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Losing a universal language

January 15, 2012
Messenger News

Today, there will be no telecast of "One Life to Live" on ABC television stations. Its final episode aired Friday. Network executives canceled its sister soap opera, "All My Children," in September 2011.

Soap operas were once the mainstay of daytime fare. Now, only four soaps remain on network television. TV execs, aiming for a younger, hipper demographic and eager to cut production costs, have decided that daytime viewers want information, not entertainment.

It's a good thing none of those suits attended the DIY class at LilyGrace last Thursday.

A few of the women tackling decoupaged trays knew each other, But most of us had never met. We didn't know what anyone else did for a living, whether she had a family, what she liked to do - except stick paper and her fingers together with Mod Podge.

But someone mentioned something about a soap opera, and suddenly, everybody chimed in. All of us, either now or in the past, had tuned in to her "stories" to follow the exploits of imaginary people and their families in made-up towns.

"What is Victor thinking, marrying Sharon?" someone asked - a reference any fan of "The Young and the Restless" would immediately recognize and offer an opinion on.

For the next several minutes, it was a flurried exchange of comments regarding plot lines and characters. But we didn't just talk about current storylines.

Most of us learned to watch the soaps with our mothers, our grandmothers, our college roommates. We remembered when Luke and Laura were the hot couple on "General Hospital" and when Victor Newman had a wife named "Julia." Those stories, although always unreal and often fantastically unbelievable, became part of our stories - a universal language that connected us for decades.

As one woman pointed out, she was 46 - which meant she never remembered a time when "One Life to Live" - which was on the air for 43 years - didn't exist.

ABC has replaced its two long-running favorites with shows mirroring programs that already exist on cable TV. No former soap fan is going to tune into the new shows with as much loyalty or interest as the generations of people who scheduled their college classes or lunch hours to catch their favorite stories.

And, I guarantee no one at a decoupage class 30 years from now will talk about the shows that displaced their soaps.

Barbara Wallace Hughes is the managing editor of The Messenger.



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