One soap opera fan's essay on the diminishing world of soap operas and the cancellation of As the World Turns
I would like to do a bit of introduction of myself before I continue on the major part of this essay that I am going to write/type.
My name is Aneeq S. I live in Ontario, Canada. I am 23 years old and I will be going to university starting this September 2010. I will be also going on a flight, tomorrow actually as of writing this, (leaving on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010) and won't be back for a bit until more than a month later. I will be going to get married back home so... yay me! =)My immediate family or my extended family (I have a big family) do not know that I watch daytime soaps and would like to keep it that way. They think of it as a time waster as well as sinful to watch, etc. They are very strictly religious; let's just leave it at that. Me, on the other hand, I don't believe in such rigid rules and I like/watch/do whatever I feel like, but obviously, without my family knowing about. I know you all would be wondering how I watch soaps. Well, I watch it online. I do have a TV and cable, but it would be kind of hard to watch TV when it is in the living room and my mom being around the area and wondering what I am watching. We don't even watch TV at all sometimes. My brother and my cousin brother watched TV to see the FIFA world cup just recently and that was it. I, personally, think TV is a waste of time. I will elaborate further on this later on.
I am writing this essay because I really love this soap that got cancelled recently, which is called As The World Turns (ATWT for short). As I started researching and reading on the Internet about ATWT, I came across many things along my way. They include: many viewers voicing their opinions on variety of message boards all over on their views on the cancellation of ATWT, petition sites, Facebook/Youtube/Twitter/misc pages on how to save soaps and ATWT, the reasoning behind why it got cancelled, insults towards the TPTB (The Powers That Be) that are in charge of ATWT, and many other opinions of viewers related to ATWT all around the Internet. There were some things that I came across that I was a bit uncertain on the factual basis of it but I like to keep an open-mind on all things all the time.
Now, I will my state my intentions on writing this essay. I started watching ATWT when the Luke and Noah storyline was implemented a few years ago on Youtube. It drew me in to this soap and I started watching this storyline very closely. I found the storyline very interesting because it had a certain aspect that I really closely shared, which was the whole being gay when you are young and coming out but in my case, it is a whole different story how it turned out and it would take me "another" essay to write on my whole life story, which this essay is not about.
When I was watching the Nuke storyline, I got interested in the other storylines on ATWT. When I started watching the other characters and the whole story around Oakdale, I got completely mesmerized by how well the story was put together. Then I started watching the whole show online on Youtube. I stopped an year back because of personal life issues but I started up again recently when I was feeling depressed. ATWT kept me going when I was feeling down. I don't know how, but it was another "family", other than my own that I liked watching. I also got completely hooked when I saw Reid Oliver being introduced into the Nuke storyline and the love triangle.
When I recently heard that ATWT was cancelled and it will not continue past September, I was deeply hurt and saddened on why this longstanding day-time got cancelled. I know that my POV/story on this does not even compare to the people who have been watching ATWT since its inception 54 years ago but I feel that everyone's opinion should count on this issue.
I have seen all the heartfelt responses on various message boards, how ATWT was their 2nd family, how it kept them going in difficult times, how much people will miss it, etc. I felt all of these viewers' sentiments and felt related to them in some way or another and felt that I need to do something about it. Then I, suddenly, got an epiphany of sorts. Well, this epiphany came to me recently (a week ago of this writing this, which was around July 12th, 2010). It came to me in such a huge rush in my mind and I was completely overwhelmed by it. So many ideas, thoughts, words that just kept on coming in my mind that I felt that I needed to put this on paper. I did not sleep well this past week and I said that enough is enough. These ideas and thoughts came to me for a reason and I need to do something about it. They came to me in essay structure form, in a very unusual essay structured form, and yet jumbled in some ways. I felt that I needed to do my part in saving ATWT from TV/internet oblivion.
The main ideas that kept on coming into my mind was to propose a solutions (or actually a string of solutions that are tied in together) as well as making many convincing arguments (as convincing as they can be, according to me, of course) to convince to whoever reads this to pass this along to a network who will do the justice this soap, ATWT, rightfully deserves. I know I am no major in political science or even be educated enough to even make convincing enough arguments, but I will do my very best to convey my ideas and thoughts and help make them be as convincing as possible to whoever who reads this essay to the best of my ability. I mean that is all a human being like myself can hope to accomplish, and I hope, and pray, this somehow, somewhere, convinces someone out there to do something about this and implement these ideas and help save ATWT, and other soaps from dying out.
