By Silas Kain

Normally my column this week would be about something I like or dislike about one of the many controversial story lines we are experiencing across all three of ABC’s “stories”.

But today I want to appeal to you about the genre of soaps in general.

Let’s face it, you and I both know that in the past 10 to 15 years the soaps really have become a shell of what they once used to be.

Imagine, for a moment, if Irna Philips or any of the Daytime serial greats were alive today! Imagine the compelling stories we’d be enjoying based on what is happening in the world around us.

I can see it now.

The Banner and The Sun doing battle in Llanview over opposing political candidates…with some investigative reporting thrown into the mix.

Or maybe have Erica Kane go off on a tangent on her talk show, which propels her to national fame for a controversial position she took.

Or how about if General Hospital kicked up a commotion over the building of a mosque next to the hospital.

The bottom line is that studio executives (Mr. Frons, are you reading?) just don’t get the missed opportunities.

Had they the vision and integrity of Irna Philips, Agnes Nixon and all the greats – they WOULD be pulling stories from the news and finding a way to weave those magic threads through the tapestries of our serials.

American soap opera is about imitating real life….a metaphor. What we have today is a cheap imitation of Reality TV which is neither real nor television.

Anyway, back to my point…

This week I am going to be on air every night on BlogTalkRadio as we head in to the final week of As the World Turns on CBS.

That’s right. Just because CBS has pulled the plug does not mean the battle is over. It has just begun.

And here’s why ABC fans should care.

First of all, I’ve been through this before with Another World. And, believe it or not, 10 years later there are at least a million AW fans out there who would love to see their show back. I’m certain Guiding Light fans feel the same way.

And over here in the ABC side of things, I’ll bet there are a slew of you who would give anything to see Loving or Ryan’s Hope.

The bottom line is the studios want us to believe that Daytime serials are dying and that it is OUR fault! They want you to buy into their argument that viewership has changed…that there’s more to pick from on television these days and that the double income family has made the homemaker obsolete.

News flash: Were it not for our great Grannies, our Grandma’s, our Moms and ourselves – there would be no worldwide giant known as Procter & Gamble or Colgate-Palmolive.

Our families bought all their detergents, hair sprays, shampoos and depilatories. We fed into the commercials we watched. And when we were hooked and needed that second income just to buy the products – POOF – no more “stories”!

It’s time for Daytime fans to prove their worth in today’s market.

We have a unique opportunity to show that woven into all those silly little stories we’ve watched all these years was a message – We are empowered!

We get the cost of producing a daily show.

We understand that viewership has dropped.

So why not find other ways of creating an environment which would make this genre viable? Why just walk away from a socially valuable commodity?

These soap companies got as big as some of those “too big to fail” outfits on Wall Street. They’re so busy investing money into markets overseas that they’ve lost touch with the people who put them there in the first place!

How many of us who are on union pensions even know that P&G may be in our union’s investment portfolio? How many of us are aware that a great deal of these “American” products aren’t even manufactured here any longer?

The bottom line is a dedicated soap fan knows that he/she has the ability to figure this entire thing out.

Remember, we’re the ones that micromanage our shows. We complain when a director is changed. We’re convulsive when a new Executive Producer takes over. And, well, when a new Head Writer is announced – we are as rabid as bats in a belfry.

For ABC fans, the red flag should be the move of All My Children to LA. Brian Frons has his office on the West Coast. The only ABC property he seems to care about is The View. Were he as committed to One Life to Live as he proclaims, why are they not in Hollywood as well?

ABC can deny rumors and claim loyalty to OLTL. The bottom line is the show is on shaky ground even if Roger Howarth and Kim Zimmer return.

The soap press won’t report it.

They live in constant fear the studios will pull the plug and deny access of soap media.

It’s sad.

The majority of printed soap media is nothing but a glorified fan club.

Where are the rabble rousing fans with opinions that matter?

Well, they’re right here on the Internet.

Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly are hereby served notice. We’re picking up where you dropped the ball.

We don’t need access to the studios and the gossip. This isn’t about the private lives of celebrities. And this most certainly is NOT about spoilers.

Thanks to your magazines, you’ve destroyed the allure of Daytime. And we’re here to take it back.

