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45 February 19th, 2012 N.Y. Times Takes a Look: How Are Remaining Daytime Soaps Adjusting to Stay On the Air?

Courtesy/NY Times

In another New York Times article this weekend on the daytime soap genre,  this one by writer/reporter Taffy Brodesser-Akner takes a look at how three of the remaining four daytime soap operas: Days of our Lives, The Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful have made changes in their storytelling and their budgets to adapt to the downturn in the soap landscape and to keep viewers coming back.  According to the article, General Hospital was asked to participate, but declined to comment as part of this piece, so take that as you will.

Interviewed for the Times feature were Days of our Lives star, James Scott (EJ DiMera), Deidre Hall (Marlena), the show’s co-executive producer, Greg Meng, plus NBC’s Senior VP of Current Programming,  Bruce Evans.  In addition, B&B’s head honcho, Brad Bell, and Y&R’s executive producer and head writer, Maria Arena Bell.  Below are some interesting excerpts from the story from some of the soap notables!

DAYS James Scott noted, “Some soaps were able to adapt financially and streamline production, and some were not.  It was disappointing when All My Children got canceled.  It wasn’t necessary.  They failed to come in on time and under budget.”  James also told the Times,  he and his “Days” co-stars had become used to the quicker pace of shooting.  His shooting day begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. to avoid overtime, while his friends on All My Children would routinely tape until 8 p.m. “I’ve had a second take on less than 15 scenes out of the last thousand I’ve shot,” he said.   Adding to the consistent cancellation rumors of the soaps in general, James added, “Maybe we’ll be canceled in 18 months, but do you know anyone who gets this much notice that they’re going to be fired? If you want stability, go and become a doctor. People always get sick.”

Bruce Evans reassured that DAYS is in a good place and financially healthy and also stating, “Keeping the show on the air makes good business sense for us. The numbers are important, and the numbers are good.” Greg Meng noted how the story of Sami and EJ having grief sex and the fallout has had some light-speed viewer feedback never seen by the series, “We had record-breaking feedback.  It got people talking on Twitter, Facebook, in the grocery store.  That’s how you create a drama.”

B&B’s Brad Bell talked about the difference in his show from the 80′s to its modern day version, “We’re no longer the schmaltzy, fluffy romance of the ’80s’.  Women are more independent and edgier.  The dialogue is clever and witty.  The old theory says: Keep things moving slowly, because if people are only watching two or three times a week, they need to know what’s happening.  Our new theory is: Something has to happen every day, and it’s more important to feel as though you’ve missed something by not watching.”

Finally, Y&R’s Maria Arena Bell added, “The desire for this sort of wholly American art form that you can have a relationship with day after day is still going to be there. If we can weather this storm, then we can ultimately see that the daytime has room for various kinds of programming, just the way prime time does.”

So what do you think about the comments from some of soaps luminaries?  Do you feel and see the adjustments the shows creatives are making when viewing your favorite soap at home? Let us know!

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  1. Gman says:

    While I completely agree that daytime is in a serious state of flux, and any changes that can keep the shows on the air need to be implemented, the only thing I still disagree with is the statement from Brad Bell about not keeping things happening slowly. Y&R was notorious for taking forever to bring stories to a conclusion, and it was masterful. That’s how they became the #1 show on the air. There was depth, there were layers, and subtleties, unfortunately missing today. Not that it has stopped me from watching though =)

    Reply

  2. barbara t says:

    wish abc felt the same about our 3 soaps ,one life to live was under budget and the evil abc/disney still wasnt happy until they had more money in there pockets and now there programing is cheep ,its nothing special ,you can go anywhere and find the same low budget trash that I wont watch ,all my children and one life to live are class shows that abc will never have again ,general hospital is going on 49 years ,abc will never have any show on there network ,that will come close to that many years.who ever made the decision to get rid of the soaps ,i believe made the wrong choice ,there were so many other shows in there daytime lineup that they could get rid of and left our soaps alone .why abc, why couldnt you just leave our soaps alone ,you lost millions of your fan base,and you really pissed us off,and were not coming back ,at least this all my children,one life to live,and general hospital fan wont,even if your the last network standing ,Ill throw my television out in the garbage before I ever tune in to abc/disney again.

