TVSource Magazine: So with major budget cuts on a lot of the soap operas, fluctuating ratings and all, do you think a network would ever invest in creating another daytime soap opera?
Alina: I think they would if they felt like they could suck in the right audience. So here’s my theory. I have this very controversial theory which I have no evidence for that I want to share with you. You’re getting an exclusive – well, except for everyone that I’ve just sort of expounded to. I have a theory that soap operas don’t want longtime viewers. Soap operas are designed to sell product. Commercial television is called commercial television; it’s not a negative thing. They’re designed to sell product.
If you have been watching the show for 20 years and you have not started using Crest, it’s highly unlikely you’ll start using Crest. So you’re a useless audience member. Soaps want new viewers who will tune in and buy Crest. If you are not going to buy Crest, you mean nothing to them. So a longtime viewer who hasn’t switched to Crest is worthless. The only viewer that’s worth something is the new one that can come in and you can pitch product to. You know, soaps have this reputation for having an older audience because they do; it’s people who have watched long term.
Remember that experiment they did a few years ago with telenovela style shows?
TVSource Magazine: On MyNetwork or something…
Alina: Yeah, one of those pretend networks. (laughs) I feel like maybe they’ll try to do that because the fact is, their older audience is kind of useless to them. Not just for demographic reasons but because at 50 years old you’re not going to switch to Crest. If you haven’t been convinced by now, you’re not going to be convinced. I think if an investment is made back into soaps, it’ll be into new material because I don’t think they need their old audience. And I have no evidence for this except for the fact that it’s how it seems to happen! (laughs)
TVSource Magazine: Do you think, compared to five years ago when a lot of the soaps got axed, the industry is in a better place now?
Alina: I always tell people that anyone who knows what the future holds is lying – either to you or to themselves. I honestly don’t know. I feel like the soaps are in a worse place now. I think they benefitted from having a block [of programming]. Now there’s only General Hospital on ABC, there’s only Days of Our Lives on NBC and I feel like they’re trapped now between incompatible programming. So to me, they feel like they’re in a weaker position. They don’t occupy as much real estate which means they don’t bring as much gravitas which means they don’t get as much attention from networks. I feel they’re in a bad place.
TVSource Magazine: You can see it now too. There are no more primetime promos, not even promos after episodes now.
Alina: I feel like because they occupy less real estate, they are of less value. You know, when I did my book, I solicited information from fans about their favorite moments were and then I went to the actors, producers and directors who made those moments. What’s interesting was that you got big stuff like Felicia’s intervention on Another World, when Laura died on All My Children or BJ’s heart. But you also got the smaller moments! And the smaller moments are really only valuable if you have all the buildup. Now while I said I don’t think soaps particularly care for their older audience, the thing that makes a scene valuable – you can just have two characters cross paths and just say hello but if you know all their history, it resonates on multiple levels. A lot of the scenes that I had in the book that people were talking about was really a culmination of a lot of things that you need to have a lot of prior knowledge of in order to do.
Now I can see someone starting a new soap, but a new soap isn’t a soap, in a way. It’s really a serialized story because a soap needs all that character history. Just look at Friends. It’s a sitcom but when people talked about Friends, they talked about whether Ross and Rachel were going to get together. It was a soap but it just happened to be a wittily written once a week soap. But it was serialized. Or even Mad About You where it was Paul and Jamie’s relationship. Even Seinfeld had a lot of gags that were based on former gags! So you need that back end to make the front end work but the front end is the thing that’s supposed to draw in new people, so it’s very incompatible. So I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to work.
TVSource Magazine: What do you think about all the new web soaps? It seems like every year another one comes out and becomes very big.
Alina: Because I’m old, I find their episodes too short. (laughs) I understand the fact that if you’re trying to attract new viewers, the idea is great. I’m a huge supporter of anything new. Try it! The worst thing that’ll happen is it won’t work but at least you’ll know what it is! Just for me, the web episodes are too short. Five minutes? I can’t get too deep into it. But I think it’s fantastic that people are doing it. It’s just right now there’s monetization for it and it’s very hard to do something with no money.
TVSource Magazine: There’s just been a lot of really great, fresh stories coming out of them.
Alina: Right, and they’ve got a category at the Emmys now!
TVSource Magazine: Oh, yeah! The Bay won recently, right? Have you watched that?
Alina: They did! And Venice has won in the past. I have watched them. It’s fun to see them because it’s kind of like a greatest hits of soaps.
TVSource Magazine: Are you ever interested in getting back into writing for soaps?
Alina: Absolutely! When the opportunity came up, I worked for Prospect Park but then that opportunity went away… (laughs) But yes, absolutely I would love to do it. What’s the line again? “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us” from Malcom X. I didn’t leave soaps! Soaps left me! I’m always happy to do it again! It’s fantastic; I love it and enjoy the genre. It’s just the opportunities are very few. There are no soaps in New York anymore. There’s nothing in New York and that’s the most basic thing. My kids go to school here, my husband works here, I’m not moving somewhere else. But I would love another opportunity if production started in New York again.
TVSource Magazine: Do you have any advice for anyone who writes or for fans invested in these soaps and worried about them? Just any sort of good tidings you can give with your infinite wisdom on the genre.
Alina: I don’t know if it’s good tiding but… Remember “the king is dead, long live the king?” That’s what it is about the soaps. Every show is a soap now. You just have to sort of open your definition of what it is.
TVSource Magazine: And no one really wants to admit to that!
Alina: Yeah! And I’m not even just talking about what Friends was. What was The Sopranos? What was Breaking Bad? Mad Men? Remember all the layers, you had to know what was going on with the characters. So everything is a soap now! So the genre has defeated itself in a way. It used to be that the only way or place to get serialized programming was daytime. Now you can get serialized programming everywhere so you don’t need to get it on daytime. It’s like they lost by winning or won by losing? I’m not really sure! (laughs) But I do think basically serialized storytelling has won. Everything has serialized storyline. People tend to use soaps and daytime interchangeably but separate it from that. You can get serialized storytelling in primetime, on the web as you said, you can get it in books, you can get it on my live website! (laughs) If you want to look at it positively, then we won! The people who love serialized storytelling won. Maybe the daytime, daily component is going away but serialized stories have taken over every media. You can even see it in movies like Jurassic World.
TVSource Magazine: Right, with all the sequels!
Alina: Exactly! Serialization won, maybe the hours between 11 to 4 lost.
To learn more about Adams past, current and future projects visit her website.
Photos courtesy of Alina Adams.