By Silas Kain
A CALL TO RALLY THE SOAP TROOPS IN A NEW MISSION…
It’s been along, strange week hasn’t it? So, let’s get down to business and have a serious, adult discussion.
I’ve got a few ideas. Let me clarify, WE have a lot of ideas. Some are good. Others are subject to debate.
But before we take this journey, let’s get a few things straight.
Since 1999, a group of soap opera fans have tried to show to the industry and fan base that the business model used for broadcasting soap operas just did not fit this new age of information. We warned in 1999 that without a serious look at changing the paradigm, soap operas could be dead in a decade.
Well, I hate to say we told you so, but… now is not the time for such silliness.
In the last 7 days there has been an explosion of fan efforts being organized. And I have to say, just as many expected, the ABC fan base doesn’t let us down when it comes to going off in a thousand different directions. And that’s what we need to change – NOW!
In the last 7 days a group of people behind the scenes have been working 12 – 18 hours a day to sort all this out. We’ve reached a few conclusions which seem to work. Unfortunately the time we’ve spent putting out fires caused by several fan groups has prevented us from putting something together for you to see more quickly. So, let’s answer a few questions so you get where we are coming from…
Why haven’t the actors come forward from OLTL and AMC?
If you have to even ask that question, you don’t get it. These actors have built their careers in a genre which has never, I repeat – NEVER, received the respect and acclaim it deserved. These most professional of their profession have been marginalized, trivialized and held back from illustrious acting careers because studios AND the public think soap actors are hacks. Now, WE don’t think that way. But the soap fan base has shrunken so much our impact on media buyers and corporations is at an all time low. The actors who are currently employed are in a tenuous position. If they speak publicly about what they are really feeling they risk future acting opportunities. And, let’s face it, with 4 soaps left – the character pool is drying up fast! Many of these seasoned actors are at the stage of their lives where they just don’t please the studio executives. They’re not “youthful” enough. They don’t have the well defined abs. Like it or not the marketability of an actor is more dependent on the size of erection a studio executive gets in response to an actor’s looks. I know it sounds cold. But that’s pretty much where it’s at. Ironically, media buyers and corporate executives really don’t understand the American viewing audience at all. But all of this notwithstanding, we’ve reached out to these actors. And we have made it very clear we have their backs. We will do everything we can to reinvigorate a genre in need of revitalization!
Do you have any idea what’s being said backstage?
Yes and no. I’ve been in touch with a few. In some cases I have been in touch with people who are willing to work with us on behalf of the actors. There has been one resounding message we’ve been receiving behind the scenes all week – there MUST be one central organized effort which includes ALL fans of daytime from every show and every network. That’s right. This is the consensus we’ve found. And when the time is right as the dust settles, you will see actors come forward to endorse whatever business model ends up getting shopped to the right people.
What about what Oprah said and what about OWN?
Oprah has made her position clear. She’s in business. She’s a one woman industry. And though she comes from meager means, her rise to the top of her ladder has isolated her from much of that which she experienced in her younger years. The way I see it my Granny said it best – “out of sight, out of mind”. Oprah won’t be on air five days a week in a syndicated talk show. And while she may have her OWN network, the fact of the matter is Oprah as a talk show is more marketable than Oprah the network. She’s been part of the American landscape for 25 years and her rise in the beginning had EVERYTHING to do with soap. She somehow has lost sight of it. Unfortunately, one of ABC Daytime’s staunchest allies over the years – Rosie O’Donnell – is now part of the Oprah Empire. And, as a result, the silence is deafening. As I’ve said so many times – connect the dots. Oprah has had an amazing impact on the American experience. Thanks to her creativity and vision she has influenced millions of Americans and enhanced their lives through entertainment and subtle education. We owe much to her, That being said, she’s made her position clear so we must move on.
How can we get ABC to change their position?
We can’t. Deal with it. ABC management has to answer to Disney and Disney stockholders. Entertainment in every form is an expensive proposition. In the evolution of broadcasting, networks weren’t ready for the influx of cable networks and Internet influence. While they were operating in outmoded business policies the rest of the industry was coming out with cheap, fast programming which captured the audience. Why is that? The answer is clear. For two generations, American children have been robbed of arts being an integral part of education. They’ve been deprived of studying the philosophers, the Renaissance artists, Shakespeare, the Brownings and so much more. What we’ve ended up with is an audience that knows not the difference between the volatile Kate in Taming of the Shrew and Snooki of Jersey Shore. It’s pathetic what we’ve settled for in entertainment. The amazing programming we experienced in the 50’s and 60’s lives on with remote cable networks that see the intrinsic value of quality programming. The bottom line is our 40 year love affair with ABC Daytime is coming to an end. So, let’s find a way to make this work!
Do fan protests against ABC work?
