RIP, ABC's Daytime Soaps

I'll admit, on a personal level, I'm not sure how much I really care about the cancellations of One Life To Live and All My Children today. It's not like I watch either show - I'm not sure I've ever seen an episode of either, to be honest - and I'm not a follower of the daytime soap genre in general. But, still: There's something sad about the news.

It's not that I don't think the replacement show, The Chew, is necessarily a bad idea; I like Mario Batali, and my love of Top Chef means that I am contractually obligated to be happy that Carla Hall is getting to appear on television on a regular basis, even as much as the idea of a daily daytime food show fills me with a bit of nervousness if not outright dread. Instead, what gets to me is the whole "end of an era" feeling about the whole thing: ABC is, in one fell swoop - albeit one spread out between September this year, when Children ends, and January next, when Life stops being lived - shows that have existed for more than 40 years, and without very much fanfare whatsoever.

It would have been one thing if the two shows had been announced as ending separately, I think; fans would have been outraged and gawkers like myself would have thought it was sad, but probably time for the shows to go. But announcing both together, it's as if there's a certain sense of... eagerness, perhaps, to end both as soon as possible, as if ABC has decided that daytime soaps are dead to them and the end can't come soon enough. Which, even though I don't watch the shows themselves, is sad in a way: It feels like another loss for scripted series, and for ongoing narrative storytelling in general. Perhaps it's the comic fan in me, but there's something admirable about a series that's gone on for more than forty years, even if it's ended up with a core niche audience and dismissed by the general public. For that to end is genuinely sad to me, no matter what.

Of course, it's hard to argue that ABC made the wrong choice; reality and unscripted programming are much, much cheaper to produce than the soaps, and also more likely to have higher ratings, considering the decline of genre over the last few decades, which means that's where the ad money is, and profit is all these days, as always. And yet, there are so many of those shows, and so few daytime soaps left, part of me wishes there was some kind of official protection act to keep the remaining ones safe, just to keep variety on our screens. Because it might be daytime soaps today, and then low-rated 10pm dramas tomorrow, you know? Not every Jay Leno Show will be a failure if networks really want to make that timeslot work for cheaper programming, after all...

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