ABC Cancels Soap Operas, Hates Us All

Okay, the news that ABC is canceling One Life To Live and All My Children is not a stunning surprise. It’s been a nearly-confirmed rumour for a few weeks. But look what they’re replacing them with:

ABC will debut two new daytime programs this fall and winter: “The Chew,” a program about food news and trends, and “The Revolution,” about health and lifestyle transformations.

That’s just cold. (And as others have pointed out, why do networks think that every lifestyle show in the daytime has to start with “The?” These are not Seinfeld episodes.) Removing two soap operas, among the most immersive and personally involving forms of broadcasting, and replacing them with the type of show that represents disposable, “watch when you’re home, forget it when you’re not” television. If they were bringing back game shows, I’d be jumping for joy, but this… well, there’s a place for this kind of show too, but it’s not all that exciting.

There will now be only four daytime soaps left on TV, and I wouldn’t bet on any of them lasting very long. The soap opera form couldn’t survive for reasons that have already been discussed: the decreasing number of housewives, the popularity of reality shows which are cheaper to make, the failure of Soapnet to catch on as a way of transferring the form to cable. But as I’ve also said many times, soaps have historically been in the forefront of TV, taking on issues that prime-time doesn’t get around to for years if not decades. And they do have a power to pull you in that a show can’t match with only 13 episodes a year (or even 22). So it’ll be a shame to see it go from North America, at least in English — telenovelas and téléromans seem to be a bit more robust.

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