Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Thursday, April 14, 2011


-- television -- as the soap settles...

Daytime News ( Iconic Shows All My Children and One Life to Live Will Broadcast Their Final Episodes in September 2011 and January 2012, Respectively; Series Will Sunset in a Manner That Honors Viewers and the Shows' Creative Legacies

Guided by extensive research into what today's daytime viewers want and the changing viewing patterns of the audience, ABC is evolving the face of daytime television with the launch of two new shows, The Chew which will premiere in September 2011, and The Revolution (working title), which will premiere in January 2012. These new shows expand ABC Daytime's focus to include more programming that is informative and authentic and centers on transformation, food and lifestyle -- cornerstones of programming that resonates with daytime viewers as evidenced by the success of The View.

As food has become the center of everyone's life, The Chew will focus on food from EVERY angle -- as a source of joy, health, family ritual, friendship, breaking news, dating, fitness, weight loss, travel adventures and life's moments. Produced by Gordon Elliot, the Emmy Award-winning executive producer of Paula Deen's Home Cooking and Down Home with the Neelys, this new one-hour series combines entertaining takeaway with memorable personalities to create a live show where viewers get the dish on anything and everything related to the world of food and beyond. Whether it's new trends like food trucks and urban gardens or how pesticides in our food may affect our health, we can't stop talking about it. The hosts who will guide the hour include Mario Batali (Restauranteur, Food Network's Iron Chef America and author); entertaining expert Clinton Kelly (TLC's What Not to Wear); Carla Hall (Bravo's Top Chef); Michael Symon (Restauranteur and Food Network's Iron Chef America), and nutrition expert Daphne Oz, who simplifies often confusing information about food.

From Executive Producer JD Roth and 3 Ball Productions, producers of The Biggest Loser, Masterchef and ABC's upcoming Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, comes The Revolution, a daily show about health and lifestyle transformations. The show is hosted by a team of experts and rotating guest contributors who help viewers transform all areas of their lives, from relationships to family, food, style, home design, finance and more. This dream team, led by fashion expert Tim Gunn, also includes celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak and American Idol alum Kimberley Locke. The show features a unique concept: each week one woman's five-month weight loss journey will unfold in just five days, with daily results and a final transformational reveal on Friday. The Revolution is a one-stop shop for better living.

"While we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can't help but recognize how bittersweet the change is," said Brian Frons, President, Daytime, Disney ABC/Television Group...

Soaps Dissed: ABC Kills 'Life,' Abandons 'Children'

The second item is included purely because the headline is perfect; whoda thunk NPR had it in 'em? Apart from that, let me just say that I love the way ABC structures their announcement that they're axing the two oldest remaining soaps on TV. The thing that's actually important to viewers is stuck in the headline -- which is good, no argument there -- and then basically not mentioned again for the next five paragraphs. Granted, once they get back around to it, they do a good job of talking about the history of the shows and the accomplishments of their people. But still.

Have to admit, the cancellation of All My Children (AMC) makes me sort of sad, even though I haven't watched AMC regularly in eons. I can remember, way way way way back in the mists of prehistory, when I was a young'un, watching the early episodes of All My Children while my great grandmother did ... whatever she was doing. (Hey, I was, like four or five. I had no clue. Ironing, mostly, I think, since that was something she could do and watch television at the same time. And this was something that we were Absolutely Not To Tell My Mother About, since she would hardly approve of me watching grownups behave in such scandalous ways! (As long as it wasn't scary or bloody -- something I had real problems handling until I was much older -- my mother wouldn't actually have cared, since I wouldn't really have understood what was going on.) I remember teenaged Erica Kane going after Philip the policeman, who was really in love with Tara, who was in love with Philip but also sort of really kind of in love with someone else ... And then Erica somehow managed to inveigle Philip into bed with her and deliberately got pregnant. But then the baby died in utero, and she had to carry it to term knowing that it was dead, but not telling Philip because as soon as she did, he'd leave her for Tara -- which he did. And I can sort of vaguely remember that showing a young woman who had UnMarried SEX! was a big deal at the time, because it was something that was Simply Not Done in soaps at the time, so clearly she had to be punished with a really gruesome type of miscarriage. (Soaps are very very moral in some very very odd ways.)

