As the World Turns is ending. Who cares?

Soap Operas are stupid, right?

For as long as they’ve been airing (which is a long time, people – the first soap company sponsored serial aired on radio beginning in 1937) Soap Operas have been seen as the haven of the housewife.  Despite being some of the earliest and most successful programs on television, they were looked upon as inferior to their prime-time cousins.  This week As the World Turns, which has run since 1952, comes to an end – the last show sponsored by Proctor and Campbell.  So why should we care?

Actually, we really should care.  ATWT is being replaced by a talk show that has been compared to The View.  Gone will be another melodrama with convoluted and absurd plotlines and characters that die and are reborn dozens of times, only to fall into a coma and emerge with amnesia and a different personality.  It seems silly.  It would be much better to be able to watch timely discussions of topical issues, right?  Wait – when’s the last time talk television provided anything like that?  Oh, that’s right.  Never.

Soaps dive in where prime time fears to tread

 Soap Operas were among the first shows to deal with some of our cultures most delicate and divisive issues.  Inter-racial couples, gay and lesbian characters, social issues like domestic abuse and date rape – all dealt with on daytime drama long before their ratings-desperate prime time colleagues would even consider such things as “acceptable” television material.  Way before Ellen DeGeneres came out on prime time, there was a lesbian character on All My Children.  I’m talking many years before.       

The end of an era

 So this week we’ll say good-bye to ATWT.  It isn’t a show I ever watched, I don’t have any attachment to the characters (I was an ABC Soap watcher back in the day).  I shouldn’t care, but I do.  Soap Operas have long brought topical issues and situations to the fore and dealt with them in depth and sometimes with remarkable passion and realism.  ATWT isn’t the first Soap to be cancelled, but it has been on the air for over 50 years so this feels like the beginning of the end for daytime drama as the cheap and tawdry take over yet another portion of our viewing hours.

Soap vs. Dope

 Call me silly, but I honestly believe that Soaps have more to say and better ways of saying it than talk shows.  No matter how well intentioned, talk shows inevitably devolve into bickering or sycophantic celebrity fawning,  usually both.  Do we really need another set of talking heads turning issues and information into 140 character sound bites?  I know talk shows are cheap to make and air, but they take complicated social issues and pretend to resolve them with meaningless interviews and foolish chatter.  I would rather see a set of scripted characters work through a situation (even if they do have amnesia and a coma and maybe an evil twin) than listen to yet another set of insipid “hosts” tell people what to think right before telling them about the latest celebrity diet.  I guess I just prefer my social stupidity to at least try and be something more.

Stay tuned…

 Later in the week we’ll take a look at the last episode of ATWT and bid it a fond farewell.  For now I may just switch over to the Soap Network and catch a couple of episodes of General Hospital.  I wonder if Jason is still in the mob?

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