A Toast to Soaps

On the 14th of April, 2011, the American Broadcasting Company (aka ABC) has announced that it is going to be canceling two of the longest running soap operas in the history of television: All My Children and One Life To Live. This news came, not so much as a shock (as there have been rumors regarding the impending doom of one show or the other for a little while now), but more of a disastrous blow to the “gushing housewife” stereotype and those who typify it.

These shows have been running more or less concurrently for a combined length of more than 80 years (AMC started in 1970 and OLTL started in 1968), and were staples of several generations of childhoods spent home sick from school. As such it is only right that, as a 21st Century platform for serialization, Eat Your Serial appropriately salutes the passing of these 20th century staples of serialization.

Soap operas are, indeed, only a nickname for a genre that is properly referred to as “serials” and/or “serial television”. The ubiquitous moniker for the genre comes from the nuclear family and the golden age of television’s abundance of soap and cleaning product commercials that were brilliantly placed in time slots surrounding these series.

A good friend of mine famously tells a story about how when he was a child, his baby sister had escaped the house. He went to tell his mother about the breakout while she was watching her “stories” and was righteously afraid to tell her; not because of the what he had to tell her but because of the when. “Do not interrupt me during my stories” was a rule paramount to “Do not play with fire”. Sure enough, he told her, “Sister is running down the street,” to which his mother replied, “You better not be lying to me during my stories.” Soap Operas are that serious.

Over the past 40 plus years, both All My Children and One Life To Live have dominated the daytime television lineup on ABC. It goes without saying that, along with General Hospital, the ABC soaps were the major leagues. NBC and CBS soaps, such as As the World Turns and The Young and The Restless, were like Chinatown knock-off brands. Only the corny would indulge them seriously.

Verily, we are witnessing the passing of two of the giants of serialization—though they have certainly made their impact. The drama, the over acting, the outrageous storylines, and inconsistent or retroactively changed continuity that permeates the American consciousness vis-à-vis the genre of soap opera will not soon fade (though honestly, the Simpsons’ Bumble-Bee Man-esque exaggeration of these may very well live on ad infinitum via telenovelas on Telemundo and Galavision).

Case in point, even as this salute is being written #EricaKane is a top trending item on Twitter. For those of you who were raised as The Children Under the Stairs you’ll learn that Erica Kane is/was an ingénue-turned-leading-lady character portrayed famously, and infamously, by The Susan Lucci for the entirety of All My Children’s run, from 1970 to its impending end later in 2011.

As of April 8th, 2011, All My Children boasts some 10,596 episodes. One Life To Live had 10,910 as of March 31st, 2011. To put that into perspective, here at Eat Your Serial we would like a minimum of about 7 chapters running once a week for our stories. Soap operas run Monday through Friday and don’t break for any season. Ever. Christmas. New Years. Passover. Ramadan. Festival of Bacchus. JFK is assassinated. Soap operas run. The amount of content is amazing. Just imagine what the inevitable box sets are gonna look like. Oy.

So Eat Your Serial bids adieu to these Titans of Titillating Tales, these Seraphs of Serialization, these Exemplars of Emotive Escapism. You’ve served millions of stories; we’re doing our best to catch up.

R.I.P. My Stories.

(The baby was fine by the way. You forgot about her didn’t you?)

– Brandon Melendez, Creative Director


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