In what would be considered a shocking move if not for the fact that it had been rumored for weeks, ABC announced this afternoon that two of its three daytime dramas — ONE LIFE TO LIVE and ALL MY CHILDREN — will be ending in the coming months. According to a press release, AMC will air its final episode in September, with OLTL’s last telecast coming in January of 2012.
“To call this disappointing would be an understatement,” says Richard M. Simms, the executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine. “Everyone in the industry knew this was possible, and we’d been hearing the rumors for months, but we all kind of kept hope alive in our hearts. Today, the folks at ABC crushed millions of soap fans.”
Airing in the place of the long-running dramas will be two reality offerings. THE CHEW, premiering in September, will focus on food, while THE REVOLUTION, debuting in early 2012, will be a “health and lifestyle transformation” series.
“Ratings for the soaps have been on the decline for years,” says Simms. “Reality shows are extremely cheap to produce, so from a business point of view, I’m sure it’s seen as a no-brainer. But for anyone who cares about quality programming, let alone scripted programming, it’s disheartening. We’ve been watching reality take over primetime for years, and now, maybe inevitably, it’s happening on daytime.”
Once the shows leave the airwaves, ABC will have only one serial remaining — GENERAL HOSPITAL — with only three other soaps (DAYS OF OUR LIVES, THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS and THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL) on the airwaves in total. “In just the past few years, we’ve lost a lot of shows,” says the editor. “PASSIONS, AS THE WORLD TURNS, GUIDING LIGHT, ANOTHER WORLD, PORT CHARLES, SUNSET BEACH. It’s a tough time to be a soap fan.”
When asked what is behind viewer erosion, Simms explains that there are many issues at play, including the availability of hundreds of cable channels and an inability of the shows to capture the all-important youth demographic. “But the biggest problem, and I sincerely believe this, is the lack of good storytelling. Over the years, soaps have lost track of what made them so popular in the first place. Love and romance have been replaced with explosions and bullets. You’re more likely to see someone shot than you are to see a wedding. A lot of the stories are simply a string of heartless plot points without an emotional center. So while I’m sure in the weeks to come there will be a lot of talk about declining ratings and how everything from the OJ Simpson trial to budget concerns were responsible for these shows being canceled, the truth is that bad storytelling and a refusal to give the audience what it wanted are to blame. The writing was on the wall. Sadly, it wasn’t on the pages of the scripts.”