2011 was the year that daytime soaps died — again and again and again. What will 2012 bring to daytime television? Will CBS and NBC decide to axe their surviving soaps? Will “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” miraculously come back from the dead for a second time? Will The Powers That Be realize that it really, truly is all about the storytelling? Will viewers finally get tired of talk shows? Here is what I would like to see happen — and what I think might actually transpire.
I wish: The combination of executive producer Frank Valentini and headwriter Ron Carlivati manage to make “General Hospital” must-see TV in a matter of weeks. Kimberly McCullough opts to stay with the show. Soap fans manage to use the organizing skills that they have gained from the campaigns to save OLTL and AMC to locate Nielsen households and persuade them to give the show a chance. The ratings rise significantly, and ABC opts to cancel “The Chew” to make room for the new Katie Couric talk show.
I predict: After “The Revolution” premieres, ABC waits a couple months to make sure the show is not an epic failure. Thanks to the presence of popular co-hosts Tim Gunn and Ty Pennington, it performs slightly better than “The Chew,” but not as well as OLTL. Though GH is still watched by more people, ABC announces its cancellation this spring. Two weeks later, thanks to an innovative, surprising, compelling storyline that involves the return of Genie Francis and Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo — with both Brenda and Laura written as the strong characters they were when America fell in love with them — the ratings rise, but ABC does not care. ABC soap fans take to drinking themselves to sleep.
I wish: Brian Frons is unable to land another television executive job, thanks to his track record of wrecking and canceling two household name shows, and his inability to keep SoapNET on the air. In fall of 2012, an intrepid soap fan tracks him down in a small midwestern town where he is working as the manager of the local public access station. Soap fans put together a talk show dedicated to remembering daytime soaps which he is forced to air thanks to the First Amendment. Numerous former ABC daytime stars appear on it and air every bit of dirty laundry about his regime.
I predict: Frons fails upward, securing a cushy programming job at Spike. The network dedicated to lowest common denominator programming for young men turns out to be a perfect match for him. A show he created, “Breasts and Guns”, featuring buxom bikini-clad 22 year-olds firing machine guns becomes a hit. Without irony, he cites the film “Idiocracy” as his inspiration.
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I wish: All of the talk shows that debut in 2012 flop. An independent studio comes up with an innovative idea: a syndicated soap opera. By filming it in one of the numerous U.S. states that give generous tax credits to television shows, and utilizing a “Friday Night Lights” style production model that allows for inexpensive multi-camera location shoots that look great, the company is able to pay everyone good union wages. A team of experienced, unemployed soap writers and talented young writers as well as a dream team of soap stars create the first soap of the 21st century, which combines classic soap structure with contemporary stories. It’s a hit. Numerous other soaps are developed for the syndicated market and the soap rises again.
I predict: A small independent production company attempts to launch a syndicated soap. Despite filming a great pilot episode, not enough stations in major markets are willing to buy the show. It never airs.
I wish: A talented young film director who grew up watching soaps casts Susan Lucci and Erika Slezak as the matriarchs of two very different dysfunctional families, one wealthy and one poor, who are thrown together when the wealthy woman’s daughter shoots the poor woman’s son in a drug deal gone wrong. The film wins Sundance. Both Lucci and Slezak receive Independent Spirit Award nominations and suddenly find themselves being cast in major film roles. Film critics express surprise that two such talented actresses were working in soaps all this time. Soap fans roll their eyes.
I predict: “The Young & the Restless” experiences a major talent drain when, on the strength of the major recurring roles that they played on “Vampire Diaries,” “Ringer” and “American Horror Story,” Bryton James, Billy Miller and Michael Grazadei all land starring roles on new primetime series. In all seriousness, I commend Y&R for allowing its stars to take time off from the show so they could take these roles. If soaps are going to cut actors salaries, it is only fair to allow them to pursue more outside work. But now that these talented, good looking young actors have garnered mainstream attention, many more opportunities will be coming their way.
I wish: Realizing that the Will coming out of the closet is the most compelling storyline on “Days of Our Lives” the show dares to go full on Gays of Our Lives, featuring a full-fledged gay love triangle, including plenty of on-screen kisses, between Will (Chandler Massey), Sonny (Freddie Smith) and a new hot guy that picks up right where OLTL’s Kish left off. A lot of grandmothers clutch their pearls, but a lot of young gay viewers start watching.
I predict:Univision’s telenovelas have frequently beat the English language networks this season. I suspect some of those viewers are non-Latinos who aced high school Spanish. The network decides to go after everyone by using the SAP technology that airs Spanish audio on most shows to create dubbed English versions of its telenovelas. Soap fans looking for new serials fall in love with the lushly produced, melodramatic shows.