These are the ideas that have been bombarding me for the past few days constantly. Daytime soaps are going to become extinct or so I have heard. I heard about Guiding Light (another soap) getting cancelled and ATWT followed right after. I have heard "rumours" on other soaps following the same fate as ATWT and other cancelled soaps. I have heard all the stories (factual or otherwise) on why it got cancelled such as that it was a power struggle between CBS and TPTB that led ATWT to TV oblivion or it was the TPTB's fault for not caring enough about their fans to keep ATWT running. I have heard all the blames, all remarks/comments from some very effected individuals, some of them even bordering on being very "emotional" or... downright insulting and rude. I don't really care who is right and who is wrong and I will not pass the blame on anyone. My whole intention is to keep an open-mind and put forth a proposal to help save ATWT and from other daytime soaps from dying out.
My proposal requires a network/company out there or even TPTB to take a very bold move in help saving ATWT. My suggestions are actually influenced by what Luke said to Dr. Reid Oliver in one episode in regarding to building the neuro-wing in the hospital. Reid was suggesting that the wing be all about the patients and nothing else, but Luke suggested that it should be about both the patients and their "supporters," the people who wait patiently (an unintentional pun but a pun nonetheless) for their loved ones to get better in the waiting areas. In the same way, I will draw the analogy between what Luke and Reid agreed upon and what I am going to suggest. I suggest that whatever anyone does to help save ATWT or any other soap for that matter is to look on both sides of the story. One must never be all about the business aspect or be only about themselves or "my rule is final and whatever I say goes" kind of attitude. In corporations, or networks in this case, should think about both the "supporters" (viewers) of their show as well as trying to get more profit out of their shows. Both parties should be pleased as much as possible and they both depend on each other for success in these trying times
What I suggest (my 1st suggestion) is to make daytime soaps into a... "night-time soap". Making ATWT a night-time soap would be one big step in helping saving ATWT (or any other soap for that matter). Why I think this way or suggest this, I'll explain in more details. When it is a night-time soap opera, it could bring more viewers as people tune into their channels or surf the channels and they like something out of pure chance and wonder what this new show is. This is like throwing a net into a body of water of catching the most fish instead of trying to fish for a single fish one at a time. You would "snatch" or put it in a more appropriate word, "gain" more viewers in this way. More people are home in general during the evening or night so more people would relax/unwind during the night and watch TV.
There are many factors involved in the termination of a show or daytime soap such as ATWT in this case. One of the factor is that the economy is still not up to speed and the recession has hit all of us and affected us all in some way. We have to do what we can with what we have. I know that production costs for soaps are higher than some game show or cooking show out there. I know that the viewers have gone down for all soaps in general, especially for ATWT, even though it is in the 2 million mark. There are many reasons for that, and I'll explain more in the next paragraph.
The demographics for soaps back then 54 years or more have completely changed to now. Back then, soaps' target audience was and is still, to an extent, currently North American women who were/are housewives and stay-at-home moms. Now, the viewers/demographics for soaps has gone through a complete overhaul and this overhaul MUST be met with similar expectations on trying to match it and overcoming it. Nowadays, all types of people from all walks of life watch soaps. It is no longer for housewives or stay-at-home moms. Single women/men, married women/men, families with children, teenage girls/boys, young adults (male and female), grandparents with their grandchildren and daughters/sons, from different countries, of different orientations, of different family structures watch these soaps... mainly thanks to the internet (Youtube, as one of its components, of course). I have heard all these types of people interested in soaps, even whole families watching soaps together like one of those prime-time shows at night. Also, keep in mind, women are no longer stay-at-home moms or housewives, well, the majority isn't nowadays. People lead busy lives during the daytime hours. It should be obvious that the viewers during the daytime hours would decrease by a big margin since... not many people are home nowadays or they are very busy during those times. Nowadays, people come home at night to unwind in front of their flat-screen TVs (one majority) or in front of their computers (other majority). The concept of pleasing both parties involved should be used in this scenario as well if a network needs to have its show keep its lustre.