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    janice replied

    Amen!!!@

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    krktoday? replied

    The highest rated The Chew hasn’t even come close to the lowest rated All My Children. They aren’t looking for rating’s they just want all the profit. They put these unheard of people of talk show’s and pay them next to nothing. No one is watching but I don’t think they care. They will pay Katie Couric a lot to replace GH but not as much as they pay for the entire cast of GH. No one will watch her. No one watched her do the new’s. She was alway’s way back in third place. I have never watched the Revolution but my daughter said she has been stuck with it twice where business keep the tv on all day and it is really boring. If women are home during the day they want their soap’s. Talk show’s are a dime a dozen. I thought I would miss Oprah but once she left I never gave her another thought. I miss my soap’s every single day.

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  3. janice says:

    very good article. Too bad ‘the powers that be’ at ABC aren’t doing the same…..or are they, finally? we’ll see. I sure hope so.

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    david replied

    ABC is not doing the same. The three soaps “eager to share the measures they were taking to remain vital and relevant in television’s changing landscape” didn’t include ABC because ABC doesn’t know how.

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    janice replied

    I figured as much . That sucks

    david replied

    After reading in Michael’s latest post (General Hospital wins WGA Award) that ABC was too cheap to buy seats for their nominated writers, I think it is clear ABC/Disney doesn’t give a damn about its last daytime soap. They won’t even engage the media to garner any attention for GH on any level. We can only assume the decision to cancel GH has already been made.

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    janice replied

    sadly, I think you’re right :(

    barbara t replied

    I hope your wrong.I m trying to stay possitive,I wish abc would just come out and say one way or the other,if the revoultion stays and gh goes ,there are alot of maggots working at abc/disney ,they want more money ,and we lost all of our beloved soaps ,because of greed ,abc/disney does not care about the soap fan base,or for the many people who worked for them .such disrespect.

  4. Chris Smith says:

    General Hospital chose not to comment because General Hospital will be off the air in September

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    Heather replied

    And how do you know that? Care to let us know

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    lipstickcat replied

    ABC will not announce GH’s cancellation until the last minute because of the backlash it got the last time from AMC & OLTL fans! If you believe anything they promise you’re stupid! Didn’t you learn they don’t want to be in the soap business! Genie Francis even said this in an interview last year!

    Heather replied

    Judging by your numerous posts I’ve seen from you in the past, it’s obvious that you want General Hospital to be cancelled. I think that you’re jealous that GH was chosen over OLTL. Otherwise you wouldn’t be so obsessed about the demise of General Hospital?

    1loveabcsoaps replied

    Hey Heather: I see you had a little something something of a catfight going on. I’m sure U have read mind. At least you guys made your comments and kept it moving. Im with you Heather, I’m a die yhard GH fan, no matter how bad it is. I love GH. At some point or another, each abc soap has been my favorite soap (when story line dictated) so, I’m not being bias. It has always depended on the storyline(s). OLTL just happened to be the best running soap here of late, and I’m glad it has gotten all the attention it has, being the ‘ middle child ‘ of the abc soaps. Good, the other two abc (soaps) ‘most popular ‘ and ‘over paid big names’ had to stand up and take notice of how powerful MASS APPEAL over weighs superficial popularity.

    Shelly replied

    I heard the same thing over the weekend.

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    barbara t replied

    where did you hear about this?I heard that abc will let us know in a few weeks ,unless of course you are a fly on the wall at abc/disney.

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    Chris Smith replied

    Heather its a fact that Katie Couric’s show will start in September in the 3pm EST time slot so where would GH go? It will be cancelled just like the two previous soaps. ABC wants out of the soap business clearly and will only broadcast talk shows. I don’t have any in the know information this is just obvious. The way ABC lied to everybody about AMC and OLTL i would think you all would not listen to a word they say about GH staying on the air. ABC cares nothing about longtime fans of the soaps and cares only about producing low budget talk shows from here on out.

