Thursday, April 14, 2011

ABC cans All My Children and One Life to Live

Chalk up another victory for piss-poor unscripted filler programming. ABC's decision to give two of their three daytime soaps the ax is yet another slit to the throat of scripted television. Think I'm wrong? Flip around next time you're home sick from work and see the sad excuses for programming that exist during the daytime hours. Outside of a few cartoons for the kids on a couple cable channels and the mostly decent offerings from PBS, the rest of the channels are tenth-run movies or talk shows.

Maybe we have Oprah Winfrey to blame for the proliferation of talk shows. After all, her's was the first barnburning success story in the daytime talk format but those that have copied and badly altered the format are the ones to truly blame. I get it, though. Daytime TV viewership is home to some pretty dismal numbers due to the fact that the stay-at-home mom crowd is about as large as the number of polar bears living in Iowa but even a mom who spends her days wrangling a gang of rugrats deserves to be entertained and that entertainment used to come in the form of scripted daytime dramas (soap operas) but now comes in the form of 4 hours of the Today show on NBC, an hour of local news, Rachel Ray cooking something and a couple hours of doctor-themed talk shows.

That seems recipe seems like an awful lot of the same ingredients. Take, for instance, local NBC affiliate KARE-TV. KARE-TV is home to one scripted hour of television outside of the 7-10 PM primetime block. The rest of the hours consist of local or network news/entertainment programming, Jeopardy! and many hours of talk shows which all seem to cover the same topics. I understand that a talk show costs far less to produce than an hour of scripted television but with ABC bringing shows entitled "The Chew" (a food/cooking show) and "The Revolution" (a weight loss series) it seems like, in an effort to cut costs, the networks are almost desperate to copy or even sink below their cable television competition.

With each passing day I lose more hope for the continued existence of over the air network television and while I'm no fan of daytime soaps, today's loss -- bringing the remaining total to four soaps across the big three networks -- seems to say that the networks will do whatever it takes to cut costs to the bone while still raking in the same amount of advertising dollars as always. Hell, none of the big three networks actually program new content on Saturday evenings and Friday evenings are mainly reality fare so it's only a matter of time until the big three networks take on The CW model and go five nights a week with only two hours each night.

I'm only half joking with that last prediction but it's time for the networks to get serious. Slashing costs and going the route of more unscripted content is not going to one-up their cable competition. Like any business, it's time for the suits to be held accountable and it's time for them to come up with real, long-term solutions because drivel like "The Chew" and "The Revolution" are nothing more than placeholders.

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