So, about that whole soap opera thing …

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

So … How was Thanksgiving? Did you enjoy the awkward time around the dinner table, talking to family members you always realize you know absolutely nothing about by the time the potatoes are passed? Yeah — weird, isn’t it? The more the holidays occur, the more we begin to understand we know more about our next-door neighbors than we do our third cousins who live hundreds of miles away. Oh, how odd life can be.

Me? I worked. And then I worked some more. And then, when all the work was done, I continued my love affair with the second season of “House” on DVD, questioning if I should order the third season now or wait until after the holidays (but really — who am I kidding? No one is going to buy me that. Who waits 3,927 years to finally start catching up on a show that’s been airing for 40,295 years? I’m more likely to get a toaster than I am a season of “House” at this point).

But the masterminded doctor himself — who in the first season spends many a scene watching daytime soap operas — would have thrown a fit if he heard the news that broke late Tuesday, just in time to produce yet another talking point for those incredibly overrated holiday meals. From The New York Times …

“… Two months after ABC canceled ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live,’ the two men (Jeffrey Kwatinetz and Rich Frank) swooped in, licensed the shows and promised to bring them back to life on the Internet,” the paper’s Brian Stelter wrote Wednesday afternoon. “With the fans’ help, they were determined to prove that online advertising could sustain high-quality TV shows. But it didn’t work as planned. Unable to persuade Hollywood unions or financiers to support the experiment, the two men said Wednesday that they had suspended their efforts to revive the shows.”

… And you probably thought I had forgotten about all of this, now didn’t you?

This is sad, really. Soap operas were once as much a part of Americana as apple pie, the colors red, white or blue, and the Kardashian family. When it was announced that both of these programs were heading for television cancellation, the idea of bringing them back to an online audience was not only logical, but it was also a bit innovative. Sure, I acknowledged that the genre was a dying breed back in July, but that doesn’t mean I was never able to appreciate exactly how important soap operas were/are to a different generation’s television-watching habits.

Even more so, the prospect of a pair of television shows gaining new life on the Web after being shunned by regular over-the-air television was darn intriguing. Just imagine the doors such a move could have opened if this would have actually worked.

“The collapse of the closely watched deal is a window into the gulf that still exists between the television productions that have existed for decades and the Web productions that are emerging as a popular alternative for viewers,” Stelter wrote. “Among media executives, uncertainty reigns about whether the business models of the Web can support the budgets of big TV shows. …  When Mr. Kwatinetz and Mr. Frank announced on July 7 that they had licensed the soaps from ABC, they said their plan depended on advertising sales. Their research indicated that too few people would pay subscription fees to watch the shows.”

The article goes on to note that after completely letting go of plans to give new life to “All My Children” after many of the cast and producers refused to sign on, Prospect Park — the group responsible for taking on the reboot project in the first place — couldn’t reach an agreement with unions and guilds attached to “One Life To Live,” thus smothering all hope for the resuscitation of that series. The company’s statement Wednesday went on to blame a lack of finances more than anything, and while the good intention was there, it appears all the logistics for such a project simply weren’t in order.

My biggest worry? What does this mean for “Arrested Development?” Granted, that show has the backing of Netflix, which is a subscription service and not a mere television station that happens to be on the Web (or something like the Online Network, a site that was supposed to distribute the rebooted soap operas). Or, in other words, people wouldn’t pay just to see those two soap operas, yet millions of people who currently subscribe to Netflix will wake up one day in 2013, say to themselves “Hey, I have a Netflix login name and password, so I think I’ll check in to see how ‘Arrested Development’ is doing,” and watch the show enough to suggest the venture is a success.

Or, well, hopefully, at least.

In any case, some people involved with both “One Life To Live” and “All My Children” have said they hope that “an opportunity to revive these two popular series will emerge in the future.” As for now, we wait to see what twists and turns may come up next during the battle for the future of soap operas, and we wait to see if the industry is able to pull off the ultimate back-from-the-dead storyline that could help revolutionize an entire industry.

“They had an amazing vision for not only the soap opera genre but for television,” Linda Marshall-Smith, founder of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based website Soapdom, told the Associated Press Friday. “This was going to be a new place to watch TV-quality entertainment, and you could do it on the go, watching on your iPad or laptop, whether you were in the grocery store, in a doctor’s office or waiting to catch a plane. Maybe they were just a little bit ahead of their time.”

Indeed.

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