    Heather replied

    “Heather its a fact that Katie Couric’s show will start in September in the 3pm EST time slot so where would GH go? ”

    Have you forgot about the OLTL/Revolution timeslot? I’m not necessarily saying that’s what will happen nor do I deny the POSSIBILITY that General Hospital will be cancelled. But to assume at 100% that General Hospital will be cancelled is foolish in my opinion.

    barbara t replied

    I dont think that abc wants to pay 30 dollars to the few people who are willing to walk in and watch the revolution, there not even telling the truth on the name of the show ,so general hospital can go on at 2 .I f they dont cancel that show ,mickey mouse should fire everyone who is doing the daytime line up ,because they dont know what there doing ,you shouldnt have to hand over money ,begging people to watch a mystery show, that sucks.and if abc cancels general hospital and keeps the revolution.you have to wonder,what the hell is going on at abc/disney?

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  5. kay killgore says:

    Unless I am wrong AMC was moved to LA to help with budgets etc and the actors were told to move and it would be saved so I am trying to figure out Mr. Scotts comment? And was AMC given 18 month’s warning I thought the actors uprooted and then got the rug pulled out from under them someone correct me if I am wrong.

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    barbara t replied

    your right kay killgore,when everyone moved to la they all thought this move would help to save money,I dont under stand that because it costs a fortune to move across country ,Ive done it 3 times but north to south,they had no Idea abc/disney were going to kill the soaps ,they were all caught off guard and that weasel frons did it at a meeting ,that he didnt attend ,I heard he tapped it ,he didnt tell them the soaps were over in person,they watched it on a t v.can you believe that? some of the cast were with abc for 40 years ,what a way to hear you have been fired.abc didnt give them a warning,they were told to watch the spending.I dont know who the head honchos are over at abc but they dont give a rats ass about people ,doesnt matter who you are.

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    krktoday? replied

    Another thing that was so unfair to the AMC cast was many probably sold their home’s at a loss in this economy in New York just to find out they didn’t have job’s in LA. If they had been told this might happen they may have kept their home’s in case they wanted to go back to New York and do stage play’s.

    Heather replied

    Actually, Frons told the cast of All My Children in person.

    It’s the cast of One Life to Live that were notified on video because the show is based in New York while Frons and All My Children were based in Los Angeles.

    krktoday? replied

    I am positive Susan Lucci didn’t get 24 hour’s notice. She was telling a crowd of fan’s AMC wasn’t going anywhere a week before the show was canceled. GL cast was told on April 1st they would wrap up the show Sept 18th. That is 5 month’s. Quite a stretch from 18 month’s.

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  6. krktoday? says:

    I think the soaps need to inject more humor into their drama’s. Back in the 80′s when GH ruled the soap world they had so much humor with people like luke and Laura Lucy Coe and Kevin. Now it is how many people can we have to do a complete meltdown in one day or how many can we shoot. Who can do the best depressing cancer storyline. When we watch the soaps we want to see rich people conniving each other, or something that makes up laugh and forget we are home unemployed. It used to be the rich people we dreamed of being against the poor people who often were winning with some humor thrown in. When was the last time we laughed at someone on GH? Everyone on the whole show is miserable or about to be killed or both. The only romantic couple’s on the show are probably going to be killed at their wedding if they ever make it there. Real romance and humor is just lost these day’s.

    Reply

    barbara t replied

    I take it you never watched one life to live,the writers were very good with romance and real comedy.now that the writers from one life to live are at general hospital,maybe we will see it in port charles again ,I hope so.

    Reply

    krktoday? replied

    Yes I did watch OLTL every single day and I loved it. I was mostly talking about GH. It used to have some really enjoyable laugh out loud scene’s and in the past few year’s it has been nothing but serious. If a person was depressed they sure better not tune into that show for a lift. I have watched GH since 1963 so I don’t like to complain about it but it is just one person after another having a melt down. If they do have a wedding you can just count on someone getting shot. I am hoping the OLTL writer’s will change that. It does seem like the show is getting a little better now

    Emily replied

    So true, so true!!! I taped OLTL & GH daily (loyal to GH), but that’s why I was taping OLTL the last 8 – 9 yrs or so. I had always watched OLTL on and off, mostly on. But the last 8 or 9 yrs I fell in love b/c of the writing (humor and drama, creatively mixed). I was like wow, that was a great show!!! GH was becoming dark and I was getting a kick out of OLTL. Still in mourning….

  7. Debi says:

    How depressing GH wouldn’t participate!!!!!! :(

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  8. barbara t says:

    interesting ,general hospital news over at soaptown usa (loose lips) ,go there every week, looks like alot of good changes happening in port charles ,cant wait,and I hope the rumors of kassie depava and roger howarth staying on general hospital is true.