As I said, this week I am on air every night.

Drop by my BlogTalkRadio page and see the lineup.

It’s the Surge on Soaps campaign.

We want to find a home for ATWT. And we want to make certain that the shows which remain on Daytime today are given the support they need.

We’re being bold in our approach. We’re not threatening to turn off the TV. We’re not sending box tops to P&G.

This is business. And when I say business, I mean serious business.

This is about finding a way to cultivate a creative mechanism to keep soaps alive. It begins with Oprah Winfrey, who is herself a direct beneficiary of daytime. We’ll continue with farming the cable networks. We’ll even go to Sony and see if there’s any was to breathe new life into Soap City.

Remember Soap City?

That was going to be a cable soap channel until ABC launched SoapNet. And now SoapNet is leaving cable in favor of a childrens network which will hawk more crap to kids — which parents will have to buy to keep up with the Joneses — who can’t afford to keep up because the jobs they once had have been shipped overseas.

That’s right. It’s about the economy, stupid.

And this time Daytime fans are armed with ammunition.

This week fans are coming together every night to discuss the progress of the ATWT campaign.

But we’re going to discuss more than that.

We’re going to get into the business side of things and explain how the cancellation of a soap puts more than cast and crew out of work.

We’re going to talk about the lack of vision from today’s network executives in capitalizing on the tremendous social value of soap opera.

And, when all else fails, we’re going to discuss how soap actors, writers and crew are a valuable asset in teaching our children about the craft of theater.

Sound provocative? Tune in and hear more.

We’ve got some CRAZY ideas that Oprah may just have no choice but consider. You see, we tuned into Oprah after watching our shows. They were her lead in.

That’s right, Oprah, soap fans know the definition of “lead in”.

Ms. Winfrey has taught us about empowerment, taking control and making a difference. Well, we’re going to ask her to put her money where her mouth is. No, we’re not talking about giving away 5,000 cars or building a house. We’re not talking about Oprah’s favorite things or HARPO studios.

We’re talking about an ambitious plan to prop up a genre in a unique way. Join the conversation. We want to hear what you have to say.

And, I promise next week I’ll write my David Hayward column, which may just send you over the edge.

By Silas Kain

Silas Kain

My name is Silas and I’m a soap opera aficionado.

There I said it and I have no shame.

And that’s how I’d like to begin my relationship with you.

A couple of weeks ago, Michele asked if I would consider being a contributor to Soapbox1. I didn’t have to think about it for long – because Michele gets it. She understands the intimate relationship fans have to soap opera.

So, in this introductory piece for Soapbox1, I’d like to take a moment of your time and explain what it is about Soap Opera that I respect and admire. And when you’re done, I hope you seriously consider what I’ve written and share your thoughts here at Soapbox1.

It really doesn’t matter which soaps you may watch, we all share a common bond. So with all that being said, a glimpse into the life of a soap opera fanatic…

It began for me as a little boy.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on the weekend of my 8th birthday (please don’t do the math). Suddenly this little 3rd grader was sitting in front of the television translating the words of Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley to his deaf parents. It was a quick education. But that baptism of fire caused me to become extremely interested in current events, the American political system and History.

The following summer I would come in from morning play to capture the 15 minute soap opera Love of Life. Remember them? Bruce & Vanessa Sterling? Christopher Reeve? Life on a college campus? Sure, it was quirky – almost silly at times. But the lives of the people in Rosehill, New York was completely fascinating to me on so many levels and for so many reasons.

That was a contentious year – the aftermath of John F. Kennedy.

The week following Mother’s Day 1964 would transform my life on so many levels. That was the week my mother began watching Another World.

Remember we’re at the Summer of 1964.

And by the end of that summer, this little boy learned what abortion was – thanks to Pat Matthews and the vision of Irna Philips. Sure that was too much for a kid – but remember, I was my parents’ human closed-captioning device.

From that summer I was baptized by the families of Bay City into a world of bumps and curves which lasted until that final show in June 1999. For 35 years I followed the lives of the Matthews, Davis, Cory and Carrington families. I laughed and cried with Wally, Felicia and Cass. When the show bid their farewell to Mackenzie Cory, I wept openly with my mom. It’s OK for a man to have feelings. I learned that from soap opera.

