Today, ABC announced the cancellation of two of its long running daytime soaps, All My Children and One Life to Live. The network plans to replace them with something called "Chew" and another program.
That makes four shows in the past three years that have seen the axe, the first being Guiding Light on CBS, followed by As the World Turns, which went off the air last year.
I have to say that I was a big soap fan in my younger years. In fact, the first soap I've ever heard about was One Life to Live. My older brother was talking to my mom about the infamous Viki Lord story when she was on trial for the murder of pimp Marco Dane (she didn't do it). That was the trial where Karen Wolek (played by Judith Light) admitted on the stand that she was hooking for Marco. That scene became infamous in the annals of soap operas. I was hooked.
Ironically, I never became a One Life to Live fan. Instead I started watching General Hospital at the right time when being a GH fan was the hottest thing around. Yes, I'm talking Luke and Laura! So that started a decade of soap viewing that branched out into All My Children, Another World, The Young & the Restless, and Guiding Light, with brief forays into Ryan's Hope, Loving, Santa Barbara, and The Edge of Night.
Soaps always had a maligned reputation. Too slow. Too boring. Too cheesy. Too ridiculous. But when they were at their best, they created great stories and characters. However the changing times and technology have rendered them obsolete. And really, most cable stations have taken over the long-running storytelling genre. Though their fans might deny it, shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet and Under, Big Love, Mad Men, and the recently completed HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce, are basically soap operas.
These cancellations signal an ending to an era. But it's not like this wasn't foretold. In the last fifteen years soaps have been struggling to maintain relevance and viewers. Too bad. As I said before, when they were good, soap operas were some of the most entertaining and socially relevant programs on TV. I'll go so far as to say that, despite their bad reputation, they were a lot better than what passed for a lot of prime time television back in the day.