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A Light Goes Dim

A few weeks ago CBS announced that it would be canceling Guiding Light in September. I’ve been reading all about its demise and pondering what it means to all of us who love soaps. I have to confess I’ve never watched GL, being an All My Children chick myself, but the loss of this venerable soap opera sort of took me aback. I mean after 72 years you just pull the plug. Harsh. And replace it with another talk show? Double harsh.

There have been rumblings for a few years online and in the soap rags that daytime dramas are on their way out, and I have been the proverbial ostrich with my head in the sand. Lose soaps? Never happen! Remember, I’m the girl who writes about lost love, sex and the trials of relationships and then breaks for lunch to watch. . . wait for it. . . lost love, sex and the trials of relationships. But now that the reality of such a cold, heartless decision to end GL’s daily dose of infidelity, romance, divorce, precedent setting three day operations and secret evil twins, I grew uneasy for my own chosen profession, as well as my own dose of AMC.

I even woke up the other night in a bit of a panic. How could this happen? Why are viewers leaving their soaps? What has been lost that has left viewers apathetic to actually sitting down and watching? And here is what I think:


Yes, you all know how I feel about spoilers, but I think spoilers, tips, inside scoops and chat boards that delve into and dissect upcoming story lines are killing soaps. Okay, I admit it, I read the soap rags occasionally, and recently signed up for an ABC soap update newsletter. I also belong to an online board for AMC fans who knit. Really, I do. I don’t know what that says about me, either I have too much time on my hands that I actually found that board, or I’ve really got to get a life. But here is the consequence of having too much information about contract talks, story lines and character reveals: I’ve lost the love. Because I’ve already been told that Krystal has some big dark secret that Adam has tracked down, that when it happened this week, I could have cared less, all because I’ve known this was going to happen for a few weeks.

It could also be that the AMC writers are telling their stories at the sort of pace that has me thinking they need to take the espresso machine out of the writing room, but that is another rant for another day. Well, one more little rant: Pacing, people! Pacing! Story telling is not about who finishes first.

Okay, back to my original train of thought.

I fear that as a society we are sinking the joy of being surprised, the thrill of being shocked, the roller coaster ride of following a couple going from true loathing to true love, all because we must be in the know. Really, we don’t need to know everything. Really, we don’t. Because it is that wonderful thrill of riding along and discovering the story as it unfolds that can fill your heart with a sense of wonder, overflow the experience with an entire range of emotions other than just a ho-hum sense of been there, done that. Do you truly want to live your life  knowing what comes next? I think we as human beings are treasure hunters, and we thrive on the thrill of discovery, the wrong turns, dreaming of what could happen around the bend. I don’t want a map anymore.

There, I feel so much better because I know how to solve my own sudsy malaise–stop looking for the information. I suspect that will get my mojo back. How about you–are you willing to try–go to a movie without reading a review or watching the trailers? Check out  a new book without reading an excerpt or a review? Watch your favorite reality show without searching for tidbits via Google? Treasure hunt with me, won’t you?

9 comments to “A Light Goes Dim”

  1. Sarah
      · April 16th, 2009 at 1:15 pm · Link

    I got hooked on AMC I think in the 5th grade – back when Haley was a new character and just starting to wreck havoc in Adam’s life – my cousin made us watch all the ABC soaps, but I could only care for AMC. I watched it everyday that summer. But life happens – I had to go back to school, so I couldn’t watch it everyday anymore. Luckily back then, you could miss 9 months and still be in the loop. When I went away to college, I was able to watch it regularly (planning classes around AMC and GH), but then I started working. I had SoapNet for a time, those marathon sessions helped, but then again, I didn’t always have time to dedicate 5 hours to watching TV on the weekends at their set time. Then I got my TiVo, then I noticed I didn’t have time. Then the story lines got too convoluted for me to follow. My favorite couples got broken up, or died, or otherwise left the show. They filled it up with characters I don’t care about. So much has happened in so little time (what is Carly doing on the show? where is Babe?, did Greenlee leave again, why?). Now when I see an episode, I am not always sure that I am watching the same soap as all those years ago. So that is why I stopped watching soaps.

    But I love excepts and spoilers, it’s the anticipation – feed me a little to make me hunger for more, but don’t give it all away otherwise I won’t crave any later.

  2. Lois
      · April 16th, 2009 at 2:53 pm · Link

    Well, I only watch GL, so I’m quite affected by this news. LOL I started watching when Another World was cancelled because an actor that I liked there went to GL. When the news came out, I was surprised, but wasn’t. As you said, the talk’s been out there for a while now, but at the same time, if they knew they were going to give it the ax, why allow them to make great changes in story, bringing great characters/actors back and the like.

    So, I’m hopeful that perhaps it’ll be saved, but I hope it won’t be if it’s not a channel that most people have (because then what’s the point of saving it if people can’t watch it), and if a new home makes too many changes to what we see (because then double what’s the point, saving it for nothing!). . . so like I posted in a GL board, just hope it ends well, either the show has a great wrap up or a great happy ending elsewhere. :)

    As for the spoilers, I live for them! I want to know what’s coming up, who’s coming or going. . . sure, spoilers mean I know what’s coming up, but knowing the details sure isn’t the same as actually watching it come alive. Like yesterday/today/tomorrow with Olivia/Natalia. . . knew it was coming, but geez louise they are good! :) And sure hope Edmund doesn’t go anywhere, I still hope he’ll get good. . . and I’ll end it there. ;)


  3. CRP
      · April 16th, 2009 at 6:03 pm · Link

    I think that soaps will always be around in some form, ER, DEspewrate Housewives are soaps but at night.

