28 April 2009

Dirty swine flu - and moar soap chaos!

In these increasingly desperate times, the next grate wave of chaos rears its blood-soaked head as the grim reaper of the Mexican swine flu rises to potentially slaughter millions. The shades of 1918 come to light as whispers of "pandemic" alight from terrified lips.

Fitting, really, in this age of civilizational collapse. Disease and other pestilence seem to make their brief but spectacular interventions in history during times of chaos, moral collapse, and economic dislocation. 

I really don't think all that much will come of this, in truth. A fair number will become sick and perhaps several thousand will succumb to the illness, but hopefull nothing more. As long as the State doesn't decide to use this event to aggrandize control toward itself and relish in the use of "emergency powers."

Oh, wait...

It's ratings terror in soap opera land as the free fall continues!!

We all now know of Guiding Light's demise as the jig could no longer be sustained for them. But earlier this month, the once-mighty ABC soaps plumbed new and unknown depths as all time lows were achieved for all three programs airing. For the first time in perhaps all of recorded history, no ABC soap could muster above a 2.0 on the ratings household share.

In total, the ratings overall are the worst ever for daytime. Let me repeat - EVER. In all recorded history.

Dat's the whirlwind you reap for years of pathetic storytelling, poor writing, unbelievable storylines, absymal acting and character development, killing off popular long-serving characters (the blood of dead Quartermaines is crying out from the earth), and letting untrained teenage actors 'carry' (for lack of a better expression) the show, with characters and stories that no one gives two hoots about, while relegating longtime favorites to the background or the dreaded "recurring" status. 

I would name names and point fingers, but not being a regular viewer I am certain that the remaining loyal fans out there already know far better than I do who is to blame for the chaos and whose heads need to roll.

The soaps are marking time, waiting for the inevitable, doing the same thing over and hoping for a different result. Nothing daring, nothing compelling. Suffice it to say that there is little left to hold daytime viewers anymore. The generic-ization of soaps that began in the 1980s has reached its ultimate end, in defected viewers, poor product, and falling profits for the producers. Now that every character resembles an underwear model or a slut - now that storylines can speak of human cloning, alien abduction, and medically impossible procedures without batting an eye - it is done for, it is finished.

Once programs like General Hospital were honored, respected, and aggressively interesting and watchable. To-day, it is apparent that high school drama students could put together a better production. What money the producers have invested in moving to HD should have been more wisely spent in procuring a cast and writing staff that can actually put together an entertaining product (exempting Anthony Geary, Leslie Charleson, and Jane Elliot here - if the show revolved only around their characters, I would watch every day).

Fundamentally, I blame all this on the relatively low status of soaps in the entertainment pantheon. Soaps historically have held low prestige as television products, due perhaps to their primary (if sometimes forgotten) role as advertising vehicles for consumer products. If soaps and the talent employed therein earned more respect from their peers, they might attract better talent in the first place. In a way these aims are contradictory, since it takes quality to attract quality, and lately soaps have not demostrated much quality. But you get the general idea.

At one time, during the peak of the 1970s soap boom, daytime dramas held a modicum of respect and as such were rewarded with viewers and many rabid fans. However, a major reversal has occurred since that time - due to the creative failures of the daytime producers themselves. 

It will take a major draw of talent to daytime to make soaps relevant again. In the 1970s soaps were the phenomenon of their time - to the point where there were college classes dedicated to the study and analysis daytime drama. Wouldn't it be nice to know that kind of relevance again?

Because daytime has produced much great drama and some of television's finest storytelling over the years. In my view it is worth preserving and saving, if only for that.

But this is perhaps wishful thinking. The 'talents' in Hollywood are hell bent toward destroying the daytime genre, because in their elite bubbles they perceive something to be entertaining that 99% of the population regards as sheer crap. Not to mention, more importantly, that demographics, the lack of replacement cycles, and general inertia have condemned daytime to be a dying genre.

So thus, it is finished, not with a bang but with a whimper.

No comments: