A pair of daytime TV staples bit the dust in 2011 (dramatic pause ¿ no, longer ¿ longer ¿ now stare back at the camera with cagey eyes) when ABC announced that "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" were canceled. Or were they ... ?!? (Intense music sting.)
Only four network soaps remain, which is certainly happy news for those still watching "General Hospital," but if we're talking about deeply entrenched pop culture obsessions, the demise of the daytime drama has been met with little more than a collective shrug.
I was once a half-hearted watcher of soaps. Like everything else when I was in high school, it was choice determined by my social circle. Fridays afternoons, my girlfriends and I would convene at one of our houses to watch "Guiding Light." Did we ever become fully invested in the stories? I can't even remember. In my mind's eye, the ritual was fueled by our catcalls aimed at the TV screen: What havoc is Reva Shayne causing now, that crazy scamp?
I've long since traded up (or down, depending on your view) for the high-camp pleasures of reality TV, which has so effectively hijacked the hallmarks of the soap opera genre, with its manufactured conflicts, false eyelashes, lame attempts at sexiness and hour upon hour of overacting. And every time a tacky new iteration of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Wherever" turns up -- made for a fraction of the $50 million annual sum it takes to produce a network daytime drama -- I'm there watching it with all the same eye-rolling bliss that marked my days with "Guiding Light." Which aired its last episode in 2009. Not that I noticed.
If soap operas have taught us anything, it's that killing off a character doesn't mean you can't bring him or her back from the dead. And the same apparently holds true for the shows themselves. Almost immediately after ABC gave "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" the old finger-across-the-throat, there was talk of moving the shows to online. A production company licensed the digital rights from ABC before abandoning the efforts when it couldn't raise enough money to revive the shows. But wait! The story doesn't end there! This month Variety reported that the company is, in fact, still "exploring options for keeping them going online." Well, of course it is. The soap opera continues, even if the story has shifted to the behind-the-scenes drama of bringing these old staples back to life.
-- Nina Metz