So, ABC has cancelled “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.” With other recent cancellations of long-running shows, these departures leave only four daytime soaps still on the air: “General Hospital,” “The Young and the Restless,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “Days of Our Lives.”
Is that maybe four too many?
Traditional daytime fare is going the way of the dodo, and with good reason: the tradtional daytime audience is, too. There are still contingents of bored housewives, shut-in retirees, shift workers and the chronically unemployed, but for the most part, there just aren’t very many people now who stay home all day and want to park in front of the TV. And the ones who do are often catching up on primetime stuff on the DVR or streaming something from Netflix. The days of mommy sitting down after a mornings’s housework to watch her “stories” while waiting for the kids to come home are gone. Even those neo-traditionalist mommies who theoretically fit the target demo are finding something else to do during the day: reading mommy blogs, posting pics of their drooling little ones on Facebook or knitting yet another totally cute beanie for their kid.
This is not to say that the dramatic form itself is a relic. People still want to watch the sordid lives of other people unfold in a serial fashion. But they’re watching “Grey’s Anatomy” for that, instead of “OLTL.” They’re watching stories about people who are more familiar and relatable than the glittery society scions in traditional soaps. And those who still want a peek into the dramatic lives of the beautiful people are getting plenty of that on reality shows. Who needs a soap when you have the “Real Housewives,” yeah?
There is something a little sad about this. Most folks in my generation have fond memories of sick days at home, when we got to sneak in some viewings of “The Price is Right” and watch people kissing on “Y&R.” Knowing that that that time has passed does make me feel a bit old. But it’s also a good thing, because it means the world is moving on from the stifling boxes in which people used to live then.
Most of the housewives who glued themselves to whatever the Spencers or Newmans were doing were using those stories as escapism; as a way to get beyond the diapers and drudgery and imagine a glamourous life they’d never have. Undoubtedly, many women still are trapped in such roles (largely due to pressure from cultural/religious standards) but for the most part, if a given woman isn’t working during the day, it’s out of choice, not blind obedience to tradition. (There’s another issue here about how sensible those choices are, but I won’t get into that at the mo.)
I do feel somewhat sorry for the actors involved, given that soaps were a steady paycheck, and often a great training ground for industry newbies who needed the trial-by-fire of shooting a daily show. But beyond that? Honestly, I think it’s time to say goodbye. “Love in the Afternoon” is a relic of a dead era. And thank goodness for that.