It’s hard to believe that we’re hours away from The Online Network’s debut of All My Children and One Life to Live. Soap fans went into mourning the second it was announced that the beloved soaps Agnes Nixon had created had been canceled and it was hard to imagine we’d ever see Pine Valley or Llanview on our screens again after the soaps took their respective television bows.
But thanks to the hard work of Prospect Park and the dedication of soap fans, that have proven that there is no stronger fan base in existence, we’re getting our soaps back. Since the soaps are premiering in a new medium, the editors and staff of TVSource Magazine put together a list of what we’d like to see the soaps do to set themselves apart from the other soapy dramas currently on our screens.
As soap fans, you’d think we would be sick of big, sweeping romance stories by now right? Sadly, soaps have shied away from the “Love in the Afternoon” tagline of yesteryear and have instead opted to tell stories of one-night stands, babies and quickie marriages performed by glorified day players. We want a return to those big sweeping romances. The actual slow-build of a relationship – from first meeting to the first date to first kiss and so on. Take the time to show us that love really does exist, even in the fictional realms of Llanview and Pine Valley.
A Return to Realism
Soaps have always been, and will always be, an escape from reality. It’s the amount of “realism” that exist within these shows that has slipped far away. Instead of the kitchen-sink drama that viewers get with the UK soaps, US soaps continue to revel in outlandish (and absurd) plots – buried alive, vampires, clones, brainwashing through microchips, cryogenics that cause amnesia – it’s time to rest those tired plot points.
We’re not saying that we don’t want fantasy and escapism, but stories need to be rooted in some form of realism. Water cooler talk is the best way to spread word of a show – it’s kind of hard to explain to someone how a man who was on a different show 10 years ago has the same face as a character now and he’s a vampire stalking a woman who looks like his ex-love from a canceled soap opera.
We want to be able to share these shows with friends and relatives and not waste our time explaining or trying to justify supernatural/sci-fi/outlandish stories, but convince them to invest the time to tune in. We want to argue that the only difference between a show like NBC’s Parenthood and TOLN’s One Life to Live is OLTL’s two hours to Parenthood’s one.
The End of “Back from the Dead” Stories
Consider this the part two to the “return to realism”. Since the 90s, the concept of death on soaps has become absolutely meaningless. In recent years, if an actor departs a show due to a breakdown in contract talks, the character is usually killed off. But wait! Should the actor decide he/he wants to return or the show decides to recast –the character would make a miraculous recovery and return from the grave in a “dramatic” fashion that lost its impact with each passing return.
Remember Days Of Our Lives serial killer storyline from 2004? DAYS killed off numerous characters only to have them wind up alive on an island called ‘Melaswen’ aka New Salem. Not to give DAYS all the blame, but since then, death is just a figment of the viewer’s imagination because people ALWAYS come back (unless you’re GH’s Courtney)
Terminally ill storylines are meaningless because we all know there’ll be some kind of miraculous cure. Maybe it’s a kiss, maybe it’s a magic potion. If you’re going to kill off a character, do it sparingly and make it mean something.
Must See Holiday Episode
There’s a belief that people don’t watch television on the holidays. Though a few soaps have experimented with airing new episodes on the holiday, it is often a non-essential to the overall story so viewers won’t miss anything if they don’t watch. The Online Network should do the exact opposite and make these episodes MUST SEE TV! Since 1986, millions of viewers in the UK have made it a Christmas tradition turn on the BBC, see the Queen’s speech and see what is happening in Albert Square on EastEnders.
Prospect Park is touting the series as “Not Daytime, but Anytime” – something that could work in their favor, especially when it comes to holiday themed episodes. It would be the perfect time to capture some new eyeballs, especially from those who might not ordinarily watch soaps. The potential for new viewers is there; as is the potential to capture the attention of those fans craving soaps during the holidays, but won’t get it on traditional television. Hopefully The Online Network takes advantage of it!
