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When Fandom Isn't Enough To "Save" What Can't Be Saved

Sometimes our support and loyalty as fans isn’t enough to keep our shows from going off the air…

Soap Operas: When is fandom not enough?

A soap opera is the kind of show that a person grows up with or grows into. If you are a soap fan, you know what I mean. If you are a soap fan, you also know how serious fans can get when it comes to our favorite storylines and characters. When a favorite character is suddenly fired from a soap opera, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook explode with emotional pleas and outbursts of frustration. When a storyline isn’t going the way the fans want, the networks are bombarded with letters, phone calls, and campaigns galore. Soap fans, including myself, feel deeply about the genre in general and will do just about anything to show it. Which begs the question: If we, as fans, feel so passionately about our soaps, why are they getting canceled at a rapid rate of speed?

In recent years soap fans have said goodbye to Another World, Sunset Beach, Port Charles, Passions, Guiding Light, and As the World Turns. We’ll say goodbye to two more over the next seven months, as All My Children and One Life to Live come to an end. With AMC and OLTL gone, that leaves ABC with only General Hospital for a daytime soap. Now that a deal for Katie Couric’s new talk show has been reached with Disney/ABC, there’s a strong possibility General Hospital could see its run come to an end in 2012. In a few years the remaining soaps: NBC’s Days of Our Lives and CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless could be the next ones on the chopping block. Though there are rumors surrounding possible alternatives to cancelling GH – reducing the one hour drama to a half-program, moving to a new time slot — rarely are changes like this successful in the longterm to keep a soap opera on air, especially at ABC.

Sadly, besides soap actors themselves, soap fans are the last to know when a soap is canceled or changed in any way. Once the news is out, fans will go to many lengths to “save the soaps”. Even sadder — the campaigns, letters, phone calls, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. usually go unnoticed.  Network execs have their own agendas and those agendas do not coincide with the thoughts or feelings of one fan, let alone a fan base of millions of daily viewers. These same execs know exactly where their next source of bread and butter is coming from: reality and lifestyle shows.

So where does this leave our remaining favorites? Fans of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful can breathe sighs of relief, thanks to the multi-year renewals they reached with CBS last December. Days of Our Lives is safe through 2013, though executive producer Ken Corday making major changes behind the scenes and to the canvas after a recent period of low ratings. General Hospital’s fate remains unknown for now, destined to fall victim to wild speculation and probably misleading statements from ABC’s publicity department regarding its future.

As much as we all want to fight the good fight, bringing real change and keeping our soaps on the air, the sad reality is there is nothing we can do to save our soaps. The idea of saving soaps isn’t a new concept. Our platform and ability to connect with other fans is certainly larger than it was in the past, but we aren’t the first and won’t be the last group attempting to save our shows. It’s time for us to wake up and smell the silk roses and come to terms with the fact that networks have no incentive to save the soaps.

We want our soaps more than the trending economic situation calls for. Ratings have been slipping for 20 years, the large audience of 30 million that once tuned in to see Luke and Laura wed is no more. Though there’s no way to accurately figure out the number of viewers actually watching the soaps, the numbers of those “chosen” to represent us — the Nielsen families, have dwindled down as time has gone on.

The idea of bleeding heart executive or rich media figure willing to shell out millions of dollars to “save” a genre in desperate need of evolution and re-invention simply isn’t going to happen. All the networks care about is their bottom line. Soaps are weeded out so networks can profit off of the sinking reality scene and overexposed lifestyle shows that will hopefully draw a larger (and younger) coveted demographic.

As sad as we are to see our shows go, I truly believe that the end isn’t permanent. While the future of soaps on network television is bleak, there is hope for the future. The next evolution of the American soap opera will take place on cable, and is already taking place on the web.

Sometimes fandom just isn’t enough.