Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Daytime is not only dying, but broken

What little is left of daytime soaps is broken.

We only have four soaps left – and all of them are struggling creatively and in the ratings.

The biggest problem I see on soaps these days is the eradication of beloved vets in favor of vapid newbies (read: cheaper “talent”).

Three of the four current soaps recently ousted high paid veterans for financial reasons.

NBC’s ‘Days of Our Lives’ said goodbye to longtime bad boy Bo (Peter Reckell) when contract negotiations broke down and Reckell refused to take another pay cut. Reckell had his pay slashed at least twice in recent contract negotiations and refused to do it again.

On CBS’ ‘The Young and the Restless’ things are a little more murky when it comes down to contract negotiations for Eric Braeden (Victor Newman). Braeden has made waves several times over the past five years when it came time for contract renewals – even leaving the soap for months at a time while the two sides hammered out an agreement.

It should be noted that Braeden is still on Y&R – but both sides are being relatively quiet on how contract negotiations are currently going. Y&R has had public contract spats with other vets over the years – including Jess Walton and Melody Thomas Scott.

Finally, the big news to hit last week that was original cast member Ronn Moss would be leaving CBS ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ in the upcoming weeks.

Moss may not be one of daytime’s finest talents, but he is a stalwart of that show so the announcement that he would be leaving over money stunned fans.

Moss’ departure didn’t really surprise me – although, for the record, Reckell’s did.

‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ is the worst of the four soaps left on the air – mostly because the trio of Liam, Steffy and Hope has become the story that ate the world.

Moss hasn’t exactly been the recipient of great storytelling over the years. The past decade alone has consisted of him flip-flopping between Brooke and Taylor every year – and little else.

Still, this past year, it seems that all Moss’ Ridge has had to do was wring his hands over the antics of daughter Steffy and adopted/stepdaughter Hope.

‘Days of Our Lives’ continues to bring back veterans in an effort to entice viewers – but then they saddle them with poor stories and send them out of town months later. The fans of that soap have learned that they can’t get comfortable with any character – with the possible exception of Sami.

‘The Young and the Restless’ also tries to bring back veterans for guest arcs occasionally – but the creative force on that show has went stagnant and I can barely watch anymore.

Which brings us to ‘General Hospital.’

‘General Hospital’ has one of the most expensive casts in daytime – especially given how much leading men Maurice Benard (Sonny), Steve Burton (Jason) and Anthony Geary (Luke) are rumored to make (more than $1 million a year each).

Yet GH is bringing back veterans for guest spots right now – including Sebastian Roche (Jerry), Ingo Rademacher (Jax) and Robin Mattson (Heather). No one knows that status of Kimberly McCullough (Robin) – because show runners have been tightlipped about where her storyline is going.

Rumors on two different boards – Soap Central and ABC respectively – say that Burton has apparently made his desire to leave the canvas public. Apparently he lives in Nashville and has his finger in a lot of other businesses.

Now, I’m not sure I honestly believe Burton would flee – especially given the probability that GH only has one year left – but still I’m starting to wonder how GH can afford to keep bringing veterans in for guest spots while paying top dollar for their three male stars.

When you add to that the fact that Michael Easton and Roger Howarth are probably not making “newbie” money and things start getting even more convoluted.

Of course, that could be why the soap looks to be ramping up for another “killer virus” storyline with Jerry Jax. I wonder how many cast members they’ll kill off in this one?

What the show runners at daytime soaps need to realize is that fans want quality storytelling with beloved veterans.

They don’t want gimmicks.

They don’t want talentless newbies in bathing suits.

And they certainly don’t want their favorites relegated to the back burner or tossed completely.

I understand that Reckell and Moss opted not to take the lower contracts being offered them – and I’m still not sure Moss’ actions weren’t a bluff that backfired – but these are performers that earned the right to at least be able to feed their family.

I know the days of soap stars getting paid well are long behind us – but insulting these stars with subpar offers isn’t the way to keep them either.

If we aren’t careful, we’re going lose the four soaps we have left.

Now, I’ve seen people on the TV Guide website and Soap Central message board laughing at the Moss loss. Of course, most of these people aren’t fans of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.”

The truth is, the days of pitting soaps against each other is over. It’s not every soap for themselves. Fans should be uniting and fighting – because this time next year I predict we’re going to be at least one more soap down.

And, when they’re all gone, will fans be happy then?

What do you think? Are soaps making a mistake losing their longtime vets?


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