickly.

    So cutting back to half an hour wouldn’t necessarily have been worth the risk.

    It’s not that it couldn’t have been done to save two legendary series. If GL & ATWT had slowly phased out all but the characters/core families they really wanted to keep, and then took the shows down to 30 minutes, it could have worked. And this is assuming P&G had the patience to ride that out. It looks like they waited too long to even try it–or refused to take the time to do it. Take your pick.

  8. 8) Why did Guiding Light go so long with stories that were clearly not working? Why did it take so long (until February 2009) for improvements to show up on air? Why did it take so long for Grant Aleksander’s return to hit the air?

    Why did they make any of the decisions they did from 1993 or so forward?

    Doug Marland showed both GL and ATWT what they needed to do to succeed: forget about trying to be a cutrate James Bond like GH or DOOL, and instead use, don’t abuse, your rich heritage. Have wise elders, because you’ll have plenty of interesting fools who need to heed them. Have at least one close-knit core family of the middle class along with one from the working class. Have one cutthroat rich family. Don’t send us all on the Guiding Reva or As the World Turns Around Lily trip through hell that both GL and ATWT soon took us on after Marland’s death. I don’t want an entire show to be about one character, and everyone obsessing about that one not very bright or interesting character. Neither Reva nor Lily was really worth all the attention they got. They weren’t that interesting. They really weren’t. No offense to Kim Zimmer, who’s a terrific actress.

    Anyway, it’s not a coincidence that GL almost got on its feet again when Reva and Josh faded away, especially after the former drove off a bridge (don’t hold your breath, Reva!). Once she stopped obsessing about such a flashy character, Long-Hammer got something of a clue from the Marland formula by tapping into GL’s staggering history for the inspired return of Roger and Holly, and all the unresolved issues between them, never mind all the trouble Roger could (and fortunately did!) cause all by himself. The show almost sang for a while there (the summer of 1993 was just about perfect), and then… Well, ugh.

    It was like Long-Hammer appreciated the vast reserves of story she could get from Roger/Holly/Ed, but just didn’t like the characters all that much, even though she wrote some of her most intelligent and compelling dialogue for all three of them that GL has ever had. But that’s what you’ll get when you have characters and their history of such high caliber (and actors who know their stuff) to guide you.

    Hi Aquaria – I don’t disagree with you, but your last few paragraphs are, I think, a bit off with the timeline.

    Pam Long wrote GL until the end of 1990. She was really only there for a little less than a year after Kim Zimmer left.

    Pam was a big part of why Maureen Garrett was brought back as Holly; that all happened in 1988, though, while Kim and Reva were still very front-burner. Holly’s return was supposed to be a brief visit, but I remember an interview with Pam saying she thought Maureen was an incredibly sexy, vibrant woman, and Holly’s return was such a huge hit with viewers. I also think once they had Maureen, it really started the line of thinking that Michael Zaslow could return as well.

    I also think that really great period for Roger and Holly you are referring to was 1991-1993. And that wasn’t Pam Long, but Nancy Curlee and Stephen Demorest (along with James Reilly). You are not alone as many of us GL fans agree this was the last Golden Age.

    Something happened between roughly the end of 1992 and mid-1994 or so that really changed GL – either P&G lost interest or CBS seriously withdrew a lot of support. I’ve blogged about this before, but it was a really, really obvious change for anyone paying attention. I’d love to find out what happened, but GL lost support (both network and financial) and a lot of its power at that time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s