Last week, Disney announced that at the end of 2011 SOAPNet will be no more. Clearly, this is not good news for soap opera. Currently five of the seven shows on the air are rebroadcast on SOAPNet. Losing that platform will only exacerbate the falling numbers. Yeah, I know people can watch on-line. But there for some of us – of a certain generation perhaps, or not – sitting in front of a computer is always going to feel like work, not play.
I wish I could say that this comes as a surprise, but it doesn’t. SOAPNet has been belying its name for a good long while now. I addressed its schizophrenia in a 2008 piece, and things have only deteriorated since then, with more and more content that is wayyy over-the-top soapy. Suffice it to say that when it comes to SOAPNet, ABC Daytime takes a broad definition of the term “soap opera” – and not in a good way.
That said, the demise of SOAPNet will leave one gapping hole. I’ve talked a lot about “your mother's soap opera.” But, it’s one thing to describe those pre-1980s soaps – “the day-to-day drama intrinsic to domestic and interpersonal relationships” that reflected Irna Phillips’ conviction that "there is no more poignant drama enacted anywhere than behind the closed doors of a home" -- another thing entirely to watch that kind of storytelling unfold day-by-day. SOAPNet’s early morning broadcast of Ryan’s Hope is the only opportunity to experience “your mother’s soap opera” as soap opera is meant to be seen.
ABC hasn’t cleared the music rights for RH episodes after 1981, and in a few months, SOAPNet will go back to the show’s 1975 premiere. So, if anyone out there wants to experience the warmth and intimacy that were the hallmarks of the early soaps, your last chance to belly up to the Ryan's bar is coming soon. Don’t miss it.
© 2010 Lynn Liccardo
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