Why The Remaining Daytime Soaps Must Start Paying Attention to Their Primetime Counterparts if They Hope to Stay Alive
The Mouse House may be doing everything possible to tank their last daytime soap, General Hospital, in order to finally be out of the scripted TV business before primetime hours, but the same channel is aggressively developing numerous primetime sudsers. What gives?
A quick look at ABC's 2012 pilot slate and you're liable to get bubbles in your eyes from all the soap! There's Nashville, the country music-themed family drama from Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise) and directed by RJ Cutler (The September Issue). That sudser just cast wildly popular daytime alum Jonathan Jackson (ex-Lucky Spencer, General Hospital) in a plum role, but if Nashville makes it to air, will that be enough to lure lapsed and furious ABC Daytime fans, still mourning the losses of All My Children and One Life to Live, to watch? If that's even a point of consideration — which, let's be real, it likely isn't.
Nashville is one of multiple primetime soaps the Mouse House has in development, while rapidly ditching their daytime drama forerunners. There's also fashion sudser Americana, starring Anthony LaPaglia as a Ralph Lauren-esque designer, dealing with, you guessed it, family drama; Marc Cherry's first post-Desperate Housewives project, Devious Maids, based on a Spanish language telenovela; period soap Gilded Lilys, from Shonda Rhimes, about a New York City luxury hotel in the late 1800's; supernatural sudser 666 Park Avenue, centered on a young couple who take jobs managing a historic, Gotham apartment building, only to learn it has some dangerously undead inhabitants; and an adaptation of Judith Krantz's blockbuster beach read Scruples, about a glamorous socialite and her department store dynasty during the 1970's. Scruples has Krantz's son Tony Krantz, Oscar winner Natalie Portman and Precious helmer Lee Daniels behind it.
While several period soaps proved to be misses this past TV season—NBC's The Playboy Club and ABC's own Pan Am— PBS has its most successful series ever in Downton Abbey. I wouldn't be surprised if Rhimes' Lilys has its fair share in common with the Dowager and the gang at the Abbey, but that's just my guess.
Unlike the first time in pop culture history when primetime soaps were all the rage, the early 80's (Shout to to 60's stand alone Peyton Place!), this time around the daytime serials that inspired them are on their last legs, which begs the question — could a spike in interest in primetime soaps possibly benefit the last four daytime soaps on the air in any measurable fashion?
Revenge, one of this TV season's most buzzed about shows, essentially works from a basic "How To Write a Good Soap" handbook, complete with oodles of glitzy, fast-paced stories about sex, betrayal, scandal and murder.There's also plenty of Haves vs. Have-Nots action, thanks to a pair of hunky townies and a trailer trash lass, with a fake identity, mixing it up with the dirty, sexy monied folks.
Don't get me wrong, I love Revenge— can't get enough of it in fact—but it isn't exactly revolutionary. In all actuality, Revenge is quite retro, which I believe has helped its popularity. As fans mourn the loss of so many traditional, old school soaps in daytime and primetime over the years, Revenge came along and brought the sudser roaring back.
Lead revenge seeker Emily/Amanda (Emily VanCamp) methodically takes down her enemies on the hit 2011-12 TV season sudser episode after episode, much like Sarah Michelle Gellar's Kendall Hart and Sarah Brown's Carly Roberts were doing on All My Children and General Hospital respectively way back in the 90's. Before there were Kendall and Carly, there were their scheming soap mothers, Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) and Nurse Bobbie Spencer (Jackie Zeman), who were wreaking soapy havoc way back in the 1970's. Speaking of Erica Kane, Chrstina Yang's (Sandra Oh) marriage imploding on Grey's Anatomy over her decision to have an abortion to focus on her career isn't something new to daytime soap fans. Erica did that three decades ago!