The changing face of daytime television

It has been less than 40 years since the late MacDonald Carey spoke those famous words,”Like sands through the hourglass, so are the ‘Days of our Lives.'”

Now it seems like “Days” is really losing it. In the course of only a few months, many of the characters who have made that show have been killed off by the “Salem Strangler,” aka Marlena, played by series vet Deidre Hall. Now rumors are flying over what is supposed to be the impending murder of Alice Horton, played by Frances Reid, the only remaining original cast member.

In the weeks since the rumor was dropped on TV Guide’s Web site, fans have started doing everything they possibly can to save the character.

Will fans stop watching the series when the dastardly deed is finally done? That depends on how diehard a fan is. I’ve grown up on the series since I was a child back in the ancient 1980s. So I consider myself a diehard fan. Since the rumors of Alice Horton’s death broke out, my only thought is that NBC might as well put the show out of its misery when they do kill her.

The current storyline on “Days” is evident of the changing face of daytime. The series is being reinvented to appeal to a younger audience but at the cost of those fans who have stayed with the show for years.

Daytime television is a shell of what it was 20 years ago, when each network had about 4-5 soaps and a game show or two. Now, we have one game show on TV, “The Price is Right,” and CBS is the dominant network in daytime with 4.5 hours of programming a day. ABC has four hours of daytime programming, and NBC has two hours a day. Everything else is syndicated.

Gone are the days of “Search for Tomorrow” and “The Edge of Night.” What is here now are veteran soaps such as “All My Children” and “As the World Turns” that are always having some characters recast in ways of getting the younger audiences advertisers are targeting.

Let’s face it…daytime is changing. Probably in 10-15 years, the soap opera may be a dead format, and daytime television may not be a profitable venture for the networks anymore.

But with the rise of the niche network “SoapNet,” which offers same day repeats of all of ABC’s soaps, plus repeats of dead soaps such as “Ryan’s Hope” and “Another World,” and a few nighttime soaps, the soap opera will probably stay alive. As for it being on network television, only time and ratings will tell. But it will stay on, as long as there are viewers who will watch.

Daytime television has been changing for the last several years, and it will continue to evolve. Like primetime, it will evolve as the viewing trends of the American public change. But nobody knows how or when it will change. The executives who make the programming decisions that eventually make it to your television screen will be the ones who will know exactly when it will change. As long as daytime continues to appeal to the American viewing public, it will exist.

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