My 2nd suggestion ties in with the 1st suggestion that I mentioned earlier. When daytime soaps such as ATWT get converted into night-time soap (being shown at night-time prime-time, between the times of 8 pm and 10 pm), there will still be some people who won't be able to watch at that time. There could be people who work during that night, or they are busy, or they are maybe watching one of their favourite prime-time shows that they have been watching for a long while. The option for those viewers who would like to watch ATWT on TV will be to DVR it to watch it later or... watch it online. If the 1st suggestion is implemented, the 2nd suggestion must be implemented/accompanied as well to get the most viewers as possible, which is... to have an online viewing outlet/aspect to the ATWT. It would be a win-win situation for both the viewers to be able to watch their missed episode anytime they want AND for the network to "gain" more viewers that they might have missed when the episodes are shown on TV but was not watched due to many reasons. Viewers are happy, and the network is happy.
There are a few ways on getting an online persona for ATWT, for which I will explain. One way is to have whichever network picks ATWT up to have an online archive of the missed episodes. Some side suggestions to this would be have a download version in different video qualities/formats so viewers have a choice... 'Cause after all, which person out there does not love choices. Another side suggestion, which is more profitable than the previous one but go hand-in-hand, is to have ALL previous episodes from 54 years ago for ATWT online, the full episodes. The reason for this is that new viewers and old viewers alike would love to get acquainted and familiar with the history of the show... I mean who wouldn't want to know the 54-year legacy of a show that is ATWT. I know that most viewers would love to get to know the characters of Oakdale and how they have come so far. I know this is a big thing and requires a lot for it to be successful, which I will explain and elaborate further in my next paragraph.
The network's site must have the proper infrastructure in place to accommodate all the episodes, old and new in different formats in an archive... as well as having an infrastructure in place to accommodate all the viewers watching the episodes. That can put a strain on any infrastructure but it is an investment that is well needed and should be implemented to get the most viewers as much as possible... again the motto... viewers are happy (being to able to get re-aquatinted with the soap) and network is happy (more profit due to more viewers). If this is too much of an investment or if the network is not bold, "yet", to make this jump... there is another solution. I would highly suggest the network has its own site for ATWT since it will bring viewers to YOUR network but there is another, less "bold" suggestion. The network can put all the episodes; old ones from way back from 54 years ago to the new ones, on Youtube. An infrastructure is in place and is right there for the taking... or "using" in this scenario. An arrangement/agreement could be made with Youtube to make it profitable for the network that is showing ATWT on their network TV... after all, we are all reasonable, understanding adults... I have hope and trust that any human being of right sense and sound mind can come to an agreement that benefits both parties involved equally if they so choose to.
My 3rd suggestion relates to the writers of ATWT and how they do their storylines. I have seen what they are capable of. They are able to put an amazing gay storyline like Nuke and become the pioneer for having a gay coming out storyline at the same time (the actors are absolutely amazing as well so I applaud them for their superb acting skills). And then there those rehashed storylines that should be left alone after the 1st time and done over with. The writers are very intelligent and I have complete faith that they can churn up many storylines to come in the future if they so please. Anything is possible. They just have to be bold, push the envelope, be innovative, be creative but be entertaining at the same time. A perfect mix of all these traits makes a soap become a highly successful one.
I would like take a moment here to give high praise to the writers (and actors) a bit here for the current storyline that they put recently right after the announcement of ATWT cancellation. The character of Dr. Reid Oliver (played absolutely phenomenally by actor Eric Sheffers Stevens) is a "breath of fresh air," as some viewers have put it, and was and is something that this genre of TV (soaps) needed for a very long time. I am absolutely captivated and mesmerized by the sheer brilliance of the character of Reid Oliver. The "in your face" and "holding nothing back," and "raw" nature of the dialogue of the character is absolutely wonderful. The LuRe storyline (as majority of the viewers have coined it) has become a very popular one and I think it is rightfully so. I applaud the writers that have come up with this ingenious storyline as well as the character. The character and the storyline are reminiscent of the Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor story on Queer as Folk. It highly reminds me of their relationship and I have longed to see such intense-ness in characters and their relationship on TV.
