What went wrong? Daytime soaps are currently enjoying one hell of a ratings renaissance but it wasn't that long ago that they were considered dead as disco. How did such once-mighty shows as Guiding Light, As the World Turns, All My Children and One Life to Live get the ax in quick succession? Were there people at the networks who secretly wanted them gone? If so, why? And how come our beloved soaps are suddenly so damn hot again? Will it last?
The TVGN documentary Who Shot the Daytime Soap? — premiering Monday, Dec. 16 at 8/7, with a sneak preview earlier the same day at 2/1c — will take a look at the startling power and resiliency of daytime drama and how it all went haywire. Among the 40 suds vets interviewed are Susan Lucci and Alicia Minshew (All My Children), Tristan Rogers, Jacklyn Zeman, William deVry, Sean Kanan and Robin Mattson (General Hospital), Linda Dano (Another World), Judi Evans and Wally Kurth (Days of Our Lives), Crystal Chappell (Venice), Kristoff St. John (The Young and the Restless) and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Dark Shadows). You'll also hear from ex-soap execs Wendy Riche (GH), Julie Carruthers (AMC) and Maria Arena Bell (Y&R). Here's a juicy preview!
TV Guide Magazine spoke with Who Shot the Daytime Soap? exec producer Jim Romanovich, president of worldwide media at Associated Television International. Not only did Romanovich helm the Daytime Emmy awards three years running (2009-2011), he's also a diehard soap nut!
TV Guide Magazine: What's your goal with this show? Is this a cautionary tale?
Romanovich: This is absolutely a cautionary tale for everyone involved — the networks, the production companies, the producers and writers, the actors, even me. The fanbase for the soaps is very big and exponentially blooming these days but the shows must maintain this traction and dedication. Nothing is permanent or safe in the TV business. The networks have to keep up the enthusiasm they're now showing for their soaps. They have to embrace these shows and protect them. They are doing that beautifully over at CBS right now, under [daytime chief] Angelica McDaniel. There is a lot of renewed interest at ABC for GH. And Days at NBC! Talk about the Phoenix rising from the ashes...no pun intended!
TV Guide Magazine: Let's discuss your timing here. Why a special called Who Shot the Daytime Soap? when the soaps are doing so well?
Romanovich: To be honest, the title is sexy and sizzling and it will get people to gravitate to the show — plus it's also reminiscent of "Who Shot J.R.?" which was the ultimate soap whodunit. But, as it turns out, this is also the very best timing, because I can now give this program a happy ending. You will see the full arc of the soaps — the rise, the fall, and now the rise again, not only with the four current network shows but all the great web serials that are being produced by people like Crystal Chappell and Gregori Martin and Sonia Blangiardo. This success allows us to put an exclamation mark on our documentary, but we also ask the question: Why would anyone want to kill such an incredible and popular and lucrative genre? It's ludicrous! It was sad for me, as a fan of these shows, to not only watch them crumble but to watch them be annihilated from all angles, including from within.
TV Guide Magazine: You did interviews with at least two former exec producers — Julie Carruthers and Maria Bell — whom many feel contributed to the downfall of soaps. What do you want to say about that?
Romanovich: I admire everyone who is taking part in this show. They all have a great passion for this industry and they tried to do their best. Everything in this business is not as black and white as it may seem. Sometimes you need some inside knowledge to know what people are really up against, especially internally. It's hard to demonize anyone for the decisions they made. These women have very important stories to tell and their stories need to get out there.
TV Guide Magazine: What's with the noirish tone of the special, from the title to the graphics to the music?
Romanovich: We made a conscious effort to give it a real retro feel. The graphics are very Jimmy Cagney gangster-style. The music is very Peter Gunn. The reason for that is that there was not a single shooter. The soaps were shot at in a tommy-gun assault, sometimes from the shadows and it came from many sources. But, again, we end on a very high note. Soaps are one of the great American pop-culture phenomena ever. TVGN, which has had terrific success with the replays of Y&R, really stepped up here. And I really have to thank my fellow executive producers, David and Laura McKenzie from ATI, who gave us the go-ahead to do this project and put ATI's capital behind it. I also owe huge thanks to my co-executive producer Robert Corsini, who wrote the show. It couldn't have happened without them! I spent five years trying to get this documentary done.
TV Guide Magazine: And, word is, you have lots of material left over.
Romanovich: Yes, and it's not filler but real gold! I hope the soap fans turn out and support this show and that it does really well in the ratings. I want to go back to TVGN and propose more specials, or maybe even a series. This is a fantastic subject and we've only just cracked the surface!