Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Soap Runs Out

Okay, you have until September, 2010 to get into As The World Turns, CBS's long-running soap opera (er, daytime drama). After that they're pulling the plug and presumably stopping the world from turning, which may cause the cessation of gravity and cause all the characters to fly off the surface. Soon the space surrounding the world will be peppered with too-good-looking corpses, aimlessly drifting with perpetually concerned expressions on their gorgeous faces.

Seriously, this thing has been on TV for over 50 years, which is an awful long time for a TV show. Especially when you consider that it's an hour of scripted drama 5 days a week for fifty years. Without reruns.

I had occasion once to visit Antonio Sabato Jr on the set of General Hospital once, and it was a glimpse of how this herculean feat is accomplished. GH has its own building a two-story affair on the ABC television lot. Sabato and another actor shared a dressing room, where they clocked in every day at 7am and hung around until they were needed for a scene in the main studio, where 4 or 5 sets were maintained. In the meantime, they answered fan mail, signed headshots, and talked to their agents about getting out of this gig. The shooting day ended around 5 or 6. It seems a little brief compared to most shooting days (they go for 14 hours normally) but I imagine that if you're looking at that schedule all year round with no termination date, you damn well better have some "me time" built into every day.

The soap opera appears to be on the wane, a victim of declining viewership and competition from cheaper game shows and reality shows. And ATWT was the last Proctor-and-Gamble-sponsored soap opera, meaning that the soap that gave the genre it's name is no longer in the business. Probably there will still always be one around, perhaps with a stricter policy of letting the talent go when they reach a certain income ceiling. But this golden age is over. Just like the other golden ages.

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