The actor, Mr. Eric Sheffers Stevens, also deserves my high praise and the highest praise of all from me. He made the character his own but wow, he has become the character. Absolutely superb acting done by this absolutely humble, and very good-looking actor, and his body language, the emotions portrayed through it is absolutely out of this world... He is indeed an actor in its truest sense... and rightfully so. I absolutely love the emotions that just burst out of my screen when I watch Luke and Reid on-screen. Their on-screen romance is indeed a true gay love story that I have been longing to see and it is absolutely perfectly executed by the actors involved as well as the writers. I would still like to say, as an aside, that all other actors in ATWT do their job very well as well and ATWT would not be a legacy without them.
Now, my 4th suggestion involves the types of storylines that the writers can come up. I would just like to say that I do not care what people say about TPTB and writers/producers of ATWT in such insulting ways of ATWT and how they are very conservative and all that. I know there is something that is pulling them back from fully exploring the LuRe storyline or the Nuke storyline a few years ago. I would like to say this though. This is the year 2010. We, the people, have come a long way from back then when anything different was frowned upon, especially relating to the rampant homophobia in the past years. But now, the world is changing. A LOT of people have become tolerant of people of all walks of life around the world and they should rightfully be so. I would also like to say for people to stop saying that being gay or "being Queer" is a lifestyle choice... 'Cause it is not... it really is not... but this is an issue that deserves its own lengthy essay and this essay is not for it.
The viewers of ATWT hail from all sides of this world and they liked to watch Nuke and now like LuRe. There used to be a line drawn between people who liked these types of storylines but not anymore. The line has completely become so thin that it has almost faded away, and a LOT more people like to see what a gay storyline is all about and become very emotional about it and would like them to continue with it. My plea to the writers and the producers and TPTB is to please, not to be affected by conservative people in any way and please, try to explore all types of relationships on-screen for ATWT (and can apply to other soaps as well). Don't let anyone's opinions hold you back. Do not think that the majority of the people would be reserved in seeing these kinds of storylines. You would be highly surprised on how receptive some people are to these types of storylines. Go beyond what people expect of you. Have ATWT/or another soap depict many different relationships and characters such as mixed race relationships, a transgender character, a transsexual character, a cross-dresser, a bisexual character who struggles with his/her sexuality, polygamy, monogamy (a rare thing nowadays I assure you), anything and everything that you guys can think of... if you guys can think of a character like Reid Oliver or even Luke Snyder, you guys are indeed capable of all that I listed and I have the utmost faith as a human being that you, the TPTB, are highly qualified to do them.
I would like to re-iterate some and elaborate on some examples of a transgender character and even cross-dressers that I have seen on TV that have absolutely kept me entertained and mesmerized by their characters. The character of Kris Fisher, played wonderfully by Gerard McCarthy, on the UK soap Hollyoaks, was an absolutely wonderful and multi-faceted character I have ever seen in the history of television. His (the character's) uniqueness brought so many ideas for where storylines can emerge from... endless possibilities. A transgender character that I saw on a soap opera was on AMC, whose name was Zarf/Zoe, played wonderfully by Jeffrey Carlson. The character was indeed one of a kind in the soap genre and explored the story of a transgender, and wonderfully so.
I got driven to write this essay to help, with the best of my ability, to convince everyone and anyone out there to see that it would be a big loss to TV if ATWT is not continued and the soap opera genre must not die out... Anything is possible (as long as you put your mind to it)... this mantra applies to everyone and everything in all different walks of life in this world and beyond. I hope I have convinced enough people to make a difference for this show to stay on air as well as for all other soaps.
I have just spent 4 hours straight in writing this essay on Microsoft Word, with a bit more than 4000 words in 7 pages with Arial font and 12 font size, a day before my flight. I hope, and pray (for myself and to all human beings out there in this world), to have this kind of dedication in anything a person does (me included), in their life. I, personally am astonished, and surprised, that I have this kind of drive in me to do this kind of essay on a show that I genuinely, and truly love and that I do not want to see let go in September.
I hope and pray that this essay, along with the rest of the viewers' support all around the world, to make a difference, for ATWT to stay on air, all for the sake of the viewers and for the sake of the absolutely wonderful actors, and everyone involved in making ATWT a success and a true legacy.
Here's to hoping the World Keeps on Turning =)
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