Daytime soaps and the WGA strike

It may still not happen, but that hasn’t changed my thoughts.  I really wish the WGA wouldn’t strike.  I thought I wouldn’t care — I’m working on a game now, so I’m financially in the clear, at least till January.  But as soon as I realized that it could happen, all I could think of was how all my shows could possibly be off the air indefinitely.  If not forever.

The first to go, they say, is the late night programming, written perhaps minutes before taping.  The next to go is primetime.  But “They” — the news and other industry-ites — forgot about daytime television.  As a veteran of daytime television, I can tell you that soaps are on their last legs.  A strike lasting longer than a week or two will cause them to stumble.  A strike like that of ’88 would kill them dead, as sure as I’m typing this. 

You may not care about daytime soaps, but let me tell you, once upon a time they were revolutionary, and in a way they still are.  They put out original content 5 days a week, nearly 52 weeks a year.  There is no hiatus.  A history of the soaps is like the history of television.  GUIDING LIGHT, with over 67 years on the air, is a history of 20th century media.  Soaps first reached television like little plays on the air… long scenes that seemed to take up nearly an act.  Then they became more complex as they expanded into an hour, now weaving in four or even seven storylines in a single episode.  Scenes shortened as the audience became more sophisticated.  Soaps’ constant need for content created elaborate love triangles and adventures that mainstream film and television emulate to this day.  Finally, the soaps were often a cultural barometer, marking changes in society’s morals and attitudes towards women as the decades went by.

Now soaps are on their last legs.  Some say they won’t last 5 years.  At lunch today, one writer said they’d just move to primetime.  But the fact of the matter is, the soaps on primetime would not be there today had not daytime soaps led the way.  Furthermore, soaps that air once a week don’t follow the same model as daytime.  22 episodes a year pales in comparison to 250 episodes.  How is the premature death of soaps “okay” in light of all the jobs they provide?  For the industry in general, if not the writers themselves.

Soaps don’t get DVD sales.  Some get electronic downloads, but not many.  Sure, there may be “extra” programming online for some, but overall, soaps don’t factor into the issues that are causing the WGA to strike.  But make no mistake, soaps will bear the brunt of it.  

I say, don’t go gentle into that good night.  Let daytime soaps live out their lives to the fullest.  Honor their history, honor their influence on entertainment in general, and honor their faithful fans who have been watching them, in some cases, for over 40 years.  Don’t strike for long, or don’t strike at all. 

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