In the Mix

June 5, 2015

The Soap Opera Experiment

Did you know that there are only four soap operas left on network television? Days of our Lives, General Hospital, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. There’s now a cable channel for reruns and vintage shows.

So I was curious – As the many soap operas have been cancelled, I decided to spend a month watching the remaining shows and it was quite a research project.

I’ve been the most shocked by how the soap opera has just died. Between 1950 and 2001, soap operas owned daytime TV. Advertising, sponsorships, celebrity – It’s where so many celebrated actors and actresses got their start. Now they’re recycling centers.

In fact, during the 70’s and 80’s, they were so popular, it was more the norm for everyone to watch at least one. True fans picked a network and watched every soap on that network… all afternoon. I even remember professional athletes talking about the ones they liked. And if you were a tot during their heyday, your grandmother or babysitter surely had you sitting in front of a TV at 3:00 watching The Edge of Night.

What I learned: They don’t kill people off as much when their contracts aren’t being renewed; Now the character just leaves town or something. Characters do get replaced by new actors more now. I saw that a few times in a month… And several of their actors and actresses have ended up on other soap operas.

And everybody on General Hospital has a gun and lots of people get shot. Getting shot on a soap opera used to be a who-shot-JR big deal… not anymore…

There’s still the occasional evil twin, and dirty affairs between family members is alive and well. And a 5 year old kid on a soap opera today will still show up a month later a 20 year old adult. Hasn’t changed. But most shockingly, actors travel back and forth between shows playing different characters. We’ve come a long way from the days when studios owned their talent and they were absolutely prohibited from working for anyone else.

Eventually, I would deduce that every soap opera actor will be an independent contractor, free to play roles on as many shows as are left. Either that or at some point, there will only be one cast who plays different characters on different shows.

For instance, Eileen Davidson is on The Young and the Restless as Ashley Abbott. But, she also plays Kristin DiMera on Days of our Lives. That only leaves General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful… Really just GH because she played Ashley Abbott on BB at one point. She’s also a Real Housewife on one of the California versions. One cast… inevitable…

So if you never got into soap operas, you certainly won’t now. Short of having an 80-year-old Godmother who made you watch The Young and the Restless to keep you out of trouble and you never let go, you’re safe to continue watching the other 300 channels you have…