After having suffered more blows than a professional boxer, soap fans finally had a reason to celebrate yesterday when ABC announced that its only remaining daytime drama — GENERAL HOSPITAL — would live to see another day while THE REVOLUTION would be getting the axe. While this means that the sudser will live to see its 50th anniversary next April, it doesn’t mean that the fight is over.
“The last thing viewers should do is take this as a sign that they can relax,” says Soaps In Depth executive editor Richard M. Simms. “Yes, GH is safe… but for how long? It’s sad that a genre which has been around longer than most of the people in the audience has to take things one year at a time. It wasn’t all that long ago that people assumed soaps would be around forever. Now, we can’t take anything for granted.”
Did ABC learn its lesson with THE REVOLUTION — a lifestyle show which was soundly rejected by viewers ticked off that it had replaced ONE LIFE TO LIVE? “Wouldn’t it be nice to think that they did?” says Simms. “But it’s impossible to deny the economics of television. The simply fact of the matter is that reality is cheaper to produce than scripted dramas. But what that equation fails to take into account is that viewers are overloaded with reality. They can get it from just about any channel on the dial. You know what’s hard to find? Soaps. At least in daytime.”
Primetime, he points out, is another matter entirely. “Look around the dial! It’s ironic that even as ABC is killing its daytime soaps, they’re finding great success with the same genre in primetime. REVENGE is one of their biggest hits. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES isn’t being canceled, it’s leaving the airwaves because the producers think it’s run out of steam… and it’s being replaced by another soap, DEVIOUS MAIDS. Even most comedies now have continuing storylines.”
Now that GENERAL HOSPITAL has been given a reprieve, what’s the best thing fans can do to keep it on the air? “Watch!” says Simms enthusiastically. “And get other people to watch. The show is in great shape right now, better than it’s been in years. It’s funny and exciting and manages to surprise the audience, which isn’t easy to do in this day and age.”
For those who’ve gotten out of the GH habit or never picked it up, the exec is even on hand to help. “Whenever possible, I’ve been live-tweeting the show’s East Coast feed at 3 p.m.,” he says. “So if people are on Twitter — and really, who isn’t? — they can follow me at @soapsindepthabc. I’ll answer questions about characters and plots, or they can just enjoy having out with me and other soap fans as we dish the show.”