You see those shows were my education into the real world.

My parents did their best, but they viewed the world without the “noise”. They had innocence and as hard as they worked at being parents – their innocence and sheltering from their own families did not really prepare them for the world of the 60’s.

I grew up fast. And, in retrospect, I wouldn’t give up a thing. Every rise and fall. A marriage. Ups, downs, near fatal illness – all of it. I wouldn’t change a thing because all of it was but a dress rehearsal for this stage of my growing, fulfilling life.

And through it all, the cast of “my story” would be guests in my living room 5 days a week. They became my friends, my teachers, my guides.

Take All My Children, for instance. When Tara and Phil went through the trauma of the Vietnam War, I was right there with them. That’s where I got my attitudes against the war.

Tara Martin (Karen Lynn Gorney) and Phil Brent (Richard Hatch)

When I was introduced to the character of Erica Kane – she was a spoiled self-absorbed brat being raised by the ever loving Mona. While everyone was abuzz about Erica being raised by a “single” parent – I found it interesting from a different perspective.

My grandmother raised 10 children on her own. My dad was the product of a single parent having lost his father at 11 months. He never knew his father and I never understood my grandmother’s “hardness” until Mona Kane. She made me understand my grandmother in a whole new light.

Frances Heflin as Mona Kane

Of course, there was Ryan’s Hope.

My other Grandmother – the Irish Catholic one — and Maeve Ryan were so alike it was almost frightening. The only difference? Grandma had the faith of Maeve but the spunk of Mary.

Ryan's Hope

But it was tough to keep up in the 70’s. School work was a priority and there were many familial events which would be yet another transformation.

There was a constant.

The stories.

Those silly little daytime dramas which were packed with knowledge like no other program on television.

At this point you must be asking yourself why I’m weaving this broadcloth? Where am I going? Relax. It all comes together — and when it does I hope a light bulb burns brightly above your head.

If you’re under 50 you probably don’t know much about the 60’s. But life was different back then.

Most mothers were at home raising their families. And while they watched their stories in the afternoons they would learn about appliances, detergents, furniture and life. The classic American soap opera became a classroom in millions of living rooms across America. Don’t laugh just yet, my dear. I’m uttering a profound truth.

Twelve years ago a small group of Another World fans got together in an Internet campaign to save our show. Of course, it didn’t happen. But what blossomed were friendships and bonds that remain strong to this very day. And we had the opportunity to share notes over the years.

The first two years after AW, we held reunions in New York City. The AW stars came out – at their own expense. They spoke to us, encouraged us but most of all they were grateful on so many levels for the loyalty, the respect and the love we shared.

In 2001 we got the Governor of Connecticut to proclaim Linda Dano Day. She went on The View the day before our 2nd Reunion. Joy Behar thought it was kind of dumb but that’s Joy Behar. She couldn’t understand the daytime dynamic – she wasn’t really part of it. But this small group of AW loyalists accomplished something astounding. And we accomplished these feats by learning from Rachel & Mac Cory, Ada Downs, Felicia Gallant and Donna Love. Those people were role models to us – the simple folk. And we became determined in our goal, we had the steadfastness of Ada, the creativity of Rachel and the loyalty of Liz Matthews.

Interwoven in my 35 years of Another World was my interest in Days of Our Lives, All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital.

Another World was and always will the ultimate. So when I make commentary on the shows I view today, remember I was spoiled by a band of actors and writers who were in many respects the Shakespeares of their genre.

So, that’s why I am a soap fan. Not only was I entertained but I was educated on life in so many respects – as each of you is a beneficiary of that education without realizing it!

If you are young man or woman reading this, you may not know it but your grandmother or mom may have been a soap fan. And some of the wisdom they imparted upon you came from what they learned.

Like I said. Soap fans and cast have a different dynamic. They’re guests in our homes. They come on screen 5 days a week. And, in the evolution of the characters’ lives, we learn from their experiences.

A story line such as interracial romance on One Life to Live served to change attitudes on so many levels. When OLTL went out on a limb there was such disdain! Yet today, interracial romances are no novelty. They are the fabric of soap.