    Reply

  9. Dee says:

    I think Y and R will survive if MAB and her crew of hacks are replaced..she has ruined my Y and R and I barely watch anymore and I might add 7 of my friends have abandoned Y and R too and its sad as we used to watch it faithfully until MS Bell decided that only a few couples are worthy of writing for.

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  10. Jules says:

    It was reassuring to read what an NBC head honcho had to say. Keep up the good work DAYS!

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  11. cathy trinque says:

    Days is a great soap! I hope it stays around to make up for the loss of AMC. Of course, ABC declines to participate. ABC execs are ignorant and arrogant!!!

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  12. LUMI says:

    I love Days and hope its here to stay for 50 more years,but Corday said he was going to try to keep it on the air to it see’s 50 years,and its been here sence Nov: 1965.
    I know we all love our soaps and not everyone watch the same soap,but when
    Another world went off the air,I cryed for weeks,but I got over it,but I still miss it everyday,that was the soap my mama and I watched and Days was too,my mama is gone now,but she is still watching Days everday with me :)

    Reply

    Heather replied

    With the ratings GH and Days have right now, I don’t see either show celebrating their 50th anniversary.

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  13. Heather says:

    With the ratings GH and Days have right now, I don’t see either show celebrating their 50th anniversary.

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  14. LUMI says:

    IF Days can hung in there 3 more year they will have 50 years :)
    I hope they make it :)

    Reply

  15. Carole says:

    I started watching AMC when I stayed home when my first child was born and I quickly became hooked. I just LOVED watching beautiful well-dressed people living glamorous lives during this phase of my life. Thanks to my VCR and my DVR, I never had to miss an episode when I returned to work. All My Children had tons of humor and dealt with topical issues like Aids, Homosexuality, Prostitution,etc. with wit and class. When I envision Disney now I see not Mickey Mouse but a big ugly rat with a resemblance of Brainless Frons.

    Reply

    barbara t replied

    same with me,disney should never have bought abc ,they use to be good to the soaps then slowly they started to go downhill in the writing and time spent advertizing them ,the nurses ball ,the soap thing in orlando ,so much more .brainless frons isnt the only problem abc has ,the problem is they want to put the cheapest programming on to put money in there pockets and because of that there shows arent anything special anymore ,the soaps were a big part of my life ,I was a faithful viewer .and I wont watch talk,food or dumb reality shows of any kind ,there all over the place ,so abc has nothing to offer me as a viewer, they had me for 49 years ,im done with them except for general hospital.

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  16. Rob says:

    MARIA ARENA BELL, If you want to keep viewers you need to start reading these message boards and start listening to what the fans are saying!!

    NO MORE DAISY!

    NO MORE STUNT CASTING!

    PAY ATTENTION AND HONOR THE HISTORY OF THE SHOW!

    Reply

    Jared replied

    I second that!

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  17. Cindy Longstreth says:

    It’s so sad ABC/Disney threw away they best the ever had. They never realized that theses were not just people or cast or charters to us, they were our Family’s. Part of our every day existence, they helped us cope with problems in our own lives along with great stories , humor and drama.We NEEDED them we LOVED them and we still do! It doesn’t matter what we say or do to them because they don’t care about us but what they don’t realize is how much they meant to us. I’m afraid that in a few months they are going to find out because a sharp pain and emptiness we have be left with could fester and many fans could start “going postal”. These idiots really need to pay attention to all of these grieving people!

    Reply

  18. RJ4 says:

    I think if the remaining soap operas develop good story lines and characters by either keeping them real and relevant to the world today, or they come up with imaginative stories that keep you guessing and wanting to come back for more they may get enough of an audience to stay on the air. With all of the challenges and stresses of life today, it is nice to have an afternoon break for romance, fantasy , escape, – watch other people work through their problems that you can either relate to or say – their problems are worse than mine :) . Regarding the Chew, I feel like how many food shows can you watch and have on day after day. For example, Days has improved considerably this year – they have a combination of some real life relevant story lines – Will’s coming out, mayoral race, and some escape stories – so it seems viewers are happier with the show now.

    Reply

  19. jenna k. says:

    please dont let them get rid of days of our lives.i love the show dont replace it with some 24hour kiddie channel

    Reply

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