Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The whole world is now a soap opera

With yesterday's announcement that As the World Turns will end in 2010, many were wondering why the soap opera - a venerable staple of daytime viewing - has seen such a decline in viewership over the last few years. Writer James Poniewozik posits that the soap opera is in fact more popular than ever because the serialized narrative, the backbone of any daytime drama, can now be seen on the news channels and the many reality shows. I think he's right. The whole world really has turned into one great big soap opera.

James Poniewozik writes:
A soap opera was supposed to be a habit you formed and could maintain your whole adult life. Why are they collapsing?

There is, as always, one basic reason: they now cost more than they're worth. There are, as always, many specific factors. But here, there is one overarching cultural reason that ATWT bought it: The whole world is now a soap opera.

What I mean by this is: the attraction of soap operas was that—on a budget and with addictive dramatic hooks—they provided an endless serial narrative for people, mostly women, at home on weekday afternoons.

But today's media is full of drama and serial narratives. On a literal level, network soaps now compete with dozens of channels of daytime programming on cable, including female-targeted networks like TLC and Lifetime. And, thanks to DVRs in one of three homes, they compete with nighttime programming too—plenty of which, like The Hills or the Real Housewives franchise, is patterned on a soap structure. Has any soap lately had anything to rival RHONJ's Teresa overturning a table and yelling "prostitution whore!"? READ MORE