Sure they do! And under the circumstances it’s more than understandable when emotions are running high that the first thing fans want to do is FIGHT BACK! We get that! But take off your broken heart hat for a moment and put on your business hat. What does slamming ABC in a relentless, child-like manner accomplish? Well, my friends, one word = NOTHING! We have to face facts. If there is the remotest hope of getting homes for All My Children and One Life to Live we have a situation. ABC has the power to say no. And while there is plenty of finger pointing and blame to go around, now is NOT the time to do it. Rather than go on the attack, we need to form a cohesive, sane organization which addresses the central dilemma facing daytime – HOW do we change the business model that has been used all this time? And in cobbling out the solution, we have to look at Brian Frons and Anne Sweeny not as enemies but facilitators. We don’t have to like them or their policies. And, as I’ve said, IF you want to find homes for AMC & OLTL sooner or later you have to sleep with the enemy to accomplish the task. Get it?
What about getting advertisers to boycott ABC Daytime?
Isn’t that an awesome idea? Pardon me while I spit up. First of all, I applaud Hoover for their decision. It’s about time an advertiser took a stand. Don’t kid yourselves because, Houston, we have a problem. If fans get enough advertisers to pull from ABC Daytime, you kill the stories. That’s right. You kill them. Remember, ABC has a responsibility to the stockholders. If the ABC soaps lose a significant number of advertisers, you can bet they will shut down OLTL earlier than planned. And, GH fans, you can kiss Port Charles goodbye. That’s reality, folks. If the shows aren’t producing some revenue during this process, ABC Daytime has no choice but to pull the plug on soap life support. And, once again, if you put on your logic hats, you will see I’m right. Be sensible. Think before you act. I’m the guiltiest of all when it comes to flapping my jaws and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. In the last 7 days I have had to weigh my words very carefully. And, at times, it’s been killing me because my first reaction is to open up my can of whoop ass and come out fighting.
How did this happen?
How can we lose a show that’s been on the air for 40 years and made ABC so much money? I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but look in the mirror. The viewers have a role in this entire thing and don’t want to take any responsibility whatsoever. Reality television has taken up so much of the market because there’s demand for it. When the basic cable channels started hawking their “unscripted” programming, viewers went nuts. Whether it’s Jon & Kate plus 500 or Sarah Palin’s Moose Jaw Ho Down, viewers have settled for cheap train wreck shows because they are “real”. Guess what? The joke is on us. While we’ve been enjoying all these train wrecks because the cast of characters were “real” people, what we didn’t know is the filming, editing and prompting was most definitely scripted. This has been a network’s sleazy maneuver to outsmart the unions. There was a time when soap operas made serious money. And the bulk of those profits were diverted into prime time programming. That’s right. Our “stories” have been prime time television’s corporate welfare. Do the research. Remember Kojak? If it wasn’t for Guiding Light and As the World Turns, Kojak wouldn’t have been sucking a tootsie pop. It would not have been on air at all. As viewing habits changed and more women went to work, soap operas lost their edge. And when it was the soaps that needed the “corporate welfare” the network executives were aghast.
So, are you saying soap opera is dead?
Ha! The $64,000 question! Look at the scripted shows on prime time today. Guess what? You are watching a soap opera and don’t even know it! In the mid 1970’s the networks were trying to find a way to make prime time programming more attractive to viewers. And while some of the shows were actually marketed as prime time soap operas, there is but one simple truth – 95% of the scripted shows adopted the soap opera model of continuing story lines which carried across the broadcast season. Whether it was Falcon Crest or St. Elsewhere you, the American viewer, have been watching scripted programming based upon the soap opera model. How many times have I asked you to “connect the dots”?
As someone who has been a television viewer since I was in cloth diapers, I’ve watched the evolution from a rare perspective. That’s because I was Mom and Dad’s personal telecaptioner. When President Kennedy spoke of the Cuban missile crisis, my hands were flapping. When he was shot, it was me who told them what Chet and David were discussing. When Rachel got pregnant with Steve Frame’s baby on Another World, it was me who told Mom about it. When Tom and Alice Horton learned their son Tommy was alive, I got to deliver the news!
And all through the years I discovered that soap operas weren’t only entertaining – they educated me on many levels. My love of music began because of Julie’s playing Sergio Mendez’ “The Look of Love”. My love of sculpture developed because I was fascinated by Rachel Cory’s ability to mold a pile of dirt and water into something incredibly beautiful. My views on political matters crystallized during the drama of Tara and Phil on All My Children when he was drafted. So, I’ve watched television’s evolution in both daytime and prime time. To answer your question, soap opera never really was dead. It’s just changed and now it’s up to the consumer to facilitate a new model for the daytime end of things.
What about the soap press? Where are THEY in this mess?
Oh come on now. Haven’t you figured it out? These people are in a state on confusion close to that of the actors and crews. Whether you like one member of the press or the other, there’s one thing for certain. The job that has been their dream all their lives is in peril. Imagine the uncertainty. For years they have had to live by the whims of studio heads and media relations “experts”. If a member of the soap press said one word which pissed somebody off, they got the door shut in their face. There it is. Quite simple, isn’t it? And as these members of the soap press sit Shiva in wait of soap’s demise, it’s up to the fans to prove to them that we even have their backs in this cause. The soap magazines have a place in our culture. The knowledge and wisdom the members of the soap press has developed over the years is such a valuable tool in education not only fans but up and coming actors, writers and directors. You see, even members of soap media get little or no respect from their own peers. They deserve better for what they do and they will be gratified if we include them as an overall part of reviving daytime.
