Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Oprah Killing Erica?

I know she didn't mean to but Oprah is probably killing Erica Kane, Luke Spencer, Bo and Nora and many of the other soap opera characters you have grown to know and love.  Oprah's leaving her talk show after 25 years is creating a giant sucking hole in the broadcast TV stratosphere, and the shortsighted  network execs are rushing to fill it.

Talk shows are cheaper to produce than soaps. No giant cast to pay. No multiple sets to build. No convoluted story lines to write. A talk show could get by with two chairs, a studio and a production studio.  You'll need a few more chairs for throwing if the show leans to the Jerry Springer style.

Maybe it's been a long time since you followed a soap. Their ratings have decreased since the glory days.  Some say the OJ Simpson trial was the beginning of the end.  The soaps were preempted daily for the weeks of the trial. People were introduced to the intrigue of reality TV and became addicted. Some explored other channels and never returned.

Or maybe it was the parade of women who joined the work force and abandoned daytime TV all together that doomed the dramas.  VCR's and the Soap Channel helped for a while, but who had the time to catch up evenings and weekends with meals to cook, laundry to do, and Dancing with the Stars to watch?

All I know is there used to be room for all formats during the day. A little talk, a few games, a bit of news, and the "stories" as my grandma always called them.  One of my oldest media memories was listening to Ma Perkins on the radio as my mom did the ironing. (Ironing, what's that?) Later, I would rush home from school to catch what Barnabas Collins was up to on Dark Shadows. In college, we arranged our classes to be able to join the crowd in the student lounge for viewing the latest Luke and Laura adventure as they tried to save Port Charles.

Now, where will our daughters learn that all romances eventually become triangles? That most weddings are likely to be interrupted by murder, old girlfriends returning from the dead, or other assorted fiascoes?  That a broken heart is a temporary thing, another cute guy is right around the corner? That most men are either doctors, lawyers, rich business men, or gangsters? That, no matter what you do to make a living, you will always have time to meet with your friends and enemies during the day? And that at Christmas time, your house will be magically decorated to professional standards overnight?

Now, it's all going. What will happen to all the soap mags? All the spoiler websites?  All the fan clubs? The Soap Channel is going Disney kids? A whole industry down in flames. The end of an era.

And the reason it's happening so fast? I just have to blame Oprah. I doubt she'll make room on OWN for  the soaps. Too bad.