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Death of the Soap Opera & End of an Era

OK, I admit it, the title of this post sounds a bit melodramatic, but then isn’t that what soap operas are were all about, melodrama? And now they’re slowly dying off, one by one, almost reminiscent of the characters in the shows that seemed to do the same thing, die off. Miraculously, some of the characters were resurrected. I don’t think the shows will be that lucky.

The latest two soap operas to bite the dust are ABC’s “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.”

Do you care? Do you, or have you ever, followed a soap opera? It’s OK; you can admit it if you do or if you have. You certainly would not be alone.

Recently when I heard the announcement about the last episode of “All My Children” airing on Friday, September 23, 2011, my reaction surprised me, especially since I don’t watch “All My Children.” I never did. (The final episode of  “One Life to Live” comes in January 2012) The soap opera I used to tune into on a somewhat regular basis was “As the World Turns,” which also succumbed to cancellation last September.

That particular cancellation made me sad, well; maybe nostalgic would be a more appropriate word choice.

That’s because my mom watched “As the World Turns.”

One of my earliest memories of childhood is observing my mom ironing while she watched “As the World Turns.” Later on when I was in high school, I sometimes walked home for lunch (yes, we were actually allowed to do that) and my mom had ATWT on, so I often watched it with her for those few minutes. Well, those few minutes were enough to get me hooked and I continued watching sporadically during college, while working, while being a stay-at-home mom and when I returned to working part-time.

That was the nice thing about soap operas; you could tune in whenever and realize you had missed absolutely nothing!

So why are soap operas dying off?

I’ve heard it’s because they’re too expensive, there aren’t that many women at home during the day anymore, they move too slowly and other various reasons. Today’s audiences want fast-paced action; they want reality-type shows. By the way, I don’t understand the reality show label. Once the cameras are rolling, in my opinion, reality ends.

One good thing that did come from soap operas is they helped bring taboo subjects out into the open. Sensitive topics like drug abuse, alcoholism, rape, homosexuality and yes, cancer were included in the soap opera story lines way before such things made their way into prime time.

Granted the slow death of soap operas is no big deal. The demise of two more is not earth shattering news, not even close.

Still, this slow demise makes me a little bit sad somehow because another link to my past is disappearing; another piece of my mom, another thing we shared is disappearing too.

And loss is about missing all those little links and pieces isn’t it?

Do you, or have you ever, followed a soap opera?

Is the “death” of the soap opera the end of an era?

What’s a link or piece of your past that you miss?



22 thoughts to “Death of the Soap Opera & End of an Era”

  1. I did watch All My Children when I was in high school. I didn’t even know the show was being put out to pasture. And tomorrow? Under what rock have I been? Oh, I know. The rock of I probably DID know this and it was one of those things that simply dropped out of my brain, in ITS ENTIRETY!


    1. AnneMarie, Thanks for your comments. I would say you’ve had a few other more important things on your mind! So as a previous viewer, do you plan to watch the finale?

  2. I used to watch All My Children faithfully for years and years! I stopped watching actually AMC and One life to live at the same time. The story lines just became so strange i had to stop I think it was when they brought back Todd that didn’t resemble Todd and no matter the spin I didn’t follow any longer.

    When I was small my mother used to watch Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light that were both on for 15 minutes. I just remember the one character Jo..\
    I do admit to watching Bold & The Beautiful General Hospital and Young and the Restless….Years ago it was like having to watch them with your drapes drawn Lol My step-dad is 85 he loves the soaps and makes no apologies as a man for watching….. hahaha

    Is it a loss of an era? yes it is because “Housewives ” wanted to live vicariously through their favorite star.

    1. Alli, I remember my mom watching Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light, too and it’s hard to imagine they were only on for 15 minutes. With commercials, how could they tell any story in that amount of time? Amazing. I think it’s pretty funny your step-dad loves soaps, I don’t think he’s the only man watching, many just don’t want to admit that they do. Thanks for your comments, Alli.

  3. I may not be a viewer of All My Children but I know many friends who do watch it. Its sad to think reality television is taking over tv. Honestly its like the networks don’t want to spend money on writers and therefore are causing the dumbing down of television. With other soaps being cancelled I worry for the fate of others…like General Hospital. If they even dare touch GH I will be the one sending them to that hospital! I swear to god.

    Even worse I just found out Oprah won’t help with this ordeal. She’s all “Oh I’m to weak and merely one woman. I can’t do anything to save the soaps. Like all things in life it is coming to an end. Blah Blah Blah life is so poetic blah blah.” Never would I think I’d feel betrayed by Oprah…but that time has come. She has turned her back on so many.

    1. OH and I hear SoapNet has been bought out and will be replaced by some new Disney Channel for kids. Great. Like we need more HORRIBLE kiddie shows that make kids stupid and set horrible examples…so much sexism on the Disney channel. Seriously.

    2. Pebble, I think you’re right, it’s all about saving money. So far General Hospital is safe I guess, but not sure for how long. Interesting point about Oprah. I’m not sure it’s her job to save soaps though, so I don’t see it as a betrayal. Thanks for commenting.

  4. The reason most of these soap operas are finishing is they’re boring; the plots are unrealistic, come on now, how many bad luck can someone really have? Kidnap, in hospital in coma, split personality, ship wreak on island, giving up for adoption and that’s just one person, really now. The other reason is the shows are too long and actresses aren’t really that hot. Latin soaps are more convincing. The plots are better and more realistic and the actresses are hot, just my observation. Watch one and you see.