OK, enough with the bullshit. What are you thinking?
Thanks, I needed that. Here it is. We have an infrastructure in place to develop one central Internet repository for all fan groups to join together. What we want to do is go live sometime next week. I won’t reveal the domain name just yet. Please bear with me. And, for the love of God, stop going out and buying domain names for your respective cause. The only one getting rich in this mess is GoDaddy. And now I will get on to what we have envisioned for this repository:
PURPOSE: The purpose of this central Internet location is to bring as many of the soap fan groups together as possible in a coordinated effort. This effort isn’t limited to All My Children and One Life to Live. If a production company chooses to adopt the business model being discussed, this could be the basis for the remaining shows going forward. That’s right. The networks could try adapting their current shows to the model we’re putting together.
The main focus of this operation is to provide access to the millions of soap fans across the country. They could come here for information on the industry. We want to provide information about the thousands of web sites out there dedicated to the genre. We want them to be able to learn about the talented folks who host podcasts, using their own time and money to talk about the genre they love. We invite all of you creative people to join in the movement because you are an important element as we move forward.
WHO IS IN CHARGE? Well, initially, I was thinking an election process. Many have come forward and told me this is not a good idea because it would become a popularity contest and we all know how fans get. So, therein lies my dilemma. We’ve got some brilliant people who have come forward to be a part of the “Leadership Council”. With that being said, I need your input. What do you think I should do? If you want me to appoint the five people to this “board of directors” I’m more than willing to do it. But, for the record, I have said many times I cannot serve on the council itself. My role will be as an advisor and to keep the board informed of the progress we are making behind the scenes. You all have to understand here that this is a very delicate time. We aren’t going to repeat our past mistakes and tip our hand from the outset. We’re doing this in a concentrated, planned and reasonable way.
What is the role of the Leadership Council? The five people on the board will be in charge of coordinating fan groups and fan efforts. They will research, debate and establish policies and guidelines for all folks who wish to be a part of this call. We will look to these leaders for guidance and to act on our behalf when the time comes. As I indicated, these people will be privy to information which is not made available to the general public. These directors have to be willing to keep confidential matters limited to their group. As the entire process unfolds, there will be an opportunity to get into the logistics of what’s happening.
Are there other roles available outside the Leadership Council? Well as Sarah Palin says, “You betcha!” While the Leadership Council retains ultimate authority there will be committees established as follows:
Corporate Advertisers: This committee will be responsible for coordinating and guiding fan efforts toward potential advertisers and others who have impact on buying. As the movement begins to come together, we will be looking to corporate sponsors to examine what our mission is and how it will help their own bottom line. Remember, this is a coordinated effort on many levels.
Local Affiliate Campaigns: This committee will be working closely with members at the local level in organizing rallies and letter writing campaigns to local affiliates about the demand for quality, scripted television. And we’re not just limiting this committee to the local network affiliates. We want to go after the cable providers, the local news media and radio.
Letter Writing Campaign: As this plan of action gets into full swing, the Letter Writing Committee will be developing campaigns which focus on specific entities which they may determine as appropriate.
Community Theater & Educational Outreach: This committee will be charged with the task of facilitating a dialog with community theater groups and local educational institutions who have robust dramatic arts programs. As the movement builds, we want to bring Daytime actors, writers and directors into public view to share their own experiences. Their collective experience serves to assist community theaters and enhance dramatic arts teachers in delivering a quality education to our next generaiuon of thespians, writers and artists.
Media Relations: This committee will be in complete control of media and public relations. One member of this committee will be the official spokesperson of the entire organization. The committee will perform research, schedule media interviews and develop press packets which outline the group’s mission and eventually the business model which is adopted.
SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
Here’s my suggestion. Spread the word. Read this l-o-n-g document and think about my points. This is a holy week for many people of faith. This weekend should be a time for family, friends and reflection. Spring is here. Be grateful for what you’ve got. Back down. Take a deep breath and think about what we can accomplish if the majority of us work TOGETHER!
Many of us have discussed this at length behind the scenes. We’re on to something here. This time is different from when P&G took AW, GL and ATWT off the air. The mission is clear. A course is being mapped out. We just need patience, maturity and a little bit of restraint right now. If you’re serious about revitalizing a genre which has brought joy and entertainment to millions of viewers over the years – join in! You will be welcomed with open arms. And together we will make an impact.
So stop feeding the rumor mills. Try and refrain from screaming at ABC. Remember, every time a fan or fan group goes after ABC, it is hurting the cast and crew of the shows more than it is hurting the network. If you have questions, email me. All I know is we have an incredible opportunity here to show the stuff we’re made of. And if you’ve ever watched RuPaul, she goes by this mantra, “Don’t f%#k it up!” Well, Ms. Ru, this time we won’t!