Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lives in the balance

The sands of time are clearly running out on NBC's venerable Days of Our Lives, which started airing daily not long after I was born. Variety reports that the soap has been picked up for another 18 months, a sharp drop-off from the previous five-year commitment.

Not having watched it, I can't say I'd miss it, but I will miss having soaps around when they eventually die out in daytime. I remember watching the Dark Shadows (sexed-up and brought into the present as HBO's True Blood) at my mother's knee when I was just a tot, and later Another World, Days, and General Hospital, which I absorbed passively when I was growing up. I remember when Another World, my mom's then-favorite, expanded to an epic 90 minutes, back when the genre reigned supreme. And I also remember, for nostalgia's sake, watching its final episode in 1999, where the characters sang to a man-in-suit gorilla that had abducted one of their own--a coffin nail in a format that had adopted gimmick after gimmick to stay alive, if not relevant.

Mom's favorite, still on top of a collapsing heap, is CBS' The Young and the Restless. It's a traditionalist show, one that keeps (reasonably) sober storylines going for months (years) at a time, and has kept abreast of cultural change. (I did watch it for some of my college years.) The same cannot be said for General Hospital, which piled ridiculous plot on top of ridiculous plot after its "Luke and Laura" heyday in the early 80s, and Days, which went full-tilt gonzo in the mid- to-late 90s, inspiring my indignant aunt to write letter after letter protesting ludicrous, supernatural- and sci-fi-tinged storylines that pulled in teenage girls during the school's-out summer but left the older base shaking their heads the rest of the seasons. I take it that both have pulled back from wretched excess, but I imagine it's too late: With little audience left to take them seriously anymore, the soaps, which accompanied pleasant childhood memories for me, are living on borrowed time.

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