Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brian Frons Is The Devil

So, as you may have heard, All My Children and One Life to Live have been canceled. Yes, the continuing sagas of Pine Valley and Llanview, PA will be no more in just a few months. No more Erica Kane and her many husbands, no more Victoria Lord and her many personalities, no more Dorian Lord and her many diamonds. It's the end of an era and yet another body blow to an American institution already teetering on the brink of extinction.

I've spent the past couple of days writing angry and sad screeds on various soap news websites. Like many, I grew up at my grandmother's knee watching the "stories," in our family meaning the ABC line-up. In recent years, I've been a huge fan of One Life to Live, which has retained at least vestiges of what enthralled me as a child (unlike General Hospital, which has become a vile pustule that in way deserves to be the last one standing).

There are a lot of fingers to point at in the continued and accelerating death of the American Soap Opera. Fewer people at home during the day, the way ratings are compiled, the rise of cheap-to-produce reality shows, and the general decline of broadcast TV and the rise of digital media are all major factors. In my view, however, incompetent and apathetic "leadership" from executives like Brian Frons of ABC Daytime who couldn't care less about the genre is what has really brought us to this point. Creatively, soaps have been at a standstill for some time, mostly, I think, due to an incestuous pool of writing and producing talent that has become a merry-go-round of incompetent hacks merrily skipping from one soap to another, leaving horror and destruction in their wake. Tired cliches, ridiculous stunts, and a seeming inability to accurately reflect a changing, increasingly diverse world bordering on the cowardly replaced the dynamic, challenging, socially conscious drama of other eras.

But no matter what anyone says, the death of the soap opera is and was not inevitable.
New blood and fresh ideas, new distribution channels, new revenue streams, all could have been explored. All it would take is a little smarts and creativity. But the idiots in charge have neither, and what is more, don't care. Soaps are uncool, expensive to produce, and not the easy money pits they once were. So a decades-old art form and cultural touchstone has been allowed to die on the vine, so that newer, cheaper content like a cooking show called The Chew (seriously, that's what's taking All My Children's time slot) can go on. Maddening, and even more saddening. Who is going to have fond memories of summers watching The Chew? Will The Chew last forty years with millions of multigenerational fans?

But don't take my word for it. Just go here or here or here or long-time friend-of-the-blog Chad here.

Serial drama will never die. It may no longer take its traditional form, but someone, somewhere will figure out a way to make money and generate buzz with it in today's world. It's just a shame it obviously won't be ABC.


glen0330 said...

I totally agree with your coments and thoughts on the soaps. I too have been hooked on a few and seen many leave us over te years. The replacement shows are going to be a farce, I hope. It's all about the bottom line. Soaps cost money and reality shows are cheap to produce. Once the "stars" start raising their fees to appear on shows like "Tonight" (etc) THOSE shows will start to disappear as well. We should let the networks know we will boycott the products on the new shows, then maybe things will change. Hopefully NBC or CBS will pick up the cancelled soaps, or even cable channels. Those are not only family to us, but the people in the soaps are also family to each other. Sad that money speaks. Hopefully someone will find a website with a petition to sign.

Mellow Yellow said...

I had been waiting for you to comment on this because you are so insightful. Like Glen I agree what you are saying. It floors me that uninspired writers are hired continuously. Incompetent executives can keep their jobs without any issue. Frons may be in trouble now, but no one thought he should be fired earlier as ratings for shows continued to drop? WTF?

The lack of imagination with revenue streams is mind boggling. So many viewers have compiled Best Of stories of various soaps on youtube, but the shows did not think that releasing something similar on DVD could increase revenue? What were these people smoking?

One Life to Live remains the best soap on TV and one of my favorite dramas on television, but it is being cancelled? Give me a break! While I get ready to say good-bye to both shows, my prayer is that OLTL continues to build ratings and ABC realizes that it needs to reverse the decision and spare it. Then next year when they cancel another soap, it would be General Hospital and OLTL would continue its run as the best soap on TV. Sigh. A boy can dream.

Frank said...

Thank you both for agreeing with me. *LOL* But, really, what else is there to say? Rational people just can't come to any other conclusions than that the executives are inept and apathetic.

The fact that Frons has managed to keep his job (mostly, it seems, based on his success with The View, which, as someone I read said, had more to do with Rosie O'Donnell than anything Frons did) is mind-boggling, and another piece of evidence that the higher-ups at ABC just don't care about soaps.

Mellow, I truly don't understand the lack of any DVDs. I've read that in the case of Santa Barbara, it's apparently a rights issue with all the music they used, but I really can't see that being a problem. Just put in different music! Maybe they just don't want to pay actors residuals? Again, they just don't care and are too lazy.

Isn't OLTL great? It's just on FIYA right now, which makes its cancellation all the more ridiculous. But, you know, in a way I'm glad it's going to go out on a creative high-note instead of a whimper. At least it will show how stupid ABC are, and leave us with some happy memories.

While I applaud the efforts to get ABC to change their minds, I have to admit that I do think it's pretty much hopeless. Even if Frons goes, it's obvious ABC just wants out of soaps. It's a crime.

Mellow Yellow said...

The rational side of me IS getting ready to say good-bye to OLTL. ABC does want out of the soap game and there is nothing we can do about it. It continues to infuriate me that the network is repeating the line, "Soaps don't make money," which could change if the executives thought outside of the box. Oh well....everything happens for a reason and the next 9 months of OLTL will no doubt be appointment television. Would be too much to hope for to get a cameo appearance by Kish and Sierra Rose?

Frank said...

What's really infuriating about "Soaps don't make money" is that it isn't TRUE! Soaps do make money; they just don't make the kind of money they did in the 80s when soap was on top. They have higher overhead than a reality show, so the latter are more profitable. In OLTL's case, they're consistently under budget, so they definitely make money.