The rape of Laura on General Hospital became fodder of discussions in millions of homes. The abortion of Pat Matthews in 1964 had equal impact. The bottom line is women across America were learning more about the realities of life through the stories created by visionary writers.

Do the research. As far as I am concerned, women would not have achieved that which has been achieved without the influence of American soap opera. While most thought of the typical soap fan being an overweight bon-bon devouring woman, lounging like Jean Harlow across a couch – there’s the truth.

Once upon a time, All My Children was shown on college campuses across America. Luke & Laura’s Wedding dominated the entertainment headlines like no other.

Luke (Tony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis)

Days of Our Lives attempted to introduce a gay character – Eric Peters — at a time when gay rights were just an idea. The fan backlash was so horrific, Days writers reversed course for the character.

It would be years before soap would dare enter the forbidden zone. Remember Capitol? Believe it or not, many female political science lovers were inspired by Wally McCandless and Myrna Clegg.

What Daytime accomplished most is that it served as a vehicle for women to come into their own. Were it not for the strong, driven female role models of soap opera such as Maggie Powers, Dr. Althea Davis and Mona Aldrich, I dare say the evolution of women’s parity in our society would remain delayed.

So, young men and women, believe it or not your lives would be remarkably different today were it not for the genre known as Daytime. As Shakespeare revolutionized storytelling in his time, the pioneers – Irna Philips, Agnes Nixon and countless others have helped shape and shift our attitudes toward contemporary life.

To be honest with you, my ultimate fantasy is to have the Museum of Television & Radio do a serious symposium on the influence of Daytime on American society from 1955 – 2000.

While Daytime seems to be dying these days, I hope to inspire you to understand that which I’ve known for years. I hope you will come to appreciate Daytime’s stellar history and realize that soap opera remains an interesting facet of our culture which needs a little love right now.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get you to return to one of those stories you stopped watching.

Reality TV may be the rage these days but there’s nothing “real” about it.

Those who write the lines and create the characters of daytime have a keen sense of our society and world. And in their own little way they bring those things to the screen every day, every week. And, in many cases, the situations the writers create are more real and relative to our lives than that of Snookie and da Situation.

Another goal is to have you come out of the closet.

There’s nothing wrong with being a soap fan. You may be a housewife or retired homemaker. You may be a working gal in a law office or the head of a corporation. You’re a law professor, banker and, yes, even a physician.

Soap fans come from all walks of life. And plenty of them are male – gay and straight. Get over it.

Soap opera is the diversion – the non-pharmaceutical which calms, infuriates and makes one consider options.

Every couple of weeks I’ll be writing a piece for Soapbox1. I’ll be talking about story lines, actors, writing and more. I’m going to be coming from a perspective of 35 years’ intimate experience with the world of Daytime.

I’ll call them like I see them – you may not agree. And when you don’t — I hope you’ll get in to the discussion. I’m human. Perhaps you have a perspective I haven’t considered.

If there’s something you want me to write about, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m full of myself. There’s nothing better than bellowing out an opinion. That’s the Irish in me.

Perhaps you’ve finally reached that point of enlightenment which suggests that soap opera did, indeed, have an impact on your life even before you knew Todd and Tea or Sonny Corinthos.

Perhaps from these story lines that we discuss, we can come up with the writer’s rationale. That’s another beautiful aspect of being a soap fan. We get it. We get the actors and we know when a writer screws up history. If a producer changes, we’re the first to cast our ballots. If a costume designer changes – we know it.

Soap fans are the ultimate focus group underused by media companies. We’re the ones who can tell you everything right down to the sets or change in make-up artists.

We’re up close and personal.

And – we are the ultimate consumers of advertisers’ products. Think about that the next time you go shopping. Those companies who sponsor OUR shows deserve our response.

So, thanks for reading.

The next column I post will be all One Life to Live – on many levels because I am on FIRE at the direction I suspect they’re taking.

Adieu.

[NOTE: Silas Kain hosts the weekly BlogTalk radio show Delibernation, where he and his guests discuss a variety of topics that include “politics, personal empowerment and what each of us can do to make this world a better place for the next generation.”
Michele will be his guest Thursday at 11 p.m. EST to discuss “The Influence of Soap Opera on American Culture.”]