    GL failed for lots of reasons which I won’t go to here…but promotion is key in books or soaps. I never buy a book or see a movie without knowing something of the plot although I do take a chance on a new author id I am aware of her/his book.

  4. Jamie
      · April 16th, 2009 at 7:20 pm · Link

    I was talking about soaps in general just yesterday. I think the MAIN problem with soaps today is that the ones who watched them religiously have either passed away or are passing their time in other ways. For every soap fan like you and I (I watch ABC soaps, too), there is a person, who is like you watch that? To some soaps are way beneath them.

    Then you have a case like GL or what NBC has been doing to their shows. In some cities, GL was only on at 9 am. Unless you LOVE the show, are you going to go out of your way to watch it? This is just ONE of the many problems that GL has faced before it’s demise. Another one is the bottom line people. Why spend thousands on a soap opera when you can spend hundreds putting on a talk show? Who cares about the core characters that has people coming back for more?

    Which is a problem that Days of Our Lives is facing. They were going to be cancelled partly for finances and then were given a reprieve. How did the makers of Days thank the fans? Take ALL the reasons to watch Days and fire those actors. The actors make the show almost as much as the writing. The writing may be number one, but you need to have someone to root for.

    Using AMC as an example – you always have Erica, Kendall or a character like Adam Chandler. Firing those actors and only having say Colby, Taylor and Frankie be the leads is missing out on the history and all that is the main reason people watch soaps.

    Writers of today are forgetting that your soap opera is like a part of your family. If you are going to kill basically all of the Quartermaines from GH, you are killing off your family members.

    What I am saying in this long post is that finances for these soaps are over riding what should be in soaps. FAMILY. Without a core family and the different generations, you have no soap, so people don’t watch and then the soap gets cancelled.

  5. Sarah
      · April 17th, 2009 at 12:12 am · Link

    Also, sometimes they fill up the soaps with new characters – ones you love, ones you love to hate, ones you can’t stand and ones that just don’t get enough love and put your favorites on the backburner to be forgotten forever (or so it seems) which is another turnoff for me. Take for example Boyd (on AMC, back in 2003, I had to look up his name) – I liked his character, thought he was cute and he would have been cute with Kendall (I think she was in between Ryan at that time). But they didn’t have enough for him to do, so he disappeared.

    Also, I feel that sometimes the soaps will push an uninteresting story line in your face and then drag it on forever, so many viewer end up tuning out.

  6. Tai
      · April 17th, 2009 at 10:49 am · Link

    Thank you for the encouraging words!! Some surprises like that our sewer pipe is clogged are not enjoyable, others like my son doing great math work yesterday are! I’ll focus on the good ones. And I find that most trailers for movies nowadays tell you either all of the story of none of it so I know I get surprised most of the time at movies ( I don’t usually go to the movies where the crappy trailer seemed to tell me the whole story though I am going to make an exception for the new Star Trek movie).
    Thanks again for all your words! I bought and loved my “Confessions” right a way too!

  7. Elizabeth
      · April 17th, 2009 at 11:04 am · Link

    Sarah, hate to be the one to break it to you, but Babe is dead. She died in the tornado last fall. As for Carly, she is Bianca’s ex.

    CRP, I don’t like nighttime soaps. Never have. I just don’t find them as fun and campy. I sort of like the daytime cardboard vibe, rather than the more realistic sets and such at nighttime.

    Jamie, I agree with you about the old time characters. They’ve been cost cutting the heck out of the soaps and cutting all the people we love. Apparently a lot of the AMC stars took paycuts rather than get killed off. I love Erika, and Tad. And then they go and ruin a great love like Tad and Dixie by killing off Dixie with poisoned pancakes. That just about killed it for me.

    Tai, I am dying to see the new Star Trek movie! And thanks for picking up Confessions.

    All, my aunt emailed me this morning and said when she was little and my great-aunt would watch her, they would eat lunch listening to GL on the radio. So not only are the characters memorable, but such long running soaps are also markers in our lives, memories of when we watched them. Sad, sad, sad to lose GL.

  8. terri
      · April 17th, 2009 at 8:42 pm · Link

    I hear romance books have retained their loyal readership and are not in danger of being canceled. There are even some romance authors that intertwine characters and stories from book to book, creating memorable families as any soap. Plus, the trailers for a novel are so less capable of giving away the story, guaranteeing many surprises. :)

  9. Vicki
      · July 9th, 2009 at 1:05 pm · Link

    I used to be a real soap junkie. Back in the heyday of Luke and Laura, I scheduled my college classes around GH. Jack and Jennifer on Days will always be special to me. I could name bunches of other favorite couples. For me, that became the reason I quit watching. I got so tired of rooting for a couple and then once they got together, they were torn apart again and again. I want my HEA. Then I discovered Spanish telenovelas. Beginning, middle, and HEA. A romance novel you can watch. I was thrilled. One of the best was “Yo Soy, Betty la Fea.” So good in fact that several other countries have used the basic idea of an ugly duckling turned beautiful heroine. Yep. You guessed it. “Ugly Betty” is loosely, very loosely, based on “Betty la Fea.” I absolutely love telenovelas. And I don’t even speak Spanish.



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