Many years later, Donna Pescow played one of the first lesbian characters on daytime on AMC -- and that really was scandalous at the time. The show also had the first same sex kiss on daytime, between Erica's aforementioned daughter Bianca and another woman, although that wouldn't come for another 20 years after Pescow's doctor had come and gone. AMC then developed a really spectacular case of cold feet, and pulled way back on showing any sort of physical affection between Bianca and Lena; Bianca was later raped by another character and bore his child and ... well. AMC was, in some ways, very ground-breaking for its time; in some ways, it was clearly very much of its time, regardless of when that time was.

Kept coming back every now and again for the odd story line here and there. Something would tweak my interest, and I'd wonder how they were going to handle something, or how they could possibly pull it off. The one I remember most is Ericafest, which was well over 10 years ago now. A run of episodes where Erica was ... in a coma, I think, and the ghost of Mike Roy -- whom Susan Lucci has repeatedly said that she believes was the true love of Erica's life, and who was killed off before they could really have much of a relationship -- took her on a "This was your life/Ghost of Christmas past" style tour of her life. Went on for weeks. As I recall, there were even occasional musical numbers. The whole thing was AMC's unspeakably blatant attempt to try to get Susan Lucci that then-elusive Emmy after what was then about 10-15 years in a row of nominations without wins. Didn't work. What finally did work was a run of episodes where Erica had to deal with her daughter Bianca, who was then anorectic. An unusually grounded issue for Erica to deal with. Apparently, Emmy juries prefer their characters to be dealing with more real-world issues. Whoda thunk it?

By contrast, I don't remember much about the early years of One Life To Live (OLTL). I do remember, vaguely, the Judith Light years, in which she played Karen, a suburban housewife (I think) cum prostitute (that part I'm certain about). She had a sister Jenny and ... I don't know; as I say, the early years of One Life To Live just never made much of an impression on me. Except for Dorian Lord (followed by several other names) and Viki Lord (followed by several other names) Buchanan and their eternal rivalry. Dorian was always so unrepentantly evil in the early days of the series -- not least in somehow getting Victor Lord, Viki's father, to marry her. (I always wondered how Dorian managed to find time to get a medical degree in between evil schemes -- I mean, clearly, she'd been evil all her life.) And Viki had a really spectacular case of what was then called multiple personality disorder; I used to think that every time they couldn't figure out a storyline for her, they'd somehow traumatize her and have another personality emerge. I know that there were at least three, although the only ones I really remember are Viki, the dominant personality, and Niki, who was this sort of hard working class woman that Viki couldn't possibly have known how to be, except through the magic of soaps.

I did watch OLTL for a few months a couple years ago. One Life to Live introduced a storyline with two gay men, one of whom was very reluctantly coming out of the closet (Oliver Fish), and the other who had been in love with him in their long ago college days but was now in another relationship(Kyle and the man he planned to marry, Nick). Of course, this being a soap, Kyle and Fish were each other's One True Love so ... good bye, Nick. (Eventually.) And then once Kyle and Fish got together, they even got to, like, kiss and have sex and do everything the straight couples do! And we saw just as much of that as we saw of the straight couples doing the same thing! Those were actually some surprisingly well written and handled stories. The stuff around them ... not so much, actually. And then the ratings tanked, so they blamed the gay couple and shipped them off to Llanview purgatory, wherever that may be. And the ratings continued to tank, imagine that. At roughly the same time, the show's writers had brought someone back from the dead -- again, Mitch Laurence has been dead three or four times now, I think -- and had him cause havoc, and it was pretty clear that the audience was just OVER him. But it was easier to blame Kyle and Fish than the truly terrible Mitch storyline and the fairly uninteresting storylines spinning out of all that, so off they went.

I wonder how long it will be before the networks kill off the other four soaps still on the air. From having something like 20 different soaps on television at their prime, it's now down to Young and the Restless, Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives and the clearly doomed General Hospital. (It may be the second highest rated soap on the air now -- which, given the anemic ratings of the genre as a whole, isn't saying much -- but they've pulled everything off the air that provided its lead-ins. Soaps have dense, dense backstory; it's not terribly likely that people are going to start jumping on now. GH has nowhere to go but down.) Amazing to think this was once the dominant daytime genre, and now it's down to just those.

Questions? Comments? Cigars, cigarettes, Cigarillos, a box of laundry detergent?

Posted by iain at 03:46 PM in category television