    1. John, I think they’re ending more for financial reasons. You’re right, a lot happens to one person in any given soap opera, but that’s what makes them soap operas I guess. Some find them boring, but obviously many do not and as for the “hotness” of the actors (yes, I said actors on purpose) well, I’m not touching that one! Thanks for commenting.

  5. Oh Nancy, I knew where you were going as soon as I saw your title. Like you, I spent hundreds of hours watching soaps with my mom. She was hooked on the whole ABC lineup from All My Children through to General Hospital. I would rush home from school to catch the end of One Life to Live and then we’d inhale all of GH together. Who didn’t watch it back then?

    I know, and agree, it is an end of an era. The end of a slower pace and yes, another tie to our moms being cut. I haven’t watched soaps in decades, but I can enjoy remembering that time with my mom. We’d be folding laundry, too! I don’t know, Nancy, I guess it’s part of growing older. We’re seeing a lot of change.

    1. Stacey, I knew you would get it, Stacey. You always do! My mom was more into the CBS line up, so the soap operas that network carried are the ones I grew up with. You’re right, it’s all about change. This change is seemingly small and insignificant, but still it brings make a flood of memories. And sometimes loss is all about remembering those little things. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  6. The poor soaps. Used to watch General Hospital as a kid. Teens love melodrama! But now, the reality shows are taking over to the extreme, and I agree that there’s not much REALITY in them. And Jon thinks the soap plots are too unrealistic? Watch any other tv shows lately??? TV’s not meant to be realistic. The reality shows are full of melodrama. Talk about one dimensional characters, and they are so cheap to produce. As for the relative level of hotness of soap stars, the Internet supplies enough of that…

    1. Ginger, I don’t think kids are the only ones who love melodrama. You’re right, television isn’t really about realism is it? We all have enough of that in our daily lives I guess. There are a lot of time slots to fill on television now with all the channels, hence the emergence of too many shows that simply fill up air space. Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. I was very sad when Another World was canceled – my sister and I had watched it since high school. My grandma’s favorite program was One Life to Live…I watched it with her once, and she kept turning off the TV with the remote when the kissing parts came on! (I was in my 20’s, so I really didn’t need “protecting!”) That is one of my favorite memories of my grandma. Thanks for this post!

    1. Ginny Marie, Thanks for sharing some thoughts and memories. That’s amusing how your grandma felt like protecting you, or perhaps she was just uncomfortable herself! It’s funny the little things we remember that stick with us isn’t it?

  8. I started watching General Hospital in 1965 in California. I was painting the living room. I had been listening to talk radio which made me too angry. I worked part time, but when I was home I watched GH. Jessie was always getting pregnant and losing the baby. We moved to Colorado in 1967, I was pregnant and I said to myself if Jessie loses this baby (yes, she was pregnant again) I will never watch again!! Low and Behold she lost the baby and I turned it off and never watched again. I had no idea it was still on! I never watch “Reality” shows either. The previews I’ve seen seem like everyone is angry at someone. Not my cup of tea.

    1. Betty, Thanks for sharing your memories of GH. I don’t blame you for deciding to quit watching it. I guess you could still tune in since that one’s still on. I know what you mean about the reality shows, not my cup of tea either. Thanks for your comments.

  9. Nancy,
    My mom also watched “As the World Turns”! She would iron while she kept track of all the characters’ lives. I didn’t really follow any soap opera, but watched this show along with my mom sometimes after I got home from school.

    I think the “death” of the soap opera is the end of an era, because that type of show is a part of our culture, the way the viewers can relate and identify with a situation or a character that mirrors their own lives.

    I miss the link to my mom and dad. Once my dad passed away, I felt like an orphan. He was the last of the uncles and aunts, so all we had left were siblings and cousins after he died. Not that siblings and cousins are bad, mind you, it’s just that they don’t know you intimately or as far back as your own parents. I’ve grieved them over and over. Now I’m going through a life phase where I miss them more than ever.

    Thanks for this nostalgic piece.

    What’s a link or piece of your past that you miss?

    1. Jan, Thank you for sharing about your mom and soap operas. It’s great that you two were also tuned into ATWT. I agree, their slow demise marks the end of an era and that’s kind of sad. I know what you mean about missing your parents as you go through this tough time in your life. I’ve thought about that aspect of missing my mom a lot since my diagnosis, but also have concluded I’m glad she was spared that heart ache. Still…

  10. I used to always watch Days of Our Lives with my mom– hence the nickname ‘Sami’ like one of the lead characters 😉 She’d be happy to know that that one is still kicking! But it’s definitely sad that we are coming to the end of the soap opera era. Even though I no longer watch any, it was just nice that in a world that’s constantly changing, those shows stayed the same! They will be missed!

    1. Sami, It’s so good to hear from you! Thank you so much for sharing this memory of you and your mom. I guess there are a lot of us who spent a lilttle time watching a soap with our moms. It’s just a little thing, but you know about missing those little things don’t you?

  11. I am very worried about the future of soap operas, and of television altogether. This makes me worry about the decline of my favourite soap, Neighbours (I’m from Australia). It has been moved off to a digital secondary channel and has only a quarter of the viewers of five years ago.

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