A Season/Series System
We’re so accustomed to big, splashy season finales in primetime television – lives of the characters are left hanging in the balances with the proceeding premiere picking up shortly thereafter and resolving the story in some form or fashion. This allows viewers to speculate on the cliffhanger during the hiatus, building anticipation for the return. We would love to see The Online Network follow this system for their soaps.
It has been done before, albeit rarely in the US. Australian soaps Home and Away and Neighbours as well as the New Zealand soap Shortland Street all do “season finale” cliffhangers in December, returning in mid-to-late-January. This gives the cast and crew time to recuperate, recharge and come back ready for more. The Online Network’s production schedule isn’t as grueling as say those of traditional soaps, but everyone needs a break, especially the writers.
The upside for viewers is that we get to discuss what happened, engage in water cooler and social media discussion and await eagerly for the series to return in a few weeks.
Friendship is something that is severely lacking in most daytime and primetime shows. Friends show up when it’s convenient because a character has something to complain about or confess, but even more than that, friends end up stabbing each other in the back or lying or somehow ruining the lives of their so-called best friend and that’s not really fun for any of us to watch. We’d like to see real friendships whether they be male/male, female/female or male/female; as long as they’re the kind of friendships where both friends would be willing to do anything and everything for the other person, including give him or her the hard truths when necessary. That’s true friendships and we miss seeing it on our screens.
Twists That No One Sees Coming
Soaps are known for their crazy twists, but nine times out of ten, writers tend to go the predictable route. When was the last time any soap (daytime or primetime) had a true ‘jaw on the floor’ speechless moment? We know this kind of plotting requires some outside the box thinking, but what better place for it than these shows? They’re already pioneering a new medium so why not turn traditional storytelling on its ear? Instead of another ‘Who’s the Daddy?’ storyline, find another reason for a soap heroine to sleep with two brothers on the same night (maybe they’re both really hot). That deep, dark secret a character is hiding? Don’t make it a mystery illness or a secret child. But please don’t make him or her a supernatural creature either (see our ‘realism’ section).
Faster Paced Storylines
Soap operas are well known for dragging out storylines months, sometimes years at a time. However, audiences have waned in recent years due to shorter attention spans and a longing for faster paced storylines like those of shows Pretty Little Liars or The Vampire Diaries. Now that All My Children and One Life to Live are only 30 minutes long, I hope their short time spans are spent driving storylines at a faster pace to make it all the more exciting! Besides, no one wants to see two characters talking in a coffee shop for four months.
Back in the day, soap fans awaited big events and parties that took place each year. Whether it was The Young and the Restless’ big social galas, General Hospital’s Nurses Ball or one of Days of our Lives‘ masquerade balls, the events came complete with fabulous dresses, dashing suits and plenty of intriguing drama. Much like Gossip Girl or Revenge, we hope The Online Network adds special events that fans of All My Children and One Life to Live can look forward to each season again
The special events will not only be great times for shocking twists to be revealed but they can also be heavily marketed to the general audience in an attempt to court even more viewers.
The Online Network is set to be a bold, new medium. As such, we’d like to see bold, new storylines involving characters on All My Children and One Life to Live. In a recent interview with Variety, Prospect Park’s Jeff Kwatinetz said daytime soaps aren’t competition. “It’s the primetime soaps on Hulu. It’s, ‘Do I want to watch this, or Jon Stewart?'” The reason shows like Scandal and Revenge are so popular is because they provide just the right amount of escapism and topical storylines. Themes of revenge and political intrigue are dosed with relatable, real-life topics: addiction, sexual orientation, white-collar crime, David vs. Goliath, financial ruin, etc.
Don’t shy away from telling stories about a once wealthy family or solid middle-class family who lost all in a bad business deal. It happens. Tell stories of sexual experimentation, liberation and finding oneself. What was taboo isn’t taboo to the audience they’re hoping to find.
Johnathon K., Mandy Treccia, Spencer Barrett and Omar Nobles contributed to this feature.